Ganesh Ramalingum, Executive Director of Data Communications Ltd: The ICT sector employs around 20,000 persons and has good prospects over the coming years, says Ganesh Ramalingum. However, this can only be achieved if operators are given the means to grow and a conducive environment. News on Sunday met with this successful entrepreneur who gives us an insight into this booming sector. What ignited the spark to start a business venture in the ICT sector? How did the idea come about? The idea of business was most probably inborn, as I was brought up in a family where my grandfather and father were in business. Our four brothers followed this trend. Most probably, I have been influenced from a young age. I started to teach IT concepts, programming and solutions in the early 1980’s after my graduation. I was also a programmer/analyst in a software house. A reputed house of electronic and business automation approached me to look after their business of computer and office automation, which I did in 1986. I joined them and worked there for around 12 years. In 1997, the company I was working for had some financial issues and closed down. I decided to launch my own business and this is how Data Communications Ltd (DCL) was created. What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them? Failure forms part of business, as it gives any entrepreneur the opportunity to learn. I have had a couple of failures. They have been part of the learning process. The first thing to learn is that you need to have a good understanding of the business you are in and you are prepared to invest your time to make it work. Above all, you need to have the ability to choose the right person for every job. No one should be afraid of failures. If you strongly believe in a venture, seek the help from the right persons and evaluate all the possible risks associated with it. All businesses carry some risk. You have to ensure that the risks are calculated and you can afford it. Many innovative projects are locked in the drawers due to fear of failure. This is a shame. All they need to do is to take the leap and jump. What are your observations regarding the ICT sector? We have lots of potential in the ICT sector. The development process we started a few years back did not have a proper follow up. This has resulted in Mauritius losing its edge over some of the African countries. Fifteen years back, we barely had an ICT industry. Today, we have a buoyant industry, which employs around 20,000 people, and this can grow a lot bigger provided the right conditions are put in place. What can be done to make this sector an economic pillar? There are so many prospects for the industry which would boost our whole economy and in that context, we need to have a full time Minister to look after the ICT Industry. The government wants this sector to employ an additional of 15,000 people over the next couple of years. To make it happen, a well-defined plan with the involvement of all stakeholders should be set up. Companies/organisations in this sector will definitely recruit to produce more business, provided that they are given the means and a conducive environment. Are there still job prospects in the ICT? What would you advise school leavers and graduates? Yes. There are plenty of jobs in the sector. These would be Programmers, Systems Analysts, Consultants, System Engineers, Technicians, Research and Development Staffs in AR and VR, (Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality), Agents in specialised fields and Skills for Enterprise Resource Planning, Applications Software, Customer Support, Architects, Translation, Data Capture, Accounting, Human Resources & Payroll and many more. Our BPO and Call Centres are recruiting on a permanent basis. Students should be guided to take more scientific subjects and to ensure that they have mathematics as a core subject. Anybody who has a good logical approach will be successful in further studies. My advice to any school leaver is to believe in what you want and do what you feel comfortable with. Once you have made up your mind, go for it, focus and persevere to achieve it. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur? An entrepreneur must be prepared to take risks. A good entrepreneur will always minimise the risks wherever possible. No business exists without risks. An entrepreneur needs to have a good understanding of the activity he wishes to undertake or to ensure that he has a trusted person with the skills and know-how required for the activity. Lastly, an entrepreneur needs to be hardworking and focus on the activity or business undertaken. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently? I enjoy the ICT industry, so there would be no change for me. When I started working, there was no real IT or ICT industry at that time and the environment was completely different to what it is today. My 33 years of experience have seen the growth of the ICT industry to where it is today. The learning process has been great and I have learned to believe things when they happen, and to be careful on promises which never come. I would go for a better planning and recruiting experts in their specific fields of expertise and try to achieve results faster. From a personality perspective, I believe I will be myself but with evolution, there are more challenges which did not exist earlier. I suppose the learning curve will carry on but in a different context. I have had to take risks for the democratisation of the ICT industry and I believe that DCL has played a very important role in that respect. How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life? There is always a balance to be made but the spirit must be understood both at home and at work levels. As an entrepreneur, you tend to spend most of the time in the business, which will be certainly the case when you start building it. This is the most difficult part and the family needs to understand this. You will be tempted to bring work at home but at some point in time, you need to bring in the balance and have some time for the family, which is also important in bringing the right equilibrium in life. I take business calls all the time, even on weekends or holidays, but this has never affected our family life. What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time? As a Rotarian for the past 19 years, I am heavily involved in social work. Cooking is one of my favourite hobbies. I like sports and have been playing lawn tennis, swimming, jogging, gym and recently started to play some golf. I also spend my free time visiting my parents and relatives, as I really believe in maintaining relationships.
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