Autodesk Acquires Qontext Social Collaboration Platform.

Acquisition to Expand Social Capabilities of Autodesk 360 Cloud Services.

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 4, 2012 — Autodesk Inc., (NASDAQ: ADSK) has completed the acquisition of Qontext,enterprise social collaboration software, from India-based Pramati Technologies. The acquisition of the Qontext technology and development team will accelerate Autodesk’s ongoing move to the cloud and expansion of social capabilities in the Autodesk 360 cloud-based service. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

“Autodesk’s acquisition of the Qontext technology is a testament to the Pramati strategy,” said Vijay Pullur, Pramati president. “This transaction is a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to incubate and build companies that address the rapidly changing needs of business through highly innovative technologies.”

Autodesk intends to use the Qontext technology to add new social capabilities to Autodesk 360, a cloud-based platform that offers users the ability to store, search, and view critical design data improving the way they design, visualize, simulate and share work with others at anytime and from anywhere.

Read the complete story here

Jalandhar School Kid drops University builds a Global Software Product Company

NASA.GE. Disney. A global software product – Kayako. Jalandhar – a growing city in Punjab,India. And a school kid who opted out of University. Sounds like the script of the next “The Social Network” hollywood movie. The truth – the movie might have to wait. Because this success story from India’s hinterland is only getting started.

And yes the school kid who was only seventeen in 2001 at the time of launching this enterprise helpdesk product is still leading from the front as the Founder and CEO.

ProductNation is excited to bring to you this riveting story through a heart-to-heart talk with Mr Varun Shoor. A lunch interview was quickly planned and Varun suggested “Punjabi By Nature” at Cyber City Gurgaon.

On interview day, we met at Varun’s swanky 16th floor office at Cyber City Gurgaon that houses the product engineering team. RFID check-ins, Apple Machines, top of the line interiors, extensive use of glass and a panoramic view of Gurgaon would be some add-ons if you consider employment opportunities here. After exchanging pleasantries and a quick discussion on the quirky weather, we did a quick jaunt across the road to the “Punjabi By Nature” restaurant.

Raghav Arora – Varun’s schoolmate and core member of the Management team also joined in. A quick scan of the Menu slate (yes, it is a wooden slate) and we were sorted with our orders. It was time. 1-2-3 Action!

ProductNation: So Varun, we are eager to listen to your story.
Varun Shoor: Right from childhood, I was a geeky kid. None of my sister’s electronic dogs survived the second day. My dad felt that if I went to a hostel, some sense would dawn on me.

At the hostel, I saw computers for the first time. 286, DOS, monochromatic display and there I learnt the programming language LOGO where in you draw shapes by issuing commands. That was fascinating. The first four years in hostel, I used to hungrily look forward to the Computer Class each day and excelled with 90% marks.

After I came back from hostel I asked dad for a computer. This was 1996. Fortunately, my dad could afford one. It was a Packard Bell 286 with Windows 3.1.

Back then there was no internet in Jalandhar, only in Delhi and metros. Luckily there was a cyber café in Jalandhar which used to dial out to Delhi. I used it to look up the latest apps, download them. Fascinating it was, especially the noise of dial up and Rs 15 per minute internet charge.

We all burst into a nostalgic laughter. If you are wondering why, then your association with the Internet is at best recent.

ProductNation: Please continue
Varun Shoor:  Sabeer Bhatia then had sold off Hotmail. That was when I decided to start a web design firm – Cyfox Graphics – using Dad’s card to buy a domain name – domains were US $ 100 then and web hosting. But as I devoted more time to computers, academics went down and long distance STD call bills were going up. One day, an internet bill of Rs Rs 60,000 greeted my family. Promptly, Dad took away the credit card. That dream was over.

Studies was tough. In Class VIII, I was conditionally promoted. And in class IX, I was kicked out as I had just 39%. From the beginning though I was not good in studies, I was a bookworm. I always knew more than the teachers. But, I was never good in cramming for the exams.

Parallely, I did couple of websites and a solution called Shoutbox service that provided chat rooms on websites where visitors could enter. This became popular but I could not pay for the server. Then I came up with a service called Deskpost that was like hotscripts, a script directory.

Since I was into web hosting, I used to be active on a web hosting forum called Web Hosting Talk. I saw people buying a service called Wonderdesk at US $2000. I made something similar called Active Support and wanted to try selling it.

For that I needed three things – domain, hosting and credit card processing. So I went to dad and no guesses for what he told me. So here I am, with a product but no resources.

So I went into IRC chat rooms asking for a domain I could use. I was banned but I kept trying with proxys. Finally one guy reverts saying he has two domain names – and You know what happened next.

Then I needed hosting. My friend in Jalandhar agreed on the condition that I would pay him in six months.

Last was a credit card processing tool. I wanted Tool Check Out. It is still very popular. It came for US $ 50. Where do I get US $ 50? I go back to the chat rooms announcing that I will give a US $ 2000 product for US $ 50. And I didn’t need the money, just the Tool Check Out account. So again banned, kicked out of forums.

