NPC 2015

Why I left this year’s #npc2015 NASSCOM product conclave absolutely inspired

The democratization of entrepreneurship and product development in India is happening and reaching the smaller cities with many different types of products. That was my big takeaway from this year’s NASSCOM product conclave.

In 2008, when we moved to Bangalore, I participated in my first NPC, at that time, and we had to provide free tickets to about 150 people was the story I heard. We moved to a bigger location, the following year, at the Lalith Ashok with tickets ranging from INR 500 to 800, but with most folk still in the “paid for by corporate sponsors” category. The number of attendees was at about 500.

The NPC I remember most was 2012, where I had 5 panels at the Vivanta and I was excited to see that we had reached a total of 700-800 people. Tickets were < INR 1000. This conference had fewer than 10 women attending and maybe 2-3 speaking.

The next year Sharad’s efforts were beginning to show and ticket prices and attendance went higher. More women showed up, but still fewer than we’d like.

2014 was a turning point, with tickets going for INR 5000, and over 1200 people attending, 800+ wait listed.

This year the prices for the conference were at INR 10K. Over 1200 people (the maximum possible they could accommodate) and over 1000 were wait listed.

The event over the years has gone from 1 day to nearly 5 days, with a hands-on Maker faire, an entire day of practitioner sessions  and 2 days of “name brand” speakers as well.

This year, 24% of the speakers and nearly 10% of the attendees were women. More than 45% of the attendees were from outside the major metros as well.

The conference has also moved to accommodate a variety of needs, and in the process, maybe alienating a few of the older folks. Which is understandable.

The key thing to realize about NPC is that is one part about entrepreneurship (meaning, people come here to get inspired, learn and network), one part about showcasing products (understand what’s being built) and one part networking (more like speed dating for new folks, and an high school reunion for others).

It is also one big party – where you end up hanging out with “name brand” folks who believe it has become a place to be seen more than to learn about new products.

I liken NPC to the changes the city of Bangalore has undergone over the last 30 years. The tech explosion, population boom and arrival of people from all over has caused many growing pains for the “garden city”, but at the same time it has lifted over a million (at least) people from poverty to middle class as well.

That’s the picture I’d like to color a little more – this year, there were more young and new entrepreneurs from smaller cities, more women, and more fresh, first-time product innovators. They are also building a variety of products – not all of them fall into the “enterprise software”, or “mobile app” contours that we knew from before.

Does that make the NPC ecosystem polluted? – I dont think so at all, but I understand why some others would say that.

The entrepreneur from Davangere who is building a “2nd Opinion” app on your mobile phone is innovating as well. So is the young lady from Pune who was building an ecommerce site to sell homemade knits.

These are the new “apps”, “products” and entrepreneurs we have to accommodate and figure out a way to help.

NPC always has always been flexible, inviting and open – which was the original spirit that Sharad, Avinash, Sangeeta, and Som Mittal from the original days and M.R, Ravi and Arun Seth, more recently, have been supporting.

The reason I was inspired, was the diversity in product ideas, the edges of innovation and people. That’s so awesome to see.