SaaSy bear SaaSy bear what do you see?

Shifts for SaaS - SaaSy Bear

I see 3 shifts critical for me!

Taking a line from the popular Brown Bear children’s book, I believe that our SaaS startups have a real opportunity to leverage some leading shifts in the global SaaS evolution. While there are many areas of change – and none less worthy than the other – I am highlighting 3 shifts for SaaS (tl;dr) which our entrepreneurs can actually work with and help change their orbit:

  • Market shifts with AI/ML for SaaS to build meaningful product & business differentiation,
  • Platform Products shift to transform into a multi-product success strategy,
  • Leveraging Partnerships for strategic growth and value co-creation.

Some background

I joined iSPIRT with a goal to help our community build great global products. I believed (and still do) that many entrepreneurs struggle with the basics of identifying a strong value proposition and build a well thought out product. They need strong support from the community to develop a solid product mindset & culture. My intent was to activate a product thinkers community and program leveraging our lean forward playbooks model.

I had several conversations with community members & mavens on playbooks outcomes and iterating our playbook roundtables for better product thinking. I realized that driving basic product thinking principles required very frequent and deeper engagement with startups. But our playbooks approach model – working in a distributed volunteer/maven driven model – is not set up to activate such an outcome. Through our playbooks model, our mavens had helped startups assimilate best practices on topics like Desk Sales & Marketing, something that was not well understood some years back. This was not a basic topic. The power of our playbook RTs was in bringing the spotlight on gaps & challenges that were underserved but yet highly impactful.

As a product person, I played with how to position our playbooks for our entrepreneur program. I believe our playbooks have always been graduate-level programs and our entrepreneurs are students with an active interest to go deep with these playbooks, build on their basic undergraduate entrepreneurship knowledge, and reach higher levels of growth.

The product thinking and other entrepreneurial skills are still extremely relevant, and I am comforted by the fact that there are many community partners from accelerators like Upekkha to conclaves like NPC and event-workshop formats like ProductGeeks which are investing efforts to build solid product thinking & growth skills.

As the SaaS eco-system evolves, and as previous graduate topics like desk sales & marketing are better understood, we need to build new graduate-level programs which address critical & impactful market gaps but are underserved. We need to help startups with meaningful & rapid orbit shifts over the next 2-3 years.

Discovering 3 Shifts for SaaS

Having come to this understanding I began to explore where our playbooks could continue to be a vibrant graduate-level program and replicate our success from the earlier playbooks. Similar to an entrepreneur’s journey, these three shifts became transparent through the many interactions and explorations of SaaS entrepreneurs.

Market Shift with AI/ML for SaaS

There is no doubt that AI is a tectonic shift. The convergence of big data availability, maturity of algorithms, and affordable cloud AI/ML platforms, has made it easy for SaaS startups to leverage AI/ML. During a chance roundtable learning session on Julia with Dr. Viral Shah & Prof Alan Edelman, it was clear that many entrepreneurs – head down into their growth challenges – were not aware of the realities behind the AI hype. Some thought AI/ML should be explored by their tech team, others felt it required a lot of effort & resources. The real challenge, however, is to discover & develop a significantly higher order AI-enabled value to customers than was feasible 2 years ago. While AI is a technology-driven shift, the implications for finding the right product value and business model are even greater.

As I explored the AI trend I saw a pattern of “gold rush” – build a small feature with rudimentary AI, market your product as an AI product… – making early claims with small changes which do not move the needle. It became clear that a step-by-step pragmatic thinking by our SaaS startups was required to build an AI-based leapfrog value proposition. This could help bring our startups to be at “par” and potentially even leap ahead of our global brethren. Here was an opportunity to create a level playing field, to compete with global players and incumbents alike.

To validate my observations, I did quick small research on SaaS companies outside of India on their approach with AI. I found quite a few startups where AI was already being leveraged intrinsically and others who were still trying to make sense. Investments varied from blogging about the AI trend, branding one as a thought leader, to actually building and delivering a strongly differentiated product proposition. E.g.:

There are no successes, yet! Our startups like Eka, Wingify, FreshWorks, WebEngage… have all been experimenting with AI/ML, stumbling and picking themselves up to build & deliver a higher level of value. Some others are setting up an internal playground to explore & experiment. And many others are waiting on the shore unsure of how to board the AI ship.

How do we enable our companies to create new AI playgrounds to analyze, surface, validate and develop higher order customer values & efficiencies? To chart a fruitful journey with AI/ML there are many challenges that need to be solved. And doing it as a group running together has a better chance of success.

The AI+SaaS game has just begun and it is the right time for our hungry entrepreneurs to Aspire for the Gold on a reasonable level playing field.

Shift to Platform Products

As market needs change, the product needs a transform. As new target segments get added different/new product assumptions come into play. In both these scenarios existing products begin to age rapidly and it becomes important for startups to re-invent their product offerings. To deal with such changes startups must experiment and iterate with agility. They require support from a base “internal” platform to allow them to transform from a single product success strategy to scaling with multiple products strategy.

This “internal” base platform – an infrastructure & layout of technology components to interconnect data & horizontal functional layers – would help to build & support multiple business specific problem-solution products (vertical logics). The products created on such a platform provide both independent as well as a combined value proposition for the customers.

Many startups (Zendesk, Freshdesk, Eka, WebEngage…) have undertaken the painful approach of factoring an internal platform to transform their strategy & opportunity. Zoho has been constantly reinventing itself and launching new products on a common platform, some of which are upending incumbent rivals in a very short period of time. WebEngage transformed itself from a “tool” into an open platform product.

“As the dependency on our software grew, customers needed more flexibility to be able to use their data to solve a wide range of business problems…significant difference in the way we build products now. We have unlocked a lot of value by converting ourselves into an open platform and enabling customer data to flow seamlessly across many products.” – Avlesh Singh, WebEngage

The effort to build an internal platform appropriately architected to support growing business needs (many yet unknown) is non-trivial and requires a platform thinking mindset for increased business development. It must be architected to allow rapid co-creation of new & unique product values in collaboration with external or market platforms. This can help the startup be a formidable player in the growing “platform economy”.

Leveraging Potential Strategic Partnerships

A strategic partner offers 2 benefits for startups. First is the obvious ability to supercharge the startup’s GTM strategy with effective distribution & scale. How does one make a strategic partnership? Pitching to a strategic partner is very different from pitching to a customer or investor. PSPs look for something that is working and where they can insert themselves and make the unit economics even better. 

“I thought I knew my pitch and had the details at my fingertips. But then I started getting really valuable, thought-out feedback…I had to focus on pitching to partners, not customers.” – Pallav Nadhani, FusionCharts

The second leverage with a partner is the ability to innovate in the overlap of the partner’s products & offerings and the startup’s product values. A good partner is always looking for startups which can co-create a unique value proposition and impact an extremely large customer base.

