An interesting day at the NASSCOM Product Workshop

I've just spent the day at the NASSCOM Product Workshop and I found it remarkably useful and relevant. I won't repeat the list of speakers here since you can get the details from the programme.

I was uncertain whether it was worth my attending this event, since I wasn't sure what I could expect from it - and it involved giving up a precious Saturday. My doubts were reinforced when I showed up at the Leela this morning to find most of the people outside the Grand Ballroom (where the event was happening) dressed in suits and ties. On the upside, it did make me feel better about wearing a sensible formal shirt instead of my favourite (and now faded) L.L.Bean T.

Anyhoo, once the sessions and panel discussions started, I was reassured. The presenters knew what they were talking about and were totally the been-there-done-that kind of guys. Completely relevant gyan and very, very informative. Even more interestingly, once the crowd had settled down I realised that most of the audience were the usual suspects from Barcamp, MOMO and OCC. Except for one troll, but hey, at least one troll per seminar is standard, right? I'm not naming any names. You know who you are. Much of the blame for this (the overwhelmingly MOMO/BC/OCC crowd, not the troll, bless him) can be laid squarely at the feet of Kesava Reddy. Jokes aside, NASSCOM should thank him for sending out their mail about the event to all the lists. I'm quite certain that over 70% of the crowd there showed up because of his forward - I for one certainly would never have heard of it if not for him. Thanks, dude!

So, a couple of things that I observed:
  • Subash Menon, CEO and Sanjeev Gadre VP - Marketing of Subex Azure are both remarkably articulate. I don't just mean that in the Indian 'they speak good english' sense, but that they also speak well in the Toastmasters sense of the phrase. Smooth, enunciated, and with no ums-and-ahs. I've come to realise that this matters a lot, because when you speak like this, people tend to listen; they can't help themselves.
  • In terms of engaging the audience though, Sanjay Anandram of Jumpstartup and Lin Chase of Accenture ruled. Sanjay because of his forthright and candid statements about VCs and entrepreneurs (refreshingly power point free too!), and Lin simply because of the way she articulated her own startup experiences in such a charming manner, especially the negative ones. In fact, for some reason Lin's way of talking reminds me a lot of Roy's style (Roy is ThoughtWorks' founder). I suspect it would be interesting to sit in on a conversation between the two of them.
The (fairly trivial) downside:
  • There was an overwhelming focus on B2B products. While the speakers did try to extrapolate and answer B2C questions, it would have been nice to have someone from say guruji.com or minglebox. I've picked these two names as examples simply because they've managed to raise significant VC funding, no mean feat in India.
  • There was insufficient time to network. A huge portion of the value of such events is derived from the fact that you meet lots of interesting people. This is the single biggest reason why I'm a fan of Barcamp. Unfortunately, all the get-together-in-a-circle-and-talk-about-something had to be squeezed into the lunch break and the ten minute intervals between the sessions. A thirty minute break between each session would go a long way toward solving this problem.

That said, NASSCOM has done an excellent job and I'd sign up for the next such event without a second thought. I certainly had a good time and the food at the Leela was as good as I remember it to be from my TW bootcamp two years ago. I'd put on five kilos in the five weeks we spent in the Leela. But I digress...

In a nutshell, the fact that the right people were invited to speak at this gig made all the difference. I'm looking forward to the next one (we've been promised there will be more) and I hope the trend of bringing in experienced speakers continues.

PS: Some of the usual suspects at this event included my friends Akshat and Vidit, co-founders of Activ, Manish Agrawal, co-founder of picsquare.com, Venkat Ramana, CEO of OutSmart360 and Kesava Reddy of Digital Strait. And they're all under thirty. Go figure.
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