A pre-lagniappe

Marketing software products in India poses a bigger challenge – “Brand India” does not command as much credibility as a ‘videshi” one. This writeup is all about analyzing and getting insight on why so? And What can be done to address these issues?

The barricades we are facing:

Thought of abridged short terms by Indian Product Vendors

  • Indian Software development companies need vision,ambition, perception,branding, reach,marketing,execution and more specifically scalability. There are few exceptions and there are only very few big success stories in the product space.
  • Struggle with identifying the appropriate marketing strategies to use and they are unable to source good local marketing advice externally as well.
  • Indian companies do not invest enough in studying the specific requirements of each market before they launch their products. This issue is debatable and it happens around the globe and so in US as well. Some successful companies have created solutions by observing the problem areas through their own experience, created the right solution and used their perfect go-to-market strategy to make people realize the need and buy such solutions.
  • The focus is more on sales than on marketing – this leads to weak branding and PR efforts. We are always in the dilemma of short-term vs long-term thinking.

 

The Challenging Environment

  • There is no good product ecosystem in India and to add to this India is more focused on services. Hence there is lack of availability of skilled staff with a product mindset. We understand people’s business rather than the product business.
  • Tend to say yes to all Customization requests and end up creating multiple product versions that ultimately damage the product, drive the cost up and land you in a messy product business with a non-scalable product model.
  • Looks like we are comfortable with project management more than product management.
  • Finance is a big issue for SMEs looking to grow. Since investment is not forthcoming from VCs(Venture Capitalists) – the companies have to bootstrap to grow and this slows down the growth potential. Enterprise software does not grow at the same rate at say a Mobile Business is growing. So they don’t get VC money.

 

Challenging Indian Market

  • Traditionally, India is a late adopter as far as software product is concerned.
  • Don’t want to spend big. Looks for low cost work around solutions and mentality that everything is Ok in India is another hindrance.
  • Intangible offering:  Given the high emphasis most people in the Small Business, Middle enterprise (& even in enterprise) space on tangible items, the willingness to pay for software products is little.
  • Expectation of 100% fit to the customer’s situation.(this is reverse escalation!!) Most prospects, be it in the retail, SME or enterprise space, believe that their requirements are most important But by giving in to this demand or expectation, most software companies do maximum damage to their products.
  • “I can do it myself” syndrome.  Many of us would have heard this during our sales calls and we need to take this seriously.  While in some cases, the prospects would say this primarily to test our responses, in many cases the prospects genuinely believe that they can do it themselves.
  • Piracy:  We have heard it countless times.  It requires some basic infrastructure like dtp, printing etc to even pirate a best seller book but anyone with a DVD drive and Nero software can quickly churn out a working copy of a software product.

 

What is the root/route-cause of these issues?

  • When we have more companies taking risks, we will see more successes. The painful fact is that we do not take enough risk but we expect big success. What is important is to give birth to as many product babies as possible. When more babies are born more babies will grow as well !!!.
  • We need to realize this chicken and egg situation and try to give birth & nurture chicken without eggs if there is no other choice.
  • We cannot run a business in the Indian market with the US mentality. We need to have the right valuation for our company and right expectations.

Issues are many and we need to start somewhere to reach the desired destination. We need to change the way we look at product and we need manage this business with product thinking but not with the thinking of a services business.

So, what is the solution?

By Now,What should be the go-to-market strategy for India?

 

Redefine Our Mindset

  • Unlike India, where we walk in with a ‘tell me what you want, we will get it done’, the US product company seems to say ‘we are the best in solving this specific problem; if you need help here, you will find no one better than us’.
  • We need to change our mindset if we need to be successful in the product business. Otherwise, we will get nowhere. And change the nowhere to now here!! By giving space!!

 

Think Big and Think Long Term

  • To have a sustainable energy & passion to run any product business,  need to think big and have the perseverance to follow the long-term vision.
  • Need for aligning the collective ego to jointly do something big. This will give the necessary energy to turn the product dream into reality.

