Why they’re not giving feedback to your idea

Ideas used to be a dime a dozen. Now they’re a dime a million. 

Ideas have a short life. But you need to get some kinda feedback on your idea. It makes all the difference doesn’t it? Here are 3 reasons your idea isn’t getting validated feedback. There’s a clue in #3 that you should try and tell me if it worked for you.

1. You are verbose. Don’t write like diarrhea. Do this – send a single 140 Character tweet to the world about your product’s chief USP. Did someone respond? You get the picture? 

Your idea doesn’t reach the target audience if you’re writing more than 300 words. However, that’s not to say that you can’t draw your audience into a 3-5 min unsolicited engagement through the audio visual format. 

2. You are irrelevant. The person you’re asking feedback from has no relevance to what you’re asking. She doesn’t understand it, doesn’t care about it, and has no time to appreciate why its important for you. 

Your idea doesn’t reach the target audience if you’re talking bananas to a penguin. Penguins don’t eat banana. In all probability, they don’t even know what a banana is. 
3. You are being selfish. Don’t ask before you have something to offer in return. My permission is my property. Don’t try to take that from me. So don’t spam me unless you’re offering some free money. (And I will not click on your AD – just send the money in cash please.)

This Validated feedback that I glorify will be amazingly well received by your marketing function. This time, DO trust a marketer – go get that feedback.

Project v/s Product

Every Technology driven work is supported by a piece of software and that software may be a very small piece of code written to fulfill requirement like recording expenses of house, artificial intelligence, robotics or weather forecast.

Some daily life impacting processes converted from manual to totally computerized like medical consultations,  online airline ticketing, books and gifts purchase, hotel booking etc are some of the process achieved through software.

These software’s may be broadly categorized in two ways :

1)  Software Project: A project, by definition, is a temporary activity with a starting date, specific goals and conditions, defined responsibilities, a budget, a planning, a fixed end date and multiple parties involved.

2) Software Product: By Dictionary Definition: software product – merchandise consisting of a computer program that is offered for sale

Software Project: We may consider project which consists of finding solution to a particular problem to a particular client. It depends on various products. By using the Hardware, Middleware, Operating system, Languages and Tools only we will develop a project. Here the requirements are gathered from the client and analyzed with that client and start to develop the project. Here the end user is one and complete development is based on the end user needs.

Software Product: Products are developed not for any specific client or one customer. Here the requirements are gathered from market and analyze that with some experts and start to develop the product. After developing the products they try to market it as a solution. Here the end users are more than one. Product development is never ending process and customization is done regularly and continuously.

In business and engineering, New Product Development (NPD) is the term used to describe the complete process of bringing a new product to market. It starts from Idea generation, Product design and deal engineering along with market analysis and business opportunity size.

To give a real life example of popular product v/s project ,some are as below :

From India – Well-known software products

From abroad: Well-known software products

From India – Well-known software projects

From abroad: Well-known software projects

The companies who make these small to big software projects targets for getting a software project delivered to the users’ satisfaction, ontime and on budget. Sometimes someone has to ensure the system lasts for the long term.

The project and the product might start at the same point, but they usually finish at very different points. A project finishes with the last milestone release of the code — and a party. The product finishes with the opposite: the last byte of code being removed from the servers — and a party only if it was really nasty software.

From the above examples, you might question how Gmail or Meramail is a project  v/s MS Exchange. My point of view on this is very simple. Gmail/ meramail  Software is not available for sale / FREE or downloadable even for trial. So I would assume it’s a project built as per the need of the respective company and  is made available to be used as service. On the other hand Gmail App available on IOS and Android phone will be called as product, which is available and downloadable from respective app store.  Like wise you can purchase / download MS Exchange and XgenPlus email software, but cannot download / purchase  Gmail and Meramail software.

You might argue that Gmail is available as SaaS i.e Software as a Service. Sure it is, but it does not fit in the definition and nature of the “product”.  Moreover, if we remove service out of the Gmail, Do we get software product ? The answer is “No”, on the other hand if we provide SaaS on MS Exchange, the story will be different. May be this difference will be well understood if the difference between Product / Services / Software as a Service are understood properly. May be need of an another article 🙂

Post Contributed by Ajay Data, Data Infosys

Forget coding. Startup founders should focus on Product & Design.

Last year (2011) learning coding was hot, may be it still is. Sites like Code for America came up; startups like CodecademyLearnstreetUdacity, etc came up that were focusing on building products that enabled others to learn coding in an interactive way. Then it looked like a kind of movement, a revolution in making.

Being a startup founder some of those effects trickled down to India – that made me seriously consider coding. And there were some other reasons as well. We started Wishberg by outsourcing product development to another company. As deadlines were missed repeatedly, this whole ‘founders should be coders’ effect started growing on me.

During this phase I did two things a.) started hiring our own engineering team b.) learn coding inspired by this noise. I started learning very enthusiastically to an extent that my bio read that I was learning to code. Going through multiple forums, registering on these websites, taking lessons on LAMP stack and so on. A bit of background, being a engineering student (though Mechanical) – I had some basic coding background. Few years back, I even built some basic websites, did a bit of javascripts, etc.

As we started hiring engineering talent I asked myself two questions –

  • Will I ever come up to the level of proficiency that matches our engineering team?
    No. I was no where close to them.. while I was doing ABC of coding, our team was super involved in deploying code, implementing Redis / Node.js, building scalable architecture, mobile infrastructure and so on. I didn’t want my team to tell me I suck on programming (which I knew I did anyway). More importantly, I wanted the team to focus on building our product and not spend timing teaching me code or correcting my code.
  • Will I ever hire anyone who has learned programming through online sites?

I also checked with few technical founders who raised investments; few agreed that being a tech founder was probably a added advantage while raising money. But many of them also mentioned that post investment they spent more time finding product-market fit, doing business, improving their product, user experience, managing investors (many a times!) and eventually spending lesser and lesser time on coding themselves.