“…we still have only three four percent market share when it comes to customers. So if we have to participate we have to recognize that we are not gonna be able to do it alone we’re going to have to have a strategy to reach out to the entire marketplace and have a proposition for the entire marketplace…you need to (do it) through partnerships.” – Shikha Sharma, MD Axis Bank

Both these partnership intents if nurtured well can bring deep meaningful relationship which can further transcend scale into a more permanent model (investment, M&A…).

Working with the 3 Shifts of SaaS

While each shift is independent in its own importance, they are also inter-related. E.g. an internal platform can allow a startup to co-create with a partner more effectively. Partners are always interested in differentiated leading-edge values such as what is possible with leveraging AI/ML. Magic is created when a startup leverages an internal platform, to co-create a strong AI-enabled value, in the overlap & gap with potential strategic partners.

And that’s what I see

I see a vibrant eco-system of SaaS startups in India working on creating leading global products. Vibrancy built on top of the basic product thinking skills and catapulted into a new orbit by navigating the 3 shifts.

“Reading market shifts isn’t easy. Neither is making mindset shifts. Startups are made or unmade on their bets on market/mindset shifts. Like stock market bubbles, shifts are fully clear only in hindsight. At iSPIRT, we are working to help entrepreneurs navigate the many overlapping yet critical shifts.” – Sharad Sharma, iSPIRT

Through our roundtables, we have selected six startups as the first running group cohort for our AI/ML for SaaS playbooks (Acebot, Artoo, FusionCharts, InstaSafe, LegalDesk & SignEasy).

If you are hungry and ready to explore these uncharted shifts, we are bringing these new playbooks tracks for you.

Please let us know your interest by filling out this form.

Also, if you are interested in volunteering for our playbook tracks, we can really use your support! There is a lot to be done to structure and build the playbook tracks and the upcoming SaaSx5 for these shifts for SaaS. Please use the same form to indicate your support.

Ending this note with a sense of beginning, I believe that our startups have a real opportunity to lead instead of fast-follow, create originals instead of clones. They need help to do this as a running group instead of a solo contestant. It is with this mission – bring our startups at par on the global arena – that I am excited to support the ProductNation.

I would like to acknowledge critical insights from Avlesh Singh (WebEngage), Manav Garg (Eka), Shekhar Kirani (Accel Partners), Sharad Sharma (iSPIRT). Also am thankful for the support from our mavens, volunteers & founders who helped with my research, set up the roundtables, and draft my perspective with active conversations on this topic: Ankit Singh (Wibmo/MyPoolin), Anukriti Chaudhari (iSPIRT), Arvi Krishnaswamy (GetCloudCherry), Ganesh Suryanarayanan (Tata GTIO), Deepa Bachu (Pensaar), Deepak Vincchi (JuliaComputing), Karthik KS (iSPIRT), Manish Singhal (Pi Ventures), Nishith Rastogi (Locus.sh), Pallav Nadhani (FusionCharts), Praveen Hari (iSPIRT), Rakesh Mondal (RakeshMondal.in), Ravindra Krishnappa (Acebot.ai), Sandeep Todi (Remitr), Shrikanth Jangannathan (PipeCandy), Sunil Rao (Lightspeed), Tathagat Varma (ChinaSoft), Titash Neogi (Seivelogic), and many other volunteers & founders.

All images are credited to Rakesh Mondal 

First AI/ML Playbook Roundtable – Playing With the New Electricity

This is a Guest post by Krupesh Bhat (LegalDesk) and Ujjwal Trivedi (Artoo).

AI is seen as the new electricity that will power the future. How do we make the best of the opportunity that advancements in AI technology brings about? With this thought in mind iSPIRT conducted a symposium roundtable at the Accel Partners premises in Bengaluru on March 10th. Accel’s Sattva room was a comfortable space for 20+ participants from 11 startups. There were deep discussions and a lot of learning happened through subject matter experts as well as peers discussion. Here’s a quick collection of some pearls, that some of us could pick, from the ocean of the deep discussions that happened there.

Products that do not use AI will die soon. Products that use AI without natural intelligence (read common sense) will die sooner.

– Manish Singhal, Pi Ventures

Starting with that pretext, it isn’t hard to gather that AI is not just a promising technology, it is going to be an integral part of our lives in near future. So, what does it mean for existing products? Should everyone start focusing on how they can use AI? Are you an AI-first company? If not, do you need to be one? After all, it does not make sense to build the tech just because it appears to be the next cool thing to do. If you are building AI, can you tell your value proposition without mentioning the word AI or ML? have you figured out your data strategy? Is the need driven by the market or the product?

Before we seek answers we must clarify that there are two types of products/startups in the AI world:

First, an AI-first startup – a startup which cannot exist without AI. Their solution and business model is completely dependent on use of Artificial intelligence (or Machine Learning at least). Some examples of such startups in local ecosystem are Artifacia and Locus.sh.

Second, AI-enabled startup – startups with existing products or new products which can leverage AI to enhance their offering by a significant amount (5x/10x anyone?). Manish has a very nifty way of showing the AI maturity of such companies.

The session was facilitated by several AI experts including Manish Singhal of pi Ventures, Nishith Rastogi of Locus.sh, Shrikanth Jagannathan of PipeCandy, Deepak Vincchi of Julia Computing.

Maturity Levels of AI Startups

After a brief introduction by Chintan to set the direction and general agenda for the afternoon, Manish took over and talked about the various stages of AI based companies. Based on his interactions with many startups in the space, he said there are roughly four growth stages where different companies fall into:

Level 1No Data, No AI: An entity that solves a business problem and is yet to collect sufficient data to build a sustainable AI business. The AI idea will die down if the company fails to move to state 2 quickly. Business may be capturing data but not storing it.
Level 2Dark data, No AI: The company holds data but is yet to build solid AI/ML capabilities to become an AI company. There is a huge upside for such companies but the data strategy needs to be developed and AI capabilities are not mature enough to be considered as an AI/ML company.
Level 3Higher automation driven by data and AI: These are the companies that have built AI to make sense out of data and provide valuable insights into the data using AI/ML, possibly with some kind of human assistance.
Level 4Fully autonomous AI companies: These are the companies at the matured stage where they possess AI products that can run autonomously with no human intervention.

Manish also noted that most companies they meet as a VC are in level 1 and 2, while the ideal level would be 3 and 4. He noted that AI comprises of three important components: Data, Algorithm & the Rest of the System that includes UI, API & other software to support the entire system. While it is important to work on all three components, oftentimes, the data part doesn’t get enough importance.

Do You Really Need Artificial Intelligence?

A whole bunch of solutions are smart because they are able to provide additional value based on past data. These are not AI solutions. They are merely rule based insights. Nishith from Locus added that there is nothing really wrong with rule based systems and in a lot of cases AI is actually an overkill. However, there are two cases where it seems apt for startups to look at AI for their predicament:

  1. Data is incomplete: An example of this is Locus who gets limited mapping for gps coordinates and addresses.
  2. Data is changing constantly: A typical case was of ShieldSquare where bots are continuously evolving and improving and the system deployed to identify them also needs to learn new patterns and evolve with them.

