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iSPIRT: Why India's new software think tank will struggle

Softwaare companies feel under representated by NASSCOM

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Thirty software product members of NASSCOM, the industry association for the IT BPO sector in India, announced that they would form a group to expand the software ecosystem in India: the Indian Software Product Industry Round Table, or iSPIRT. The key driver behind this development appears to be NASSCOM’s limited focus on software product companies in India. iSPIRT plans to:

  • Convert ideas into policy proposals to take to government stakeholders
  • Enable product startups to discuss issues through a dedicated platform (productnation.in)
  • Create awareness for the adoption of software products within the Indian SMB sector
  • Work with NASSCOM and other industry associations to provide a platform for product start-ups

I view this development as an interesting and timely move. Today, the pressure of meeting business expectations demands that end user firms harness more creative software capabilities wherever they can find them. Nevertheless, it will not be easy for iSPIRT to make an impact on the industry, for several reasons:

  • Lack of recognition from the government will limit the group’s role influencing policies. iSPIRT is not recognised by any of the government or industry associations, which will limit its role in influencing tax- or policy-related issues.
  • No clear leader and part-time involvement from governing council members will make the group less effective. iSPIRT will not have a president or a leader to become the voice for the group. Also, all of the governing council members of iSPIRT have full-time jobs and will have limited time to actively undertake and promote the group’s activities.
  • The lack of a business model for running the group presents long-term challenges. iSPIRT will be supported primarily by grants and contributions from its member companies. I believe that this kind of a model works well for NGOs, where business objectives are not the drivers. It will be a multi-year journey for iSPIRT to become an influential think tank in India — and for that it needs to adopt a more sustainable and pragmatic business model.
  • NASSCOM’s restructuring could make iSPIRT’s role insignificant. Recently, NASSCOM appointed a committee, headed by Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy, to make recommendations on how to make NASSCOM more relevant given the changing IT environment. If NASSCOM’s restructuring makes a positive impact on product companies, iSPIRT’s role could be marginalised.

Software product companies constitute slightly more than 21% of NASSCOM’s membership portfolio (300 product companies out of a total of 1,400 members), and NASSCOM can’t ignore the interests of that large a segment of its membership. I believe this development will push NASSCOM to adopt a more proactive approach toward the domestic market and focus more on smaller organizations in India.

What’s your view on iSPIRT? Do you think it can find a way forward? Will it merge or integrate with NASSCOM at a later stage?

Posted by Manish Bahl

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