What’s there for Product Managers in SAAS India?

With SAAS India business valued at 50 Billion USD by 2025, Product Managers to play a great role in SAAS Success Story

Guess the number of product managers in India?

Source: Google and Accel Partners SAAS Report

As per the Google and Accel Partners SAAS report, there are 36,000 product managers in India which will increase to 68,000 product managers by 2020. The report says majority of Product Managers come from Consumer Tech companies (dotcoms).

Over Linkedin, I could find 24,569 product managers in India working in IT, Software, Games, Networking, Internet, Security and telecom businesses with the following breakup.

Majority of Product Managers working on platforms, solutions and IT services come from IT companies in India mainly. 5000 Product managers working on core software products come from Software Product companies. However, consumer internet companies contribute close of 2400 Product managers in India.

What about the potential of India SAAS Market?

Source: Google and Accel Partners SAAS Report

Google and Accel Partners released a report recently on India SAAS which is estimated to grow to 50 Billion USD in next 10 years. Out of total SAAS business, Indian SMB SAAS companies will generate a revenue of 10 Billion USD which is presently 600 million USD.

What’s there for Product Managers in SAAS India?

The product managers will be highly required in product based SAAS companies. However, SAAS platform/ solutioning based businesses will require more of presales consultants, business analysts and project managers to overlap few of the core activities of the product managers but not all. I believe potential is clearly visible for product management profession in India with the evolving SAAS market. Since SMB SAAS will essentially be providing products, aspiring product managers may definitely target SMB SAAS companies. Those targeting MNCs need to evaluate the Product Manager role carefully as it might overlap with that of Business Analyst/ Presales/ Project Manager/ Marketing role in case of Solutions or Platform Business and need to align themselves as per their expertise and career aspirations.

I recently joined ISPMA – International Software Product Management Association as a fellow member representing Asia region. ISPMA is a not for profit initiative to create a learning ecosystem for Product Managers. I aspire to help fellow product managers in Asia and worldwide through ideas exchange, collaboration and networking. For any product management guidance, advice or training for you or your company; I would be happy to connect you with ISPMA network.


7 ways to gain domain expertise for Product Managers


In the last blog, I talked about Domain expertise – Does it really matter to a product manager? Question is how to gain domain expertise. I would like to tell 7 ways to do that –

  • In-house Training – First things begin at home. Talk to your current product management team. Request for a training session on the domain know-how. Current PM would be the best guy to give you a good understanding on your product space.
  • Market Research/ Survey – If you are conducting focused market research exercise as part of your PM work, you are going to gain a lot on your domain side of the product. As users are trying to give response as per their real life experiences, you can trust more on the data you get. However, the challenge lies on how well you define your survey, get inputs from the audience, analyse data and come out with realistic findings.
  • Resources – Last but not the least, you may find free or paid resources all around. You need to invest time and money in attending webinars and reading blogs, industry reports and Books. The best part is that your employer is going to support you in your learning on the job.

Shout out to your customers. Get closer to them

  • Customer Feedback Meetings – Schedule sessions with them for feedbacks as a part of your regular exercise. The software users at your customer site will directly jump on the business. They would have stories to tell if they are able to achieve for what they purchased your software. Since they are not technical guys but real business users, you may gain a significant knowledge on their businesses, what challenges do they face, how your software is able to solve their problems, or any gap they see in your product.
  • Product Trainings – Also, as new features are rolled out, you can be a part of customer success team during trainings. Users would give you their quick feedback on the value they see in the new features which is going to give a greater understanding and confidence on the problems you have been trying to solve.
  • Sales Calls – Be part of sales calls. As sales guys talk to prospects and pitch the product and its features to prospects, you would get a clarity on how the buyers perceive your software vis-a-vis his business problems you are trying to achieve. You would get a clear cut understanding on his business and problems he faces and hence you gain more insight into the process and domain you are dealing with.
  • Events – I find events to be really enjoyable where you meet the people with similar interests who are open to share their knowledge and experience on the areas you most care about as a Product Manager. The best part is that you get to interact with the user personas, your competition and related stakeholders of your product space which opens doors to a lot of learning.

My Story


Hi, my name is Varun Mittal.

Curiosity and the drive to uncover the mystery is something which defines me. I am a food lover who loves to cook and explore new tastes. I love travelling and strive to explore a new country every year with my wife as I believe travel and time you spent with your family is something you remember at the end of any year.

