The awesome #PNCamp volunteer team

Putting up #PNCamp has not been easy. And the task is only half-done. Volunteering is like an open-source movement. You learn a lot, give back, and lean upon all your co-volunteers to make things happen. There is no institution behind it, no big brother, no event manager, no marketing agency. Just volunteer passion.

It’s the same energy that put up India’s defining product events in the past.

So who are these folks? Lets get behind the scenes…

The Chief Directors… we call them Program Curators

Bala Parthasarthy is program curator and is putting together awesome sessions for Scale Hacking. He is also allowed some free time to run his own venture ! We promise him a lot more free time after PNCamp is over.

Pallav Nadhani is a scale hacking legend and he is program curator for the Discovery Hacking track. His quick fire responses and ability to dissect any situation is only one of his amazing traits. He’s walked the Discovery Hacking trail and has a story or two for you.

Chief Cheerleaders

Our Volunteer efforts would not be complete without the active support of our Product ecosystem stalwarts. Folks like Vijay AnandRashmi RanjanKesavaDoraiArpit and many of you who have readily helped to reach out.

The Chief Camper

Sharad Sharma, the person who started it all. He has the most amazing vision for Indian software products, and carries this mission with zeal. He unashamedly says he can’t do it alone, so he turbo charges unsuspecting folks like me and we end up being volunteers. Willing volunteers. We get so badly infected by the Sharad virus that we start encouraging others to become volunteers.

The Chief Choreographer

The one man army who’s known as M Thiyagarajan during the day and Chhota Rajan by night. Ok, that’s stretching it but Rajan is one person who’s easily our one man army. Rajan leads the design of the PNCamp. Rajan’s ability to design a program, think objectively and pull resources to make it happen, is unparalleled.

The Chief Distributor

That’s me, Sandeep Todi, reaching out to all you folks with the audience curation team comprising Aditya, Harrshada, Nakul, Sai, Seema and Vijay.  I’m a very responsible person. So for anything that’s going wrong, you can hold me responsible. I enjoy putting fresh ideas and trying the unknown stuff and thinking on my feet. Sometimes these fresh ideas are purely experimental. Sometimes they’re not even half baked. So things go wrong and I look for the villain in our movie so I can blame it on somebody. Trouble is, there’s no villain, only heroes 🙂

The Chief Everything

That’s Avinash Raghava, who is one of guys most well versed with the Indian product ecosystem. Always willing to help, create connects and push for doing things that have never been done before, like the hugely popular Product Nation Round Tables. You name any one part of doing PNCamp that he hasn’t helped with, and I’ll buy you a beer.

The Chief Controller

Dilip T Ittyera, now in his firth startup and previously with a large IT firm, brings you all the goodies. If your Registration didn’t go smoothly, go ahead and blame him. If the arrangements at the venue aren’t up to snuff, you know whom to catch. Be forewarned, he’s one tough guy. If the PNCamp is happening, it’s because he and Avinash went all out to seek support of our sponsors.

The Chief Curators… these are the folks who’ve primarily been responsible for all the chaos. After all, you can’t make a movie without Chaos…

Meet Aditya Bhelande, our Editor. He does more than work on products. He helps people build products. Just as he’s helping to build PNCamp. He’s one of the rare breed who will do anything if he’s convinced about it, and sees it through. Most of us would falter half-way. Many of you will hear from him, the “hand-curtation” is really his editing magic.

Harrshada Deshpande is the Music Director and one of our newest volunteers. If there’s anything beautiful about our movie, its the music she’s produced. Have you seen our awesome website yet? There’s more… the kind of stuff you’re going to see in the coming weeks is entirely her creation. She works on US time, but out of Bangalore, and NOT for US customers. No kidding. Have a call with her at 9pm IST and she’ll come back with a complete set of ideas and mock ups by 9am next day. Awesome!

Nakul Saxena is the Actor-Director-Producer at large. A dependable all rounder, he can act, he can direct and he can even produce. He’s the kind of person who wants to transform from one role to another and does it so fluidly that we find him everywhere all at once!

Sairam is our Scriptwriter. He’s someone all of us turn to. His ability to put together thoughts and communication in a way that is meaningful, impactful and passion-full, is his own undoing. Because if you do something really well, you are destined to do more and more of it 🙂

Sameer Agarwal, the Stuntman. He’s the visionary and the guy who can hypnotize you even on the phone. His vision, design sense and whacky ideas are unmatched in the whole team. It’s what makes us tick. Sameer can jump better than Jeetu, talk better than Big B and dance better than Mithun. So what if these are heroes from the 90s?

Seema Joshi is our Chief Psychiatrist. She can fix all of us mad folks in one stroke. After an hour of meandering discussions, trust her to distil that into objectives and action points. We would be nowhere on a number of things were it not for her extreme clarity and focus on what we need delivered.

