Monthly Archives: August 2010

How to build a high quality engineering team – Excerpt from Shirish Deodhar’s new book

(Recently, Shirish Deodhar, a well-known figure in the Pune technology and startup community, published a book, From Entreprenurs to Leaders, which makes the point that while the last 10 years saw the rise of several billion dollar software services companies in India, the next 10 years will see the rise of billion dollar software product companies from India. The book explores the dynamics, challenges, and opportunities at all the different stages that these companies must pass through.

The book uses a number of India software companies as case studies, many of them from Pune. The Pune case studies included are: ProFound Technologies (now defunct), Career Vidya Labs, Ixsight, Kale Consultants, CompuLink, Persistent Systems.

Book cover for From Entrepreneurs to Leaders by Shirish Deodhar
This book by, Shirish Deodhar, Pune-serial-entrepreneur, aims to provide guidance to the next generation of founders who will build India's software product companies.

We have reproduced here (with permission from the publisher, Tata McGraw Hill) an excerpt from the book. Here Shirish talks about how to build up a high quality engineering team in early stage companies – basically, those companies that have gone past the startup stage, and now have revenue between 2 and 20 crores. At this time, the company has to move past the founders and few early engineers to a team with the right roles and responsibilities defined. This excerpt gives advice on how to do this specifically tailored for the Indian context.)

High Quality Engineering Team

Do you want a collection of brilliant minds or a brilliant collection of minds?
R. Meredith Belbin

Good ideas become great products with the right engineering team. It starts with the technical leadership. Initially, this might have one or more founders. A larger company may have a Director or VP of Engineering responsible for product development activities.

Smart engineers being what they are, they only look up to someone who is like a ‘God’ for them. This means the engineering head has to be knowledgeable about the product and technologies, a highly capable software architect, innovative, adept at resolving low level technical problems and good at motivating people. In a bigger company, the person will be less hands-on and more experienced at managing people (engineers, clients, company management) and logistics of product development.

Like an orchestra that requires a mix of instruments, the team should have the right combination of engineers. In the beginning, the ideal combination is a product architect and designer and a team of mid-level and junior engineers with required skills, high aptitude and right attitude. The composition will change as the company evolves. Start-ups first need innovative, experienced and independent developers. Then, one adds people who are good at getting detailed work done with some supervision. Later, junior developers and those with different skills such as testers and support engineers are required.

Teams need a few smart ‘techies’ who are great at conceptualizing new ideas, implementing them the first time, and resolving complex problems that may come up. But you should not have too many of them as they get bored easily. The rest should have solid temperaments, and be good at systematically executing assigned tasks to high quality. The high performers of both kinds, innovative or solid, have to be nurtured. This should not be at the expense of others, since ultimately it is teams that win games.

The test of a great team is a sense of common purpose combined with healthy respect for diversity, and the ultimate reward is a winning product.

Growing the Engineering Team at VERITAS India

I faced the challenge of building a strong engineering organization after the acquisition of my first company (Frontier Software). In February 1999, I became responsible for VERITAS Software’s India subsidiary. VERITAS in US had grown rapidly to $200 million, 2000 employees and many products. However, the India team consisted of 40 engineers in 2-3 teams, which was relatively insignificant in overall numbers. I was assigned the task of transforming the Pune subsidiary into an integral part of the global organization within three years.

VERITAS was in the technically challenging niche space of storage software. The India subsidiary had been looking for senior engineers with domain expertise in storage and strong technical skills in Unix systems. These skills were hard to find, and hence the team had grown slowly. The task was relatively easier for other products such as data protection, which needed expertise in Windows and Unix middleware, UI development, Java and C++. All teams wanted test/QA and automation engineers. Finally, experienced engineering managers were critical for the new product teams.

In India, it was very difficult to find experienced engineers with a product background and who were still technically strong. The Indian software services industry was growing at phenomenal rate, and computer science graduates with experience were in short supply. Companies encouraged technical people to become project managers after 3-5 years of experience. This in turn led to a belief that the career growth required transitioning from technology to management. This was fine for services, but exactly the opposite of what product companies needed.

