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.


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.


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.



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.


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.
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.


Thinking PN: Tribute to the Spirit of ISPIRT

The Dream of a Product Nation, to give India its true Identity and enable Bharat to be the crown jewel of the World, took seed in Feb 2013. An idea to harness the energy of many volunteers inspired by the Open Source movement took the shape of iSPIRT and Product Nation.

The Spectrum of Volunteering spreads from Bad-to-Good-to-Great. Adam Grant in his book Give and Take highlights this mindset of Giving & Taking. There are some Volunteers who Commit to Doing Whatever it Takes, Giving completely Selfless, while some even Indulge in Malicious Free Riding. 

Celebrating iSPIRT’s 3rd Anniversary

Creating a Unique and Distinct Organization, unlike Trade Bodies, and keeping the Spirit of Volunteering in the mind at all times, makes it an even arduous journey. But iSPIRT just completed 3 years and celebrations of the 3rd Anniversary, has instilled a great sense of community building, while Thinking Product Nation (Thinking PN).

The 3rd year Celebration on its Agenda had a lot of things, but it mostly highlighted the Success of Volunteering and the Power of Selfless Contribution.

There were many Events and Sessions since Morning, Notably

  1. Highlights of Various iSPIRT programs like Playbook Round Tables, iKEN, InTech50, SaasX, etc.
  2. Health Tech, M&Connect are tracks which promise a lot for the Startup Entrepreneur
  3. Ecosystem Policy Nudging Programs
  4. India Stack and the FinTech Revolution brewing currently.

But the Most Notable one was Celebrating the Spirit of ISPIRT.

Spirit of ISPIRT

This video below tells the Celebration of the Spirit of ISPIRT, better than words can describe.


India will Innovate for the next 6 Billion. The dream of a Product Nation will be realized only by harnessing the Collective Energy of millions of Change Makers. People who create great poetry by being on the arduous journey of a Volunteer, of a Selfless Contributor. The Spirit of ISPIRT is best embraced by getting your hands dirty, focusing on small, mundane, and gritty details to do whatever it takes, to positively affect the outcome of initiatives. That is what Power Volunteers DO, & that is what gets Celebrated. Join the Movement & say Cheers to the Spirit of ISPIRT!

A new year, a new dawn: Startup INDIA, Standup INDIA

Sh. Amitabh Kant, Secretary of DIPP brainstorms with iSPIRT.

Greeting_Card_for_website_v2 (1)He is the author of the book Branding INDIA, a key driver behind many successful branding INDIA campaigns like Make-In India, Incredible India, and Athethi Devo Bhava (Guest is God) campaigns. He is a decision maker par excellence and above all the Secretary of DIPP (Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion). Mr. Amitabh Kant. who is now also in charge of Startup India, Standup India campaign, met up with iSPIRT, in Bangalore 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 advise by participating in interactive session for close to 2.5 hours.

Prime Minister Mr. Modi in his Mann-ki Baat radio address had announced that the Start-Up India, Stand-Up India initiative will unfold on January 16. The initiative will be anchored by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP). Mr. Amitabh Kant, and his team consulted and deliberated extensively, on opportunities that can be Game Changers for Indian Startups.

On Tuesday, at Shangri-La in Bangalore, iSPIRT with its team of Volunteers which included Sharad Sharma, Co-founder of iSPIRT, Sharique Hassan from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Shashank from Practo, Sanjay Jain from Ekstep, Jas Gulati from Nowfloats and other volunteers, presented the INDIA STACK, PNGrowth and various other Leap-frogging breakthroughs which will help INDIA innovate for the next 6 Billion people.

Below are some of the key highlights of the Session.

AmitabhKant1iSPIRT Show-case of various Ongoing Initiatives

The session started with a presentation by Sanjay Jain on IndiaStack, a suite of technology-led services, currently being developed to solve identity, payments and personal data management for all Indian citizens. It was followed by Shashank from Practo, about Healthcare, which highlighted how Accessibility and Affordability is helping Health care reach the masses in INDIA. Mr. Amitabh’s participation on both these were highly involved, and he pointed out how States like Rajasthan have taken a pioneering approach, especially in Healthcare. He was quick to point out that if we can create a FEW champion states adopting the IndiaStack and its suite, the rest of the states will quickly follow.

This was followed by Jas Gulati presenting both the book and details around Digital Desh (Impact of Internet on Indian MSMEs).. It was clear that 2nd Tier and 3 Tier India is waiting to explode and join the Internet and Digital revolution in INDIA. iSPIRT also presented its SPiX Index and M&A initiatives helping Quantitatively track the progress and market growth of Indian Startups.

The most intense session was when Mr. Sharique Hassan presented the PNGrowth Initiative Details. China has had an exponential growth in Innovation in the past 15 years, and India now has the Opportunity to repeat the same. However to unleash India’s innovation potential, INDIA needs to capitalize on the Founders hunger and also harness the Institutional assets created by Educational Universities like Stanford, Harvard, Duke etc. Mr. Amitabh was very impressed by the PNGrowth agenda, and commented that it would make an Orbital shift in the Organizational Skills and Strategic Thinking levels of Entrepreneurs in INDIA. He wanted such programs to reach all academic incubation facilities in INDIA.