I am currently working on the coolest software called InsideSalesBox. I believe its the coolest not because I am working on it but its something I believe in and its something which defines me. I would say when it comes to business, sales drive is my core capability. Well, don’t be confused I am not a sales professional. I am a professional who have evolved as a Software Product Manager by practicing and learning sales. Confused? Well, there 2 aspects to this. Firstly, product manager needs to be a sales guy first so that he could go in market, talk to people, learn about their problems and see how he can solve their problems. Secondly, sales guy needs to market a product which he believe is going to give him great returns. I have strongly believed in Make in India Software Product Story and aspired to become a product manager. I could finally land in such profile by building a product community to learn product management and network with other product professionals on the way along my past jobs.

I love to host Roundtables and present as a Speaker for 3 communities I am a part of:

International Software Product Management Association – ISPMA

American Association of Inside Sales Professionals AA-ISP


Domain expertise – Does it really matter to a product manager?


A week ago as I was going on trip with my family, my sister-in-law announced that she is recently given the role of a Product Manager. She was all excited about it and asked me what should be the first thing for her to work on. She started her career with a global pure-play product engineering services firm as a Software Engineer and gradually promoted to the role of Technical Lead. Myself being a Product Manager for quite sometime now, I thought this is the moment I can seize to impress my in law by sharing the experience I have gained as a product manager.

I have been working in Inside Sales domain for quite sometime now. As a Product Manager at InsideSalesBox, my job is to keep myself up to date with the best sales practices and processes, sales tech trends, evolving problems and needs of sales professionals and the next move of the competition products. You would acknowledge that as we are in this tech industry where the things are really dynamic and the new products and features come up very fast, the most pressing challenge I face to stay abreast with any such developments. Being from a Sales domain since the beginning of my career as a Business Analyst and Solution Consultant, I could pick with Inside Sales domain which I consider as a niche of Sales domain.

The advice I gave to my sister-in-law is to first build a thorough understanding of your domain. As technical lead, she has been involved in building features and functions by working on architecture and software development work. She has been working on HOW part of the problem till now. However, in her new role she would be expected to work on WHY and WHAT and WHEN part of the problem. Product Manager needs to sense the gap the customers face, what he can do to solve the problem and which solutions should be prioritise for the customers to serve him well. So I asked her to develop an understanding on the business impact of your technology on your customers. I believe if a product manager understands the domain better, she would be able to successfully chart out the process maps for the problem in question and hence work with customers to find gaps and come up with the solutions to not only plugin the gaps but add value to the whole process for accelerated business impact. If a product manager is an expert in the domain she is into, she would be able to do justice to her job as a Product Manager.

To all those, we are starting their journey as Product Manager need to work on attaining domain expertise. Say, if you are working in an e-commerce company, you need to understand e-commerce space very well. You need to know global and local e-commerce companies and their products. Understand if you deal B2B, C2C or B2C e-commerce and the user personas of those who would use your product. You need to have thorough understanding on e-commerce process and engagement lifecycle from attaining vendors who supply products/ services, syncing your e-commerce product with the vendor’s inventory, customers coming on your website, going through the items, placing order, making payments, tracking, order, vendor dispatching order, delivery boy delivering order and customer again visiting your site.

The successful are going to be those product managers who would have hold in their domain, have established community network and have gained thought leadership. In the next write-up, I will be talking about on how to gain domain expertise. Stay Tuned!

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Evolving Software Products Market in India

Moving up the value chain – From body shopping to offshore development to consulting

Indian IT industry started making its initial footprint in the international market in 1980s when the core business value proposition was cost arbitrage which is still today an important driver for the growth of the industry. As the Indian IT firms and their professionals gained significant experience in software development over the next 10-15 years; 1990s marked the emergence of offshore development centers in India where value proposition was focused around cost arbitrage as well as high quality of service delivery. Over the next decade Indian IT firms were recognized as global leaders in IT services. By early 2000s as the competition got tougher, most of the global IT players started looking at another lucrative but challenging business opportunity of IT and Business consulting by leveraging upon their strong global customer base. Consulting made perfect business sense for them in the highly competitive market by bundling IT services with consulting and vice-versa. For the last decade, Indian IT firms have been doing significant business in consulting area by successfully competing against global (IT) consulting firms.

“Pure play IT services” customer base is set to decline over next 10-15 years

Pure play IT services like application development and maintenance work account for major revenue (around 35-40%) of most IT firms in India. Thanks to consulting and system integration business which was adopted in early 2000, now accounts for another 30-40% of business for top IT firms. Traditional IT services markets are beginning to reach maturity levels and at worse customer base which are in-house IT departments of MNCs is on decline. With the advancement in mobility and cloud computing, employees in any MNC are more comfortable in using readily available apps on their tablets and mobile phones rather than relying on traditional IT systems in their office for business and personal needs. Realizing the ease and flexibility of using applications on personal devices, IT departments are not shy to add ready-made applications in their technology mix to achieve productivity and efficiency in the business while cutting down their IT spend. Vivek Wadhwa notes that “it takes decades to update legacy computer systems, and corporate IT departments move at the speed of molasses. So, Indian outsourcers have a few more years before they see a significant decline. They certainly won’t see the growth and billion-dollar deals that have brought them this far.” It is very much expected that over next 10-15 years mainstream pure play IT services business is set to decline because of disruptive transition taking place in technologies and businesses at a much rapid pace.

