Why don’t we hear of IT men excelling in sports?

ARVIND SWAMINATHAN writes from Madras: Reading as I do Star of Mysore on the web every evening over kodu bale and filter coffee, I came across the following news item buried on its sports page today.

SPI employee represents India

Mysore, Dec. 18: R. Jayaram, working for IT major SPI’s BPO, represented India in volleyball for WOVD World Cup under the physically handicapped category. The tournament was held in Cambodia recently and ten countries participated in it. The Indian team was placed fifth in the tournament.

Jayaram had earlier represented Karnataka in volleyball six times. He also represented India in 9th Pacific Games held in Malaysia last year. Jayaram had also played for district zonal and State level tournament under normal category.

SPI, for the uninitiated is Software Paradigms International, the software services and outsourcing company set up by Atlanta-based Siddhartha Mookerji, the son of former CFTRI deputy director K.K. Mookerji.

Siddhartha, an alumnus of BITS Pilani and London School of Economics, set up SPI in the city of his birth in 1997, long before Mysore became a hot investment destination. And long before other IT companies began eyeing Mysore, if not its real estate.

The news item immediately set me thinking: why don’t the names of sportsmen and sportswomen of other IT, ITES, BPO, KPO, any other-PO companies dot the sports pages more often?

***

Back when our family lived in Mysore, albeit in socialist India, some of our bestknown companies and institutions were also known for things other than what they manufactured or did.

Ideal Jawa made great motorcycles, of course, but what a superb cricket team they had: a team comprising Sanjeeva Rao, S. Vijayaprakash and V. Prabhakar which I once saw thump a State Bank of India team comprising Gundappa Viswanath, Syed Kirmani and Roger Binny at Maharaja’s College grounds.

K.R. Mills made fabrics, but it had a top-notch football team. BEML moved the earth but it also had a top cricket team (thank you P. Ashok, S. Ramachandra), and a fine basketball team (Ramakanth). CFTRI itself had an excellent table tennis team (Krishna Prasad), and Mysore’s greatest fast bowler ever (sorry churumuri), K.R. Dinakar, besides fine quizzers and bridge players like K.M. Dastur.

My father, who was born and grew up in Bangalore, says it used to be the same scene with HAL and BEL and BEML, whose sports and recreation clubs were fixtures on the sports pages. Not to forget the nationalised banks like SBI, Syndicate Bank (B.S. Chandrashekhar, R. Sudhakar Rao, B. Vijayakrishna), and Canara Bank. The Railways and Services, too, have been magnificently benevolent employers.

***

Reading about Jayaram of SPI, Mysore, playing volleyball in Cambodia is at once heartening and depressing. Heartening, because a local employee of an IT company set up by a local boy has done well. Depressing, because we do not see more such feats from players of our much-reviled IT companies.

Don’t get me wrong: this is not, repeat not, an attack on IT. Just an honest enquiry.

Why don’t our IT employees shine in sports? I don’t mean in those friendly industry tournaments in which beer-bellied bosses realise how unfit they are but the real tournaments. Why don’t we hear of somebody from the SWITCH companies (Satyam, Wipro, Infosys, TCS, Cognizant, HCL) make it to the national hockey or football or sprint or swimming teams?

Those who have been to their campus tell me that Infosys has a top-class cricket stadium in Mysore. Why don’t we hear of a tearaway Infoscion using the facility to knock on the doors of the Indian team instead of it being used by the company to show the world what a magnanimous donor it is to allow the Karnataka State Cricket Association to hold Ranji matches?

The answers are reasonably obvious.

a) In liberalised India, these companies are mostly, if not only bothered about the bottomline. They do their brand-building and image-building (which is what the names of companies on the sports pages achieves) in other ways, like building toilets, donating computers to schools, gifting gloves to traffic constables.

b) The IT companies view each employee as a “resource”. They bill by the hour. They pay employees to work for them, not play for them. Surely, they can’t tell a client “Sorry, the man concerned is at the ground” if something goes wrong in Germany?

c) Unlike making bikes or fabrics, writing code is a cerebral job. Playing sports, especially at the competitive level, is frowned upon by peers, colleagues and co-nerds. After all, how many Microsoft chess players or Google athletes have we heard of?

d) Maybe, the working culture of IT companies and IT employees, and the long hours they keep, does not allow for them to practice or take part in tournaments. Maybe, in a culture that values individualism, the company health club is the only place to show off your skills, and only to yourself!

e) Also, perhaps, unlike the benevolent socialist employers, the strictly meritocratic IT companies (tell me another!) do not have a “sports quota” by which they give recruit ready-to-show-off sporting talent.

f) Plus, with most employees from different corners of the country, speaking different languages, there isn’t that much bonding that can take place on a sports field especially in an alien city.

