View from the sidelines by Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy
Are you finding Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg as worthy of celebration and as icons of business in the world? Given our natural tendency to hype about all things American, yes, we take them as role models. I, for one moment, don’t suggest that Gates, Jobs, or Zuckerberg are not icons. They have built phenomenally successful businesses and have been trendsetters in their own right. What adds up, you should remember, is the American grip on the world. America, being a superpower, has enormous “soft” power and influence all across the world and so for anyone in America, reaching out to the world stage becomes easier. Given innovative culture that encourages failure, it is no surprise that Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook have been built out of the Valley. The natural progression for any business is the same, be it any part of the world. And these men have shaken the world, justifiably so by making a huge difference to millions of lives.
Are we, Indians, any mean? First, let us keep in mind that Indian ability to self-promote could be counted as close to nil. Our culture teaches us humility as part of growing up. If we are talking too much about ourselves, did we not hear someone say “don’t be so proud of yourself” when we were kids. We don’t flaunt about what we built as much as Americans do. It is this PR that also counts how much you have an impact.
Take the Internet space for example. Sanjeev Bikchandani needs no introduction. His naukri.com is the leading job portal in India. A couple of years back, he told YourStory that one out of 5 Indians finds his/her job through naukri. He survived the dotcom bust of 2000 and had to struggle for six years before becoming successful. Today, he has become an angel investor himself investing in select Internet businesses.
Deep Kalra’s MakeMyTrip.com made a stellar listing in NASDAQ last year and becoming the first company to become the best-priced stock on the opening day in a recessionary environment and in many years. Deep didn’t have it easy to start with. Straight out of the dotcom bust, he fought his way through. His grit came in handy and he did not give up. In a decade, he could be called one of the poster boys of Internet businesses in India.
Alok Kejriwal didn’t have a smooth run either. He was fired from his own company after investors found him unsuitable to run his business. Everyone will recall how Steve Jobs was fired by John Scully. But little do people know about Alok. Today, Games2Win is the largest game portal in the world. He just went on to build another company in the Internet space and has succeeded by dint of hard work and self-belief.
Murugavel Janakiraman deserves celebration for founding the top match-making site in India, BharatMatrimony.com. If Gates drops out of Harvard to found Microsoft, it’s news. But a boy from North Madras, the most underdeveloped part of the city and whose parents have not gone to school at all, counts less in our consciousness. The most humble person you could meet ever, Murugavel has made sure that success does not go to his head.
I can vouch for the fact that had any one of them been successful in America by building these businesses, their fame would have been multifold. They have addressed the pain points of Indian customers in their own way and that’s why their businesses have been successful.
The emerging hotties
Flipkart, founded by Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, is growing at a scotching space and their success is no less attributed to their phenomenal service. Order any book on Flipkart and you get it delivered within the promised time. They have now expanded to mobile phones, electronic gadgets and lately into electronic goods like computers. Their dream is to build India’s Amazon.com. If there are any indications to go by, they have been phenomenally successful so far and given Indian e-commerce boom, they might one day challenge Amazon.com. A dream come true literally for the guts they had to try out in Indian space that has only 700,000 Internet users.
A very lesser known company called Life Online, founded by Amrutash Mishra and Sahil Gore, started as a library service (www.iloveread.in) for lending books and is now helping businesses go online and reach the customer at their door step. These two guys are very young and by their standards in an unconventional business where success is not guaranteed. Bravo! young guys!
Suresh Sambandam, from a humble background in a town called Cuddalore, has built a company that is ranked among top 10, according to Gartner and Forrester, in the Platform as a Service (PaaS) space. His OrangeScape helps build business applications on top of Google App Engine. Google does not have a solution on how to build apps on its App Engine and so OrangeScape has become phenomenally successful with a marquee list of clientele.
Druva Software, founded by Jaspreet Singh and two other cofounders, has a couple of products for laptop backup apart from conventional backup products. What makes them unique is their ability to provide laptop backup at a fraction of cost combined with data deduplication (remove copies of files, thereby enhancing efficiency of storage). Sequoia pumped in $5 million last year and that didn’t come in easy. First Druva validated its business model as being supremely successful to evoke investor interest.
Sahil Parikh’s DeskAway is a cloud-based project management tool that competes with 37Signal’s basecamp. What is unique about Sahil is he came back to India to start a business and has been evangelising about cloud computing as it was at a nascent stage in India when he started. Still he had the audacity to choose a path less traveled.
Why aren’t we celebrating these entrepreneurs who have either rewritten history in as much as creating one by themselves. These gutsy men deserve our collective appreciation and support for taking India to the top. If anyone believed India cannot sell or wouldn’t adopt Internet, they have comprehensively blown the myths.
Suresh Sambandam, Jaspreet Singh, and Sahil Parikh are in their late twenties or early thirties. They have built million-dollar companies in their own right. If Mark Zuckerberg is celebrated for becoming a millionaire or billionaire at twenty-six, why are we not considering these gentle men, may I say, by American standards?
Change your mindsets, ladies and gentlemen. Make it a point to celebrate these gems in the deep ocean of Indian entrepreneurship. If we hold promise to become an economic superpower in future, let’s not for a moment forget the stellar contribution made by these young crusaders of Indian business. We do too little to promote them. Write books, articles, and blogs to celebrate their success. They have inspired a whole army of entrepreneurs. Let’s raise a toast to their success and wish that their journey lands them in history books!!
[Endnote: The aim of this piece to celebrate Indian entrepreneurs. I could have left out more deserving ones. Now it is for you to pick them up and glorify them. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org]