We remember it all as if it happened just yesterday.
But it was actually 1992.
IBM reentered India through a joint venture with the Indian conglomerate Tata called Tata Information Systems Ltd (subsequently changed to Tata-IBM and later to IBM after Tata and IBM parted ways in 1999).
And Mike Klein, the Bullet motorcycle-riding IBM expat, was the first CEO of Tata Information Systems Ltd, which those days had a small office at the Golden Enclave building on Airport Road in Bangalore.
Besides Mike Klein, other IBM executives who played a key role in laying a solid foundation for the company’s rapid growth in India included John Whiting, marketing whiz Venky Raman, software chief Yogi Singh and Gul Iqbal.
Those days, the company was peddling mainframes, AS/400 systems to the banks, RS6000 workstations, AIX servers and PCs as well as handling some small software development jobs for the parent company.
At the time, it seemed like just one more new MNC coming into the country for those too young to remember IBM’s departure in 1978 over an Indian law requiring foreign companies to dilute their equity stake.
But this was a different IBM, a hungry corporation that had gone through a near-death experience and the wrenching turmoil of laying off tens of thousands of employees worldwide.
In India, IBM expanded its operations across the country – setting up a PC manufacturing center in Pondicherry, a Linux center in Bangalore, an e-Governance center in Gurgaon, BPO centers in Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai, offices in different corners of the nation and grew its IBM Global Services business significantly.
Fast forward to 2007.
IBM is now forecasting sales of nearly $1 billion dollar from India this year, up from $700 million last year.
It seems sales of hardware, software and services in India has increased 39 percent in the first three quarters.
If you think IBM has been growing gangbusters in India, it’s even better than you think because the company excludes revenues from the lucrative outsourcing business managed in India as those are accounted for in the countries where the contracts are sold.
IBM now has 53,000 employees in India, up from just a few hundred in 1992.