But looking at some recent developments, like rising suicides and rising divorces among IT employees, and the social backlash that cities like Bangalore seem to be reserving for the IT types, it can be argued that the powerpoint pashas have missed an old socialist trick in using sport as a great cementing agent.

For one thing, playing a game for pleasure or profit will make the deskbound dudes healthier and more sportive (unlike the jerks who run away after injuring people in road accidents). And for another, it will bring the IT companies closer to the general public who so seem to hate the nose-in-the-air attitude of IT employees.

Above all, a Corporate Sports Responsibility (CSR) will show the world that the IT companies aren’t just bothered about their quarterly performances and that the employees aren’t just bothered about themselves and their fat salaries and flats and cars and pubs and girlfriends and foreign trips.

That they are in our midst for the long run, not to shoot and scoot.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

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34 Responses to “Why don’t we hear of IT men excelling in sports?”

  1. prasad Says:

    One small correction .
    I T Professionals excel in ONE Sport named GAMBLING – and these professionals when not writing codes , trade online ( play ) in the Stock Market.They can afford to play as the Companies pay well.

  2. babuds Says:

    This post. What a waste of breath!

  3. Anonymous Guy Says:

    Why dont our sportsmen excel in sports? Answer that question and you will automatically find an answer to the question ‘why dont our ‘IT’ men excel in sports.

    Forget cricket, it isn’t even the number 1 sport in most countries who are good at it. And we arent number 1 in this reduced competition either.

    And why only IT men? Aren’t the IT women also as guilty of being out of shape?

  4. Sir Vibhudi Aatmapudi Says:

    babuds is right. This post is too long. I have aged by 25 mins just by reading it…

  5. Don Dakachiki Says:

    IT Guys are champions of playing ‘Solitaire’ Cards Game

  6. Faldo Says:

    I would say this is an apples to oranges comparison. One cannot roeally compare sportspersons belonging to companies from an earlier era to IT companies now. IT as an industry was virtually non existent then.

    Nowadays most sports are about professional sportspersons.
    We need to see how many non IT private sector companies have sportmen Today? Then compare them against the number of IT sportsmen.

  7. Goldstar Says:

    Perhaps, IT people are busy reading Churumuri and reacting to the frequent vicious attacks on them ?!?!

    Jokes apart, another genuine reason is every IT professional is busy plotting his next visit to Silicon Valley (the real one, not the “Silicon Halli” one we have here). So it pays better to stay in office and kiss the boss a** than wasting time at the ground (unless, of course, the boss is also at the ground).

  8. Don Dakachiki Says:

    GoldStar…Three Red Stars to you

  9. Aatmasakshi Says:

    churumuri has given SPI a nice little plug through this article, but did Siddhartha Mookerji’s company expressly recruit Jayaram to play volleyball? Or did it just turn out that Jayaram was a code writer who had played volleyball earlier, and that all the company did was to give him some leave to go and represent the country?

    Honestly, I think we have begun to expect too much of a fledgling industry. It is barely two decades old in dog years. But C.N.R. Rao wants it to solve the infrastructure problems of Bangalore while giving a fillip to “intellectual atmosphere” in Bangalore, churumuri wants it to give sports a boost, social organisations want them to donate billions.

    And besides all this, we want it to elevate our society and our country.

    The truth is companies like Tata Steel and Mahindra, which too had fine sporting teams in Mumbai, paid the employees a pittance and gave them fine schools, sports clubs and recreation facilities. This enabled them to create a sense of attachment with the company, retain employees, promote the brand, etc. The players got a little extra bonus for doing well.

    In the modern age, companies think all they need to provide is a mammoth salary and a nice facilities. It is upto the employee to do what he wants with them. When the rate of attrition is high, when the demands of the stock market are relentless, the HR heads have better things to think of than failing marriages, falling semen counts, and rising suicides. It is myopic, but that’s the reality.

    When is churumuri’s next article “Why don’t we hear of IT men excelling in arts?” coming up? Because surely we can ask this question too since we do not see the industry throwing up too many flutists or drummers.

  10. SumneNeeve Says:

    Aatmasakshi,

    Good post. I didnt read the article because as “babudus” has summarized it, it is a waste of breath. But I think your post says everything.