Ak2Insights and Advise from Mr. Amitabh Kant

If Indian Entrepreneurs focus on Fundamental Science and if they can create a competitive advantage, Mr. Amitabh felt that there was nothing stopping us from leap-frogging the WEST. He was immensely supportive to all programs and in-fact extended financial support for PILOT Projects in various spheres discussed. However, he had 5 important pieces of advice.

  • Pilot projects need to achieve success in at least some corners of INDIA.
  • Nothing Succeeds like Success, so it was imperative that we quickly implement ideas.
  • Institutional Mechanics will follow Innovation, there are several District level funds, MP Lad Funds and also Innovation Funds.
  • Startup challenges can be addressed quickly by Joint Inter-ministerial committees provided we can carve out clear definitions and scope for those challenges.
  • Policy Levers will respond to fast changing needs of Startups. Startup India, Standup India will make sure that ease of doing business is a top priority.
Mr. Amitabh Kant was highly impressed with the body of work presented to him. He said that everything from Challenge Grants supplementing the various RFP tendering processes, of the Govt, to the Inter-ministerial committees quickly acting to enable the Growth levers, were geared to make sure that the Startup Entrepreneur is successful. iSPIRT on its part is fostering and facilitating many such conversations to nudge Policy Makers help the Startup Ecosystem. For the Entrepreneurs, its now up to you to Stand-up and Start-up, to create a new dawn and a new beginning. Happy 2016 to all change makers!

CULTURE & Community to the Software & Technology Entrepreneur – Part I

So what is Culture? Does Organizational Culture matter?

Culture is about living your values, every single day. From an Organization’s stand-point its a way of working that ensures that critical operating values persist at all times. Some of you might already know the importance of Company Culture or Organizational culture, I will however enumerate, the most important effects of having the RIGHT culture.

  • Culture helps Build Social Capital (Good will) ahead of Monetary Capital.
    Culture helps REFINE your GOALS & helps you build long-lasting Organizations.
  • Organizational Cutlure hence matters immensly. So, what should be your Company or Organizational CUTLURE?

While I am not an anthropologist or an Organizational Psychologist in any regard, and I do not understand the nuances of all Organizational Cultures & their importance in the economic function, its imperative that I comment on Software & Product Organizations, specifically with regards to employees helping each-other & their Culture towards Contributing to Communities. THINK Opensource or think Volunteer Communities.

Before doing that, our track record says, its not a CULTURE for INDIAN Software companies and Software programmers to contribute to Opensource communities or Volunteer Communities. If within any organization as an employee, we believe in helping each other, then why don’t we think about doing the same outside of our work? Do we really empathize at WORK, & believe in the CULTURE of selfless giving or do we do it, because its a GIVE-and-TAKE inside a company? Have we ditched our own Culture of Karma? Have we become too Individualistic, and think its NOT our JOB, to do even small community chores?

Why is Culture needed? Why should we put Culture FIRST?

Almost every Lean method today is about empathizing with the Customer, keeping the Customer-centric view first and then rapidly building tools, products, services, etc. Customer Development is a priority, rather than Product Development. Empathy is a Core-Cultural construct of today. Come to think of it, our entire Indian Cultural ethos is based on Empathy. “Karuna” is the foundation of almost every teaching in our country. Indian institutionalization and Orientation has Empathy by Design. Why is it, that we have not built community products, community services & community experiences that cater to the needs/wants/aspirations of people, when there is Empathy by Design in our culture?

Tough questions to answer universally or generally. However focusing on Software and Services, I think we have gotten too-carried away with MOBILE FIRST & MARKET FIRST Culture, rather than thinking ECO-SYSTEM & COMMUNITY CULTURE FIRST. Business Ecosystems today emphasize a lot on Monetary Capital, but empathize little about Social Captial. We have become too focused on Systems, Processes and Technology, rather than addressing the concerns of people. That should explain why we have failed to reciprocate to the needs of people around us.

Fellow Customers/Consumers/Citizens are the first GOD. When we truly realize this Consumer-centric view, we quickly understand that no single Organization with all its Monetary might can take care of all the needs of the Citizen/Consumer. Individuals & Organizations need to have a Culture to collaborate with other Partners, and build Social Capital first. They need to put Culture as a priority in building Ecosystems.

Culture By Design – Can Culture be Designed?

YES. One needs to focus on their core values and the specific outcomes they want to produce. Some of the values that help in having a long-lasting Culture are simple.

  • Producing Collective Public good is more important than Individual Private Profits.
  • The Collective-Mindset needs to be at a higher priority than Individual-Mindsets.
  • The Ecosystem Focus is critical than the narrow-focus of just One Organization.

Let me go a little further, your Cutlural design many times will be simple to Understand, Implement and Follow, but will have far-reaching behavioral outcomes. Focus on seemingly trivial Individual Behaviors. Here are 2 simple Cultural Design Elements, that focus on Individual behavior in an Organization.

  • Acknowledge Individual Short-comings at all times.
  • Seek help from the Community/Crowd to fix those short-comings as fast as possible.

All major companies like Google/Facebook and successful Open source Organizations actually practice the above 2 cultural design elements religiously. Below are a few examples.

e.g. Successful Open source organizations (Linux, Redhat, Ubuntu)

  • We will not hide any issues from the Consumer. (acknowledge short-comings)
  • We will Release early and Release often. (Fixing with help from Community)

Google’s 2 most well known cultures also follow the same cultural design constructs

  • Don’t be evil (acknowledge shortcomings)
  • Perpetual Beta (Continuous fixing of issues)

We are all flawed. Software products are also imperfect ideas, and need to be tested locally, and refined continually. Having a culture designed to help take IDEAS or PRODUCTS go past their imperfect states & attain Global Standards, requires a Culture of Openness, of being able to work with Others to fix individual shortcomings.