Eventually all startup founders end up focusing only on consumption side of product (front end user experience, improving funnels and conversion metrics) than the one under the hood. This is when I gave up my decision to learn coding and started focusing on learning design (user design and user experience) which is as core to product as technology is. I started spending more time understanding design tools, design patterns and implementing them on Wishberg. I am no where saying underlying technology, architecture, speed, and scalabilty are not important.

For online businesses, there is no doubt scarcity of good engineering talent; but there is more scarcity of product designers and even much more scarcity of product managers. Startup founders knowingly / or unknowingly start getting into product management role.

I have been a product guy for about 7 years and now feel that I should have learned design long back. Our team not just gets product documentation from me, but also product designs including all scenarios and exceptions. There is a certain clarity of thought which engineers appreciate and exactly know what is to be built – which save lot of time while shipping code / features. Every month, we look at data, un-design by removing clutter, remove additional clicks and aim to improve conversions on every step.

Geek Example – The 2012 Formula 1 Season had 12 teams of which 4 had the winning Renault RS27-2012 engine on their cars. Yet there was only one winner – The Red Bull Racing team. The original Renault team (now Lotus Renault GP) which manufactured and supplied the RS27-2012 engine to Red Bull team stood fourth in overall 2012 championship. In fact Red Bull won the championship for last 3 seasons with the Renault engine. What really mattered – the product RB8 chassis. More importantly the people driving the product, its team – drivers Sebastian Vettel & Mark Webber, Team Principal and Chief Technical Officer.

Concluding Notes:
What engine you have under the hood (technology) matters. What car / chasis the engine drives (the product) matters more. But what matters most is who is driving / leading it. Don’t get over obsessed with technology, focus on product & design.

So all those who complimented us on Wishberg‘s product design & usability… need a hint on who was the person behind it? Yours truly.

Contributed by Pravin J, Wishberg

How To Do Pricing For Enterprise Sales #PNMeetup

Pricing is a mix of art science. Most product startups have a hard time figuring out their revenue model (freemium or, paid only) and what they should charge. If you chose freemium, you have to be careful that cost of incremental customer is low and it will be great, if this customer also helps spread the word about you. On the other hand, if you choose paid, you run the risk of having minimal traction, especially if your sales cycle is long and complex.
In either of the business models, you need to have clarity on who your customer is, what they are really looking for, does it have a direct impact on creating additional revenue or, eliminate inefficiencies and what your competitors are charging and why. Is your sales cycle long or, short? In a product company, you expect to cover the cost from multiple customers and not just one. However, most businesses falter as they fail to take into account the cost related to acquiring paid customers and customer service.

All being said, do remember that for most companies, pricing is an evolution as your product is.

You will hear from our experts on how they went about pricing their products and what if any adjustments they made along the way based on their learning.

– Tushar Bhatia – (EmpXTrack) Saigun Technologies
– Varun Shoor – Kayako.com
– Prashant Singh – TheSignals

#PNMeetup is an initiative by ProductNation and is meant for Entrepreneurs, Product Startups, Product Managers in the NCR Region. Here you can share, learn and network with fellow Product Managers and also discuss new trends innovations, get feedback on prototypes and insights from experienced people in the industry.

The objective of #PNMeetup is to provide each attendee with practical skills and knowledge that they can put into practice tomorrow to improve the products they bring to market, enhance their companys success and further their own careers. Some of the people supporting this initiative are: Amit Ranjan(Slideshare), Arvind Jha(Movico Technologies), Jainendra Kumar(Pitney Bowes), Pawan Goyal(Adobe), Rajat Garg(SocialAppsHQ), R. P. Singh(Nucleus Software), Vivek Agarwal(Liqvid eLearning).

These meetups will be done on Third Saturdays of the month and will include an opportunity for professional networking. If you would like to volunteer and make a difference to the Product Eco-system in NCR, do send us a mail at volunteerpn.ispirt.in

Supporting Partners:
Indian Product Management Association, Institue of Product Leadership, Delhi Startups, TLabs, The Hatch, Startup Saturday. Ignita

Limited seating and registrations is strictly for Product Startups and Product Managers. No onsite registrations will be allowed. Register Now to avoid disappointment. This is a closed event and If selected you will get the confirmation for the event.

Kunzum Travel Cafe: Address: T-49, GF, Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi, Delhi 110016

