Ever since as far as I can remember, when NRI’s speak about returning to India, I hear a constant refrain – “I would return to India if only there were industries doing exactly what I am doing here in the United States”. I hope that this post will be my reply. I will not lie, entrepreneurship is not for everybody, neither is idealism. Yet, if they really think that way – I don’t think they will ever come back.
Onwards, to all the NRI’s out there – India has changed! Sure, we don’t yet have the billion dollar technology industry your already working in. In fact, Naukri still has to verbally duel with Monster to prove superiority – reminds me of Google and Yahoo arguing about index sizes so many years ago. As evolution postulates – we are now very different and will continue to change with or without you.
The other refrain that got me thinking, comes from some smart folks employed with the Services companies. It goes something like this – “Building a product for India does not excite me. It will not involve exposure to the cutting-edge, patent-pending, hyper-complex technology (or technologies) that I currently work on as part of my job profile for a huge, successful multi-national in the United States. After all, satisfaction depends on the space you choose.”
To begin with, we have a well-defined Internet and Mobile Consumer market. To cater to it, India is already fostering several innovative start-ups. I believe that the solution will not be the Google, Intel, Amazon, BlackBerry, or Microsoft that we are familiar with but the challenges are definitely the same. Innovation, cost-efficiency, mass-appeal, and scalability are still critical dimensions for success. These are the very same factors that every Silicon Valley (or Seattle, or otherwise) success story was written on. The real question is, do you have what it takes in you to seed it? Let us not forget that even the Valley was seeded by the humble transistor.
A few weeks ago, Vijay Anand let me know about DEMO’s cross-pollination in India – Proto.in, an innovation showcase for technology companies. I got around to looking it up carefully this weekend. A hint of idealism and Proto’s genesis came through when I read over bothack’s introduction to Proto.in.
India’s IT giants have done nothing to foster technological innovation. Although they have built multi-billion-dollar businesses by providing outsourced IT services, they haven’t really created new intellectual property. India’s much -touted prowess rests merely on labour arbitrage.
Having said that, it is true that India has the potential to become a technological innovation hot-spot. It must be noted that, it won’t be the IT majors who make this happen, but start-ups. There is no surprise in this. The world over, startups play a larger-than-life-role in technological innovation, with no existing market to lose, they tend to take bigger risks.
Vijay succinctly explains on his blog what one can expect from Proto.in. Undoubtedly, the excitement around the event is evident from his words – “I am not speaking of evolution here. We are here to cause a revolution“. I feel there will be several other entrepreneurs who will participate at Proto. Chennai is the surprising venue – not Bangalore. So, If your interested in how our story will be written, Proto.in seems like a good place to start. Definitely do come if your a developer with an IT-services or an NRI wondering what your next job will be like if you moved back. Proto.in might just open a door or two for you.