#BootUpINDIA – Giving Independence to Indian Startups!

Being Independent is a fundamental right of all living being. But, as entrepreneurs and startups, when we face tons of challenge and deal with sheer hardship we end up submitting to various ideas that may or may not resemble our need.

Think about why you become an entrepreneur in the first place –  what is it that you wanted to solve and how you are creating value. The support system around us tends to make us believe that there is always one way to excel. So we start with a dream and then end up getting formated to a belief that we never subscribed to.

As an entrepreneur I wanted to build a business and I wanted to make money. But creating value has been always on top of my head. Solving a real problem and finding someone to pay for it is not such a hard thing, as long as you stay with the problem instead of dreaming to become rich overnight. There is no shortcut to success. There is no easy path.

So Bootstrappers, rejoice!

Finally, there is something for you that celebrates your independence.

BootUpINDIA is for you. So, spread the word. Get your friends to apply.


BootUpINDIA is the result of intense internal discussions within iSPIRT. Check out how we think about these issues and sharpen our thinking about making the ecosystem better in this video

Happy Independence Day! BootUpINDIA today!


Budget reaffirms Government’s desire to Transform India into a Product Nation

We are delighted that the Finance Minister singled out the Software Product Industry for mention in his budget speech today. This is momentous… the identity we have been so seeking especially in the corridors of power was finally articulated this morning in the highest legislative body of the land – the Indian Parliament.

We’d like to highlight four things.

  • First, the thumping endorsement that came from the Hon’ble Minister of IT and Communications Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad during his visit to Bangalore (July 1, 2014) where he spent a couple of hours with iSPIRT and the Software Product Industry and minced no words in lending the Government’s support to the Software Product Industry cannot be underplayed (link to video).
  • Second, the specific text of Section 62 of the budget speech (just 10 days after Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad’s supportive visit) that focuses on digital India and the “imminent need to bridge the divide between digital “haves” and “have-nots” is noteworthy. The key highlight, of course is the statement about the “special focus on software product startups”.
  • Third, Section 103 of the budget speech which states: “In order to create a conducive eco-system for venture capital in the MSME sector it is proposed to establish a Rs. 10,000 crore fund to act as a catalyst to attract private capital by way of providing equity, quasi equity, soft loans and other risk capital for start-up companies”. Another boost by the Government for start-ups. Clearly the Government has its priorities straight.
  • Fourth, the taxation issue. Though there was no mention and we were certainly hoping to get a resolution to our issues of dual taxation (VAT and Service Tax) on software products as well as the issue of TDS deduction on software product payments, there is an intent to simplify and rationalise the tax regime with the proposal to set up an industry-CBDT/CBEC interaction committee that will look into industry specific issues and work to resolve them. We will of course take our issues to this proposed committee and remain hopeful that our issues will be addressed.

Meanwhile, various iSPIRT volunteers have shared their views on the budget with the media and these reactions are summarized here. Please spread the word about this to everybody in the software product industry.

Though we could have hoped for more, I think the consistent policy advocacy in recent past and the hard work put in by various spirited iSPIRT members have brought us to where we are today. The stage is now for ours to play on. Let’s make it happen.

A big thank you for being part of this movement,


Presenting the iSPIRT Volunteer Model

Last few years have been very instrumental in making iSPIRT what it is today. A lot of thought had gone into creation of this movement.  We thought it is a good idea to retrace the movement to its origins and codify the model with which we operate on.  The whitepaper at the end of this blog post details the model.

This whitepaper describes the foundational principles, operating practices and culture of this network. This is the volunteer model that underpins the network and (through it) all actions of it. The whitepaper is for public consumption and will be available in public space for other organizations to emulate if they see the merit in these models.

There are two foundational principles. The first one is that this volunteer network is pulled by passion and pushed by program management. Both are essential for success. The passion signifies a strong sense of mission and cause. Program management converts that energy into feasible actions and tangible results. Sustainability of the network comes from its ability to get things done. The second principle puts the “challenges” at the center of network. We expect the volunteers to become part of the network not for glory, but for being part of addressing a shared challenge. The bond generated out of working on something bigger than oneself is what binds this network together.

Operating practices describe how to define a challenge, select volunteers, onboard them, and manage the project. They also describe the assessment of projects, the overall work program, volunteers and the network.

Finally, there is a strong culture within the network. While no document can completely capture any organizational culture, key behaviors that have shaped the network are described here.  The culture holds the volunteers together and creates a strong bond needed to deal with challenges.

