Indian Software Success – How Come?

Posted in History, Uncategorized by Anuraag Sanghi on December 15, 2007

A 35 year old Indian advertising executive (after a short London based assignment, at Car Phone Warehouse) had an interesting observation.

There is a transfer effect! We Indians, get respect in some parts of the world today, because we are Indians. Earlier perception of Indians was based on the individual. Indians were not respected for their nationality. Now, Indians gets some respect because they are Indian.

How Did This Happen

And the Indian image makeover was due to the work done by the software guys on the Y2K problem – this advertising executive claimed. The Y2K was predicted to be a major disaster – waiting to happen! The world waited with bated breath – for planes to crash; banks feared billion dollar frauds; Generals were afraid that defence systems would go on a blink. Indian software companies got the Y2K contract by the truckloads. The whole world piled on to Indian software companies – as there were few credible alternatives.

Come Y2k, nothing happened. The world over!

It just another day. It was the biggest triumph for the Indian software community. Done at a cost of a few billion dollars. The Y2K meteor did not crash onto mother earth – it was detonated at the time of entry into the earth’s atmosphere by Indian software programmers. As usual Indians do not celebrate their major successes. (Instead they make a big deal of the 20:20 world cup)

India’s software success has many claimants – and all of them have had a role to play. And in this crush, one small thing escaped everybody’s notice.

Why Did Software Become Such A Big Thing

Why is it that software became such a big thing in India? How come Indian engineers with such low levels of prior exposure to computers could ramp up so quickly and tackle such a complex problem? How could a country with the lowest computer penetration become the largest expeorter of software in less than 10 years.

The answer goes back to 5000 years ago.

When Sanskrit language was invented. Yes. Invented.

What!! What Has Sanskrit Got To Do With This

Sanskrit is an artificial, synthetic, revolutionary language – unlike all other languages in the world; which are Prakrit (natural and evolutionary). The next set of artificial languages came into this world after 5000 years later.

About 50-75 years ago, the next set of artificial languages were invented. These are the computer languages. Between the invention of Sanskrit and the computer languages , there was no other culture which created an artificial language system.

What is special about Sanskrit?

Sanskrit is nothing but a database system with millions of database tables and a system of linking concatenated data records. Every word is a table (I studied Sanskrit 30 years ago, and if I remember correctly, it is a 3 column x 8 row table). And all words then combine with each other as per these table rules.

And all Indian languages are derived from Sanskrit.

While most of us do not know Sanskrit or understand it’s structure consciously, we all use Sanskritic structures everyday. It is easy for us to learn another “Sanskritic” language! Hence, for all those brilliant engineers, their base in Sanskritic languages gave them a head start.

And the rest, as they say, is history!

PS – Most malware, denial of service attacks, co-ordinated system attacks seems to be coming out of Eastern Europe, Russia and now China also. India – nix. In spite of being a software super power, our negative contibutions seem negligible. There is something to this …

19 Responses

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  1. Paul said, on December 15, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    Interesting. When I was studying computing, I remember making the observation that there were quite a few similarities between the “Object Oriented” computing paradigm which governs modern software development and the Hindu religion, which of course is inextricably linked with the Sanskrit language.

  2. Bix said, on December 15, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    I tend to disagree. The Indian software engineers may be good programmers. I do not think the team of Indian software guys detonated the Y2K meteor. Y2K needed lot of programmers(human resources) to go and change the source code, when it comes to details. We Indians did not invent some magic tool to eliminate it. Is it some intellectual piece of work??

    Most of the Indian comapnies are in to IT services. All we do is rummage in to some thousands of lines of code and fix 2 lines. im talking about the majority of the work that Indain companies do. How many IT inventions were by Indians? It is very less compared to the number of Indians in the industry.

    The knack of programming may originates back to a sound mathematical knowledge of Indians. I read some where that Indian schools have a better maths curriculum. I like Sanskrit. but Im not convinced with your logic.

    Anyway my point here is, Are you not trying to take more pride than you deserve?

  3. Anuraag Sanghi said, on December 16, 2007 at 7:03 am

    There are only three things about software …

    1. Code – Solid, safe, reliable, iron cast, bullet proof, completely tested code. This takes time and coders. No magic bullet here. Pure disciplined, back breaking, meticulous, detailed grunt work. God, I haa-atttte this part!!

    2. Code – at a reasonable cost. It takes time to write good code as mentioned above . And time costs money. (This I like. I love the smell and feel of crisp (or otherwise) notes.)

    3. Code – That meets user(s) requirements. Code that user(s) will pay for. In case of product software, you need somebody to under write the risk of writing code that users may not want or what if somebody has written better code. (Basically, getting myself a sugar daddy – which also I like).

