Think of the R&D labs in India for Microsoft, Adobe, GE, or any other Western company. They are considered among the best within their parent companies – but only for solving pre-determined problems. The problems themselves are conceptualised and defined in the West.
When I spoke to Anand Chhatpar, CEO, BrainReactions, this is what he had to say. “The people in Bangalore used the same Dell Inspiron computers, the same broadband Internet connections, the same Microsoft Windows platform PCs, the same programming languages and databases used in Silicon Valley, but the people in the US were making multi-billion dollar Google, while the people in India were still testing office applications and doing grunt-work for American companies. Why? One of the investors, one of the scientists and a large number of employees in Google are Indians, the technology is the same, so why was Google not developed in India? In fact, almost 40 per cent of Silicon Valley start-ups have been formed by Indian entrepreneurs. Why then were the entrepreneurs in India still doing work on contract in the service sector and not innovating products for the world?” And he added that while globally, India was being heralded as a software powerhouse, he did not have a single programme on his computer that was made by an Indian company.
Fair enough. I used to ask myself the same questions. After spending most of the past two years in India, I see a lot of hope. Here is why:
- I visit several engineering and management institutes to give talks on Technology Trends, Entrepreneurship and I find a lot of students eager to start and looking for guidance.
- Indian government is doing a lot with Innovation Fund. They give grants and are hard at work in setting up Incubation Centers. One of my recent talks involved Incubation 2.0.
- Informal startup communities are gaining traction. These include Chennai Open Coffee Club with over 1500 participants and similar coffee clubs in Bangalore, Pune and other places.
- The silos of professional societies like TiE local chapters, Nasscome Emerge Community and the informal startup communities are slowly inter-connecting.
- We are still a long way from producing a Google or Microsoft. But the product culture seems to be improving – an encouraging sign.
- A band of us evangelize product innovation, point to social media as a lowering the entry barrier into global entrepreneurship and working to provide as much support as we can.
- Zoho is a beacon. I hope to see more companies following their lead.