5 things I learned about Software Product Management in India
February 9, 2011 8 Comments
I am currently enjoying my week long vacation in my hometown of Ernakulam after a week of software product management seminars and workshops in Bangalore and Hyderabad. As a bonus, my host Pinkesh Shah, CEO of Adaptive Marketing and I were invited to the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad by the students who were keen to learn more about product management.
So what did I actually observe and learn from the 125 product professionals I interacted with? What is the real state of software product management in India? What are the software product managers doing now and what are they looking for? Though I did not get to meet with software product managers from large MNC’s such as Google, eBay, IBM, Cisco etc. that have large operations in India, my numerous conversations with Pinkesh indicate that the picture there is not that different from what I learnt from the product managers I met with.
So here are the top 5 things I learnt about software product management in India.
1) Current focus is on requirements management and software delivery: Software Product Managers in India currently are playing the role of requirements managers or product owners (in the world of Agile). They are responsible for defining the product functionality and working very closely with engineering teams co-located here in India to ensure the iterations/releases get delivered on time.
2) They manage products sold in the United States: The products they work on are primarily (if not all) for the US market. Hence, the amount of direct customer facing activities they take part in is very limited at this time. They do not seem to have many opportunities to travel to the US to meet with their customers. They understand this as a major pain point. In most of the cases, the Indian product managers (I got to speak with) do not have a product management counterpart in the US. Input for the product enhancements were coming directly from marketing, sales or the executive management, as opposed to someone who was spending time listening to the customers in a non-sales situation. This is very worrying because those of us who are experienced product managers know how frustrating listening to just sales to drive future product direction could be.
3) Titles are one too many - Just like in the US, there are too many titles for product managers in India. Technical product manager, product owner, product manager, product professional, the list goes on.
4) Engineering talent is itching to find new career opportunities: Folks who have spend a lot of time in engineering and project management are now starting to ask – what next? I heard this during my seminars and it is also a common question I get from the readers of this blog – how to transition into product management. Training demand and opportunities for vendors who provide training on software product management are bound to increase.
5) They are confident, fearless and hungry: What impressed me the most was the talent and the confidence of the software product managers in India. There are some that work on very successful products in the marketplace – for example, the product managers Mukesh Marodia and Ramesh at OpenText were working on a very successful portal product used by a number of Fortune 500 (apparently 1 out of 3 pages on the internet is powered by Open Text web cms). The product managers at Nokia were working on the different software components such as messaging and video capture used in all of the Nokia mobile phones. Then there was Chaithanya from Inmage Systems, the lone product manager in the company responsible for his company’s data recovery solution sold in the US. I could go on, but all in the all I was so impressed by the budding product management talent in India.
So what is the future? I am convinced that the talent in India has a bright future ahead. I am making a bold prediction here, not based on facts but based on the trend that I have been reading about. Given the size of the Indian market in terms of number of consumers and their total purchasing power, every company on this planet will be looking at building new software products for the Indian market. Software products that are not watered down versions of products build for the western markets and then adapted to the Indian market, but instead software products that are designed from the ground up in India for the Indian market. We already read about this trend in companies such as GE and automotive markets, but I am predicting that this trend will heat up in the next 5 years. When this happens, the current software product management talent in India would have matured enough to play a significant role. They will soon find themselves in an enviable position where they will no longer be concerned about lack of opportunities to meet with their end customers because they will be living right amongst them. These software product managers are hungry, smart and more importantly they are confident. I am so happy to have met these budding product managers and their future cannot be any brighter. Product Managers in the western world (including myself) take note, I treat the talent here in India as competition for sure.
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