    So to sum it up … it is code … code .. code.

    As for credit, if at all I am taking away credit, it is from all those who created this success. By saying that they deserve less because they had a historical advantage is possibly unfair.

    The historical advantage theory still does not explain the impossible build up in 10 years of capacity, training, infrastructure, investments, recruitment, user engagement, application mapping, stress points understanding, et al. Hence, the pride.

    As regards mathematics skills …

    Where was modern maths born. India. Zero, the value of pi, the decimal system, the ability to predict eclipse. These my dear Bix, are Indian inventions. The European Renaisance, creativity, inventions, discoveries co-incided with two things.

    The Loot of (Red) Indian Gold and the adoption of the (Brown)Indian decimal system in the West in the 16th century. The (Red) Indian gold funded the Western Civilisation and (Brown)Indian mathematics gave them the tools.

    Dearest Bix, you have done a QED (Quod erat demonstrandum) of my theorem.


    • Raani said, on March 10, 2014 at 11:24 pm

      Anuraag, a lot more than just 0 and 1, decimals, exponents came from India. 🙂

      On a poster in high schools in USA by Enasco titled *Math of India*, the other *Math of Arabia*

      Math of India poster verifies numerals, zero, exponents, decimals, originated in India while plenty of proof is provided elsewhere that India also made vast contributions in geometry, trigonometry and calculus. God Shiva used the trishul..

      See Math from India in a web search for these proofs.

      And watch ‘Scientific Verification of Vedic Knowledge in Hinduism’ which is narrated by European – he provides historical proof of his statements.

      On the ‘Math of Arabia’ poster on walls in high schools in USA: it is quoted,

      “In 860 AD Baghdad dominated the world of mathematics and science. The great Hindu works in astronomy, mathematics, medicine were translated into Arabic and studied.” You can purchase these posters online by Enasco and verify!

      See documents titled “The spread of Calculus from India to Europe.”

      nd “The Spread and Triumph of Indian numerals.”


      Famous Quotes on India – many Europeans acknowledge what came from India 🙂

    • Raani said, on March 10, 2014 at 11:31 pm

      Dear Anuraag,

      I know this is off topic so I don’t blame you for not posting – but it is tied to “Sanskrit” so in that way you may post it. Many people don’t know that Vedic Sanskrit is tied to Persian (old Avestan). Avestan existed from at least 600 BC while Arabic language looks like it but is in a different language family and is very different when spoken. The script was borrowed nonetheless. here is some evidence:

      Vedic Sanskrit is an Old Indo-Aryan language. It is an archaic form of Sanskrit, an early descendant of Proto-Indo-Iranian. It is closely related to Avestan, the oldest preserved Iranian language. Vedic Sanskrit is the oldest attested language of the Indo-Iranian branch of the IndEuropean family.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vedic_Sanskrit AVESTAN IS OLD PERSIAN.

      “Soon after postulating an Indo-European family in the 19th century, the Iranian languages (Avestan, Old Persian, Pahlavi) together with Indic (Sanskrit, Prakrit) were recognized by works of the linguist Rasmus Rask in 1826 as the eastern branch of Indo-European languages.”

      The Arabic script we have all grown to love is just a copy of Persian script…and this is why Urdu is ninety percent Hindi when spoken but the Persian script maintained from ancient times. Those who know Persian cannot speak Arabic – and this history is the reason why no one in India speaks Arabic or writes in it. Just as maths travelled west, so did our language.

      Mohammed came about 1,000 years after Ashoka the Great united areas from Afghanistan to Burma in 300 BC. The history, so much of it, is riddled with our influences.

      Great post by the way. 🙂

    • sachin said, on March 11, 2014 at 7:00 pm

      SEE http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avestan_language.

      AND http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avesta

      From Wiki on Persian script “Perso-Arabic script in some Islamic countries is being promoted and defended as a sign of Islamic culture. People and governments in some Islamic countries have an interest in this script because of its relation to Islam and because it has been utilized to write the Koran. ”

      The Koran was written in Arabic so there you have it It is ignored that it originates at least ten centuries after Avestan.

      No one speaks Arabic in India or Pakistan – that’s not relevant either….

      The reason they don’t is that those millions who were converted kept their spoken language (spoken Hindi/ Pashto/Balochi/Punjabi/Persian and the other Indo languages) and script.

      The Islamic armies did not teach “Arabic script nor its spoken language” to the inhabitants. It is just not logical they would impose script but not spoken language.