Vijay Sharma is Chief Marketeer. the powerhouse that’s probably the combined Klout of all of us. Actually, I’ve never met him but I promise I’ll be able to recognize him within 5 seconds. He’s one of the fastest on the ball and can turn any idea into a plan within that 5 seconds. That’s how I would recognize him!

Each of us has bitten off more than we can chew. Seriously. We’ve got day jobs and companies to run. That should not deter you from talking to us. Click on any of our Linkedin profiles or Twitter handles to reach out.


Indian Entrepreneurs & The Happy Confused Stage

Last week, I met Sharad Sharma, an angel investor & the prime mover behind the iSPIRT, a think tank for software product startups. For those who have been into software products, he is a familiar face. We’ve met many times before but this time around, we talked about the dangers of mass entrepreneurship, which I’ll keep for a later post. That’s because I stumbled upon a more pressing issue, particularly painful to the Indian entrepreneur: The Happy Confused Phase. I’ll try and paraphrase some parts of the discussion here with a few additions of my own.

What is the happy confused phase?

The happy confused phase comes after the entrepreneur has discovered his customer and found a product market fit. Ideally, a startup would now be ready for the growth execution phase. But in India, the happy confused phase takes over. In mature markets, after finding the product market fit, an entrepreneur hires a team to execute. In India, you can hardly find the right talent (for various reasons). So then, it is up to the entrepreneur to train the existing team and the transition takes longer than you would imagine. This in-between phase, is called the happy confused phase.

Implications of this stage

“The execution team is hard to find in most cases and you end up retraining existing staff to do execution,” Sharad says. This is time consuming. Unless you cross this happy confused phase, most Indian VCs won’t fund you despite having found the product-market fit. Indian VC’s won’t come into a deal too early because they have their exits which is time bound in nature, to take care of. Running out of money is one of the many things that can go wrong in a startup.

Who can help?

Accelerators can help. But there is another problem here. Accelerators in India are time based. Which means, when they run out of time, they have to send the startup away. This is one reason why you would have started hearing of “accelerator horror stories.” After time runs out, many will promise you support but it is flaky at best.

A four month acceleration period is hardly enough in Indian conditions. There are exceptions to this. However, the general idea is that accelerators, especially the ones that take equity in the company, must be stage based.

Mentors can help. Mentors in the same industry as yours, who can help you with deals, are very valuable. They can also help you find talent and customers. However, as veteran Silicon Valley investor Vinod Khosla pointed out at his talk in Bangalore, “It can’t be people who are sideline cheerleaders who have never taken risks.”

Focused events like Uncafe or Playbook Round Tables by iSPIRT can also help. These events help speed up learning. Peers and people who have been in your shoes can help you learn faster. The important phrase here is “ experiential learning,” and not “startup event.”


The existence of the happy confused phase is not the only issue that Indian product entrepreneur has to deal with. With Indian startups, the discovery phase is longer than usual as well. An informed product entrepreneur who is aware of these issues can hack his way through these stages better than his uninformed peers.

If you’ve been in a similar situation and have found a clever way out, leave a comment or write a guest post for us.

Reblogged from NextBigWhat – Post Contributed by Jayadevan

M&A is critical for the Product Startup ecosystem in India

Small $20-30m M&A transactions are the lifeblood of Silicon Valley. Over 400 such transactions happened last year. Israeli companies accounted for over 20% of these transactions. India had only a couple of transactions to speak of. This has to change of Indian has to become a Product Nation. 

iSPIRT is focusing on this issue through its soon-to-be-announced M&A Connect Program. The M&A Connect Program team – led by Jay Pullur and Sanjay Shah – was in Silicon Valley last week for listening meetings with various stakeholders. As a part of this exercise they hosted a long brainstorming session with more than a dozen M&A heads of serial acquirers ranging from Facebook to Vmware.

One other listening meeting was with about 20 Indian product entrepreneurs camped in the Valley. I was privileged to attend this meeting. It was a delightful 3.5 hours discussion. There were three set of issues that were discussed. One set of issues related to improving discovery of Indian startups. It turns out that addressing this is not as simple as doing a SV delegation or getting TechCrunch coverage. More than that is needed. The second set of issues related to the regulatory friction of doing small M&A deals in India. The third set of issues were about improving the readiness and preparedness of product entrepreneurs.

