by Willis Wee, Penn-Olson.com
He recently founded The Startup Centre, an India-based accelerator for early stage start-ups, and also a hub for initiatives related to tech, design and entrepreneurship.
We communicated with Anand who kindly shared with us his thoughts on the start-up scene in India. Catch what he has to say below.
Could you share with us what’s the start-up culture like in India?
I came back to India, in 2004. With an entrepreneurial background, I was trying to figure out how people went about starting companies. It was surprising to see that there were very few start-ups in India. A good number of companies were still enjoying the tide of the outsourcing boom. Soon enough, we met a couple of niche product companies, and things have taken off from there.
The start-up climate here has shifted dramatically – and most of it was thanks to events and meet ups that took on informally. With the birth of Barcamps, Open Coffee Clubs, Mobile Mondays and the likes, India’s entrepreneurial scene is set on fire. The country still has majority of its tech startups based out of the cities such as Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Delhi and Mumbai, but some of these cities see as high as 700 new startups each quarter. It’s a dramatic shift from how things were in 2004.
How are entrepreneurs in India like?
Indian entrepreneurs have gone through a cycle of learning phases. Initially quite a number of companies were heavily influenced by the west, especially Silicon Valley. Entrepreneurs tend to aim for the world. Unfortunately, there was neither customers/infrastructure, nor the kind of capital required to build ventures like Twitter and Facebook in India.
In recent years, feeding the local demands became the focus. I’d say today that it’s a mix of both. Most Indian entrepreneurs are extremely hardworking folks, who understand the domain they are operating in and a good number of them are also exposed to other markets – either by virtue of them working there for a while, or having an education abroad. So these are the people who add value when it comes to making India a global marketplace.
What is India lacking as a start-up nation?
If I have to pick one, it would be exits. India is still seeing growth, but no major exit yet. There are a ton of things that get related to that problem – employees don’t value equity, and hence you need capital, and capital is hard to come by, and good talent is hard to attract.
But fundamentally a good number of this gets tied down to the fact that exits aren’t happening – at least not in the numbers that we would like to see. That said, quite a number of organizations like accelerators, venture firms, and specialized firms are starting to focus on helping start-ups gain fast adoption. Hopefully we should start seeing the fruits of these efforts soon.
Which are some of the promising tech start-ups in India?
There are quite a few interesting companies in India. The well-known ones are Slideshare and Zoho, which have grown to become global brands. There is a company named Flipkart that has replicated Amazon’s awesome customer support infrastructure and took India by storm. There are also companies such as Tenmiles (most probably the potential 37Signals of India), Deskaway, Interviewstreet and a few that are working on the hardware space.
How do you see the India start-up scene in five years time?
Several years ago, India as a country was losing talents, as it was difficult for folks to find opportunities in the country. Much of that has changed – like the way it has changed in China. From what I have read, close to 150,000 people returned from the US last year, and a significant number of them are looking to start their own ventures. Not all of them will be in the tech space, but entrepreneurs are a strong force, to bring about change and economic growth in India. We also see quite a few companies in India, growing to massive size with significant market caps within the local markets.
Exits would inspire more start-ups, and also an infusion of capital into early stage investment. I do expect much of this to happen in the next five years in India. Definite signs of this will appear in the next three years to come.