Indian IT outsourcer thrives in Ireland

19 Oct 2005

An Indian technology entrepreneur based in Dublin with a 20-strong IT operations centre in India is capitalising on outsourcing opportunities in the Irish SME marketplace. The entrepreneur is also working on a mobile platform with retail giant Tesco in Ireland and the UK.

Bharat Sharma from the Indian city of Jaipur worked all over Europe as an IT contractor before settling in Dublin five years ago to work with Stephen McCormack’s Nebula Technologies on what originally was meant to be a three-month contract. He then went to work as an IT contractor for Enterprise Ireland and Forfás, working on diverse projects including a system to automate online payments and applications for the EU Sixth Framework Research and Development Programme.

Sharma told that he saw obvious opportunities to provide outsourcing services to Irish SMEs that otherwise would have to hire their own internal IT workers. The company also works with Irish technology start-ups to provide them with programmers to help them develop products. For example, the company has developed web-migration platforms for Dublin firm BMI4kidz, a firm that creates screening applications for combating childhood obesity and that is targeting the US market.

Sharma explained that while he and a number of colleagues operate out of Dublin, his efforts are backed up by an IT resource centre in his home city of Jaipur that employs 20 full-time IT workers.

Not only has India in recent years become a destination of choice for global IT players as a result of India’s high output of IT graduates but Indian IT companies such as Tata Consulting and Wipro Infotech have been establishing a global reputation in the outsourcing field. In recent months it emerged that Indian IT firm HCL will be creating 600 jobs in Northern Ireland between Belfast and Armagh. HCL provides software-led IT solutions, business process outsourcing and infrastructure management services.

Sharma said he intends to carve out a niche by targeting SMEs and start-ups and describes his company as a hybrid of “onshore and nearshore” insofar as outsourcing customers benefit from having Sharma and colleagues onsite despite much of the development work taking place in India.

“We are effectively targeting SME-type firms with IT budgets of between €20,000 per annum up to €200k per annum and in some cases €500k per annum. In addition there are numerous start-up Irish technology companies looking for long-term strategic partners that can’t afford to employ 10 programmers in Dublin,” Sharma explained.

“We are capable of meeting the entire computing needs of firms, ranging from Java-based systems to online payments and websites. The cost benefit for firms is that we can do the work for half the local rates,” he added.

Reflecting on comments by the director-general of Science Foundation Ireland William Harris warning that a more enlightened attitude of Asian countries to science and engineering and their more progressive teaching methods will present a major threat to western economies in the years to come, Sharma said a more long-term approach to science and technology is required in Ireland.

Sharma explained: “An average of one million IT graduates are coming out of Indian universities every year. It would be very hard for Ireland to compete with that. The education system in India is different to that of Ireland insofar as it is more inclined towards science and mathematics.”

In terms of Ireland’s competitiveness in the IT world and competing in the skills race, Sharma said a big problem for Ireland is Irish people’s attitude to ups and downs in the technology industry. “People in Ireland tend to be volatile in terms of choosing technology careers. When the Celtic tiger was in full swing people flocked to technology careers. However, when the downturn occurred, IT workers, parents and students turned away from technology as a career. Irish people tend to follow trends. In India, technology workers stick to their guns and keeping growing with the industry despite the trends.”

Sharma said he intends to expand Monsoon Consulting into the UK market initially and eventually into the German, French and Spanish markets.

A through-and-through entrepreneur, Sharma also runs another IT company called MewIQ, which focuses on developing mobile software applications. The company is in the process of developing Bluetooth and MMS-based business card applications as well as working with Irish online dieting player, which was acquired last year by Tesco for €45m.

By John Kennedy