It is important to have clarity on your AI model especially when you communicate with your internal teams. Figure out what is the core component of your product – AI, ML, Deep Learning or Computer Vision.

What’s Driving Your AI Approach?

There are two major driving forces that can help one in deciding whether to AI or not to AI.

  1. PUSH: The internal force when decision can largely be taken if your business is sitting on a lot of useful data, may be as a side effect of your key proposition.
  2. PULL: The external market driven force where clients expect or ask for it e.g chatbots. We are already observing that AI can be a great pricing mechanism.

However, take great caution when using Customer data or Derived data, it depends on legal agreement with clients and can get you into legal troubles if it violates any terms.

Is Your Data Acquisition Strategy in Place?

Anyone interested in AI should have a data acquisition strategy in place. Here are a few points that can help you get one in place:

    • What data do you collect, How do you validate it, Clean it and store it for further analysis?
    • Surveys and chatbots can provide a steady stream of data if built correctly
    • Think of data as a separate entity (has its own lifecycle), it may help to think of it as a currency and plan how you would earn, store and utilise it
    • Capturing location, user interaction data can be insightful. This may include the interactions user has committed and the ones they have not committed (deleted/skipped/hidden)
    • It makes sense to invest time, resources and people to gather data properly
    • Have a unified warehouse (can start with economical options like Google Analytics and AWS)

It is also important to give some thoughts on how you are using aggregate data across the platform. In case, if your AI model uses a combination of customer specific data and the sanitised aggregate data available in the platform (“Derived Work”), then you should make sure that you have the permission to use such data. Without such clarity, you may run into legal issues.

Deepak Vincchi explained how Julia Computing is emerging as the programming language of choice for data scientists. The platform can process 1.3 million threads in parallel and is used by large organizations to crunch data problems.

In all this was an extremely engaging 3 hours without break. Guiding the session with real examples by Nishith, Shrikanth and also shared learnings from Navneet and others really helped bring to life Why AI and How AI. This symposium is part of an AI playbooks track was aimed at kickstarting cohorts of startups ready to jump with AI and help them get traction with AI, more will emerge on this shortly.

10 startups attended this mini-roundtable session – Acebot, Artifacia, Artoo, FusionCharts, InstaSafe, Klove, LegalDesk, Rocketium, Rubique, ShieldSquare.

Thanks to volunteers Rinka Singh and Adam Walker for their notes from the session and Ankit Singh (Mypoolin/Wibmo) for helping coordinate the blog post & note

* All iSPIRT playbooks are pro-bono, closed room, founder-level, invite-only sessions. The only thing we require is a strong commitment to attend all sessions completely, to come prepared, to be open to learning & unlearning, and to share your context within a trusted environment. All key learnings are public goods & the sessions are governed by the Chatham House Rule.

Featured photo by Matan Segev from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/action-android-device-electronics-595804/

Deep Learning Session with Julia Computing

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An evening with Julia

iSPIRT, in association with Julia Computing, is proud to announce an open-session with Prof. Alan Edelman and Dr. Viral Shah, co-creators of Julia, an open source programming language, and co-founders of Julia Computing Inc.

The event will be hosted in Koramangala, Bangalore, on the 22nd of January 2018, from 5 – 7pm. Register now for an invite to the session or to join the live cast (venue details will be shared along with the invite).

What is Julia?

Julia is a modern, high-level, high-performance programming language for numerical computing, data science and AI. With syntax that is familiar to users of other technical computing environments, Julia solves the eternal two language problem, by providing productivity similar to Matlab or R, and performance similar to C for writing mathematical and statistical software. Julia is open source, its research is anchored at MIT since 2009 and is growing very rapidly in its adoption across industries, from Finance to Life Sciences.

Julia … can even be used by those who aren’t programmers by training

Why Should You Care?

Julia’s deep mathematical roots and comprehensive customizability make it very friendly to work with for data scientists, who are generally limited with popular Machine Learning approaches due to their issues with customizability and efficiency.

This 90 minute session will cover a quick introduction to Julia, showcase a few challenging and compute-intensive case studies that Julia has helped solve across domains, and demonstrate how Julia as a framework is used to enable nextgen AI & ML modeling & computing with the AI tools of your choice, including popular libraries like Mocha, MXNet and TensorFlow. This will be a great opportunity to interact with Prof Alan and Dr. Viral on best ways to approach an AI/ML strategy.

About the Speakers:

Prof. Alan Edelman is a Professor of Applied Mathematics, Computer Science and AI at MIT. He is a co-creator of Julia language, and a Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Julia Computing, Inc.

Dr. Viral Shah is a co-creator of Julia language, and a Co-founder and CEO of of Julia Computing, Inc. He has been an important part of Aadhaar team from 2009 to 2014, and has co-authored a book called Rebooting India with Nandan Nilekani.

Julia Computing was founded in 2015 by the creators of the open source Julia language to develop products and provide support for businesses and researchers who use Julia.

Register now for an invite to the session or join the live cast.

Also, Workshop will be streamed on Youtube live for those who can join us virtually. The Invite will be shared on 21st Jan 2018 with the registered participants.

Is your SaaS product ready for GDPR?

What is GDPR you ask? and Why should you care?

Some of you may know about the upcoming rollout in EU of the General Data Protection Regulation. GDPR is a regulation that requires businesses to protect the personal data and privacy of EU citizens for transactions that occur within EU member states. GDPR implementation date is 25 May 2018, but do not get complacent by the date, it requires reasonable effort and time for companies to become ready & compliant. And there are significant penalties for not being compliant.

If you are operating in the EU or if any of your customers are operating in the EU, GDPR applies to you.

Who?

  • Customers in EU – YES
  • Employees in EU – YES
  • Vendors or partners in EU – YES

GDPR Workshop / Webinar

iSPIRT and Microsoft are conducting a GDPR workshop for founders to demystify the GDPR and help understand the steps required towards compliance. This will be a mix of in-person and webinar session (choose when you register).

The session will cover among many topics, clarity on the impact of GDPR, application to organizations in India, additional responsibility about controls, notifications and data governance for managing and tracking personal data, and how organizations need to start thinking about GDPR compliance. There will be presentations by both Legal teams from Microsoft India and the CTO of Microsoft Accelerator.

Apply here using the Registration Form

Date & time: 16-Nov, 3-5pm

In-person Venue: Microsoft Accelerator – JNR City Centre, IBIS Hotel Annexe ,Raja Ram Mohan Roy Road, Bangalore.

Webinar: Link will be sent to those who choose to attend the webinar.