Platform Play Versus Product Play in an Indian Scenario-Part 1

From the beginning, we at Ozonetel had always wanted to build a platform. Initially, we did a VXML platform with off the shelf hardware. But VXML was not sexy enough and there were not a lot of takers. So in 2010, we did a pivot and built our own custom hardware( PRI cards) and built KooKoo and top of it. KooKoo was our attempt at Telephony Platform as a Service play. Once KooKoo was opened to the developers it took off and we got good traction. A lot of innovative telephony apps were built on top of KooKoo and telephony became cool again.
After 6-8 months, we started to think about building products and do a product play. A couple of things influenced our decision to do a product play. First was that though innovative telephony apps like connecting experts, water alerts, appointment reminders etc were being built on KooKoo, core telephony apps like PBX systems and call centers were not being built and there was a huge market opportunity. Second was that, being a bootstrapped company, market forces made us to look at alternative sources of revenue as the customer turnaround time in a platform play is longer. They have to first build their apps, market them, make money and then only they pay us 🙂
So with that, we separated out a product team in Ozonetel who would go on to build two core telephony products, a PBX on the cloud called asBizPhone and a full featured cloud call center product called as Cloudagent. So now that I have seen both the scenarios of a platform play and a product play, I thought I would share some pointers in both(no particular order).
Platform Play:
  1. Patience: You should have a lot of patience. Developers will take their own sweet time in building the application and marketing it. Many times, you will want to get in and help them develop. But that is not scalable. Though it will take time, it is better for them to figure out the solutions on their own as in the long run that will mean lesser support.
  2. Documentation: This is the most important part. You wont believe the amount of support calls that are reduced by having some decent documentation. Unfortunately, this is one area where we still have to improve and thats why we still get support calls.
  3. Logging: Your platform should explain what is happening behind the scenes to the developer through logs. It will help them in debugging the issue themselves before they reach out to support.
  4. API: Think through what and how you want to expose your API. Because, once you open it to the public and they start using it, it will be really hard to take back and you will end up supporting multiple versions.
  5. Evangelize: You should have a team of evangelists who should go to events, do live coding, help hacking communities etc to drive adoption. This is the hardest part, convincing developers to invest their time in learning your platform. It is much harder in India as the hacker community is in a nascent stage(though growing very very well).
  6. Star products: Every platform should have some star performers. They are the ones which will help in people believing in your product. Identify your star products and put all your efforts in making sure they succeed.
  7. Mashups and Blog: Build mashups on your platform yourself to showcase the capabilities. You know your platform best, so you will have to build very innovative and fun apps. After building mashups, blog about them and spread the word. Again, in India, its hard to build mashups with content from an Indian context. Till last year, we did not have a lot of APIs for Indian content. But now a lot of companies like Zomato have started opening up APIs and phone mashups can easily be built.
  8. Support: This will make or break your platform. Developers have very little patience. If they send a mail to support, they better get a response within 5-10 minutes. Otherwise, they will end up Googling for another platform which will solve their platform. Luckily, so far at least we have been able to keep our developers happy with our support. Support does not just mean technical support. Many times we have actually had to mentor a lot of startups building on our platform. You should be willing to listen to their problems and suggest advice if you have any.
  9. Developer events: You should conduct developer events and hackathons so that the new developers get to know about your platform. Unfortunately, being bootstrapped, we have not yet had funds to do this 🙂
  10. Sponsor events: In addition to conducting events, another way of getting mindshare of developers is to sponsor events. We are continuous sponsors of Startup Weekend events in India and have also sponsored hackathons in colleges like BITS where students have built very innovative applications.
In the next part I will discuss my observations on the product play.

Start the revolution in Healthcare at StartupWeekend, New Delhi

Until the dawn of this decade not many people would have thought of transforming the way dismal healthcare system works in India let alone doing it over the course of 2 days but this is about to change as the Startup Weekend comes to Delhi on 7 Dec with a sole focus of encouraging entrepreneurs who are passionate about revolutionizing the healthcare system in India. The event will provide an excellent platform where business people, doctors, designers and awesome developers can come together and take first steps towards developing the next big thing in healthcare!

The agenda for the weekend is jam packed with keynote addresses from eminent speakers, exciting pitch sessions, intensive coaching from renowned mentors and enjoyable networking sessions. The event will be attended by leaders from health and start-up fraternity including Chavvi Gupta (Co-founder YoPharma), Subinder Khurana (Mentor, NASSCOM Emerge Forum), Paul Singh (Partner, 500 Startups), Maniraj Singh Juneja (Co-founder of MadeInHealth), Zachary Jones (CEO of Portea Medical) and Maninder Singh Grewal (MD at Religare Technologies).

Here’s an idea of what Start-up Weekend Delhi Health is going to look like from 7th December to 9th December 2012 at the American Center on KG Marg. All attendees will have an opportunity to pitch at least one idea in 60 seconds.

Please make your arrangements to be at the venue late into the night on Friday and Saturday. If you need a couch to crash on, start talking to other participants when you get to the venue. We will provide dinner on Friday evening, Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner on Saturday and Breakfast/Lunch/Snacks on Sunday.

Whether entrepreneurs found companies, find a cofounder, meet someone new, or learn a skill far outside their usual 9-to-5, everyone is guaranteed to leave the event better prepared to navigate the chaotic but fun world of start-ups. If you want to put yourself in the shoes of an entrepreneur, register now for the best weekend of your life!

Post Contributed by Abhimanyu Godara 

10 reasons why I spend a lot of time in the product ecosystem

As product entrepreneurs, every hour of our time is important. We run businesses that can succeed or fail depending on our choices. One of those choices is the time we spend on the eco-system.  Yet I have chosen to spend a lot of time on the ecosystem. Here is why.

1)      Learn from mistakes and successes: How much ever you say that you are doing something unique, you will be surprised to see that there is someone else doing something similar. They have made mistakes and they have had successes. Learning not to do their mistakes and learning to emulate their success is vital for your success. Learn every day.

2)      Networking  is exponential:  At first glance networking seems one to one. But if you are genuine, you would be surprised to find that networking can be exponential. Talk to someone, that person talks about you to someone else and soon its viral in a social sort of way. You never know how the stone that goes out comes back positively.

3)      Sharpen your knife for free: Get that UI feedback, or sharpen that go to market strategy. What you thought was the best based on your own thinking may turn out to be second best before you got that good opinion.

4)      Proactive helping gives joy: I find joy in sharing something to someone, which would save that person from huge mistakes or a lot of effort. Along the way if someone helps me back the same way, I will be happy, but not expect it.

5)      Winning awards is much more than being egoistical:  Your customers are looking for third party endorsements from reputed organizations. They may not ask you, but seeing one on your site gives them comfort. Win some for you and your company

6)      Collaborate to win the market: Many of us attack the same market. How often do you get an inquiry that you cannot use. Share it with someone who need it. You will get one back some day. If we organize ourselves well we can even create a market.

7)      Big brother isn’t so difficult with an ecosystem: Learn how to deal with the government. Taxes, banking, laws and much more can be handled much more easily by working with others in similar situations. It is not just learning how to handle a situation, but also acting jointly for getting something done.

8)      Mentor or be mentored: You will be surprised at the number of senior people willing to spend their time with you without expecting anything back. Years of experience, yet ready to help you with your problem. Remember to give back why you are ready to mentor too.

9)      Get Funded, find a partner, or even find a solution: The ecosystem is a magnet for all kinds of people  – investors, solution partners, suppliers and everything in between. Mingle around, be open and gain from it.