In this scenario, we adopted a pyramid-style staffing approach. To create the foundation, we went to the IITs, IISc, BITS Pilani and top 5 engineering colleges in Pune. We pulled out all stops to ensure that we were among the first 3 companies to be invited for campus interviews, so that we could hire the best graduates. VERITAS was not well known in India, so we made presentations highlighting the remarkable growth and technical achievements of the company. Each campus was visited by ex-students and few senior managers. We offered attractive salaries and stock options. At the IITs we focused on M-Tech (Computer Science) students. They were temperamentally more mature, some had previous work experience and, unlike the B-Techs, did not aspire to go abroad.

Our tests were difficult and interviews were rigorous. This created a ‘techie’ image for the company, and the best candidates wanted to get in. We recruited over 75 engineers each year, for 3 years in a row (2000-02). The middle layer, which required senior engineers, took the longest time. Initially, it was filled with lateral promotions from existing teams, and selective outside recruitment. VERITAS growing reputation as the fastest growing global technology enterprise, and our relatively high compensation, helped us cherry-pick some good talent from all over India. Over time, many of the outstanding M-Tech campus hires grew into the senior and lead engineer roles.

The top of the pyramid required engineering managers. The criteria were 12+ years of experience at product companies, strong technical skills, high emotional maturity, and good people management capabilities. We did not insist on storage or systems expertise.

This strategy of relying heavily on campus hires had significant risks, and was questioned by many. To make it work, we promoted the concept of ‘each one, mentor one’. Experienced engineers guided one or two freshers besides managing their own work. It demanded extra effort from the seniors, but they delivered. By late 2001, most of the campus recruits had become star contributors, delivering value far in excess of what we had anticipated. Many had also raised their eyebrows, when we decided to hire managers with no storage or systems background. But, they too were excelling in managing delivery, communication with US, and maintaining high performance and motivation within their teams.

In four years, the India subsidiary had become strategic to the company, with nearly 500 employees in 16 product teams, representing 22% of worldwide engineering. At a company meeting, the CEO commented on VERITAS Pune as an outstanding engineering location, which created a competitive advantage for the company. On campuses and in the Pune IT community, we were widely considered to be the preferred employer.

Smart Strategies at Small Companies

You don’t have to be a well-known or a high paying company, to get the best talent. The pyramid approach is also valid for small product companies. You need great product architects and people managers at the top, few competent technical leads in the middle, and a talented pool of engineer with 0-3 years of experience. The ratio between levels should be around 1:6.

Bulk of the hiring in India is still for services companies. But the product culture is beginning to seep into the psyche of software professionals. The most coveted jobs are at subsidiaries of global product organizations. The younger generation is also willing to join small Indian product ventures because they know that the work there is often more exciting than at large services firms. A career food chain exists, with engineers preferring well-known companies. A product venture will find it easy to hire engineers from those lower in the food chain – smaller companies (product or services). Hiring from large services firms is also feasible with more and more professionals aspiring to do something more creative than an endless series of IT projects.

Indian product companies can also bring in capable senior talent from global product subsidiaries, where they often face a glass ceiling effect. At captives, as 100% subsidiaries are called, most high level product roadmap and architecture decisions are taken at headquarters. The teams in India are responsible for implementation. This gap is partly because India teams lack access to, and the knowledge of, customer requirements. Hence the top talent there is itching for greater empowerment and opportunity to shape a complete product. Salaries at multinational subsidiaries are quite high. But some seniors may be willing to take pay cuts and join for a reasonable combination of salary and equity.

Like with customers, you must market your company to prospective hires. Komli1 has done a good job at this. The founders themselves are very accomplished, with degrees from Harvard University and IIT. Later they were joined by the former CFO of eBay India. As part of the hiring effort and branding, Komli organized an Algorithm writing contest (‘AlgoGod’). This created good publicity, especially in the IITs, from where they hired eight engineers in their first year (2007). Their employee policies are generous, including unlimited vacation (they trust their employees to know when they need a break), health coverage, and stock options.

Reprinted by permission of Tata McGraw Hill Education Private Limited. Excerpted from: ‘9780070680708: DEODHAR: FROM ENTERPRENUERS TO LEADERS: Building Billion Dollar Software product Companies from India, Rs. 350.00’. Copyright © 2010 by Tata McGraw Hill Education Private Limited, All Rights Reserved.
footnote1: Since the writing of this book, the division of Komli that Shirish referred to in the excerpt above has been spun off as Pubmatic. -PuneTech editors.)

