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3 Top Industries in India for Product Management Careers

While you can pursue a Product Management career path in almost any industry, there are a few sectors in India where the opportunities are many and the growth prospects are bright.

3 Top industries for a Product Manager Career Path

by Abhinav Kumar

Product management - AbhinavSo all of a sudden, there is an atmosphere of cooperation towards India. One has got to hand it to our Prime Minister for bringing about this wave of positive reforms, which, in his own words, has made our country the new ‘land of opportunities’.

Global MNCs announcing investment plans in India, start-ups raising millions of dollars throughangel investors, billion dollar valuations, a TV series on entrepreneurship — this is what today’s Young India is talking about. After all these years, it seems, at least for now, Cricket and Bollywood have taken a backseat…

Digital India” and “Make in India” are the new visions set by the biggest entrepreneur in a country of over a billion people. This vision,along with regulations to ease business in India, has created a huge sea of opportunities for entrepreneurs to start their own gigs across various industries.

But the category of lynchpins I would like to talk about here is the mini-CEO in a big form or self-starters inside a start-up called Product Manager. If you’re an aspiring Product Manager, the current conditions in India are fertile to reap a very successful career for yourself.

In my last post, I wrote about the various roles a Product Manager must play at work to be successful.

Here are the top 3 industries an aspiring Product Manager must target in India today.

1. Information Technology Industy

Undoubtedly the information technology industry has been the game changer for the Indian economy, responsible in increasing the GDP growth from 1.2% in 1998 to a whopping 7.5% in 2012. According to NASSCOM, this sector experienced net aggregated revenues of USD $147 Billion in 2015 and is set to touch USD $225 Billion in 2020 as predicted by India Brand Equity Foundation.

Let’s delve a little deeper here and see how this small bee transformed into a behemoth.

Let me take you all the way back to 1967, when TATA group collaborated with Burroughs to set up the first software export zone, SEEPZ (Santacruz Electronics Export Processing Zone)in Mumbai, which saw 80% of the software export in the 1980s.

Since then this industry has grown by leaps and bounds resulting in India becoming a giant in the IT industry and forcing the US President Barack Obama to come up with the slogan in 2009, “Say no to Bangalore, Yes to Buffalo” (Buffalo being a city in the US and not the animal)

So let’s get back to the point. How does an aspiring product manager gain?

For this we look at the two major components of the industry: a). Domestic and IT Export and b). Business Process Outsourcing (BPO).

The growth in the BPO segment has been incredible, generating revenue over US$ 100 Billion in FY 2012, whereas the export and domestic revenue was $69.1 Billion and $31.7 Billion respectively.

So now that the ever increasing revenue and GDP figures have given us a reason to breathe comfortably in the IT space in India, let’s see what’s cooking in this gigantic kitchen of IT in India today.

As per India Brand Equity Foundation India is the largest sourcing destination for IT globally, accounting for approximately 67 per cent of the USD $124-130 billion market.

This massive factory of IT employs around 10 million people, which has definitely led to the economic transformation of the country and rebooted the general perception of India in the global arena. But the USP for India lies in the cost at which it offers these IT companies offer services to the world: it is at least 4 times cheaper than the US.

The World wants us, no, the World needs us. But the same reason is also responsible for losing out on the Nadellas and the Pichais to the US or other European MNCs which are able to give them a better life style, more respect and world class opportunities for growth.

However, India is gaining prominence in terms of intellectual capital with several global IT firms setting up their innovation centres in India.

While Bangalore sits comfortably as the Silicon Valley of India, Hyderabad is all set to change the dynamics in the near future.The biggest tech incubator in the country, spread across 60,000 square feet, is being set up there which will be home to a 1000 start-ups.

India is now the fourth largest base for new businesses in the world, with over 3100 tech start-ups and the number is set to touch 11,500 by 2020 as per a report by NASSCOM.

So what’s next? All experts are talking about SMAC (Social, mobility, analytics and cloud). Emerging technologies now offer an entire new gamut of opportunities for top IT firms in India.

Social, mobility, analytics and cloud (SMAC) are collectively expected to offer a USD $1 Trillion opportunity with Cloud being the core under SMAC, increasing at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 30 per cent with very strong future evaluations touching US$ 650-700 Billion by 2020 as per IBEF’s recent report.

The social media is the second most lucrative segment for IT firms, offering a US$ 250 billion market opportunity by 2020.

The Indian e-commerce segment, US$ 12 billion in size is also witnessing robust growth offering attractive avenues for IT companies to develop products and services to cater to the high growth consumer segment.