      Encyclopedia Britannica does not give a specific date as to when ‘Arabic people’ came about because actual historians note they were nomads and scattered tribes – nearing the time of Abraham. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/31348/Arab

      If a) it is known it is pan ethnic group and b) pagans lived in the same area as Mecca when Mohammed destroyed the 360 idols inside Kaaba – that history is admitted…’some pagan cultures’ built Kaaba. Something just doesn’t add up.

      Arabs were not unified til sometime around Christ.

      This website shows what I am pretty sure as real history and it makes sense- why and how ‘Arab’ came about: http://www.ucg.org/doctrinal-beliefs/biblical-origins-arab-peoples/ and it correlates to what textbooks say about ‘nomadic tribes’ living in this area at the time.

  4. Galeo Rhinus said, on December 16, 2007 at 10:42 pm

    Sanskrit went through two major phases of development. First one was 5000 years. Then, 2500 years ago, Panini introduced some definite syntactical elements to Sanskrit. Modern computer languages give credit to the Panini–Backus Form (earlier called as the Backus-Naur Form). It is a meta-syntax used to express context-free grammars, a pre-requisite for programming languages.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panini-Backus_form

    In addition – around the same time, the concept of Binary numbers were introduced in India by Pingala.

    Research is needed to understand India’s motive to improve the syntactical coherence in Sanskrit and the extensive research on Binary numbers in the same period. Nothing currently explains the application for research and improvements in these areas.

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  8. indian said, on May 19, 2010 at 10:43 am

    The regular structure of Sanskrit and relation to computer languages is all obvious.

    However, all this has nothing to do with the apparent “success” of the Indian software industry. In fact, there is no indian software industry — there is nary a software product worth its name from these “gems” of indian IT industry. Check it out.

    What we have “success” in is, services. The business model is entirely based on wage arbitrage, that the workers can be paid low and billed high to the customers.

    (That explains why Indian IT companies are at the forefront of H1B lobbying in the USA. The profits they can make is directly proportional to the number of H1B visas they can corner).

    Other than this (which made a huge pile of dollars, of course) what software “success” does India have, to speak of ?

  9. Anuraag Sanghi said, on May 19, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Dear ‘indian’

    The failures of the Indian software industry are many – though not the ones that you point out! You essentially make three “cliched” points – usually repeated by dismissive foreigners or envious NRIs.

    regular structure of Sanskrit and relation to computer languages is all obvious.

    1. Reg. Sanskrit – I am glad that you are aware, you appreciate and it is obvious to you – which is usually not the case.

    In which case you will also understand that all Indian languages are based, allied, influenced by Sanskrit. Hence, for Indian s to think in synthetic language idioms will not be difficult.

    nary a software product worth its name from these “gems” of indian IT industry

    2. You are partly right – though for the wrong reasons.

    Software ‘products’ as you talk about, are commercialized pieces of code. Commercialization is a function of capital. Due to various reasons, financial capital in India is expensive and scarce. Hence, India has a competitive disadvantage in commercializing such technology ‘products’. You can read my various posts on economy.

    My suspicion is that your views are shaped by the absence of Indian versions of Microsofts, SAPs and the Oracles of the West. Why must India have an answer to Oracle or a Microsoft? Why reinvent the wheel?

    Maybe you should look at products like Tally, Wings (excellent examples of frugal engineering), the MCX technology for stock exchanges (real high tech stuff) before you talk of non-existent software in India.

    business model is entirely based on wage arbitrage, that the workers can be paid low and billed high to the customers

    3. There are three parts to your rather simplistic rejection.

    #1. By your logic, the rules of the software game are simple. May the cheapest vendor win. In which case, the highest paying labour contractor wins. Are you telling me that all it takes are a few labour contractors to rewrite the software code of the English speaking world? Reality, as you know, is otherwise.

    #2. The Y2k is an excellent example. A shortcoming of the Y2K success, allegedly, was that it was an artificial disaster! Since, it was an ‘imagined’ event, that never occured, it proves or disproves nothing, claim the nay-sayers. Granted – provisionally.

    It still does not negate the fact that the entire code from legacy systems had to be

    1. Understood

    2. Modified, Redesigned, New Features integrated

    3. Rewritten

    4. Ported

    5. Tested

    6. Verified

    7. Documented

    8. People Trained

    9. Implemented

    10. Rolled out

    and then LIVE.

    In a matter of some five years. So many things could have gone wrong. Fact is nothing did.

    #3. You will agree that training so many programmers was a success – if the actual coding is not! Training millions of programmers without subsidy, by private players, with no previous experience, with a small domestic market is unprecedented.

    Sir – Let me suggest. Don’t let the sounds of constant grunting, distract you.

    And take a good, cold, hard, 2ndlook.

  10. senthil said, on May 29, 2011 at 4:03 pm


    While agree with you on the software success, i have a different perspective..

