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The Startup State of India

February 5, 2015

In 2008, just seven years ago, I remember attending the preconference session at the TiEcon Delhi conference.  The topic was “Business Planning 101”.   The room was packed with budding entrepreneurs who were eager to learn the basics of a business plan.   At the same time there were very few home-grown India software product companies.   Almost all new companies were software services companies, creating products for others.  

Jump forward a few more years and at the same conference a number of new start-ups were pitching their ideas, looking for funding.   A very small percentage was of the quality I was used to seeing in North America.  The rest needed help. A lot of help.

Today it’s obvious that the help arrived, either through venture capitalists, repatriated Indian entrepreneurs from abroad, or homegrown angels and mentors. The number of Indian product start-ups is staggering. You can find them operating in the vast apartment complexes across Bangalore or Pune or Delhi or Hyderabad, and doing so with extremely frugal operating costs. What’s interesting is that a lot of them are addressing the problems of India, as opposed to the US or Europe.   One entrepreneur said to me “if I can be successful here in India with my product, then the rest of the world will be easy”. 

While there is a lot of press about start-ups and incubators in India, the next phase in the start-up lifecycle is all about access to growth capital to support the company as it matures.  Where will this capital come from? Softbank’s recent investment in Snapdeal and other investments by global investors demonstrate that foreign investment interest exists. I suspect that in a few years I will be able to resurrect this blog post and add a paragraph about companies that have received the growth capital and are expanding globally with their products.

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