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NASSCOM Product Conclave (NPC) is the flagship event that NASSCOM holds for the Indian software product ecosystem, where members and other stakeholders interact and network over the three days. The annual event in Bangalore this year was organised between October 29th and 31st. In a conversation with MR Rangaswami, co-host of NPC, we discussed the software product ecosystem in India and what he sees the role of NPC to be. MR is the Managing Director of Sand Hill Group in the Silicon Valley, and has actively been championing the cause of the product companies in India through his involvement with NASSCOM.

What do you think the direction is that the software product ecosystem in India is headed?

MR: The Indian software industry is close to the tipping point. It takes time to get entrepreneurs, incubators, angel investors and VCs aligned. And you also need accountants, attorneys and real estate professionals to assist in the growth of the industry. At the last NPC I was gratified to see and meet hundreds of founders who were enthusiastic, passionate and committed to their vision. The ecosystem has arrived and I believe we're moving in the right direction.

What do you see as the current dynamics of the industry?

MR: The confluence of cloud, mobile, social and big data is providing amazing opportunities for entrepreneurs in the software product space. The cost of developing products has come down dramatically and at the same time the entire global market is yours for the taking. And therein lies the challenge - how does a company get above the noise to attract funding and customers? You have well-funded global competitors, so you have to realize that focus is key and you really need a unique selling proposition to be heard and noticed.

Has the ecosystem evolved?

MR: Ten years ago there were hardly any angels and VCs to provide funding. If you look back to 2004, maybe only a dozen companies got VC funding that year. What a difference a decade makes! Today, good Indian companies are getting sizable funding and great valuations. But we have not had any big exits yet, something I think will happen in the next few years.

What, if any, are the funding issues you've come across?

MR: In terms of funding, I believe that the onus is on the entrepreneur to tell a great story. In today's market we see too many copycat deals and too many solutions looking for problems to solve. Entrepreneurs need to move beyond selling their technical prowess and show their potential business acumen, in order to attract funding.

What do you think prevents Indian products from scaling and becoming global?

MR: Indian software products are no different from any other product anywhere. Entrepreneurs need prior experience or they need board members or a mentor who can help and guide them. Understanding a global enterprise customer is no different than getting to know an Indian one. One has to understand their problems/pain points and sell the business benefits of the solution. If you have a consumer product you have to learn the cultural nuances of each market. So what are the issues with being able to scale? You can hire execs who have done this before. It is often done by trial and error - you will make mistakes but if you have earned the trust of your customers they will be willing to stay with you while you work out the kinks. 

Could you talk about your involvement with NPC? How long have you been involved, in what capacities, and what do you see as the future of NPC and its role in the product ecosystem?

MR: I am a Silicon Valley veteran of 30 years and I have always wanted to give back to my homeland. The question was how. I had been helping NASSCOM bring global CIOs to the annual leadership forum in Mumbai for as few years but my desire was to bring a Silicon Valley like ecosystem to India and NPC seemed like the logical way. I have been volunteering now for 6 years and I bring a group of US based CEOs, VCs and other executives to the event. Many of them have been first time visitors and they have had great experiences during their time at NPC and in India.

I have also met hundreds of Indian entrepreneurs over the course of my involvement and learned a lot as well. I look forward to meeting a lot of the friends I have made along the way and am so happy when they share their successes and their challenges. NPC has evolved and matured, much like many of the entrepreneurs who come to it.

We live in a time when connectivity is a necessity - 24/7, anytime, anywhere access is fast becoming the norm. No longer can one power down one's laptop and assume the work day has ended. Mobile phones and other handheld devices have brought about an era of continuous availability and access. And there are a host of apps available, for both Android and Apple devices, which help you make the most of your smartphone, allowing you to expand on the inherent functionality it offers. Productivity quotient increased, just with a few apps on board, and harnessing the power of the cloud!

While many apps are free, there are others that have both free and paid for versions. The paid apps offer more options, storage and greater functionality, but one can always try out their free versions or similar free apps before deciding whether to buy. Here's a list of ten of the most useful and popular apps across a range of needs, in the market right now, not mentioning the very obvious ones like Dropbox, Google Docs and Skype. Some we know you've heard off, while others are new or just not yet ubiquitous, though we predict they will be, given how helpful they are!