Then a guy who runs a hosting company becomes interested and transfers the Tool Check Out account to my name. Then I create a website and launch the product. Version 1 comes into picture.

Money accumulates to US $2000 which is the minimum withdrawal threshold for Tool CheckOut. I wire that money to a friend’s account and ask him to ship a Compaq Laptop to me. I tell my dad that I have bought a laptop and it would reach in a week’s time.

A week, no laptop. Two weeks, no laptop. Three weeks, no laptop. Every day I am asking about the laptop parcel and dad was pretty irritated. On a positive note, the money started accumulating again. I tell my dad, I have US $2000 and please give me your bank details and I will wire it. Reluctantly lest I hack his account, he gave me the bank details.

So I take the details and tell mom and dad that by next Thursday they would see a wire transfer of US $2000. Thursday is here, but no money. Friday, no money. And I am pestering them every hour if there is any credit. They were sick by then.

Come Monday. Since I used to work in the night, I was sleeping when my Mom jolts me out of my slumber in the afternoon. She says – “paise aa gaye, paise aa gaye, tu jhooth nahin bol raha tha” (The money is here, money is here, you were not lying). And I say – “I was always telling the truth. You never believed me”.

The very next day, the Laptop arrives. And that was how the company began. No money, no nothing and we started this company. Closer to Class XII, I told my father that I did not want to go to college and wanted to do Kayako for life. My Dad having heard about Sabeer Bhatia stories encouraged me to go ahead.
And we started Kayako in November 2001.

By that time, the Raan and the Tikkis had soaked the story enough to be guided to their rightful destination. The Raan was sliced just right to whet our appetite even further. Yeah, it is highly recommended.

ProductNation: Very interesting. When you were setting up Kayako, companies like Infosys, Wipro were playing the IT services card. Did you ever contemplate that?
Varun Shoor: I am an introvert who was forced to become an extrovert. And I did not have it in me to meet clients, convince people, sell something. So services were out of the question. Secondly, I was enjoying what I was doing.

The Raan was just awesome. There was no need to outdo it. So, the simple fare of yellow dal and makhni murg with Naan that followed was just right.

ProductNation: Nowadays, IT entrepreneurs in India are focused more on products and not services. What would be your message to them?
Varun Shoor: First, do not chase money. If you do, you will lose focus. Second, your product has to have a VOW factor. It has to be awesome, period.
Third, start building around things that actually generate sales – a good website and a strong trust factor. How do you do that? Testimonials, client portfolio, live chat, updated news feed, active social media accounts, phone number on the site answered and engaging plus trusting website copy. Last, Think global, thing Big. Then your standards go up and your market has no limitations. And this also cushions you against business cycles.

Product Nation: Where do you want to see Kayako in next 3 – 5 years? How do you want to position Kayako?
Varun Shoor: Honestly, we are going with the flow. We are trying to be better than yesterday. Where this takes us, we have no idea. On positioning, we are focused completely on the product. On what really matters. Making sure each of our customers is happy. We are passionate about support and helpdesk. And we want to continue with our sharp focus on that.

It was time to focus on the desserts now. So it was a sinful hot chocolate fudge for Varun and Gulab Jamuns – the size of golf balls – for Raghav and us. A quick check out and we were out into the hustle bustle of Cyber City Gurgaon.

We then ask Varun – “What is the next opportunity you would like to pursue?” Without batting an eye lid, he responds – “A Five Star hotel”. And adds. “I like change and I am fascinated by architecture. And if I find something interesting in IT, I could take that up as well.”

And as we prepare to bid good bye, he says, “We are planning a strong initiative that we intend to go live in March next year. So watch out”.

Good Luck, Kayako!

Demo Days: Obsolete. Over-Hyped. Disaster

If we were going to let the cat out of the bag, so to speak, comparing accelerators, here is my biggest gripe about “Accelerator Models” – Demo Day.

For the fortunate, who aren’t aware of the Process, this is how it goes. Applications open, Teams submit their applications, Interview processes later, teams are picked, brought onboard and after a 12 – 16 week Programme (depending on which accelerator you are part of), you are building off that first version of the product and then comes D-Day, Demo day when you launch your product, Introduce the Startup, and get funded so that you can move forward. Except that there is one glitch. The funding never happens. Nobody I know of has gotten customers at these D-Days, and nobody is wowed.

You could have glue stuck wings on the entrepreneurs and pushed them off the cliff instead.

Sadly, D-Day is a critical aspect that a lot of accelerators acclaim, is their USP, and that is going to come bite a few entrepreneurs in the ass sometime. Unfortunately. Its not just me saying this. Sameer and Nandini have been saying this for years.

India is Different

Demo Day works. It works in the Valley. A bunch of accelerators put up their startups, and there is someone to come look at these companies and see them for their potential rather than what they are a the moment. At the stage that these accelerators are putting up, all they have is a product that is ready to go for launch, and that is only going to get you one answer “Interesting. Keep us posted on how it goes”.

