Recap: Open Source India 2012

This is a guest post by my esteemed team mate Vikram Vaswani:

A few days ago, I presented a session entitled “Community Matters: Why Open Source Marketing Can Help Improve Your Product” at Open Source India 2012 in Bangalore. In this guest post, I’d like to recap my experiences at the conference and provide some insight into the state of Open Source in India.

  • The conference ran for three days, each addressing different aspects of Open Source technologies and practices. Day 1 was all about mobile app development and cloud deployment, Day 2 was about Web development, kernel development and IT infrastructure management and Day 3, simply entitled “FOSS for Everyone”, was about FOSS technologies, practices and community adoption in India. Needless to say, my session was on Day 3.
  • According to the event organizers, there were more than 1500 registrants in all, and more than 50 speakers. The audience consisted mostly of developers, but there was also a fair sprinkling of IT and project managers. My session took place on Oct 14 in a 1300-seater auditorium. It began 20 minutes later than scheduled mostly because of spillover from a very interesting panel discussion on the role of Indian LUGs in promoting FOSS. Given that it was a Sunday morning, only about 35 seats were full. However, the audience was engaged, interested and receptive to the material in my presentation (slides).
  • My presentation was divided into three main segments: understanding the nature of open source communities; understanding the role of marketing and community development in creating network effects within these communities; and practical tips and techniques for open source vendors to apply in their community marketing programs. There was a lot of information I wanted to communicate and fortunately, I was able to get it all in within the allotted 45-minute window.
  • Given that the next item on the agenda was lunch, I wasn’t surprised that the majority of attendees didn’t wait for questions. However, a few of them did walk over to introduce themselves. We discussed some of the differences between community and corporate marketing and how they were perceived in India, and many of the attendees asked for copies of the slides, either for their own review or to discuss with colleagues.

One of my key takeaways from the various conversations I had after the session was that community development in India is yet to be perceived as a valuable service. Most vendors still prefer to adopt traditional “top down” marketing, rather than the “bottom-up” adoption that’s more common in open source communities. Nevertheless, most of the people I spoke to agreed that community development was gradually becoming more important in India, especially with the growth of home-grown open source vendors, and companies that had the courage and resources to invest in community development and marketing would likely have an advantage.

In summary, the event was well attended, with an informed and tech-savvy audience, and the quality of speakers was extremely high. Photos of the event can be found in its official Twitter feed, and I look forward to attending and speaking at it again next year!

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