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Product Leadership: The Indian Key To Unlock The Global Product Innovation Market

India’s problem is not the dearth of innovative ideas, the real challenge we are facing today is the lack of skills required to commercialize these ideas. The global shortfall of product management skills is also pulling India behind in assuring its position as an international leader in product development. The most effective way to manage the current skill gap in product management is to train the existing pool of IT professionals and project managers on multi-functional product management skills.

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Effective way to manage the current skill gap in product management is to train the existing pool of IT professionals and project managers on multi-functional product management skills.

While India already exhibits a global expertise in providing software services, reaching the acme of IT product development segment still remains a far-fetched dream of our country. Product innovation has become the prime need for any business to remain profitable and the software industry is no exception to this. India’s problem is not the dearth of innovative ideas, the real challenge we are facing today is the lack of skills required to commercialize these ideas. The global shortfall of product management skills is also pulling India behind in assuring its position as an international leader in product development.

According to a research report submitted at MIT, India’s cost advantage is losing its charm compared to yesteryears when India was an attractive destination for outsourcing IT services as it offered low-cost talent. Besides, automation of various backhand services has resulted in outsourcing losing its sheen. The IT services sector today is steadily moving towards maturity and service-centric businesses are exploring product development segment. We can, therefore, find most of the leading IT companies venturing into products development and innovation. Individual startups in the country are also gaining popularity with better investment infrastructure and government support. This multi-way product innovation approach is adding to the product managers crunch that India is facing today.

Possible Solutions for bridging the Product Management Skill Gap

With my experience in product management domain, I think, the following four factors help us control the undersupply of product managers in India.

Better Understanding of the Product Manager’s role

Most of the working population in the IT sector in India is still unaware of the role of a product manager. Product management is often misunderstood as project management, this ignorance is also one of the reasons why India is lagging behind in creating a product management skill base. The primary function of a project manager is limited to the execution of a business plan that has already been developed. A product manager, on the other hand, has a strategic function that requires higher levels of skills. A product manager acts as a bridge between the technical aspects of a product development as well as the business outcomes of the product development plan. The product manager is a leadership position which requires end-to-end management of product development. IT professionals and organizations must realize the difference and act accordingly to develop skills which are more focused on decision making and influencing capabilities.

Encouraging Intraprenuers and Individual Entrepreneurs

India currently has around 60K product managers as compared to 1.8 million in the US. This wide talent gap is the root cause of an increasing failure in converting new product ideas into profitable businesses. The strategy of open innovation is a coping mechanism that companies are adopting to overcome the lack of internal product management skills. Companies are mining the benefits from the intrapreneurs as well as entrepreneurs. For instance, IT services companies such as Cognizant are expanding their existing skills in product development and developing new technologies by providing platforms for venture leaders. The company makes small investments in external startups at an early stage, which in turn helps them in providing new products to their clients.

Companies are establishing mini product labs to encourage employees to come up with their ideas and promote these ideas to build a business. This is helping them in cultivating decision-making abilities and product ownership attitude in employees. An increasing number of companies are using intrapreneurship as a way to foster product management skills in their technical leaders.

Making Product Leadership More Appealing To Women

Women constitute 48.5% of the Indian population and are increasingly contributing to the qualified workforce. The gender pay gap is also decreasing with an increase in women contributors to the economy. According to the Product Leadership 2018 benchmark study, the compensation structure for both male and female is equal, still, the ratio of female versus male product manager is 1:10. This clearly shows that women are not looking at product management as a potential career option. There is a huge female talent pool in the IT sector today. We certainly need to train more women to progress in product management function which is at present a male-dominated domain.

Formal Education and Training in Product Management

Just as developing India into an IT services destination was a planned transition, we need proper planning in creating a product development ecosystem here. The most effective way to manage the current skill gap in product management is to train the existing pool of IT professionals and project managers on multi-functional product management skills. While there are many management institutes offering various courses in business management, there are only few that offer specialized programmes on product leadership, product design, and management. Educational institutes should design curriculums dealing with various facets of product development and innovation. Entrepreneurship development programmes offered by such institutions should also be more product-centric.

It is through a collective effort by the government, organizations and educational institutions that India can actually deal with the shortage of product managers. Also, with the rate at which product development is taking a leap in the Indian software industry, a career in product management definitely holds phenomenal growth potential for IT professionals.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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intrapreneurs entreprenuers gender equality

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