Conclusion – Codifying Community Culture

We are a country blessed with Empathy by Design. We are a nation that believes in Karma. So, fellow Entrepreneurs, if there is one CULTURE that we need to re-learn, it is to contribute Selflessly to Communities and Ecosystems around us. We at iSpirt and ProductNation fundamentally believe that “You will get all you want in LIFE, if you help enough other PEOPLE, to get what they want”. The future is a world where, while enriching others, you will enrich yourself. iSPIRT volunteers and Community Mavens are there to help you build this Culture and are more than happy to be cheerleaders from the sidelines! Part 2 of this culture series will provide insights into Codifying the iSPIRT Culture.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

RBI Governor Dr. Raghuram Rajan meets Product Startups.

He is a maverick, a reformer, a decision maker and above all the Governor of Reserve Bank of India. The country’s foremost authority in Economics met with Product startups in Bangalore to understand their challenges and also provide useful advise by participating in interactive sessions for close to 3 hours.

2015-02-27 10.23.43
Yesterday, at ITC Windsor Manor, Dr Raghuram Rajan, honorable governor of RBI, along with Industry stalwarts Mohan Das Pai, Sudhir Sethi, MD of IDG Ventures, Shekar Kirani, Accel Partners, Sharad Sharma (iSPIRT), Bharat Goenka (Tally) and many other industry leaders heard the stories of about 10 Indian startups. The idea was to understand the following challenges of the startup Ecosystem

  1. Startups from India Competing with Global Giants with Capital Markets Challenges (like raising capital from Domestic FIIs, listing for IPOs, and other book building challenges)
  2. Startups from India building Software and Technology Products and solving local and domestic problems with the new & developing landscape of Consumer Market Challenges (like changing landscape of payments, pre-payments, recurring payments, etc)
  3. Product Companies like Tally and others from India, empowering small and medium businesses in INDIA to become Digital SMEs for leap-frogging the Indian Economy.

Dr. Rajan, was very forthcoming with his following admissions and suggestions.

  • Some of some of the difficulties in moving money in and Out of the Country (FEMA regulations for example), requires a more coherent set of rules, regulations and systems.
  • He also suggested that all Institutions, need to keep pace with the technological advances, and the need was really to have an Inclusive approach to carry everyone forward.
  • He assured full commitment to the Payments Systems Revolution, highlighting that
    • Payment Banks and Small Banks will be in full steam in about 12-18 months
    • Innovative ideas of White-labeling of BCs (Business Correspondents) via Individuals, Corporations or Registered Companies was actively being discussed.
  • His willingness to open up a dialog with Innovative Companies, where Banks are a purchaser of Technology was also evident in his offer to have more follow-on meeting.

Close to 180 minutes of conversation and showcasing of New Product Startups and Business Houses like Tally from Bangalore. Around 8 companies got the opportunity to showcase and highlight their challenges and directly interface with the Dr Rajan himself. Not all elements of the session can be reproduced here, but below are some of the key highlights and learnings.

2015-02-27 10.24.32Home grown Startups share their Stories with RBI

About 10 Indian Startups which started in INDIA, and which have global operations today, presented their stories not just from a valuation and growth standpoint, but from an emotional and proud-to-be an Indian startup viewpoint. To sum it up, almost every story was about Entrepreneur’s who dared to dream something not only for them, but for INDIA, and today want the Indian Systems (Regulators, Government and Institutions) to reciprocate to their needs. They highlighted their list of issues, the below checklist includes, but is not limited, to the following.

  • InMobi’s Naveen Tiwari, believed that INDIA can be the HUB for solving Global problems and with 39 other startups which have spun-off from INMOBI, it was clear that there is a 10x growth that is possible in the Indian startup eco-system.
  • Uniken a Security startup company with solutions for the Hyper-connected world, spoke about how their solutions have been deployed by Global and Indian Banks, including Bynet Communications. They stressed the need for all Indian Banks to adopt the latest solutions from India Solution Providers themselves which are on par or better than many cutting-edge solutions from outside of INDIA.
  • Fintellix highlighted their Software for GRC Intelligence (Governance, Regulation and Compliance), which are today used by both Indian and Global Private Banks, but they cannot get through even the RFP process of many Public Sector Banks, due to archiac processes.
  • Freshdesk presented a crowd sourced Customer Support Platform for Businesses, Tally Spoke about large scale adoption of their Accounting Software by SMEs (in millions), FORUS presented their home-grown medical devices (3nethra) which could be adopted by Indian Hospitals for 1/3 the cost, and how 80% of issues leading to Blindness can be prevented, while SnapBizz showed how even Kirana Store business owners today could gain improved visibility using the SnapBizz cloud platform.
  • Team INDUS and showed, how Indian startups are turning world-beaters with their big ambitions in Aerospace and Enterpsie Software solutions.
  • Bharat Goenka and Pramod highlighted the need for Separation of Concerns between Transaction Enablers (Banks) and Technology Providers. Goenka stressed that Velocity of Growth, is dependent directly on the velocity of transactions.

Insights and Learnings from RBI and Dr. Rajan.