  11. Yashica Says:

    The three readers who have complained that this article is a waste of breath must all be IT professionals. If they don’t have the stamina to read an article, then they are not excelling in sports. QED.

  12. shishir sathe Says:

    SEEMS churumuri has turned to IT bashing after being done with NRN !!!
    Cant imagine what prompted you to publish such a heap of s*** !!
    well, we as a country of 100 + Cr manage to bag just a single Silver/brinze….thats pathetic….
    but why single out IT people….?
    All those indians who are non-sport persons and non -IT can be blamed as well !! And every private enterprise seeks to get the maximum out of its workforce… Is it that L&T or RIL (any private firm in general) allows its employees to play iso work ? In fact, when it comes to giving sports facilities, IT firms lead the way !!!!

    @ prasad, what is ur exact grudge….is it that IT people are payed well OR that they are smart enuf to create an extra income thru stocks ?

  13. Arvind Swaminathan Says:

    Reacting to comments to a blog article is like wrestling with a pig. Whichever side you hold, your hand gets dirty. Still, I cannot let a couple of obvious points go uncontested.

    The first is the length of the piece. Are we all beginning to suffer from ADHD or is txting, ppt-ing and IM-ing beginning to affect our sensibilities?

    The second is the message. Not once but twice I mention that this is not, repeat not, an attack on IT. If Shishir Sathe still sees this as IT-bashing, then either the IT types have wafer-thin skins or they are so full of themselves that they cannot even face a simple question.

    Even if this is an attack on IT, so what? I fail to see why our IT whizkids cannot present a decent, well-formulated defence instead of pretentiously gasping for breath. It seems anything and everything is OK if it is done by the IT industry, and woe upon the person who asks a question.

    Sorry, darlings, that is not the way a free country runs, but I suppose freedom is something most of you don’t understand.

    Why single out IT? Simple. Unlike other industries, this is a sector. Plus, this attracts young men and women, the cream. It is an easily identifiable lump. They have the money, the resources to excel.

    IT employees and industries seem to believe that everybody should be singing in its praise, all the time, regardless of everything. The more they live in this fool’s paradise, the more our respect should go up for other industries, laboratories and sectors which have withstood mountains of criticism over decades with grace and aplomb.

  14. Alok Says:

    @AS

    I think it is less to do with IT, and more to do with what it takes to get into IT. I mean, the question can also be asked, why don’t more IITians get into sports?

    I think the answer lies in the fact that parents feel that unless their kids study for like 5 hours a day plus tuitions and so on, there is really no chance of them getting “ahead of the competition”. I know there are notable exceptions, namely the engineering student currently leading India in Australia, but they are few and far between.

    Besides, since when did IT geeks become sportsmen? Which society can expect to produce sportsmen when its education system is geared towards turning out “IT enabled” students? Couldn’t that also be the reason why we are seeing small town India, slightly less caught up with the IT craze, producing more cricketers, footballers and hockey players than Urban India?

    Like I said in a previously much commented upon piece, “Why blame IT?”

  15. Alok Says:

    @AS

    Also, money and resources will be very hard pressed to turn a artery-clogged, cubicle-hugging, keyboard-junkie into Sachin Tendulkar… or even Robin Uthappa.

    I guess that the IT industry just doesn’t attract enough of the sports loving types to be able to cobble together a team that won’t collectively seek an early drinks break to go clackety clack on their blackberries to check their mail, and update their blog on the last ten minutes…

  16. shishir sathe Says:

    Arvind,
    If its not an attack on IT, then what else is it ? Just saying that it is not does not help !!!!

    *Why single out IT? Simple. Unlike other industries, this is a sector. *
    Whatever happened to sectors like ‘Manufacturing’..In fact IT covers so many diverse things that it would really tuf to bind all that together into a single *sector* !!

    *IT employees and industries seem to believe that everybody should be singing in its praise, all the time, regardless of everything.*

    Well, no one says that..In fact I sincerely believe that it is IT that has been largely responsible and is to be blamed for problems like the skyrocketing of real estate prices in cities like Banglore and Pune…
    But dont be illogical and expect others to give a decent, well-formulated defence!! Your hypothesis and the conclusions you draw dont deserve such a reply !!!!

    *Plus, this attracts young men and women, the cream. It is an easily identifiable lump. They have the money, the resources to excel.*

    Dear Arvind, if the ‘cream’ can excel in IT, that doesnt mean that just pump in the money and resources and they will excel in Sports…!!! That is the most ridiculous assumption you make….