The Ten to Have

Evernote: This one shows up on pretty much every list of great productivity apps. Evernote allows you to take notes on the go, and sync them across your various devices. You get multiple notebooks where you can save everything from a short note to long lists, oral reminders and images. You can upload audio and video snippets too. The Clearly app, part of Evernote now, reduces the time taken to read articles online by removing all extraneous data - ads, sidebars, and images, that are both distracting and slow the loading of content. 

Remember the Milk: Is the ultimate task management app, and popular with many thanks to its quirky name. The app promises that you won't forget anything small or big, since you can sync to your Google calendar, have SMS, email or IM reminders, manage tasks offline, and share your tasks too.

MindMeister: is a mind mapping app. Mind mapping allows you to project ideas into a series of points/interconnected visuals. The app is highly useful for ideation and brainstrorming.

Podio: is a project management and collaborative work platform that means you and colleagues can share information, collaborate on a project and keep up to date, all with a downloaded app.

Quip: is also a mobile office app, with integrated messaging and collaborative editing. Users have the ability to create, import and share documents, to-do lists and then collaboratively edit them. The app's messaging sidebar allows you to reach out to colleagues and view their edits. Quip has the ability to import documents from Dropbox, Drive and Evernote, and export documents to PDF and Office formats.

Sunrise Calender: is the latest on the scene. Sunrise syncs with your existing Google Calendar, iCloud and Exchange calendars. It has background syncing, quick event entry, reminders, time zone support and even location tagging. It is gaining popularity quite literally by the day!

AirDroid: Allows you to use your phone from your PC,
rather than having to constantly switch back and forth between devices. You can read and send texts, transfer files, view your device storage and basically operate your phone via your PC.

PocketCloud: Offers you complete access to your PC from your smartphone, so you can reach those important files and emails wherever you are, whenever you need to.

Expensify: is the solution to keeping track of your expenses when you're on the road, a boon for frequent business travelers who otherwise have to wade through their receipts later on and rationalize them. The app allows scanning of receipts and then pulls the relevant information off the images and adds it to your records. It has offline and online functionality and can log miles as you drive, allowing you to calculate your mileage claim!

CloudMagic: is a mobile email app that allows you to access multiple accounts; personal and business emails can all be accessed in one place.

Tasker: is an app that allows one to create intelligent automation on a device, be it getting a smartphone to automatically connect to a certain Wi-Fi network or Bluetooth device, based on location. One can also change the phone's ring behavior and volume settings based on location, time of day, or currently occurring calendar events, which means you never will be embarrassed when your phone rings in the middle of an important meeting or at an inopportune moment because you forgot to turn it off.

A NASSCOM report released in 2013 estimates that the global outsourcing market for software testing will reach USD 50 billion in the year 2020. This report also estimates that India will account for around USD 15 Billion of the USD 50 Billion, making the country the largest beneficiary of the growth. All this augurs well for the outsourced testing services market space in India.

The testing landscape in India predictably includes technology behemoths like Accenture, Tata Consultancy Services, Cognizant Technology Solutions, IBM and Infosys. However, as testament to the size and scope of the industry in India today, there are also innumerable small and medium size firms making a play for their share of the pie. From small start-ups to mid-size companies with 500-1000 employees and a presence in various countries, Indian firms have become a ubiquitous part of the software testing space over the last decade and a half.


The Changing Landscape


The landscape is in the throes of change currently. No longer is testing done in silos, or seen as an independent process that was done before a piece of software was released, because it was required. Today, testing has becoming integral, a requirement at every step not just post the development of a software  product. Its value and need are a given and the responsibility of the testing agency has increased. Says Srivatsan Tiruvallur Thattai, V.P. and Head of Solutions for Maveric Systems, a well-established name in the testing space: "There has been a complete refining of quality. Five years ago, it rested with the testing team, whereas today, everyone is a co-located owner." The mantra in every organization now is efficiency, and this philosophy extends to the testing space as well - time is an important factor, alongside quality and cost, feels Thattai. He points to increased spend, especially in technology for testing and says that investment in the tools for testing are higher than ever before.