There were many learnings for all participating Startup & Business Entrepreneurs. Some of the key ones are

  • Dr. Rajan believes that for Capital availability & Funding Process for Innovators there needs to be a different RISK Framework that needs to adopted. The existing RISK framework was meant to keep the bad-elements away from the System. The new RISK framework should look at being a support system for Good Innovators.
  • Dr. Rajan also was open to look at enabling PUT-OPTIONs which will provide down-side risk protection for atleast the Investment-value like in WESTERN Contracts.
  • Dr. Rajan however, said we must all be cautious of Back-door debt masquerading as Equity and causing Systemic Harm.
  • Dr Rajan, participated enthusiastically on the following topics
    • Payment Banks / Small Banks and their utility for the Indian Business growth
    • NPCI framework and Payment Systems Revolution
    • Working with FEMA (Mr. Padmanabhan) to resolve difficulties in Money Movements.
  • Other most important advise for Startups were also discussed. To note a few,
    • RBI Governor said India has a decent Capital Chest which provides some Immunity to the Global shocks, however we cannot act in Haste.
    • Today, the need for Inclusive growth were the Unsophisticated Audience can also be carried forward, should be an objective for all innovative solutions.
    • Indian Public Sector institutions should welcome tech-savvy and young entrepreneurs as part of some of their committees.
    • Most importantly RBI can play a convening role for adoption of Innovative Products by Indian Banks.

2015-02-27 10.24.03Conclusion

Overall it is apparent that the INDIAN technology/internet product markets, are in a Golden Moment where Aspirational issues are leading to better RISK appetite among INDIAN Entrepreneurs. It is a new Paradigm where not just startups, but all Institutionals bodies with-in INDIA, need to now collaborate and commit, for supporting each other’s RISKs and Needs. RBI on its part has definitely shown keen interest, and to quote from a fine statement made by Girish, Dr. Rajan, believes that RBI interventions may arrive late, but they will definitely be latest. The Entrepreneur hence must be patient and not act in HASTE.

Indian Regulator SEBI meets Software Product Startups.

How often has this happened? An entire team from Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) with its Chairman Mr. U.K. Sinha meeting with Software Product startups in Bangalore to understand their challenges and also provide useful advice by participating in interactive sessions for more than 5 hours.

On 19th December, Mr. U.K. Sinha, Chairman of SEBI and his management team, heard the stories of 8 Indian software product startups. The idea was to understand both the Capital Markets Challenges (like raising capital from FIIs, listing for IPOs, and other book building challenges) as well new developing landscape of Consumer Market Challenges (like changing landscape of payments, pre-payments, recurring payments, etc.)

Mr. U.K. Sinha, was very forthcoming with his admission that new age companies require a completely new paradigm of evaluation and approvals. The new paradigm is needed not just for listing purposes, but also for market regulation and growth purposes. He assured full commitment from SEBI’s end to the budding entrepreneurs that SEBI is very keen, and will do everything within its capacity to help develop the markets keeping in mind INDIA’s growth needs.

More than 90 minutes of conversation and showcasing of New Software Product Startups from Bangalore took place. Mohandas Pai chaired the sessions on iSPIRT’s side. Not all elements of the sessions can be reproduced here; below are some of the key highlights.

2014-12-19 17.20.42

Home grown Startups share their Stories with SEBI

About 8 Indian Startups which started in INDIA, and which have global operations today, presented their stories not just from a valuation and growth standpoint, but from an emotional and proud-to-be an Indian startup viewpoint. To sum it up, almost every story was about Entrepreneurs who dared to dream something not only for them, but for INDIA, and today want the Indian System (Regulators, Government and Institutions) to reciprocate to their needs. They highlighted their list of issues which include the following:

  • 8 companies from various sectors (InMobi’s Manish Dugar, Ezetap’s Byas, Exotel’s Shiv Ku, HotelLogix’s Aditya, iViz’s Bikash, Paytm’s Pratyush, QuickHeal’s Rajesh and‘s Sumanth) all presenting the journey of their startups.
  • A common hardship that resonated from most of them, was the unwarranted need of setting up subsidiaries or parent companies abroad, just to attract the right Investors and raise capital for growth.
  • Exemplary companies like InMobi, which raised initial money from Angel Investors today has a reach of about 1 billion people. Ezetap which raised initial money from AngelPrime, today has global operations, however it has its manufacturing, done entirely from Electronic city in Bangalore. Both urged that it should be made easy for Indian companies to raise money from Global Investors.
  • The existing regulations and guidelines make it very difficult for companies to get the right people (investors and advisors) on their Board.
  • Exotel, Hotelogix, Paytm and iViz, all stressed the need for modifying the SEBI/RBI guidelines on ESCROW, where Indian shareholders should have similar opportunities like Global Investors.
  • QuickHeal’s Rajesh highlighted how Kailash Katkar, a college drop-out had built one the most successful product companies out of INDIA over the past 25 years. Today QuickHeal is thinking of its IPO and needs to decide where to list.
  • Requirement for the Regulator to understand all stake-holders and their motivations, and provide for fast and timely intervention for Exits (IPO listings, etc.).
  • Need for new models to evaluate the new paradigm of Tech/Internet Product startups in INDIA.

At the end of this open session, Shekhar Kirani (iSPIRT Fellow; Accel) highlighted the fact that the Indian software product markets were entering an era of hyper growth. It is a new paradigm where not just startups, but all Institutional bodies within India, need to now collaborate and commit, for supporting each other’s need. In this context, he appreciated the interest shown by SEBI.

