The day has just started and it is already buzzing with activities. Meetings have been scheduled previous night over an online media. Locations have been shared over messenger tools. Cabs have been booked online. Traffic predictions on the route have been observed. A plausible delay has been communicated. The early ‘healthy’ oat meal with latte has been ordered to be consumed on the go. Few minutes and the major junctions are choking with vehicles sucking the fresh breath out of the city but yet the city is thriving fast and fresh on ideas – that are expected to bring some change, enable certain section of society or are going to be a breakthrough in technology. Or may be the next big thing to decongest these already choking signals or detox the air. The stage is set to revolutionise the Indian Startup space! Welcome to the Silicon Valley of India!
By the time you read the above description, an investment deal would have already been sealed. And you wonder what makes it tick? I am equally curious to know the same. After all what secret is this Startup curry made of? So, I meet a lot of people, some of them friends. I talk to them and to their friends. In this pursuit I meet many people from places like Jammu, Srinagar. These folks who are smart, sharp and most importantly have passion and are invested into building these startups. And when my conversations delve deep I realise that they are here for the same reason as I – for the lack of opportunities and avenues in TierII/III cities. And places like Bengaluru host folks like us to fuel our dreams which can’t find solace back home. But Why?
The NASSCOM report says that by 2020, India will be home to 10,500 startups. The investments account for $6445mn for the first half of 2017. Investors all across the world are bullish about innovative ideas scaling to full-fledged business models in India. Though the number of deals have gone down in the previous 2 years, the amount invested has gone up reflecting the growing belief in the strength of startup culture and ignited minds fueling that up. After the Silicon Valley of India; cities like Pune, Jaipur, Kanpur, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, NCR have caught the rage of nurturing the startup culture.
With 220mn smartphone users in India, and 6Bn mobile app downloads which is expected to grow to 20Bn by 2020 is just an indicator of responsiveness towards technology enabled solutions. There is a huge emphasis on technology built products and services that bring convenience and awesome user experience for end customers. Is scalability the only reason for these startups to flourish here? No. The answer lies in the core philosophy of ‘being open to new things’ – new products, new ideas, new experiences and new thoughts. Newness is welcomed. Nobody sits sticking to the rhetoric.
It is because of this affinity for newness that the entire ecosystem is built promoting newness in whatever form. Institutes nurture ideas. Corporates nurture new business models. Government nurtures new policies and regulations in order to boost the other two. It turns out to be an avalanche reaction. Opening an IIT or an IIM or AIIMS could probably be the first step towards it but not the most important step, unfortunately. How we nurture these institutes, how we capitalise the benefits from the talent harnessed in these institutes, how we go on to build a progressive ecosystem and hence a progressive mindset will decide how able we are to turn these otherwise infrastructure liabilities into profitable assets.
These institutes in places like Jammu and Kashmir hence have a pivotal role to play in shaping up the future of TierII/III cities of India. And for that it is important that they work in close collaboration with each other and develop a breeding ground for great ideas and culture. Positioned at silicon valley of India and having an India wide view on the startup ecosystem, I see huge interest in Ed-Tech, Fin-Tech and Bio-Tech startups right now. In fact locally relevant startups. Scalability doesn’t prevent them from taking the first step. These startups are a revolution in themselves who forge ahead with conviction and go on to shape up the cities and their cultures.
There is a big sea of opportunities awaiting us and we are muddling with stones in the puddles. Let us get acquainted with stories of progress and development. Let ‘us’ get past the rhetoric – the students, the parents, the bureaucrats, the businesses, the politicians – and each and every citizen! Let us welcome the newness.
(The writer is an IIM Shillong Alumnus)