Not One, But Many Microsofts In The Making


A few days back, I was told that Microsoft's revenues from India this year would be in the range of $1billion US. It was an eye-opener for me. I have grown up in an India where nothing, absolutely nothing, was a $1billion industry.

Even before Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to join Paul Allen’s efforts to build a BASIC interpreter, companies like IBM, ICL, DEC, Data General, Cray and yet some more existed. However, Microsoft did not come out of their cradle. It was born in an unlikely place called Seattle, from the efforts of two very unlikely people who would not have been candidates for beatification in the first four decades after ENIAC.


There is a critical lesson in this analogy. Just because we have produced software services companies like TCS, Infosys and Wipro, it does not mean these companies can build the next great software product. There is a certain sense of agony and frustration among many intellectuals because they see Indian IT Services companies falling short of their aspiration to see both a brand and non-linear revenue traditional Indian companies. That feeling is a misplaced sentiment. Going by that logic, IBM should not have had to buy an operating system from Microsoft – without this one historical event, Microsoft might have been a very different story today. IBM had Nobel Laureates on its payroll; why did it have to go buy an operating system from a totally unknown entity like Microsoft? It is quite another story that Microsoft did not in the first place have what it was selling to IBM. So, expecting TCS, Infosys and Wipro to build a product brand is as much of an impossibility as to ask a hen to deliver a duckling.

That said, the bigger question still remains; if not from the stable of the known companies, but from somewhere else, is there hope that India would produce a software product company like a Microsoft, an Oracle or SAP? The pointers are saying, yes, there is a possibility. But before we explore that, we need to ask ourselves a very fundamental question. Is there a reason why the three companies have come out of developed countries like the US and Germany? Is there is a linkage between building product companies and a certain level of overall socio-economic progress? I would argue that there is. There is a distinct possibility that India would emerge as a developed economy within my own lifetime and if that happens, there is no reason why we should not expect a Bill Gates or a Steve Jobs or a Larry Ellison to happen right here. Though, as I argued before, they would be born outside the confines of the existing companies just like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison.

A few days back, I was told that Microsoft’s revenues from India this year would be in the range of $1billion US. It was an eye-opener for me. I have grown up in an India where nothing, absolutely nothing, was a $1billion industry. India becoming a $1billion market for a single software company is mind-boggling; it is great news to me. It tells me that if the deliverer arrives, there is indeed hope that he would survive.

Before Microsoft, Oracle or SAP became global companies, they were domestically well known, they had a large market at home and, they cut their milk teeth in the home-market before venturing out into the global arena.

Finally, software products do not get created because someone knows how to write the code. Software products – for that matter any product – get created because the creator feels the need for a certain something in a deeply personal manner, people who envision and create products have a certain affinity, a calling, sometimes a feeling akin to a craving for something. A dress designer must love dressing up, a composer must love the idea of music itself and not learn it primarily because it is the highest paying industry that makes job offers in the third year of someone’s engineering course. Software product creators must experience the same emotions, have the same craving like a dress designer and a music composer for that something that does not exist and then go, make it or sometimes, get it made.

Interestingly, it is not enough to just have a domestic market and a bunch of people with a special craving for creating something or an uncanny ability to anticipate a need and the ability build a solution for it ahead of others. What makes great companies, products and brands happen in a country at a certain time is difficult to explain in any linear, logical way. It is part science, part economics, part politics (only free and true democracies have produced great software companies), part social structure, part passion and part witchcraft. So far, we were agonizing with just the part science piece right. But only now do I see the beginning of the other pieces nicely falling in place and I would take a bet that by 2020, India would have produced a global software brand, a couple of more following in the next 5.

Comments
Abhinav D Says
Monday January 4th 2010

As usual, well said Mr. Bagchi.

A few years back, even Mr. APJ Abdul Kalam had called upon our leading IT companies to “focus on devloping software(s)”.

However, I guess one of the reasons of this not happening as yet is our education system as well. Have you watched the recently released movie 3-Idiots? :))

Niraj Pant Says
Monday January 4th 2010

There is definitely some sense in what the author says. I am not a knowledgeable person of the field and definitely not like to be a soothsayer but tend to go by the belief of the author. I also expect to be existing and kicking by 2020 and look forward to the belief of the author a REALITY. And that day, as a soldier that I am in heart and otherwise, I will raise a toast for the event with my little daughter who would make use of the product, and who knows will be part of the group that contributes such a product.

Satya Sundar Brahmachari Says
Tuesday January 5th 2010

Whats your take on Bhubaneswar brand and making it as big as Bangalore with 5 years target date ? I am sincerely trying to do the same at our company level

With World Bank report, Bhubaneswar is 3rd best city to start the business. I am trying my best to make an impact at both macro and micro level and I need all your inputs for the same.

