Propelling product paradigm – (Deccan Herald)

Propelling product paradigm – (Deccan Herald)

April 30, 2001
Deccan Herald, Bangalore – Subrahmanyan Viswanath

Propelling product paradigm

SPOTLIGHT / Ittiam Chairman Srini Rajam, in an interface, dwells on the Booleans that goes behind floating a successful technology/product- driven company in India and the business metrics driving this trend.

A man’s feet should be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world – George Santayana

MATHS being my bete noire it was with a trifle sense of trepidation and tremulousness one tried to lock coordinates with a man whose passion was mathematics and like Einstein believed pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas. For, as he put it “I could see in mathematics a logical conclusion to everything…” and “it appealed and fascinated me very much.”

Such is pervasive influence of maths permeating the idolater of renowned philosopher-mathematician Rene Descartes (whose portrait and famous Cogito Ergo Sum adorns every vantage space of exquisitely done edifice) and his initiative taking the nom from first letters I think therefore I am, that as Srini Rajam offered whether coffee could be served it brought Paul Erdos’ a mathematician is a device for turning coffee into thereoms to mind.

Indeed as one worked the “little grey cells” a la Papa Poirot to understand the algebraic and geometric formulae behind mid-career inspiration that is leading several high profile Indian CEOs being bitten by entrepreneurial bug, and where Ittiam fits itself in this Calculus marquee, Mr Rajam, who, if not for his brother’s counsel would have been mathematics don, expounded in measured manner the yin and yang prognosis behind “progressive risking process” path Ittiam’s tech-savvy Seven Samurais have set upon to bravely tread.

Sporting a beatific smile that their collective dream has finally taken wings, explains the prime ignitor “we did not want to miss the opportunity bus. We did not want to look back ten years hence to rue we should have at least tried.We wanted to give it a go now. My friends and myself have always been thinking that we must create a technology-oriented company in India because we have done lot of good work in general purpose software.”

Reverentially taking the name of India’s IT icon he says Infosys’ Narayana Murthy is another role model for creating aspirations in the industry making Infosys a trailblazing success story. The leadership position it has garnered is awe-inspiring. One hopes this kind of success happens in technology/product space from India as well.

Even as you interject are they not crying Eureka! Eureka! too soon, says the bespectacled 17-year digital signal processing veteran, if you look at the milieu today it is very conducive to venturing out on your own. IT business in India is slowly moving towards product development as in a pure service model the intrinsic value one owns in a company is very sub-optimal. In product development model by its sheer ability to generate higher levels of productivity you add a lot of value within the company through Intellectual Property and Patent, as also technology-oriented companies have very big impact on a long-term basis.

It is here I see biggest attraction for flotilla of product development companies sallying forth in India posing serious challenge to industry leaders. Leaders are always going to emerge whenever discontinuity takes place. There is ample opportunity for future Ciscos and Noikas to emerge and India could possibly be the place for those future leaders to emerge.

Even as you counter – the hitch? says Rajam, marketing. There is a big difference between product company and one that is not product focused. One has to make huge investments in marketing in terms of understanding market, promoting ideas and products and sheer presence in network community which is huge.

And if your company is to add value to 100s of products out there you must have focused vision and ensure such investments can be made in future. Further, since product driven business is more risky at the sight of first risk/failure sees company falling back to non-product service model. This mindset has to change and companies need to remain at the product level strongly and not shrink back.

It is here Ittiam hopes to provide the best algorithm taking the challenge of proving so from India and that is the ultimate and highest level of ambition we have set ourselves upon. Ittiam and others in the ilk can lead by example of how products could be done from Bangalore for global markets catalysing the whole process by coming out with niche products on regular basic providing lot of value creation, the necessary IP and patent for the company, for there exists lot of opportunities at product development at different levels of overall value-chain.

Postulating further he points clique of companies could pick different fields to build multiple pieces of overall process of product development consisting four/five key niche products that go to make whole systems. India could turn into product-centric hub and in next five years well recognised products could be coming out of India. Fired by this passion the desire to float a long lasting value company like Ittiam that will sustain beyond the next 100 years got naturally picked on and off as our careers progressed with each nurturing the dream that we must do technology/product company in India and make it benchmark organisation for people to look upon five years down the line.

The basic kernel that India should be home base was carved by Vikram Bose, nephew of Netaji Bose and Rohit Bhuvva, that atleast next 10 years of our careers should go for a purpose like this. There were endless brainstorming sessions as we huddled together in a business centre on how to proceed after office hours between 9 pm to 12 pm on a regular basis almost three days a week to keep the momentum going and it was amazing how much synchronised all our thoughts were.

Several scenarios were open before us. One option, as recent times have shown, was to do very good company, build good value and plan from beginning that it would be gobbled up by some big player who will bid to acquire it. However, we were not interested in making Ittiam short term success story so that it becomes integral part of somebody else’s. We sought to look beyond who started the company, how long we have all been there. Obviously promoters and founders would provide great boost in terms of propelling and monetising the company in initial years for making it success so that it achieves long lasting value going beyond the life times of its current set of people.

Based on this metrics Ittiam hopes to garner value and brand equity before we speak of an IPO. We believe maturity is essential as it helps get the right brand value and after this process of value creation five to ten years hence create globally recognised corporation that OEMs will feel very confident, satisfied and proud to be associated with. The realisation on the kind of impact companies in US are able to create are much much higher than kind of impact companies in India really do and create has got nothing to do with basic ability but operating business model, vision and how high you aim was another factor fuelling the Ittiam Enterprise.

As he embarks on a new mission donning a different avataar Rajam reminiscing about his journey so far says it has been very useful in terms of skills I have picked up and the exposure I have got while observing that the journey could have been compressed and been bit faster, as a passing shot.

Closing the tete-a-tete he signs off in that professorial style the young aspirants need to spend their first few years to acquire a very strong technology competency foundation as it is these few years of initial investments that holds the key for an young entrepreneur-techie. Having styled itself deriving inspiration from one of world’s influential thinkers, Ittiam has taken birth at a time when Indian techies are coming home to roost in search of elixir following the turmoil in distant El Dorado. How Ittiam gets its business arithmetic right to etch an indelible thumbprint to change the basic parabola of Indian IT business by creating uniqueness and permanence in the space it has sought to sojourn to lead the new wave of global product companies from India, Father Time shall tell.

Ipso facto I leave Srini, his sextet of Leadership Team and Ittians with Marie Curie’s famous words: Humanity needs practical men who get the most out of their work.. It also needs dreamers for whom the disinterested development of an enterprise is so captivating that it becomes impossible for them to devote their care to their own material profit.

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