Four Flavors of Product Management in India

Let’s face it, the product manager’s primary role is to understand the market and customers and then make judgements regarding his product(s) based on his analysis. So being in India, you have two broad categories of product management activities based on the market, the Indian market and offshore product management, typically for US as well as two categories based on the type of customers, Consumers and Enterprises.

If we represent them in the ever popular 2X2 matrix, they would look something like this:

A. Offshore Enterprise Product Management B. Offshore Consumer Product Management
Companies such as Oracle, SAP, Microsoft (some parts), IBM, CA Technologies, NetApp, Nokia Siemens Networks Companies such as Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft (some parts), Amazon (some parts), Adobe, Intuit (some parts) and others
C. Indian Market Enterprise Product Management D. Indian Market Consumer Product Management
 Companies like Onmobile, Tally and HP, Dell and some others have units with PM roles that focus on the Indian market. HP and Dell also have large R&D centers that have offshore product management roles  Companies such as ,,, Comviva,,, Nokia, Intuit (some parts) and so on

For ease of representation, I made the following assumptions:

  1. Enterprise includes all small, medium and large enterprises
  2. Consumer includes internet, apps and ecommerce
  3. Indian market includes the subcontinent and APJ if relevant to the organization
  4. Offshore market is mainly the US with UK and EU included as necessary

Now given the vastly different focus areas of these organizations, it would be a huge folly to classify all product managers within the same bracket of skills, knowledge and experience. Actually, this classification also indicates the variety of tasks and various stakeholders that a PM will encounter in his work. For example, an Indian consumer market PM must keep track of the deals being handled by business development managers, whereas the offshore consumer product manager may never even talk to business development managers. However, one thing that remains sacrosanct is that if you are a PM in India, you must cultivate good relations with the engineering staff.

One interesting point, it is the offshore consumer product management roles that pay the highest salaries today, as PMs have a very large role in the success of these organizations both in India as well as their parent location. At the same time, these roles also have the lowest shelf life, and can quickly disappear in a downturn, re-organization or simply due to passage of time.

Today, many organizations are copying Job Descriptions directly from their US websites without a clear understanding of how different this role is in India. To give one example, the JD of the PM for a large internet firm in India and the US is the same, however, while the role in the US reports to the head of product line of a business unit, the role in India reports to a director of engineering. Obviously, both roles are vastly different.

In fact, given the lack of knowledge among recruiters about the different categories of product management, very often candidates end up in a wrong interview, being under-prepared or simply unaware of the realities of the workplace before accepting the offer. This can cause unnecessary misunderstandings which can be avoided by simply preparing a realistic job description before interview.

In a future post, I will take a sample job description from a current job posting and explain it.

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