There is no one here in India who will take you at that stage and take you forward.

For those who understand this space better: You ideally want someone who can drop a 100-250K USD (with a valuation of roughly 1 – 1.5mn Valuation) on the startup to take the company from there. But thats precisely it, they want a “company” not a product built in a scurry. I havent met any teams in the Demo Days of most of these accelerators who can even justify (with data) why they think the product will work.

The Pivot is on you.

So If D-Day is the day when you launch, and I presume it will take the entrepreneur another 30-45 days before they realize that the product is not taking off – nobody is using it, let alone pay for it, what happens? Then comes the decision to Pivot vs Persevere and its the hardest decision on an entrepreneur. Except, guess what. You have already “graduated”. And whatever you pivot on, you’ve lost the opportunity of Demo-day to gain audience. You are as good as a team which was never part of the accelerator in the first place. I know how draining that is on an entrepreneur – we wouldn’t wish that he goes through it alone. Thats why we take our time and go through it in six months.

Direction vs Speed.

Something we’ve been saying for quite sometime. You might want to know where you are heading, before you start setting yourself on fire with Jet fuel. Do you even have a product that the market wants? Without it, Where-my-friend are you “accelerating” to? :) Find your Direction first, in terms of the industry, domain, and problem you are addressing and the solution to it. Thats direction. Then, figure out how fast you want to go and how an accelerator can help. (though most accelerator models seem to be Product accelerators than Startup Accelerators)

Product vs. Startup

There are essentially three steps. Picking an Idea that you want to work on and building a prototype. Its Okay to build multiple prototypes of multiple ideas and figure which one “sticks”. But once you see the data, let the numbers guide you, and make the decision to build it out as a product. Once a product, see if it makes sense to build a startup around it. There is a reason why we modelled ourselves in three stages.

Product acceleration is not equal to startup Acceleration. You shouldn’t be giving equity for inputs that you get towards a product (which might pivot dramatically) – atleast, not so much as what typical accelerators charge.

Is it important to give Young Startups a Platform? Absolutely. We ran for years. The key however is to know what stage to unveil them at. Demo Day, as it stands in India today in India, is a disaster.


1. The Process of building a company in India is still very much bootstrappish – Unless you are an entrepreneur with a track record of execution. The Norm is that, you are rewarded for results you show. PS: There is nothing wrong with that. But its here to stay and its important to acknowledge that and work around that, rather than being in Denial land.

2. The Startup Cuve of a Startup In India is very different from that of a US Startup. “Demo Days” are to replicate the “Techcrunch Initiations”. Answer honestly, does it? It does create a blip, but is it really a launch?

A Rough Sketch, if I were to map out the Startup Process in India Mapped against Traction vs Time would look like this – against the US Counterpart:


a) The Startup Didnt have to Pivot. Fact: Most Startups will Pivot 2.5 Times.

b) The Startup survived competition, were able to find their value kernel and pivot for scale.

c) Also assuming that this startup did Marketing from Day minus 150 before the product launched. Otherwise, traction would be 0 till demo day when there would be a just a few curious bites, and no solid engagement. Situation, in reality, would and is much worse.

Cross Post from the Startup Guy’s blog

Software Products: Funding and Opportunities, Shoaib Ahmed, Tally Solutions (Part 3 of 3)

Read the Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.

Shoaib Ahmed, President of Tally Solutions, began his career as a retail
software developer in the early 90s. Formerly the Founder-Director of Vedha
Automations Pvt.Ltd, Mr. Ahmed was responsible for developing Shoper, a
market-leading retail business solution — and the first of its kind in India to
bring in barcoding to the retail space. The company was acquired by Tally
Solutions in 2005, where Shoper merged with the Tally platform to offer a
complete enterprise retail software suite. In the last of a three-part series,
Mr. Ahmed gives entrepreneurs some advice from the product development

In your opinion how important is the concept of funding? Do you think
people can bootstrap easily without funding?

Unfortunately, I come from a bootstrap background so I have to admit that I haven’t
watched the successfully funded companies very closely! Looking at the components,
you need money for development and marketing. I also feel one key component is
requiring enough money to bring on board people with enough leadership qualities and
understanding to pre-empt issues on all fronts. You have to have the working capital to
confidently bring on board people with these qualities. In this kind of context come the
questions: who should fund and at what period of time. There are the elements of the
seed and angel fund — in my mind the concept of angel fund hasn’t matured completely
because there is the expectation is that there isn’t complete clarity but there
is an element of being able to patch the company through so that they experiment through
the formative periods, and the VC comes in when the company is ready to scale, like for
marketing to get big numbers.

