Speaking at Australian Technology Park in Sydney this morning, Roach told members of the Australia-India Business Council that the nation's IT services companies had the same sophisticated skillset as their competitors from India.
However, he said, Indian companies had been forced overseas by the small size of their domestic IT market, while Australian companies could get enough business within their own country.
Roach -- who graduated from the University of Bombay -- counts his chairmanship of the national research laboratory as just one entry in a curriculum vitae littered with senior roles at companies such as Fujitsu Australia and IBM.
He thinks Australian outsourcers should forge close relations with their South Asian counterparts to service the bigger overseas markets. "We've got to take the relationship well above cricket," he said. "Collaboration with Indian companies will give Australian companies a soft entry."
Roach mentioned top-tier Indian services companies like Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys Technologies and Wipro as models to emulate, but he also said the second-tier of companies might be a better fit. "We might be able to relate a little better because of the size," he said, citing Polaris as an example.
One danger involved in the collaboration process, the NICTA chairman said, was to perpetuate colonial attitudes about India. "We shouldn't be too arrogant," he said, warning against the belief that India was destined to provide low-level services like call-centre operation and application coding.
Citing high-level research projects being set up in India by companies like General Electric and Microsoft, Roach said: "There is nothing that is not happening in India. Biotechnology and medical research [for example] are huge in India."
One Australian company Roach mentioned as being a little ahead of the pack was specialist banking software and services company Financial Network Services, which in partnership with Tata last October announced it had gone live on a solution for the State Bank of India. Roach said the bank had over 100 million accounts.