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iSpirt is a think tank for software product firms, not a Nasscom 2.0 wannabe

A group of 30 software product companies including some led by top new age tech entrepreneurs like InMobi’s Naveen Tewari and PubMatic’s Amar Goel besides key venture capital investors and software product firms like Tally, have come together to form Indian Software Product Industry Round Table iSpirt. The big question is whether this marks a schism in the country’s top body representing IT industry, Nasscom.

Techcircle.in posed some straight questions to one of its early members to figure out what exactly is iSpirt.

“iSpirt is a think tank and is not set up to compete with Nasscom, which is a trade body. We have a focused agenda related only to the software product industry,” said iSpirt member Sharad Sharma, who is also co-founder and CEO of BrandSigma, a provider of analytics for brand management.

He added: “Truly successful product companies build private value on top of public goods. There would be no Google but for Stanford University, no Cisco but for DARPA and no RedHat but for the Linux open source project. In India, public goods are being created by self-organising communities that are inspired by the open source movement. We feel that these initiatives have to multiply to create a strong foundation for the Indian software product industry.”

iSpirt is not a membership-based trade body, but a collection of full-time and part-time fellows and is supported primarily by grants and contributions from product firms and individuals.

Initially it will focus on addressing challenges related to M&A and need for more early-stage risk capital for the industry.

“Right now, there is a valuation penalty associated with being an Indian product company. This is because M&A folks in Silicon Valley (and that’s where the acquisition partners are) are wary about IP and post-acquisition integration issues. M&A Connect programme will educate these M&A folks and will change their mindsets. This can be done if a self-help community of companies drives this programme,” said Sharma.

The think tank will later pursue policy positions related to software patents, taxation for software products (including SaaS), preferential buying mandates and so on.

iSpirt will collaborate with existing industry bodies such as Nasscom (National Association of Software and Services Companies), CII (Confederation of Indian Industry), Ficci (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry).

“If you look at the US and the UK, think tanks and trade bodies are always separate organisations. They have different DNAs. Yet, they are synergistic with each other. The success of iSpirt will make Nasscom even more successful,” Sharma added.

Besides entrepreneurs like Tewari and Goel, it has members such as Tally Solutions’ cofounder and managing director Bharat Goenka, Helion Venture Partners’ Ashish Gupta, Accel Partners’ Shekhar Kirani, OrangeScape founder and CEO Suresh Sambandam among others.

(Edited by Prem Udayabhanu)