Government Contracts: To Do Or Not To Do

DQC News Bureau
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Winning a government tender is a matter of pride for solution providers. It

also makes for interesting news when a partner bags a government contract. But

no one talks about the difficulties in deploying these projects, where partners

have to deal with several levels of hierarchy, bureaucracy, lack of user

technical know-how and other issues.


In a recent study done by PCQuest, the government sector ranked second in

terms of deploying IT projects in the country. According to the report, this

segment comprises 18 percent of the total IT deployment, just two percent less

than the manufacturing sector. The report highlighted that a lot of government

departments and ministries were busy building up their IT infrastructures by

introducing workflow automa­tion, setting up new information system and portals,

HR management solutions, mobility solutions, etc. What does this indicates for

solution providers?

Well, it reflects the surmounting business opportu­nities for solution

providers in the government sector and that it could be a goose laying golden

eggs for them.

Grab and run

Solution providers are always vying to grab government contracts for the

obvious reason that the volume of business in this segment is bigger than in any

private segment. The projects are on a wider base and provide challenging

opportunities to them to expand their portfolio.


Sharing his views on the potential in working for government projects, Dilip

Banerjee, Director and CEO of Kolkata-based Syntech Group of Companies said, “We

gain huge experience in working with ground realities extended over large

geographies and cultural diversity.”

Expressing a similar sentiment, Avinash Pitale, Executive Director of

Mumbai-based Omnitech Infosolutions said, “It helps in creating a brand image

that may assist in bagging a private project.”


However, for solution providers, implementing a project for the government is

not an easy task as the path is full of obstacles that one has to face. There is

no alternate route that solution providers can take to implement the project in

a professional manner, without getting entangled in hierarchies, red-tapism and

the sluggish attitude of government babus.

Speed breakers

Decision making-'The govern­ment body is not clear in terms of their scope.'

This is the first sentiment that solution providers convey when asked about the

operations in government sector. They further added that this segment of

customers is unable to define its objective, which in turn propels lack of

evaluation of the project. This creates a problem at the system integrator's end

and it delays the project at the initial stage itself.

The over-stretched decision-making phenomena cause long gestation periods

that are another trouble for solution providers. By the time the project is

conceived, budgeting is done, operations are started and the implementation is

finally done, there is considerable fall in the price of the technology. The

pre-tendering process of getting the tender takes weeks and months. Even when

the tender is taken up it takes between six months to one year to finalize the

dates for starting the operation.


"Getting government projects

and implementing it is a Herculean task. Those who are dealing in government

projects are aware of the condition there. But we have to take it as a part

of life"

Inderpal Singh, Aman Technologies, Jammu

"In the government sector,

people get transferred from one department to another. Due to long gestation

period, all the key people who had initiated the project are transferred to

another department and the new set of people do not have any understanding

of technology. This causes a problem for us"

Prateek Garg, Progressive Infotech, Noida

Moreover, the implementa­tion time of a project in the government sector is

extended at such a length that the technology gets obsolete. After reaching to

the stage of grabbing the tender and making it fully operational, the whole

scenario of technology changes and this leads to

price fall of the older technology and sometimes it causes unavailability of the
older technology.

“Many times, the older technology is not available in the market. In that

case we have to implement new technology, which again demands an approval from

all the levels in the government body. This task keeps on delaying the project

for no reason,” said Prateek Garg, CEO of Noida based Progressive Infotech.



Another major issue in government that cripples solution providers is the

presence of hierarchy and bureaucracy. Transfer of files from one desk to

another delays the entire project. Moreover, efficient execution of a project

largely depends on the people who are heading the government department. Their

interest in technology can help the system integrators in implementing the

technology at one go, in the absence of which it can take years.

“In the government sector, people get transferred from one department to

another over a certain period of time. Often what happens is that due to long

gestation period, all the key people who had initiated the project are

transferred to another department and the new sets

of people do not have any understanding of technology. This causes a problem for
us,” expressed Garg.

“Employees who would be using the technology are not aware about the project.

A set of people conceive the project and due to choked flow of information from

one department to another, the actual user might not know the advantages of the

latest implementation. If the project is spread across a large area, employees

at one location might not be aware of the project. Their non-cooperative

attitude leads to partial utility of the project,” said Rajiv Jain, MD, HTP

Systems, Mumbai.


Red-tapism is common in all the government departments and solution providers

know that it is unavoidable. Perhaps there are only a few who know how to work

their way through government people. But it certainly is not everyone's cup of


“Things are not executed in an organized manner. There is no one appointed to

deal with the solution providers. In the private sector, the responsibility lies

in the hands of a team who is responsible for it and monitors the entire

process. The chalta hai attitude is very much prevalent in the government bodies

and the kind of returns that we expect from them is generally never realized.

Also, cash power is needed in dealing with them,” highlighted Prasad Kshirsagar,

Director of Mumbai-based Pace Infotech (India).

