Policy Hacks – National Policy on Software Products (NPSP) 2019

It is a moment of delight at iSPIRT to see Govt. of India setting its focus on “Software Product”, with the announcement of National Policy on Software Products by government of India on 28th February 2019. The policy framed by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) is aimed to sustain India as a global power in Software industry in emerging technological changes impacting the industry.

iSPIRT had earlier covered this announcement in a blog titled “India powers up its ‘Software Product’ potential, Introduces National Policy on Software Products (NPSP)”

A link to PDF document of the NPSP 2019 is given here on MeitY website. https://meity.gov.in/writereaddata/files/national_policy_on_software_products-2019.pdf

Ispirt held a Discussion on NPSP 2019 on 2nd March 2019 with Dr. A. K. Garg, Director MeitY and iSPIRT volunteers Shoaib Ahmed, Amit Ranjan, Nakul Saxena and Sudhir Singh. A vedio of the discussion is placed below.

 

Given below is the transcript of the main part of the discussion. (We have tried our best to put this but It is not a ditto verbatim transcript but what each participant spoke in essence).  It is advised to watch and listen to the video.

Sudhir Singh started the discussion and invited Dr. A.K. Garg to give an overview on the policy.

Dr. A.K. Garg – The policy gives wholistic looks and a single window opportunity. issues involved with HS Code. Three tire effort of building a talent pool. First, Appraising Students at school level that there is a difference between product and services. Second, Dedicated pool of developers dedicated to products. Third, Developing a pool of people who can be mentors

The other aspects we have looked at is, how do we provide dedicated market access to the product space. Unless and until there is a dedicated and early market access, we cannot create opportunities. We have not looked at graduating this from services industry to product industry, but we are looking at a completely new set of eco-system that will created around the product space, that is one thing which is very important and hallmark of this policy.

Sudhir – in the Strategy section 1 that deals with ‘Promoting Software Products Business Ecosystem’ creating ‘Product registry was an important aspect that can be further utilised to create incentives, schemes and programs.

Amit Ranjan – what can not be measured can not be improved, going further on the line, what can not be defined can not be measured. The government is taking a proactive view od first defining what is a Product and then a logical breakdown of that is building the registry, building the classification and codification system. So at least the system recognizes the different dimension and different players in the industry and then once you have a clear understanding of it than you know you can tailor policy and you can do specific thing for specific part and creating this registry will lead to mapping the industry and there after many things could emerge out of the system

Nakul Saxena –  One of the main objectives of iSPIRT was to create a special focus on Software products and thanks to people like Mr Garg and Secty MeitY and the Minister that we finally got this out. The HS code creation can help product companies to get preferential inclusion in Government procurements and Software products being included in many of the international agreements, especially where Govt of India gives grant to developing countries.

Shoaib Ahmed – Is the definition of Software product clear (referring to the early phase of development of policy when there was lot of debate on this part).

Nakul – the definition on Software product company is that that the company need to be owned 51% by Indian origin person and IP should reside in India.”

Dr. Garg – lot of thinking has gone in to Software product and Software product company. The first and foremost thing is that, it is a very dynamic world and what we have taken is an approach where Software product definition can adjust to changing dynamics. Initially we thought we will not keep any definition, but ultimately, we had to with pressure of various stake holders.

Sudhir – requested Nakul to take up the second Strategy section on Promoting Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

Nakul – One of the important features of the Policy is that Govt. and MeitY will be putting together 20 Grant Challenges to solve for specific eco-system problems in education, agriculture and healthcare. He mentioned that Secretary has asked to quickly start working on the Grant Challenges.

Dr. Garg – Can we crowed source ideas using iSPIRT and Policy Hacks platform.

Nakul – Yes, we can. This is a welcome idea and suggested we can have Policy Hacks session to structure discussions and then invite ideas.

Dr. Garg – (further spoke on skilling)  for skill development to suit product space, one has to think product and live with it. We have to think through a program that can create a pool of 10 to 15 thousand product professionals who understand product eco-system can help innovation and creation of new ideas and or mentor product companies. And that will be the most important dimension for creating a product eco-system.

Shoaib – I think that is a wonderful point and a very important point, beyond the technology and is a combination of skills with one being important is understanding of product market and development of these skills is important.

Amit – The way to think about it is that we have to catch people when they are young and I actually see this playout when lot of times when student are in their secondary education, when they are doing their class 10th or 12th, if you are able to educate them at this stage then it takes very early root in their mind. Product system is all about being experimental and all about being failing then retrying and then improving via every attempt. We should educate them about what is a Product how is it different from Services. We do not have lot of Product success stories from India. But educate them and then skill building comes at secondary stage.

Dr. Garg – We do not have to replicate the Silicon valley model and that will never work. We have to think and India specific solution that will work.

Shoaib – We need to create an India eco-system, there are a few success stories which we have in India, we need not copy but which need to be understood.