There was active participation by all the attendees. These included:

  • Indus Kaitan,Bitzer Mobile
  • Suresh Sambandam,OrangeScape
  • Manjunath M Gowda, i7 Networks
  • Asif Ali, Reduce Data
  • Vamshi Mokshagund, Credii
  • Rohit Nadhani, Cloud Magic
  • Madhur Khandelwal, ShoppingWish –
  • Kumar Rangarajan & Satyam Kundula, LittleEye Labs
  • Deobrat Singh, Gazemetrix
  • Rajan Arora, SchoolAdmissions
  • Bharath Mundiapudi, Orzota
  • Annkur P Agarwal, PriceBaba
  • Srikanth N, Arktan
  • Jay Pullur and Vijay Sundaram, Pramati (they hosted the meeting) 


I was most impressed by the dedication and passion of the iSPIRT team driving this effort. Their selfless commitment to making a difference was heartwarming. I could sense that most of us attendees felt the same way. The self-help community that iSPIRT is creating is truly inclusive and impactful. 

If you are product startup interested in exploring a possible M&A exit in the future do watch for more details about the M&A Connect Program. Try and become part of this. Given what I heard in the meeting, I’m sure that this new Program be game changing for the ecosystem.  

Transforming a nation with products

India is at a crossroads today. Gloom has replaced what seemed to be an unending boom just a few years ago. After a decade of rapid growth led by the services sector, the Indian economy has hit a plateau. While services exports continue to grow and create a surplus in services trade, they only constitute 35% of the country’s total exports and are unlikely to compensate for the deep deficit in merchandise trade that stands at 10% of gross domestic product (GDP). This deficit in goods trade is partly attributed to the services-led route of economic development taken by India in the post-liberalization era, in contrast to a manufacturing-led route to development that creates a strong base for goods trade.

From a national policy perspective, excessive dependence on services is akin to putting all one’s eggs in the same basket. For a country of India’s size, diversity, and global aspirations, a more diversified economic basket is an urgent imperative.

The current situation has created a need to nurture and bolster “products” or “goods” industries. But the challenging question is where to begin, and which industry might lead the charge. Given India’s rise to prominence in the last two decades as a software hub, could software products be the ideal place to start?
Unlike manufactured products, software does not need major logistics infrastructure, nor does it depend on inputs other than human capital. Further, software products can be delivered through the cloud.

Therefore, the software product industry holds the potential to circumvent India’s relatively weak position in manufacturing and yet capture a high enough degree of value to address at least some of our economic challenges.

In addition to the direct benefit of a healthy software product industry to the national economy, technology can bring about an order of magnitude improvement in the effectiveness and competitiveness of other sectors, be they industrial or social. Industries as diverse as healthcare and jewellery could benefit from standardized software applications that enhance their competitiveness. Therefore, a competitive software product industry will not only benefit the economy but will have a ripple effect across the society at large.

Though the aspiration for a vibrant software product industry is compelling, international comparisons show that we have much ground to cover. While the number of engineers in the Israeli software industry is only a third of those employed in the Indian product industry (including MNC captives), Israeli start-ups raise almost double the amount of venture capital that Indian start-ups do. Further, we have thrice the number of start-ups as Israel, but Israeli investors managed 40 times the number of exits compared to Indian companies in 2011. So far, India’s software product industry is punching below its weight category and needs a fillip.

In the past we have failed to realize our potential in products. Take telecom as an example. We have created mobile services giants like Airtel but have no telecom product industry to speak of. Our air force is one of the largest in the world and yet we haven’t been able to get the light combat aircraft (LCA) deployed in 30 years. We have somehow not been able to develop a product industry in India.

A challenge as big as this one is unlikely to have a one-shot solution. Yet, a vibrant product industry is unlikely to emerge by chance either. The solution needs to emerge gradually and iteratively, based on a continuous dialogue between software product companies, investors, policy makers and potential customers. Shaping policy, funnelling investments and stimulating the market can potentially steer the software product industry in the right direction.

This article first appeared in the LiveMint

Find out what emerged when the Geeks met #Dilliwallas #GOAP

It was a usual Thursday morning, chaos at the Mathura Road, but once you got on to the 91SpringBoard office, you could feel the aroma of the paints, etc in the new office which is beautifully done and very colourful. Few guys were sipping their early morning coffee and some interactions by entrepreneurs and some folks who usually give gyaan to them:). Few minutes and you could see the geeks walking in, interacting the dilliwallas and then also trying to figure out a space where they can settle down.
Yatin from MoonLighting kicked of the session and the Geeks introduced themselves to the #dilliwallas. We had around 50-60 startups from dilli who were here to meet with the Geeks….some of the best startups in NCR were present and we had the Bangalore Product guy – Sharad Sharma who was there to set the ball rolling. He started his talk on how entrepreneurship is happening in the small cities of rural India, software products are being made in this New India. Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore are seeming to be focusing on fixed templates, whereas the rural India’s innovation are more creative disruptions and they seem to be focusing on problems and therefore providing solutions to these problems. The guys in the smaller cities and rural areas are keeping a more open mind and are more willing to weather the storm and be persistent with product.