Policy Expert Team Interacts with SEBI

Following this open session, the visiting SEBI team met with iSPIRT’s “List in India” Policy Expert Team for an intense three hour closed door conversation about specific issues and their resolution. This iSPIRT Policy Expert Team is led by Sudhir Sethi of IDG and has Rajiv Khaitan (Khaitan & Co.), Sanjay Khan (Khaitan & Co.), R Natarajan (Helion), Rajesh Ghonasgi (Quick Heal CFO), Manish Dugar (InMobi CFO) and Harish HV (Grant Thornton) as its members. While specific details of this meeting are not available, Mohandas Pai told me that the session had been very productive.

Insights from SEBI

Mr. U.K Sinha, Chairman of SEBI, has an unbeatable track-record. In his past life, he was the chairman of UTI, and was instrumental in transforming UTI from a 1.2k crore institution to 12k crore institution. Many insights were shared by Mr. Sinha with all the participating Startup Entrepreneurs. Some of the key ones are:

  • Mr. Sinha and his team gracefully acknowledged that they were not just a Controller or Monitor of Capital issues, but they were equally keen to Develop Markets for businesses to thrive.
  • Further, Mr. Sinha highlighted the introduction of SME-ITP platform to facilitate capital raising by SMEs including start-ups which are in their early stages of growth and to provide for easier exit options for informed investors like angel investors, VCFs and PEs etc.
  • He also indicated that SEBI is exploring putting in place a framework for crowd-funding which will provide a much needed new mode of financing for start-ups and SME sector and increase flow of credit to SMEs and other users in the real economy. In this mode, SMEs and start-ups will be able to raise funds at a lower cost of capital without going through rigorous procedures.
  • It was indicated that SEBI is keen to facilitate capital raising by such companies to help them achieve their full potential.

2014-12-19 16.56.19
New Wind is Blowing

I saw a collaborative approach to problem solving that I haven’t seen before. iSPIRT’s policy approach is refreshing different from the traditional lobbying mindset that one sees in trade bodies. And SEBI is clearly open to listening and learning. It was amazing to see how SEBI as a regulator and iSPIRT as a think tank were both focused on the same national goal. I came away from the meeting with optimism and a spring in my step.

Gandhigiri to the Software & Technology Entrepreneur – Part II

Gandhi and Customer Centricity

The progression of Economic activity as it stands in the Global Economy today has accelerated from commodities->products->services->experiences->transformations. (Pine and Gilmore)

Today we are already in the Experience Economy (Its Apple like experience, its not apple like products), but as professionals we are still grappling with how we build Products, let alone scaling the Economic activity to be staging experiences and guiding transformations!

While I am not an economist in any regard, and I do not understand the nuances of all industries and their current economic function in India (Are we building products? Are we providing services? or just plainly selling commodities?), its imperative that I comment on only Software and Services.

Before doing that, on the Gandhi Jayanti day, I would like to introspect what our Father-of-the-Nation tried to teach us, by emphasizing on making our own Salt, our own clothes with the Swadeshi Movement OR with his services at the Sabarmati Ashram. Essentially he articulated with his actions what our present day government is campaigning for “Make in India”. How did Gandhi understand the evolution of Economic activity more than a 130 years ago?

Because Gandhi was more customer centric a 100 years ago, than we are today. He empathized with every person, much better than we did. Let me quote the now cliched Gandhi’s quote on Customer Service “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”

Customer is more important

Empathy By Design

Come to think of it, our entire Indian Cultural ethos is based on Empathy. “Karuna” is the foundation of almost every teaching in our country. Indian institutionalization and Orientation has Empathy by Design. Then how is it, that we have failed to reciprocate to the needs of People? Why is it, that we have not built products, services, experiences that cater to the needs/wants/aspirations of people, when there is Empathy by Design in our culture?

Tough questions to answer universally or generally. However focusing on Software and Services, I think we have become too focused on Systems, Processes and Technology, rather than addressing the concerns of people. We have gotten too-carried away with Western philosophy of Professionalism, which emphasizes a lot on Systems, but empathizes little with people.

Let me give you a more concrete example. High exploratory and high mortality nature of software projects is like an Industry Standard. 9 out of 10 software initiatives don’t go anywhere, seems to be an easily accepted norm. All the cash-rich service majors in IT/ITES industry have not re-deployed their capital to building an Indian Apple today, because they seem to have accepted that Software products have a 9 in 10 chance of mortality. However what they have failed to realize, is all Lean Methods today propose Customer Development first, rather than Product Development. Build it and they will come, is almost an era of the past. Every Agile and Lean technique today is about keeping the Customer-centric view first and rapidly building tools, products, services, etc which empathize with the needs of people.

Making in INDIA

India however has a renewed emphasis on the Swadeshi movement. Its now called Making In India. Every body is now encouraged to make their products in India. However, I would like to draw your attention to Gandhi’s philosophy again, which has found a new meaning, with the Lean and Agile world. Customer Development is more important than Product Development.

Let me go a little further, the first realization all product entrepreneurs need to have is this “Customer is the Product”. Your product is just a medium/abstraction through which, you continuously develop your Customer. Stop fiddling with the Features and Benefits. They are the HOW and WHAT for your Customer. WHY the customer does anything with you and your Product, is essentially what we need to understand.