Session Scope:

  • GDPR & Data Privacy, and its growing importance
  • A Risk assessment Checklist – Go to https://www.gdprbenchmark.com/ to access a quick, online self-evaluation tool available at no cost to help your organization review its overall level of readiness to comply with the GDPR
  • Data Privacy Business Scenarios – Technical Demos

Registration

If you are keen to attend the workshop please apply using the Registration Form. Since seats are limited for both in-person and webinar, please register ahead of time. We will confirm with an invite subject to availability. There is no cost to attend. We start sharp at 3 pm.

Strongly recommend going through the Risk Assessment Benchmark Evaluation.

The checklist will help you prep for the workshop and get the most out of it.

Some sources for pre-reading:

What is the GDPR, its requirements and deadlines? – CSO Online

GDPR in the age of SaaS: One SaaS vendor’s journey to compliance …

If You Use SaaS Products, You Need To Prepare For GDPR. Here’s How

Are you ready for the GDPR? A quick, no-cost, readiness self-evaluation tool.

The Global Impact of GDPR on SaaS Providers – Spanning Backup

Home Page of EU GDPR

Coming soon – 2017 SaaS Survey

BTW did you know the new SaaS survey is coming? We are excited to announce that we would be launching the third edition (2017) of the India SaaS Survey in a week from now. This survey is an annual exercise conducted jointly by SignalHill and iSPIRT to gather valuable data for drawing insights which help various stakeholders in the ecosystem understand this space better.

Please click on the following link to access last year’s survey results

Please stay tuned to this space. We will be providing a link to this year’s survey very soon in an upcoming blog post.

Product Teardown Roundtables are coming to your city.

Read more details on the teardown sessions, and preview the teardown format. If interested please apply here (Limited Seats).

Product Teardown explained in 10 minutes (well almost!)

Last Saturday we had an awesome teardown roundtable in Chennai moderated by Suresh (KiSSFLOW) and Bharath (FreshDesk) 🙇🏻.. This was my first direct experience with the teardown. Six companies participated (PickYourTrail, FoodEngine, SysCloud, CustomerLabs, Tagalys, and ManageArtworks). While the entire session of 4+ hours was extremely intense, I want to quickly share with you in 10 minutes (almost) of what happens in a Product Teardown.

Teardowns are coming to your city. Please apply here (Limited Seats).

Product Teardown Framework

The iSPIRT product teardown (esp. for SaaS websites) is primarily structured around 5 key principles outlined below.

Idea 💡

What is the problem you are trying to solve? Who is your target user? It is critical to have a clear picture of your target user persona, their problem and how your solution solves their pain point. Essentially establish your problem-solution fit and articulate it for the customer journey from Discovery → Conversion.

Discovery 🔍

How do customers find your product? Is it through google search? Is there a channel they frequent? Have you identified your TAM (total addressable market), SAM (serviceable addressable market) and SOM (serviceable obtainable market)? Use this model to help identify strategies to have your SOM discover your product.

Website 🕸

Your website is the first & most important way to establish trust & relationship with your customer. This is true even if you don’t use inside sales. What is your first message or hook for your target user persona? Are they able to connect your product with their problem and the path through which they discovered your product? Are they able to understand how your product solves their problem, and why they should use it? Once they identify with your message and establish trust & credibility the rest becomes easier.

Sign up 💰

If the customer has understood your solution and found it fit for their needs, the last purchase decision is the cost. As Suresh said

If the cost connects, signup happens!.

WoW! reaction 🌅

Post signup, is there a WoW first experience? Whether it is a try & buy experience or a first purchase onboarding, it is important for customers to experience some instant gratification for the grueling journey they just went through. Believe me, making a purchase decision can be taxing. If you can make this journey pleasant and the final destination fantastic, you have a winning product 🏆.

Do go through the video above and hear Suresh’s simple explanation. And if you like what you hear remember you can apply here for a teardown in your city.

Coming soon – 2017 SaaS Survey

While I still have your attention, we are excited to announce that we would be launching the third edition (2017) of the India SaaS Survey in a week from now. This survey is an annual exercise conducted jointly by SignalHill and iSPIRT to gather valuable data for drawing insights which help various stakeholders in the ecosystem understand this space better.

Please click on the following link to access last year’s survey results

Please stay tuned to this space. We will be providing a link to this year’s survey very soon in an upcoming blog post.

PS

The amount of time & effort Bharath & Suresh provided to review and analyze each product before the actual teardown is simply inspiring. 🙇🏻. to their commitment to the community.

Innovation Diplomacy & Software as India’s Soft Power

Mr. MJ Akbar, MoS, Ministry of External Affairs, brainstorms with iSPIRT.

Mr. MJ Akbar is the Minister of State (MoS) for External Affairs and a Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha. An author of several best-selling books, and a veteran Indian journalist who launched newspapers like The Telegraph, The Asian Age and magazines like The Sunday. Mr. MJ Akbar, met up with iSPIRT, in Bangalore to understand the plethora of Technological Breakthroughs that iSPIRT is facilitating to empower more than a billion Indian citizens, by deploying technology in the service of humanity. Mr. MJ Akbar has also agreed to co-create an era of Innovation Diplomacy, by using Software as India’s Soft Power. He provided some very useful advice by participating in interactive sessions for close to 2.5 hours.

On Saturday, at ITC Gardenia, in Bangalore, Mr. MJ Akbar, along with Mr. Bala, Jt Secy, and his team, consulted and deliberated extensively, on opportunities that can be Game Changers for Innovation Diplomacy. iSPIRT with its team of Volunteers which included Sharad Sharma, Sanjay Anandaram, Sanjay Jain etc, along with several innovative startups, presented various breakthrough solutions that are helping India leapfrog the West.

Below are some of the key highlights of the Learning Session.

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iSPIRT Show-case – INDIA Going from Software Services To Software Products & Platforms.

The session started with a presentation by Sharad Sharma on how India is transforming itself to Software Products and Platforms. He explained how iSPIRT with IndiaStack is helping new-age startups to build platforms which will drive formalization of the Indian economy. This will materially enable Financial Inclusion, Health Inclusion and provide access to more than 200 million households, by digitization and democratization of essential services, and in-turn will create millions of jobs.

Mr. Akbar’s feedback on this session was that we should highlight stories and narratives which resonate with the aspirational identities of people. Like how did India manage to reach MARS? This was an interesting segway, to then have about 8 startups including Team Indus present their stories. Team Indus, is planning to be the 1st private organization in the World, to land a rover on the moon in Dec 2017.

The remaining 7 teams which presented their stories included companies like Pratco, Foradian, Forus, Indian Money, Knolskape, Hashnode, Niramai. Covering Healthcare, Education, Finance, Technology and Medical Devices, these Startups showed how they are helping millions of Indians not only in Tier 1, but in Tier 2 and Tier 3 India, leverage technology, and avail critical services at a fraction of the Global Cost. It affirmed that yes, while America innovated for the 1st One Billion, India can innovate for the next 5 Billion.