What lies today and in future for IT firms?


IT firms now need to explore emerging and existing markets; by expanding into solutions, products & platforms centered on contemporary and emerging technologies; and innovative business models to solve the basic and intricate customer problems. Tech companies today driven by innovation are successful and hence contribute significantly to their country’s economy. Revenue generated by software products and innovative solutions and services business is multiple times that of pure play IT services business (Ref: Graph 1) which clearly signifies the market potential in innovative technology business. SAP’s revenue for FY 2012-2013 was 22.2 Billion USD and combined revenue of top 3 IT firms in India was 25.9 Billion USD. An interesting market trend can be noted where technology companies are coming in direct competition with firms across other sectors. For instance, Apple is now the largest music retailer across the US and the world. We are already observing cross industry market potential for number of tech firms in financial services, retail, banking etc. Looking at the numbers in Graph 2, we can see that contribution and value creation by an employee in innovative technology business exceed by leaps and bounds to that in IT services business. This shows a great opportunity for Indian IT industry to achieve non-linear growth rates in innovative technology business.

Graph 1

Graph 2


According to Nasscom, IT services accounts 98% of approx. $ 100 billion Indian IT Industry and software products just contribute $ 2.2 billion out of it. As per research done by iSpirt; India has the potential to build a $ 100 billion dollar software product (irrespective of the model of delivery and usage) market by 2025 given that industry gets the much required support from the govt. For almost three decades, IT services have essentially dominated the Indian IT industry. A recent change in trend is being observed with surge in tech start-ups in last 1 decade from just 100 in year 2000 to 2400 product companies in year 2013 out of which 500 came into being in just last one year. Also, the experienced IT players have well acknowledged the potential in products and solutions. Though mainstream IT players been quite successful in developing and selling IP based software products during last 10-20 years. However, the need to be more focused has been realized seeing the market potential driven by technological advancements. Infosys’s 3.0 strategy talks about increasing the contribution of PPS (Product, Platforms & Solutions) business from 6.4% (4.5% coming from Finacle) to 33% in next 4-5 years by creating products for clients, co-creating products with clients and acquiring product companies. Also, a possibility has been expressed by Infosys chief, Narayana Murthi for making “Finacle” as an independent subsidiary to run it much like independent product company. Experts suggest that for IT firms to achieve non-linear growth in technology innovation business, they need to develop global products to provide industry specific and cross industry business solutions aimed at the creating value for the organizations.


Worldwide emergence and adoption of disruptive technologies like SMAC (social media, mobility, analytics and cloud computing) has revitalized the IT industry. As per survey done by Offshore Insights, budget on SMAC by 2000 global firms will be around 15% of their total IT budgets and India is predicted to export worth $ 15 billion annual SMAC based IT services and software by 2017. SMAC has business opportunities for everyone from startups to mid-sized firms to IT giants since it is applicable to large, medium and small enterprises as well as end consumers. This puts these recent emerging technologies into the mainstream business lines of IT firms with deals amounting to multi million dollars. Emerging cloud computing based software as a service delivery models are gaining popularity worldwide. As per the report “Global SaaS Market Growing—Driven by CRM, Mobile Deployments” SAAS market will grow by 16.8% from 14.3 Billion USD in 2012 to 21.3 Billion USD in 2015. Currently, US account for 60% of global SAAS revenue. Technology firms need to embrace the upcoming business models with their offerings to be successful in this dynamic technology product business as the competition will now be more intense as the landscape is now open to all tech firms irrespective of their sizes. Another set of challenging emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D & 4D printing are on backstage of Indian IT industry that can provide immense global business opportunities given that technology entrepreneurs realize this potential at the right time and master these technologies to serve immense global market shaping up in future.

With traditional IT services markets on the decline; and contemporary & emerging technologies revolutionizing the businesses and the lives of people in the most innovative ways as ever; another big opportunity lies before the Indian IT industry in terms of immense business potential coupled with possibilities of non-linear growth in coming decades such that it can contribute a greater share to country’s GDP. With established Indian IT firms focusing more on products and solutions like never before; and more and more innovative technology start-ups coming up, India is on the way to be among global leaders in technology in this decade.