My take on your article, India each city needs a Narayan Murthy, Premji, Ambani, Mittal in their own way and if cities start replicating the same success like Bangalore & Bihar 11 % of GDP the day is not far when India becomes developed country of the world.

I have been saying the same facts in mutiple forums if India needs to compete at world level head to head with a Samsung or LG or Microsoft or Oracle they need to have aggressive policies in R&D sector and so on.

But to make it happen, we need more Inclusive growth with each Indian participating in some way or other. I dream of what people used to feel fascinated of living in USA 10 years before will feel fascinated to be in India post 2010.

Today all the PESTLE ( Political, Economical, Social, Technological, Legal, Environmental ) are in for of India and it’s a matter of time before things really kick off at each town, cities, state levels of India

Cheers – Satya

Satya Says
Tuesday January 5th 2010

Very convincingly put forth.

Amen to that 😉

Lubna Says
Wednesday January 6th 2010

Dear Subroto,

Wishing you and your readers a Happy New Year. I think, that India will have a global brand, because of inorganic growth – an acquisition perhaps and this could happen sooner than 2020. After all, who would have thought of a Chinese Company acquiring IBM?

Now, if only our plethora of laws, including tax laws made it easier for our companies to go global and for others to do business in India. Perhaps we will see a change, sometimes I feel our draftsmen and legislators miss the woods for the trees.

Best,
Lubna

Thursday January 7th 2010

composer must love the idea of music itself and not learn it primarily because it is the highest paying industry that makes job offers in the third year of someone’s engineering course

What was this supposed to mean?Are you talking about balancing two separate interests?Or eyeing greener pastures??

satyesh Says
Saturday January 9th 2010

Dear Mr. Bagchi,

I really appreciate your optimism that you believe there can be many Microsoft. Honestly speaking when I started my career 7 years back I had dreamt that the services companies would be able to reach there unfortunately I do not see that happening any time soon.

I had worked for a services company 5 year back and after that I realized it is more of a hype about outsourcing than about technology. For last 5 years I have been with SAP and I can clearly differentiate between Indian approach to software and SAP or product companies approach. Products companies think and act about technology,innovation, technology frameworks but Indian companies and the approach of managers in these companies are drastically different.

Outsourcing has helped us to create some space in world market but it my opinion it is killing the innovative skill of professionals working in these companies.

I would sincerely like to see some company from India developing a great technology platform/ product but I believe we have a long way to travel.

Regards
Satyesh

Darshak Says
Saturday January 9th 2010

Great one!
I completely agree with the part that a product should be created by feeling the basic need of it in a deeply personal manner.

Anil Says
Sunday January 10th 2010

Mr.Bagchi,

I read your book The Professional and was very much impressed by examples you gave to illustrate basic qualities.
Personally, I startd my journey of educating self from age of 21, I consider my education till college 0%.
I have had my share of mistakes and wrong choices, however by self-learning and constant seeking of correct knowledge, I have incrased my self awareness. I realized it’s people around you, from whom you can learn more than anything else.

This book re-illustrates the traits of an individual and probably tells people that it is never late to start.

Keep sharing your knowledge.

Thanks,
Anil.

Kishore S Says
Sunday January 10th 2010

Dear Sir,
I have read your books and have found it to be extremely informative and drew lot of insights from the experiences and narratives you had provided. Neither have I met you nor do I have seen you in person, as a matter of fact I picked up your book from a local library and now I own 2 copies of your books, The professional and Go Kiss the world. If not completely there has been a transformation in the way I do things in office and in personal front. I am a very firm believer in God and inclined spiritually, I always feel that I am thankful to God that I have work waiting in the office and great things do for the rest of my life. I wish I could meet you one day in person. My best wishes and regards to and you and Wish you a prosperous New year too.

Saurabh Chakrabarti Says
Monday January 11th 2010

Subrotoda,

If we look at ‘innovation’ and how Indian companies are pursuing it passionately, the best and most recent example that comes to mind, though not from IT or Software field, is the Tata Nano car. It is foremost an innovation of thought and a very ‘Indian’ one at that and then almost everything else required to make it possible fell into place. Not only has it made the automobile world sit up and wonder at ‘possibilities’ but now global brands like Pepsi and GE are talking of ‘reverse innovation’ that will come out of developing countries like India (similar to the Nano) and reset parameters and will be globally marketable.

The same can surely happen in IT also – unique software products can develop in India as a result of innovation to solve the myriad and unique problems (and therefore opportunities) we have in the country. For only technology can leapfrog us to catch up with the developed countries (example – it took the telecom revolution to connect masses and improve our lifestyles and productivity after years of gov apathy)and surely we need more such ‘game changers’ in many areas !