Test Faster, Test Smarter


T. Ashok, Founder & CEO Bangalore based Stag Software, agrees that agile methodologies and a greater focus on automation have been in play over the last few years in an effort to boost quality. Today, he says, the focus and the need is for smarter testing, improving effectiveness, reducing maintenance costs and doing more with less. He points out that rather than domain knowledge, the more urgent need is for a test perspective and building smarter testing frameworks. "There has been increasing interest in smarter testing and use of smarter methodology, especially over the last year," says Ashok, pointing out that until five years ago there was a process focus, which then moved to automation, which was seen as an end-all for boosting quality. "This is a period of transition, from the old style to new style interface. There is pressure on product companies to optimize," says Ashok, and with that comes a need to focus on improvement and being aware of the application framework, and factoring in all the possibilities of what could go wrong, when testing.


Crowdsourced Testing Loop


The other key trend to watch is driving testing out of the labs and into the realm of users/consumers. Today there really is an app for everything and a consumer for most of them. Thanks to cheap handsets and call rates, the average Indian has embraced mobility. The sheer number of mobile subscribers and the demographics of this age group - largely 30 and under - means that companies are getting access to huge volumes of user experience data. Crowdsourced testing is becoming a reality in India, and this young population is becoming a testing generation, with social media and blogs providing instant feedback to companies. The recent iPhone 6 incident is a shining example of this, where users took to social media to highlight the phone's unintentionally bendy design, a design flaw that did not come to light before release.


Can we seize the day?


With its educated and able workforce, India has been a forerunner in the testing space and as an outsourcing partner and global supplier for firms worldwide, global trends are applicable here, more than anywhere else. Specialization is the name of the game now - thanks to the advent and spread of new technologies, in particular SMAC (Social, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud).  Thattai says India has progressed with the SMAC drive, and with testing on cloud and virtualization already in play, he underscores that opportunities abound. He cautions though, that India still doesn't have the required skills-set or significant ability to evaluate since there are no standardized tool sets in with tools, and that testers trained in old school black box testing may not be able to match up to the needs of the current testing scenario. "A demand versus supply problem exists," he says.


Expertize and Understanding as the Key to Transformation


Experts agree that domain experience and understanding are the way forward. Broad, composite skills and certifications are expected of the new breed of testers, as is a degree of specialization. "Priorities are shifting to the shortening of release cycles and domain understanding is a must - the focus on process is much less than it used to be," says Thattai. Just as  testing was a subject for campus recruits a decade ago, over the next few years, expectations from prospective employees will be understanding and know-how of the new trends, he points out. Skills and knowledge in governance, risk compliance and cloud and mobile, alongside quality assurance, are expected to be in focus.


A paradigm shift has occurred in the way clients perceive their testing providers - the expectation is that the testing vendor should work as a partner and be part of the larger picture. Thattai points out  that testing has gone from being a cost center to a value center, with  clients demanding the services of  test architects and experts; "the mentality has changed - testers and testing as a skill is valued now, testing is a science; the earlier view that anyone can test has gone." Alliances and partnerships are becoming important as well and Thattai sees a shift towards transformative partnerships, with companies wanting a vendor who can partner with them in their IT transformation journeys and be there for the long haul, rather than just doing everything in-house. It's no longer a question of captive versus outsourced testing, he feels. "Captives themselves are outsourcing testing, leveraging the latest skills and technology through partnerships."


So, where is the software testing industry headed? Over the last couple of years, the investments and availability of equipment for testing have peaked and now, there are even courses being offered on testing, and having certifications for specific testing skills will soon be expected. A crop of QA services businesses have also sprung up. Testing for mobiles has also become a significant business opportunity in India. All these factors will contribute to India's predicted large share in the USD 50 Billion pie.


No ‘testing' times ahead then for the players in this segment of the software business!

NASSCOM and LetsVenture are partnering to help the Emerge 50 companies with their fund-raising efforts.


LetsVenture is in pursuit of making startup funding easy. In the last 10 months, the platform has enabled 17 startups across sectors to successfully close their funding. A total of INR 21 Cr has been invested by 120+ Investors on LetsVenture.


Get Featured, Get Discovered!
Being one of the most promising startups that features on NASSCOM Emerge 50, LetsVenture invite Emerge 50 companies to create your startup profile on thier portal. The portal will feature them for 2 months with a special "NASSCOM EMERGE 50" mention on their startup stamp, making it easy for LetsVenture's 700+ Investors to discover them.


Coming Onboard?
Step 1 - Companies create their investor-friendly startup profile.
Step 2 - Add/Invite existing investors to the profile, and leverage the platform to accelerate & streamline syndication of the remainder of their fund-raise
Step 3 - Close your paperwork with ease with LetsVenture's Commitment to Closure package (due-diligence report, Term Sheet & SHA).

