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TC Debate: Can India beat Silicon Valley in the next few years?

Till a few years ago, talented young people from India went to the US or Europe to take up plum jobs at MNCs, after graduating from premier institutes such as IIMs and IITs. However, this trend has changed drastically. Now, Indian graduates are no more seeking jobs abroad. They are more enthusiastic about creating value in their homeland by taking up entrepreneurship. Interestingly, many have quit their high-profile jobs abroad and came back to set up ventures in India. They are creating value for products in domestic and international markets and in the process eliciting huge attention from global VCs.

This shows that India offers massive opportunities for talented young people, and it is fast picking up with other startup hubs in the world, especially the Silicon Valley, in terms of creating jobs and global products, etc. Although experts are divided on whether India can beat Silicon Valley to become the global startup hub within the next few years, the ecosystem is fast growing.

Techcircle.in met two industry veterans—Rahul Anand, former executive of US-based Diapers.com and co-founder of Hopscotch.com, a curated baby and kids' products flash sales venture; and K Ganesh, serial entrepreneur and ex-CEO of TutorVista, which was acquired by Pearson Inc, to discuss whether India can become the next Silicon Valley in the next few years.

K Ganesh (for the motion)

History has shown that great businesses are built by great Indians, be it Google or WhatsApp—Amit Singhal, who secured an engineering degree at IIT Roorkee, wrote the algorithms for Google; Neeraj Arora, who looks after the business bit of WhatsApp is an IIT-Delhi and ISB alumnus.

This proves that India's educational institutions offer a quantitatively rigorous academic curriculum, and produce some of the brightest engineering and management talents. Indians are superb at mathematics, too. There is a large number of Indian techies in the Silicon Valley, many of whom are coming back to our country, citing remarkable opportunities.

What also lends them an advantage is that today, support for companies (by VCs or angel investors) is an aggregation of many things but most importantly the team and the idea. In the past, many angel investors invested in companies that had just a paper plan. When BlueStone raised capital, it had not even set up a website. redBus also raised capital even before starting operations. About a decade ago, we were required to show proof of concept, but today companies go with the idea and get funded. Indian is on the verge of becoming like Silicon Valley where VCs don't want to miss the next Google or Facebook.

Rahul Anand (against the motion)

As a technology entrepreneur in the US and India, I have observed that the size and scope of opportunity in India are large, given the huge youth population with increasing disposable incomes. By 2020, over 500 million Indians will have smartphones and will be technologically enabled to transact online. Still, there are infrastructural challenges. Only Indian e-commerce startups that solve real-world problems for consumers are uniquely positioned to be early movers and to capture market share. On the other hand, e-commerce in the US is far more mature and already deeply penetrated.

India also faces a lack of VC funds. Unlike the Silicon Valley, India has only a limited number of VC funds, which have been set up less than a decade ago. The funds available in India are yet to catch up with that of the Valley and help entrepreneurs unleash their true potential.

Conclusion

We are already seeing a healthy ecosystem of startups coming together, and Bangalore is certainly the top contender for the next Silicon Valley status. All major VC firms have units in India and have been very positive about the domestic market. We also saw many high-profile exits recently – redBus (acquired by Naspers) and Little Eye Labs (acquired by Facebook). This shows that the Indian startups ecosystem is on the right path of growth. Whether it will beat the Valley or not in the next few years depends on many factors, including how good emerging Indian companies are and how they scale up globally.

(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)

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