    * If you observe the top managers and executives of major software companies, majority of them will be brahmins – and your logic of sanskrit perfectly applies here..

    * The method of training and employee interaction is unique to indian scenario.. it is relationship based… with basic training occuring at company training centers, the team leads, project leads and project managers take a flexible and personal role in training the new entrants.. Many of the initial new entrants to software are brahmins.. it was a personal touch and non-systemic and personalised training.. This made the enormous work force of developers within short period..

    i think this aspect doesnt exist in western MNCs.. they are too systemic to be flexible..

    * The success of software industry in india is mainly because of Currency Difference.. probably because of briton-woods system you mentioned earlier.. without this, the industry could not have pulled so many talents..

    * Inspite of these success in software service, we failed arbitrarily in product development. why? the reason is that we are NOT corporate economy and we are NOT institutionalised society.. our society is NOT law based, and hence NOT systemic.. hence we lacked that systemic mindset, to design architecture & designs, for a software.. we are good at completing a job, but poor in designing a system..

    * Another reason for lack of software products is that we are NOT individualised society.. we are commune society based on relationship.. in individualised societies like the west, due to absense of commune, they live almost in their own world, immersed in their thoughts..

    * Inspite of the software success, we need to accept the fact that it had collapsed our society more than it had benefitted.. Artificial growth of urban centres, disparities within families and community, uprooting of people from their native, creating more metro-refugees, destroying nature due to expanding big cities etc.. in short, the bharat-tantra had been changed to western slave economy.. The indian urban people work as economic slaves to west (in s/w & BPO), whereas they had colonised the rest of the rural india..

    • Anuraag Sanghi said, on May 29, 2011 at 7:17 pm

      Senthil –

      I have examined the Indian experience in urbanization and compared it to global experiences. (Short URL – http://goo.gl/1HFW1 ).

      I am making a simple point. Sanskrit is a synthetic language using database structures – invented at least 4000 years ago. All modern Indian languages are derived from Sanskrit – using some basic database systems.

      Hence, Indians would find it easy to intuitively understand and write code.

      I am getting lost in this Brahmin, society, relationships idea that you are proposing. Maybe you can simplify or amplify on that in a post.

  11. senthil said, on May 30, 2011 at 2:59 am

    i agree with your sanskrit language point.. and i complement it by citing the fact that most of the people who joined software during the initial days were brahmins.. today they were in senior most positions of various companies..

    The brahmins know sanskrit and acted as lead training other new recruits.

    Another aspect for software success is the inherent logical sense among all common people of india..

  12. Rajesh said, on July 18, 2011 at 10:23 am

    1. The British rule and our Educational system has made Inida a English rich country.
    2. Brahmins have comparitively less ancestral property. They always relied on Education for sucsess in life unlike other castes like farmer who would want his son to help in farming and Visyas with Business. Brahmins learned English fast due to their skill in learning (vedas; mantras) before indipendance. This made them top Govt officials soon after Indipendance.
    3. Brahmin’s prioritized education of their children
    4. Indian is well known for cheap labour.
    5. India is not at all creative (how many inventions have we made) compare with europeans or Japanese
    6. We can do loads of work for a handfull of dollars,
    7 SAP, microsoft ect are great products which we can never comete but we can learn and support for a small cost.

    thats all the west wants

  13. Radhakrishna said, on October 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    i mean, this is known as stupidity..just to prove anything, make anything..and only fools will say that sanskrit is an artificial language..infact, it was the national language of bharat..don’t say that british united india..india or bharat the real name was always there and sankrit was it’s national language..and Y2K was not an invention..just to save the white masters, some source code of zero was changed..that needed only labor pool..now we indians must stop eulogizing ourselves and do some real work..only then we would be respected

    • Anuraag Sanghi said, on October 22, 2011 at 7:19 pm
      Please correctly understand the meaning of an artificial language.

      Sanskrit is not a haphazard natural language – but a well-structured and well-designed, artificial language – like modern software languages.

      The rest of your comment has been reflected in some comments above too- which have been answered.

  14. langa said, on March 11, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    The developed world needed a huge amount of code to be built from 1995 till 2010 and now it still needs a huge amount of support labour. India had an educated group of people who can understand and code for cheap money. So everything came here.
    If we were super intelligent like the author claims we would have made at-least 1 world class product by now like Windows and SAP. We are just good at doing what is being told. Not at deciding What or How.
    And what more, a person with normal IQ can learn to program with some training. This is no rocket science. I have doing it for 10 years. I have seen many intelligent people outside IT who respect and think that I am a genius because I am in IT. My IQ in school was from average to below average. USA needed to get work done in minimal cost and here we are.

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