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A tiger awakened: 10 of the top tech companies in India

India is emerging. From the days of the non-aligned movement, and India’s subsequent association with African nations, the world has been through a lot. In the past five years alone, we’ve witnessed two recessions. Well, it could be one long wave too. Only time will unfold the detail.

As a kid I spent close to five years in southern Africa. The presence of United Nations and American Peace Corps in some of the nations in that region was a familiar sight. Fast forward close to three decades, and here we are. The rich nations are talking about austerity. Europe is in turmoil. The BRICS are growing. As the saying goes, what goes around comes around. We’ve heard of the Foxconns of China, big and small, that drive the finer details of the products we lust after, drool over, and long to own.

But there’s an equally exciting story in India, also known as the world’s back office. Some here in India shun the term, while others take pride. What counts, though, is the moolah it rakes in. Here’s a short list of companies that are testimony to India’s success story. Although there are several foreign companies that operate in India as local entities, we have arrived at this list by only considering an absolute Indian origin.

1. Infosys
The Indian education system churns out thousands of IT graduates every year. A significant chunk of them travel abroad to further their studies in American and European universities. The remainder aspires to work at Infosys or one of the others on the list that follows. Infosys began as a start up in 1981 by seven entrepreneurs, including NR Narayana Murthy and Nandan Nilekani. The company, by itself, is evidence of the possibility of realising growth in the emerging markets. It started off at a time when the Indian markets were closed to foreign investments and managed to cut through some pretty extreme red-tape.

Despite challenges over the years, and rapidly changing market dynamics, Infosys is a $7-billion company today and continues to grow.

The original founders have slowly stepped down to hand over the baton to emerging leaders. The company enjoys several prominent international entities as its clientele across industries such as Aerospace and Defence, Airlines, Automobile, Banking and Finance, Energy, Hospitality, Insurance, Media and Retail. As of 2011, it employs over 133 000 people across the globe.

2. Wipro
Wipro is the second largest IT services and consulting company in India as of 2011. It began in 1945 primarily as a vegetable oil, hydrogenated fat and soap manufacturer, before commencing operations in the field of information technology in the 1960s. Today, Wipro employs over 120 000 people globally, and is worth $7-billion. Wipro manufactures consumer lighting, GE Medical devices and infrastructure business units. Its BPO arm employs over 22 000 people. Azim Premji has led Wipro for several decades and has seen it transition from manufacturing soaps to developing software for the world. Wipro works in over 23 industrial sectors and has emerged as the leader in software delivery.

3. Mahindra Group
Satyam was once the fourth largest IT company in India. Then in January 2009, after a major fraud scandal, it collapsed. One of the most respected names in the Indian automobile industry, the Mahindra Group, bought a controlling stake in Satyam to form Mahindra Satyam. At the time, it had an IT division of its own, that had origins in a tie-up with British Telecom (known as MBT).

This was eventually renamed Tech Mahindra. Today the Mahindra Group is a significant player in the Indian software industry, again, similar to the other major names, catering to global customers in a multi-billion dollar market.

4. The Tata Group
The Tatas are known globally. Quite recently, they have been in the news for producing the Nano, the world’s cheapest car. At the same time, they also announced the acquisition of luxury automobile brands Jaguar and Land Rover. In the tech space, the Tata Group has several key interests. TCS (Tata Consultancy Services), one of the largest exporters of software in India, Tata Communications a significant player in telecommunications and internet backbone services with over 235000 km of optical fiber cable network are a powerful entity by themselves. TCS was among the first software companies to set up shop in India.

5. airtel
airtel is India’s largest provider of cellular mobile services. In the mid ’80s, Sunil ‘Bharti’ Mittal, founded the Bharti group by manufacturing push button telephone systems under the popular brand Beetel. After the Indian industry opened to private participation in key industries such as telecoms, due to a bundle of economic reforms, bharti won a bid to set up a cellular network. This led to the formation of airtel.

