As we gear up for the 7th edition of the NASSCOM Product Conclave that takes place in a few weeks, it may be relevant to look back at the journey the conference has travelled over the past six editions.The Product Conclave was conceived out of a need to give focused attention to product companies, without the distracting glare of the much larger services segment, says Rajiv Mody, Chairman and CEO of Sasken who chaired the first conference. Although the conclave has remained steadfast in this objective, its thematic focus and the way it is put together has changed much over the years.
The Conclave has made significant progress. We didâ€™nt expect it to become as big as it has become (the success of the event) is a good thing - Rajiv Mody, Chairman and CEO of Sasken who anchored the first edition of the Conclave
The initial editions of the conference saw mixed focus on products and embedded software, but by the third year, the conference was re-aligned to focus exclusively on products. It was at this time that the first ever report on the product ecosystem was put together. The report was authored by Professor T.R. Madan Mohan, who was then teaching at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. For the first time, trends and patterns within the product company space were studied. The report also segmented players into three groupings â€“ specialists players, application/interface platform developers and B2C product companies.
How does the ecosystem stack up today? Professor T.R. Madan Mohan assesses the ground covered by key ecosystem players.
VCs, Angels are active but institutional finance has not been forthcoming
Government supprt has been woefully inadequete, especially in high end segments like Defense
Academic institute backed Incubators continue to focus on services, not product plays
Stepping up the pace
The fourth and fifth editions of the Conclave definitely saw a step up in pace. This period saw the release of the Zinnov study on the Indian Software Product industry, which pegged the size of the industry in 2008 to be around US 2 billion. This remains the definitive sizing for this segment. Subash Menon of Subex who chaired the Product Forum in those years re-focussed the activities of the Forum and the Conclave around specific agendas for key ecosystem players such as VCs, Companies, Government and NASSCOM. In those two years, the Conclave was positioned as a culmination of smaller activities carried out by the Product Forum through out the year. These included focused workshops on themes such as product management, marketing and contracting . "What product companies needed then was not theory but good, hands-on advice". Does he believe that the efforts have paid off? "It (the segment) has not scaled as it could have. One can sense progress, though nothing overwhelming." Menon believes that efforts to develop a robust product ecosystem need to go beyond the Product Conclave. "The Product Forum is very dormant todayâ€¦ we also need to focus more on Indian product companies, rather than MNCs," he says. He also points out that more work on the ground needs to be done to encourage product companies and strengthen the ecosystem - "The Conclave is not an end in itself," he points out.
Upping the Ante
Notwithstanding what more it can do, it is clear that the Conclave has become the â€˜must-doâ€™ event for product companies in India. Last year, attendance zoomed to over a 1000 delegates, making this NASSCOMâ€™s most importance conference after the flagship India Leadership Forum. The flavor of the conference has also changed, says Sharad Sharma of Canaan Partners, who curated the event last year (and who is also chairing the conference this year). The 2009 edition saw the entry/active participation of eco system players such as Proto, Headstart, TiE and the Indian Angel Network, and the networking that started with the conference spilled over after as well, points out Sharma: "All these are connections that were needed..But (until the conference) has not happened."
This year, the Conclave will discuss two key topics â€“cloud computing and the lean start-up strategy. Unusually for a conference of this size, the agenda and topics have been put together by members of the product community themselves. Given the high degree of diversity in focus of attendees, it was decided that the agenda would be driven directly by a representative group that includes CXOs of smaller start-ups, young entrepreneurs as well as MNCs. The agenda was then shared with the peer community via blogs, and feedback was incorporated to create a final version that will guide discussions at the Conclave. This model is not unlike the industryâ€™s own much beloved open source software development model where published software source code is vetted, validated, tested and even modified by peers and users.
All this has led to a much greater ownership of the event by attendees, says Sharma. This reflects in registration levels that have already surpassed last yearâ€™s pace. There is also validation of a most unusually kind. "We have the dubious distinction of being the first conference to be black-marketed", says Sharma.
(Posted from the NASSCOM Blog with permission.)
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