10)   Make friends along the way: The moment someone realizes that you are helping not for monetary gain, but because you just want to help, you make a friend. Business acquaintances are aplenty, but a friend is rare. I’d love to nurture them.

I’ve met many people who have inspired me along the way. Surprisingly most of the people who inspired me are not ones who speak from podiums, but people who open their hearts out with their passion. Cheers to the software product ecosystem – whatever shape or form it is!!

Guest Post Contributed by George Vettath, Kallos Solutions. Image Courtesy – NPC, Zinnov, Martecker

Be a part of the journey to Product Nirvana!

There has been a huge upstart in the number of product companies in India in the last 12 months. 700% is the estimate according to Zinnov Consulting. Most of them, as one keynote speaker at the recently held NASSCOM Product Conclave 2012 said ominously or more from experience being in the Silicon Valley, “will fail”. Why startups fail can be due to any number of reasons but the chances of succeeding is unarguably high if employees get product management right! So, what is Product Management? It is the art and science of creating the right product for the right user at the right time and in the process create a successful business! It is the functional domain which asks the questions what products do we build, who is it for, why do they need it, will they buy if we build it and how will the product work?

India Product Management Association (IPMA) is a voluntary, grassroots organization that is dedicated to helping product management as a function grow in maturity and capability all across the country. It is mostly focused on IT products for now. IPMA is organizing, in its second year after launch, the flagship annual event which brings together industry veterans to speak about various product management topics. This year’s theme, built on the confidence in the growth of product companies is, Journey to Product Nirvana! Journey to Product Nirvana takes the attendees from dissecting the nuances of product management across platforms and products to highlighting successes to sharing advice on specific challenges!

All this in a few hours with networking over lunch on Saturday December 8, at Microsoft office on Lavelle Road, Bangalore. The highlight of the event is the keynote by Ram Narayanan, a product management veteran on “Building customer centric product strategy”, a craft, very few get it right! The event also features Mukund Mohan, Pallav Nadhani, Pinkesh Shah, Saran Chatterjee, Sanjay Jain, Sarit Arora, Dhimant Parekh etc on panels.

IPMA has chapters in Bangalore, Pune and one more coming up in New Delhi soon. Visit http://indiapma.org for details or better yet register for this annual event before the limited seating runs out: http://indiapmaannualevent2012.doattend.com/

The event is sponsored by Confianzys and Tally Solutions and hosted by Microsoft.


Passion, Conviction and Approach to entrepreneurship

Many People keep wondering about the kid who rarely talks at home and not good to get grades in school but went on to become an amazing start-up genius.

Celebrated Lawyer of his time Moti lal Nehru was neither happy with the grades his son got in graduation in England nor with his career as Lawyer.  But Jawahar Lal went on to become one of the most celebrated politicians of Independent India.

So, life is not about having a packaged education and career but entrepreneurship which is more about living one’s passion and conviction in life. Passion is the fuel that drives the creation of dreams and conviction is needed to realize those dreams.

This inborn commitment gets you out of bed every day. The aim should excite you to the core and channeling of passion becomes key to success.

Sometimes the idea may give the nay-sayer dizzying nausea due to its grandness and chances of failure.

Successful entrepreneurs know that failure is part of the journey, and that without failure, there is no success. Only in dictionary “success” comes before “failure” not in real life.

Passion without conviction may make a young entrepreneur shooting star in the harsh realities of the world. Conviction streamlines your passion into a steady flow. After all, most people have innovative ideas at some point in their lives.

It is conviction that determines what you do with your ideas.

Do you let it die? Or do you go for it?

Let`s face it: Those who have achieved extreme success had some extra mettle and more importantly commitment to their goal.

It takes strong will power for never want to quit and believing in something that defines you. It is this conviction that takes you to a state of euphoria in which give you confidence to think that you can tackle get to the unachievable which others.

Gandhi successfully took to the fasting for ‘self-penance’ to use his moral force against violence which became surmountable in certain periods before and after independence.

So believe in yourself and at the end of the day, everyone who told you no will deserves some credit for making you more committed towards the coveted goal of your life.

If you are able to relate with this, congratulations!

You`re ready to be an entrepreneur. Your quiver is ready with the right arrows – set of virtues, to yield big things in life. You were born to make a difference. Get on with your idea if you believe you have something special. Challenge the paradigms that bind you, and go change the world.

Contributed by Ajay Data, Data Infosys

Day 2 of NPC: Attempting to Steer in the Right Direction

As NASSCOM Product Conclave 2012 drew to a close, Sharad Sharma reiterated that product technology will eliminate poverty in India. The social consciousness and import of this statement, usually reemphasized as electoral slogans of gharibi hatao by politicians, points to envisioning a future in which the role of product technology encompasses not only growth of global companies, impacting the world (changing the world!), in India but also its increasingly central role in the nation’s development. M. Rangasami is the visible face of NPC, curating sessions with childlike enthusiasm. He wants to pay back his home country, from which he grew up for the first 20 years of life, something substantial and impactful. And he sees product technology as one means, as it is likely to explode in the coming years. The Valley has about 30% plus of Indian cofounders in startups and innumerable successful product executives and entrepreneurs. If they are inspired by MR to pay back to the nation, imagine its impact. In a way, NASSCOM Product Conclave brings some of them into the sessions to inspire the product entrepreneurs in India.

