We Need to Create a Product Culture

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.

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9 thoughts on “We Need to Create a Product Culture

  1. Dorai,

    I completely agree.
    But ‘Product culture’ is more to do with approach rather than resource or capability as many feel that it is a bit risky path. However we should start as you said.

    Regards,
    Mugil.

  2. @Mugil, You are right. I am hoping that we can explore and experience the risks as we bootstrap as a community. People who have done it can share their knowledge. Since the changing pace is exponential, we need to continuously learn by doing.

  3. Yes agree, huge lack of products from India. The initial angel and seed funding is key, there is a huge pool of aspiring entrepreneurs with technical skills.

  4. Sir, Very well drafted article for creating product culture. we are attempting it with in the same areas you have mentioned (apps for twitter, facebook, devices etc) and involving students for the same as well.
    Your insights help us further. thanks for the article.

  5. Dorai,
    Yes, you are true, we have an aversion in embracing the “product culture” and I cannot single out one reason/logic for that mind set. Perhaps it is a more complex scenario of eco-system. The risk factor, budget constraints, GTM strategy,what apps to choose, and above all this the acumen to monitize the efforts all such things add up to the present case. I even considered the idea of using the knowledge (gathered so far while doing isolated applications in 2 domains)to create a comprehensive/unified product for the logistics industry and the school/colleges but like they say the “buck stops there”, the idea stops there. Will fine tune now after reading your post.

  6. @Shankar,
    Thanks. We need to bootstrap the eco-system. I have some experience in building products, marketing them in US and growing a couple of them. We stumbled our way through most of them (in 90s) and learned a set of things. But that knowledge is not that useful now. I think we need to take some baby steps and go about exploring new opportunities. We need to first learn how to build a few $1million -$20million companies just doing products. A few successes, however modest, will demystify the process. That is what I am hoping for.

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