The Maverick Effect review: A story of what India can

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Computer industry pioneer Harish Mehta fills in his memoirs The Maverick Effect with anecdotes from the early days of the 70s and 80s (until today) when the software industry took its first steps – carefully, but with determination. And how the great Indian bureaucracy was there at every corner, putting a spanner in the works. Even with this gigantic creature that never lacks irony, one incident in particular stands out.

“A customs officer (once) told me that I had to leave him samples of what I was exporting. I had to leave him the software diskette. The diligent officer immediately stuck a stapler into the diskette and attached it to the form, destroying the media and rendering it unreadable.

Besides being funny or ironic, the significance of Mehta’s book is that it sheds light on the early days and subsequent trajectory of India’s software boom, which now stands at around $200 billion in annual exports. It reminds us of just how badly everything was, and the glory days have quite a story to tell.

It’s a story that needs to be heard, and Mehta does a decent job of illuminating those uncertain days – when passing the license raj and bureaucratic stubbornness were more important breakthroughs than wrapping up a client or getting a project done. , when computers were either an esoteric term you’ve come across in science fiction or something kept in (the pre-Covid era) sanitized rooms with the air conditioning on full blast, and the word ‘code’ referred to something that dashing secret agents passed off rather than dumb dudes who dabbled in data.

Mind you, Mehta, who landed a well-paying job in Connecticut (no whiter than) to return to India to start a business and eventually became one of the early evangelists of the software boom that followed, does apart, nor is it, that this is a global reference for an overview of the evolution of Indian IT. But, by being in the right place at the right time and organizing early software companies into a unified NASSCOM (National Association of Software & Service Companies) organization that became much more than a lobbying force, Mehta not only had an overview, but a place on the ceremonial podium.

Perhaps that makes this book all the more endearing. Nowhere does it become pedantic or complex with too much detail – the narrative remaining historical, but personalized enough to be empathetic. Mehta sticks to his life story; just that it coincides with a historical trajectory.

“A life reflects the times in which it is lived and the people with whom it is lived,” Mehta writes early on, and although he begins the story with his birth during the score riots that followed the independence of India, this saga only gets its rhythm once he and his family decide to leave the United States, and then everything that follows – the creation of a business, his interest in Indian computing, the founding of NASSCOM, the faltering early days of the rise of swadeshi software, the Bangalore boom, the days of Dewang Mehta, even the Satyam fiasco (which he calls “the finest hour” of NASSCOM) and the ecosystem of tech startups we see blooming all around us right now.

But at the heart of it all is a story of what India can do. Mehta may not be the name topping a list of Indian IT icons, but ensuring it has become an industry of peers who have innovated individually and together, to make Indian software a global force. to be reckoned with, Harish Mehta is a presence that cannot be denied. This book tells you why.

Title: The Maverick Effect

Author: Harish Mehta

Publisher: Harper Business

Pages: 274

Price: Rs 699 (Hardcover)

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