Hope this paper will be useful for people creating similar structures across the various communities.

iSPIRT Seeks Technology Intern(s)

banner-who-we-areiSPIRT has over 40+ volunteers who belong to different organizations. The volunteers are working on many initiatives that are complex, need a lot of analysis/thinking, experimentation, and outcomes take time. Currently, iSPIRT internal communication and interaction has been happening via email, google docs, attachments, etc. The current set of tools have worked so far, but, we need a comprehensive toolset for iSPIRT to be able to manage its internal needs.

iSPIRT is looking for a platform that helps in 5 areas:

a)    Managing volunteers, expansion of volunteers, and creating sub-groups of the same.

b)   Managing information about product companies – mini CRM.

c)    Managing initiatives, projects, tasks, and discussions around them by a group of volunteers.

d)   Critical decision making, polls, and feedback online

e)    Information management – presentations, docs, info graphics, spreadsheets, etc.


The intern or volunteer must come from a product/technology background and understand iSPIRT requirements, catalogue them, and identify a product that can be used for this purpose. If possible, facilitate the deployment of the solution among a test group initially and expand into all iSpirt participants. Ability to work independently is a must. Familiarity with open source tools is a plus.

Who should consider this internship

Volunteers who take on this gets an opportunity to work with the top executives of various companies, VCs, Angel investors, entrepreneurs, marketing specialists, sales specialists, and overall highly energetic engaging volunteers in India. Those who are in between jobs or those who are starting out their own startup, would be ideal to get their feet wet and build their network in the startup eco-system.


Bangalore or Delhi


We are open to both full-time and part-time interns. The expected duration is 3 calendar months and the total effort may be around 25 hours.

How to Apply

Please send your detailed resume with cover letter explaining your motivation for undertaking this internship to avinash(at)ispirt.in by 28th April 2014.

After the Internship

At the completion of the internship, you’ll get a letter of work experience. You’ll also get a chance to network with industry leaders that are iSPIRT Founder Circle Donors, Fellows, Mavens and Saarthis.

Next 20 Finalists: #InTech50 Most Innovative Products from India

After announcing the first 20 companies, we are pleased to announce the next 20 finalists for InTech50 – Most Innovative Products from India.

Picking just 50 finalists from over two hundred wonderful products was one of the most challenging jobs for our iSPIRT panel of selectors this year. We have been narrowing and narrowing the choice until we got down to 50 great products.  

Although selecting 50 was really daunting, yet it was greatly satisfying to appreciate so many innovative products from young and innovative startups. The names of the next 20 finalists (in alphabetical order) are:

