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J UNE 24- J ULY 7, 2013


BUSI NESS I NDI A u THE MAGAZI NE OF THE CORPORATE WORLD IT
E
arly this year, with little fan-
fare, a group of 30 software
companies and individuals,
came together to form an industry
think-tank, iSPIRT (Indian Software
Product Industry Round Table), indi-
cating the emergence of a growing
and self-assured product industry in
India. Four months later, in the wake
of an overwhelmingly positive com-
munity response, iSPIRT is fostering
an ecosystem through its platform,
ProductNation, to help companies
achieve their goals.
We feel that a vibrant software
products industry is vital to Indias
future, says co-founder Sharad
Sharma, CEO, BrandSigma and erst-
while head of Yahoo! India R&D.
Unless we do this, the appropriate
policy framework will not emerge.
Only then could India replicate its
software services story in products.
Traditionally, Indian companies
have been mainly focussed on deliv-
ering software services. The software
services industry contributes about
14 per cent to Indias exports and, in
a span of a decade, has grown signi-
cantly. But the story is different when
it comes to products. It has been slow
in reaching the take-off level.
Scalability and the ability to
scale exponentially are key factors
in the products market. However,
this is something few Indian compa-
nies have been able to do. The risk
of developing products gets ampli-
ed manifold, if scale does not hap-
pen and thus you have a high rate
of product mortality, says Sandeep
Todi, CEO, Emportant, an HR and
payroll software rm and member,
iSPIRT. One of the imperatives is to
turn the right gears to achieve that
scale, and iSPIRT has clearly dened
this as one of the main objectives.
Although there have been product
triumphs from big players like TCS,
Infosys, Wipro, etc, they were based
on a client-server model, where the
company builds a product knowing
what the client wants. According to
Sharma, smaller rms create prod-
ucts by anticipating needs of the
market and thereby take bigger risks.
Remarkable examples of prod-
ucts include those from Tally, a
business management product com-
pany; Zoho, an online business, pro-
ductivity & collaboration solution
provider; and FusionCharts, a rm
that pioneered the concept of ash
charting in Adobe Flash, and now
has as many as 14 products in the
data visualisation space itself.
Harnessing experience
The value of quality products can
hardly be under-emphasized. For
instance, a good product could have
easily solved the problems of 55 odd
mayors who met in Mumbai recently,
to nd a solution for issuing birth
and death certicates. Surprisingly,
no two mayors had the same solu-
tion. Imagine if there had been a few
Tally like products to issue birth and
death certicates that could be repli-
cated across 500 cities, it would have
beneted everyone. So, our mission is
to evangelise product development,
urges Sharma.
iSPIRT, through its platform, Pro-
ductNation, is harnessing the expe-
rience of successful entrepreneurs
and adding to it a potent mix of ideas
evolved through brainstorming and
rened into a workable plan, says Todi.
Based on its open source philosophy,
each programme is curated by the
iSPIRT founders and fellow members.
This approach has the makings of
a revolution in the way Indian com-
panies build and scale their products
into global scale companies.
The focus will be to work on three
frontiers. It will engage with govern-
ment policy makers and inuence
policies to benet the industry. An
important task will be to share con-
versations into playbooks for product
entrepreneurs and help them anticipate
customer requirements better, besides
aiming to solve community problems
through focussed programmes.
Other founding members of iSPIRT
include names like Suresh Samban-
dam, founder & CEO, OrangeScape;
Bharat Goenka, co-founder & MD,
Tally Solutions; Manav Garg, CEO &
founder, EKA software; and Shekhar
Kirani, partner, Accel Partners.
iSPIRTs formation, however, may
also lead to confusion in the mar-
ketplace, given that NASSCOM is
already a well-established trade body
for software companies. We are
a think-tank and not a trade body
and therefore there can be no con-
fusion, emphasises Sharma. Think-
tanks are the future of India. At the
same time, we are willing to work
with other bodies.
Since it was formed, ProductNa-
tion made great strides in realis-
ing its goals. In addition to monthly
meetings, it has seen a signicant
increase in trafc on its website. We
are actively planning the course of
action for next three years. Already,
we have published four policy papers
and should be releasing policy briefs
by the year end, said Sharma.
Already, an estimated 1,100 compa-
nies are into products and the number
is set to grow exponentially. Accord-
ing to ProductNation estimates, there
has been a 789 per cent growth in
product startups and a 2,173 per cent
increase in funded product ventures
in the last three years. Clearly, the
Indian technology product economy
is on a growth trajectory.
u S H A S HI B H AGNA R I
Evangelising world-class products
iSPIRT wants to prove that India can develop world-class software
A think tank, not trade body