India—what is happening really?
As predictions are glorious of the future, what is happening on ground in India? What prompts envisioning a game-changing future for product tech? Maybe success of companies like InMobi. Naveen Tiwari, InMobi founder, was generous with his time to explain how InMobi succeeded and was seen in the hallways talking to people wanting to strike a conversation. In the breakfast session, he explained the InMobi way of global growth and scale. InMobi did not go after developed markets like US and Europe to start with. They identified huge white spaces in markets like Southeast Asia and Africa where customer needs were identified by online sales first. Then one of the founders would typically fly to that country to understand the market. This is not an easy task and over time, InMobi would hire a local person to run its operations. And thinking big and not content with growth, the InMobi team constantly brainstorms on how to usher in say 10x growth. Any big achievement starts with thinking big and following it up with risky initiatives. And you should stay undaunted by failure and missteps. There was a mention by Niel Patel, founder of QuickSprouts in his keynote in the evening, that product ventures don’t succeed at first iteration. They turn successful at third iteration. And product ventures cannot hit scale on a template model like services. In addressing the press, to showcase apps that promise to be game changers, Sharad Sharma said, “TCS showed the way and everyone followed it [in services]. But in products, it cannot be done.” Each story is different and each endeavour unique. Naveen Tiwari and InMobi can inspire product entrepreneurs to think of huge possibilities if one goes cracking. And identifying the sweet spot to achieve that takes multiple iterations. Deep Nishar, the star product manager at LinkedIn, earlier in the keynote, pointed out that no first iteration was successful. For example, PayPal started initially to enable payments on handheld devices and then changed to Internet payments. YouTube started as a video dating site and became a social video site later. Some have vanished on the way too, due to various reasons.

Where is the market?
Market evolution and customer adoption are crucial to succeeding in a product venture. Deep Kalra’s story is well known. When Internet was still in nascent stages, he started a web-based travel site. Sensing that opportunity exists outside India, he first served NRIs travelling to India. It took close to five years to find that customers will go to Internet to book tickets in India. Effectively, MakeMyTrip took off in India only in 2005. Indian product technology skill sets are not in question. But is the market ready for your offering? That is another question to keep in mind. Apps are exploding. Child prodigies are pouncing on to that space. But where will apps lead India into? Will it stay a diverse apps market with thousands of apps or will something like a global rage app (say Angry Birds) come out of India?

The kind of pertinent questions that are asked at this stage is how to move to the next stage. A vast number of sessions addressed challenging questions such as pitching right to the investor, a novel reverse pitch for investors to find suitable entrepreneurs, how to take mobile apps global, hiring the sales people, and metrics-driven marketing. When the question to Deep Nishar was put forth on what to focus upon to build a business in products, he pointed out to disruptions in enterprise software and building over it. His take was that enterprise products could be tested in India and taken to the rest of the world. The sense one could get out of these types of propositions and expert speak is that the market is in a flux. Enormous product tech activity is happening. But for some products, the market has to mature (adopting Indian products in enterprise) or be created for others (for example, SMBs). Deep Nishar pointed out the new smart phone like iPhone and Galaxy as not overnight innovations. A combination of earlier developments only results in a new innovation. Palm top, touch screen, iPod all combine in a new visual and spatial thinking to result in an iPhone. Can you think of a combination of such innovations to create something new and create a new market for those products?

Building products for India or the world?
A common prescription of experts like Amar Goel and Deep Nishar is that you stay close to the customer for whom you are developing the product. There is another school that thinks customer care shouldn’t be needed as the product should be simple and self-explanatory for users anywhere in the world. Deep Nishar laid seven components of a product to create a product bliss. Simplicity is one overarching principle. He opines that too many choices would make the product unattractive. Focus on select features and build on them. He showcased several LinkedIn features to validate his statement. For example, when LinkedIn was on mobile, the team did not adapt Web into mobile. They sought to understand what LinkedIn would look like on a mobile and created a new look. And sensing that customers log on to mobile devices such as iPad and smart phones early in the morning or late at night, news was added to mobile LinkedIn. Moreover, a feature shows the day’s appointments too.

Given that there is a possibility of Cloud to build a product and sell it all over the world, what kind of products could be developed without needing customer in proximity is an innovation that could be thought of. And most Indian product companies now have a global market. But scale is the question.

More questions than answers
By showcasing successes outside India and bringing in product developers like Tarkan Maner of Dell Wyse who has sold his company to Dell for a billion dollars, there is an endeavour to instil right thinking and point to pertinent directions. And by engaging several people in the ecosystem to understand their experiences of what worked and what hasn’t provides a clarity picture for the product entrepreneurs. At this moment, though, there seems to be more questions asked than answers given. The important need of the moment is asking the right questions. So it is the hope that answers will evolve and such answers would lead to a product tech revolution, as in MR’s prediction, or it would even answer India’s societal concerns of eliminating poverty, in Sharad Sharma’s extrapolation.

Both predictions are not imaginary but understood from the success of products and its greatest impact in the United States. The wealth that Bill Gates created is being channelled into health care concerns of the world and when iPhone 5 was released, there was a report that its sales across the world would contribute a significant percent to US GDP. Such developments set the context for India to take the cue and look ahead.

Contributed Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, Product Tech Ecosystem Enthusiast

First Day of NPC 2012 a Roller Coaster between Hope and Reality

A broad sweep of the first day of the NASSCOM Product Conclave gives rise to emotions of a day that rose in energy, stayed sober at the reality picture,
and then gave a reason for cheer as the day drew to a close.

On the shore of Big Blue ocean breakfast session opened up the world of possibilities for Indian product technology. IBM-mers Peter Coldicott (Chief Product Architect), Robert High (IBM Fellow in IBM Watson), and Daniel Yellin (Enterprise Mobility Chief Engineer) perhaps gave a thunderous opening. What products can do and how it can envelope the whole world in its embrace was shown by these three IBMmers. While Robert High showed his project of deciphering human language to understand behaviour to solve people’s problems, using huge chunks of articles data to arrive at solutions for health problems using NLM and cognitive science techniques, Peter Coldicott took “Smart” control of the cities, traffic, commerce, and manufacturing to usher in a Smarter Planet. These two endeavours redefine the role of technology in solving the outstanding problems of humanity and governments. For example, Smarter Traffic will help you negotiate the city traffic by understanding how traffic is regulated and data on what’s real on the road. Daniel Yellin’s mobility solutions through apps would reconfigure enterprise functioning. While IBM is engaged with the whole planet (as it seems to be), Indian product entrepreneurs are just sensing the opportunity on the horizon.

