Thirty Indian software product companies have come together to form a new association, marking the first break from the omnibus IT industry body Nasscom and reflecting the growing confidence and maturity of the software product community . The thirty founding members, led by Bharat Goenka, co-founder of Tally Solutions, Sharad Sharma, former head of Yahoo India R&D, startup mentor and founder of Brand Sigma, Naveen Tewari, founder of In-Mobi , and Vishnu Dusad, founder of Nucleus Software, will have their first meeting in Bangalore on Monday to formalize the association and develop action plans.
The association, called the Indian Software Product Industry Round Table, or iSpirt, has been formed with the vision that India now has the basic building blocks to develop a powerful software product industry that can help transform India, as also deliver invaluable solutions to the rest of the world. All of the founding members individually have strong customer bases in India or around the world. The objective now is to share expertise and experiences, and create a larger awareness in society and government about the critical role the industry can play â€” something they believe they cannot effectively do under the larger Nasscom umbrella.
“A few good software services companies may be good enough to serve the top 500 hospitals in India. But if you want to address 5,00,000 or more hospitals around the country, you cannot do it without software products,” says Goenka, who many regard as the father of the Indian software product industry and whose Tally accounting solution is used by virtually every small business in the country, an accomplishment that earned him Nasscom’s first and till now the only Lifetime Achievement Award.
The problem of scalability arises in software services because of its total dependence on people to implement solutions . This is the kind of work the Indian software industry, including companies like TCS, Infosys and Wipro, have traditionally done. Software products , on the contrary, can be bought off the shelf and customers can implement many of these on their own. The best examples of these are Microsoft’s Windows and Office.
Naveen Tewari, whose mobile ad network is used by over 250 of the Fortune 1000 companies and is second only to Google’s AdMob, notes that all IT solutions in education today are directed at the likes of the IITs and IIMs. “You need education products to reach out to the mass of educational institutions . India today has extremely smart people who can develop such products. The market outside India is also huge. There are three-four billion people living in countries similar to India who can be serviced by Indian product companies,” he says.
Every town in India is seen to have one or two people who have developed some software product that they are selling among a small customer base. One study the association did found that there were at least 17 software products developed for jewellery in India, but the developers had an average of no more than 2,000-3 ,000 customers each, even though there are an estimated 3 lakh jewellers in India.
“These small developers are unable to see the big picture , think big. The association’s initial efforts would be directed towards creating the knowledge bank and environment required for these developers to explode,” says Sharad Sharma. He says it will simultaneously work to create awareness about why the industry is important for the national agenda. “Once society recognizes our value, we hope to influence the government to create better taxation and policy frameworks,” Sharma says.
Asked how Nasscom felt about the product companies creating a separate association , Goenka said, “I have been talking with Som Mittal (Nasscom president) for some six months about this. Nasscom has promised support. We will not be in conflict with anybody.” Vishnu Dusad said iSpirt would work with all industry associations â€” including Nasscom â€” that are dedicated to creating world-class products and intellectual property.
Nasscom tends to be dominated by IT services companies . Sub-segments within it, including the BPO companies, have often felt that their issues were not being sufficiently addressed . But this is the first occasion where a segment is breaking away, though some will be members of both Nasscom and iSpirt. And this is happening just when Nasscom had established a committee under Infosys founder N R Narayana Murthy to make recommendations on how to make the organization more relevant given the changing IT environment.
iSpirt will not have a president or any such nomenclature . There will be a governing council consisting of Sharma, Goenka, Tewari and Dusad. “We’ll have a flat structure and have a volunteer model. We believe that creates higher quality outcomes than one where you have a paid official running the organization,” Sharma says.
The new association will be called the Indian Software Product Industry Round Table, or iSpirt Founding cos include Tally Solutions, QuickHeal, InMobi, Nucleus software, and industry stalwarts The idea is to create and promote mass-solution software that can be bought off the shelf, like MS Windows or Office The new association’s members want to offer education software for all schools rather than just IITs/IIMs They claim Nasscom was taken into confidence 6 months ago and has even promised support