“In­dia will be the big­gest pow­er­house for open source in the world”

Open source has be­come fairly big in In­dia. UKbased Vik Tara is the founder of TechBlue, which de­liv­ers a num­ber of open source so­lu­tions for In­dian cus­tomers, like Ha­mara Linux for In­dian techies. Jag­meet Singh of OSFY speaks with Tara to un­der­stand his

OpenSource For You - - For U & Me -

Q How has TechBlue grown as an open source en­abler?

We were ini­tially us­ing open source so­lu­tions at our own end. But once we got some pos­i­tive re­sults, we started of­fer­ing those so­lu­tions to our cus­tomers. We of­fered peo­ple the same so­lu­tions that we had de­vel­oped for our­selves. This helped us grow in the open source mar­ket and build a strong pres­ence even in some emerg­ing mar­kets like In­dia.

There is one big dif­fer­ence in In­dia com­pared to west­ern mar­kets, and that’s the aware­ness about the im­por­tance of li­cens­ing. In­dian con­sumers do not use li­censed soft­ware, in a way peo­ple in the US and UK do, for their op­er­a­tions. There­fore, we make cer­tain changes in our of­fer­ings to suit the lo­cal au­di­ence. Q Where does In­dia stand in the list of open source en­ablers? In­dia is the num­ber one mar­ket for us right now. Ob­vi­ously, we are pro­vid­ing sup­port across world­wide mar­kets, but if we are asked to pick a key re­gion, In­dia comes first and is our big­gest mar­ket.

Sev­eral com­pa­nies from across the world con­sider In­dia as the key mar­ket to achieve suc­cess in the world of open source. The rea­son be­hind this growth is the pref­er­ences of In­dian con­sumers, who are more in­clined to open source rather than any pro­pri­etary so­lu­tions.

Q Do you think In­dia is yet to be­come a pro­ducer of open source?

No, that is not the cur­rent sce­nario. In­dia is presently not only a pro­ducer but also a ma­jor en­abler of open source. The ma­tu­rity of many projects, even some big ones, in­cludes con­tri­bu­tions from a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of In­dian de­vel­op­ers. Whether you

look at OpenS­tack or Linux, all th­ese projects have been en­hanced by sev­eral de­vel­op­ers lo­cated in In­dia.

The po­ten­tial of In­dian de­vel­op­ers is in­deed not as high as the pro­fes­sional pro­gram­mers in west­ern coun­tries, but this does not mean that In­dia is merely a user of open source. There are enor­mous projects that are be­ing main­tained on In­dian soil. Also, the size of the In­dian mar­ket is big­ger than most de­vel­oped re­gions.

At TechBlue, we have Ha­mara Linux that is our lead­ing open source project. We spent enor­mous ef­fort, money and time to launch this In­dian Linux dis­tri­bu­tion. The plat­form has so far been to­tally de­vel­oped and main­tained by the com­mu­nity in In­dia.

When you go to our GitHub ac­count, you will find projects like JBox Con­troller, which in­clude plenty of con­tri­bu­tions from In­dian de­vel­op­ers.

So this is how In­dia is al­ready en­abling open source growth, and could soon be­come the leader in terms of the num­ber of de­vel­op­ers and con­tri­bu­tions.

Q What are your plans to in­crease com­mu­nity ef­forts from In­dia?

We are al­ready spon­sor­ing events and con­fer­ences to stim­u­late com­mu­nity in­ter­est in our of­fer­ings. Ad­di­tion­ally, we are or­gan­is­ing mee­tups around Ha­mara Linux in uni­ver­si­ties and in­sti­tutes to en­gage with more IT stu­dents and open source en­thu­si­asts in the In­dian mar­ket. It is a good way to ef­fi­ciently shop for skilled tal­ent.

Con­tri­bu­tion helps a lot in a com­pany like TechBlue, be­cause when you are con­tribut­ing to a project, a learned per­son will par­tic­i­pate to help you ful­fil your goals. In ad­di­tion to in­volv­ing oth­ers in your project, com­mu­nity ef­forts are the key to help­ing open source com­pa­nies learn in­no­va­tive ways to suc­ceed.

In ad­di­tion to the com­mu­nity en­gage­ments through tech con­ven­tions, we are also look­ing around for lo­ca­tions to set up some hacker spa­ces. We would like to have a Ha­mara Hacker Space in dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions across In­dia. This would give en­thu­si­asts a space to experience and test the Linux plat­form.

Q How is Ha­mara Linux dif­fer­ent from other Linux dis­tri­bu­tions?

We looked at small things while de­vel­op­ing Ha­mara Linux. First, we con­sid­ered the styling. The dis­tri­bu­tion should look de­cent and be cul­tur­ally ac­cept­able to In­dian users. Sec­ond, we looked at lan­guage, trans­la­tion and even the nam­ing of the ap­pli­ca­tions. If you are tar­get­ing non-na­tive English speak­ers, then you have to choose names that are in their na­tive lan­guages.

Our Ha­mara Linux is not a univer­sal op­er­at­ing system. In­stead, it has been cre­ated specif­i­cally for one part of so­ci­ety. This is the rea­son we need to cus­tomise the experience only for our niche. This helps us es­tab­lish more en­gage­ments around our prod­uct.

Hav­ing said that, Ha­mara Linux is still a Linux dis­tri­bu­tion at its core, and is based on the same ker­nel that you might have seen on many other plat­forms.