Making In India, is all about making the Customer or Consumer in India happier, healthier and wealthier each day. Do you have a plan for this? Why should you think about Making in India, is it only for Export? Well, here is why. All new ideas, new software product ideas are imperfect ideas, and need to be tested locally, and refined continually, before we can think of exporting. India today lacks any credible domestic infrastructure or support, to even make little bets, so ideas never go past their imperfect states, and hence never attain Global Standards. So, lets make and try it here first.

Mahatma Gandhi


We are a country blessed with Empathy by Design. We are a nation which puts Emotions ahead of Professionalism. We are a nation that believes in Darshan (of all deities). Truth is, Customer is the first GOD. So, fellow Entrepreneurs, if there is one Gandhigiri that we need to learn, it is to do a full-darshan of every customer, their needs, their wants, their aspirations. We now realize Consumer Development is as important, if not more important than Product Development. Is’nt it then, not automatic, that building a Consumer-Centric Nation, is the first step to building a Product Nation. Lets go and create this change, and let initiatives like iSPIRT and ProductNation be the inspiration through which we can channel our aspirations and ideas. Happy Gandhi Jayanthi to all!

Be the Change

Read the Part 1 here Gandhigiri to the Software and Technology Entrepreneur!

Sachin Tendulkar has Retired. Can we now convert a Cricketing Nation to a Product Nation?

All Institutions seek to influence the behavior of people. Nasscom Product Council and iSPIRT today, are associations, which as Institutions are seeking to influence the consumption and production behavior of Software and Technology offerings in India. Our nation is in a dire need of grass-root level, production of value-added goods/services/experiences and its consumption. As articulated previously in Gandhigiri to the Software Entrepreneur, the industry and market developments further command that we dig deep and bring our Nation back on track to be known as Incredible India.

Can iSPIRT influence the mindset of an entire nation towards Products via Education and Information? What initiatives are responsive to the needs and aspirations of a budding young India? Are we in unchartered waters?

No, we are not in unchartered waters. For the past 24 years, one man showed how he can influence the behavior of a Nation. Every time he went out to perform his duty, the nation watched. But alas, all good things come to an end. If there is one silver-lining with Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar’s retirement, it is that now, we can all focus on doing our jobs.

However, can we work with the same level of passion, intensity and commitment as the master-blaster? There is a lot we have seen about the Internal motivations and abilities of this man who mesmerized the nation and we all just indulge in the religion of cricket, when he is playing. But how many of us realize, how BCCI the Institution behind Cricket in India, has had an equally important role to play.

What role has BCCI played in influencing the behavior of the Cricketing Nation? Are they not the ones that control the entire apparatus to influence? Are they not the Institution that responsibly influences cricket lovers, and have they not effectively done it in a sustainable way? The answer is an emphatic YES, and its anybody’s guess. What are the lessons we can learn from BCCI?

Lessons from BCCI – Creation of the GOD of Cricket

Let us look at some basic things which BCCI does brilliantly.

  • Crowd Sourcing and Talent Recognition: Players from all over the country are crowd sourced, and are carefully curated and recognized for talent.
  • Incubation and Mentoring: Provide Academies where the talent, can then get nurtured to a product-offering and help them attain international standards.
  • Organize Marketplaces:  Enable opportunities for the product-offering to be show-cased – Whether it is the One Day matches, IPL, Champions League or other matches. Each Match Venue is an Offline “marketplace”, and each match streamed is a Virtual Marketplace, either on Television or on the Internet.
  • Create Winning Products and Sustain them: Whether it is Sachin, Dravid, Ganguly, Dhoni, Kholi, make sure there is a steady supply of “heroes”
  • Maintain a Monopoly: Kill Competition (this strategy however is questionable and debatable).

So, what can we learn from BCCI? Do we focus on the Structures, the Processes and the methods that they have employed to institutionalize the religion of Cricket? No. Focus on people. The key takeaway is, Sachin was once a consumer of Cricket, just like all of us. He was later transformed into a Product by the exogenous support of an Institution, and of course with his endogenous hunger, hard-work and determination.

We now understand how both the internal motivations of Sachin, and the external support of BCCI captured the imagination of nation. We now know how a game meant for amusement, became a religion universally adopted by the length and breadth of the country. We now understand how Sachin became the GOD of Cricket.


From a Cricket Pitch to a Startup Pitch

How do we go from a Cricket Pitch to a Startup Pitch? How do we become a Product Nation from a Cricketing nation? How do we find the GOD of Products? Do we not have enough Entrepreneurs who are as hungry, as dedicated and as hardworking as Sachin? In fact in our field, we have both Men and Women who can become the God of Products. Can an Institution like iSPIRT not influence the same level of commitment and passion towards building and selling products, like BCCI did for Cricket. Yes it can!

There is nothing new in the idea of influencing a Nation. But there is certainly something new in what we know about, how best to do it. Lots of research and studies, especially in behavioral economics and behavioral science show that approaches based on Education and Information do not actually work as well as intended. Education is a two-way street, only 50% of the work is done by the Provider. The other half, which is the art of Internalizing the Information and Education, and putting it into everyday practice, is still at the behest of the Consumer, which is where mostly the approach of Information and Education fails. How do we nudge people to complete their end of the bargain? How do you enable India’s transformation into a Product Nation. Has our own BCCI not shown a better way?