In this dense forest of IT there exists a land of opportunities waiting to be discovered, especially for product managers. There is a lot of promise which a numerous number of start-ups have shown.

Every now and then we see the founders or the CEOs looking for these skilled Product Managers, because they realise that a Product Manager is one of those who can efficiently execute their vision.

They are the ones who have the passion for the product like no one else, and works day in and day out to get the product shipped exactly how the customer/client needs.

These pseudo-CEOs are the explorers in a company who have a vision for the product, and their job is to work with all other teams including Marketing, Sales, Finance, and Operations exactly in the way they want them to but without dictating terms.

So that’s where the soft skills come into the picture, an important quality for a successful Product Manager to master. With all the MNCs investing heavily in the Sub-Continent in order to set up their R&D centres and manufacturing units, the stakes have never been higher.

Plenty of opportunities for the ones looking to tap this hot space of Product Management are being formed as you read this. Surely you would see a new job posting for a Product Manager on or by the time you finish this article. Do give it a try.

2. Telecommunications Industry

Another grand story in the making? Come let’s see.

Before we get inside this one, let’s have a look at some statistics to understand how fast this sector has been growing.

India already has over 1 billion mobile phone users, with smart phone penetration rate of 15%, having expanded at a CAGR of 19.22% over FY07-15.

Teledensity, i.e. number of telephone connections for every 100 individuals, which stood at 18.3 in FY 2007 has seen a mind-boggling growth to 79.67 in FY 2015.

With a very heavy consumption of data on handheld devices now, revenue from the mobile services market is expected to touch US$ 37 Billion by 2017, leading to a CAGR of 5.2% between 2014 and 2017, according to IDC.

Going at this rate, IDC also predicts that India is expected to surpass US as the second largest smartphone market by 2017 as people continue to shell out money on smartphones and gradually upgrade to 4G.

This sector is set to generate 4 Million direct and indirect jobs over the next 5 years, as per Randstand India. India’s large population and increasing penetration of smartphones were a boost in the arm for the telecom companies.

The ‘Make in India’ campaign has had a fascinating impact on the Telecom industry, just what the doctor ordered. Companies like Samsung, Spice and Micromax have been manufacturing and assembling handsets in the country for some time now but new players like Xiaomi, Lenovo and Motorola have also joined the league. HTC, Asus and Gionee are next in line.

The Government plans to roll out free high speed wi-fi in 2500 cities and towns across the nation, including setting up wi-fi zones in public places.

Google has already announced setting up of free wi-fi in 400 Train Stations.

But the real opportunity for the major players lies in rural India which has been untapped for quite some time now, with teledensity being a mere 15%. Lack of infrastructure to support telecom has been a major reason.

Seeing this, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular plan to invest heavily over the next two years to expand their network infrastructure and distribution channel in the country.

BSNL, currently facing the heat of competition and going through a rough patch in terms of declining revenue and higher cost, has enormous infrastructure, systems, manpower, 80% of landlines and 90% of broadband connections across the country is being looked at to bring the next wave of rural telecom penetration.

Another wave of disruption being experienced right now is Mobile Applications which has made life simpler and easier. A win-win for all. Telecom has benefitted from this in a huge fashion. Let’s look at some figures from 2014.

Number of Internet users in India in 2014 was 300 Million and the number of mobile internet users was 203 Million.

Number of people who purchased something online was 40 Million and is expected to increase by 35% this year.

Truly an epidemic in every sense of the word.

This ever increasing expansion of the mobile ecosystem and huge demand for high-bandwidth apps has been keeping telecom companies on their toes and the competition has been very fierce. With all players trying to give that one-click delivery experience to the customers, you’ve got to agree that a lot of hard work goes into it.

Product Managers in this industry have been a blessing for both the customers as well as the companies.

Right from understanding the market feasibility and dynamics, identifying the customer segment, to coming up with innovative ways to acquire more customers, revenue planning, analytics, pricing and finally the end-to-end product lifecycle management and smooth rollout, can the exposure and learning get any better?

3. Retail Industry

This industry has gone through a complete makeover in the last 8 years. In 2003, believe it or not, IRCTC was the first one to setup a platform where people could buy tickets online, followed by AirDeccan (now Kingfisher Red) in 2004.

But it was 2007, when Flipkart came into the picture and made a mark. E-commerce has really shaped retail in India. Now, we are moving towards m-commerce where shopping from mobile is becoming the new sexy. It is being really promoted by all the major players by offering some hefty discounts.