Sharad Sharma’s passionate opening in calling product entrepreneurs transformers of the society gave a sense of purpose beyond the lure of money that gets one to business. His even bolder prediction of product software eliminating poverty gave rise to cheer. “The product entrepreneurs will rule” proposition put product technology on a pedestal. NASSCOM President Som Mittal’s emphasis on the enabling role of NASSCOM by its various initiatives such as it entering into an MOU with SIDBI for risk capital funding of SMEs promised hope. M. Rangsami’s Westward view (or call it Silicon Valley view) of Indian product landscape becoming affordable for millions gave it a mainstream leaning, given that still product entrepreneurship languishes for lack of attention save a few niche communities and select media coverage.

This glorified image was enhanced by Naveen Tiwari’s three mantras of building a billion dollar company. InMobi’s commanding success ranking next only to Google in mobile advertising is a reason for celebration of Indian product entrepreneurship. His trillion ads making $2 billion business impact was transporting us to a dizzy world of big numbers. And the global reach of InMobi in 165 countries employing people of 28 nationalities, less than half of them Indian, gave it a healthy gloss. “We take pride that this company is out of India,” said Naveen, taking with him the aspirations of more than 1200 plus delegates, a major chunk of them product entrepreneurs, to a dizzying high.

The Reality
Soon the hopes that rose high with the keynotes, especially the exuberant one by Tim Paries of Yahoo! on design, surrendered to the reality of so much work left to be done to reach where IBM is today probably taking control of the planet through technology. Product business for Indian SMB market is not VC-fundable, said Pari Natarajan of Zinnov backed by data. The potential user base dramatically shrinks when reality calculations are added. That comes to something like 2000 users in the leather SMB microcluster, for example. Pivoting is not an easy task given various factors such as motivation of employees and financial health of a company. It is a tough and hard decision that product entrepreneurs need to make. “Pivoting is like changing a punctured tyre in a moving vehicle,” said Ashish Kashyap of Ibibo.com, reflecting the real challenges in changing directions of a company.

The failure unconference session by Dorai Thodla attracted a sizeable number of participants willing to pour out. If you started counting failures of product startups, maybe that would make you feel depressed. The rate is high but that’s changing. Product entrepreneurs are evolving to treat failure as a hiccup and move ahead by pivoting or reinventing. The ecosystem is playing a stellar role in holding the entrepeneur’s hope. The sense of issues debated at the unconference as cofounder leaving, developing product before testing the market, and taking care of finance well ahead showed the maturity level of product entrepreneurs in understanding the rough and tumble of this journey. In a typical session like this, a few would have huddled together to exchange views and that’s what Dorai expected. But the huge turnout was a surprise to him but hidden in that was the aspiration of the product entrepreneur to learn from failures that characterizes the entrepreneurial journey.

Raghav Sood, a 15-year-old 10th grader, is the hope of the future. Along with him Thrisha, a 11-year-old, ruled the stage as Archana Rai, the Economic Times journalist, engaged them in a conversation, another novelty to this year’s program. Raghav has now uploaded 8 apps on the Android platform, has authored a book about augmented reality in Android (another book signed up for user interface), and is founder of Appoholics, Inc. What Raghav has done could be dismissed as a genius among a million but if you watched the media closely, reports of teens developing apps are finding a noticeable mention. Some come on the surface and that’s what we think. This holds immense hope for the future as product technology will grow to occupy a prominent position in the Indian technology space in the time frame of 15 years that Sharad Sharma predicted. Together with an army of young entrepreneurs who would have tasted success with app development in their teens, there is a possibility for a robust growth of the Indian product space. Girls like Thrisha, who is developing an app, also lead to your thinking of women playing a greater role in the future. Women delegates were seen in good numbers and that should be an indication of the interest of women in this space.

Founder to CEO
Naeem Zafar gave a realistic account of the role of CEO in his engrossing presentation with a humour embellishment on how founders should be prepared to become CEOs. This transition is perhaps the difficult phase for a founder of an enterprise. But beyond a scale, the founder should make way for an executive better equipped with skills to take the company forward. In this discussion, Prof. Zafar dwelt upon the challenges of a CEO and the focus.

In my view, save the sessions where I did not have an opportunity to participate, the product space has become less inhibiting to test, more
supportive to grow, and, given the holistic dimension of ushering in a better world that IBM has shown the way, it is the future for the world of
depleting resources.

Contributed by Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, Product Ecosystem Enthusiast

NASSCOM Product Conclave 2012 Reflects the Arrival of a Vibrant Product Ecosystem in India

The kind of conversations that you heard around product companies are changing. From an ambitious “billion dollar companies” born out of India (the overarching goal of NASSCOM Product Conclave last year), the focus is shifting to the bold prediction of product software’s robust growth, in the coming decade and half, eliminating poverty. In his opening remarks, Sharad Sharma, NASSCOM Product Chair (who I hear across the board is an inspiration to the whole community of product guys) called product entrepreneurs by labels as aggressive as “arms merchants” and “disruptors.” He went on to make a bold prediction: “product industry will lift India out of poverty.” He sought to portray Cloud as instrumental in product space becoming an affordable, productive, and collaborative space that would transform public health centres and schools in India.

