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India's software industry has the potential to grow annual exports of outsourced information technology services five-fold to $44 billion, according to a study by CRIS INFAC, a unit of Crisil.

The study, has estimated India's information technology services industry to be worth $9 billion in the year to March 2004, up 25 percent on the year. Currently, the share of India in the annual global IT services spending of $385 billion, is about two percent, which is expected to grow to 12 percent.

India's software and allied service exports totalled $9.5 billion in 2002/03, but these included back-office services including call centre operations. Of this, IT services, a broad reference to software coding and maintenance projects executed to cut costs and boost productivity for clients, constituted the biggest chunk.

According to the study, software companies must increasingly add business consulting and specific industry expertise and also switch to pricing models linked to problems solved for customers instead of based on simply hourly billing for work done.

According to CRIS INFAC, Multinational IT firms who are now leveraging the India offshore model to deliver value to their customers are planning to hire over 13,000 professionals in the next 12 months.

The foreign majors currently have a strength of about 12,000, while they are expecting to touch over 25,000 in the next one year. Significant contributions are expected to come from the high-tech powerhouses Oracle and Hewlett-Packard. Oracle is moving 2,000 developer jobs from the US to India. Hewlett-Packard plans to close a customer-service operation in Florida and send the operation's 1,200 jobsto India.

IBM, Accenture and EDS have already indicated that they are hiring professionals in India, to help being competitive with the offshoring advantage. Accenture plans to double its workforce in India to as many as 10,000 by the end of this year.

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