  • a-mantra is a web based integrated facility management software that is developed in a modular architecture by Satnav Technologies. Asset Management controls the assets and its location. Fixed assets, IT assets and consumable assets can be managed using asset management.
  • Aujas Networks: Digital technology makes informative content easier to find, access, manipulate and remix, and to disseminate. Aujas’ Secure Digital Content Solution helps companies prevent unauthorized usage of digital content.
  • BrandIdea Enterprise Market Analytics™ is a SaaS-based, self-service, Business Intelligence enterprise tool for the FMCG vertical, aimed at the business user. It is powered with in-built granular information on Demographics, Income, Economic, Category and Micro data. It overlays the Client’s internal data to drive insights across – Market Potential, Media, Distribution & Sales for any geographical area in India.
  • Capillary Technologies suite of Intelligent Customer Engagement™ solutions enables businesses to capture and analyze data on customer behavior and shopping preferences through digital and mobile channels. Capillary’s customer engagement solutions enable merchants to provide real-time personalized recommendations to shoppers and allow merchants to offer relevant promotions across any channel of choice.
  • CloudByte offers solutions built for cloud and virtualized environments. CloudByteElastiStorTM is a full-featured storage software product that provides dynamically selectable performance to each application or tenant by continuously monitoring and adjusting key storage performance characteristics including IOPS, throughput, and latency.
  • The Ezetap solution is an end-to-end service that includes a mobile card-reader, a configurable mobile application and a flexible platform that allows Ezetap or any third party to build and turn on value-added services that are tightly integrated to its core payment service.
  • Hoverr.me is a native advertising platform that leverages eyeballs over celebrity photographs in the content publisher websites and redirect it to the E-commerce stores. The computer vision technology fetches similar looking clothes from e-commerce stores and provides it when someone hovers over the celebrity image and encourages instant buy option.
  • iViZ is the first company in the world to take ethical hacking to the cloud. iViZ has built a unique Artificial Intelligence based technology to simulate a human hacker which shows all the permutations and combinations of possible attacks and defenses against a hacker. The technology has already received a patent in USPTO and multiple other patents are under review.
  • LocoBuzz is an award winning Social Media Analytics and engagement platform, which offers unparalleled workflows along with insightful visualization of the digital chatter. LocoBuzz is a tool for brand reputation management, Lead Generation Analytics and Infographics.
  • Nanobi Analytics is a next generation analytics platform built with a highly scalable cloud based architecture. The nanobi analytics platform enables end-to-end capabilities for delivering analytics starting from push/pull data through a variety of interfaces, through to quick/instant data visualization. Its REST architecture enables a seamless API based connect to any other cloud platform or data source, for easy integration and data interface.
  • Ozonetel Systems: CloudAgent is India’s first Multi-Channel Cloud Contact Center which enables SMEs to set up their sales/support agents on a plug & play basis. It is a browser based system which operates on PSTN Cloud and calls for zero hardware and software installation at agent side.
  • ShieldSquare: For online business (classifieds,news/content portals, Ecommerce/marketplaces, Travel Sites), scraping of content by un-authorized bots is becoming a major concern that is affecting the competitiveness of the business. ShieldSquare uses big data analytics to block bots/scrapers in real-time there by increasing the traffic, revenues of the online business as well as cut costs in terms of infrastructure, resources.
  • Stelae Technologies: It offers content transformation software, creating structured, indexed, searchable and enriched output from unstructured content in multiple formats like PDF, ASCII, Word, HTML etc. This enables customers to re-utilize the information on multiple supports like print, web, hand-held devices etc. and store in easy to retrieve archives and make it readily available to their users, cost effectively and rapidly.
  • Pawaa has built a technology platform that secures files and documents. The technology can be seamlessly integrated with any application or use case and allows exchange of files securely. The platform is unique as it overcomes the limitations of encryption on enterprise, mobile and cloud.
  • Qubole Data Service (QDS) provides a Big Data Platform in the AWS and GCE clouds. Our award-winning cloud-optimized and auto-scaling Hadoop technology allows customers to run Hadoop in a cost-effective manner in the Cloud. Its user Interface make it simple for data analysts to use big data technologies like Hive, Pig and Sqoop, Presto and Oozie to integrate and analyze data from a variety of sources.
  • Thinkflow Software: Available on-cloud and on-premise, Thinkflow apps platform is helping enterprise app developers build business applications faster. The platform has modules to create process flows, create alerts, configure business rules, design forms, digitize documents and an inbuilt module for business process analytics.
  • Thinxtream: It offers PrintJinni – Consumer Printing Apps on iOS, Android, RIM platforms offering great quality, accuracy, wireless printing to any vendor’s printer. It also supports email, photos, PDF files, Microsoft® Office docs, Webpages and more. It is available in all major languages worldwide.
  • TouchMagix: MotionMagix™ Interactive wall/floor, a gesture based tracking technology lends any wall or floor the qualities of motion-sensing. The vibrant and customizable high resolution content responds to the consumer movements and encourages further interaction. A wall/floor projected advertisement/game can react as and when customers approach the zone.
  • Unmetric: Its product offers the ability to collect, interpret and take action on information – regardless of business field. Its offering are focused on providing social media teams. This provides the ability to understand and distill insights from competitive and complementary brands that are active on social channels like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc.
  • VoxApp is a mobile survey product used by brands and research companies to get consumer feedback and on-ground market information in real time. In India, of the data collected for brand tracking, retail audits, stock/sales tracking, the bulk are executed on paper/ laptops with issues of data quality and turnaround time that are solved by using VoxApp’s mobile data collection platform.

About InTech:  InTech50, a joint initiative by iSPIRT and Terrene Global Leadership Network that recognizes most promising software products by India’s entrepreneurs.

The elected products that represent inspirational and pioneering concepts in software will be showcased at InTech50, a two-day event to be held at Bangalore from April 9 -10, 2014, where global CIOs and transformation leaders will be present.

(Check out the First 20 Finalists: #InTech50 Most Innovative Products from India. Stay tuned for the last 10 companies which we plan to announce shortly.)

Happy B’day ProductNation, We are One year Young

Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin. ― Mother Teresa.

