The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

March - 2008 - issue > Management

Establishing and Growing Product Startups in India

Neelakantan Natarajan
Friday, February 29, 2008
Neelakantan Natarajan
The early history of the Indian software industry saw the emergence and remarkable success of service-based software companies. They have established extremely successful and enduring business models. Equally importantly, they provided (and continue to provide) the breeding ground for the next generation of successful technologists and leaders.

Overlapping with their rapid growth period was the entry and growth of the multi-nationals. Along with the multi national companies came a mindset towards product building and research. Since 2000, we have seen numerous product startups establishing their subsidiaries in India and carry out their operations here with remarkable success. Rich with innovational and disruptive ideas, these product startups sought to utilize the skills of Indian software engineers to rapidly churn out the products and get to the market at significantly lower costs.

Today, the spectrum of software companies encompasses product startups founded and headed out of India and supply their wares to global markets. The strengthening rupee rates, rising operational costs, and an acute shortage of skilled personnel that is compounded by a growing rate of attrition are challenges that confront the Indian leadership today.

While these problems are generic in nature, and can be applied to companies across the entire spectrum, what makes the matter particularly unpalatable for startup product companies is the fact that the ‘product-DNA’ personnel are hard to find. Personnel with the ‘product-DNA’ are folks who have the ‘do-whatever-it-takes’ attitude in shipping out the products. Their job is not to implement specifications, but to challenge them (if they exist), and more proactively build the best possible product in the shortest possible time with the best possible quality while innovating with the best possible technologies. There really are no rules to the game of product building when one is in the startup mode. Ultimately, it is not about the number of hours of work one puts in – it is all about efficacy. How can leadership in startup product companies stimulate and
sustain efficacy at such high levels?

I conducted several of my interviews for Winphoria Networks in September 2000 in the balconies of the business center that we were occupying temporarily. We were in our very early stages – it now seems extraordinary that several bright young folks actually signed up for what at that time was considered very risky! They did very well with their stock options subsequently. The reason for this memory recall is to highlight the fact that the first step to a successful startup operation is building the team with the right people with the right attitude. This cannot be over emphasized. It is better not to be tempted to fill the vacant positions as quickly as possible.

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