Don’t be dismissive of Small cities or Rural India, in the next 3-5 yrs the best start ups would be from here. A Revolution is happening in India similar to the mobile revolution – that is to do with the software as a service. Service being used by wide variety of segments from a big multinational to a small business. It is happening at a price point that will fit each and every need that is out there. India’s future is dependent on its small scale sector transforming itself and becoming competitive over time which is  based on three things –  The democratization of productivity which is happening of the mobile phones, democratization of  best practices which is going to happen in the software as a service and the third thing is building trust networks. This Revolution needs to be taken to the next level among ourselves by using the open source method which will help the industry to go forward. Creating communities of entrepreneurs to help solve the problems of fellow entrepreneurs. The Entrepreneur needs to give back to this community during the process of being successful and not only at the time of being successful. Sharad Co–founder iSPIRT seems to say what Mahatma Gandhi said of India at just before Independence —India does not live in its big cities but in the smaller cities and villages

Dave from 500 Startups takes centre stage and describes what they do by making a lot of small investments in tune of about $ 1-5 Million. The aim is not to own more than the 5% of the bigger companies. They know most companies may not see the entire life cycle therefore they do their do diligence well and invest quickly. The First tranch is the huge risk but the future investments are based on what they do with that money. Engaging with Communities of specialists in design, data and distribution which act as Elders or Mentors to these companies  help them grow. Usually the Distribution / Marketing aspect is the main factor which helps companies being successful.

Concepts of Marketing have changed dramatically compared to change in programming in the last 20 years. Therefore it is important to get the Marketing right. Entrepreneurs need to focus more on Marketing than on the programming. It is very important need to know the customer acquisition cost vis-visa-vie customer revenue being generated and the cost of financing the project for how long. Concentrate on the Indian Market, it will be easier to do business in an environment which you know of rather than a new international market of which you don’t know anything of. Things may not be that settled yet, but it will be in the next 3-5 yrs. Imagine if you are able to build now focusing on India and by the time support services improve, payment channels ease say in the next 3-5 years you as an entrepreneur will be able to go in for the kill. The Fruit will be ripe for plucking. Message : Look Inward and build slowly. Wait for the Time its just round the corner.

The Stage was set after two very insigntful speeches about what is yet to come. Kunal Bajaj then lead a B2B Space Panel Discussion with Ambarish Gupta from Knowlarity, Ketan Kapur of Mettl and Paras Chopra from Wingify  1)    How do you find the right person? Panel: The team was brought together through references and own networks. 2)    How do you market to customers? Panel – Start early, Be Focused and be Disciplined. 3)    How have you raised funds and raised capital? Panel – Raising debt in US much easier than in India. In India the process is Angel Money. But is important to know what your burn money is MOM enabling you pitch it right and get it.  Kunal then lead B2C Space Panel  Discussion with Aloke from Ixigo, Kavin Mittal from HIKE Mobile app, Rajat from SocialAppsHQ.

  • How do you find the right people and keep them engaged?
    Panel – The Challenge is to make people understand what a startup is. The Initial hiring was done through references and interactions through likeminded people. 
  • How do you market to customers and build Brands?
    Panel – Give swops on getting referrals to new clients. Understand your market clearly and go micro and specific.
  • How have you raised funds and raised capital?
    Panel – Raising debt and funds in US much easier than in India. In India to raise funds traction in business is very important. 

By the time the Panel finished answering the questions there was a group of over 55-60 people eagerly waiting to interact with them and the Geeks. 


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

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

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

Indian Software Startups Similar to Excitement of Late-90s Silicon Valley

Editor’s note: Sharad Sharma and M.R. Rangaswami are co-hosts of the NASSCOM Product Conclave 2011 (November 8-10, 2011), a must-attend event for software product startups. Now in its eighth year, more than 1,200 delegates from 600+ companies are expected to attend. Sharma and Rangaswami share with SandHill readers their insights on what’s happening in this dynamic market – and why U.S. buyers and software execs should keep the Indian startups on their radar screen.

One of the keynote speakers at the NASSCOM Product Conclave a couple of years back was Guy Kawasaki. In his recently published his book, “Enchantment,” he wrote that our Conclave was one of the most interesting that he had attended in the last few years because of the energy at the conference. And the energy this year is already really high. That’s because, in some respects, the Indian software products industry today is where Silicon Valley was in the 1997-98 time frame.

The Valley then was in a different era of entrepreneurship. There was enormous excitement about where the future of the world was headed and the role that the Valley could play in that. India is somewhat like that in the context of what’s happening now and the role that its software products industry can play in the economic future of India and the rest of the world. It’s a very exciting time.

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