ProductNation is today, one year young. Yes! One year. It didn’t seem too long ago when I was contemplating putting a blog together to showcase Indian Product companies. It all started as a passion project at the One97 office with the support of Vijay Shekhar Sharma; it was something I wanted to do for a long time. Having worked for almost eight years with the Product eco-system, I wanted to connect and contribute in a small way to the project building India as a ProductNation. I wanted to build something which allowed product people to share their experiences. I did bounce off the idea with a few of my friends, evangelists of the Product Industry and I had spontaneous commitment from many of them.

I always like to read and understand the successes of product entrepreneurs, which include some inspiring stories, the challenges faced by them and how they have been able to address global markets. These are the stories which will inspire a new generation of product companies from India, and indeed, it’s been a wonderful journey, for me personally, as well as for the people who have been involved. 

Here’s what ProductNation is today – 

  • We are home to 400-odd blog posts here in 50+ categories such as Product Management, Reviews of Products, Design, Eco-system, Funding, GotoMarketing and so on.
  • We have featured 110+ product companies on the site.
  • We do 5 blogs every week – Monday to Friday at 11am and once in a while do a blog on Saturdays.
  • There are 75+ contributors who actively contribute articles and share their own learning’s here. Many of them help me do the Product Reviews, interviews with Product Companies and the like.
  • We have started #PNHangouts where we have conversations with Product Managers.
  • We started out with sending newsletters twice a month, but now with so much of content coming up, we schedule the newsletters thrice a month (5th, 15th and 25th).  You can access the past issues here and subscribe to the newsletter here. We have sent out 53+ newsletters so far
  • We have 80+ Posts on Product Management
  • 18+ Playbook RoundTables which have been covered on the site
  • A vibrant community with 500+ members and 50+ conversations
  • More to come…stay tuned 🙂


ProductNation is the result of a collective effort, and I’m grateful to all the evangelists who have spent enormous efforts in contributing and in making what ProductNation is today! When I started, it was just me and my passion. Today, I have a large “virtual” team and many evangelists who truly believe in the movement. I do get many people who compliment me on the content and the regular updates that they get from the site. There are many who are silently observing the movement and I’m sure will jump in soon. 

ProductNation was one of the first steps in the formation of iSPIRT(Indian Software Product Industry RoundTable) – a think-tank with a difference to transform India into a hub for new generation software products. So here’s the deal. We need to put India on the global software product map. We need to do it soon. Come, join us.

The push for products

By investing in the product marketplace, India will do the same leapfrog as it did with the mobile revolution. 

Recently I had the opportunity to witness the silent revolution that is taking off in India – a revolution that has been overshadowed (and somewhat suppressed) by the media-popular IT giants!

For a long time I have wondered why the IT giants with so much intellectual capital and knowledge had not invested in building products.  Most of these giants had smart folks who worked on endemic problems and were focused on solving them through service contracts. My queries to senior executives in IT giants were always met with one of the following answers:

    • not part of their niche,
    • not easily understood by analysts who closely watched their quarters,
    • they did not want their customers to feel that they were capitalizing on  knowledge gained through services to address the problems differently, and
    • did not have the rich domain experience.


My personal perception was that the reality was different.  They could guarantee (not just generate) a positive ROI with an incoming professional in six months. Investment in products required long term thought process and needed a completely different kind of entrepreneurial thinking.  More importantly it needed leadership that had an entrepreneurial mindset based on conviction and risk-taking.

In November of 2012 I had the opportunity to attend the Product Conclave of NASSCOM in Bangalore and it opened my eyes to a different India!  I got to see a level of passion that I had never seen before. I got to see the edge folks – folks who had worked in the domain in large companies and realized the drudgery of some of the maintenance work that they were doing.  While the vast majority were comfortable carrying on there were some folks in there who had the mind-set of “change-agents”.  They were not satisfied with simply doing the work – they wanted to get to the root issue and solve/eliminate the need for the problem.  They conceived thoughts and ideas on how they could solve the domain issue in a better way.  They aspired to replace the increasing labor costs with much better ways of doing things.  They were ready to eliminate their jobs completely but that did not fit the revenue model of large IT service companies.

These folks then did the next thing that “change-agents” do – shock everyone around them by giving up titles, safe corporate jobs and took the plunge.  They started working towards creating products that would satisfy a market need.

As per latest statistics, the total revenue of the product companies from India is currently over U.S.$2.0 Billion, from approximately 3,400 companies in the software and electronics/semiconductor industry.  When I dug into the demographics, the number of companies shocked me first, I had no idea about the same.  The revenue seemed fairly small as it works out to an average of $600K per company.   Also there seemed to be a concentration issue with 51% of the companies located in the NCR and Bangalore region.