The last session, was by Sanjay Anandaram, who made an intense pitch, for using Software as an Instrument of India’s Soft-Power. India needed to leverage its highly credible and respected brand in global IT to use effectively for political-economic leverage. The 3 pillars for this could be (a) “Digital Non-Alignment” ie advocating Net-Neutrality, (b) “Governance for Hire” ie offering the India Stack to countries in Asia and Africa for running of their programmes and (c) Software as an integral part of bilateral and regional trade deals. Software was an area where India can outmaneuver China in Innovation Diplomacy. India has the requisite legitimate & moral authority to make software a key instrument of its foreign policy to achieve its political-economic goals compared to any other nation.

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Insights and Advice from Mr. MJ Akbar

Mr. Akbar was impressed by the Innovation Diplomacy agenda and commented that India would make an orbital shift in the Arab, West Asian and African region with its Knowledge Capital and Strategic Advocacy of Shared Prosperity. He advised that some of the Startup stories of India should be used to co-create external affairs initiatives of the Govt. of INDIA. He gave several golden nuggets of advice, like Value of Knowledge increases only when it is given away for free. Hence a partnership towards Shared Prosperity in the Knowledge economy is vital. Listed below are 5 important pieces of advice given by Mr. MJ Akbar

  • Empires are not built by Armies, (giving the Genghis khan example), they are built by Technology, Skills and Communication.
  • Why does a country like India, which had such sophisticated science & architecture like Step Wells (Bawadi) even in the 10th century, keep getting defeated?
  • We need to showcase to the World, with good statistics, what we represent in terms of Technology and Communication.
  • We need to highlight to the World that the Frontiers for the Future Lies with INDIA.
    Knowledge Economy should connect emotionally with the Global audience to realize Shared Prosperity.

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Conclusion

Mr. MJ Akbar set in motion a few immediate co-creation steps to learn how Innovation Diplomacy can become the bedrock of India’s External Affairs. Being a veteran journalist, he definitely had more powerful narratives to showcase Software as India’s Soft Power. As usual, iSPIRT on its part is fostering and facilitating many such learning sessions to co-create with our Law Makers, and nudge our Policy Makers to help the Software ecosystem. Let us all align our collective vigor to catalyze the effort of building India’s Software Strength to be its Global Soft-Power.

mj-akbar4

DIPP – New Secretary catalyzing the past efforts, for Startup Ecosystem.

Mr. Ramesh Abhishek, Secretary of DIPP in a learning-session with iSPIRT.
He formerly headed the Forwards Market Commission and has subsequently served as the secretary of performance management at the Cabinet Secretariat. He has been the key driver behind several reforms including the FMC being merged with SEBI. Mr. Ramesh Abhishek, is the new Secretary of DIPP (Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion), following his senior Mr. Amitabh Kant. Mr. Ramesh is now also in charge of Invest India, National Investment Promotion Agency, as well as Startup India campaign. He met up with iSPIRT, on Friday, 10th June, at 91Springboard in Bangalore, participating in a learning-session to understand the plethora of Technological Break-throughs and Policy Transformations that iSPIRT is facilitating for the benefit of the Startup Community. He provided some very useful advice by participating in an interactive learning session for close to 4 hours.
Below are some of the key highlights of the Learning Session.

 

iSPIRT Show-case – INDIA Going from Data Poor To Data RICH
The session started with a presentation by Sanjay Jain on the iSPIRT’s jobs perspective. He explained that while new-age startups won’t create many jobs they will build platforms which will drive formalization of the Indian economy. This will materially expand the economy and create millions of jobs. IndiaStack is enabling this transformation of the economy. HouseJoy, NinjaCart and CapitalFloat CEOs shared their own perspective on this change and added to the discussion.
DIPP-secyThe follow-on session, by Shekhar Kirani, presented how INDIA is becoming a major player in the GLOBAL Software Product Industry and how Startups from INDIA are disrupting some major players. Subsequently Unbxd, ShieldSquare and Hotellogix discussed their own journeys and added depth to this discussion..
The most intense session was when Mr. Venkatesh Hariharan presented the Patent & IPR Policy Details, If we have to unleash India’s true innovation potential, India needs to remain a no-software-patenting jurisdiction. Only then can it capitalize on its mathematical foundations, and keep away the patent-trolls.
This last session was by Sanjay Khan and covered the progress around the Stay-in-India Checklist. Mr. Abhishek was very impressed by the progress that has been made and reiterated his commitment to get the remaining items on the Checklist resolved. He agreed that stopping exodus of new-age startups is very critical to the success of the software product ecosystem.
DIPP-2ndSession-2Insights and Advise from Mr. Ramesh Abhishek
Government wants to make a big difference with our Startup Movement. Mr. Ramesh felt that we should make it the biggest, so that it will leapfrog the West. He was immensely supportive to all policy efforts of iSPIRT and, in fact, extended immediate help for on a particular issue that had come up in the discussions. He had 3 important pieces of advice:
  • Startup-Hub as part of the Invest India program, should be supported and adopted with good ideas from the Startup Community.
  • DIPP will address Startup challenges quickly in aget time-bound manner.
  • DIPP wants to so much more, so iSPIRT should continuously engage with it.
Mr. Ramesh later proceeded to visit some Hardware and software Incubators in and around Bangalore.
DIPP-2ndSession-3Conclusion
Mr. Ramesh Abhishek went away with a deep understanding of the forces changing India and the landscape that is emerging. was very impressed with the body of work presented to him. He stressed that this Government wants to go much more.  iSPIRT on its part is fostering and facilitating many such learning-sessions to nudge Policy Makers help the ecosystem, and bridge the gap of Intellectual distance between Delhi and Bangalore. Let us all move-the-needle with collective vigor to catalyze the effort of building India into a Product Nation.

 

Bill Gates meets with iSPIRT

Bill Gates met with members of iSPIRT in Bangalore in December to learn about the organization and its volunteers’ efforts to solve India’s hardest problems through the use of technology.  Nandan Nilekani played host to the event and also present in the room were Sharad Sharma (iSPIRT co-founder), Nachiket More (former Board member of RBI, now senior advisor to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)), and various senior members of BMGF.

Bill-Gates1There were three broad themes that were covered — finance, healthcare and education — each of which forms an important part of the Gates Foundation’s work in philanthropy. Product demos included the IndiaStack, a suite of technology services currently being developed around identity, payments and personal data management for all Indian citizens; three of the leading startups in the healthcare space — Practo, Logistimo, and Swasthya Slate; and EkStep, an education-focused nonprofit that focuses on facilitated learning.