Sudhir – There are two more points covered in this section of Strategy. One is on common upgradable infrastructure to be created to support startups and software product designers to identify and plug cyber vulnerability. The second being creation of a Centre of Excellence will be set up to promote design and development of software products.

Dr. Garg – the first market in Cyber Security is Govt. So creating a single repository of various Indian Cyber products will help. The other thing could be understanding Indian cyber problems and through Challenge grant on some of these problems.

Sudhir – let us take up the Strategy section on improving access to market. Requested Nakul to start.

Nakul – for Indian Companies to start growing and start scaling it is important getting some anchor customer. The policy has taken care of this aspect for Product companies to get access to anchor customers and then compete within domestic and international market. But the product entrepreneurs have also to be aware how to deal with Govt. RFP.

Dr. Garg – So first two anchor customer are important. In Govt. space we are working on Gem to provide interface to Indian Software product. But we need to think how these product companies tie up with System Integration Companies and their interest are not compromised by Sis. Second thing is awareness building in various Govt. agencies. A young entrepreneur may not be able to get to the right stake holder, how does he get this access is what we need to think through. We will be very happy to get your views on creating access to first market.

Amit – this is a very important point, especially in the context of SaaS companies, there is an unwritten rule that Indian Domestic market is not big enough or pay enough to sustain many of the SaaS startups. And that is why many VCs are suggesting that you can build a SaaS Company of out of India but that is essentially for engineering, product design but the market it self you will have to go overseas. Development of the Indian domestic market is extremely important. One of the factors which will play a role there is kind of graduating these startups up the Quality ladder as well. The buyer will look for best product in market at best price. By focusing on Quality, they can compete with foreign companies. It is very important to break this negative feeling in the Eco-system that if you are SaaS you can not sell in India, you have to go out.

Shoaib – my point is that Quality software and creating a eco-system.  Selling Software, servicing Software and manage Software is a complete different eco-system. Making sure that policy supports that and recognizes it, is the first step. I think we have started with that and I am happy to spend more time to contribute on what does it take to do this.

Dr.Garg – if you have a Quality and you do not have a brand it a challenge.

Sudhir – this section again mentioned in Policy creating a Software product registry and connecting this with Gem for government product.

Sudhir – Let us move on to the last strategy section on implementation. I remember that the ‘National Software Product mission’ (NSPM) was proposed by iSPIRT in to the policy. NSPM can play a vital role as it can become an umbrella cover. Using this it may be possible to create many schemes and program. For example, we have a formidable SaaS industry and it may be possible to quickly create a SaaS product registry and use Gem to get access to Government. Once the registry is created may be Govt. can also issue and advisory to state Government to adopt products from this registry.

Dr. Garg – One of the important things is we have to educate the people, and secondly, we have to educate the people on procurement model. Most of the time procurement models are one-time purchase, whereas in a SaaS you have to budget every quarter or every month or it will be pay per use also. Which is a very difficult proposition in Govt. to be approved.

One of this thing that come in to my mind is the entry barrier have to be made easier, e.g. there is lot of activity around e-commerce. Now Govt. is actively going to promote product. The e-commerce system is far more developed, it has lower gestation. You can find few companies having valuation of Billion dollars, but that is not true of Product startups. So, we need to see how do we make entry barrier lower for entrepreneur of product companies, other wise human nature is to go by the path of least resistance. Product takes much longer to build, the gestations are much longer, risk are much higher.

Shoaib – the challenge are to get role models going, to showcase this. Education is some thing we have been talking about from two dimensions, one is the entrepreneur, second is the Indian SME customer or the Indian customer.

The Participants did deliberate further on important of early implementation of NSPM and working on various section of Policy and providing active support from iSPIRT.  The discussion was closed with final remarks from the participants. (please listen/watch the Video for further details on final deliberations).

The main Salient features of this policy for benefit of users are as follows:

  1. The visision is to make India a Software product leader in world
  2. In it’s mission – It aims at a ten-fold increase in India’s share of the Global Software product market by 2025, by nurture 10,000 technology startups, upskill 1,000,000 IT professionals and setting-up 20 sectorl technology cluster.
  3. The policy has 5 Strategie to implement the policy.
  4. Strategy are 1 – Intendents to create a congenniel environment for Sofware product business.
  5. An important feature of the policy is creation of a Software product registry of India that can facilitate implementation of schems and programs in future, creation of a HS Code category for Software products.
  6. To boost enterprenure ship, it itends to create a Software Product Development Fund (SPDF) with 1000 Croroe contributed by ministry in a fund of funds format. Remaining coming from private sources.
  7. 20 dedicated challenge grants to solve societal challenges.
  8. Readying a talent pool of 10,000 committed software product leaders
  9. Improving access to domestic market for Software product companies and boost international trade for Indian Software products.
  10. Lastly setting up of a “National Software Product Mission (NSPM)” to be housed in MeitY, under a Joint Secretary, with participation from Government, Academia and Industry. NPSM will further drive implementation of the policy and be able to craft schemes and programs for the said purpose.

