Anurag Gupta recently made an interesting post about some issues he sees with Web 2.0 companies in India. In general, I think Anurag has good things to say, but I have to say that I have a pretty different point of view from him about the ability of startups in India to compete against the biggies.
Anurag says “The biggies can score very easily over small Indian start-ups. I am not sure if an Indian start-up can match tech prowess / capabilities of a Google or a Facebook who may have millions of dollars just to invest in technology & product engineering. I personally feel that Indian companies do not have the capabilities, might or mind-set to compete in offerings that are purely tech led.”
Come on, people, let’s have some confidence!! If I remember correctly, 10 years ago Google was two guys in a garage building some search ranking algorithms. 15 years ago Yahoo! was 2 guys in a trailer, putting sites into a directory. A lot of has changed in the last 10-15 years, but I still think that 2 guys in a trailer/garage is 2 guys in a trailer/garage. In fact, all the things needed to help an entrepreneur in India have only gotten better – Internet connectivity is better (still not great, but better), number of people interested in working at startups has grown (still not good enough, but it’s better), more angel investors, more VCs, more mentors who have been had successful startups or executive roles.
Skype is a global phenomenon, and a huge part of the team was based in Estonia, not the United States, not even the UK. Estonia. Estonia is a country of 1.5 milllion people. Are you telling me that India — a country of 1.1B people, lots of great technical talent , and a pride for its ancient roots in innovating around mathematical conepts — cannot produce some great products?
Of course, it’s tough to build a better search engine than Google, or build a better portal than Yahoo!. But innovation is about whole new markets. Whether it’s in information organization, collaboration, enterprise software, mobile, search, entertainment there is no reason that India cannot produce a global biggie. I certainly hope we do.
Most importantly: it starts with raw ambition that it can be done. We need entrepreneurs who dream of building huge companies and changing the markets they are in, or creating whole new markets. You probably aren’t going to run a marathon (26.4 miles) if you just aim to run 2 miles. I agree that with Anurag that it’s about capabilities and mindset. I don’t agree it’s about might. Indian entrepreneurs have the capability, and some have the mindset, but we need more that have the mindset. What is great about mindset is that that doesn’t require anything but YOU to change YOUR own mind-set. You don’t need the government to do anything, you don’t need your family to do anything, you don’t need the world to do anything – you just need to change your mindset.
I like to think that the company I founded is innovating to compete against the world biggies. We have already been fortunate (and lucky) enough to be named a top 40 startup in the world by TechCrunch. We’re not a global biggie yet, but we’re doing our best to become one. I refuse to believe that we can’t do it; I also have no evidence that tells me we can’t do it. I would happily put our team (myself excluded, I’m the dunce of the group) against any startup in the world, or any startup team that created a big company. Don’t sell yourself short and think you can’t do it either.
P.S. All respect to Anurag, I just have a different point of view.