All of the last week, I spent time with folks from 18 different countries in Berlin, Germany. And what a week it has been! An eye-opener. The more I interact with people from different countries, the more I realise how little I know about the world we live in. Interestingly, the one common thread that tied us beyond the boundaries we came from was the new digital reality we are experiencing in our countries, and how it is shaping the lives we lead.
And yes, ‘startups’ are the new reality in all these countries. From Vietnam to Kazakhstan, we are all experiencing a new world being defined by the changing digital landscape. The boundaries that separate us as countries matter less in the world of Facebook and Google, where information flows in seconds. I felt we were all so similar and yet, we all had the distinct touch of our respective countries within us. And it was more than evident when we talked on the phone. While all of us spoke in English, on the phones or Skype we spoke the language that we were born to.
And while I appreciate the new world, I cannot not be prouder of the country I come from and the startup ecosystem we represent. The strengths of the “Silicon Valley of India” seem clearer from this distance. It always happens that when I am out of the country I see the beauty of India more clearly. When people here in Berlin talk about traffic issues, I can only smile. The traffic issue here are a few more cars than usual, but moving as neatly as ever. In Bangalore, “traffic issues” are a lot nastier. And that doesn’t stop us.
Coming back to the Indian startup eco-system, I remain an eternal optimist. We have so much going on for us. Our country is young (and when you’re abroad, you realise even more what India’s ‘young demographic’ means), it has a growing economy, and of course an unending number of broken things to fix. And yes, it also has an unprecedented number opportunities that our parents and grandparents never had.
Yet, there are a few things which I hope that we as an ecosystem can together practice to become the true leaders in the digital world, especially as we are in a race against the rest of the world in that regard. For one, we have to cut down on our propensity to ridicule and pull down each other.
We need to collaborate more. We are a young ecosystem and we will make mistakes, and we will do things that might not lead to the best outcomes. It’s okay. Rather than becoming cynics and critics, let’s learn to give ourselves and the people around us another chance.
I have huge respect for people who tell me to my face that I am wrong and then help me to correct things, rather than people who only know how to find “Potemkin Villages” everywhere around them.
Let’s be proactive in mending instead of pontificating.
While it takes an effort to help and it’s so easy to pull down people, the ecosystem and everything that is broken around us, let’s not fall into the category of becoming by-standers or cynics who can only predict downfalls, see only the shortcomings and everything that is not right in the ecosystem. Lend a hand to make it better, fix it.
Any ecosystem is defined by the people who live in it. And people are defined by every individual.
If it matters, make it matter by participating positively.
The Silicon Valley of India, Bengaluru, has so much going for it. What will help us get the most outstanding outcomes will be our propensity to collaborate – genuinely.
And while we are at it, let’s not forget to appreciate, pat someone on the back. Most often, it's the only thing needed to keep us going.
It’s not going to be easy. There are days when I feel wounded by the same ecosystem I have loved so passionately. It’s not easy to see the good things, it’s not easy to lend a hand, and it’s not easy to stand alone when the larger group stands far away and laughs at you.
Yet, there are days like today, a sunny day, when I sit down in a coffee shop in Berlin to write this and believe there is so much our country has going for it, for startups and for us as individuals.
It’s just that we have to choose to see the sunshine. It’s a choice. A choice, we make every day.
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