Reflecting the evolution of NPC, Som Mittal, President of NASSCOM, said that NPC is a great platform to compete and collaborate. He also revealed that NASSCOM is entering into an MoU with SIDBI to provide risk capital to small companies, which would include IP-led product companies. (SIDBI was provided a fund of Rs. 500 crores in the Union budget for investing in SMBs.) He saw angels, investors, and incubators becoming active in the product ecosystem. Mr. Mittal’s statement that CIOs were open to buying from startups should give product entrepreneurs a sweet ring in the ear.
M.R. Rangasami, co-host of NPC 2012, saw three phases of evolution of the product industry in India: mimicking US to get funding initially, growth of enterprise software in the next decade, followed mobile and Cloud computing causing a paradigm shift in this decade. He was optimistic that software products offered at low price points offered by product entrepreneurs (leveraging the Cloud) will be consumed by thousands of customers.
Naveen Tiwari’s Leap of Faith

In a sort of answer to the overarching question of a billion dollar business emerging from India (the same time around last year when Flipkart was rumoured to have obtained a billion dollar valuation), InMobi, a mobile advertising ecosystem player, has emerged as perhaps the biggest company to grow out of India in the last 5 years. Naveen Tiwari’s keynote should be remembered for something alien to product entrepreneurs in India: talking numbers that are in the million and billion range—a trillion ads providing $2 billion worth of economic transactions, reaching 80 million people across 165 countries. The mercurial growth of InMobi has been made possible by the “Think Big” approach of the team and not being complacent with the present status. The company is devising methods to grow five to ten times in the 5 years from now. Naveen Tiwari said that massive scale happens with huge risks and the InMobi team was willing to bet on it. Aiming big, going global, and hiring the best are the three mantras Naveen Tiwari proposed to build a similar company in India.

Ram Shriram’s Bet on Mobile and Tim Parsey’s REM
The man with the Midas touch could not touch down at Bangalore as personal commitment stayed him put in the United States. Ram Shriram of Sherpalo Ventures who delivered the keynote on video sought to paint a glorious future for mobile phone-based innovations going by the sheer number of them. (An exclusive coverage will be done on his address.)

As M. Rangsami announced the TED-like speech of Tim Parsey of Yahoo!, who has changed seven domains and as many companies, it brought a fresh whiff of outside air. Instead of thinking inside, this change of thinking by organizers to bring in someone with a different perspective seemed to have carried well. Tim Parsey gave an absorbing, exuberant keynote on design being important for products. Using the bicycle as an example of his REM framework, he translated the evolution of bicycle to products within the REM framework. Rational value, Emotional, and Meaningful are important components of the design, in Tim Parsey’s philosophy. A rational value in terms of performance and new capabilities, designing for feeling, classic minimalist, and ultraminimalist (appealing emotionally) styles, and being meaningful (aligning to values and evoking personal memories) make a product appealing to the customer. The design principles and design culture should be enticing for the employees as well as end customers for whom the product is aimed at, he emphasized.

So many of them, which one to go?—Indian SMB market too small
End of keynotes opened up to six parallel sessions and thankfully one was cancelled. The sheer excitement of peeping into several sessions would have satiated the delegate but wouldn’t have had a carry on their learning. Color codes in the Agenda clearly showed the prospective audience base for the sessions. If I would have made a point of covering them all, I would have left the readers disappointed with piecemeal quotes that wouldn’t serve purpose. I stayed on with one session per slot. In a curiosity to understand the Indian market, I walked in with a lot of hope of three wise men telling us how Indian market so big as an ocean could be tamed with a magic wand. In the end, despite “doom and gloom” sought to be avoided, Indian market despite millions of potential customers turns to be less attractive for a product entrepreneur if segments are suitably sliced. Pari Natarajan of Zinnov showed the microcluster of leather SMEs finally boiling down to 2000 users. Terming product business in India for SMBs non-VC fundable (implying lack of scale), Pari however said e-commerce is a robust segment. Naru Narayanan, investor, mentor, and former executive selling retail products across India, cautioned the lure of big numbers. He sought to convey that any big number showcased should be treated with caution and provided his guestimate method of arriving at a rational figure. Vijay Anand put the conversation in perspective by bringing down the glorious 900 million mobile users to an active 300 million (multiple SIMs being the discounting factor). Despite the promise of the billion plus, Indian market is yet to become technophilic. Technology touches a niche and not yet mainstream.

This led me to a conversation with Kishore Mandyam of PK4 Software, who led a panel on AWSME Survey, the Nielsen survey commissioned by NASSCOM to look into the SMB market in India. This is an awareness survey by NASSCOM to understand what ails the SMBs in terms of buying software. In over a 1000 SMBs surveyed, it was known that only 30% of SMB owners were approached by a software provider and for example in Kochi, 86% of SMBs were not approached. Out of them, only 9% know the term Cloud computing. To make SMBs adopt technology massively, NASSCOM mandated this survey to drive its Software Laga Do Yaar! Mission. The survey will be used to further enhance the market penetration of software by understanding pain points, influencers, and decision makers by a follow-up engagement perhaps by using case studies to influence buying decisions.

Pivoting is painful is what I got to understand in the panel discussion on pivoting. Naveen Tiwari, Ashish Kashyap of Ibibo, Rajat Agarwalla of RJ Softwares were engaged in a panel led by Shruthi Chella of Groupon. Instituting pivot as part of culture is next to impossible. Pivoting in a small company is easier whereas in a big company, it is first tested within a small group before massive adoption. Customer needs, market opportunities, and competitive advantage drive pivoting. Ashish called pivoting as “changing punctured tyre of a car in motion.”

As the afternoon set in and more sessions awaited, the delegates swarmed the lunch area exchanging contact details and engaged in conversations.

Contributed by K. Venkatesh, VirtualPaper for YourStory.in

Building a great product takes time and happens over a number of years…

Getting patented has immense aspirational value for product developers, but it is a long drawn process and takes normally anything between 5-8 years. Our story this time is about how a bunch of very intelligent individuals, who got together to build a product and have it patented within two years.  If it is aspirational to have a patent against one’s name, it is certainly inspirational, the time frame in which it was achieved.

We got talking to Anand, who is based out of Bangalore, and was only 15-days old at Vigyanlabs  handling the marketing activities there. The passion with which he spoke, belied his short stint and seemed as if he had spent his entire lifetime in the organisation. Shortly thereafter, we were joined by Srini & Vatsa, the founders of Vigyanlabs. Hugely experienced, cumulatively they both have 50 + years (Vatsa 30 + & Srini more than 20) of building products and software architecture in very large organisations like HP, IBM & Hughes Network Systems.  Both had held senior positions in HP, where Vatsa was the Chief architect, and with Srini later, went on to hold Senior Technical Positons at Dell-Perot, just before starting Vigyanlabs. Vatsa had also worked in Processor Systems India, where he did some very innovative and cutting-edge work. These would prove to be building blocks, someday. A very potent combination indeed, which helped file 9 Patents. Slowly but surely the spirit of building an Indian product was taking shape.

