Oracle CEO Larry Ellison was left visibly squirming at the launch of the company's new egovernment centre in India when a government official told him that on a flagship public sector project Oracle's software had 'totally collapsed'.
Dr Vishwapati Trivedi, commissioner of commercial taxes with the Madhya Pradesh government, complained directly to Ellison in public about its Oracle ystem which was installed just two months ago. 'Sorry to be spoiling the party today,' he said after Ellison had spoken. 'Our department had installed an Oracle database for Rs 13 crore on May 2. But the system just collapsed after two days...the system does not work and the problem has not been rectified after repeated complaints. This has resulted in an immense loss of confidence in Oracle products.'
He also complained that Oracle's corporate response to the problem had been lacking. 'I have been trying to get in touch with the senior executives of Oracle on e-mail,' he told the embarassed Ellison 'I also reached your service centre but no one responded.'
The normally unflappable Ellison was put on the backfoot by this unexpected criticism. 'I can assure you that our database works and we respond to our customer calls,' he said. 'I cannot believe that a minister called up the service centre and it did not respond. My e-mail is [email protected]. Please write to me detailing the problem.'
'You are the first person who has told me that our database just does not work. I do not accept the charge. The Oracle database does work. Our database has been installed at over 200,000 locations. Large corporations like General Electric run on Oracle.
'The problem could be with the application that has been written over the database and not with the database. I will ensure that Oracle India will do the best it can to solve the problem. Let's not worry about who caused the problem, but what is the problem.'
Trivedi later told reporters that his department had spent around Rs 13 crore ($4,777,500) on Oracle products and had been paying Rs 20 lakh ( $73,500) per year on maintenance fees. He said that after Oracle had failed to respond to requests for help, he had discontinued payment of the maintenance fees.
Ellison was talking to a global audience, though videoconferencing from Oracle headquarters in California and had announced the setting up of a a e-gov center of excellence (CoE) at Gurgaon.
'Just as governments around the world are hard pressed to provide quality service, Indian government sooner than later would come under similar pressure,' he told his audience. 'The more the government automates, the greater will be the level of transparency and accountability.'
Ellison also committed additional resource to India. 'We will double the headcount from existing 3,000 employees working in Indian development centers in the near term,'he said.