You are right – the next global software product may well come out of India but for that to happen we need visionaries and self-believers ! Talents exist here aplenty, so do the opportunities – it is just a matter of going ahead and doing it !

chockalingam n Says
Monday January 11th 2010

Authentic Vision from the Gardener of Mindtree.

Sir,you are an ordinary invidual turned all the adversities in to success in life with extra ordinary efforts.

I’ve read your “High Performance Entrepreneur” which is Inspirational.

Payal Says
Monday January 11th 2010

Hi subroto,

I really like this article…especially the para where u mentioned that great work produced only when the person does it with great passion

Vijay. M Says
Tuesday January 12th 2010

Hi Subroto,

Thank you for the enlightening blog post on the status quo of the industry software industry. I also think that the current generation of software services companies will not be able to make it big in the software product arena because of the lack of the right mindset.

It will require new generation kids and the really radical guys among us to create a product success out of India. The innovative atmosphere unlike in the US or any other first world countries is lacking very much in India, that should be cultivated at the core of our society.

Creating a network of ideas is as important as creating a social network with people in the new age to create breakthrough products.

Regards,
Vijay

Biswajit Says
Friday January 15th 2010

Most of the software product companies are born out of universities.If our IITs can produce engeneers who can build world class softwares after landing in US,they can very well make use of their creativity and passion out here towards making a global software company.What is important is that there should be more focus on innovation than just learning craft skills and our mind set towards education(Our parents and teachers want us to land up in a secure job than follow your passion).

Wednesday January 20th 2010

Dear Sir,

With DataQuest Nov -09 issue highlighting Bhubaneswar as the World’s next best Offshore location.Surrogating the fact is World Bank & International Finance Corporation report as Bhubaneswar as third best city to start a Business post Ludhiana & Hyderabad.( once you give your email id I can send across the attachments )

It’s high time we All need to nurture the Ideas of Bhubaneswar to make it big as Brand Bangalore by 2020, By initiating multiple Business Plans/ inititives within our Employer Companies to create a Business & Value Proposition of opening their center in Bhubaneswar.

I am religiously following with Wipro with great intensity and sincerity to do the same by Building multiple Business Plans to kick off the Business Units and Practice. I need your co-operation and help on this regard to make it a mass movement. Kindly let me know if any other of our Alumini is also acting in the same line so that we can collaborate to make it bigger, better and beautiful.

It’s may be a herculean task, but as said Taj Mahal was not built in a day. If we increase Orissa Visibility All will Benefit in terms of Personal & Professional space for our next generation….Just what is now missing out to have new Muthyis , Premjis , Ambanis or Dhonis of Orissa to make it visible in India map by having a Roadmap 7 Blueprint and bit of Risk Taking Ability.

Target 2020 – Highest GDP & Developed state of India so that the Miracle State of 2010 as highlighted by Times of India become a Sustainable n Realistic State by 2020

It would be highly Appreciated to know your Views/ Opinions or Insights on the same.

Cheers – Satya

Sapan Kumar Jena Says
Wednesday January 20th 2010

Sir,
I have finished reading half of your book “Professional” and have some thoughts which I would like to share with you.
1. The book is so relevant to everyone in the society that you should do something that it reaches the masses in their own language (since many who have studied in vernacular medium can benefit). I wish you take up this as next step to at least translate it into Hindi as it will reach majority of Indian population and second in Odia as this being the language you have full command and you can give back to your people in the state you and me belong to.
2. It would be an ideal book to be introduced in schools so that it is read as part of curriculum. Idea is that it is even read by most school drop outs at Secondary school level.
3. I wish this is read and implemented by every citizen of India doing any job – govt. or private at any place – city or village. A changed society at grass root level would make India far far better. Professionalism is a need of the time to compete with global forces locally.
4. Your book has that power to bring change in every one.
Thank you for bringing that power to people of India.
With best wishes,
Sapan Kumar Jena

Wednesday January 27th 2010

I totally agree with what you have written.Nice post.

Harikumar M Iyer Mecheri Says
Wednesday January 27th 2010

I would call ourselves as intellectual impotents (sorry for using a pejorative adjective which is a little harsh). We are an intelligent community, but not a smart community. The mediocre will wonder at what has happened, the intelligent will analyze what is happening and the smart will make things happen. Creative wisdom is the one quality that sets apart the smart community from intelligent community. Intellectuals will get into analysis paralysis or armchair philosophy as we all are over indulging in these days.