Onsite readiness

Even after the project is explained to solution providers, objectives are

defined and dates are fixed, there are more hurdles. What happens when the

technical guys reach the site with the tools and technology, but find that there

are no basic facilities like power, broadband connectivity or even furniture for

installing the computers?


“At times, sites are just not ready and we cannot help it. We have to wait

till everything is in place. It happened with me once. There was an order of

deploying 20 computers in a government department and when we reached the site

with all the peripherals, there was no furniture. When we asked the government

people for it, they simply refused to render any support. In that case we cannot

do anything and the task gets postponed,” said Ravi Nandi, Director of Indore-based

Business Automations.

Nandi, whose 60 percent business comprises government projects, highlighted

that Madhya Pradesh is a vast state and most of the IT deployments for

government are in remote areas where transportation becomes a big problem

besides power supply and other basic facilities.

Payment collection

While bagging a government contract may bring a smile on the face of the

winner, it is only for a short while. At the end of the contract comes the issue

of payment collection, which simply haunts integrators. After implementing the

project, it can take up to one to two years for the solution providers to get

their payment.

“Payment collection is one of the most daunting task that dealers have to

face while dealing with the government sector. We have to make regular

follow-ups and even then there are often no crucial results. We have to approach

higher authorities. This demands for unnecessary time and energy, and above all,

the cash flow gets blocked. It affects our business as one cannot wait and

watch. We try to come out of the bottleneck as fast as possible for which we

have to maintain good relations with higher authorities in the government

sector,” added Garg.

“Most of the government orders that we execute are on turnkey basis. Long

payment cycles are one of the major problems in executing government projects.

We have to adjust and plan our finances according to the same,” said Banerjee.

"60 percent of our business

comes from government. We are maintaining this level and in future will

decrease it because in the long term it has cyclic problem. Because of long

gestation period, one has to wait and watch. That hampers the flow of cash"

Ravi Nandi, Business Automations, Indore

Making his point on the same Mahesh K Shah, Director of Kolkata-based Pecon

Infotech said that payment is the most prominent issue in any government project

since the payment terms are very long and advance planning is not possible.

“We cannot make any plans for that money. Therefore, we have to adjust our

financial schedules or any other plans accordingly. Apart from that, getting and

implementing the orders are a challenge on their own. Generally, these are big

projects, so challenges associated with proper implementation and management of

the projects are bigger,” he commented.

“Payments are made only after the project is completed and the time it takes

to complete one government project is so long that the payment is invariably

delayed. For instance, in a small project like installing computers, there are

no basic facilities like power at the site and in that case we cannot claim the

payment and have to wait for an indefinite period,” remarked Nandi.

Price undercutting

There are instances when principal companies also join the race to grab a

project and in that case, partners start undercutting on the price of the

project. Due to the low margins, it is not profitable for them to make drastic

changes in the cost and therefore vendors often win the game. The government

sector enjoys the lowest prices of IT products amongst the entire segment

whereas in other trades, governments buy products at higher prices. Long payment

cycles and lower costs at times compel the solution provider to undercut the

quality of the overall project.

Technical qualification

Most often, government departments do not have technically qualified people.

It becomes the job of the solution provider to put an extra effort in to

explaining the whole process and that is an added burden on them. Making them

understand the technology is another challenge and due to inadequate know-how,

they also mishandle the project.

Expressing his concern about the same, Banerjee added, “This is quite

expected. However there are technical experts who are taking up this challenge

from the government side. There should be association among partners for

extending technical expertise. We have to look after related issues like

training programs and operation guidelines from time to time.”

"I do not think one can

be recognized with a single order. Recognition comes through continuous

performance and visibility. I would say that we have had a good experience

working with government"

Dilip K Banerjee,
Syntech Group of Companies, Kolkata

"Solution providers have to

train the government employees since they are generally not technically

qualified. They are transferred from various departments to the IT

department based on only seniority and not on their technical knowledge;

hence they are unaware of technical aspects"

Prasad Kshirsagar,
Pace Infotech (India), Mumbai

Kshirsagar commented that solution providers have to train the government

employees since they are generally not technically qualified. They are

transferred from various departments to the IT department based on only

seniority and not on their technical knowledge; hence they are unaware of

technical aspects.

Manpower retention

At a stage when attrition is at an all time high, retention of employees is

a major issue of concern for solution providers. Nowadays, employees in all

companies are on the verge of switching jobs and therefore system integrators

have to think in this direction also. Leaving a company in the middle of a

project may cause a lot of inconveniences.


study: HTP Systems
HTP Systems

successfully executed a project for Ernst & Young that required LAN set-up

with 300 nodes and three servers (over four floors) and WAN over seven

locations. The company also provides end-to-end services for executing their

duty free imports, right from order placement till deployment at their

various offices.

The company executed a project for Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd based
at Uran Plant in Raigad where they installed LAN/WAN Infrastructure on

turnkey basis 315 LAN points. This cost them Rs 61,50,000.

