Friday, July 19, 2013

Before 1991 - The procedure to import a computer

The following is an excerpt from the book, "A Better India: A Better World" by N.R.Narayana Murthy.

We founded Infosys in 1981 to provide bespoke software development capability to customers in developed nations. To do so, our business required import of state-of-the-art hardware and software platforms from abroad, easy and hassle-free travel abroad to our customer sites by our staff, opening of overseas sales offices, and availability of a data communications infrastructure. Even though this industry was likely to provide India's large pool of technical talent good jobs with high disposable incomes, convincing the government that this was a godsend was easier said than done. Prior to 1991, one needed a licence to import computers. The process of obtaining a licence to import a computer was lengthy, arbitrary, expensive and sometimes corruption-prone. Generally, it took about three years and fifty visits to Delhi to obtain one. Assuming that the cost of each trip was about $1,000, it meant that importer had already paid a duty of at least 50 percent of the price of an imported computer (roughly $100,000) even before the computer had been ordered! This was not all. Since it took three years to obtain the licence, at least five to ten new models of every component of the system we were to import were likely to be released in the US market during the same period. But, changing the model number of even one component in the licence usually took at least nine to ten months! Thus, thanks to our bureaucracy, computer users in India remained at least two generations behind in any technology.

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