We were a creative community during the Vedic period. In Vedas the chief god is ‘Prajapathi’ who is none other than Brahma. As the intellectual capital grew, intellectuals started getting a lot of respect in the society. The intellectuals could figure out that a new wave of creativity could usher in competition and could be a potential threat to their social stautre. So they conceived a Machiavellian, plan. They disempowered Brahma. As a result there are thousands of Vishnu (Lord of management) and Shiva (Lord of collective social will) temples , but there are only handful of Brahma temples. If we request Forbes to create a list of the top 500 famous Hindu shrines across the world none of these Brahma temples will figure in the list. Thus we have inherited a culture which was remolded with mediocrity.
You may ridicule me at my theory of the earthy connection between disempowerment of Brahma and lack of creativity. Think of it deeply. 85% of the mental activity is controlled by the subconscious mind. Subconscious mind cannot see logic, it can see only patterns, images and emotions. Major part of subconscious mind programming happens during the formative years before the cognitive process gets started on full swing. So we get conditioned by the stories and the images that have been around us for 3 millennia.
Can we reprogram our subconscious minds? Will it have the desired effects? We can not say yes for sure using scientific reasoning. Empirical studies indicate that it is possible. We must try this out there is nothing lose.
harikumar.mecheri@gmail.com

seema Says
Saturday January 30th 2010

I quote:
“for that matter any product – get created because the creator feels the need for a certain something in a deeply personal manner, people who envision and create products have a certain affinity, a calling, sometimes a feeling akin to a craving for something.”

This is the essence/substance/hearlfelt.
Choice of words over the post give the intensity of the underlying thoughts.

Yes the small pieces are falling in place, momentum is gearing, we just need some synergies,coordinations for the big zigsaw puzzle to finish. This requires envsioning( already in abundance presnetly in India),and a lot of patience and perseverance to work each day,progressing slowly, so as to cause the larger picture to appear gradually and be completed.

It is happening all around us and We are going to participate in and enjoy a great spectacular experience, which is round the corner.

Thanks Mr. Bagchi.

Friday February 5th 2010

True Completely.
Not every can write an OS or Filesystem.
Software is a representation of Ideas and Thinking applied and it is not necesary that this thinking will come only from the Big Companies.
Infact small companies are good in innovating but are unable to take product to the masses.
Microsoft is microsoft today because it has touched almost everyone in this world.

    Tyo Says
    Thursday December 6th 2012

    The Maker of the Universe Dr.B.R.Ambedkar popularly known as in the Entire World Babasaheb India Got feoedrm bcoz of Babasaheb.India Got The Fantastic Constitution in the world bcoz of Babasaheb.Peace in India bcoz of Babasaheb.India is United today bcoz of Babasaheb.India became Economically strong bcoz of Babasaheb.Buddhism Survived in India bcoz of Babasaheb.Woman got all rights and feoedrm bcoz of Babasaheb.SC,ST,OBC,Buddhist,Jain,Muslim got reservation bcoz of Babasaheb.Jai-Bhim World!!!

Ramachandran Says
Saturday February 6th 2010

Thank You very much sir. High Performance entrapreneaur motivated me to start my own garment company. After two years when Iam looking for moral guidence, The Professional is there. Go Kiss the world is very different. It makes me to stand on my feet when Iam down. Again Thank You Sir.

Aditya Says
Wednesday February 10th 2010

I also believe there is a distinct need to improve Quality of higher education especially Master’s and PHD in India to encourage research. Quality research is much needed to create great products and to foster true innovation. Also India as a economy and a society should develop more appetite for risk and become more tolerant towards failure.

Suresh Says
Friday March 26th 2010

I would be happy, if your prediction comes true by 2075.

Gopala Jashwantha Raju Says
Saturday May 15th 2010

….please do not forget the Lobby-ists…..the policy inducers, sustainers and scuttlers…..all entrepreneurs owe it to them.The question is will ” The Lobby-ist” be a domain specialisation by whatever time lines that are in your mind ? Who will bring the right issues in right perspective to the fore.The action depends on the decision which in turn depends on the agenda for the policy makers and their priorities.We need to work on priorities of the policy makers.I recently met somebody whose doing a MBA in strategy.I think we are on the right tangent.
There are may other intervening issues that need our attention.Will write soon.

satwa gunam Says
Tuesday May 18th 2010

I think, we are still having the mentality to sell raw material and buy finished goods.
It is a long way to go as the environment does not foster the innovation. Biggies would rather like to copy out somebody innovation easily.

Monday November 8th 2010

India today has vast potential to host the innovation due to large domestic market for many products . We can definitely sell 1oo,ooo nos of a product costing 1000 Rs in 100 cities of India . If anyone comes out with a product idea let me know so that we can help in making it a reality to get started by such test market .

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