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The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

April - 2007 - issue > In My Opinion

The startup called India

Ashish Gupta
Saturday, March 31, 2007
Ashish Gupta
Growth, chaos; huge returns, uncertainty; inadequate leadership, opportunity to make a difference; big bets, lots of investment—these are some of the words that come to mind when thinking of India, as they do in the context of a startup. That way, India is a startup. While one cannot get too literal in applying any analogy, especially to a country like India, the startup analogy yields an interesting model for thinking and making decisions. Let’s look at some aspects of a startup—the ability to have impact, people related matters, organizational, and financial issues.

Impact: Most startups want to change the world and so does India. Our country has the potential, but she has to create her own path. Much as a startup seldom succeeds at beating incumbents at their own game, so will Indial have trouble if we merely emulate. We should avoid the mistakes made by other nations – in terms of learning from their varied approaches to urban development, energy, and healthcare.

While we do have legacy on many fronts, there are also many green-field fronts where we have relatively a clean sheet to write on. For individuals too, the room to make an impact is overwhelming – as is in a startup. Success in such a situation requires a lot of conviction to keep plugging away despite the odds being poor. Fortunately, there are legions of newly initiated people who have this conviction and the steel to take on the challenge. The adrenaline levels are running high, driven by growth, opportunity, value of stock market, the most recent “customer” win, or pure faith. We need to ensure that a bump on the way does not deter the ‘stalwarts’.

People front: Often, one joins a startup to take on disproportionate responsibility—for example, a manager from IBM dons the role of a VP in a startup. India has many “open positions” that provide ample opportunity for people to rise quickly and assume a lot of responsibility. However, there are a couple of things about India that need to change for it to feel like a great startup. One is attitude. It is vital to have people who posses the desire to do well and take responsibility for a problem. In general, the India team has a lot of pride in all kinds of things but not enough in the quality of work and the value of commitment; unless someone else is holding us to it. We constantly see examples of the ‘India slip’, that is, something left unfinished.

Be they misaligned tiles in airport corridors, user interfaces with spelling errors, or missing clasps in household plumbing. One can argue that indeed this is like a startup - sure - but it is a startup that needs fixing. The gap will be fatal when worthy competitors arrive. If we do not make a systemic correction in the attitudes of more members of our team, we could be in trouble. Clearly the country cannot ‘fire’ its citizens, but as consumers, managers, and professionals, we need to demand and deliver higher standards; and not be content with chalta hai quality.


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