A Band of Dreamers who Transformed a Nation
Ayesha Anna Ninan
THE MAVERICK EFFECT: THE INSIDE STORY OF INDIA’S IT REVOLUTION by Harish Mehta HarperBusiness, 2022, 274 pp., ₹ 699.00
April 2023, volume 47, No 4

In the 1970s, the possibility of India being a global information technology leader seemed like an impossible dream. In 1985, Texas Instruments was given a direct satellite link for round-the-clock communication with the US from Bangalore, enabling offshoring of software work. Still, the full potential of software services was not realized. So, when negotiating the Uruguay Round of trade agreements, in the 1990s, India was opposed to including trade in services which would have helped the software industry. It was a time when India’s hardware industry worked in tangent with a bureaucratic government in an informal manner, enabling a handful of players to benefit.

Harish Mehta is the primary founder and ex-chairperson of the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM). In this book, he tells the story of NASSCOM’s role in the growth of India’s software services industry since the Association’s founding in 1988. It is as well that Mehta tells the story from his perspective, because the public face of NASSCOM has been, not its Chairmen, but its Presidents—the indefatigable Dewang Mehta, Kiran Karnik, Som Mittal, and so on.

In the mid-70s, Harish Mehta was settled in the US, but the lack of a sense of belonging motivated him and his wife to move back to India. Having become a partner at Hinditron, a software solutions company, Mehta and his cohorts felt that the country’s software services industry lacked a unified voice. The bureaucracy was hindering progress.

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