In my personal opinion, by investing in the product marketplace, India will do the same leapfrog as it did with the mobile revolution.  It will truly democratize the software industry very quickly and let people shape their own destiny versus becoming part of the eco-system where you have to spend years to display shoulder badges of experience.  The biggest barrier is currently created by large behemoths to protect their territory.  They have service portfolios to do work, using labor at hourly charge out rates versus the paradigm shift of product folks that will either eliminate or dramatically reduce the need for the same.   Product evangelists are creating a different world that is moving away from “status quo” and coming up with new and different ways of doing things.  They are the “game-changers”.

Since the Product Conclave in November, I have seen the establishment of iSPIRT, a trade organization that is supported and focused on product portfolio companies.   It allows the product companies to build the eco-system that is required to support and enrich their environment with necessary supporting infrastructure.   Along with my colleague Greg Toebbe, I have also attended a session in February, 2013 on product start-ups wherein we were introduced to some innovative and creative technologies that had relevance to our requirements.

In this fast-paced, globally networked business environment, businesses are continuing to seek disruptive technologies that give them the competitive edge.  They are not just looking for smarter and more effective ways to do existing work but different and innovative business models that support their continued evolution in the marketplace.  They are not just looking to sell products but to engage customers in the experience – they are not looking for a sale, but a well understood and strong relationship with the customer.   Entrepreneurs need to ensure that their solutions are not constrained by the paradigm of “always have done it this way” but are “tectonic shifts” to the way of doing business.  They need to address not silo issues, but address them from a customer centric model.  They do not need to focus on big-data, mobility, social, etc., as buzz-words, but to provide solutions that provide the customer an engaging experience.   They should not get enamored by technology trends and their personal technology biases, but focus on the experience and convenience being desired by the millennial workforce participant.  By 2020, half the global workforce will be millennial and the new business models are not expected to come from the current large companies.

In the new world, businesses realize that the days of buying everything from the perceived “safe” companies is no longer the decision that will sustain them – they will buy best-of-breed from the smarter solution companies that treat the world as flat.  The power will not be in individual solutions, but the network of best-of-breed solutions.   Large companies with multi-year implementation timelines and businesses that seek to automate existing processes will not be the winners of the new world.  Solutions will have to nimble with the cycle from pilot to deployment being short followed by continued innovation.   Sales cycle will have to be supportive of the same and a long-term annuity of fixed maintenance will not be the driver; ease of use, usage metrics, continued innovation and overall satisfaction will be the new factors that will play into maintenance annuity.

So for all the product folks – my hats off to you!  My only advice would be to not be discouraged by the challenges that come along the way.  Do not care when people say “I told you so”, do not worry if you do not have all the skills to make it happen, do not worry if it takes a little longer that what you thought.  You are the “change-agent” for the revolution that needs to take place and if India has 50 percent of the world’s IT workforce, then it is time that they produce world class products!

120+ companies in 120 days – Come join the movement to revolutionize India’s Software Product Landscape

iSPIRT’s roundtables create a buzz in the Indian software product community. Shehjar Tikoo doesn’t like conferences and seminars. The entrepreneur of e-commerce enabler Unbxd finds them boring and one sided. But all that changed when he attended the iSPIRT roundtable on Product Management in Bangalore. Says Shehjar, “I liked the fact that the audience was very carefully chosen as were the facilitators. The discussion was very healthy and I came away with some great learning. In fact, I still refer to my notes and each time it has something new to say to me.”

iSPIRT is known for bucking the trend. At the heart of the iSPIRT movement is the spirit of democracy. So just like decisions are made collectively and jointly, roundtables are whiteboarded and collaborative. It’s a joint learning exercise for both facilitators (note they are not speakers) and participants (not delegates).

Says Aneesh Reddy, Capillary Technologies, “It took couple of calls to talk about the challenges of product companies and the team defined three problem areas  – Product Management, Sales & Positioning & Messaging. The format was very clear in the minds of everyone – peer learning where founders come and do a deep dive, the objective was to create a cancer survivor network model for product start-ups.”

The first playbook Roundtable went on for around 260 minutes and attendees spent another 30 minutes outside the office networking.

