iSpirt a think tank: founders

 Goutam Das        Last Updated: February 4, 2013  | 17:22 IST

Goutam Das
Goutam Das
Since yesterday (February 3), media reports have been indicating that a few software product companies affiliated to information technology (IT) lobby Nasscom have formed a splinter association. However, Nasscom members have been vociferously clarifying that these 30 or so companies have only formed a "think tank". And, as of now, those among them that are Nasscom members continue to be a part of the body.

Nasscom President Som Mittal blamed media sensationalism for the reporting by some media outlets. "It is not a breakaway group. They are a think tank and it is good that people are forming think tanks."

The think tank, which includes prominent names such as Sharad Sharma, Chair of the Nasscom Product Forum, and Bharat Goenka, Managing Director of business software company Tally, will work to boost the software product industry in India.

Christened Indian Software Product Industry Round Table (iSpirt), it will have a flat structure for now - with only volunteers and no office bearers such as a president or a secretary.

"We will look to impact and shape policy, open up the small and medium business market for software product companies, and do merger and acquisition connects," said Goenka, explaining iSpirt's agenda to BT. "It is like a start-up within a large organisation. It can be spun out."

India's software product industry is tiny compared to the IT services sector. According to Nasscom, while IT services exports generated $40 billion in 2011/12, software product exports totalled only $1.5 billion.

While product companies can still be part of Nasscom, the argument on why a separate think tank was required is less convincing. Why was it not possible to execute iSpirt's agenda under Nasscom's umbrella? The body, after all, hosts a yearly product conclave that showcases and celebrates innovation. Is it because Nasscom was too much of a big boys' club, where IT services companies got the lion's mindshare?

"It is not a question of whether Nasscom is more or less responsive to our needs," said Goenka. "Today, there are multiple requirements and it would be unfair to impose high frequency demands on Nasscom, on its resources and mindshare." His company, Tally, is a Nasscom member. In 2011, the body presented him with a 'lifetime achievement award'.

"We just concluded a very successful product conclave. Nasscom has added more than 200 new members this year and a very large number of them are software product companies. In fact, two of their (iSpirt's) volunteers are our executive council members (Sharad Sharma and Anand Deshpande, founder of Persistent Systems)," noted Nasscom President Mittal.

It remains to be seen what role Nasscom plays in promoting the software product industry, in future. It would be even more interesting to see if iSpirt can drive greater product adoption in India.

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