Why Indians [and Filipinos?] can not make good IT products, but make good solutions

Sachin Dabir, Sr. Manager at Red Hat Asia Pacific, poses an interesting question in his blog and he asks: “Why Indians can not make good IT products, but make good solutions.”

He writes:

Indians are good at services and solutions but can not make good IT products – this is the old problem that we keep hearing about in the industry.

We are good at creating ’solutions’ – solutions that can be tweaked whenever there is a problem. We love to solve the problems and we are very comfortable in the world of ambiguity. But this mental state is not good for making products. Products need state of fixed input and predictable output. Somehow, I realised that we, Indians are not good at being “exact”, “precise” “to the point”. We like giving “big picture” solutions, giving broad views.

Just think about the conversations that we have most of the time – about politics, economics, life. We love to talk a lot but without being precise. Ok this is a very generalised view and there are many good and precise thinking people in India. But the fact is that our brand, image as Indians is not like that. We as, people, are not known to be precise and exact. Hence the buyers dont find trust in capabilities to build great products.

Without surrendering to stereotypes, its funny how I share the same views but this time as it applies to my own country men–Filipinos. Filipinos share many traits with Indians (such as a language and culture that is stilted towards generalities and imprecision). Case in point: in our native language our subject / nouns are generally genderless–unlike Western/Germanic languages which almost always associate gender with an object (ie a ship is a she, etc). We are also imprecise when it comes to telling time and distance, often in conversation we will set meeting times as “later” or use frustratingly unhelpful words such as “near” or “far” when describing the distance to a lost stranger’s final destination.

I was thinking some of the barriers to success for our countrymen in some fields may be rooted in our cultural background and upbringing. This was pursued in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers–he explains how plane crashes may partly be explained by the cultural heritage of the pilots and their “power distance.” (See the chapter on the Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes or just read about it here).

But on the upside I notice that unlike Singaporeans, Indians and Filipinos generally excel in services, entertainment, the arts–areas where creativity and right brained thinking are valued and not seen as a hindrance. Daniel Pink has an interesting book called A Whole New Mind which posits that we are moving to the Conceptual Age, and in this coming new era, the “scatter-brained”, imprecise but inventive, empathic right brainers will have an advantage. And I know some Indian companies who have been able to overcome cultural hindrances or barriers to marry left-brained, product-oriented precision, and marry this with their innate creativity to go and develop innovative, and fairly successful product companies. Companies like Adventnet and their ManageEngine and Zoho product lines; with more on the way with interesting Indian startups like Druvaa, Vembu, Cynapse and others. Hopefully we Filipinos can one day do the same.

Customer Data in Cyberspace: What was the tipping point?

Somebody at one of the LinkedIn groups I am a member of posed an interesting question. His question was (and I paraphrase a bit here: “what was the tipping point for customers to start entrusting online services like Salesforce.com with sensitive customer information?”

The entire post I reprint below:

LinkedIn: Discussion: CRM Experts

Salesforce.com , an asp log-in CRM system that involves no downloading of software, now has 55,400 enterprise customers world-wide and has even spawned imitations (eg., SugarCRM.com ).

I must confess to initially running with the herd – the cynics. It was easily done. The conventional wisdom was that large, medium and small organisations would not accept the risks (real and perceived) of hosting their customer data (arguably their most valuable asset after their people) outside of the enterprise – no matter how secure the site. What a PR disaster it would be if their customer data records were ever compromised.

As this orthodoxy has been shattered, pundits are left reflecting on what exactly was the tipping point? Was it improved internet security, broadband availability, increased trust in online systems or a rise in teleworking?

Or did the company simply build a damn good product that was better than traditional CRM systems managed and maintained by the IT department, especially those for SMEs, with much higher price tags?

Did the rise of sensitive data held by online retail, gambling, networking (like LinkedIn) and dating sites also lower tolerance thresholds?

And if such an entrenched orthodoxy can smash like a glass beaker on a marble floor….what’s next?

My take? The tipping point I think happened long before Salesforce.com came. It happened when people began using web-based email systems to store sensitive (business and private) information. It began when people started using websites like eBay and Amazon, or B2B exchanges and marketplaces to transact and share credit card information online.

Using web-based (oops the term is now cloud-based) services was I think just a small step from what people were already doing anyway.

What’s next? Perhaps the idea of having all of our services and data residing in the “cloud” and the death of personal or enterprise computing as we know it today may not be far off. Perhaps a “utility” based computing model makes sense after all.

Interesting Post: SysAdmins Gone Wild

This is an interesting post from the Royal Pingdom blog. They put together a collection of true-to-life stories of System Admins gone wild:

Royal Pingdom » The inner threat, 6 real-world cases of sysadmins gone wild

When it comes to the ability to do damage to a company, few employees have
more power than sysadmins. Deep system access and inside knowledge is a
necessary part of their job, but when things go bad between employee
and employer, some very sensitive situations can arise.

Here are six real-world cases of “sysadmins gone wild” that all ended up in court.