Monday, 4 March 2013

Swadeshi Andolan – An open letter to Som Mittal, President, NASSCOM

NASSCOM needs to revisit the Swadeshi commerce model if growth of the “Made in India" brand is to be achieved, believes tech entrepreneur Sanjay Mehta.
His views are reproduced below verbatim:
Respected Mr. Mittal,
The pride of being a NASSCOM member can never be overstated, and thus my membership in this organization, is one of my most prized. Thank you for the honor; few years back I was invited to be the Regional Council Member for West Region at NASSCOM.
Since its inception, NASSCOM has been the designated torch-bearer for the Indian IT industry. NASSCOM, I believe is stagnating because of obsolete vision statement - "To be an effective and engaging global trade organization, complemented by the pi¬¬¬llars of trust and credibility". Indian IT has already proven its mettle, and long passed-by this vision statement. NASSCOM can no longer gloat over the achievements of its members: each of whom are a success case story and have become members after attaining a fair level of success. I am sure you will completely agree that there's much more to the Indian IT industry than my 1350 NASSCOM colleague companies.
By profession, I am a technology entrepreneur, having founded well-admired and regarded, purely Indian ‘Swadeshi’ product companies in my career. My current role requires me to connect with enterprise Indian CIO community at large and in my past avatar, I was managing an Indian SMB user base of over 20K. I am also part of an Angel Investment network with a few portfolio companies along with being a speaker in various technology forums on topics such as Big Data, analytics, entrepreneurships and digital marketing and product business in India market scenarios among others.
I am reaching out to you sir, to bring to your immediate attention on the need to build a climate where software intellectual property is developed, nurtured and enabled for success in India and across the globe.
Re-imagining NASSCOM
Let's first check if NASSCOM has defined or understood the product IP company’s problem statement well enough to answer it. Does the existing NASSCOM team have the drive and bandwidth to solve that problem statement? Allow my dissent as I state that we, the NASSCOM members, now represent a bourgeoisie or an exclusive club. We have chosen to ignore the rest of our compatriots who could potentially be better than us in building global IT products. These compatriots are our fellow Indian IT businesses, and they will realize their potential, despite our blind-eye. And once having their potential they too shall become fellow blue-bloods.
Indian IT services, IT enabled business process services, among others have made great strides and have become the story of our nation’s growth over the last two decades. Thanks to NASSCOM for its all round enabling efforts over the years since its formation. While this is greatly appreciated and highly regarded by me, there is also a feeling within me, and many others who have survived with difficulty, that we have achieved much lesser compared with peers in other countries, and overall produced very little intellectually property as a nation over the same period.
Fortunately, Indians are a talented bunch, a fact proved by so many international product brands having development centres in India. But this great talent pool barely gets converted into scalable global product business brands owned by Swadeshi Company. We, as ‘Swadeshi’ Indian origin product companies, have far more challenges than skilled labor arbitrage offering companies, which make up the biggest chunk of NASSCOM members.
Office bearers in NASSCOM have very little or no clue as to the ground realities and the requirements of IP product engineering companies, hence the lack of focus. The programs or services designed has not much adoption with Swadeshi focused IT product community nor its CIO technology buyers.
Building the ‘Made in India’ brand
Till now, only point solutions have come from NASSCOM, which don't solve growth pangs, aspiration of next generation of innovative Swadeshi companies or the Indian CIO technology buyer’s problems. The responsibility for such national or international level growth, policies with framework mobilization towards Swadeshi product IP-focused companies, ultimately rests with a NASSCOM leadership team.
NASSCOM generally succeeds in whatever it tries, so maybe we did not try, or bother to try hard enough? Critically, NASSCOM will have to figure out how to manage multiple distinct businesses like BPO, IT, gaming, product IP etc. NASSCOM should focus equally on giving Swadeshi product companies the tools they need to grow nationally and overseas. It's now time to start asking questions, and retrospect. Unless we do so, Indian IT might soon accept John Milton's "Paradise Lost", as its anthem. Sir, it is time to give value to the "Made in India" badge.
NASSCOM was born in the country of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhiji envisioned a nation where development would begin with the last, poorest, most excluded person. Shouldn't we, at NASSCOM consider the smallest of Indian IT companies as deserving protagonists, for a truer analogy? If NASSCOM fails to accept responsibility, or rejects this as a course of its destiny, I believe Indian ‘Swadeshi’ may have to soon become the true face of Indian IT. So what stops NASSCOM from rising to the challenge and manage all these expectations? Please introspect. The victory of NASSCOM in past looks more like defeat as it has ignored the local country focus/requirements over global exports.
Recalibrating priorities
NASSCOM needs to negotiate with conflicting groups, ideologies and viewpoints within the industry. Sir, NASSCOM needs to draw out Swadeshi emerging product companies from its silence. Luxuries today will be imperatives tomorrow, so it's time for NASSCOM leadership to step up. IT Consumers in India and the world over are migrating in droves to mobile devices, social media and cloud, so does NASSCOM have a current and future strategy for its members or industry as a whole?
To me, the most critical thing in the Indian ecosystem right now is the lack of good local product engineering courses, policies for loans, grants and COE for IP building. Will we see quality software scalable products for enterprise or consumers being written for the global market from India or for that matter, for the Indian market? It's imperative to initiate policies that address the Swadeshi product IP vacuum in the country. The policy framework within NASSCOM has to encourage the right kind of minds into NASSCOM’s Swadeshi product community.
Nothing would please Swadeshi companies more than being able to hire more product programmers and inundate the market with good IP products in the mobile, social media or software space. Start with a comprehensive listing of Swadeshi product companies irrespective of whether they are members of NASSCOM or not. Subsequently hone the skills of these Swadeshi companies under the guidance of successful IP product leaders through a defined process. Help them go global with right access to markets. Create success stories of Swadeshi products nationally and internationally and market them for others to follow.
Time to set newer goals
Sir, In the NASSCOM annual report 2012-13, the message from the Chairman N Chandrasekaran reads, and I quote “The vibrant start-up ecosystem in the country is creating innovative products and solutions that are targeted at the global and Indian market; enterprise and SMB user. NASSCOM is creating a focused program to support these start ups and encourage greater entrepreneurship in the country.” We look forward to these first steps hopefully in this year itself from NASSCOM —programs which are long term, large enough and well thought through for Swadeshi companies.
Opening the avenues to increase our flock, in terms of shapes and sizes, is my suggestion. Becoming a cradle and not just a catalyst must be NASSCOM’s future role. It is time to open the doors, welcome younger Swadeshi product businesses and encourage new Indian aspirants. It is time to provide a better, wholesome industry platform for Indian IT product companies. It's now time to set newer goals, and higher aims. NASSCOM as a body has a potential to touch billions of lives every day.
The Swadeshi commerce consumption model has a credible provenance in Indian history. It has been used before to help local businesses grow. NASSCOM needs to revisit that Swadeshi commerce model if growth of the “Made in India" brand is to be achieved. Youth and seasoned professionals today are increasingly inclined towards taking up technology entrepreneurship more and more. Support from NASSCOM if given now, is going to take them down the growth path faster; take our country a long way and massively boost industry confidence.
Sir, it is important for NASSCOM to advocate or even get a mandate for pushing technology buyers in India, CIOs, Enterprises, SMBs, Government and Consumers to look at procuring Swadeshi products first. Sir, you will appreciate that discontent is the root of success, this is why I desire it.
I am thankful for being the member of NASSCOM and what it is today, and hopeful for NASSCOM to act on the behalf of Swadeshi companies for future of this country. Let’s help make the Swadeshi IP product brand story successful and welcomed all over.

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