The sharpness, unfortunately, is not yet there because the maturity hasn’t been
established. For example, once a product company has been funded, there is an
expectation that the trend set by early adopters is what the remaining set of customers are
going to adopt as eagerly. However, this set may not have bought into the idea yet — but
there now is an expectation that based on the reaction of the first set, the next set will get
automatically attracted and it’s just a matter of reaching out to them. However, the method
and timing of reach out will be different. What it takes and what can kind of expectation
to set is dependent on the fund, but it also largely depends on getting the right kind of
mentoring and product mindset so that the entrepreneur is geared in a sensible manner.

What opportunities should entrepreneurs in the SMB space be
focussing on, other than in the accounting space?

Typically, the mid or large market gets most of the attention. For small businesses,
however, the pain-point is bringing hygiene into working systems like managing books,
inventories and people. At this point, there are options for the small business owner

to opt for enterprise integrated business solutions or specialised applications. The
opportunity lies in recognizing that different segments with different nuances exist —
and your focus is to design in such a way that their respective problems are solved. For
example, keeping in mind what a pharmacy needs both from a software and form factor,
I would say that billing is not the problem but replenishment is. Therefore, a large PC
may not be the solution — maybe an iPad or a mobile app makes more sense. So I would
say that you would need to wear the hat. To find a customer is the first element, and
giving a suggestion which works and bringing new technology in place are areas which
entrepreneurs in the SMB space should be focussing on.

What advice would you give to people who are getting into the product
development space?

First, they should understand the product mindset, which is to be able to identify if they
are building a value proposition. The whole process of product development shouldn’t
confuse them – there is the whole question of what the customer is asking for and what
the product will provide them. This is important, but product development shouldn’t just be
about reacting to market opportunities – arriving at a product design is also critical.

Secondly, there’s also a tendency to concentrate on providing too many features,
understanding customer requirements and being in a perpetual development mode. This is
why the development team has to have a strong business and marketing background.

Thirdly, having a face in the Indian market is a huge opportunity, but technology adoption
continues to be an issue so that needs to be kept in mind. This has a bearing on how you
design the product and experience. How much of that product you’re designing needs a
deep engagement, as well as elements like value and price. There’s a catch-22 situation
here because these elements of the product will still be in infancy – I don’t see a method
which a product company can use to address a market across the entire country. This is
where a lot of product companies fall into a gap because they might move to a partnership
model to sell to more people and this may not always be logical because a partner will
be interested in someone who has already created a market! A product company falls
into this gap where it sells to a few people, finds that it cannot reach out to more, gets
into a deeper engagement with the few customers it has and then loses the shape of the
product. Over the past 25 years, many product companies have morphed into service
companies because of this reason. Yes, environments have changed today: there’s
internet penetration, elements of communication have evolved and so product companies
should leverage this.

Read the Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.

Entering the Product Space – Shoaib Ahmed, Tally Solutions(Part 2 of 3)

You can read the Part 1 of the 3 series interview here.

Shoaib Ahmed, President of Tally Solutions, began his career as a retail
software developer in the early 90s. Formerly the Founder-Director of Vedha
Automations Pvt.Ltd, Mr. Ahmed was responsible for developing Shoper, a
market-leading retail business solution — and the first of its kind in India to
bring in barcoding to the retail space. The company was acquired by Tally
Solutions in 2005, where Shoper merged with the Tally platform to offer a
complete enterprise retail software suite. In the second of a three-part series,
Mr. Ahmed talks about product development in the B2B space and reaching out
to customers.

Why do you think we are seeing businesses that start off as a product
company become service entities?

This is where I see the need for educating customers: why should you buy our product,
what can you expect from our product and what shouldn’t you expect from our product?
More importantly, will the product solve your key issue and will it do it well? Unfortunately,
who is educating the customer about these aspects? It may be a service provider who is
interested in the service revenue only. So there’s a disconnect — there’s nobody who is
evangelizing the product and being a product champion in the small and medium business

What do you feel about having ‘pilot’ customers who can obtain the
product with an attractive offer like a reduced price?

I don’t think this is the right way of doing things. When you’re reaching out to customers,
it’s important to solve some of their key issues. To do this, you need information about a
particular profile of customers so very clear about who your customer is and what your
customer looks like to you. Now, if you want to get a large enough slice of the market
make sure you have experience with a complete set of customers — you cannot pilot
a semi-experience. You need to be able to engage with him and get your value from
him over the proposition you are making. This means measuring not only the product’s
effectiveness, but also measuring the quality of the sales pitch and that the service
capability and the service quality promise is being fulfilled.

You may decide in the first six months to choose a smaller customer set to target but
you’ll be measuring to see if all elements of your complete product experience are being
monitored for effectiveness or reviewed. This gives you an idea of scalability, since you
can then adopt an attractive pricing strategy with confidence. It can be an incremental
process, but unlike a pilot, you’re not only reaching out to a few customers and shaping
your product around them. With a pilot, the danger could be that the pilot customers are
early adopters who will view evangelizing you product amongst their peers as letting go of
a competitive advantage.

Do you think it’s a myth that it’s easier to develop B2C products rather
than B2B?