Shashank presenting to BillBill Gates observed that India is producing cutting-edge work and there are few countries which can boast of a digital infrastructure as sophisticated as we are producing here. With such positive encouragement from one of the most accomplished individuals in the world, the vision of transforming India at large through application of technology has received a new impetus.

the panel with BillGuest Post by Saurabh Panjwani, iSPIRT

iSPIRT Meeting at PMO – Stay in India Checklist

An important policy agenda for iSPIRT is to reverse the exodus of technology startups. About 75% of the funded technology startups are redomiciling outside India due to regulatory irritants.

iSPIRT has a Policy Expert Team – called Stay-and-List-in-India – working only on this area since December 2014. This is the policy team that worked closely with SEBI on the “startup bourse” that was notified earlier this year. Mr. Mohandas Pai has been an important guide and mentor to this team.

The Stay-and-List-in-India Policy Expert Team has developed a Stay-in-India checklist. This has 36 items that need to be addressed by Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, RBI and DIPP.

After PM Modi’s Silicon Valley visit, Mr. Amitabh Kant, Secretary DIPP, has been pushing hard to make progress on the Stay-in-India checklist. Towards this end, he had organized a cross-ministerial meeting with iSPIRT that was chaired by Mr. Nripendra Misra, Principal Secretary – PMO. The meeting was attended by Secretaries including Mr Madhav Lal, Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises; Mr Ashok Lavasa, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change; Dr. Hasmukh Adhia, Department of Revenue, Mr Shaktikanta Das Department of Economic Affairs, both from Ministry of Finance; Mr. Tapan Ray, Ministry of Corporate Affairs; Mr Ashutosh Sharma, Department of Science & Technology and Mr Krishnaswamy Vijayraghavan, Department of Biotechnology both from Ministry of Science & Technology.

Others present included, Mr Shatrughna Singh, Additional Secretary, DIPP; Ms Snehlata Shrivastava, Additional Secretary, Department of Financial Services, Dr. Renu Swarup, Sr. Advisor, Department of Biotechnology, Mr U S Paliwal, Executive Director, Reserve Bank of India, Mr Hemang Jani, OSD to PM and Operations Officer from the World Bank.

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There were three parts in the meeting. The first part was a showcase of 6 technology startups. This was curated, as usual, by Shekhar Kirani, Fellow, iSPIRT (Accel Partners) and Avinash Raghava. The purpose of this session was to highlight that tech startups are key to transforming India at large. They are setup by entrepreneurs from middle class backgrounds who parley their skills into sweat equity to build valuable businesses. The showcased companies included CRMNext, Foradian Technologies, Eko India Financial Services, Snapdeal, Uniken, ForusHealth and Team Indus. They all made carefully prepared 3 min presentations and answered questions.

The Stay-in-India Checklist was discussed in the second part of the meeting. Sanjay Khan (Khaitan Associates) of the Policy Expert Team made the presentation. This was a technical discussion on specific issues. At times, it was very detailed.

In particular, Mr. Shaktikanta Das, Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance and Mr. Amitabh Kant, Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) were very proactive in taking suggestions. Mr. Kant did say that they are trying to create a single window to deal with startups.

In the third part of the meeting, there was short discussion about teaching entrepreneurship as a minor in engineering education. This was led by Sanjay Vijaykumar of Startup Village. His talk was very passionate and impactful.

It was cleart that all the officials were determined to make quick progress and were truly concerned by the exodus of tech startups from India. We all ended the meeting with a group photo. One of the senior officials remarked that this moment is important to capture so that we can look back and remember where it all started!

Guest Post by Abhishek Sinha, CEO, Eko India Financial Services 

SEBI & iSPIRT Discuss Modernized Online Platform with Tech Startups and Securities Market Intermediaries.

On 15th October, Mr. U.K. Sinha, honorable chairman of SEBI, had a more than 4 hour meeting with iSPIRT. The goal was to lay the ground-work for a new approach to Paperless and Presence-less Distribution Model enabling a 10X growth in the number of people buying Mutual Funds.

The iSPIRT team was chaired by Nandan Nilekani and included key members of its Open API Expert Team – Sanjay Jain, Pramod Varma and Sharad Sharma. Several Tech Startups like Scripbox, FundsIndia, Perfios, Eko, PolicyBazaar, BankBazaar, Flipkart and Eko participated in this interactive session. Many Securities Market Intermediaries comprising of representatives from HDFC Mutual Fund, Birla Sunlife MF, Quantum MF, CAMS and KARVY also attended the meeting. Nakul Saxena, Fellow Policy Initatives, coordinated the meeting on the iSPIRT side. From SEBI’s side Mr. Amarjeet Singh, Mr. Sujit Prasad, Mr. Ravi Kumar, Mr. Rajesh Gujjar and Mr. Vimal Bhatter also participated.

The discussion focused on three tracks:
1. Regulatory track for simplifying the various processes for Investor participation. There was intense discussion around simplifying or re-engineering the Onboarding process of Retail Investors. It noted several ideas to remove IPVs/wet signatures, speeding up the KYC processes via KRAs’ (KYC Registration Agencies).
2. Technology track focused on providing a paperless and presence-less Online Technology Infrastructure. This was about leveraging the “India Stack” for lowering the onboarding costs almost 100X.
3. Market track focused on enabling streamlining the Distribution Model for increasing the Retail Mutual Fund Investor base. Several ideas around how to increase Investor trust, lower cost of customer acquisition and provide for an Online Only Distribution model were discussed.

Conclusion
It was a very productive working session. There were many learnings for all participating including Tech Startups and Securities Intermediaries. Pilots will now be undertaken starting mid-November.

Its now becoming even more apparent that INDIA will leap-frog the WEST in its Digital Platforms particularly in the Banking and Finance sector. Brace yourself, as we might be entering an ERA of hyper-growth fuelled by JAM (Jandhan, Aaadhar and Mobile) that is powered by the “India Stack”. iSPIRT will talk more about this impending change in the coming months.

India Innovation Session with Jeff Immelt, CEO, GE

GE

Every sector has a long period of evolutionary change that is only occasionally interrupted by a short (5-10 year) period of intense non-linear change. Global corporates like GE are able to position themselves to successfully embrace the evolutionary change. However, to leverage the period of non-linear change, a new kind of partnering model is needed.

Keeping in mind this theme, iSPIRT, India’s software product think tank, spent an hour with Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric, and his team, to discuss the implications of such non-linear change to GE and the larger global ecosystem. To drive home the point, six inspiring startups showcased their respective cutting-edge innovations that are helping drive change in their individual sectors. Their stories are captured, in brief, below.

Team IndusTeamIndus

Infrastructure for NextGen Apps

Team Indus, a highly qualified group of ex-ISRO scientists and systems engineers, spoke to GE of two moonshots they are attempting. Literally. The first is landing a privately funded spacecraft on the moon by 2017. As part of this mission, they India’s only entry, and top 3 of 16 global teams, in the Google Lunar XPrize Competition.

The second is a derivative of the first, where they aim to put up a high-altitude long-endurance platform to deliver payload to stratospheric orbits. In laymen’s terms, they are enabling wide-area connectivity for terrestrial applications, essentially disrupting satellites as they’ve been known and used. And at the current pace of progress, they are on track to be the leader in Asia by 2021.

