The Indian IT industry is over $100bn, but still struggles in creating global IT products. While there has been the occasional Tally, Ramco, or Finacle, there is not much else. One critical reason I attribute this to is that Indian IT companies do not really understand how Product Management can create long term customer value and business sustainability. While one can argue that there have been more of these companies in the last 5 years (Livemint: Tech Startups), the next 5 years will determine whether India has actually created global products.
Most Indian companies view product management as either of these: Product development, delivery (or project) management, and marketing (or marketing communications).
Role 1: Product Development: Great at problem solving, developers are expected to provide insights on what they believe the customer wants, and create products based on their understanding. Let’s admit, very few developers are comfortable socializing with customers (aka Raj Koothrapalli – awkwardness multiplied a few times). I have often encountered developers spending hours defining products, with limited idea on how the customer environments actually are (a few minutes meeting customers would have saved those hours). The smarter ones are able to engage with customers, but put them in front of a business strategy plan, and things slow down again. BTW, this may work for startups, where the founder often has a clear intuition about the idea, but when they have to scale revenues up (to new customers or increased wallet share of existing customers), most struggle.
Role 2: Delivery (or Project) Management: They engage with customers and internal teams, to co-ordinate schedules and resources. However, expecting them to gather requirements because they are engaged with customers, based on which products are created, is better suited for an IT services delivery, not for sustainable product IP creation. Today, most Indian SI companies are struggling as they attempt to create product IP and value, because of this belief and expectation from delivery managers to “productize” based on customer specific projects.
|Delivery and Services Approach|
Role 3: Marketing (or Marketing Communications): Marketing teams are definitely engaged with the market, but most are focused on lead generation and marketing communications, and the execution of those plans, rather than gather actual feedback. Thus, what we get are customer leads, with very little investment in market research aligned with direct customer engagement. Recall the last time you attended an IT vendor’s event, and exchanged business cards with their marketing person – I can’t!
As long as Indian IT companies continue to depend solely on one of the above to help create long term products, they are going to struggle in creating global products, and building the valuations that Apple / Microsoft / Google / Salesforce (and many others) have.
I end with my definition of Product Management – engagement with the market and customers, through multiple channels, to understand stated and unstated needs, analyze the potential opportunities, align with corporate strategy, and work with sales, marketing, and development teams, to translate the needs into a multi year product roadmap, eventually creating products that customers desire (read Apple, though the approach may have been slightly different 🙂 )
If your current teams are geared and empowered to do this effectively, time and again, then you maybe in the right direction to be hailed as an Indian product company (if not already) soon.