Product Management in the Indian IT Sector

The previous articles in this module discussed how product management differs from brand management and the way in which product management is carried out in IT companies. This article looks at the specific case of product management in Indian IT companies by referring to some well-known companies and their practices.

The Indian IT sector is typically known for service delivery and maintenance and software development. Until into the late 1990’s, no company was fully into product development and this meant that the Indian IT sector was typically doing low-end maintenance and development work that was secondary. However, the situation began to change in the mid 1990s with iFlex solutions taking on the development of a comprehensive banking product, Flexcube. The company, which has since been taken over by Oracle and renamed Oracle Financial Services Ltd, was a pioneer in the Indian IT sector for its emphasis on product management instead of pure software development.

To achieve the goal of building a comprehensive banking software suite, iFlex invested in a core team of subject matter experts and software specialists who then had a product manager to oversee each phase of the development of the product. The company also hired experts from the financial services industry to help it with understanding the complex world of finance and banking. Next, the company ensured that its software developers were brought up to speed with the functionality by having them sent to onsite for deployment and requirements gathering wherein they familiarized themselves with the nuances of banking product development. It certainly helped that in the initial phases; iFlex was a part of Citigroup and hence could reap the associated benefits of having the financial services giant as its parent company.

Another company that followed suit was Infosys with its Finacle suite of banking software product. Though Infosys did not succeed to the extent that iFlex did in the banking products market, it could make a substantial difference in the domestic market. The reason for the stupendous success of iFlex is that it managed the product development well and did not let its focus waver from the objective of developing an end-to-end banking product. Indeed, iFlex organized its company into divisions with each division responsible for one module of the product. The overall in-charge of the product was the group head or the next in line to the CEO, which meant that the product manager had the necessary authority and mandate to get things done quickly. On the other hand, Infosys was building a product when its core competence was in services whereas iFlex reoriented itself to focus its energies on product development.

If the Indian IT sector has to take the next leap into higher value adding activities, it has to shift to product development, as it is there that the future lies. As the examples of iFlex and Infosys show, only when IT companies are serious about product development to the extent of reorienting their core competencies can they make a serious dent in the market for software products, which is right now dominated by American and European companies.


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