The only solution for this is that solution providers maintain a team of

multiple people so that even if one or two leave, it does not obstruct the flow

of the project. Employees should also try and keep a tab on where his employee

is joining, because that company could be his competitor, and he could lose some

important information along with his manpower to that company. Therefore, until

a project is over, solution providers should try and retain their employees by

offering them various incentives and time-to-time appraisals.

Is the scenario changing?

Amid all the odds, the situation is evolving at the government front. There

could be delays in implementing a project but the solution providers have

observed the increasing interest of government in deploying the latest

technology in their department.

This means that the trend is gradually changing and they are enthusiastic

about integrating with the world. The rate of IT deployments in this sector

signifies that the government sector does not want to lag behind and have the

will to become a tech savvy segment.

“Government agencies have realized the importance, hence they have to update

themselves. However, it depends on the people in government to make this

decision, some of whom are fast in adapting to new technology whereas others

follow the lax route,” commented Singh from Jammu.

" In one of our

transactions with a government body, we still haven't received our payments.

And this is after two years of the implementation of the project"

Avinash Pitale, Omnitech Infosolutions, Mumbai

“Development in the IT sector has been tremendous in the last couple of

years. Technologies have to be identified as to whether they

are beneficial for the growth of the economy, if seriously implemented. Partners
do often approach the government with new technologies and they show their

interest in implementing it,” commented Banerjee.

“The government is interested in IT. However, there is a lack of proper

coordination in the team which is necessary for smooth implementation of the

project,” said Pitale from Omnitech, Mumbai.


study: Omnitech Infosolutions

with its technical and functional domain expertise has designed the business

application for Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC), which

addresses its technical and business challenges. Omnitech Infosolutions Ltd

has developed OmniTransport framework solution specially designed for State


Transport Corporations. The company provided MSRTC the solution for

centralized control of their business activities, software availability at
depot level and branch level, IT infrastructure and connectivity,

integration of the various applications, besides many

On the other hand, Kshirsagar from Mumbai felt that the government is not at

all enthusiastic about deploying latest IT solutions in their departments. He

opined that this was especially the case with the Maharashtra government, which

is behind some of the other states.

Preferred customers

Ask solution providers what they enjoy more, working for the government or

private sector and you will get an instant response. The private sector.

“Comparatively, private projects are better as the working environment is

professional and everything is pre-scheduled. They have the understanding of

technology and adhere to their terms and conditions. Moreover, payment is done

on time and there is no bureaucracy there. Basically, it is transparency that

compels us to prefer private customers,” said Singh from Jammu.

“Things are not defined well in the government sector. Private projects are

more interesting. However, volume wise, it is beneficial to do government

projects. I don't think that it is beneficial for a solution provider to do

projects solely for government. We have to maintain a balance because one offers

voluminous job and other timely payment,” expressed Nandi from Indore.

“Nearly 50 percent of our business comes from the government sector. This

will increase in the coming years as we expand our presence to other states. I

don't think that it is wise to do only government projects. A mix of projects

from the government and private would be more realistic and there are distinct

advantages while working with both class of customers,” clarified Banerjee from


Shah from Pecon Infotech admitted that though it is possible to do business

with the government, it requires serious planning, which may cause result in

lower turnover but higher profitability.


While dealing with government projects, solution providers very well know

about all the pitfalls but they still go ahead to do projects for this segment.

Some of them evaluate their own ways to handle it while others get habituated to

the lethargic conditions. In some cases, system integrators even take the

decision not to deal with a particular department when the situation gets out of


“A lot of time is wasted in collecting payment, and apart from that, we have

to do regular follow-ups. We have to maintain good relations with higher

authorities, so that if a problem is not handled at the lower end, we may

approach them,” said Nandi.

Another partner remarked that the decision to deal with the government is one

that a partner has to make on his own. While doing this, he has to keep in mind

all the issues involved and also work out how to deal with them, rather than

jumping into this business blindly.

In most cases, solution providers do the forecasting for government projects.

They calculate the timing of the maturity of tender and delivery, so whenever

they do the quotation, they calculate the tentative prices and then put it on

paper. According to most solution providers, this is the only way to deal with

government projects and they have to follow this procedure.

“In our case, (software market), it is volume business. It is just a gesture

of goodwill that we undertake something related to a government body, for

example, systems integration. This helps us bag private projects,” opined


Security is the benefit in a government project that lures the solution

providers to go for it. There could be various hurdles but once you get the job,

it is secured. One has to plan out a pattern to deal with government projects in

order to handle all the issues. Also unlike the private sector, changes do not

happen that frequently in the government sector, be it people, management

policies, etc. The job is much more stable and steady.

Whichever route solution providers decide to take, they know that they have

to face a roller coaster ride while dealing with the government body and will

have to come up with certain processes on their own to make working more easy.

However, with the gradual change in mindset of government people with regard to

implementing the latest technology, the situation may improve in future.

Amrita Tejasvi

With inputs from Piyali Guha in Kolkata and Subbalakshmi BM in Bangalore