I think the success of Tally disproves this. Out of a potential 80 lakh businesses, nearly
40-45 lakh own computers. A large group use Tally for their business — nearly 90%
of the market. So, the constant need for us to deliver a value is critical and it’s also
important to keep communicating this value. If I as a business owner don’t see a value
in paying you for a product or service then I don’t, but increasingly in the connected
world a businessman understands that he can grow his business manifold by leveraging
technology. The information system now has to support him because he is in a connected
world so the game is changing.

In the B2C area, let’s look at the average individual : he has a higher disposal income and
is more exposed to technology. A lot of his day-to-day activities are done using technology
(like banking and filing returns). When he’s engaging with the rest of the world, he’s going
to expect a similar experience. This may act as a driving force for businesses to match
that : for example, can an individual get his doctor’s appointment online? If there is no
supporting eco-system for the the tool that the customer has, then even the greatest
online tool available to this customer can’t drive enough value. In my mind its critical that
business-to-business product development is on the system and the efficiencies have a
direct economic impact. For example, the average time for payment reconciliation in the
small business space is an average eight days. From a digital perspective, it should be
instantaneous. Just imagine the impact and velocity of commerce!

Interview Cont’d

Start of the Product Journey – Shoaib Ahmed, Tally Solutions(Part 1 of 3)

Shoaib Ahmed, President of Tally Solutions, began his career as a retail
software developer in the early 90s. Formerly the Founder-Director of Vedha
Automations Pvt.Ltd, Mr. Ahmed was responsible for developing Shoper, a
market-leading retail business solution — and the first of its kind in India to
bring in barcoding to the retail space. The company was acquired by Tally
Solutions in 2005, where Shoper merged with the Tally platform to offer a
complete enterprise retail software suite. In the first of a three-part series, Mr.
Ahmed talks about how and why he decided to develop a software product for
the retail space.

What was it like to develop a software product way back in the late
80’s – early 90’s? Would you say it required a lot of guts?

Well, at that point of time I think you could say we were a little mad! Back then there was
no money, there was nobody willing to fund us – there was hardly anyone even using a
computer. You need guts when you have clarity or visibility of a situation, but we didn’t
have that. For example, when Shoper was still in a nascent stage, we implemented it for
a retail customer with five stores. Now, we had to automate a manual system: this meant
taking each item, entering its details into the software, printing out a sticker and sticking
that on to the item – essentially counting each item twice. What we hadn’t bargained for
was that there were nearly 10,000 items in the store! We had no idea how long it would take, but we pulled it off despite facing some major hardware hurdles along the way.

To give you an example of the level of innovation employed, another customer wanted
barcoding at the POS stage — something which hadn’t been done in India before. So
then we found ourselves having to reverse engineer a dot matrix printer into printing out
a barcode with zero information (since there was no internet) and then using scanners
(located and bought in Hong Kong) to work with dot matrix printouts of 15,000-20,000
items in the store. So you need to be crazy because you’re often going to be working in

What was the rationale behind choosing to develop a product for the
retail space?

We felt that there was a clear opportunity for material inventory management. Perhaps its
because we also come from a community of retailers in Bangalore, so there was a natural
orientation towards the retail space. Without a system in place or a method of working,
inefficiencies are numerous. In hindsight, working with some of our larger clients who had
eight-ten stores each gave us a sense of what it takes to run a retail chain back in 1993.

Tell us about the talent involved in helping you develop this retail
software product.

I believe that the excitement of the product domain is the driving force. It’s the fact that you
can make an impact. I can tell you that guys who came in didn’t join us because they were
salary-driven. There’s this thrill that accompanies the thought of your product being used
by different people, and you’re not directly involved in the implementation. As a product
company, you are not in front of the customer: it’s possible that the customer himself using
the product or there’s a third-party who is installing or implementing the product. That’s the
big kick which acts as a motivating force.

Interview Cont’d  (Part 2 of 3)

Is your company dependent on Innovation? Grow the right Culture First! The rest will take care of itself!

There is a reason, Mark Zuckerberg sits right next to the Summer Intern from University of Waterloo (True Story – Daughter of an Indian friend of mine!). No separate office, no glass windows to look out of!

Sergei Brin and Larry Page are worried sick of “Not Enough Innovation” out of Google!

They all focus on building the right culture for their people so that they can out-innovate their best competitors in the world!

Netflix, Google, Facebook all encourage and even require their employees to engage about 25% of their time in some pet technical project of their own. Some of these turned out to be big money makers, many failed!

Their philosophy is that if you have not failed enough number of times, you are not trying hard enough!

It all goes back to the company culture you build from Day 1! I have done it a number of times putting together engineering groups in multiple companies in Silicon Valley and I have done the same thing in India! If anything it works even better in India, if it is any consolation! Employees loved it and so very highly motivated, especially if they came from other companies in India!

Do you view yourself as the Captain of the ship who just makes very high level decisions and leave your first officers and people who report to them alone to do their jobs? Do you trust them from Day 1 to make the right technical decisions, stepping in only to guide them if they are straying too much from your mission?

