How India is failing its startups; part two

Pankaj Mishra August 16, 2016 2 min

Last week, Rajesh Sawhney of GSF shared an NYT video story about “How China is changing your Internet”, which got me thinking. The story is about how after years of copying technology innovations from the U.S., China’s Internet products such as WeChat are now being copied in the developed markets.

China is no more a rip-off destination.

Why should we ban Google, Facebook, Youtube, Tinder, and Whatsapp in India?

Let me start by saying that I am a great…

Posted by Rajesh Sawhney on Thursday, August 11, 2016

This post is a sequel to what I wrote earlier this month.

Just yesterday, while listening to the arguments of the founder of one of India’s biggest Internet companies, I was feeling a little uncomfortable. “How can you mix nationalism into all this?”
The truth is India could have done better. Clearly, the availability of technology, software talent has never been an issue. The country built over $150 billion IT industry, which serves some of the biggest companies in the world including General Electric and Apple. Software codes and applications written by programmers in India are now powering some of the most scaled enterprise and consumer technology products.

Simple things like access to the top bureaucrats seems to be elusive for the country’s top Internet entrepreneurs, according to at least three founders. They requested anonymity because they don’t want to be seen as “cry babies.”

“It’s far easier for Bezos (Jeff), Travis (of Uber) and even Microsoft’s Satya Nadella to meet the Prime Minister; we don’t get that time, and officials lower down carry this messaging about the MNCs being more important,” said one of them.

So is India really losing out on an opportunity to build $100 billion Internet companies? Could the government do better or the homegrown companies are unnecessarily complaining?

As my colleague Jayadevan PK rightly points out, India’s IT industry was built in the post liberalisation era, staying away from anything protectionist. Any form of protectionism will be going back on that promise and positioning.

Clearly, it’s the kind of debate that will surely be analysed decades down when people will be trying to make sense of how and why India lost to China.

Please do write your comments on what you feel.

So, do share what you feel.