“My son got an A-minus in mathematics! He has brought shame on the family!”
Parody it may be, but sentiments such as this strike so close to the Indian bone that countless comedy programs have at some point featured a cartoonish parent scolding their child for delivering even a modicum less than perfection. Indians in India, for all their other virtues and talents, have historically not been highly forgiving of failure. While this attitude can be a fantastic foundation for a disciplined work ethic, it is not necessarily the optimal trait for building a robust technology startup ecosystem in India. That requires a certain fearlessness and assiduousness in equal measure. However, instilling the entrepreneurial ‘can-do’ attitude is one of America’s great virtues and gifts to the world.
Sadly, Administration rhetoric regarding India’s IT services industry has been unfriendly and contrarian to this spirit to say the least. Yet it is not for nothing that most of America’s technology conglomerates— Intel, Microsoft, Google, Cisco, Motorola, and others—not only have a presence in India but conduct high-tech R&D there as well. Given the size of India’s aggregate population and its pool of engineering talent, developing a startup biome as a next step would represent a major opportunity for both for Indian business and American venture capital and high-technology firms.
Successful and highly lucrative technologies such as cloud computing were developed by startups who often served as flexible technology incubators by larger more established companies. These firms depended on networks of business accelerators and venture capital firms to support their technological development and business growth. As we have witnessed in Silicon Valley, those initial investments of a few hundred thousand dollars often have come to be worth hundreds of millions and translated into high-paying jobs for college educated professionals.
Historically it has been difficult for Indian startups to get their ideas funded domestically, and even far more difficult to bootstrap companies through family and friends. Capital flows from both financial and strategic American investors could well fill the void and be the impetus to encourage startups in India. To be successful, this requires greater recognition by public policy makers of the mutual benefits of increasing trade and cross-border investment. The Tata Group alone has over $3 billion in FDI in the United States and employs more than 19,000 workers in this country. That is as much a face of India’s IT services industry as BPO centers in Bangalore.
If the point was unclear, I’m sure someone is developing an app for this.