Undoubtedly it has. But first, as Entrepreneurs, each of us need to have a burning desire to become the God of Products. Each of us need to take our imperfect skills/ideas to the field everyday and test them out. Each of us need to play with our local teams, our local communities to build a grass-root movement towards becoming a product nation. Each of us need to learn the spirit of team-play and the benefits of camaraderie. Each of us need to get Involved. When we all do, we will recognize that the external support from Institutions are available to Influence us.

How do we go and get Involved?

  • Crowd Sourcing and Talent Recognition: Today we have enough startup pitch sessions, hackathon competitions. Take your skills and ideas there, participate and get recognized.
  • Incubators and Mentors: Just like cricket summer camps and bootcamps, there are camps conducted by many bodies. Product Nation itself is running a boot camp in December. Have you registered yet?

There are some systemic gaps, which I am sure Institutions will quickly enable. Infrastructural Interventions are much easier than Motivational Interventions.

  • Organization of Marketplaces: Whether we choose the IPL format, Champions League format or the One-day format, we need marketplaces.
  • Creating the GOD of Products: We need to build and sustain our heroes, who draw, inspire and influence ordinary people to become GOD of products.



The true products of a Product Nation are not the Routers, Switches, ERPs, Office Softwares or Productivity Softwares. The true products are the people who believe that we can create a Product Nation. True products are those you perform on a Startup Pitch, with the same intensity that Sachin played on a Cricket Pitch.

Inform me and I might forget, educate me and I might remember, Involve me and I will transform, is the mantra. The Cricketing Nation found its GOD of cricket in Sachin Tendulkar. Can a Product Nation find its GOD of products, like Steve Jobs? If you get Involved, its only a matter of time!


Gandhigiri to the Software and Technology Entrepreneur!

Many of us in the software industry, for more than 2 decades have not only been the direct beneficiaries of the opening up of the Indian economy in 1991, but we also pride ourselves for creating an industry that today supports the livelihood of millions of software engineers, bpo executives and call-center operators. But have we done enough, could we have done better?

India is today struggling with C.A.D (current account deficit). Simply put, we import more than we export. Some people argue that we have gone back to 1991, in effect, all the glorious 22 years which we think we have created have some how evaporated. If we had spent the past 22 years creating Indian software products, could we have not today exported more than just services, based on labor arbitrage? In fact, I would say its largely because we did not think ourselves as a ProductNation. We became pseudo-intellectuals, happy with the easy money flowing into our economy.

Good thing is we can still learn from our legacy. 300 years of British colonial rule, and all the well educated software industry professionals, fail to understand that we are no different than our fore-fathers. Its quite fascinating, and really important to see the parallels outlined below. As software professionals and business owners, its time for us to introspect and learn a little bit of Gandhigiri.

Economic Impact during British Raj

Any chapter from our history books will have paragraphs which read like this…..

Indian Economy was transformed into a colonial economy whose nature and structure was determined by the needs of the British economy.

India supplied all the raw material required for Britain’s Industrial needs, especially the cash crops like jute, cotton, iron ore, silk, wool. In-turn, became the ready market for Britain’s large-scale finished products which were also cheaper than Indian finished-goods, since they were mass-produced, for e.g. the ready made shirts, pants, sweaters, machines,etc. The economic policies of the colonial government was to reduce India to a feeder economy to Britain’s industrial base and hence with out any domestic policy support, the cottage industries within India were destroyed systematically.

Added to that, the zamindari system also meant all profit accruing out of the agricultural sector went to the zamindars instead of the cultivators. High revenue demands and rigid manners of collection forced peasants into the clutches of the moneylenders, who were controlled and financed by the colonial government’s banks. Expanding population put greater pressure on viability and sustenance, and as there was no corresponding domestic development of both urban and rural infrastructure, the economy collapsed and India became a poorer nation. Britain’s policy of trade ruined India’s urban and rural industries.

Economic Impact from 1991 to 2013…

Indian Economy was transformed into a “global” economy whose nature and structure was determined by the needs of the US/Western economy.

India supplied all the raw material required for America’s IT/software needs, especially the cash crops like software engineers, creative designers, app developers, analysts, bpo executives and call-center operators. In-turn, India became the ready market for America’s large-scale finished software and technology products, which were also cheaper than Indian-finished goods, since they were mass-produced with patent protections, for e.g. the Office software, ERP software, Accounting software, Routers, Switches,etc. The economic policies of the Indian government was to reduce India to a feeder economy to America’s Technology and Software base and hence with out any domestic policy support, the local software industries within India were destroyed systematically.

Added to that, the funding eco-system also meant all profit accruing out of the software/technology sector, went to the venture-capitalists instead of the entrepreneurs. High revenue-multiple demands and rigid manners of exit-funding forced software entrepreneurs into Mergers or Acquisitions by American companies, or to the clutches of the Angels and VCs, who were in turn controlled and financed by PEs or LPs from America. Expanding population put greater pressure on viability and sustenance, and as there was no corresponding domestic need for software/technology in both urban and rural industries, the economy collapsed, the FIIs fled, leaving India poorer. India’s own policy of trade for 22 years, ruined India’s technology and software industry.


Well, do I have to take a pessimistic approach and assume that this how its going to be? Should we wait for another Mahatma to lead the new movement to becoming a true Product Nation? An emphaticNO. Gandhigiri to the software and technology entrepreneur provides the vision and direction, so we don’t have to go down the same path our forefathers went. We need to be the change the world wants to see. Lets go and create the change, and let initiatives like iSPIRT and ProductNation be the inspiration through which we can channel our aspirations and ideas. Happy Gandhi Jayanthi to all!

