Kerala’s IT industry is going through a shift from services to product engineering, where a cohort of product startups are creating high-value intellectual properties, attracting capital, gaining a lot of customers, and enabling thousands of jobs. We need to have dozens of outstanding, billion-dollar homegrown product companies to make Kerala a global production hub. Product engineering being the future, we need to upskill and transform our workforce accordingly to be industry-ready.
It has only been five years since product startups have started evolving in Kerala. We currently have around 20 product companies that are on a path of value creation in Kerala. The acquisition of Insent.ai by ZoomInfo, the recent fundraise by JIFFY.ai, are all positive signs.
Why product companies?
Engineers in a product company get exposed to multiple tasks, which helps them attain vast knowledge quickly and progress faster in their careers. Moreover, product companies give engineers a lot more ownership over their duties, helping them realize their full potential. Besides better work and benefits, the greatest attraction of working in a product company is to be able to solve real-world problems and create an impact in the lives of other people.
A different work culture
Engineers usually are used to working in a manager-led culture in a service company. But in a product engineering environment, it is a team-led work culture that is more goal-centric and result-oriented. It is the team that gets to make engineering decisions in product companies. Employees will have to not just work within their team but integrate into the larger organization and work with other departments like Quality Assurance, Operations, Sales, and Support. As product companies exist solely because of customers, engineers get to work closely with the customers, understand their needs, and engineer solutions accordingly. This helps in building a macro view of the business, which will, in turn, help them make informed decisions.
To build world-class solutions, one needs to be an engineer by choice and not an engineer by chance. Engineers need to be passionate about their work, to be more productive and do smart work.
Engineers aspiring to join a production environment should have self-learning skills, the ability to continuously acquire knowledge, leadership skills where they own responsibilities without anyone pushing them for it, a clear understanding of engineering fundamentals, and the ability to understand a problem and identify a path to its solution. Other skills that will help engineers shine in a product engineering career are good communication skills that will help represent themselves in a competitive environment, team spirit, the ability to share knowledge and help peers grow, and good listening skills that will aid them while interacting with customers.
Role of Governments, Educational institutions, and Industry
It is the collective effort of Governments, Educational Institutions, and industry that will help groom our talent and build an enterprising product culture in Kerala. Educational institutions have a responsibility to prepare students for the next phase of their life. This could be achieved by upskilling faculty, introducing real-world case studies beyond textbooks, strengthening fundamentals, providing opportunities to improve communication skills, innovating, and setting academic content in line with industry standards.
Governments have a more significant role in making necessary changes in educational policies, creating infrastructure, and enabling an investor-friendly environment. This will create more outstanding product successes year over year, translating to thousands of quality jobs, infusing a culture of learning, and creating a visible pathway that helps people realize their purpose.
( Author is the CEO and Founder of CareStack Startup)