US employee accuses Infosys of Visa, tax fraud. Source- The Economic Times.

In a year when sustained unemployment in the US is threatening to raise the rhetoric against India’s outsourcing sector, Infosys Technologies is facing tax and visa fraud charges in the top market for software exports after an employee filed a case against the company last week.

Jack Palmer, who has been working with the company as a principal consultant since August 2008, has filed a complaint with the Alabama Court saying the company was sending employees on B1 visas to work full time in the US, though the visa is only meant for visitors who come for meetings, conferences and business negotiations.

In his complaint, he has also accused Infosys of not paying federal and state taxes in the US. The US is the most crucial market for Infosys from where it draws over 60% of its revenues. About 15,000 are employed by the company in that country.

Palmer said Infosys had asked him to come down to its headquarters in Bangalore to devise ways to overcome the restrictions on H1B visas that had been put in 2009. He was also asked to write “welcome letters” for Indian employees so they could come on B1 visas.

An Infosys spokesperson said he could not comment on the matter as it was sub judice and the company would defend itself.

Palmer said he had taken up the matter with the company’s corporate counsel Jeff Friedel and that subsequently a manager from India confirmed the violations but asked him to keep things quite. Friedel also confirmed the fraud to him, Palmer said in his complaint.

Palmer said he had also filed a complaint with the ‘Whistleblower team’ which did not investigate the matter thoroughly and that he had been receiving threatening phone calls from the company and was “subjected to constant harassment, threats, and retaliation”.

A company executive said on condition of anonymity that this was a case filed by a disgruntled employee and that a company as transparent as Infosys did not have reason to worry. The executive also said he did not see this impacting the company’s image in the US in any way.

Experts say Indian players need to be more careful of how they are using these visas than ever before as matters such as these could make the regulations around visas even tighter.

“If, in fact, the US policy regarding work visas is getting tighter, the integrity of outsourcing companies in applying for visas becomes even more important. Even the appearance of misuse or ‘stretching’ the rules can have consequences and could create a self-fulfilling direction of even tighter rules in the future. Taming the system will only make the system more difficult to work with in the long run. Therefore, companies that maintain the highest level of integrity in approaching the visa issue will likely benefit in the long run,” Rodney Nelsestuen, senior research director at research & consulting firm Towergroup said.

Immigration experts such as Morley J Nair say US consulates have already made it tougher for Indian professionals to get work permits. “Going by anecdotal evidence, the rate of denials seems to have gone up substantially at US consulates, especially at consulates in India. Even if visas are issued, often they are issued only after applicants are put through a gruelling process to present more elaborate evidence about the US employment,” Nair said.

He added that Indian companies will need to hire more locally in order to avoid regulatory and other challenges.
“The logical conclusion is that if employers are able to hire candidates from US campuses, the ‘hazards’ of US consulate interviews and overbearing questioning at US entry points can be avoided, at least in the short term, i.e., until they have to travel overseas again and obtain visas to re-enter the US,” he said.

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India’s domestic market for IT set to grow three times faster. Source – The Economic Times.

For India’s top technology firms focused on the markets of US and Europe, the country’s $15-billion-plus domestic market for IT services is the latest battleground. In a year when top markets for software exports are recovering and expected to grow at less than 5%, India’s domestic market for IT is set to grow three times faster, mainly on the back of higher government spending on IT and new outsourcing projects from local banks.

“We will be looking at IT to aid customer acquisition and financial inclusion. The attempt will be to take banking to remote areas using technology services,” says Pushpinder Singh, DGM-IT, Bank of India , which plans to spend Rs 600 crore on technology this year. “For some of the contracts, we will continue with existing vendors. We will be evaluating others for new projects,” he added.

Indian government departments and public sector units are going to spend the most on IT this year. The biggest driver for higher government spending on IT and related areas is India’s UID project, which according to CLSA Research will lead to $10 billion worth of investments in IT consulting, system integration, and computer hardware over the next five to six years. CLSA sees an $1-billion business opportunity for consultants in the first five years and a need to raise manpower by 15% for their services. Some 18,000 systems specialists and programmers will drive a $2.4-billion pie for integration of UID into existing software systems.

