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Building a software product company in India: A Perspective

Sridhar Vembu
Sridhar Vembu
Founder and CEO, 
AdventNet
One of the challenges of being a software product company in India is that professional services companies dominate the IT landscape. This manifests itself in many ways; indeed it is fair to say that the very word 'software' in India has come to be associated with providing professional services.

This services-oriented industry mindset means that a product company has to cross several hurdles, starting from recruiting people to creating efficient internal processes. What we have learned from over a decade of operating as a 'different' kind of company in India is to be patient and pave our own path.

Let's consider recruitment first: it is hard for a company that is so different from the mainstream to stand out and attract the required talent pool. The prevailing mindset is that a product company is 'risky', while a services company has a safe predictable business model. Prospective candidates generally prefer companies that, from their perspective, have proven models and shy away from companies with perceived risky models. This has forced us to be very creative in our recruitment, something that I have written about extensively in our blogs.

Indeed, the sheer necessity of finding good people to work for us forced us to explore alternative paths, and our entire culture has changed as a result. For instance, we tend not to focus much on academic credentials; instead we prefer to hire people who can get stuff done in the real world. It is amazing to see how well this principle works in practice, yet how hard it is to convince people, who haven't experienced it, about this. People seem to be so overawed by fancy credentials that they just don't bother to look at the data supporting their real world relevance. This is even truer in India than, for example, in the U.S.

Second, we also noticed that most of college education really doesn't add value; so we created our own alternative program and hired students directly out of high schools. This has worked significantly well for us. We would likely never have done these if the hiring environment weren't difficult for us. Even after hiring, until new recruits get familiar with the company and become comfortable about our business, the lingering question is always there in their mind. Every new hire-orientation I attend will have at least a couple of people asking the questions 'Why don't we do services? Wouldn't that be an easier business'. So often have I answered that question that I can now answer that question even in my sleep!
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