Nimble WirelessNimble

Cold Chain Monitoring

Nimble Wireless’ pioneering IoT solution is built on top of the future of pervasive connectivity that TeamIndus is working towards. Their platform helps enterprises connect, control and manage their business critical assets to enable greater efficiencies and savings. A great use case is in helping leading food/cold chain companies ensure food safety and reduce wastage, especially important in a country that has 33% malnourished children but wastes nearly a third of its dairy products. Here, Nimble deploys real time temperature monitoring and alert management systems to help ensure food safety, eliminate wastages and attain visible RoI for food and logistics companies.

SavariSavari

V2X: Connecting Vehicles to Everything

Moving beyond the world of cold chain to the world of automobiles is Savari’s technology that connects vehicles to everything – each other, smartphones and road infrastructure. There is a battle ensuing between Silicon Valley’s revolutionary approach in favor of self-driving cars and the auto industry’s evolutionary approach in favor of connected cars. Savari’s patented middleware software is enabling the auto industry to realize the gradual, incremental change they believe is the way forward in connecting vehicles. Their technology is pushing forward safety, fuel savings and automation and ensuring auto companies don’t become ‘the Foxconn of Apple’.

Julia ComputingJulia

An Open Platform for Brilliant Machines

The consistent theme emerging is that machines are all going to be connected in not too distant a future. All well and good, but there’s a small problem. Today the programming language for machines (iron) is different from that of the cloud (silicon), where software and analytics reside. That means large time and cost investments are needed in translating algorithms between the languages to connect the machines.

Which is where Julia, an open-source language being built out of MIT, fits in. Their solution, a language with a strong mathematical foundation, serves as a common language for machines and the cloud, so the same engineers can write analytics that run on sensors and scale to the cloud. The language has visible use cases across machines (air collision avoidance algorithms, 3D printing) and cloud applications (predictive analytics, pricing algorithms), enabling immense savings in time and complexity. The industrial world until now only had proprietary platforms to choose from but now Julia provides an alternative that is open and neutral, where firms can retain strategic control of their products.

LogistimoLogistimo

Open-source supply chain

Continuing with the theme of improved efficiency is Logistimo, an open-source supply chain software enabling manufacturers, distributors and after-sales partners to better reach and serve frontier markets.  There are unique challenges of implementing such systems in low-resource settings of rural India, where nearly 70% of Indians live. But Logistimo’s nuanced methodologies to manage this low-resource context is what has helped reduce infant mortality, electrify villages, and improve the overall quality of life for citizens of the hinterland.

India StackiSPIRT

Impact on Service Delivery

Tying this all together was the final session about a pioneering initiative, the first of its kind globally, being spearheaded in India towards a cashless, paperless and presence-less service delivery. The India Stack ties together the Identity Layer (Adhaar), a Paperless Layer (eSign, eKYC), a frictionless Payments Layer, a Transaction Layer (GSTn) and finally a privacy/data-sharing Consent Layer to revolutionize the Indian landscape in not too distant a future.

 

Lots going on, lots more to come. And this is just the beginning of the excitement for India and the non-linear change that the startup ecosystem is enabling.

SBI and iSPIRT discuss future of banking in India

iSPIRT and SBI had a 4-hour meeting on the future of banking. 30+ seniormost officers of SBI – including all the MDs, DMDs, CGMs, and GMs – participated. Two SBI Board members were also present. Nandan Nilekani chaired the session from iSPIRT side.
DSC_2148The first session was about understanding the technology trends that are shaping banking. There was special focus on understanding implications of eKYC, Aadhaar, new payment infrastructure and GST Network. There was also a good discussion how point-solutions by startups are changing banking.
The second session showcased 7 Fintech software product companies (NovopayHappay,Vote4CashCapitalFloatCustomerXPSProbeEquity, Enstage) and 2 non-FinTech product companies(InMobi, TeamIndus). The third session session was about SBI strategy. This was a very productive discussion. We can’t share the details as it was confidential.
This meeting brought together two threads within iSPIRT. One thread was related to its Policy work related to Open APIs (that is shaping the technology infrastructure of banking and finance in India) and the push for Cashless India. The other thread was InTech50, which is a market catalyst that helps big companies leverage software products startups to drive innovation throughout their business.
DSC_2150iSPIRT is fostering many such dialogs with not just banking giants like SBI, but with Regulatory institutions like SEBI, RBI and others, to fashion a new India.

SEBI Startup Listing Exchange – Nasdaq of the East

Efforts of iSPIRT’s List-in-India Policy Expert Team have reaped the desired results. The securities market regulator, SEBI, has announced relaxed norms for a separate platform to allow “new-age companies” having an innovative business model and belonging to the knowledge-based technology sector to list in the country.

The existing legal framework has considerable challenges for a successful listing, including the mandatory track record of distribution of profits for 3 years. Consequently, Indian technology startups (with their usually disruptive business models) have been increasingly looking to list overseas in view of the less stringent regulatory hurdles. It is hoped that the relaxed regulatory regime will provide software product companies with an opportunity to raise capital through listing onthe proposed platform, and give them a viable alternative to offshore listings. The new platform is also expected to provide an exit opportunity to the investors who have invested in such startups, thereby generating further cycle of investment in the economy.

The iSPIRT List-in-India Policy Expert Team is very happy with this outcome. Things have moved really quickly after we kicked off the effort on Dec 19th in Blr. Mohandas Pai has been an excellent mentor and driver of this effort. We are now working hard to address issues that drive exodus at the Seed and Series A stages of software product startups.
More details of the SEBI Policy can be taken from here. Some of the coverage we have got from LiveMintBusiness Standard and Economic Times are here.

 Guest Post by Sanjay Khan, Khaitan & Co

Chief Economic Advisor is Infected Positively by the Irrational Exuberance of Indian Product Startups.

Mr. Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Advisor to the Government of INDIA, has been named as one of the world’s top 100 global thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine. After stepping into the shoes of Dr. Raghuram Rajan as Chief Economic Advisor, he is also a widely cited expert on the changing Balance of Global Economic power, as it pertains to INDIA & China. He is also the author of “INDIA’s TURN: Understanding the Economic Transformation“. Mr. Arvind specially travelled to Bangalore to interact with software product industry and discuss policy with the the policy team of iSPIRT Think tank.


In the 4 hour meeting, the energy that emerging companies brought out with each presentation was amplified as the discussion progressed. In the end, I must admit that there was a euphoric feeling that this movement of creating public goods with the Social Commons model is really on-to-something BIG!

Not all elements of the session can be reproduced here, but this article is an effort to provide you the important highlights.

2015-05-28 17.36.55What was so Infectious? Its the Mirror Neurons, Stupid! 