An important part of announcing the scheme has been done. This has now to be leveraged to create a momementum in Software product. iSPIRT is committed to see the further development of India as a Product Nation.

India powers up its ‘Software Product’ potential, Introduces National Policy on Software Products (NPSP)

This is an exciting occasion for our indigenous software industry as India’s National Policy on Software Product gets rolled out. This policy offers the perfect framework to bring together the industry, academia and the government to help realise the vision of India as a dominant player in the global software product market.

For ease of reference, let us summarise some of the major things that the policy focuses on

  • Single Window Platform to facilitate issues of the software companies
  • specific tax regime for software products by distinguishing  them from software services via HS code
  • enabling Indian software product companies to set off tax against R&D  credits on the accrual basis
  • creation of a Software Product Development fund of INR 5000 crores to invest in Indian software product companies
  • grant in aid of  INR 500 Crores to support research and innovation on software products
  • encouragement to innovation via 20 Grant Challenges focusing on Education, Healthcare & Agriculture thus further enabling software products to solve societal challenges
  • enabling participation of Indian software companies in the govt. e-marketplace to improve access to opportunities in the domestic market
  • developing a framework for Indian software product companies in government procurement.
  • special focus  on Indian software product companies in international trade development programmes
  • encouraging software product development across a wide set of industries by developing software product clusters around existing industry concentrations such as in automobile, manufacturing, textiles etc.
  • nurturing the software product start-up ecosystem
  • building a sustainable talent pipeline through skilling and training programmes
  • encouraging entrepreneurship and employment generation in tier II cities
  • creating governing bodies and raising funds to enable scaling of native software product companies.

There is good cause for cheer here. The policy offers to address many of the needs of the Software Product Ecosystem. For the first time, HS codes or Harmonised Codes will be assigned to Indian software product companies that will facilitate a clear distinction from ‘Software Services’ facilitating availing of any benefits accruing under the ‘Make in India’ programme. In addition, this will enable Indian software product companies to participate in govt contracts through registration on GeM (Govt. eMarketplace).

Considering that we remain a net importer of software products at present, steps such as the inclusion of Indian software products in foreign aid programmes, setting up of specialised software product incubators in other geographies and promoting our software product capabilities through international exhibitions definitely show intent in the right direction. With a commitment to develop 10000 software product start-ups, with 1000 of them in tier II cities, technology entrepreneurs building IP driven product companies can now look forward to infrastructural and funding support. The policy also aims to go beyond metro-centric development with a commitment to develop tech clusters around existing industry concentrations, enable skilling and drive employment in non-metros and tier II cities while actively encouraging Indian software companies to solve native problems.  

This policy could not have been possible without the vision of the Honourable Minister Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, and continuous engagement and discussions with Shri Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Rajeev Kumar and Ajai Kumar Garg from MEITY and their team.

We have seen software companies solving native problems do exceptionally well, just look at what Paytm has been able to achieve while driving digital payments in India. There is now an understanding ‘Make in India’ can help us bridge the digital divide given that Indian entrepreneurs have a greater understanding of local issues and the challenges that are unique to us.

Setting up bodies such as the National Software Products Mission in a tripartite arrangement with the industry, academia and govt. to enable creation and monitoring of schemes beneficial to native software product companies is another much-needed step that will create a forum distinct to our software product companies and help give them a strong voice.

We would like to thank Lalitesh Katragadda, Vishnu Dusad, Sharad Sharma, Rishikesha T Krishnan, Bharat Goenka, T.V. Mohandas Pai, Arvind Gupta for their diligent efforts on the continuous dialogue and inputs for the policy.

While launching the policy is a great start, its implementation is what we all will have our eyes on. Now is the moment of action. We all look forward to fast-tracking of the various proposed measures under this policy for the benefits to start showing!

References

J​ANUARY​ 15, 2019​ – ​https://tech.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/internet/india-needs-to-win-the-software-products-race/67533374

DECEMBER 8, 2016​ – ​https://pn.ispirt.in/what-to-expect-from-draft-national-policy-on-software-products/

NOVEMBER 13, 2016​ – ​https://pn.ispirt.in/national-software-policy-2-0-needed/

MAY 10, 2016​ – ​https://pn.ispirt.in/taxation-and-digital-economy/

APRIL 29, 2016​ – ​https://pn.ispirt.in/saas-the-product-advantage-and-need/

JULY 16, 2014​ – ​https://pn.ispirt.in/government-recognizes-the-software-product-industry/

DECEMBER 11, 2013​ – ​https://pn.ispirt.in/three-waves-of-indian-software/

JULY 16, 2013​ – ​https://pn.ispirt.in/smbs-and-indian-software-product-industry-intertwined-fortunes/

JULY 4, 2013​ – ​https://pn.ispirt.in/8-truths-why-it-services-organizations-cannot-do-software-products/