“As this sets in, business process re-engineering (BPR) activities should pick up, as the full benefits of UID for businesses become clear. We expect 36,000 people to join the BPR wave around UID, creating a $6-billion market over the first five years,” CLSA researchers said in their report last year.

“Apart from UID, IT hardware growth will get a fillip with $1.1 billion worth of equipment sold to the government and another $1.8 billion of incremental demand from the private sector and government-owned companies,” the report adds. What’s critical is that vendors like IBM, TCS, Infosys and Wipro see newer opportunities emerging even during a global slowdown in software spending because state-owned enterprises like BSNL and ONGC — and other ministries too — seek to become more efficient.

Experts tracking this sector say India Post, Indian Railways and LIC will spend $3 billion on information technology this year, and the government’s share of total IT spend in India will cross 10% over the next two years from 6% right now. Praveen Bhadada, manager-consulting, Zinnov Management Consulting says: “In the 10th five-year-plan (2002- 2007) 0.3% was spent on IT. In the 11th five-year-plan, IT spend increased to 0.5 %. If we extrapolate this, government is going to spend about 2 % on IT. If today, $1.5 billion is spent annually, it could easily go up to $ 7-8 billion over the next three to five years.”

For one, India’s department of posts (DoP) is set to spend up to $1 billion on its IT-led business revamp over the next five years with top tech firms like IBM, TCS, Infosys and Wipro pursuing several outsourcing contracts for helping the postal department automate and integrate its business processes with a standard software solution. Accenture is in the process of developing a plan for this revamp.

KPO offers good opportunities for Indian entities: Gartner (Source – The Economic Times)

Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) offers good business opportunities for Indian entities , and will help them in providing high value services, according to Gartner. Estimated to be worth billions of dollars, KPO market provides varied services in areas such as marketing, legal processes, clinical trials and banking.

“KPO service offerings is a good opportunity for Indian BPO providers to provide high value services and thereby enabling them to develop higher margin work,” IT research firm Gartner’s Principal Research Analyst Arup Roy told PTI.

As per the various estimates, the global KPO market is likely to be valued at more than USD 15 billion in the coming years. He noted that KPO services would help domestic players in developing relationships with clients at higher levels, which “could then be leveraged to upsell and cross-sell”.

Many IT players including Infosys, TCS, Wipro and Cognizant offer various KPO services.

According to a recent Gartner research paper, KPO services would likely offer a combination of better processing methodology and an intellectually skilled workforce based predominantly in an offshore location.

“… Competition, therefore, is coming from a mix of specialist KPO providers, management consultants, BPO providers and existing conventional onshore industry specialists,” the paper said. Going by industry body Nasscom, the overall IT services and software sector is projected to be worth about USD 76 billion in financial year 2011.

Google relying on user data to map Indian cities – Source:The Economic Times

Global internet search giant Google Inc has taken up mapping of major Indian cities and other emerging economies by relying on the data from users, a company official said here on Wednesday.

Vinay Goel, head of products, Google India, told a news conference that the company was relying on user data for mapping major cities in 180 countries, including India.It has already rolled out services like landmark-based driving directions and providing information about public transport in major Indian cities.

Google Transit has already been launched in cities like Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad.

Unlike in the US, where driving directions can be given easily, in India and other emerging economies, new colonies, constructions and frequent changes in one-way traffic rules make it difficult to map the cities, he said.
“The moment I prepare a map, it becomes outdated. We felt the best thing is to do is to rely on the data of users,” Goel said.

There is an active community of users in India that takes ownership of neighbourhood and by using satellite imagery prepare the maps of roads.
“We are getting very dense graph of information that we are using to map every city and to give driving directions,” he said. Citing the example of Lahore, he said the entire of Pakistani city was mapped by users within three days.