    May be, Instead of wasting so much time into writing this article, you should have practiced something….may be some sport…we can then hope to have a better tally in 2012 if not in 2008 :)
    As for me, I dont have much work to do today and as Goldstar said, I cant do anything else but reply to this article !!! ;)

  17. shishir sathe Says:

    Ohh…I was not aware of the contempt people have towards IT…
    Thanks Alok for making me aware of that !!!
    @AS,
    If you still say that your article is not ” an attack on IT”, the responses it has evoked will help it in qualifying as an attack !!!

  18. SumneNeeve Says:

    Alok says: I mean, the question can also be asked, why don’t more IITians get into sports?

    The question is why should it be asked? What is it about IItians or folks in IT that should make them get into sports? Shouldnt the actual question be, why is India faring bad in sports instead of nit-picking on some sectors or posing this artificial question (almost making it sensationalist).

    What is the craze with IT and comparing everything with IT or making this a zero-sum game? Do professionals in non-IT related professions feel a need to comb their ego by constantly nit-picking on IT (or the lack of it)?

  19. Arvind Swaminathan Says:

    @Shishir

    Worry about me, not.

    I played representative cricket and am in two other teams for my company, not counting pocket billiards. But this isn’t about me, nor am I responsible for the responses if a skewed tunnel vision allows IT types to read the story in only one way.

    The simple point is the IT/ITES can use sport for its own good (in building local/community ties to counter the social backlash) and for the good of its own employees (in creating able-bodied men and women), as I say in the fourth paragraph from the bottom. We are not talking of creating Olympic Gold winning athletes or World Cup winning footballers, although the headline (for which I am not responsible either) might make it seem so. If it happens, great, but it doesn’t, tough.

  20. SumneNeeve Says:

    AS:

    How sure are you that IT companies are not encouraging sports especially if your attempt is not to create Olympic level sports-person? Forget IT/BT, assume that you are a manager and answer this simple question:

    1. What advantage does a company have in investing for sports when the returns of that investment is not even participation in a national or an international event? What is the justification both in terms of finance, infra-structure, time, resources etc?

    You say IT/ITES must support sport for its own good but then you also say, not to create Olympic level athletes. So by your own judgement, if a Olympic Level candidate finds a job in IT and his company doesnt encourage the same, then it is ok?

    Seriously, what brilliant reasoning.

  21. shishir sathe Says:

    AS…
    Now that you have got a fitting reply, The real intentions and the vitriolic prejudice born out of contempt and what not (jealousy may be) that you hold for IT professionals is coming to the forefront…..

    Not long back were you expecting ‘decent’ answers ..what drives you to refer to “pocket billiards” ….(I am sure you must be a champ in that)….
    Anyways I shall not indulge in such a tactic….

    Also, when you play for your company, you “excel” in sports….

    But when IT pros play for their companies, u call that
    **I don’t mean in those friendly industry tournaments in which beer-bellied bosses realise how unfit they are but the real tournaments**

    Aint that Double standards Buddy?

  22. InfyManager Says:

    I work for the most hated company in churumuri. Yes I work in Infy as a group manager in the HR department. Churumuri has termed this company as Murthy Angadi and has time and again hurled baseless abuse to towards this great organization (Yes we are a great organization, our work environment and facilities are an object of envy to everyone including many in Churumuri. It is a clear case of Hottekicchu).
    In Infy we encourage sports to a great extent. Just visit our campus in electronic city and you will find a tennis court, gym, basketball court a small golf court and a cricket / football ground as well. There are inter office as well as intra office tournament in cricket, football, chess and many other sports. We also participate in many tournaments conducted by other sw companies as well. Yes most SW companies encourage sports.

    You folks who are mudslinging this great company should first understand that it is easy to critize but very difficult to build a constructive and amiable work atmosphere. Our HR policy clearly has room for fitness, sports and outdoor events. Sports is something which is openly encouraged in Infy. We might not be producing state and national champions. Out intent is not competative sports. Some of the enlightened people in our management feels that competative sports kill the very joy of sports. We play for the fun of playing also to keep fit. Unlike most of these ignorant people who equate sports with winning medals and competition, the enlightened people in Infy beleive that sports is an excellent medium to build the spirit of co-operation in teams, fitness, recreation and relaxation.
    Too much Hottekicchu against IT and Infy is bad as they are a very creative and constructive people.

