TECH TALK: India Needs More Entrepreneurs: Start-up!

The recent issue of Business Week has a cover story on China and India. The bottomline: The balance of power will shift to the East as China and India evolve. This was the backdrop of a discussion I had with a US-based venture capitalist of Indian origin who had an interesting take on the problems with entrepreneurship in India. He made four points.

First, salaries in India will rise faster than cost of living which would make it unattractive for employees working with the international majors to quit and create or join a start-up. Second, even the ones who are venturing out seem to be more focused on services than products. Third, the few in the products area seem content OEMing their creation to the market leaders rather than taking them on with full stacks. Finally, Indian companies lack vision to think big and global. I agreed with him on all four counts and added one of my own. It is well nigh impossible to do a tech, product-oriented start-up because angel and early-stage funding is simply not there.

Of course, there are exceptions, but we are not talking about those here. What is under discussion is the need for Indians to venture out into the world of entrepreneurship, build intellectual property and create wealth, which hopefully will find its way back into the system to fund more start-ups. India may be becoming a hotbed of innovation as an increasing share of global R&D shifts here. But Indians are still not making the shift to entrepreneurship and aiming to build the next Microsofts, Ciscos and Googles we seem to be content working for them.

This weeks Tech Talk is, thus, an exhortation and a plea to arms India needs Entrepreneurs. They need to go out there and build out the next global giants. In doing so, like in any race, many will fail. But a few will succeed. Together, they will inspire the next generation. That, according to me, will be the real coming of age of Indian technology and entrepreneurship when we start building the products the world needs out of India. To do this, we need to get out of the comfort zone we find ourselves so happily ensconced in and make the leap.

Two years ago, I wrote a Letter to Non-Resident Indians, urging them to consider returning to India given the changes that were taking place and the opportunities that were opening up. I am glad to say that what has started as a trickle is now becoming a steady stream. It is not yet a flood, but we will get there. This Tech Talk can be thought of as a plea to all the experienced techies and managers sitting in well-paying jobs in India and outside to consider the entrepreneurial route in India. Why and How? Thats the part we will take up in the rest of this series.

Tomorrow: Why?

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.