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.

February - 2008 - issue > Entrepreneurship

Challenges to start a technology company from India

Ram Gopalan
Friday, February 1, 2008
Ram Gopalan
Silicon Valley, California has been the hotbed of entrepreneurs since the Fairchild days and it continues to be so, as measured by the number of startup companies that continue to come up there and the amount of venture funding it attracts. Entrepreneurship is a recipe that requires a number of ingredients that are found in abundance in the valley, hence is a second nature here, while in any other part of the world there are challenges to overcome.

With the enormous changes in the Indian technology arena, especially with its successes in the IT industry, there is a brewing storm of entrepreneurship parked overhead. In fact during my trip to India last summer, I ran into many would-be entrepreneurs, discussing their ideas at the local Barista’s. I was inundated with requests from many would-be entrepreneurs wanting to learn from my varied experiences as an entrepreneur and most recently from building small product companies from India.

Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, while inaugurating the Global PanIIT’s ‘Entrepreneurship Movement’ program, advised the IITians to ignite the torch of entrepreneurship in India. He urged the IITians to share their experiences and mentor young entrepreneurs so that instead of being mere ’job seekers’, more ’job creators’ come up. This program conducted in association with TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) and NEN (National Entrepreneurship Network) involved simultaneously mentoring 1000 entrepreneurs in 16 different cities of India on the same day.

A true entrepreneur is one who passionately believes in an idea that will satisfy a market need, has a technological edge that provides market differentiation and a barrier to entry. This passion usually drives the entrepreneur to take the risk of diving into establishing the premise without the trappings of conventional work environments like normal working hours, salary, support structure, access to information etc. Such an entrepreneur then needs to nurture the idea and provide the market validation so that he or she can then convince and build a team around it to address all aspects of the startup entity – Management, Marketing, Business Development, and Engineering. Engineering is only 25 percent of the equation. This is an important criterion as no single entrepreneur is capable of covering all aspects of the business. Once the team is identified they need to jointly come up with a business plan. It is only at this stage that the entrepreneur can think of approaching the investor community to get the investment to execute the business plan. All this requires a lot of work (sweat equity) and could take anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years. Having the gumption to stick through this is what it takes to be an entrepreneur, and Indian entrepreneurs are slowly rising to the occasion.

Historically, the Indian work environment has always bred financial security. It has traditionally discouraged radical ideas, thinking out-of-the-box, and the tardy societal acceptance in general have been big negative aspects to the promotion of entrepreneurship. However, with the ‘perfect storm’ in the technological arena, the new generation workforce in India is experiencing exposure to the Western markets, the Silicon Valley culture, and it achieves unforeseen financial stability and societal acceptance much earlier by Indian standards in life. Hence entrepreneurship in the technology sector is slowly but steadily making its way in India and the coming decade should see more of the job creators than the job seekers.

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