Today, at close to $10 billion, airtel is in a strong position. With recent acquisitions such as Zain, and a subsequent entry into African markets, airtel is poised for growth. In the controversial state that the Indian telecoms industry finds itself today, airtel happens to be among those that are minimally tainted. Whether or not this goes in favour of the company will be revealed in time, but we have high expectations from the airtel house.

6. HCL
Vineet Nayar, who was President of HCL in 2005, introduced “Employees First”, a new working model and philosophy. Today, Mr HCL is a popular character from an ad campaign run on Indian television. HCL employs approximately 80 000 employees globally with revenue close to $4-billion. Similar to other software service providers such as Infosys and TCS, HCL also works in all major industrial sectors. A business unit, HCL Infosystems is the distributor of Apple and Nokia products in India. Since its launch in 1991, HCL has grown to become a significant story in the Indian IT industry.

7. Moser Baer Limited
It’s easy to pass Moser Baer off as a European name, but it’s an Indian company that has emerged as a prominent player in the optical data market. In a nation riddled with piracy as a major concern, Moser Baer stepped in to offer CDs and DVDs for the Bollywood-loving population. Moser Baer also earns most of its revenue by way of OEM tie-ups with companies such as Sony, Verbatim and Memorex – among others. Moser Baer Home videos sells Bollywood movie DVDs for under a dollar! These are legally acquired rights and hence no longer give a reason for consumers to satiate their desire to dance to the latest Bollywood tunes by buying cheap, illegal pirated copies. Since Moser Baer is able to replicate media in high volume and since they own manufacturing capabilities, they are able to facilitate lower prices.

8. Reliance Industries Limited
Reliance Industries Limited is one of the most well known industry houses the world over. It has revenues close to $60 billion with assets worth much more. It works in diverse industries. Reliance was founded in the ’60s by Dhirubhai Ambani and has witnessed a meteoric rise through the decades. Today, it is involved in petroleum, polyester, textiles, retail and insurance businesses.

Recently a family feud caused the separation of two brothers and the unit was split into two powerhouses. However, although the new unit focussed on telecommunications, the entity to watch out for is Reliance Industries Limited, due to the fact that it owns the sole licence to offer LTE services across India, a nation now reeling under heavy corruption charges after the recent auction of 3G spectrum. With virtually no competition, RIL is planning to launch tablets and has also hinted at data prices of 19 cents (US) per GB of LTE data use on a tablet that costs around $100. We’re excited about it! In the meanwhile, the rest of the operators are busy fighting over market share in the GSM and 3G markets under reducing ARPU and operating margins.

9. Larsen and Toubro
Although the name doesn’t sound Indian, Larsen and Toubro is pretty much Indian. It was founded by two Danish engineers Henning Holck-Larsen and Søren Kristian Toubro immediately after the second World War. Today, its core business in infrastucture services such as development is booming due to rampant building in the nation of India. There are cities, airports, and bridges being constructed across the nation, and Larsen and Toubro is behind several such projects. L&T Infotech is the information and technology business unit that focusses on solutions for Manufacturing. The L&T group generates revenues close to $10 billion and employs over 38,000 people globally. Recently, the company announced a restructure which will see individual business units function as independent companies with separate accounts and operations.

10. Flipkart
Flipkart began in late 2007 as an online bookstore. It was founded by two IIT Delhi alumni who used to work for Amazon. Soon it became one of the top 100 websites in India and also the largest online book seller in India. The company now has eight warehouses across India and is known for prompt delivery. In 2010, Flipkart diversified into CDs, DVDs, mobile phones, accessories, cameras, computers and more. It is said Flipkart sells an average of 20 products every minute. The company aims to generate $1 billion in the next five years. Considering the rapid growth it has witnessed in recent years, it does hold promise.

  • I am actually shocked not to see the Reliance Group higher up the list here. Tata I know well though and it is no surprise to see them this high at present!

  • ashu

    snapdeal is also ecommerce company which started in 2010 with 20 + employees and in 2012 it has 2000 + employees

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