The Best Time To Be A Technology Entrepreneur In India

24/12/2014 8:10 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST
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I think there's never been a better time to be a technology entrepreneur in India.

By the end of Dec 2014, India will have 300 million Internet users. It took ten years for India to grow from 10 million to 100 million Internet users, three years to go from 100 million to 200 million. The journey from 200m to 300m has taken less than two years.

China builds China-focused companies, Israel only builds global companies. India is one of the few countries apart from the US where you can build a large tech start-up focused on the domestic market, or build a large global technology company.

To build a domestic market focused technology start-up, the first thing you need is a large domestic market. We now have a very large Internet user base, a rapidly growing e-commerce industry and digital advertising market. We also have a pretty robust set of venture capitalists and over 500 angel investors, which has created a healthy funding ecosystem. Finally, we have a few dozen young founders who are fantastic role models and have shown that you can build a billion-dollar (valuation) start-up while still being in your late twenties and early thirties

It's an extraordinary time because there are 2.8 billion Internet users globally and 1.8 billion of them access the Internet on their smartphones. With this kind of scale, building a large consumer company very quickly has become possible. WhatsApp was a global product, but it was run out of California by a team of 55 people. The Internet is the ultimate platform for democratisation of distribution. Even on the B2B side, with millions of businesses using the Internet extensively, it becomes a very interesting way to scale a B2B technology start-up without a large amount of capital and without opening offices in every country.

In India, we've got a rapidly growing domestic market and unprecedented Internet access. If you went back ten years, there was no real domestic market because India had very few Internet users.

It's a very exciting time because we have young founders who have built large companies quickly. These founders act as role models. It's important for first generation entrepreneurs to have great role models. If you go back 5-7 years, outside of the first generation ITES companies, there were very few success stories that you could point to. Today, we have several dozen entrepreneurs who have proven that you can do it at a young age. Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal of Snapdeal, Naveen Tewari of Inmobi, Bhavish Aggarwal of Olacabs, Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal of Flipkart, and many more examples of young founders who have built tech startups that are worth thousands of crores within a few years of starting up. Having role models and being able to get there reasonably quickly is very important.

We have now proven in India that you can build billion-dollar product companies. Six-years-ago, you had only one billion dollar (market cap) product company from India--Info Edge. Today we have at least five--MakeMyTrip, Info Edge, Just Dial, Flipkart and Snapdeal. We've gone from not having any billion dollar product companies to having six. My prediction is that every year, India will create at least one new billion dollar valuation product company. This year Snapdeal got there. Ola Cabs is very close. This is an unprecedented level of growth and value creation. It's a really big deal even in the US to create a billion-dollar company. A year ago, the US had about 30 billion-dollar tech companies.

Despite this level of hyperactivity we're still very early in the game. I like to think of our startup ecosystem as being in the first day of the first test of the series. If you view this journey of building Indian tech companies as a cricket series of five test matches, we are in the first day of the first test. We only have 300 million users--that's only 25 per cent of our population. The consumer e-commerce market is about $5 billion dollars and is poised to grow to over $50 billion GMV by 2020. Imagine an India with hundreds of millions of Indians buying online--it will create unprecedented opportunities to build new 'Internet first' brands.

There are many opportunities to build products that will meet needs of Indian consumers and Indian businesses. A lot of those needs have not been met. For instance, if you take a 5-10 year view, many exciting new ventures will be built around education and healthcare. The US and China had the education and healthcare infrastructure--hence the online health and online education plays have been tertiary so far. In India, technology will play a key role to delivering basic services in areas like healthcare and education.

Another white space is around the Indian language Internet. Only 200 million Indians are proficient in English and most of them are online. On the other hand 400 million Indians are proficient in Hindi. But there's very little content for these Hindi users. That creates a lot of interesting opportunities for content in Hindi. The same applies for all other Indian languages.

India is the land of a billion innovation opportunities. There has never been a better time to be a technology entrepreneur in India. The time is now!

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