So, looks like this industry is going to survive and thrive in the time to come. Wanna see some numbers?

India’s retail market is expected to double to US$ 1 trillion by 2020 from US$ 600 billion in 2015, resulting from income growth and urbanisation. Retailing accounts for about 22% of the GDP of India.

Retail shopping in the top seven cities was a massive Rs 3.58 trillion (US$ 57.6 billion). Online retail is expected to be at par with the physical stores in the next five years.India is one of the world’s fastest growing e-commerce markets, thanks to robust investment in the sector and rapid increase in the number of internet users, which we already saw in the above section.

India’s e-commerce market is estimated to expand to over US$ 100 billion by 2020 from US$ 3.5 billion in 2014.

M-commerce in India in 2014 was an unbelievable 41% of the total sales made online.

With the ever rising need for consumer goods in various sectors, a lot of players including PayTM, Amazon, Wal-Mart, Tesco, IKEA etc. are just investingbags full of dollarsin the retail space. Some retail friendly initiatives taken by the Government include the introduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST) to enable easier movements of goods across the country.

The government has also approved a proposal to scrap distinctions among the different types of foreign investments by shifting to a single composite limit. E-commerce is the biggest wave of transformation in the retail industry, and this trend would continue in the years to come.

Retailers must take advantage of the digital channels (e-commerce), which would enable them to shell out less money on real estate while reaching out to more customers in smaller cities and towns.

Amongst the other reasons including a favourable environment, rising incomes, urbanisation etc. One major reason that stands out for me for this paramount success of this sector is the change in the shopping attitude of an Indian consumer, a vital increase in the use of IT and telecom has paved the way for e-Retail.

An Indian consumer is now aware of brands and online shops for lifestyle as per need and occasion. But lack of loyal customers due to the presence of multiple players offering a whole array of deals and discounts is a major cause of worry which has been giving sleepless nights to big e-commerce players.

This is where the product strategy, positioning and differentiation come into the picture. The demand for a smart workforce is the need of the hour for e-commerce, and mind you they’re willing to pay for it. Let’s see how a Product Manager can be a lynchpin for the Retail Industry.

Depending upon on the segment of retail, which a Product Manager is managing, their work revolves around benchmarking products against the competition. They then develop a comprehensive strategy to address competitive positioning and differentiation of the product.

Once this is done, they have to lay down a multi-release product roadmap. They have to work in conjunction with the Sales and Marketing to give them a product demo, descriptions and presentations. They basically equip them with everything that is neededfor the product.

This is one of the most crucial steps for a Product Manager because the success of a product is marked by the sales it makes over a period of time. So if the product is not marketed and sold well, the whole venture could be called a failure and a Product Manager is the first one facing the heat of the stakeholders.


So what are you waiting for? I think I know.

In my next post, I will cover the compensation and other benefits which come with this role. Maybe that will broaden the smile on your face. Do come back for that.

Sources: IBEF Reports, PwC Reports (2015)

Author Bio: Abhinav Kumar, a graduate of St Stephen’s College, works as a Project and Innovations Manager. He is passionate about problem solving through user friendly products and efficient processes. Connect with him on LinkedIn. Share your thoughts and queries for him in the comments section below.

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7 thoughts on “3 Top Industries in India for Product Management Careers”

  1. Hi Abhinav congrats on coming up with a very articulate write up.I am sure it will be an eye opener for the young minds waiting to open their wings in the corporate world.This is a sequence of your earlier Blog regarding Product Management.

    • Thank you so much. Yes, this is the second post in continuation with the first one which was more focused on what skills does a person need to have or acquire to be successful at Product Management. As mentioned in the above post, the next one is going to be on the Compensation & Benefits which comes with the tag of Product Manager. Do come back for that.

  2. Excellent article, Abhinav. My question is not related to this topic. Hope you don’t mind.

    Apart from the IITs that hog the limelight in India, there are a few other institutions that have managed to brand themselves pretty well. Like St Xaviers in Mumbai and your alma mater St Stephens in Delhi.

    It would be great if you could write a post on how it was to be a Stephenian, a peek into the history & its culture that gives it the elite image, how it influenced and impacted you as a student, what else happens apart from academics, what kind of a person fits well in such a place.

    • Hey Alka

      Thanks for your question. Definitely not something I was expecting, but yeah I do plan to write something on these lines soon. Maybe you can drop in your mailing address and I can send you a link whenever I write a post on it.


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