Early days:

After  calling it quits with their present employers, the duo spent two weeks in just defining Vision & Mission of the company that they would build, and establishing short-term & long-term goals. This brainstorming session helped them in creating the DNA : It was going to be an innovative Science & Technology Organisation; it would focus on green technology and social responsibility to be a key driver. All this would be achieved by harnessing the power of teamwork. The customer and his needs would be primary to all business concerns. A deep-dive helped identify the three major problems that the world was facing: Food, Environment & Energy. The seeds were sown – it would be a Science & Technology company where IT would play a vital role.

Vigyanlabs would primarily focus on : Consulting, Architecture & Design and aim to solve problems related to food, environment & energy.   The name itself was very Indian and spoke of the future, The “Science” of it, being right here. Vigyan.


After much study and prior experience, the team soon identified a “hole” in the market and a plausible approach to address the same. Efficient power management was still not very popular in India. The existing solutions were not upto the mark and this was evident, the way laptops consumed power. The battery would get heated and run out sooner than desired, putting user at a disadvantage. The higher income group consumed a lot of power through a freakish number of gadgets and electronic devices. The wastage was huge and put immense pressure on the environment as a whole.  This was early 2009, and out of an Incubation Centre in Mysore, was born the idea which took shape and one day be the product IPMPlus.

The concept that was used to build this product had widespread usage and would be extended to other industries as well. In the US markets, patents were filed for something similar, but not so India. It was built around power consumption and its optimization in laptops – all this without causing any obstruction in the normal flow of work.  Intelligent Power Management Plus was about maintaining user experience.   

The Passion:

For Srini and Vatsa, it was always about building an Indian product which aimed at fulfilling the vision and mission of the company. They found obvious role models in the likes of Ratan Tata and Sir M. Visvesvaraya, who is also a Bharat Ratna awardee – the doyens of innovative thinking in this country.  

Wow Moments:

The Beta version itself helped a customer save 40% on energy cost and the need to come out with a marketable version was even more palpable. Within two years of filing for patents, the founders  got it done, a record of some sorts, which normally takes anything upto 5 years or even more.

Marketing Outreach & Strategy:

The stretch has been to create a global footprint and get the product onto the AppStores so it can be used with Android, Apple and Windows applications. The other initiative, is integrating with device OEMs and capture a major chunk of the market.  On the Enterprise segment, tablets and servers opened a whole new world of opportunity. Just to give an example of how big the problem really is, the amount of power consumption in large organisations is enough to even run a small town, cited in a recent NYT article. Large businesses have 50 – 100 data centres and do not have many tools which harness power optimisation.

Key Learning:

Building a great product takes time and happens over a number of years. The gestation period is long and during this time patience and sustainability is what really matters. Unlike the Valley, the market in India is not so matured and there is an initial resistance to try out Indian products. Somehow product developers should aim to break that.  Finally good products come through good people – who are technically sound, who you can trust and who have the business acumen too.

What is that we have to build?

Every now and then, we hear people arguing about building “Microsoft” and “Google” of India. Companies like Microsoft, Google have built up incredible technologies and their contributions in improving our life is significant. When started, they started with big vision, a tough and relevant problem to solve, and brilliant team behind the vision. While I cannot look into minds of founders of those companies and say what they were thinking, the problems they chose to solve had enormous relevance and potential at their time and place.

When some people talk of building product companies, they want to build another “Facebook”, another “Google”, etc. And some people want to build “Valley” here in Bangalore or Hyderabad. If all we’re doing is trying to build another “Google”, replicate ecosystem of “Silicon Valley” here in an Indian city, sorry people. Your attempts are futile. Suppose we go to Kashmir, and like apples very much there. We come back to Karnataka, want to grow apples. Can we grow apples here? No. Climate, and soil conditions in Karnataka is different from that of Kashmir. If we are still trying to grow apples in Karnataka, we’re just wasting our time and effort. But Karnataka grows sandalwood. This is a tree that grows here very well. And we can grow best Sandalwood in the world.

Don’t mistake the analogy here. I’m in no way suggesting that Indians can’t build a technological giant such as Google or Facebook. What I mean is, we should not build product companies for the sake of it. If you can solve a problem really well without building a product, and build a great business out of it, that should be the way. When we’re building a company or building ecosystems, we’ve to encourage startups to be best in what they are building or doing. It doesn’t really matter after a point if you are building a product or offering a service, what matters is quality of your work. It should solve real problems of the people. In doing so, it only makes sense to utilize existing ingredients of ecosystem to the fullest.

What we should aim at is building a culture of solving problems and solving efficiently. To solve a big tough problem, if we’ve have to build a product for that, we’ll build a product. If we’ve to invent, we’ll invent. If we have to offer an innovative service, we’ll do that. Once we start solving big problems, once we start setting standards of excellence in everything we do, may be we’ll realize product companies are by-products.

Guest Post Contributed by Mahesha Hiremath, Boson Research

NPC is the most successful volunteer driven conference in India…Sharad is yet another volunteer.

In recent years the Indian Software Product industry has seen exponential growth in terms of revenue and people. The industry has matured to a state where numerous entrepreneurs have built successful companies that are becoming household names! Our mission this year is not only to inspire and motivate entrepreneurs but to also impart knowledge and grow their skills to become global players.

We’re bringing together actual practitioners from the global and Indian product industry, serial entrepreneurs, CIOs, investors, customers, VCs and angel investors who will formally and informally network with the delegates and provide them useful insights. The Conclave is the biggest platform for entrepreneurship in India as evidenced by the 1,400 people who attended last year.  Listen to Sharad’s 3 point theory..