About the Author – Shirish Deodhar

Shirish has over 25 years of software industry experience in US and India, and has incubated and led several IT companies through rapid business growth.

His two previous companies merged with global majors – In-Reality Software with Symphony Services Inc. and Frontier Software with VERITAS Software (now Symantec Corp.). Subsequently, as head of their Pune subsidiaries, he was instrumental in scaling revenues and growing the team size to over 500 employees in 3.5 years each.

Shirish did his B-Tech (EE) from IIT Mumbai, followed by a Master’s degree from USA. He has a US patent, several excellence awards, ten technical papers, and a book titled ‘From Entrepreneurs to Leaders’ published by McGraw-Hill.

Event report: POCC session on cloud apps for your startup

This is a live-blog of the Pune Open Coffee Club session on use of cloud apps for your business. Since this is being typed as the session is in progress, it might be a bit incoherent and not completely well-structured, and there are no links.

Pune Open Coffee Club is an informal group for all those interested in Pune's startup ecosystem. As of this writing, it has more than 2700 members. Click on the image to get all PuneTech articles related to the Pune Open Coffee Club

This session is being run as a panel discussion. Santosh Dawara is the moderator. Panelists are:

  • Dhananjay Nene, Independent Software Architect/Consultant
  • Markus Hegi, CEO of CoLayer
  • Nitin Bhide, Co-founder of BootstarpToday, a cloud apps provider
  • Basant Rajan, CEO of Coriolis, which makes the Colama virtual machine management software
  • Anthony Hsiao, Founder of Sapna Solutions

The session started with an argument over the defintion of cloud, SaaS, etc., which I found very boring and will not capture here.

Later, Anthony gave a list of cloud apps used by Sapna Solutions:

  • Google apps for email, calendaring, documents
  • GitHub for code
  • Basecamp for project management
  • JobScore for recruitment (handles job listings on your website, and the database of applicants, etc.)
  • GreyTip (Indian software for HR management)

Question: Should cloud providers be in the same country?
Answer: you don’t really have a choice. There are no really good cloud providers in India. So it will be outside.

Question: Are customers ready to put their sensitive data on the cloud?
Audience comment: Ashish Belagali has a startup that provides recruitment software. They can provide it as installable software, and also as a hosted, could app. However, they’ve found that most customers are not interested in the cloud app. They are worried about two things: a) The software will be unavailable if internet is not available, and b) The data is outside the company premises.

Point by Nitin Bhide of BootstrapToday: Any cloud provider will take security of your data very seriously. Because, if they screw this up even once, they’ll go out of business right away. Also, as far as theft of data is concerned, it can happen even within your own premises, by your own employees.

Comment 1: Yes, the above argument makes logical sense. But most human beings are not logical, and can have an irrational fear and will defend their choice.

Comment 2: This fear is not irrational. There are valid reasons to be unhappy about having your sensitive data in the cloud.

Comment 3: Another reason why this fear is not irrational is to do with CYA: cover-your-ass. If you put data in the cloud and something goes wrong, you will be blamed. If you put the data locally and something goes wrong, you can claim that you did everything that was expected of you. As long as CYA exists (especially in enterprises), this will be a major argument against the cloud.

Question: Does anybody use accounting packages in the cloud?
Answer: No. Most people prefer to stick to Tally, because of its compliance with Indian laws (or at least its compliance with Indian CAs). There doesn’t seem to be any online alternative that’s good enough.

At this point there was a longish discussion about the availability and uptime of the cloud services. Points made:

  • Cloud app providers have lots of redundancies and lots of backups to ensure that there is no downtime
  • However, there are enough instances of even world-class providers having downtime
  • Also, most of them claim redundancies, but give no guarnatees or SLAs, and even if they do give an SLA, you’re too small a player to enforce the SLA.
  • Also remember, that in the Indian context, downtime of the last mile of your internet will result in downtime of your app
  • Point to remember is that an app going down it not the real problem. The real problem is recovery time. How long does it take before it comes back up? Look at that before choosing upon your app.
  • It would be great if there was a reputation service for all cloud apps, which gives statistics on availability, downtime, performance etc. There isn’t right now, and that is a problem.
  • Remember, there is an economic cost of cloud apps that you will incur due to downtime, but also remember that there are definite economic savings too. For many startups the savings outweigh the potential costs. But you need to look into this for yourself.

