T R Padmanabhan
“During the new fiscal year 2009-10, we will address the business needs of many more government organisations in the areas of e-Procurement and e-Governance.”
Do you think Software as a Service technology can boost e-Governance? What are NIIT Technologies’ activities on this front?
Yes, Software as a Service (SaaS) can be the catalyst for change towards better governance from a technology enablement standpoint. It holds great promise in terms of integrating business processes across widely spread out organisation structures and hierarchies.
Fundamentally, SaaS is a method of delivering Information Technology Applications to users in a ‘multi-tenancy’ environment where one instance of the application software is used by multiple customers. SaaS-based solutions can be deployed rapidly and eliminate the need to invest in infrastructure and ongoing software maintenance costs that traditional applications require. Applications once deployed are continually maintained by the service provider including upgrades and enhancements. The cost of application sustenance is not passed on to the clients who get to leverage the ‘current’ version of the applications on a perennial basis. Customers use the application to perform their normal business transactions – and pay as per usage.
One of the important aspects of e-Governance is to ensure transparency and compliance to laid down policies. e-Procurement provides such transparency and compliance and the SaaS mode of delivery enables easy leverage of the solution for the government departments.
Our premise for our SaaS offering is that it should make a potential customer see value and reap the desired business benefi ts – be it cost optimization, process effi ciencies, productivity improvements, faster time to market or a combination of all of these. NIIT Technologies focuses on the processes of Procurement, Sales & Distribution, Financials and HR Management & Payroll.
Tell us about the Procure-Easy platform of NIIT Technologies. What is the USP vis-à-vis your competitors?
Procure-Easy is an integrated, highly secure, confi gurable e-Procurement platform that addresses the needs of both the government and industry segments. While most products in the market offer e-Tendering, Procure-Easy offers end-to-end procurement functions – right from demand aggregation, to sourcing, ordering, invoicing and payments. It is a complete procurement platform that allows supplier collaboration, negotiation and closure in a secure Internet environment.
NIIT Technologies’ e-Auction platform also allows for both forward and reverse auctions with a number of unique features such as ‘auto-extend’, proxy bids and multiple item auctions. The demand aggregation platform allows extended organisations such as retailers, collect requirements and then manage procurement in a centralised manner enabling benefi ts of scale in negotiation. Procure-Easy allows placement of annual/semi-annual rate contracts once any negotiation is completed. It is an umbrella application that sits over standard back-offi ce Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) application(s) and seamlessly integrates with the organisations’ existing application platform(s).
What has been your experience with the Singapore Government for developing a unifi ed e-Procurement platform for them?
NIIT Technologies supported the Defense Technology establishments by developing and maintaining an integrated e-Procurement portal over a period of 8 years thus enabling all government buying through this portal. With strong functionalities and features that make it very easy to use while being secure and easily customizable, this product forms the core of NIIT Technologies ‘Procure-Easy’ application. NIIT Technologies has further enhanced the package to suit Indian Government procurement policies and procedures and added features such as ‘auctions’ that help in negotiations.
Which are the government departments where you have delivered e-Government services?
In India, e-Procurement is one of our major offerings in the government space. In the past, we have executed large e- Government projects at key units of the Indian Defense and Paramilitary establishments. We also delivered integrated IT solutions to municipal corporations and to the postal services establishment. One of the critical aspects of e-Governance is transparency and compliance especially with regard to procurement. As a part of the e-Governance initiative, all state governments and Public Sector Units (PSUs) have been mandated to implement e-Procurement initiatives. We are also working with a number of state governments and PSUs who are at various stages of implementing such solutions.
As a part of the e-Governance initiative, all state governments and Public Sector Units (PSUs) have been mandated to implement e-Procurement initiatives”
What are the measures NIIT Technologies is undertaking with reference to cyber security in terms of e-Commerce activities?
Security is one of the prime requirements of e-Commerce, whether it is for sales or for purchase. The IT Act of 2003 lays down the framework for ensuring security of all transactions. Identity of the person who is performing the transaction is ensured through digital signatures. Our products incorporate such digital signatures for all transactions. No unauthorised person should have access to the transaction and this is ensured at multiple levels through secure login user ID and password coupled with a digital signature, secure transmission using the https: protocol and encryption of all confi dential stored data using ‘public’ and ‘private’ keys.
In the current volatile market scenario, are you betting big on the government vertical?
Since its launch last year, Procure- Easy has been piloted at many government organisations. Given its robustness, ease of deployment, feature richness and user friendliness, Procure-Easy has found many takers. The potential in the government sector is huge but the long decision cycles slow down the sales process. That said, we have been shortlisted for providing e-Procurement services to various defense and public sector undertakings after a thorough technical evaluation of Procure-Easy.
We are currently empanelled as a premier service provider along with the large enterprise application fi rms at one of India’s largest PSUs. Across the engagements, we are focused on improving the effi ciencies of the sourcing process while the product enables increased accountability and transparency.
What do you think about the trend of negative bidding in acquiring government tenders?
I do believe government tenders should follow a weighted price system for comparison with points awarded for all areas such as experience, technical solution, and maturity. Cheapest is not always the best.
What are your plans for the year 2009 with reference to e-Governance?
During the new fi scal year 2009-10, we will address the business needs of many more government organisations in the areas of e-Procurement and e-Governance. We will also look to expand our portfolio of SaaS-based offerings into other markets outside of India where we also do work for the government sector.