On with the new

With IT product companies breaking from Nasscom to form a think tank, the industry takes its next step

India's celebrated $100 billion IT and software services industry has been in a kind of a funk for the last couple of years, with unanswered questions about where it is headed and what its future is. Now, a small chunk of the same industry is veering off in a new direction, holding out the promise of something exciting.

A website called www.ispirt.in quietly went live yesterday, its muted launch no indicator of the big changes that the founders of iSpirt hope to bring about. The founding group of 30 at iSpirt (the Indian Software Product Industry Roundtable) includes a few successful technology entrepreneurs, some savvy veteran technologists and a venture capitalist or two. Among them is Bharat Goenka, whose iconic Tally business accounting solution was conceived in the 1980s and Naveen Tiwari, whose mobile ad network InMobi is a global player.

The group iSpirt calls itself a "new-generation think tank" and hopes to bring about the transformation that will spur the growth of Indian product companies to a new level. In the process, the hope is that India can rebrand itself within the decade as the land of software products.

The new model is in keeping with the pervasive mood in the country, where old structures are begging to be dismantled and newer ones are being conceived on the fly. Aptly, the think tank for India's technology product companies has emerged from the country's tech hub, Bangalore.

Sharad Sharma, a former head of Yahoo!India R&D and a part of iSpirt's founding team, likened the current Indian technology industry scenario to a conservative Indian joint family of the Bollywood kind, with multiple siblings sharing a kitchen and television and living under the same roof (Nasscom). The oldest one studies hard, gets into a top law school, aces his exam and becomes an ultra-successful lawyer. Two later siblings follow in his footsteps. Sharma equated the oldest sibling to the largest and oldest IT companies and the ones thereafter to second-tier IT companies and ITES (BPO) firms.

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