In the first session, as it has become customary, about 8 carefully curated product startups which started in INDIA, with audacious aspirations, and which have already made significant GLOBAL impact while still retaining their Indian-ness, presented their stories. Almost every story was about Product Entrepreneur’s who dared to dream BIG, not just from themselves but for leap-frogging INDIA and the world. The Goal set out for the session was to show-case the behind-the-scenes transformation that is taking place in the software Product Industry landscape.

The Irrational choices of many Entrepreneurs were show-cased in their business avatars, as NowFloats, Uniken, Tally, Forus Health, Team Indus, FreeCharge, SnapBizz & Ezetap. While the strategy choices seemed Irrational, the success these business are having today, and the impact they can have tomorrow to reclaim India’s glory was self-evident. The outcome of the session was remarkably different from the goal the session set-out to achieve. What became apparent as the session progressed was the infectious effect it was having on each participant in the room. It was as if the Mirror Neurons from these passionate Entrepreneurs was affecting not just the minds, but it was affecting our Inner Spirit. The Infectious nature of the session’s outcome in many ways mirrored the outcome of these businesses.

2015-05-28 17.37.06What is the Cure? More Infection. Make India Go Cashless.

In a thoughtful next session the discussion moved toward more earthy and material realization of how Technology & Infectious energy of the startups can be leveraged to leapfrog INDIA. This discussion was about how to make India Go Cashless in 4 years. The benefits of going cashless are many. It can expand micro-credit to small businesses in a big way, for even street-hawkers (Thelewalas) to be able to digitally get credit and also seamlessly receive money from customers. Sanjay Jain (iSPIRT Open API Expert Team member, former Chief Product Officer of Aadhaar) and Abhishek (iSPIRT Colunteer, CEO Eko) presented a comprehensive approach and suggested a new Program, Jan Samridhi, for the Government. This builds on the Open API work that iSPIRT has already done (in eSign, UPI and GTSN) and proposed specific and inter-related policy and regulatory changes. The only real way of achieving this is to have more agencies in the Government, the Regulatory institutions and people to participate. So in effect, the cure really is to infect more people with the Spirit of Social Commons. The discussion clearly bridged some the intellectual distance between Delhi and Bangalore.

Advice from the Chief Economic Advisor

Mr Arvind, in his own-words was blown-away with the enthusiastic zeal and business performance of the Product Startup Ecosystem. He however was also clearly in his elements as he carefully constructed the broader picture by taking the various elements from the Individual presentations. Some of his suggestions and advice to the Startup community were as follows.

  • How soon can we marry the Private Entrepreneurial zeal & Public Goods created by such movements?
  • Can we use and leverage the existing products automating, say, Govt Fair Price shops?
  • While mildly chiding Product Entrepreneurs to dream even bigger by including Government, he asked if we can help realize other broader over-reaching goals like Government Technology Platforms for Expenditure tracking?

He even offered to visit Bangalore and participate 2-3 times a month in various such initiatives to enable routine conversations with Policy Makers and Entrepreneurs.

2015-05-28 18.27.33Conclusion

The entire program was highly Interactive, Infectious & Confidence building. It gave a sense that may-be within 4 years we can Make India go cashless. It also re-affirmed the new Paradigm of creating Public Goods with a Social Commons approach (Open source approach). It is important to co-create a digital INDIA, not just with the Entrepreneurial zeal, but by getting Government and Institutional bodies involved as well. These Infectious power-packed dialogs that iSPIRT is fostering will help us rewrite the script of our Nation, and will help us reclaim its lost Glory. We will become a Product Nation soon, it seems inevitable. Be a part of it now. Go ahead, spread the INFECTION, not just the word.

Finance Secretary – interacts with Product Industry in Bangalore.

Mr. Rajiv Mehrishi promises deeper Institutional Reforms

Mr. Rajiv Mehrishi, Finance Secretary, Ministry of Finance for Government of INDIA, is a pro-reforms, vocal advocate of institutional transformation of the Financial System in INDIA. Additionally, he is also  the Secretary, Department of Economic affairs. Mr. Mehrishi and his team – Mr. Manoj Joshi (Jt. Secretary), Mr. Ajay Shah (Head, Macro/Finance Group, NIPFP), Ms. Ila Patnaik (Principal Economic Advisor) and Mr. CKG Nair (Advisor, Capital Markets) – specially traveled to Bangalore to understand the software product industry landscape and discuss ways to make India go cashless.

The 4 hour interaction was at ITC Windsor Manor. It was chaired by iSPIRT Mentor Mohandas Pai.  iSPIRT Governing Council members Bharat Goenka (Tally), Vishnu Dusad (Nucleus) and Sharad Sharma (BrandSigma) were also there along with Fellows Avinash Raghava, Nakul Saxena and Sudhir Singh. Shekhar Kirani who had planned the industry landscape showcase had to skip the meeting to be at his daughter’s music recital.

Showcasing behind the scenes transformation of India

The first session focused on bringing the software product industry landscape to life through a carefully curated showcase of 10 product startups. Each startup is a story of dreaming big about transforming India and the world. The goal of this session was to showcase India’s under appreciated prowess to shape industries and tackle deep rooted problems through its tech startups. The companies that participated in this carefully curated showcase were Ezetap, Instamojo, Capillary, PeelWorks, InMobi, Foradian, Team Indus, Forus Health, OlaCabs and Practo. The session went well and was an eye-opener to the policy makers. It helped them understand the breadth and depth of the emerging software product industry in India. One of them remarked that this was “one of the most awesome afternoons of his life”. They found the session to be “revealing and energizing”.  Everybody felt more optimistic about India’s future after this session.

Making India go Cashless

The next session was a thoughtful discussion on how to make India go cashless in 4 years. It was led by Bharat Goenka and Sanjay Jain (iSPIRT Open API Expert Team member, former Chief Product Officer of Aadhaar). They presented a comprehensive approach and suggested a new Program, Jan Samridhi, for the Government. This builds on the Open API work that iSPIRT has already done (in eSign, UPI and GTSN) and proposes specific and inter-related policy and regulatory changes. This benefits of going cashless are many. It’ll curb black money but will also expands micro-credit to small businesses in a big way.

Tax Friction for Product Startups

The final session was about tax friction for software product companies. Most of these are arise from poor definition of software products within the Finance Ministry. Mr. Mehrishi promised a quick resolution of these issues.

Conclusion

It was a very collaborative and interactive session. It showcased how India has emerged as the 2nd largest software product startup ecosystem in the world. It also brought attention to this new paradigm of creating Public Goods with a Social Commons model (open source model) and how this approach would be instrumental in India going cashless in a short period of time. Mr. Mehrishi and team suggested that deeper institutional mechanisms are required to bridge the intellectual distance between Delhi and Bangalore.

These powerful dialogs that iSPIRT is fostering with key policy makers (e.g. SEBI’s UK Sinha, RBIs Raghuram Rajan) are making a difference. They are helping us rewrite the script of the nation. And they are taking us closer to making India a Product Nation! So go ahead, spread the word.