Desi touch makes a big difference to tech firms

Hindustan Times,

I love watching entrepreneurship stories involving Indians and am most fascinated by the two extremes: one, where an Indian company addresses a global market by understanding how the world works, and the other, where an Indian company addresses the local market by adapting global technology to local conditions.

In the first category, we have companies such as Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys and above them in my ranking, banking software firm iflex solutions, which has since been acquired by Oracle.

Last week, I got to taste a couple of companies in the other category. One97 Communications, based in Noida, launched the latest variant of its online payment solution, paytm (rhymes with ATM)–and the interesting addition, which it boasted as a special Indian innovation, was how it blended a chat facility to the e-commerce payment option. It seems simple but the big thing is that the chat enables mobile-wielding customers bargain with shopkeepers, like they do in India’s small-town bazaars. This rests on a simple value: When in India, do as the Indians do.

A couple of days later, at the India Digital Summit, I heard a captivating address by VSS Mani, CEO and founder of Just Dial. Now, Mani’s Just Dial had put an Indian spin on the Western idea of Yellow Pages to help a culture where people “ask around” for help rather than look it up in a fat book. You simply phoned them to help you zero in on everything from a plumber to a restaurant. It is only now that Just Dial is more Web-oriented, and trying to add its own Indian spin in user generated content by asking people for their views instead of expecting them to comment at random.

I would also include in this league founded by Dinesh Agarwal, which put small-town handicrafts and artisans become easy exporters by making them use the Web.

When in India, do as Indians do.