“People distributed work among themselves. They worked with a sense of patriotism, and everyone said ‘I want my city to be mapped’,” Goel said. Google continues to make search more relevant, fast and user friendly and improve user experience by effecting 1.5 to 2 changes every week. Last year it made 490 changes. In 2009, it introduced 510 changes. According to him, the job of the search engine had become much more complex than what it was two years ago as people want latest information in all media formats.

Six months back, Google launched real time results to provide information on instant basis. At any given time, Google is indexing a billion pages on instant basis.
Last year, it rolled out a new service by which a user can search without even completely typing what he wants to search.

Magnifying glass was another change brought for instant preview. A user can use to preview sites on a particular subject even before loading them. Goel said as India was witnessing mobile revolution with 700 million mobiles and increasing number of people using internet through, Google was working to cater to their search requirements. It has already rolled out services like search through voice and image.

He termed India as one of the fastest growing internet markets in the world.
The online penetration in India is nine to 10 percent while in most of the developed economies it is 70 to 90 percent.
“There is room for growth coming from China and South East Asia,” he said.

Citi, BofA & JPMorgan to outsource $5 bn of IT and back office projects to India. Source-The Economic Times

America’s top banks including Citigroup, JP Morgan and Bank of America are set to outsource IT and back office projects worth nearly $5 billion this year to India, as they seek to lower costs of complying with new regulations and integrate banking systems.

According to at least a dozen senior executives at Tata Consultancy Services , Infosys, Wipro , HCL and Cognizant, apart from outsourcing consultants advising these banks, new investments in compliance and regulatory norms, apart from ongoing integration with acquired assets are among top drivers for this spend.

While Bank of America is merging its systems with Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan Chase is driving its integration with several acquired units including Washington Mutual. Having sold its captive operations to TCS and Wipro, Citigroup is now seeing more opportunities to cut costs through offshoring. Mid-tier banks such as Wells Fargo, which acquired Wachovia is now attempting to drive the integration from cheaper overseas locations such as India. Morgan Stanley is also driving IT integration with Smith Barney by outsourcing projects to India-based vendors.

“We went down with Lehman. We are now set to rise with the banks that have survived the downturn, government pressures and interventions, and are now independent enough to make decisions and chase profitability,” the CEO of one of the Indian tech firms said.

By sending over half of integration projects to vendors based in India, these banks will be able to lower their cost of managing complex M&A transactions. The US government mandates these transactions to be completed in 18-24 months, putting pressure on them to outsource non-core activities.

Stricter reporting and compliance norms are also playing their role. According to US-based TowerGroup, these banks will spend almost $60 billion on coping with stricter regulations such as Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. “They have a lot of reporting requirements that were not required earlier and this needs an update in technology. These new norms are needed because of the several government bailouts etc that took place. Even for banks that did not require government bailouts, there was a lot of merger activity and integration is supposed to be completed in two years according to the government rules,” said Jan Erik Aase, principal analyst, offshore outsourcing and vendor management at Forrester.

Already, TCS and Cognizant — the two firms that outperformed peers over past few quarters — are seeing their revenues from banking customers rise by over 40%. TCS, which gets nearly half its revenues from banks, saw its banking and financial services business grow by 25% during the December quarter. Cognizant, which counts JP Morgan among its top customers grew its revenues from banks by 46.5% during the same period. Infosys, which derives 36.2% of its revenues by writing applications for banks such as BofA, grew its business from the segment by 4.6% during the third quarter.

Last year, top banks including ABN Amro and UBS apart from large US financial institutions, signed contract valued at over $6 billion, according to Everest Research.