Question: What kind of cost savings can a startup get by going to the cloud?

Nobody had concrete answers, but general points made:

  • Can you really afford to pay a system administrator who is competent, and who can administer a mail server, a file server, a this, and a that? There were some people who said that while admins are expensive in the US, they are not that expensive in India. However, more people felt that this would be expensive.
  • All significant large cloud services cost a very tiny fraction of what it would cost to do it yourself.
  • It is not a question of cost. As a startup, with my limited team, I wouldn’t have time to do this.

Basant Rajan points out that so far the discussion has been about either something that is in the cloud, or it is something that you do entirely yourself. These are not the only options. There is a third option – called managed services, or captive clouds. He points out that there is a Pune company called Mithi software that offers a whole bunch of useful services that they manage, on their machines, in your premises.

Question: What about compatibility between your apps? If the recruitment app needs to talk to your HR app are you in trouble?
Answer: The good ones already talk to each other. But yes, if you are not careful, you could run into trouble.

Some Pune startups who are providing cloud based apps:

Pune startup BootstrapToday provides an all-in-one solution in the cloud for development:

  • Source code control (using SVN). All the rest of these services are home grown.
  • Wiki pages
  • Bug tracking
  • Project management
  • Time Tracking (coming soon)
  • Project Tracking (coming soon)

Pune startup Acism has developed an in-house tool for collaboration and project communication which they are making available to others.

Pune startup CoLayer has been around for a long time, and has a product for better collaboration within an enterprise. It is like Google Wave, but has been around for longer, and is still around (while Wave is not).

Pune startup Colama offers private clouds based on virtualization technology. They are currently focusing on software labs in educational institutions as customers. But this technology can also be used to create grids and private clouds for development, testing and training.

Recommendations for cloud apps:

General recommendation: if you’re not using Google Apps, you must. Mail, Documents (i.e. Office equivalent functionality), Calendar.

Bug Tracking: Jira (very good app, but expensive), Pivotal Tracker (only for those familiar with agile, suggested by @dnene), Lighthouse App (suggested by: @anthonyhsiao), Mantis.

Project Management: ActiveCollab (self hostable), DeskAway, SugarCRM on Google Apps (very good CRM, very good integration with Google Apps, has a learning curve).

For hosting your own cloud (i.e. bunch of servers with load balancing etc.): Rackspace Cloud is good but expensive. Amazon Web Services is cost effective, but has a learning curve.

Unfortunately, due to time constraints, this part of the session got truncated. Hopefully we’ll have some more time in the end to pick this up again.

IndicThreads conference pass giveaway

IndicThreads will give a free pass to their Cloud Computing conference that is scheduled for 20/21 August to the best blog or tweet either about this POCC event, or about Cloud Computing in general. The pass is normally worth Rs. 8500. To enter, tweets and blogs should be brought to the attention of @indicthreads on twitter, or This PuneTech blog is not eligible for the free pass (because I already have a pass), so the field is still open 🙂

Mini DebConf – conference for developers interested in Debian GNU/Linux OS – 7/8 Aug

(This weekend, Pune will play host to Mini DebConf, a two-day conference targeting students and developers interested in developing for the Debian GNU/Linux Operating system. Debian is one of the most popular distributions of the Linux operating system and free software packages, and is also the base upon with the Ubuntu Linux distributions are based. Debian is known for relatively strict adherence to the Unix and free software philosophies as well as for using collaborative software development and testing processes.

This article about Mini DebConf is written by Amit Karpe for his blog, and is reproduced here with permission (with a few minor modifications))

Debian OpenLogo
Image via Wikipedia. Click on the logo to see more PuneTech articles about Linux.

MiniDebConf India 2010 will be held in College of Engineering Pune on August 7th and 8th, 2010!

Mini DebConf India 2010 is organized by DebianIndia in association with Uncode(Lokayat Free Software Initiative), CoFSUG(COEP Free Software user Group), FSUGP(Free Software User Group of PICT) and PLUG(Pune Linux User Group).

