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“SOURCE:THE ECONOMIC TIMES”

A recent visit to Israel — meeting innovators, accelerators, academia and the government — has given me an opportunity to understand why it is truly a product nation. Each stakeholder plays a critical role in driving innovation, which makes Israel the melting pot of future technology products.

The visit coincided with the announcement of the National Policy on Software Products in India, laying out an ambitious vision to scale up product-led technology industry by 10 times in the next  five to seven years. We must work together on the key imperatives to ensure that this target isn’t missed.

From a product standpoint, 2018 was special for us. Freshworks became the first product unicorn from India and Indian SaaS products inched towards the $1-billion revenue mark. Niramai was featured among the Top 100 artificial-intelligence startups globally by CBinsights, Sigtuple won the ‘Google Judges Choice Award for Asia’ and John Chambers invested in cybersecurity  product company Lucideus. Interestingly, Indian services companies also stepped up the action on products — HCL Technologies acquired software products from IBM, Tata Consultancy Services launched SaaS product Jile, and EXL Services announced the global rollout of a digital KYC product.

Rapid technology shifts have led to new opportunities as every use case is ripe for disruption . The massively increased consumption across industries creates the platform to build products  for India.

The policy covers the key imperatives of funding, talent and incubation, but more importantly, introduces new ones as well. Building 20 software product clusters across the country will drive innovation from untapped cities, a Product Mission that includes the academia will build research connect, the focus on research and innovation fund will provide the much-needed investment in intellectual property, and initiatives for market access will expand outreach for Indian products.

Last year, the funding scenario regained momentum. While funding saw a 108% rise, more than 70% of the money went to late-stage companies. The corpus of Rs 5,000 crore, earmarked by the government as a Software Product Development Fund to provide risk capital, would do well to divert more funds into B2B or B2C products. Deeptech adoption is growing at 50%, and requires patient capital.

Innovation can only thrive in an environment of shared learning and collaboration. Israel’s  ecosystem follows a culture of strong interconnection which promotes exchange of ideas. In India, despite multiple accelerators, interconnections across diverse initiatives remains inadequate. While many entrepreneurs are willing to share their learnings, product aspirations require a much deeper mentor engagement — well beyond funding based relationships.

Talent is India’s key strength. A two-pronged approach is needed on research collaboration with academia and skill development across product design, product engineering and product management.

India needs to continue to attract global companies to build R&D capabilities here. A holistic ecosystem of innovations, MNCs, researchers and government will promote the interplay of talent, ideas and collaboration. Ten thousand companies, 10X revenue — India’s vision of a thriving software product sector is most exciting, and we are committed to making this real.

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