"With inDefend Business, we offer companies an integrated data privacy solution, which covers all components in a single product". -Dhruv Khanna, CEO, Data Resolve Technologies

When he decided to transition Data Resolve Technologies from a DLP, to an integrated Data Privacy solution company, CEO, Dhruv Khanna, wanted to add a new dimension to Data Security standards.

The core idea behind Data Resolve's technology was to generate actionable cyber intelligence reports by monitoring the exit routes of information from a computer like USB ports, CD-DVD drives, e-mails, chat clients, etc. The product minimizes the loss and theft of critical business data through customized access policies.

Speaking about what led the company to enter this space, Dhruv says the push came from clients. "Data protection, security and privacy issues were key challenges for enterprises, which required them to buy multiple products and appliances. With our product inDefend Business, we offer companies an integrated solution. Our overall technology stack covers all components in a single product", he states.

The result is reduced TCO, Quick Return on Investment, and Cloud benefits such as anytime-anywhere monitoring and control.
Client co-creation is another reason for the company's success and what has helped it acquire large customers. "Competitors were not addressing the pain points of customers in terms of co-creation. The co-creation model, which helps companies solve their environment-specific security challenges on a customization basis, struck a chord with them", he comments.

The product offers clients advanced insights on hidden business risks through cyber intelligence reporting. It provides offline control and monitoring for computers disconnected from the organizational network, and handles bypass scenarios of data card, onion routing, tunnelling, etc., which cannot be resolved by traditional Data Privacy controls, very easily.

Most importantly, it addresses security concerns for tablets and data loss issues for hand-held devices using an encrypted Cloud backup.

These advantages have allowed the organization to draw clients from across the globe.

Initially, the company had to give assurances to customers and establish its credibility. Today, when it has over 70 customers that are big brands, the challenges are lowered.

The company aims to be a global organization present in all major geographies. "From the perspective of a product company, we want to provide security across every end point device", states Dhruv.
Since its inception, Data Resolve Technologies has won several industry accolades for excellence in technology and been ranked among the top 10 product start-ups, game changers and success stories in India.

      "We want to be the security and control choice for Cloud apps".
-Rahul Bhavsar and Debasish Pramanik, CloudCodes

  Rahul Bhavsar and Debasish Pramanik began CloudCodes in 2011, with the view to bridge the gaps they saw in the Google Apps eco-system and to build a security and control layer for enterprise customers wanting to move to the Google Cloud.

  The duo realized that the biggest stumbling blocks in the path of companies keen to undertake this migration were security, privacy and compliance.

  The company developed admin tools and business applications leveraging Google Cloud technologies. It created for instance, gControl, a Cloud Firewall for Google Apps, which adds a layer on top of Google Apps for an enterprise.

  The journey of the company began with the development of ten different products, which were finally consolidated (and some even dropped), within one-and-a-half year of its inception. "Last year, we got angel funding from Google employees who believed in us. This greatly spurred our development efforts and enabled us to improve the quality of our products," says Debasish.
This has resulted in the company projecting revenues of USD 500,000 for this financial year and targeting USD 1 million in the next. Today, CloudCodes has 250 clients, including three of the top five financial institutions or broking firms in India and 60-70 channel partners.

  "While we struggled initially, starting this year, we have witnessed an escalation in our sales pipeline. We have good partners and have earned their recognition", he adds.
The experience of building CloudCodes, according to Rahul and Debasish, has brought them several learnings. "We learnt that it was very important to understand your core strengths-your domain expertise. That you need to find gaps in the segments where you are the subject matter expert. Following this, it is important to look at your competition.  As a software products company, you must explore the global market and not the local market. Thanks to the Cloud, we have been able to address global problems and challenges. Then, you have to make your business scalable and free of geographic restrictions," comments Rahul.

  Going forward, CloudCodes is intending to improve its traction within the Google eco-system, while looking beyond it. "There are five million companies focusing on Google Apps, but we want to address more than 10 million customers. We will be looking to expand our products to over other eco-systems such as Microsoft, Salesforce, and Amazon, among others. We will open major addressable markets for ourselves by extending the capabilities of our existing products. The vision is to make our products a platform for enterprises to run any of their enterprise Cloud apps. We want to be the security and control choice for Cloud apps," states Debasish.

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