What they did at NASSCOM Product Conclave?

Friday November 12, 2010,

8 min Read


View "and counter-views" from the sidelines by Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy Sharad Sharma, in his closing remarks, said that a purely volunteer-driven effort led by CEOs, including the MD & CEO of Mindtree Krishnakumar Natarajan, is unparalleled in any ecosystem in the world. The spirit of such executives giving back to the community is not happening anywhere in the world. This is the land that taught the world selflessness and community spirit. But for father, mother, chacha, mama, how many entrepreneurs would have flourished? Angels have taken a different form in the rupa of these executives and that's surely not an exaggeration.

The NASSCOM Product Forum's chair was upbeat and had a full volunteer team wearing a t-shirt that said "I helped put this together" (designed by Fusioncharts cofounder Pallav Nadhani) on stage to back him up in a fitting finale to two days of intensive discussions at Lalit Ashok, Bangalore, the venue for this year's conclave. This was in sharp contrast to his final session at the conclave last year where he said he was expecting criticism from the audience for not covering a few aspects.

Vijay Rayapati (Gizapage and volunteer of the organizing team) shared the social networking stats that indicated more than 70% of the dial-in feedback respondents liked the event. The number of posts on Twitter reached a whopping 12,000 posts compared to 2,000 posts last year. This was at 2:30 pm yesterday and still counting. So much for the interest in the event.


Sharad Sharma was visibly excited at the 1200 delegates in attendance and I overheard him talking to many delegates dwelling upon various dimensions on the conclave. He was telling a delegate who asked him why there are only two panelists in some discussions that the quality of speakers is so high and he expected the debates to bring in intensity and views and counterviews, instead of too many speakers on stage. The audience is the best judge, in his opinion. He also said how tense the prepanel discussions were between Prof. Vivek Wadhwa and Vishal Gondal (Indiagames.in). Laura Parkin, NEN CEO and cofounder, who moderated the discussion was visibly worried how she is going to steer the conversation. Some sparks did fly but it did not come to fisticuffs on the matter of can entrepreneurship can be taught (nurture) or is it instinctive (nature)? The extremes that delighted the audience.

Prof. Vivek Wadhwa—the omnipresent

In the previous day's open house, Prof. Wadhwa started off his discussion on the India's R&D strength by "ripping off" the Indian engineering education quality. His extensive research on outsourcing prompted by queries from students at Duke University on the future of outsourcing and students worried about loss of jobs to Indians had prompted him to study if the outsourcing industry is here to stay in India. But he predicted that outsourcing is just a "flash in the pan." This conclusion was based on the poor quality of engineering graduates churned out of Indian universities and colleges and also the numbers of graduates being "hyped" beyond the 100,000 odd to 300,000 odd. But on ground the realities were different. Instead of outsourcing imploding, it is going from strength to strength. He told the audience that even Ramdorai, former CEO of TCS or Kris Gopalakrishnan, now CEO of Infosys or for that matter all the biggies of outsourcing do not even understand the significance of what they have done. By reeducation of the workforce using "army bootcamp" models and stressing upon continuous training of the workforce, Indian outsourcing industry has achieved excellence.

He said despite India's graduates being low in number and its R&D spending miniscule compared to China, India is doing some cutting edge R&D in pharma, technology, and space. Amazon will never admit that its Kindle was designed in New Delhi or the touch screen technology being developed out of India. The whole host of customer appliances by LG are designed in India.

Prof. Wadhwa's focus in the discussion with Vishal was on how the entrepreneurs in the 35 to 40 year age groups were the successful ones as opposed to college dropouts. He also asked the audience to think where these dropouts were from. He said such students have an option of going back to universities in the US in case they failed. That's not the case in India. Responding to my question how student startups can be mentored, he said the VCs are writing fat cheques to these student "wizards of ideas" and wiping off their assets.

In the unconference on product startup challenges, Prof. Wadhwa said selling can be learned through books and other resources. He said no one he talked to in the conclave were able to tell him within 30 seconds what they did. Instead they dragged on and on to explain. That's not the right selling model. He complimented Vishal Gondal saying he will join Vishal because Vishal has been able to sell well. He also has charisma.

Prof. Wadhwa was a huge bonus to the conclave who made the debates live with his incisive research on outsourcing, entrepreneurship, and global outlook. I am saving the last session in which he was involved with M.R. Rangasami, Ashish Gupta, and Mukund Mohan for another post.

M.R. Rangaswami, cochair on Cloud—infectious enthusiasm

When I saw M.R. Rangaswami (MR as he is fondly called) on 9th in the Open House, he was silently sitting in the last row listening to the debate on stage. But by the end of the conclave, he was the most visible face. I wondered how old should he be after seeing him facilitating many sessions and actively listening to the Cloud-based conversations with "boyish" enthusiasm. His contribution and his intent of helping the event in the deed and not just on paper. He wants us to dream and make that dream come true. He said how he brought in 250 delegates in the US way back in 2004 to teach selling and marketing to corporates in outsourcing who wanted to know how to sell to their customers in the US. He was almost challenging the organizing team by his enthusiasm, keeping the debates close on time, facilitating many discussions and giving his insights, participating in the conversations by asking interesting questions. He played true to his role of the Cloud co-chair. I think experts like MR bring a lot of fresh air and an outsider perspective to the conclave that you got to understand what the world outside is instead of talking within ourselves what the world outside was and what we expected it to be.

The Keynotes

Four keynotes were packed in two days, two apiece each day. No guesses for the most popular—Carol Batz of Yahoo! stole the show by her candour. Her views were heard with rapt attention. But my favorite was Frank Levinson, Finisar cofounder, jumping with joy on the stage. The way he ran through his presentation and also his three lessons or equations were most good. (Will be covered separately later.)

Sharad Sharan's keynote was educative, but YourStory learnt that there were positives and negatives out of this. The audience connected and some weren't able to as it an outside perspective. The SaaS talk by Amitabh Srivatsava was a good one, as YourStory learnt from the audience feedback.


You come, you hear keynotes, exchange cards with stars whom you have seen on the Web, or heard about them from others. But as an entrepreneur, is it useful? Sangeeta Patni of Extensio has made the CIO showcase the real platform for startups and product software made in India to connect to the world. This is the important part. If it was dining and talking and no real concrete benefit for a product entrepreneur, the Conclave will lose its appeal. But if it gives a product entrepreneur that $1 million opportunity and helps him go out of India's shores, the impact will be eternal. YourStory appreciates this connection. On-ground, real-time assistance that makes it memorable.

If you want my vote, it is for Prof. Vivek Wadhwa and MR. Not to leave out others though. There were silent champions but without them, the event wouldn't be what it was.

Starting from Sharad Sharma, Avinash (the director of this movie called the conclave), Suresh Sambandam, Kishore Mandyam, Ankur Lal, Indus Khaitan, Ajay, Vijay Rayapati, Arvind Jha, Peter Yorke, Sangeeta Patni, KK (for sure), and all those who took up the stage after the event are doing a phenomenal job in redefining the product landscape. The world is a better place for startups and entrepreneurs thanks to these people's giving back to the community spirit.

Three cheers to NASSCOM Product Conclave! You did it this year!!

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