I keep getting this question a lot – why don’t we build products like many US companies?
We at Chennai, do not yet have a product culture, like they do in Silicon Valley or Boston or Austin. When we don’t have something we need, we should go ahead and create one. Creating an eco-system is not as difficult as it seems. It may take a while. But we need to get started.
Here are some initial thoughts about creating a product culture in Tech.
1. We need Builders – a group of people who are passionate about building products. These can be small. What do I mean by small? Firefox/Chrome extensions, Google gadgets, Facebook apps, Twitter apps etc. They can be mobile apps on any one of the popular devices. Or they can be simple gadgets, tiny robots, sensors, sensor based devices. The key drivers? A low capital requirement and short cycle times (weeks or months)
2. We need a set of supporters. These can be people who test and use these products and provide constructive feedback. They are the early adopters or micro-investors or marketing, communication and sales people. We need to get them involved right in the beginning and get regular feedback on how to communicate the value and get some publicity. We can use some help from bloggers, Tweeters, tech columnists and any one who can add value in some way. So we need a community where all of us can come together.
3. We need some evangelists. These are people who encourage the builders and supporters and spread the word. They fill the knowledge gap between the producers and consumers. They are essential to the next stage of building the product culture.
4. We need to take this cycle of building-supporting-evangelizing into various places – colleges, informal communities (like the Open Coffee Clubs), more formal communities like TiE and NASSCOM. We need them to support and spread the word and get involved. They can help create awareness and reach beyond the smaller communities.
5. We need events – Product show cases (like proto.in, headstart), discussions, meetups, tweetups, tech meets, unconferences, hackathons, sprints. Some of them are happening already.
6. We need to get companies involved. These may be big IT companies or global software companies. The most valuable contribution they can make is to provide channels for the distribution of these products. You can think of companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft who are already active in India. They can sponsor events, send in experts and provide lots of useful advice.
7. Finally, we need to get the students involved. Once we know how to build these mini-products, we can communicate that knowledge. Almost every student needs to work on a good project in their final year. So we need to start early and get them involved. We can work with NEN (National Entrepreneur Network) to reach out to students.
We need to get this going. We need to raise awareness and build competence. We need to show first and tell later. This will increase the credibility. We need to start creating this mindset and demystify the process. We need to start this chain reaction – as soon as we can.