Sunday’s HT had a profile on me written by Samar Halarnkar as part of a series looking at what the dotcom entrepreneurs are doing now. An excerpt:
Biggest deal, biggest dreamer
Frodo: “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” Gandalf: “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” — From the movie, Lord of the Rings
This dialogue, stored in the mobile phone of Rajesh Jain, 43, the man who struck India’s biggest Internet deal ever, is fair indication of his state of mind — grateful for good fortune but struck by disillusionment and imbued with new desire to answer the next big question, find the next big thing.
His question: “Why is India poor and what can we do to make it prosperous by 2040?” His next big thing: India 2.0, the recreation of no less than a nation.
Jain is ready for his biggest Internet gamble: A politically right-of-centre site that will use Facebook and Twitter across a variety of devices, feature strong opinion-laced stories (like the Drudge Report or Huffington Post), float ideas and get people from middle-class India to create a politically aware community, passionate about education, technology and change. He believes it can ride what he sees as the Net’s biggest opportunity, a “direct-to-consumer mobile value-added service”. Indeed, many entrepreneurs see India’s 700 million mobile connections and forthcoming 3G and 4G telecom services as the great, new hope.
Jain blogs every day about his vision for India (at emergic.org), but one foreseeable problem for his project is that he has taken political sides by becoming the national convenor of the “Friends of BJP”. He believes you have to pick one party and change it. “You cannot create a ‘Friends of India’,” can you?” he asks.
As he works towards his grand, new dream, entrepreneurs still seek out Jain. He’s not very enthusiastic because he notices the dotcom ideal lives: Attract investors, get high valuations and exit. “I tell them, don’t worry about the exit. You have to run your business for the rest of your life,” says Jain. “Every day has to be a Monday morning.”