Creating global products with borderless innovations

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In the day’s first panel discussion at TechSparks 2013, panelists- Kavin Bharti Mittal, head of strategy, new product development, Bharti SoftBank, Nick Talbot, Global Design Head, Tata Elxsi, Pallav Nadhani, Co-Founder and CEO, FusionCharts, Rejenish Umapathy, WebEx Business Lead - India and SAARC, Cisco, Srikanth Karnakota, Country Head Server and Cloud Business, Microsoft India and Gautam Mago, Principal with Sequoia Capital India spoke about ‘Global Products with Borderless Innovations’.

The session was moderated by Ravi Gururaj, Chairman & Co-Founder, Frictionless Ventures.

Here are the broad areas that were discussed.

On going global:

Mago: There is no choice but to go global. What excites us is the size of the opportunity, for example, the legacy enterprise software product market is $500 billion in size. Most of it is on old code bases, the replacement opportunity for this software is a huge opportunity. If the Indian companies do not do this, somebody in the global market will do it.

Mittal: The product has to be nothing short of phenomenal. Like in messaging we acquired many users as the user experience was very good. If you launch an app for the first time and its not good you lose users.

Talbot: Strong impression that I get from SMBs, is that they think that we have big potential in India and why should I bother to think global when we have a captive market. You can launch in India first, but bench-mark globally.

When should you be going global?

Mago: The playbook keeps changing on how to build a business. Depends on the stage you are at, if you are serving enterprise, developer or ISV market you have to global from Day 1.

But the consumer and SMB market is different, India is a petri dish, but even then you should think global because competitors in Prague and Kenya and so on are doing the same thing.

Nadhani: We did not have an option to sell in India, we had to start selling globally from the get-go. Being global is better than being local. Some customers said that if we knew you were an Indian company, we could not have bought your product. Delivering from 0-1 million is fine, but 1-100 million is challenging, what’s needed is a playbook.

Karnakota: Different point of view on how startups should think of global- doesnt start with vision with whether it will be global or indian- most startups are looking at prob and looking at solving it- going global happens later- bucketing innovations- set of companies doing better and cheaper innovation- solution gaps not solved by others- third- difficult- unstated needs. start with the problem and design- and then think of going global.

Startups need to be clear about which target segment you want to address and design for that market. In terms of product expansion, you need to be ready with next set of product features.

Availability of talent to build global products:

Mago: Start small, because hiring the people who will do it is difficult, but this will improve over the next 5 years.

Nadhani: Core thing are being built by Indians outside- we need indian diaspora to build something here. To build a global product, you need a higher threshold in terms of access to talent and info systems.

Talbot: I have been here for two years and I see some improvement, and some universities are picking up and producing good talent. Parents want all their children to be engineers and doctors and not go and become ‘hippies’.

Difficulty of building a global product from India:

Nadhani: We have difficulty in building global products because there is a cultural problem. Our education is spoon-fed, most graduates want to join a company. I have interviewed 1000s of potential employees, only 10 odd have built something thats is open source. Even when you join a company, the services mentality is pervasive.

If you look at social, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC) we are more adopters and users, but we are not building it. There’s a glimmer of hope, some core technologies are being built by Indians outside and we need those Indian diaspora to build something here.

Mittal: Culture is a big factor and we are 10 years behind the US. Here we have a lot of people building the same thing. Take China, they have had Alibaba and Tencent even in India there are some startups who will shift the market. The trick is how to reach 100 million people at low-cost.

Indian universities do not produce enough good talent who can become product managers and so on. Unlike Stanford, where a iPhone 101 course, where students were taught to build apps, was launched as soon the iPhone debuted.

Entering a new geography:

Nadhani: Its not just language features changing but the emotions attached to it. Don’t enter a geography with a lot of unknowns. We don’t have playbooks for Russia or Japan, all experimentation will have to be done by you. Find clusters like the US and Canada, succeed there and then think of other markets. In India customers want ‘do it for you’ (DIFY), even for SaaS products, unlike developed countries where they will ‘do it yourself’ (DIY).

Mittal: What you launch in India is not applicable for rest of the world. When you look at China, Korea and so on their markets are extremely insular. India, because we are english speaking we can target beyond the top 100-200 million, but beyond that the market changes. Now you need understanding the life of users in Tier 2-3 cities, they use ‘Hike’ differently in tier 3 cities. We never thought of launching ‘Hike’ in Germany, but they did picked it up. The idea is not to be too complex for bottom and not too trivial for the top. 30 per cent of our user base is global.

Think big, but start small.

On under-tapped opportunities:

Mittal: Mobile payments is huge, just look at M-Pesa in Kenya, in India regulation is an issue, but its moving in the right direction.

Talbot: Resource and resource management is a huge opportunity, like micro-grids- how to manage energy, same with water and food, there is a resource crunch. Technology will help make it better.

Mago: Using new data sources to tackle problems for large enterprises like data from devices and sensors could help spawn big businesses.

Rejenish: Crowdsourcing: how we govern ourselves will move to a crowdsourced model. How to find the movers and shakers within your company in a space that you are interested in.

Nadhani: Healthcare and gamification to make India healthier and become health conscious is a huge opportunity. Big data from social media on how to tackle corruption is another example.

Karnakota: The opportunity is to reimagine what’s happening with enterprise software, we could do a lot with just understanding how employees consume apps.