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Return of the enterprising: From Silicon Valley to the Sahyadris

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There has never been a better time to be in India or so one would think looking at the number of entrepreneurs who have made India home after their stints in some of the top schools and corporation in the americas. This is in sharp contrast to just about a decade ago when everyone in India was losing sleep over the migration of finest Indian brains to the Silicon Valley, terming it the brain drain.

In less than 25 years, the face of business in India has changed dramatically. The opening up of economy post ’91 fuelled the foreign investment, changing India from a demand economy to the one dominated by supply. The rising per capita income and investments into technical and business schools led to an emergence of talent that was more ambitious and exposed to the outwardly thoughts than the preceding ones. For those driven by ambition and not chained by resource constraints’, looking west was the natural choice.

The freedom movement in India was led by some of the finest minds who went westwards for education and then came back to lead the change of fortunes for their motherland. The emergence of start-up economy is curiously similar to this phenomenon, of minds seeking to learn from the best and coming home to make things better. The last couple of years have brought this talent back, not in a trickle but in hordes.

According to industry body Nasscom, 800 new tech startups have setup their shops in India in 2014-15, with investments crossing the 5 billion dollar mark. It also added that if the growth keeps taking by this pace, the country will become the second largest startup ecosystem after the United States in a period of next two years. The proliferation of technology and the rapid change in consumer profile has created new opportunities that one wouldn’t have imagined when the world was grappling with Y2K.

To quote, Nandan Nilekani, chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and co-founder of IT giant Infosys,

“India has three factors going for it: the world’s largest youth concentration, the hyper-aspirations of its youth, and their impatience to realise their goals.”

There is also a sea change in perception about the first time entrepreneurs in India and they are beginning to shape the future of enterprise and industry in India. The language of ideas, risks, enterprise, scale, green, and venture capitalists is fast replacing the one dominated by licenses, controls, limited resources, multi-nationals, and carbon foot-prints.

If you open the morning newspapers in India, you will find that one third of it is Flipkart*, the other one third is startups, and whatever is remaining is your news,” Mohit Gundecha, the CEO of the talent analytics start-up Jombay once said in a conference.

That of course may be hyperbole, but as a Stanford graduate who has now made India his playground, Mohit knows a thing or two about the start-up revolution in India.

What excites me most about the new age start-ups is their focus on creating more value for the consumers and the employees alike. They are using the power of technology to change the face of the business in a way that puts customer at the centre and starting point of everything they do. Innovation is the magnet that is attracting investments and media coverage. The focus of the entrepreneurship is rapidly shifting from “make me richer” to “creation and distribution of wealth.”

The return of enterprising talent to India is a bigger source of optimism than just the growing, aspiring population that is one of the world’s biggest marketplaces, and now led by a pro-business government. This return of the prodigal will probably accelerate the bridging of the gap between the developed and the developing countries in near future than any other factor.

While contemplating about the promise of a future India, allow me to drift into the dreamy hinterlands of India. I leave you with the rather sonorous voice of A R Rahman, the musical maestro.

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