5 Must Haves for Technology Entrepreneurs


There has been a rise in technology entrepreneurship as a movement since last 10 years in India before which new technology businesses were essentially due to business expansion by corporate and business communities in India. Now, we are witnessing the rise entrepreneurial community at grass root level comprising of technocrats driven by innovation and passion to make a strong impact on socio-economic development of India. A number of constraints which previously acted as a road block to India’s Entrepreneurship Story have been overcome by paradigm shift in technological, business and political environment. India is producing more number of quality engineering and technology professionals than ever before who are empowered with technology and information to solve problems at the regional, national and global level. Capital which is one of the key factors for starting and running business is not a barrier now because of better availability of funding than ever before.

Now as one can expect conducive conditions in India to start and run his business, the question arises; Is today’s technology professional ready to take up the entrepreneurial challenge in such a highly competitive business environment? This question intrigues us to ponder upon the key skills professionals should particularly develop to face the common business challenges and emerge as a successful entrepreneur.

Developing a solution that solves problems

The best entrepreneurs don’t come up with great ideas, they solve market needs. Unless a technological innovation doesn’t satisfy a substantial need, it doesn’t make any business sense to start business on that idea. Engineering and technology professionals are trained to solve problems. New businesses are born when technology solves the problem being faced by the public and corporate. Hence, the success of every business is management’s ability in taking the solution to the market and selling the same which is bound to happen if solution fills a void. Professionals should develop marketing skills to assess the market needs and commercial viability of the solutions in the real time market.

Know when to detach from engineering function

A not so perfect technology solution is not among the common reasons for business failures. Technologists as entrepreneurs need to know when to detach themselves from engineering function and focus on business aspects. You need to focus on customers first before maximizing the functionality. Technocrats engrossed with the engineering tend to lose business focus. I could observe business failure from my personal experience with a solar power consulting start up in India where due to excess focus of the top management on engineering function as they themselves used to spend considerable time in engineering job that they lost time for focusing on customers and developing new business. Technical person can’t expect to do an engineering job themselves all the time. However, you need to focus on business and mentor the technical professionals you employ to increase functionality gradually. You should understand and learn to prioritize and manage diverse business functions like business development, project management, human resources management etc.

The hardest part is the ability of taking the solution to market and sell

There is a famous old adage by engineers, “If we build it, they will come”, doesn’t hold true today. However, today’s reality is that unless the value is proposed appropriately to the targeted customers, customers will not get connected to the offerings and even if got connected but the offerings are not communicated aggressively through multiple channels available customers will be swayed by  competitors’ offerings due to effective marketing and customer engagement. With excessively available information these days, selling is always required. You need to understand the marketing channels (print, digital, radio, tv) to select apt channels and use them effectively. Secondly, you should learn selling aspects related their industry, effective selling process, negotiation skills and related analytical and sales support tools like CRM, BI, web analytics, social media analytics for prospecting, making sales closures and serving customers.

Relationships matter

A common personality attribute particularly observed among engineering and technology professionals is introversion which can be quite detrimental to the business success as no business survives without relationships since it’s of utmost important to get out there, build relationships with suppliers to supply goods and services to serve your customers, financiers to fund you, employees to help you attain business goals, customers to trust you for buying your goods and services, mentors to give you strategic direction and corporate & government agencies to support your business and partner with you. The good new news is that introvert professional can turn into extrovert one by taking proper training and practicing. You need to understand the value of relationships in business and develop related skills to develop a mutually beneficial relationship with the stakeholders.

Keeping your control to keep your idea alive

As an entrepreneur, you would never like to be in the situation as faced by Steve Jobs where he was asked to leave the company he founded by the board of directors. Outside funding causes loss of control and excessive pressure to deliver. Funding is quite indispensable for a start-up during the growth stage to scale up the business. Investors’ interest lies in earning returns from the money invested in the growth of company by scaling a proven business model of entrepreneurs, and they tend to avoid funding for R&D. You need to learn business, financial and legal implications of funding to able to bring in the right amount of funding from the right kind of investors to achieve common business interests to keep the idea alive for which the venture was started.

Today stars are in your favor to be entrepreneurs. In this well connected world by technology where everybody has easy access to information, the skills can be developed and insights can be gathered quickly by already trained professionals like engineers and technologists to face the toughest challenges thrown by highly competitive business environment at national, regional and global level. With the economy on the growth stage in India, we need more and more technology entrepreneurs to satisfy our rising demands and solve the basic as well as intricate problems using technological solutions. It is time for you to make a real contribution to India’s socio-economic development.

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