 

Understand the Indian Market

Understand the software product market in India – maturity of IT, level to which risk taking is in the culture, etc. and tailor offerings and pricing accordingly.Sometimes, we just need to flow with the current and then try to change it wherever possible. The buyers mentality is very much different here than the US.

Set the Right Expectation to Fund & Survive Your Business

  • Do not follow the US model blindly and become over-optimistic on the VC(Venture and Capitalize) type of funding no matter what VCs in general say about the availability of fund.
  • Realistic option for funding your business is boot-strapping, growing slowly and growing only with the money you can generate internally. In addition to your own fund and the fund from your friends, you can get some Angel Investors money.
  • Building a sustainable business model for  product business whereby we can generate self-sustaining cash flow as soon as possible and then work on launching the next versions of your product, new products, etc. It takes time..

 

Focus. Focus. Focus

  • In the US, successful product companies provide business solutions by attempting to be a mile deep and an inch wide. You should not be infected by “saying Yes to everything” syndrome.
  • Segmenting market and identify the customers correctly.. The key lies in marketing well articulated offerings to a market that is known well, create success in one vertical and take that success to the next vertical one step at a time.

 

Take the Baby Step and Facilitate Early & Quick Adoption

  • Check if the country you are marketing to has the track record of experimenting with new enterprise software. As for as India is concerned, focus on the low hanging fruit initially.
  • To overcome the initial inhibition and delays in decision making, use SaaS model to offer the same capability to smaller and medium sized companies with more appropriate lower pricing levels. To some extent, it could eliminate the piracy issue as well.
  • All great things start with one or two initial customers. Express your win-win proposition to your first customer and keep them happy. So that, they can become your extended sales force. Their sharing of success stories can get you more business.
  • The early customers usually write the destiny and hence we need to deliver superior business value, commitments and ensure high degree of customer satisfaction to these early adopters. Through word-of-mouth, you can get more. If you do not respect each and every customer, then your vision will fizzle out like a day-dream.

 

Follow the Basics

  • Back to the basics – understand the product to be marketed, the audience that it is meant for, and which is the appropriate marketing channel to use.
  • Indian buyers are a value-buyer, more so than the average western buyer. So if you cannot explain our solutions’ benefit to the buyer from his business perspective, in his language, we won’t have a sale.
  • Don’t stress on the features of your product, but rather on what business value it offers customers. Customer-centricity is key and your firm should be solution-centric not technology-centric.
  • Be Smart Enough and Perfectly Balance Marketing and Selling
  • There are good number of marketing experts and consulting organizations available around you in India. Leverage some and make some investment for writing your success.
  • Have a clear differentiator for your product and showcase it effectively. Clearly articulate the value proposition of your product – focus on how the customer will benefit.
  • Structure the PR efforts around product brand, rather than only the corporate brand. Identify the gap and build marketing campaign around that.
  • Invest in memberships of relevant forums and associations to make yourself visible to ultimately position your organization as an expert in your area of work.
  • Effectively embrace social marketing such as Blog, Twitter, Community forums etc., to gain more visibility to your products.

 

Think Partners to Energize Your Growth

  • It is hard to reach every single customer directly. need to be very serious about creating partner or associate networks to leverage their relationships to get more customers. For example, Oracle partner network, SAP practice by many IT services companies, Microsoft etc., are good examples.
  • Have a formal partner program and informal model doesn’t work. Make sure that you sign agreements, get commitment and follow through.

 

Conclusion & Reality Check

  • We cannot transform the ecosystem over-night. All great things take time. We need to realize our current gap. While we understand our negatives, we need to positively work towards enriching this ecosystem for giving life to many product companies and ultimately create a huge market for our innovations and millions of Indian Talents.
  • Whenever there is an opportunity, lobby for all the support you need from associations
  • Being one of the dots in this ecosystem. Contribute enough and do what is possible to change this environment for better business.
  • While thel focus is on selling initially to get enough oxygen to run your business, think seriously about strategic marketing to drive ambitious growth. It is impossible to grow big without strategic marketing.