Many of us come from a technical background and as engineers, our first instinct is to jump in and make the right decisions for our employees. Wrong!

In other words, do you treat that employee who just joined you straight from college as an adult, expect a lot from them, make sure that they have the hardware and software tools and leave them alone to do their jobs?

High expectations does something magical! The same employee comes in on their own on saturdays and sundays to try out something they have been thinking about. It stops being work for them and becomes something they take ownership for!

Do you praise them in meetings for even minor accomplishments but correct things they do wrong in private?

Do you tell them everyday that you are depending upon them to contribute great ideas to the company, give them time to try them out?

Then you have the right culture for innovation!

However, there are other things that go into this culture working correctly! You need to spend a lot of time hiring ONLY the right people! Make no mistake – Silicon Valley, India or Timbuktu, only 5- 10% of any population are really really good and suitable for innnovative companies. Do you look through 100 resumes and filter out that 5 to 10%? The wrong people can make your innovation train go off the rails, right from the beginning!

You are saying – I am this small company in Chennai – I am competing for talent with Infosys, Wipro and others. How do I get that 5 to 10% cream of the crop.

Guess what? I have done that! Spread your search to Tier 2, Tier 3, Tier4 colleges. Go to Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai to hire. Simple science, really! If you are trying to hire the 5 – 10% of the best in a population, to increase your chances, you go to more populations. I hired two people from Delhi to come, work in Chennai. Did wonders for my employees. They learned how to help, interact with someone from another language, culture.

There is another reason how diversity helps your innovation. Men and Women think about the same problem differently. Punjabis think differently than South Indians. Assamese and Bengalis are different in thinking than Mumbaikars! All these differences are your real assets. Walk into facebook and Google, you will see employees that represent the United Nations. There is a reason to that madness! Innovation comes from thinking differently and people who solve the same problem in many different ways are your real assets, your keys to innovation!

If you encourage them, give them the broad direction, tools and step away to let them do their jobs, fail often but try different things nevertheless. Works in Silicon Valley, New York, Washington. Works even better in India, if you try it without skipping any of the ingredients.

You never realize how much the Indian work culture has borrowed all the wrong things from our British masters before us. Separate dining rooms for different levels of executives, the “Yes. Sir. No Sir” culture. This kind of thinking is more harmful to your goals than you think!

It can be changed. It all starts with a few companies that start doing it. I am sure there are many companies in India that already do it actively today and are seeing the results.

Culture is often pooh-poohed as something touchy-feely stuff and not suitable for a goal oriented, task oriented company. It is everything in a startup, especially one that wants to Innovate!

Fullerton India – Revolutionizing India

At a time when “Cloud” was still a buzz word and “Platform as a Service” as a category didn’t exist, Fullerton India was looking  for the next generation computing technology to help them build business applications faster, cheaper, better.  Fullerton India stumbled across OrangeScape Platform (formerly known as DimensionN). They realized that the conventional approach to build a whole host of of application in the “White Space” area will be heavily time consuming taking anywhere between 30 to 90 days for an application.

And, added to that complexity, these applications change every other week and change management becomes a huge challenge. OrangeScape helped Fulllerton to fill this gap by providing a platform approach not only to build these new applications, workflows as per their business process but also to frequently upgrade them as the business need changes. Listen to Pramod!

Mr. Pramod Krishnamurthy who as EVP – Technology (2005 – 2010) at Fullerton India Credit Corporation Ltd. (FIC) talks about his discovery of OrangeScape and how he adopted our platform which ultimately resulted in their IT team building business apps faster than they would have done in the traditional mode.

Pramod shares more on this success story over a video here and ends with a message to his peers on cloud adoption and working along with emerging companies. Pramod is currently CTO at Birla Sun Life Insurance.

Watch the Video on the Organgescape blog

Introducing #alpha: Showcase For Your Product Or Startup At The #NAMA Conference

We’re pleased to announce #alpha, a product and startup showcase at our flagship conference #NAMA, being held on October 10th 2012, at The Westin in Gurgaon.

While #NAMA is largely going to be about in depth conversations about the digital industry in India and the road ahead, in a 20 minute Q&A format (and 10 minutes for an audience Q&A), we also want some fresh (and great) products and fresh business ideasto be showcased.

Why #alpha

With #alpha, we want to achieve two things – try and dispel the notion that India is not a market with great products or one for innovation, and that innovation happens only in startups.

It needs to be unique, fresh and interesting – the alpha product or alpha startup (and alpha as in top-of-the-gene-pool, not half-done-readying-for-beta). Brownie points if you choose #alpha as the platform to announce/launch your product or announce you business.

So whether you’re a startup or a large company, if you’ve build a great product that you think will wow #NAMA attendees and MediaNama readers, we’ll give you the opportunity to showcase the product. If you’re a startup with a fresh and interesting business idea and and you want to announce your launch, we’ll give you the platform.

You can fill out the form for #alpha at

The last date for submission is 19th of September 2012.

