India's Software Revolution: Rooted In Y2K

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As the year 2000 approached, fears of a tech meltdown gripped countries around the world. The ‘Millennium Bug’ was going to make computers crash, it was feared, and there would be a computer-induced apocalypse. It was called the ‘Y2K’ (Year 2000) crisis.

But this very bug allowed Indian software companies to offer their services and solutions, to help avert this crisis. It eventually led to the Indian software industry announcing its presence on the world stage.

An electronic sign at École centrale de Nantes incorrectly displaying the year 1900 on 3 January 2000 | Wikimedia Commons
An electronic sign at École centrale de Nantes incorrectly displaying the year 1900 on 3 January 2000 | Wikimedia Commons

Pre-2000, most computers were based on software developed in the 1960s and 1970s, and they marked the year in two digits – say, 98 or 99. A four-digit year, as in 2000 or 2001, had not been worked in. A crash would mean unprecedented global chaos.

Most Indian programmers had learnt Cobol, an old computer language no longer taught in the US. Due to the Y2K crisis, there was a sudden demand for Cobol skills, and Indian software companies were able to pitch in to solve the problem.

Indian Software Industry Boom
Indian Software Industry Boom

Indian software engineers worked on the backend to ensure that a host of companies were protected from Y2K. These companies ranged from banks, airlines, retailers and insurance companies.

NASDAQ Stock Exchange | Wikimedia Commons
NASDAQ Stock Exchange | Wikimedia Commons

So, as the US and the NASDAQ were still recovering from the dotcom bust of the 1990s, Indian tech companies were seeing a transformation. Indian software exports crossed USD 1 billion in 1997, and went up to USD 6.2 billion in just 4 years.

Soon after Indian software companies broke into the big league, they started offering all kinds of software solutions. As a result, the world’s largest companies started outsourcing their back-office work and business processes to India.

While the beginning of the 20th century had seen famines and a drain of wealth from India, the dawn of the 21st century saw a complete transformation, where wealth came to India because of its software industry boom.

Cover Image: Getty Images

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