Q Apart from the op­er­at­ing system and other so­lu­tions in the open source space, you also of­fer con­sul­tancy. Why is there a need for an open source com­pany to pro­vide con­sul­tancy? We of­fer con­sul­tancy be­cause peo­ple do not know how to im­ple­ment an open source so­lu­tion but are keen to find a rel­e­vant op­tion for their op­er­a­tions. It also helps in main­tain­ing an ex­ist­ing de­ploy­ment.

Through con­sul­tancy, we free busi­nesses from be­ing locked in. We also pro­vide the proper in­for­ma­tion about what cus­tomers need to choose to­day to gain fruit­ful re­sults in the fu­ture.

Q De­spite many con­sul­tants op­er­at­ing in the mar­ket to­day, do you think there is still lack of train­ing and aware­ness in the open source world?

Yes, there is lack of knowl­edge and skills com­pared to the de­mand. The de­mand keeps on grow­ing, but train­ing and aware­ness of open source re­mains at a low level.

If you look at com­pa­nies like Red Hat and SUSE, they have cre­ated mas­sive busi­nesses from open source. But the men­tal­ity and us­age pat­terns of the com­mon peo­ple are yet to evolve. Very few peo­ple know how to con­trib­ute for free, and sim­i­larly, how to re­ceive help or con­tri­bu­tions from the avail­able com­mu­ni­ties.

How­ever, things are get­ting bet­ter now. Stu­dents and en­thu­si­asts are now fo­cus­ing en­tirely on open source. IT pro­fes­sion­als are also tak­ing the open source way to gar­ner prof­its. Q How do you man­age re­cruit­ments for var­i­ous open source de­vel­op­ments?

We ac­tu­ally try to re­cruit as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble to en­rich our projects with their knowl­edge. Rather than con­sid­er­ing aca­demics, we pre­fer skills. Q What are your views on open source as a ca­reer op­tion? Open source is huge as a ca­reer op­tion. Peo­ple with experience in open source are likely to find bet­ter jobs than other pro­fes­sion­als. If you do not know Linux now and you are a de­vel­oper, you are harm­ing your ca­reer prospects. Most peo­ple are get­ting jobs just be­cause of their skills in work­ing with code.

From a ca­reer per­spec­tive, job seek­ers need to spec­ify

Con­tri­bu­tion helps a lot in a com­pany like TechBlue, be­cause when you are con­tribut­ing to a project, a learned per­son will par­tic­i­pate to help you ful­fil your goals.

their con­tri­bu­tions to open source in their CVs.

If you come to us, we of­fer jobs very quickly to those who are al­ready ac­tive on GitHub and are con­tribut­ing on some of the ac­tive projects. We look out for such en­thu­si­as­tic peo­ple.

Q Do you see open source as the fu­ture of com­put­ing?

It is in­evitable that this should hap­pen. I see that the fu­ture of com­put­ing is cer­tainly open source. There are so many de­vel­op­ers, and all of them are em­ployed by dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies which have sev­eral prod­ucts in the mar­ket, but the same de­vel­op­ers are also con­tribut­ing to their own projects in their free time. So, even­tu­ally, be­cause of the to­tal num­ber of de­vel­op­ers con­tribut­ing to­wards an open source so­lu­tion, you ac­tu­ally have more pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity in the open source world than you do in the pro­pri­etary world. So, on both ac­counts—cod­ing and mak­ing a prod­uct —the open source so­lu­tion will win out be­cause it has more de­vel­op­ers con­tribut­ing over a longer pe­riod of time.

You can see this hap­pen in most of the suc­cess­ful open source prod­ucts. Linux is one of the ma­jor suc­cesses from the open source bou­quet. It was started much af­ter pro­pri­etary op­er­at­ing sys­tems, but it caught up in a short span of time and then over­took the lat­ter. Right now, we can say that the Linux op­er­at­ing system is far bet­ter than any pro­pri­etary coun­ter­part, whether it is Windows or Mac OS. It is sub­stan­tially more se­cure and bet­ter than any pop­u­lar com­mer­cial so­lu­tion. Also, the plat­form main­tains a wide com­mu­nity, and has a vast num­ber of de­vel­op­ers and con­trib­u­tors.

Apart from Linux, there is Apache Web Server that beats the pro­pri­etary op­tion. Mozilla’s Fire­fox is also a ma­jor ex­am­ple of open source suc­cess. Like­wise, An­droid coun­tered lead­ers such as Black­Berry OS and iOS with its pow­er­ful, com­mu­nity-fo­cused fea­tures.

Thus, it is given that the fu­ture of com­put­ing and the IT world is all led by open source. Any pro­pri­etary so­lu­tion avail­able in to­day’s mar­ket needs to have a much higher ef­fi­ciency and ef­fec­tive­ness to over­take the growth of open source.

Q What is your prediction for the In­dian open source space? In­dia will be the big­gest pow­er­house for open source in the world. One ma­jor fac­tor is that we cur­rently have many de­vel­op­ers. In the West, open source has al­ready suc­ceeded. In In­dia, it is in an in­ter­est­ing and ex­cit­ing space, and peo­ple have re­alised that they have learnt a lot from it and that it has ben­e­fited their ca­reer. This has per­suaded many In­dian de­vel­op­ers to en­ter this do­main, and they are get­ting more and more in­volved with open source. So, In­dia will dom­i­nate this field very soon.

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