Gartner Highlights Five Trends Affecting the Enterprise Software Industry – Source: PCQuest

Business intelligence (BI), collaboration, content management, social software and supply chain management will be the top application software growth segments in 2011, according to Gartner. This year, the focus will be on modernizing packaged application systems, enabling diverse user access through software as a service (SaaS) and cloud services, and driving revenue and innovation. Worldwide enterprise software revenue is forecast to surpass $253.7 billion in 2011, a 7.5 percent increase from 2010 revenue of $235.9 billion. ‘The focus in the enterprise software industry is on upgrading of build-run-manage technologies to improve agility, establishing cloud-computing infrastructure services and results-reporting transparency,’ said Tom Eid, research Vice President at Gartner.

‘For 2011 through 2015, the highest instances of software market growth will align to the business requirements of attracting and retaining customers, enhancing business processes, improving collaboration and social networking, managing content of all types, reporting of performance and results transparency, and workforce effectiveness and flexibility,’ Eid said. The market-disrupting influences of SaaS, cloud-based services, open-source software, consumerization and Web 2.0 technologies will expand, while developing countries, including Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC), will prove themselves to be pivotal innovation and growth engines. The enterprise software marketplace continually undergoes technology and business model transitions that affect how buyers procure software, implement technology and conduct operations. Gartner has identified the five long-term, overarching, and interdependent trends affecting the enterprise software markets as globalization, implementation, modernization, socialization and verticalization.

Globalization: This encompasses market consolidation and technology convergence trends, as well as the connected society, vendor mergers, and acquisitions. Gartner predicts significant technology and vendor consolidation during the next several years will reshape the current landscape.

Implementation: How organizations procure and deliver software is being challenged with cloud-computing, platform as a service (PaaS) and SaaS, coupled with pervasive and mobile access. The demand for cloud-based solutions will continue throughout the next several years. Mobile solutions have led to the opening of many new industry-based market opportunities, such as mobile banking, mobile commerce and remote healthcare diagnostics.

Modernization: Enterprises continue to migrate to open-source software (OSS) and SOA as older applications and systems become more costly to upgrade and maintain. Aligned with the modernization trend, automating business processes and streamlining workflows continue to gain traction. Enterprises are expecting to provide significant resources in 2011 to upgrade all types of systems and software, ranging from personal productivity tools, to build-run-manage infrastructure software, to user-driven applications. Virtualization is a key modernization factor.

Socialization: Use of social media and networking continues to gain traction. In the trend of socialization, which includes personalization, collaboration and content in the context of user-defined activities, Gartner predicts that unified communications and collaboration will see increased adoption in 2012, and context-aware and presence-based computing will gain more traction in 2013.

Verticalization: This trend involves a cycle of horizontal software applications becoming more customized and catered toward specific industries. In deploying new software technologies, it is common for vendors to initially provide generalized technology that, over time, can then give rise to more industry-specific and line-of-business features. Examples are communications-enabled business processes and composite content applications.

 

Fast, clean and secure: Browsers getting smart – Source- The Economic Times

It takes around 100 milliseconds to bat your eyelid. And the race now among the popularly used browsers is to optimize javascript performance to be within the time you bat your eyelid twice. There is very little difference between the speeds clocked by the latest versions of the browsers of Google, Microsoft and Mozilla. What this means is that applications and graphics pop up at enviable speeds.

Google’s Chrome, Microsoft’s latest Internet Explorer 9 Beta version and Mozilla Firebox’s 4 Beta 10 update offer just that – ultra fast speeds, a clean browser and a high level of security. Perhaps the key differentiator here is the user interface experience and extra features/extensions that each browser offers. It is in this niche services, that one browser scores over the other, says Harish Vaidyanathan, Director, Evangelism, Microsoft India . But for ordinary users, these advanced features help them save time and increase efficiency. For instance, you don’t have to key in the entire URL address in any of these browsers.

All the three latest versions are smart enough to throw up the exact link you are looking for. In some cases, they even offer different options or they may even track your browsing history and display sites you visit very often. You may not need to open separate applications to view Excel sheets or your photo albums, these have now become integrated into the browser itself. Here’s a look at some of the fascinating developments introduced by the major browsers.

