Product Engineering: India's Trump Card to Becoming a Global Innovation Hub
Lend your ears to KS Viswanathan, Vice President of Industry Initiatives, NASSCOM. He recently said, “India continues to be the destination of choice due to the availability of key skills and talent at scale. India also has favorable government incentives, eminent universities to source talent, and cutting-edge startup culture.” According to NASSCOM forecasts, global spending on engineering research and development (ER&D) would reach $2 trillion by 2030, with $500 billion coming from services related to digital engineering.
With 30 years of experience across various executive management roles at different software companies, including a stint in a leadership role in the Indian Air Force, Binu Jacob, CEO & MD of Experion Technologies, sheds light on India’s path toward becoming a global innovation hub. During his engineering days, the IIT Delhi alumnus hadn’t the slightest desire to run or own a company. However, at the institute’s convocation ceremony, the words of Keshub Mahindra, the retired chairman of Mahindra Group, inspired Binu to be an entrepreneur and establish a venture in the IT services domain in India.
Below is an excerpt from the interview with CEO Insights magazine, where he walked us through his journey and the latest endeavors with Experion Technologies.
In conversation with Binu Jacob, CEO & MD, Experion Technologies
What are the major drivers of Product Engineering Services in India?
India has the capability and capacity to build high-quality products due to our technical competence and process culture built over the years in the thousands of tech shops here – this gives us a unique advantage while taking on the massive demand for digital product development.
To properly understand the demand for product engineering services, just look to native digital companies that have seen explosive growth in valuation; in terms of timelines, they took only a quarter of the time brick-and-mortar companies took to reach a billion dollars - companies like Uber, Airbnb, and Netflix that have grown quickly to become powerful global brands. Brick-and-mortar companies like banks and telecom companies have vast cash reserves accumulated over the last century. There’s going to be a pent-up demand to conceive and adopt digital products, and that is precisely the opportunity that India will benefit from in the next few years, leading to a doubling of its IT workforce.
A major market that can be targeted internationally is Product Re-platforming – the digitization of existing products. This opens up opportunities for product managers to retain clients and onboard new ones.
Apart from this, the vibrant start-up culture in India is another driver of the demand for Product Engineering. With the wide adoption of digital payments, 4G and 5G networks, and initiatives like Aadhar becoming mature countrywide, we have the propensity to absorb a lot more digital products in our market.
So rather than focusing on the volume game of IT Services, focusing on Product Engineering will help many companies address the demand already flowing in. In recent times, I have also noticed an increased demand from private equity companies for such companies in India. So the opportunity is very real.
How do you believe Product Engineering will transform the business landscape?
Personalized services make all the difference when it comes to a successful business. Airlines are not just about flying planes – today, they also aggregate hotels, cabs, and insurance providers. So if personalization is a need that goes without saying, the only hope businesses have is to deploy digital technologies that can be pervasive for the right reasons.
While ERP made enterprises more efficient in the past, web, mobile, RPA, and IoT made direct consumer engagement possible today, making it easier for clients to get what they want. If your technology deployment is better than the competitors - embedding personalization better - your business wins against the competition.
Ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Ola are good examples of how persuasive technology can be and the technical skill required to implement said technology. These apps show the movement of vehicles through the representation of animated vehicle icons. It takes a robust underlying cloud infrastructure to make that happen in real-time. What’s more, serverless architecture delivers accurate information for reaching a destination at the time it prescribes.
This persuasiveness, achieved through personalization powered by Product Engineering capabilities, will change not only the business landscape but also product development as a field. It also lays the foundations for strong connections between enterprises and customers and vice versa.
What are the opportunities that can be mined with Product Engineering?
Asset maximization opens up numerous opportunities, and I believe it influences consumer behavior and consumption aspirations as well.
For example, if I prefer high-quality organic fruits and vegetables delivered to my household, I could aggregate the agriculture business using a platform. The potential to leverage technology lies in every industry and sector. The opportunity to address a particular business segment is also the opportunity for product digitization. Every business must eventually become a technology business; for instance, cars will soon be 60 percent software and only 40 percent mechanical in value terms.
Many industries are ahead of the curve in the asset value maximization and utilization game. A good example is car manufacturers becoming mobility service providers – as they strike deals with battery manufacturers, municipalities, and utility companies to provide charging stations that lower the cost of mobility while providing high convenience.
What do you anticipate for the future of the Product Engineering sector in India?
Digital technologies were bound to impact business with or without the pandemic. It was predicted nearly a decade ago by many analysts, such as Frost and Sullivan, when they predicted megatrends for ‘value-for-many’ businesses. It is value-for-many businesses that became a reality with digital technologies. Airbnb services millions all over the world without owning any physical inventory have around 13M room listings around the world. The digital revolution was bound to happen and had it not been for the pandemic, which happened at the same time, the growth would have been far greater!
I believe the international market is not very different from India; India has models to replicate anything the global market has in its store. However, India is less intensive on the investment front, unlike the West. Although Digital India and other such initiatives rose to fame, not to mention the advanced banking we have—far better than that of the US - I still come across sectors that require the replication of successful international models.
India hasn’t settled its score with infrastructure bottlenecks. There are too many people and a too scant amount of infrastructure to suffice. On the brighter side, there is an immense opportunity to turn this around with technology.
I also believe that there should be an encouragement to welcome more products in India, and I believe it’s already happening thanks to the startups and new businesses. India will lead, and its product sector will run faster than ever.
What suggestions do you have for upcoming IT leaders looking to access new opportunities in the field?
The ingenuity of technology and a product mindset is extremely important for the future of IT services leaders, along with consultancy skills and competence in the domain being addressed. Understanding this mantra while building new products or re-engineering existing ones will be the differentiator when it comes to market success.
I observe that the potential to make a huge difference lies with personalization - it’s why people prefer a courteous cab driver who opens the car door and helps with the luggage over one who won’t bother to do it. It’s up to the IT guy to understand the cultural context and inject appropriate personalization into the products he is building. Companies excelling in this area are sure to win.
To achieve this, I believe you need a competent workforce who understands the cultural context, as well as the technological advancements, and infuse both into products to ensure customers adopt quickly. Anybody who understands the nuances of product development and brings personalization into the technology will enable more consumer acquisition and retention than their competitors. What matters is quick end-consumer adoption due to the high usability engineered into the products delivered.