We didn’t start the fire, it was always burning!

In India retailing of jewellery is undertaken in various small and large jewellery shops. Whether the retailer is a large shop in metropolitan areas or a smaller rural shop, the adoption of Software and IT both for back office operations or for business growth, is almost negligible. Why has the change not occurred?

On September 22nd 2013 at Royal Orchid Central, Bangalore, some of the most inspired minds from the Jewellery Industry and the Software and Technology industry had the opportunity to go on a journey of inquest. Are there gaps in the Jeweller’s perceptions about the benefit of Software and Technology? Do Jewellers have the right external eco-system to enable them to overcome the barriers to adoption? Are Jewellers happy with whatever Software and Technology they have used and adopted so far? Is there fire in the belly of every jewellery business owner, to objectively seek answers to these questions, or do we have to ignite a new spark?

More than three hours of engaging, entertaining and educational experience. A 100+ jewellery retail business owners got the opportunity to interact and seek answers to many of the questions from industry leaders Shoaib Ahmed, President of Tally Solutions and full-time fellow of iSPIRT (Indian Software Product Industry Round Table) and Mr. Ramesh Davanam, Secretary, Jewellers’ Association of Bangalore. Not all elements of the seminar can be reproduced here, but below are some of the key highlights and learnings.

Making of the Event – The key ingredients

We at SchemesCentral set out to answer many of the adoption related questions about 10 months ago, so that as providers of Software Platforms and Information Systems to the Jewellery community, we empathize with the jewellery retailers, understand their real pains and provide solutions that best address them.

What is required for the transformation of the Retail Jewellery Industry? As owners of family businesses, do retail jewellers realize that change is inevitable? If yes, then what are the real barriers to adoption? What can catalyze the endogenous change within business owners as individuals? These were some of our fundamental questions.

Almost in parallel, nearly around the same time last year, iSPIRT, through its SAI (Software Adoption Initiative) has gone through a similar journey and had put in place a transformative guide that enables all jewellers (whether retail, wholesale or refiners) to become informed buyers of Software and Technology. Sometimes, an entire industry, as a complex collective, can get into a state of equilibrium/inertia, and will need an external shock, to enable radical transformation. Such an external shock is enabled by new policies, new structures and new leaders. In our casual conversation with Mr. Shoaib Ahmed, what occurred to SchemesCentral was that, iSpirt was clearly addressing the exogenous change. What are the factors that can enable the exogenous change in the entire ecosystem, as a collective?

When we marry the two, what is the outcome? A framework that encompasses

  • Focused Solutions for changes that are needed from within, as individuals & business owners and
  • Broad Solutions for negotiating the external factors that influence the whole ecosystem.

It was this dichotamous synergy that gave SchemesCentral the confidence to organize the first seminar in close collaboration with 2 industry associations. The Jewellers Association of Bangalore (JAB) and Indian Software Product Industry Roundtable (iSPIRT).

The idea for the Seminar was concieved less than 3 weeks ago and Mr. Ramesh Davanam, Secretary of JAB, was the first one to give his complete vote of confidence. It was whole-heartedly seconded by the President of JAB, Mr. G.V. Sreedhar, and very ably supported by the members of the association. Within the next week, we had the theme for the Seminar in place, “Enabling Retail Jewellery Businesses to grow exponentially”.

After having invited more than a 100 jewellers, reserving the venue, and working through more than 3 hours of engaging content for the session, we were anxiously hoping that we hit the right chords. Then another magic happened, Mr. Shoaib Ahmed volunteered and gracefully accepted to be part of the Seminar too. And with his natural charm and flair he was also clearly the man-of-the-match on the Seminar day.

Event Unfolded

22nd September 2013 in Bangalore witnessed the beginnng of a new journey. As the session commenced and the clock began to tick, more than a 100 guests and delegates, crowded the pinewood hall. With a full-house, the audience were treated in the 1st session to a new way of thinking, to first as individuals, transform themselves. The intention of the session was to motivate them and nudge them, into accepting certain realities like,

  • The reach and power of the internet,
  • The benefits of engaging with the connected consumer and
  • The implications of being in an Ecosystem of Technology partners.

By the start of the 2nd session, most retail jewellers started to open-up and wanted very specific focused answers to all their software and technology challenges, trust being the most important of them all. It was at this moment, a couple of testimonials from iSpirt and an inspired talk by Mr. Shoaib Ahmed, encouraged them to further explore answers to most of their problems.

In the final session the platform as an idea in-itself, gave the delegates very specific focused answers on their challenges for maintaining and tracking payments for Jewellery Savings Schemes, it was only but natural for them to understand that there is now a community of software developers and partners, just within their reach, in their own neighbourhood, who are willing to help them in their quest for business growth.

Conclusion and Takeaways!

If we tell our customers about our solutions they might forget, if we show them they might remember, if we involve them, they will understand. So start your seminars or workshops today. The Key-takeaways from the Seminar on 22nd September are,

  • If you have a revolutionary software product or platform, seek avenues and opportunities and reach out to established institutions to collaborate and grow.
  • There is fire in the belly of every business owner to grow his business and break new boundaries, jewellery retailers are no exception.
  • We in the software community have to find both endogenous and exogenous ways to nudge them and motivate them, so that we can catalyze the spark within them to become a wild-fire for software and technology adoption.