Google Chrome Browser

Tabs are getting very adventurous across browsers. Instead of having multiple windows piled up at the bottom, it saves so much space to have tabs neatly arranged on the top. The fascinating thing here is that you can have split tabs into different windows. This means that you can write that research project you have been working on and at the same time keep a tab on the cricket scores. And this is how you do it:

1. Drag a tab to the middle of either side of your computer screen

2. When the docking icon appears, release the mouse over the icon and the tab will snap into place, filling exactly half your screen

3. Four other docking positions will help you work simultaneously in multiple tabs with ease

A niche feature which is likely to catch on in a big way is the link the chrome browser can give to your mobile phone. And this is how it works:

1. Download the ‘Chrome to Phone’ feature.

2. A button gets added to the browser that instantly sends the web page, map or YouTube video to your mobile phone.

You need a phone which runs Froyo (Android 2.2) to use the Chrome to Phone feature.

There are also some interesting features that you can add like the Google mail checker for instance, which displays the number of unread messages you have in your Google mail box right on top of your screen. You will have to download the Google mail checker to activate this application. Once done, you just need to click the button to open your inbox.

For movie buffs, there is a ‘switching off the lights’ feature (which has to be downloaded). If this is activated, the page fades to dark and there is an automatic focus on the video.

Internet Explorer 9 Beta

Unlike the older versions of the Internet Explorer browser which were bloated and slow compared to the competition, the latest version IE9, which has already seen 20 million downloads (since the launch of the beta in September 2010), is more clean offering plenty of real estate space for users to browse. “The focus is on a clean, fast, secure browsing experience,” says Harish of Microsoft.

For sites which you use very often, you can take the icon displayed on the tab and pin it to the task-bar at the bottom of the screen. The next time you want to visit the site, all you need to do is click on that icon. These jump-list icons can reduce the time you take to navigate from site to site.

The latest version allows for split screen viewing of tabs. This is called a tag rip-off:

1. Pull the tab and drag and drop it onto the screen. The content continues to render seamlessly

2. This exercise can be repeated with other tabs and you can even merge the tabs bacK

The result is you can do a lot of work simultaneously — whether it be chatting with your friends, streaming internet radio or writing a document.

There is a brand new Javascript engine, codenamed Chakra, under-the-hood that delivers good JavaScript performance on real-world websites.

But what IE9 seems to score over the other browsers is with security. You can check out the performance of the new Internet Explorer 9 Beta at http://ie.microsoft.com/testdrive

So what’s next? “We are eagerly waiting for Web 3.0 and that’s going to be the Graphical Web,” he says.

Firefox 4 Beta 10

One thing Mozilla has been saying about Firefox 4 Beta 10, is that its new JägerMonkey JavaScript engine ensures faster start-up time, faster graphics rendering and quicker page load speed. But what users will find useful is the efficient tab control that you can enjoy. If you are looking up something on art history, for instance, you can open 5-6 tabs simultaneously. You can pile them up into one group and minimize it for future use. And this is how you do it:

1. You can click on any tab & drag it to the side, to form a group

2. After piling all your tabs, you can minimize this so that it becomes a pile

3. In case you need to see it, just press the expand button

Firefox 4, the Beta version of which can be downloaded by anyone, by default gives screen shots of the eight most frequented sites you’ve visited.

Like Chrome, Firefox 4 also offers features to stay in sync with your mobile phone. You can synchronize your settings, passwords, bookmarks, history, open tabs and other customizations across multiple devices so you can take Firefox with you wherever you go. But this is not available on all mobile phones yet.

Tips for smart browsing

If you are not too sure of the URL you want, you can directly enter the search query and the new browsers can immediately sniff out what you want & throw up options.

Multitasking is possible on all three browsers. You can pull off one of the tabs, drag it away from the browser and have the contents of two or four sites accommodated on a single screen.

To access your favourite sites quickly, just drag the address onto the task bar at the bottom of the screen. The next time you browse, all you need to do is click on the icon and your favourite page will pop up.