Jagdish Sheth’s Magic Mantra for $500b Indian IT by 2020

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Prof. Jagadish Sheth is optimistic of the Indian information technology sector reaching $500 billion revenue by 2020 only if organizations become more marketing and customer centric. In a chat with Benedict Paramanand, he suggests that CEOs could read his book ‘Customers for Life’ for some inspiration and insight.

Prof. Sheth is Charles H. Kellstadt, Professor of Marketing at the Goizueta Business School of Emory University. Even at 77, and a recent heart surgery, he is back exciting Indian leaders of the immense opportunities if they transformed their behavior, strategy and training from process, technology centric to customer and marketing centric.

You have spoken of Indian IT sector’s potential of reaching $500 billion turnover by 2020. How can they achieve this?
The Indian IT services industry will have difficulty more on the marketing side, not so much on talent. In order to enhance their marketing capacity, they have to do three things:

a. Recruit talent which comes with marketing orientation – a good blend of engineering and marketing will be good.

b. The second model is to get a real expertise of marketing. It is important to know what does the CMO do and think. It’s not enough to know only what a CFO or a CIO thinks. CMOs today decide on 40 percent of the IT marketing spend and that percentage will only increase in the future. How can you make the CMO the hero?

c. This one is unique – we don’t do enough internal marketing. You need to put on the marketing hat when you do talent grooming. Getting people into a cultural immersion from a marketing perspective is very important. They have to move from ethno centric talent to global or cosmopolitan talent.

Big investment is needed for grooming the talent for both technical and marketing training. If we start now, in one or two years we can have a totally new force.

Should the Indian organizational DNA have to change to achieve this?
Change can come only from an outside perspective. For example, TCS understood this game long ago. It recruited someone from the Taj Hotel Group for its marketing, sales and customer relationship management. TCS understood this game that client centric means learning from some other industry, I’m told this was a key for its transformation.

At Cognizant, key transformation was done by my colleague Andrew Sobel. He and I wrote a book called ‘Clients for Life: How Do You Become a  Trusted Adviser’. The CEO of Cognizant discovered him through this book, believed in the book’s proposition and recruited him to do all the internal transformation of training and education. You can clearly see a correlation with how Cognizant took off .

You have to have an outside immersion somehow to change the game. It is like grafting. I do agree with you that it requires a fundamental DNA change in Indian companies.

My recommendation is that IT companies should shift from IT centric to domain centric. It automatically gets you into customer-centric thinking.


Based on groundbreaking research, Clients for Life sets forth a comprehensive framework for how professionals from all fields can develop breakthrough relationships with their clients and enjoy enduring client and customer loyalty. Supported by over 100 case studies and examples drawn from consulting, financial services, law, technology, and other fields, Clients for Life illustrates how you can evolve from an expert for hire–a tradable commodity–to an extraordinary advisor. Riveting portraits of both exceptional contemporary professionals and legendary advisors such as Aristotle, Thomas More, Niccolò Machiavelli, and J.P. Morgan reveal how great client relationships are achieved in practice.