Top global firms tap software product ideas at start-up meet
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Bangalore: The chief information officers (CIOs) of top global companies such as Colgate-Palmolive Co., Procter and Gamble Co. (P&G) and Citigroup Inc. were in India on Thursday to explore the possibility of doing business with the country’s fledgling software product ecosystem—the first such concerted initiative.
The 50 hand-picked start-ups pitched their ideas directly to the CIOs of potential global customer firms. Each start-up present at the InTech50 event got five minutes to showcase its product and explain its business model.
After spending the better part of the last decade outsourcing back-office software development projects to Indian firms such as Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS) and Infosys Ltd, top technology customers listened to rapid-fire pitching sessions from start-ups, with some CIOs exploring the possibility of working with these new enterprises.
“It’s great exposure. Most of the CIOs in the Western world, including me, had no idea about the Indian product software industry,” said Piyush Singh, CIO of Great American Insurance Co. and a co-host of the event. “To be able to speak to the CIOs and get feedback from them directly will only improve the concept of their products.”
The list of 50 Indian start-ups included the likes of mobile payments start-up Ezetap, ZipDial Mobile Solutions Pvt. Ltd, customer support software firm FreshDesk and analytics start-up QuBole.
“Getting to know the business of the target customer is absolutely critical for a company such as ours. It is so hard to even get 20 minutes of someone’s time, especially those key decision-makers,” said Valerie Wagoner, founder and chief executive of ZipDial. “If you don’t really maximize those 20 minutes, you’ve basically wasted a week or two worth of effort just getting to those people in the first place.”
The latest attempt to showcase Indian software products comes when the country’s technology sector is trying to go beyond its traditional image of being a low-cost, outsourcing hub and build a sizable software products industry that can rank with other ecosystems like Silicon Valley and Israel.
The meeting with CIOs will also provide an opportunity for Indian product start-ups to learn about client technology needs directly from potential top global customers, at a time when the Indian product ecosystem is looking for bigger success stories and attempting to gain more traction globally from large enterprises.
Currently, India’s IT industry is dominated by software services, which contribute more than 90% of the $118 billion of revenue. Software products generate roughly $2 billion of revenue every year.
Software product think-tank iSpirt has set an ambitious goal $100 billion in revenue from software products by 2025. The body, which was formed last year by 30 product industry veterans and firms such as InMobi and Tally Solutions, has, over the past year, stepped up efforts to showcase Indian product start-ups, including organizing talks between merger and acquisition (M&A) heads of top firms such as Facebook and IBM and Indian product start-ups.
iSpirt, which organized InTech50, was formed as a breakaway group from industry lobby Nasscom, after members of the software products industry felt their interests were being overshadowed by those of larger IT services firms.
To be sure, Indian software product companies still have a long way to go before they can create innovative product solutions that will be used on a large scale by top global companies.
A number of CIOs present at the event, some requesting anonymity, said their firms had made it a board agenda to look for more innovative technology solutions from start-up ecosystems across the world, as these solutions are not coming from large, traditional IT firms such as Infosys and Wipro Ltd.
“A lot of times, these bigger IT companies lose their ability to innovate. They become slow and the brilliant people who founded these companies leave. It’s harder to innovate in a bigger company,” said the CIO of a multinational firm who did not want to be named.
“It’s interesting to look at these solutions from these start-ups as a lot of these innovations are not really coming from the larger IT companies here like Infosys and TCS,” said the CIO of another large company who, too, requested anonymity. “So, for a company like ours that is looking to expand in markets like India and China, it makes sense to look at some of the innovative solutions that are coming out from the ecosystems here.”
For a full list of the InTech50 firms, go here
Mint has a strategic media partnership with InTech50.