“Round tables are a great way for teams, entrepreneurs to cross learn about the best things that worked in their scenarios and some of it can be implemented and experimented by other startups too, cross learning from startups is essential for this ecosystem to build and am glad iSPIRT round tables do exactly that.”, said Vijay Sharma of Exotel.

Since the first program on April 4, iSPIRT  has covered more than 120+ product companies (up to August 3). While the impact of the programs is slowly percolating the software product initiatives of different companies, what has proven an instantaneous hit is the format of community learning – for founders, by founders – little wonder it’s called a [Playbook] roundtable!

Product RoundTable Bangalore @ Vizury Office

We had some very good hosts @ Vizury office and also joined by their product folks Shiju and Subra for the Product Round table that was organized last Friday. The other awesome people who were part of the event were Siddharth Ramesh (Exotel), Jose (Weavedin), Vinay Simha (Dfy Graviti), Sridhar (ex-Inmobi), Avinash Raghava (Product Nation), Nari Kannan (The man with experience of over 7 startups and currently working on a project for Barack Obama), Anjali (Capillary), Chandra (i7networks), Santosh Panda (Explara), Venkatesh (Insieve), Pandith (Impelsys).

The discussions revolved around 3 things in Product:
1. How to track growth & health of a product or Product Metrics
2. Product v/s Sales (When to listen to customer and sales person and building the feature)
3. Product Marketing

and 2 small sessions of Santosh explaining his re-branding story from Ayojak to Explara and Venkatesh about how they balance in a unique way not building before selling and working on product demo’s without having to build the features.

Sridhar led the moderation of the session and showed his secret sauce of a graph designed for Product decisions:

The graph helps Product folks take decisions based on a problem, and how ideally first level and second level product problems when probed can be solved by Education & Processes. This sort of product thinking gives more bandwidth to technology & product managers to focus on building the tech as well, apart from features as a solution to everything. It helps keep your product from being stretched into a services play.

Nari Kannan & Sridhar again spoke about how the health of a product and its metrics can be linked to the business metrics by the GEM (Growth, Engagement, Monetization) theory.

A lot of discussions around how sales folks like to ask fore more features, and how to decide what to build and what not to, but the graph helped a lot.

A snippet on the learning from Santosh’s Ayojak to Explara journey was that he communicated the brand change much in advance internally and decided to leave aside feature requests etc. and kept focussed on the UI/UX and internal communication of the change. It helped everyone realize that multiple massive changes should not be attempted together.

Venkatesh also spoke about how they develop new feature requests in a staging environment, and release it just for the customer in a prototype without pushing the code into the product, and ask him/her if they will pay for this and is this what they want. It is an interesting way to get a yes from the customer before getting your tech team working on something which might or might not sell.

All in all, everyone had some great learning’s, a few beers and cookies along with chai and coffee thanks to the Vizury team, and we hope to get some more Product Roundtable’s running consistently and involving more of the product companies to have cross learning’s via sharing best practices.

It’s time to open the gates wider

There is a growing nervousness among foreign investors putting their money in India. The Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index 2012 revealed that India, Asia’s third-largest economy, ranked 74th out of 79 countries, making it an unviable country to start a business. There is a growing nervousness among foreign investors putting their money in India.

Fewer than 150 start-ups are promoted by venture capital or angel investors annually in India compared to over 60,000 angel investments in the US. In 2011, Indian angels, constrained by regulations that make both investing and exits cumbersome, invested only about Rs.100 crore in around 50 deals compared with Rs.2,000 crore angels invested in Canada.

These figures don’t surprise Indian product software start-ups. India has produced few of the world’s leading software products, has 3,400 software product start-ups, and adds 400 every year. But it needs the right environment and incentives to build a world-leading industry.

For several decades, the Indian ownership laws and the investment and business environment have not allowed a conducive setting for the brightest of minds, many of whom have migrated to California. The new Indian entrepreneurs spend significant time on product development to build patentable products with a global market. However, as soon as the product gains traction, venture investors and professionals advise entrepreneurs to move the holding structure, if not the entire business, outside India. The main reasons are as follows:


In today’s world talent and ideas are mobile. Singapore, Hong Kong, Chile and the UK are offering attractive financing (debt and equity) to Indian companies to relocate their business. They are also offering tax benefits. This is starting to result in real migration of promising companies out of India.

Maze of rules:

In India, we have foreign direct investment, VCI (venture capital investment), foreign institutional investors, Reserve Bank of India, fair valuations and draconian consequences for inadvertent slip-ups, while in most major economies there are no restrictions.