This is great opportunity where we can meet contributors who actually contribute to the Debian Project. You will also get knowledge about Debian and Ubuntu (which is derived from Debain). You will find a great community where students are really leading activities. You will find next generation leaders, innovators, coders, hackers discussing ideas & exciting them.

In one of the first sessions, Praveen will introduce the audience to the concept of Debian as a Universal Operating System. Later, Kartik & team will conduct a workshop where you will get hands on Debian Developer toolbox. And I think the most important workshop will be Debian Packaging by Kartik & team where you can learn how to create .deb packages, which commands to use, which processes to follow. So you can create your own packages, or you can make changes in existing packages. This workshop is highly recommended for those who want to start contributing to Debian or Ubuntu Projects.

On Sunday we have a talk on Debian Edu by Vikram Vincent in which he is going to share his experience of helping children learn with Debian Edu. There will be open discussion on Collaboration between Debian, Ubuntu and BOSS. For those who don’t know what is BOSS – BOSS is Bharat Operating System Solutions a Linux distribution developed in India by NRCFOSS (National Resource Centre for Free/Open Source Software). Also there will be an open discussion on Debian Community Activities and future plans. I hope that students will come forward to ask questions as well as to seek help in organizing college level meetings & activities.

After that there will be a more hands on session building on top of the workshops on Saturday. There will be a Bug Squashing Party and Packaging Sessions.

Overall the sessions/workshop look awesome. No one can afford to miss this event. Specially those who are interested in a career in Free & Open Source Technologies, systems or networking administration.

This is a free event. Anybody can attend. Registration is open now! For schedule, see the event wiki.

Venue: College of Engineering Pune, Besides Sancheti Hospital, Shivajinagar, Pune.

See original article

About the Author – Amit Karpe

Amit Karpe is a Pune-based software engineer and blogger who is active in Free and Open Source Software, Pune Linux Users Group, Ubuntu, Android, ARM, Beagle Board, Hawk Board, Google, Web-2.0, CMS, Drupal, Seva Sahayog, IT Milan, Marathi, and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. He blogs at, and you can follow him on twitter as @amitkarpe.

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Microsoft Office 2010 Launch Event by PUG – Aug 7

What: Pune (Microsoft Technologies) User Group‘s Microsoft Office 2010 Launch Event
When: Saturday, 7 August, 9am-1pm
Where: Sumant Moolgaonkar Auditorium, ICC, SB Road
Registration and Fees: This event is free for all to attend. Register here

PUG is Pune's user group for Microsoft Technologies. Click on the logo to see all PuneTech articles related to PUG.
PUG is Pune's user group for Microsoft Technologies. Click on the logo to see all PuneTech articles related to PUG.

PUG Developer Summit

Microsoft Office 2010 Launch Event

Pune’s Microsoft Technologies User Group will have a half-day event this Saturday to give developers details of the latest features in Office. Pushkar Bhat will speak about what’s new in Microsoft Office 2010, and Aviraj Ajgekar will talk about Microsoft Online Services.

About the Speaker – Aviraj Ajgekar

Aviraj is a Computer Engineer from Mumbai and currently working with Microsoft India. In his present role he’s accountable for managing IT Infrastructure of Microsoft India – West Region. An active member of IT Professional communities across India specially Mumbai User Group and Pune User Group supported by Microsoft. A real blogger, he is very compulsive on adding his thoughts to online blogs, forums, community and media. You can check his technology blog at He is very fanatical about speaking on IT Professional topics such as technology screencasts for Microsoft TechNet EDGE @ He a regular speaker at various Microsoft Events such TechEd, MS TechDays, Virtual TechDays, Microsoft India Webcasts and many more technology events. In his spare time he likes to spend time with his family, hang around with friends, listening to rock music and he’s also passionate about long drives. You can follow him on twitter @aviraj111

About the Speaker – Pushkar Bhat

Pushkar is a Solution Specialist at Microsoft; he works with customers in the Manufacturing and ITeS vertical on solutions for Business Intelligence, Collaboration, Portal Strategies, Document Management and Business Process management. His specific area of interest is in B2B and B2C Collaboration Portals which integrate analytics and innovation management frameworks for large enterprise. Another area which I have worked off and on is Enterprise Project management. He is also keeping alive my interest in the area of Demand Planning, Supply chain optimization, Sales Reporting and Sales Force Effectiveness.

