Tuesday, June 13, 2006

NASSCOM Product Forum (Pune)

I attended the NASSCOM Product Forum conference this morning at Pune. It was an interesting conference. Perhaps the first in Pune of this kind. Here are some highlights:

Mr. Kiran Karnik (President, Nasscom, India) started the conference by pointing out :
  • The difference between building a product vs. building a product company. The summary was that there are a number of technical ideas and sparks, but we (in particular Pune) is lacking on the sales and marketing front. Things such as how much do you invest on sales and marketing, especially when you want to go global.
Sharad provided some good insights later.
  • Getting seed funding and angel funding in India is a big problem; Indian startups are facing problems because of that. Though VC funding is getting easier, there are a lot of people of want to invest. NASSCOM is working with the Indian government in setting up seed and angel funding for smaller startups.
I think, there are a number of late stage investors, but there are issues with VC's funding during the intial stages.
  • Filing patents and protecting IP is difficult since each international patent filing costs between Rs. 5 to 10 lacs, which is very large sum of money for a startup company. Again NASSCOM is working with a the Indian government on a fund that can cater to such needs.
  • A big percentage of sales in India is in the government sector; to promote startup companies and IP entirely generated in India, NASSCOM is promoting the idea of a special preference (like subsidy) for buying products that have a high percentage of IP entirely generated in India.
  • Pune is becoming a major IT center, NASSCOM just opened it's office in Pune.
Dr. Deepak Phatak (Chair Professor, School of IT, IIT Bombay):
  • Dr. Phatak described the Business Incubator Pilot program at IIT Powai, and how successful it has been. It is currently incubating 15 startup companies. Next year (which marks the golden jubilee of IIT Powai) they will be incubating 50 startup ventures!
  • Young Entrepreneurs at IIT Powai now use "stocks" and "percentages" as their currency now, instead of salaries (big change)
  • The problem as pointed out by Dr. Phatak is that - they don't think much about management of the company (typical of very geeky people), so the importance of hiring the right CEO and CTO at the right time is not yet there.
  • Dr. Phatak introduced the EKLAVYA program, which is an opensource education program. He encouraged entrepreneurs and business people to share their learnings. EKLAVYA has online video stored and beamed to several locations.
I wish they made it online so I can see it on my desktop (need to buy a bunch of equipment to get the video feed - dish antennae and a decoder - IRD).

Mr. Deepak Ghaisas (CEO, India Operations & CFO, iFlex Solutions):
  • Noted that there are 175 product companies registered with NASSCOM, 75 of which are founded (or headed) by people returning back from USA; and 25 of which are located in Pune. 80% of these 175 companies are self funded.
Companies usually have to pay a pretty hefty amount to be a member of NASSCOM, so I don't expect startup companies to do this. Instead I have seen a number of them in The Indus Entrepreneurs.

Sharad Sharma:
  • Discussed the Blue Ocean Strategy, and the benifits of going after non-consumers.
  • Very interesting discussion about - why IIT Chennai's Rural ATM didn't take off, what can we learn from that, and how we can bring the next product offering.
  • This followed another interesting discussion about 'innovation blowback', a concept popularized by John Hagel.

Tags: startup, funding, software, entrepreneur, venture, businessmodels, emerging, enterprise, innovation, India, Pune, NASSCOM.

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