Please be as detailed as possible and sincere about what are the features of the product. We’ll need to see the product (see a demo, see screenshots) and speak with you before taking a decision on featuring the product at #alpha. If you’re selected – and the decision is very subjective – we will need to be involved to curate your short talk as well.

TechSparks 2012 Unveils the Top 30 Tech Product Startups from India

TechSparks, the flagship event of, the biggest tech product startup showcase in India, is now in its 3rd edition. The Grand Finale of TechSparks 2012 was held in Bangalore on September 8th, after the 5 roundtables which were conducted in Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Hyderabad over a period of 4 months. Techsparks 2012 was presented by Intel in association with Amazon Web Services, Qualcomm, Sequoia Capital, CNBC TV 18 Young Turks and VentureBeat.

Registering more than 800 applications to become a TechSpark, the response was overwhelming and the jury comprising of investors, successful entrepreneurs, industry experts and the Yourstory team had a tough time shortlisting the top 30. Applications were received from all over the country and the diversity was immense. From education to healthcare to cleantech, there were companies in every sector with a common motive – leveraging technology to build great businesses.

The Techsparks 2012 Grand Finale had the theme “The Smartest Way to Scale Up” and the entire day was organized around that. Starting with an introduction from Shradha Sharma, founder of, the high-on-adrenaline event was given a huge pump by RJ Sriram and DJ Dhruva maintaining the tempo. Shradha’s introduction was followed by an in-depth keynote by Shailendra Singh, MD of Sequoia Capital, who outlined some of the most important factors for ‘Building a Business’. The ensuing Panel Discussion was a highly engaging one with audience actively participating in the discussion. The Panel consisted of Narendra Bhandari (Director, Intel Software and Services Group – Developer Relations (Asia-Pacific)); Shailendra Singh (MD, Sequoia Capital); Gautam Gandhi (Head – New Business Development Emerging Markets, Google); Joe Ziegler (AWS Evangelist for Australia and New Zealand); M. Maheshwar Rao, IAS (Commissioner for Industrial Development and Director of Industries and Commerce, Govt. of Karnataka); Dr. Wido Menhardt (Vice President, Head, Philips Innovation Campus) and was moderated by Ravi Gururaj (Vice President, Cloud Platforms Group, Citrix).

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Techcircle SaaS Forum 2012 announces top 10 SaaS startups in India

If there is one area within the new-age technology that is red hot right now, it is software-as-a-service or SaaS – both in terms of startup activity and as a tool for entrepreneurs to build a low-cost business from scratch. has come up with a listing of India’s top 10 emerging SaaS companies who have shown significant market traction, created unique products or services that can disrupt existing markets and most importantly, have a very high potential to make it big in the coming years. The listing has been compiled by a distinguished jury comprising Shailendra Singh, MD, Sequoia Capital; Manik Arora, MD, IDG Ventures and Mukund Mohan, an active angel investor. These 10 companies have also showcased their products during Techcircle Runway at Techcircle SaaS Forum 2012, in Bangalore on Aug 31. Here are brief notes on the 10 startups (note: this not a ranking, the companies are arranged in alphabetical order).

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Untested ideas to increase the effectiveness of your B2B newsletter

What does a typical B2B newsletter look like? An announcement from the company talking about the latest feature. A featured blog post with a link to read more and a list of other “must-read” blog posts. New success stories, white papers and how-to videos. And upcoming events, webinars and job openings in some cases. It pretty much sums up everything the company wants the recipient to know. But what makes the recipient take more than a 3-sec glimpse at the newsletter when he is sifting through tens, if not hundreds, of emails? Wouldn’t he rather hit your website at a time convenient to him and learn all of it from there? What can you do to increase the open rate and time spent with your newsletter? Here are two untested ideas, more simply just ideas, to increase the overall effectiveness of your email newsletter.

How about writing an article exclusively for the newsletter as its main story? The article doesn’t go up on your blog or get tucked away in the resources section after the newsletter goes out, not even after a fortnight. It is for the newsletter and stays just there. If the reader misses it, he misses it. Tell people about the exclusivity when they are signing up for the newsletter. Also, make sure this article teaches the recipient at least 23 new ways of doing his job better. So if you are selling an email marketing solution (how meta I know) give him tips on how to break through the inbox clutter, or how QR codes can be used to get super busy people to sign up for the newsletter. In addition to increasing the open rate of your newsletter, the exclusive content also primes the space for a big bang when you announce a new product.

Now what about the case where your newsletter hits the inbox at a time when the recipient doesn’t want anything to do with email marketing? How can you get him to at least glance through the newsletter and come back to it later if he finds something of interest? How about having a cartoon strip that takes a dig at the jargons used in the email marketing space? Or a meme bringing forth epic email marketing fails? Maybe an email marketing version of Clients from Hell? Anything that gives the reader a quick chuckle yet is relevant to your industry. And if you are funny enough, he might pass around the newsletter to colleagues and friends just for the funnies, who knows?