  23. Nair Says:

    InfyManager, you are the perfect example of the brainwashed drones that walk the lawns of Murthy Angadi. Your reply is a classic! Get out of there and get a life!

  24. shishir sathe Says:

    Infymanager, that was classic HR innings ;)

    And im not from Infy….but am from IT

  25. InfyManager Says:

    Dear Mr. Nair,

    At infy we are creating a revolution. We have a different perspective to sports than what majority of the people here in this site and outside have. We in Infy are headed by an enlightened management team who beleive in the all round development of the associates working in Infy. Yes we dont call the employees as ‘Resources’ as someone suggested here, we call them ‘Associates’. We are all partners in progress within the company. We certainly are not a brainwashed people like most in the outside world. We are an extraodinarily insightful team of people who constantly brainstorm and think openly about all aspects of issues before coming into any judgement. Our employees are highly individualistic and creative. We recruit only such kind of people in our organization.

    What I wanted to convey was in Infy we have a different perspective of sport. We dont beleive in playing sports just to go to Asian games or Olympics. No not at all. We are inspired by the philosopher Plato who beleived that sports should be practiced for fitness, recreation, health and bonding between the communities. We dont beleive in just a few people here and there in the organization involved in sports and getting some medals in some far off place. No thats not how our enlightened leadership thinks. We think of how as individuals we all can benefit from sports. Infy is an ideal model for any enlightened community / organisation to really follow. We in Infy have proved how a group of motived, creative and energetic people can acheive great heights. We are still in the ascension and we know that we have miles and miles to go before we sleep. We are acheivers and have set our targets to greater acheivements. Our enlightened leadership team has only sympathy and compassion for people like you who are envious of our sucess.

  26. Anonymous Says:

    Some of the enlightened people in our management feels that competative sports kill the very joy of sports.

    Yes, true! Competition in sports kills the joy of sports, but competition in work adds to the joy of work. It’s so exciting, right?

  27. SumneNeeve Says:

    hank God, Infosys doesnt speak for all IT professionals who are not brainwashed by Plato :)

  28. Gokulam 3rd Stage Says:

    All the great sports teams from the HALs, BEMLs etc. in the past were a result of the welfare economy that we had. That was an aberration. The current scenario is not. Nowhere in the world will you see a for-profit company building sports teams.

  29. Sir Vibhudi Aatmapudi Says:

    I say, this Infosys Infomercial from Infymanager is numbingly Ingenuous!

    I wonder…does Infosys provide spell checkers to their HR staff?

  30. Anon Says:

    InfyManager,

    i believe we spell believe as believe and not as beleive !!! ;)

    btw, thanks to you, i think this space is soon going to turn to Infy, NRN and IT bashing !!!
    Was that Plato-speak really required? ;)

  31. Goldstar Says:

    InfyManager,

    Has Infy been bought by AmWay??

    “SumneNeeve Says:
    hank God, Infosys doesnt speak for all IT professionals who are not brainwashed by Plato :) ”

    Thank God, “InfyManager” doesn’t speak for all Infoscions. A lot of Infoscions would have puked at “InfyManager’s” response.

  32. Kadana Kuthuhala Says:

    I would to hear from all the guys who are against infosys like companies to come up with a solution to provide employment to all the educated people who would have been umemployed otherwise. Just keep in mind you still would have to face hurdles like deve gowdas, kumarswamis or fools like yeddi etc!! You guys have nothing much to do other than indulge in mudslinging!! Come on guys discuss alternative employment if you don’t like infosys instead of throwing crap at others!!

  33. anon Says:

    Was going thru the tags attached for this article..
    “Bangalore, Divorces, IT, Mysore, Social Backlash, SPI, Sports, Suicides”

    Is it that (IT minus Sports) = Social Backlash + Suicides + Divorces

    This seems to capture the essense of the argument and the responses ;)
    Just kidding Churumuri!!

  34. Pdp Says:

    Why don’t we hear of IT men excelling in sports?
    This answer to this question yields to never ending series of questions.
    Say, If IT men excelled in sports, the next question(s) would be
    Why don’t we hear of IT men excelling in Music ?
    Why don’t we hear of IT men excelling in Arts?
    Why don’t we hear of IT men excelling in film making?
    Why don’t we hear of IT men excelling in Road repair?
    …….

    Its a skill to excel in any aspect of body usage, be it brain, hand, leg …. or any combination. Some people would be adept in many skills, some people are not.
    You can ask why Sports community is not producing any Nobel winners.

    The questions are never ending, its better to leave folks to do what they are good at.

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