Capital gains (20%) as well as dividends (dividend distribution tax of 12.5%) even for foreign investors. In most major economies, foreign investors are not taxed on their capital gains and dividend income on their investments and owned businesses. India’s tax policy does not help a product business to attract the right kind of investors and acquirers, and is a hurdle for those interested in foreign acquisition in a stock deal as Indian paper is not an attractive currency. In the UK, for example, investors can write off any investment losses against income, and this significantly reduces their cost of failures.

Open economy:

India does not treat foreign investors on par with local investors, unlike the US, the UK, Europe, Singapore and Hong Kong, which have no restriction on ownership and company structures, and for the most part, regulatory filings (except some strategic and security related issues).

India needs to build an attractive regime to retain the software products business and its intellectual property, which is highly mobile. Incentives and special regimes for businesses that create IP and file for patents will give the industry a big boost. Among the solutions are the liberalized ownership rules with exemptions from regulatory filings and specific regimes (FDI/VCI/FII, etc.), specific exemptions from capital gains and dividend taxes for investors and tax exemption on foreign income of Indian software product companies. Why not go even further and build a fully liberalized virtual special economic zone for ownership and operation of software product companies, with India signing an iron-clad double-taxation avoidance agreement the virtual SEZ.

India needs to proactively grab opportunities, or risk driving the whole industry abroad. We have the potential to create multi-billion dollar global product companies every year, and the benefits could run into trillions of dollars over a decade or two.

This article first appeared in the LiveMint

Will B.PAC and iSPIRT Transform Urban Politics & the Software Product Industry Respectively?

While we usually focus on product, process and business model innovation as the main facets of innovation, some of the most impactful innovation can be the result of new organizational forms.

Take the case of India’s white revolution. This was driven by a unique 3-tier structure of organizations – the farmers’ cooperative at the village level as the basic organizational unit; a district-level federation of cooperatives with milk processing and marketing capabilities; and a state level apex body with brand and product management capabilities. And, behind this structure were larger organizations like the National Dairy Development Board at the national level that channelizes resources, support long-term investment activities, and accesses new knowledge and inputs. This arrangement takes advantage of flexibility – when required NDDB can look like an extension of the government, when required it is an independent body working with farmers’ cooperatives. This flexibility has helped it manage in a complex environment.

Last week saw the birth of some organizations nowhere as complex as the milk production structure, but with the potential to have major impact.


NR Narayana Murthy launched the Bangalore Political Action Committee or B.PAC as it is being called. This is the first time we are seeing an organization christened as a PAC in India, though this is a common term in the US. I presume this similarity is not just a matter of coincidence. PACs in the US are not political parties, but organizations created to advocate and support a particular agenda. The B.PAC has similar objectives. At one level it aims to restore the quality of life of the city of Bangalore. But at another level it is a pressure group for more political power to cities which are the value creation engines of a modern economy.

The B.PAC’s initial agenda is to enhance urban (read middle class, educated) voter enrolment and voter participation. They also promise to support candidates who back their agenda (new forms of city government, more resources, better urban planning, etc.) In the forthcoming assembly, parliament and municipal corporation elections. Subject, of course, to their meeting other criteria like no criminal cases against them, no record of corruption, etc.

B.PAC has been formed by a group of resourceful and successful individuals who have for long been expressing their dissatisfaction with the state of affairs like Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and Mohandas Pai. It represents their response to many of the issues they have raised in the past falling on deaf ears, and their inability to have a sustained impact on the political system.

Of course, the “involvement” of successful industrialists in efforts to improve Bangalore is not new. During the chief ministership of SM Krishna (1999-2004), the Bangalore Agenda Task Force was created under the chairmanship of Nandan Nilekani. The BATF tried to play the role of a coordinating body, creating a platform for different civic agencies, citizen groups and the state government to come together. While the BATF did manage to do some of this as well as have new bus shelters and toilets built, it was a body without any political legitimacy and was hastily disbanded after the Congress lost the 2004 elections in the state.

Newspaper reports indicate the existence of a similar attempt in the last few years under the chairmanship of Rajeev Chandrashekar. However, this one has been low key, restricting its role to that of a think tank. But again the long term impact doesn’t appear to be substantial.