Over to you. Do you think these ideas will work for you? What else have you tried to increase the effectiveness of your newsletter?

Original Post can be accessed at

CEO Attributes for Leading a Company from Launch to Success

Editor’s Note: InnovizeTech Software and its product, Sapience, is an early leader in India’s emerging software products story. Earlier in his career, InnovizeTech’s CEO and co-founder Shirish Deodhar founded two IT services companies, which had successful exits to Symantec Corp. and Symphony Services. Deodhar is also the author of the book, “From Entrepreneurs to Leaders.” In this article, he shares with SandHill readers his insights on personal attributes that are necessary for a CEO to lead a company from launch to mid-stage to success.

InnovizeTech Software is based in Pune, India, and started operations in early 2009. Its product, Sapience (meaning wisdom, astuteness and the intellectual ability to penetrate deeply into ideas), helps companies to increase work output by 15-20 percent – without requiring any change in existing processes. It’s a patent-pending, award-winning solution and the first such product that is designed for the enterprise. It gives managers the “big picture” about work effort while respecting and protecting individual privacy. Sapience is available in a SaaS model for SMBs and supports on-premise installation for select large customers.

Four key attributes of successful early stage CEOs

Success as a CEO is not guaranteed. The best CEOs may fail, and someone not as good may get lucky. Still, there are four personal attributes and mindsets that I believe are crucial for becoming a successful CEO.

1. Integrity and optimism

You will be selling your vision to co-founders, employees, investors and customers. The actual product may end up being very different from the initial concept. Earning and retaining people’s trust through the inevitable transitions is possible only if the CEO’s integrity is self-evident in his/her communications and actions on a continuing basis.

A successful CEO must be optimistic. This does not mean a blind belief that everything will go well or pretending that everything is okay when it may not be. It is more an attitude of “Let’s get on with things, know where we are, and change what is not working.” This requires honest and comprehensive communication at all times and ensuring that it reaches everyone.

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The Product Business is Like the Movie Business

I read the cover story in Forbes on the success of Dropbox, which is set to do about $240 million in sales in 2011, with only 70 employees. As Forbes points out, that is about 3x the revenue per employee of Google, which is no slouch in the revenue per employee department itself. First, congratulations, Dropbox! This is the type of breathtaking number that makes the ordinarily successful companies like, well, Zoho, to wonder “What are we doing wrong?”

In our 15 year history in Zoho Corporation – which is bigger than the Zoho product suite itself – we have shipped over 70 products, of which we would say about 30 have been successful in the sense of being nicely profitable. Yet, even with that group of 30 products, we have seen the 10x effect: a set of two products that have taken approximately the same amount of effort to build, by similarly situated teams, yet one of them does 10x the sales of the other, with both of them being profitable. Of course the 10-bagger is much more profitable but the key point is that both of them could be counted as successful in the sense of being profitable. We have even seen 100x difference for approximately the same effort, but in our case, that is the difference between doing only $100K a year in sales vs $10 million a year, and I would not count that as 100x because the $100K product either grows up or we would eventually discontinue it because it is not profitable.

Dropbox is a logical extension of this phenomenon, where a product does 100x the sales, without taking much more by way of engineering effort than a profitable 1x product. And then the grand daddy of them all – Google search, which in its heyday reached $1 billion in sales, on not much more than the effort of a single engineering team – the headcount gets added later to diversify the company but the original search was a small team. I believe there has only been one Google search so far, so the ordinarily successful (ahem!) shouldn’t feel too bad.

Y Combinator, which has funded over 300 companies so far, is a perfect illustration. All these teams are similarly situated, with similar founder profiles and they all get similar initial funding, and they spend similar initial effort. If we consider only the universe of profitable YC companies, my guess is that so far there is only one 100-bagger i.e Dropbox, in the YC portfolio. Based on Zoho experience, I would estimate YC has about ten 10-baggers, and about fifty one-baggers (i.e just about profitable).

Welcome to the product business, which looks very much like the movie business!

How Capillary Technologies Became a Top Provider of Retail End-to-End Customer Engagement Solutions

Editor’s Note: Launched in 2008, Capillary Technologies is India’s largest provider of end-to-end customer engagement solutions for retailers. Co-founder and CEO Aneesh Reddy discusses the company strategy, tradeoffs in the race to market, and the advice he follows. Please describe your company’s product and differentiation.

Aneesh Reddy: Capillary provides end-to-end customer engagement solutions powered by cloud + mobile + social technology to retailers and consumer-facing businesses. Our focus is on high-quality data capture, actionable analytics, instant cross-sell solutions, and instant gratification to generate a far higher ROI on customer engagement for retailers.

Our flagship product is called !nTouch, a cloud-based CRM solution, which is integrated with billing and point-of-sale outlets of retail chains. Using !nTouch, SMEs can access and use purchase data to entice buyers with loyalty programs and discounts. Last year we launched another product, TruTouch, which is an easy-to-use, self-serve style product for SME retailers.

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