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Technology Development Opportunities in Orthopedic Products in Indian Market – NCL talk – 4 Aug

What: NCL & Venture Center Presentation on Technology Development Opportunities for Orthopedic Products in the Indian Market, by Dr. Vijay Panchanadikar, Orthopedic Surgeon.
When: Wednesday, 4th August, 3:30pm-5pm
Where: Chemical Engineering Hall, NCL, Pashan Road. Map (CE is Hall #10)
Registration and Fees: This event is free for all to attend. No registration required

Click on the Venture Center Logo to see all PuneTech articles about Venture Center
Click on the Venture Center Logo to see all PuneTech articles about Venture Center

The NCL Innovation IDEA Catalyst Workshop Series

This talk is a part of a workshop series (The NCL Innovation IDEA Catalyst Workshop Series), that focuses on exploring technology development and commercialization opportunities by connecting scientists/technologists with people who understand market and industry needs. This talk is the first in this series and features an orthopedic surgeon pointing out opportunities in his area in the Indian market, if only some technologist would develop the technologies needed.

Tech Opportunities for Orthopedic Products

Polymers, ceramics and specialty alloys are increasingly used as bearing and/or volume-filling materials in orthopedic implants such as hips and knees. However, there are several issues with existing products, such as the need for highly skilled surgeons, limited bio-compatibility of implant materials, inappropriate pricing for Indian markets, etc. In this talk, Dr. Panchanadikar will show real life examples of implants used for a variety of orthopedic surgeries, and highlight the problems faced by orthopedic surgeons during the use of implants. He will describe a âwish listâ of products for the orthopedic implant market as well as the need for software solutions to improve the accuracy of guide wire positioning as well as imaging & simulation tools for skills development of young surgeons. This talk is a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between scientists with competencies in biomaterials and surgeons with awareness of market needs and product opportunities.

About the speaker – Dr. Vijay Panchanadikar

Dr. Panchanadikar is an orthopedic surgeon from Pune, who has over two decades of experience in this field, and performs over 100 major orthopedic surgeries each year. His areas of interest include trauma surgery, joint replacement and computer imaging in orthopedics. He has published several papers and has delivered lectures and presentations at several conferences across India. He also teaches DNB students at Sanjeevan Hospital and holds a keen interest in developing interactive learning aids for orthopedics. He holds copyrights in India for imaging software used for accurate positioning of guide wire in surgeries for fractures of various bones.

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Cloud apps for software development and for your business: POCC discussion – 7th Aug

What: Pune OpenCoffee Club meeting on use of cloud applications in your work
When: Saturday, 7th August, 4pm-7pm
Where: Symbiosis Institute of Computer Studies and Research, Atur Centre, Model Colony. Map.
Registration and Fees: This event is free for all to attend. Please register here

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POCC is an informal group of the Pune Startup ecosystem. It contains more than 2500 people who either have their own startups, or want to start one, or provide some service (or funding) to startups. Click on the logo to find all punetech articles about the POCC. Thanks to for the POCC logo.

Sharing experiences with cloud apps

Do you use cloud apps in your work? Pune Open Coffee Club invites cloud app users, practitioners, enthusiasts and experts for the next POCC meetup, where we will discuss how a business can make gains by pushing processes into the cloud. This can be for both development (e.g. source code control) or support services (e.g. HR, customer support).

We will discuss apps that can be used for development, like:

  • Online version control
  • Bug tracking
  • Project management
  • File Sharing and Collaborative workspaces

and support apps like:

  • Hosting (eg. AWS, Google App Engine)
  • Payroll Management
  • Company Accounts
  • Customer Support, CRM, Ticket Management
  • Marketing and Conversation Monitoring

and of course, any other apps that people want to talk about.

We will invite members of the POCC community who have experience with such apps to share their experience. DOs and DONTs. Tips. Best practices. We will also invite Pune startups who have products in these spaces to give short product pitches.

If you have concerns or questions, you can expect to find answers from people who’ve been successfully using such apps for a few years if not more. If you have strong objections to using such apps, you should come to warn everybody about those. If you have a soft corner for a particular app that you just love, you should come to convert everybody.

This is your chance to meet people in the Pune tech and startup community who are using, or are interested in cloud apps. Be there.