B.PAC is an interesting development because it shows an inching of rich, successful “middle class” entrepreneurs towards electoral politics. Though apolitical in the sense that it is not a political party, B.PAC clearly has a political agenda. It represents a growing realization that technocratic approaches can’t solve India’s problems. It also suggests that the efforts to create alternate public spaces such as those tried out by Janagraha or the BATF itself could have only limited success. The creation of the B.PAC is a welcome development, for the next logical step will be immersion in electoral politics. I hope to see a party such as the German Green Party emerging out of this process with the ability to push urban issues at the national level.


The second organizational innovation in the last week was the creation of iSPIRT – the Indian Software Product Industry Round Table. It came into the public view amidst controversy with a Times of India headline announcing it as a breakaway trade body from Nasscom. iSPIRT’s spokesmen were quick to assert that the organisation is an industry round table (not a trade body), that it will not offer membership, and that the founders will continue to be part of Nassom (Disclosure: I am a part of the iSPIRT Founding Circle).

I am excited by the prospect of iSPIRT because of the new activities it is promoting. An important role it will play is to act as a market maker. India has lakhs of small and medium businesses. These businesses are important sources of employment and economic growth but they face a major challenge of maintaining their competitiveness. Information technology has the potential to enhance the efficiency of these businesses. However, these SMBs often lack the ability to evaluate vendor proposals. They are price-sensitive, and risk-averse as far as IT is concerned. Burnt by past experiences, they are wary of making fresh investments in IT.

Under its iSMB initiative, iSPIRT plans to bridge the gap between domestic software product vendors who have relevant solutions and SMB customers. ISMB will study different verticals, map needs, and certify products meeting the vertical’s needs. Only product companies that have customer dispute resolution mechanisms in place will be accredited. Product companies will get feedback on where their solutions fall short of customer requirements. This initiative is designed to bridge the trust deficit that exists today between vendors and users.

ISMB will build on the positive experience of CIO Connect, an earlier effort to bring Indian product companies and large Indian corporate IT users together.

Both B.PAC and iSPIRT are Market-Makers

Though in theory markets provide the opportunity for sellers and buyers to come together, information asymmetry and high transaction costs can prevent markets from functioning efficiently. Initiatives like ISMB and CIO Connect help smoothen out these market imperfections.

B.PAC can also be seen as a market maker. A democratic system in which a whole chunk of voters does not participate will not reflect the needs of different interest groups accurately.

We tend to expect government to combat market failure. Both B.PAC and the ISMB initiative of iSPIRT represent voluntary, community efforts to do so. I will watch both these organizational initiatives with interest.

ProductNation is now Proudly Powered by iSPIRT.in

I am happy to inform you that ProductNation will now be part of iSPIRT – a think-tank focussed on transforming India into a hub for new generation software products, a thought which finally is seeing action. Welcome to the new look of the website where we have made it easier for our readers to find stories that interest them and share it with friends and professional colleagues. Do drop by and share your comments if you like the design or have any suggestions for improvement.

Let me tell you how this all started. For a long time, I have had this urge to make a substantial contribution to the product eco-system in India and I shared this in my previous blog. I am proud to say that in less than five months, we have been able to do 175+ blogs, got around 20+ blog contributors, and featured 40+ #MadeInIndia Product stories. With the support of few PNEvangelists, we have been able to do few #PNMeetups in the NCR region.

But ultimately it’s not about what we want to do but about what the product ecosystem expects. I think the real value comes when ProductNation is looked upon by this emerging industry as the most favored watering hole for good ideas and thoughts that will contribute to the growth of the industry.

It’s been an exciting journey and going forward we will be able to add value in a much more structured manner to the ecosystem. As I write this blog, I’m already working on few partnerships which will be able to give more visibility to the product start-ups from India.

So what does this alignment with iSPIRT mean?

The goal of ISPIRT is to help product entrepreneurs learn from each other and from experts so that they grow their companies faster. We also seek to encourage the right policy environment and the availability of public goods so that the industry can scale more rapidly.
In the first year, we aim to achieve the following:

  • Explain simply, cogently and persuasively to public intellectuals why a vibrant software product industry is vital to India’s future
  • Establish pn.ispirt.in as the open platform for deeper conversations within the industry
  • Spawn new community-led initiatives like iSMB and M&A Connect to address critical gaps.,

You can find more details at www.ispirt.in.

Finally, I’d like to thank my supporting partners (Sandhill, Yorke Communications, Iridium Interactive & Boring Brands) and the contributors for ProductNation who have actively stood by me in making ProductNation a destination for software products in an extremely short time.

I continue to seek your support in the journey ahead. Let’s all contribute and make a positive impact to the eco-system. Thank you.