Former Technology Head of UID Project Heads Vinod Khosla’s Incubator in Bangalore
Call it reverse migration and you could hear the loud “lament” of reverse drain of talent back to India (immigrants leaving the US sensing opportunities in India and China), as Prof. Vivek Wadhwa would explain. There is little denying the fact that India is an attractive destination for techies who flew to the Valley a couple of decades ago and made an impact on the startup scene there. If stalwarts like Vinod Khosla would experiment with an incubation lab, the India story becomes even more seductive. And for achieving the India’s vision, the Silicon Valley investment guru has roped in Srikanth Nadhamuni to be CEO of Khosla Labs in Bangalore. Khosla Labs has been set up to create prototypes that would be tested in the market. The entrepreneurs can envision a huge opportunity to crack their crazy ideas and give it a shape and help the nation make progress. The ideas should be impactful, fulfilling Khosla Labs’s vision of transforming the country. YourStory.in caught up with Srikanth Nadhamuni to understand what’s cooking at Khosla Labs.
In a conversation at his office, Srikanth explained why Khosla Labs. “Vinod and I wanted to create a lab for ideas to be prototyped and tested here in India. We are different from most traditional incubators in the sense that we have tech teams here actually building things, creating prototypes. We plan to test it out in the market and help get the successful ones funded.” He sounded excited but with enough caution to add, “This is a new model, we have to experiment with it and see how we can make it work.”
Ideas can come from anywhere
As Khosla Labs is still taking shape, we ask him where do ideas come from? He says, “Ideas can come from anywhere, I have a lot of ideas, Vinod is brimming with ideas, We have a team of 6 brilliant engineers. Ideas can come from within or from outside. Lot of youngsters are working on interesting ideas and we are open to all.” Khosla Labs is just getting set up: “we need to figure out the process,” adds Srikanth.
“I was part of the initial team with James Clark (founder of Netscape) in 1996 which setup Healtheon – an early internet startup. We were young and foolish at that time, and had that naivete to take on the extremely complex healthcare sector in the US. Had we known the state of healthcare industry in US at that time, we would have turned around and run,”. It is this same naivete that will serve the young Indian entrepreneurs well as they charge at obstacles and will bring down walls that have not yet been breached, it is our job to help these youngsters convert their idealism to successful productive companies. And that’s the prospect that excites Srikanth.
Coming back to India
“I came back to India 10 years back from the Valley. I am a chip designer by background. When I came back in 2002, my goal was to look at development issues in India,” Srikanth explains on his coming back to India and goes on to say how he got involved with Aadhar (UID) project of the Indian Government, starting with an NGO. “Nandan Nilekani and I started eGovernments Foundation in 2003 and the municipal ERP products developed by this NGO are now being used across 275 cities in India.” He adds: “I was the head of technology UID, helped set up the technology centre here in Bangalore and develop the technology behind Aadhaar. The Aadhaar system is quite mature and stable now and a managed service provider will be maintaining the system. I believe Aadhaar will have a massive transformational impact on our country – the thought certainly gives me goosebumps!”
Khosla Labs on Transforming India
Setting up a broader ambitious vision for Khosla Labs, Srikanth sums it up as helping create transformational effect on India’s growth. He talks of technology being a driver of this transformation: “The Indian IT industry has been a supplier of services to other countries so far and we’ve had a good run. But a lot of problems within our own country can be also addressed through appropriate IT implementations the ROI of the latter is much greater. Now, the idea of creating a lab in India is to focus on India issues and unleash the potential of entrepreneurs in to solving problems here.”
Having spent over 15 years in the Valley, Srikanth is of the strong view that product culture of Valley should be imbibed in India by stating, “There everyone is building products, even a couple of engineers in a garage are out to build a product. It is all about customer focused products that are of high quality that can scale. For example we built the UID system as a carefully crafted product that was architected to scale gracefully over a billion people. We have to bring in the culture of product design and attention-to-detail to truly reap the multiplier effects of technology.
Khosla Labs does not have an India fund, “but when we want to invest we will seek funds from the parent company,” he concludes.
With Khosla Labs, we feel the startup scene is getting vibrant and lends entrepreneurs an access to world-class support system to turn their crazy ideas into viable prototypes and then to compelling products that will hopefully help transform India.
Stay tuned, we shall bring you regular updates from Khosla Labs.