What would it take to create a silicon valley in India?
Much talks have been initiated about Bengaluru being the next Silicon Valley hub especially since it holds innate advantages of diversity, which a Silicon Valley in Israel or japan could not be graced with.
But how true is the notion that Bengaluru is a place of diversity and do we have the necessary conditions to believe that either Bengaluru or any other city in India can be regarded as the Silicon Valley of India?
Chances are high. But the Silicon Valley is seven decades old and that has given us enough time to look at some factors which have become quite obvious.
Shedding the patriarchal notions of employment
This is no longer the case in the US. But in India and many other European countries employment is still being dangerously considered as a relationship between two parties; one takes a servant attitude towards a company and pledges a lifetime for it and the company vows to protect the individual, ensure his economic stability and provide for his retirement.
This attitude prevents us from seeing that at the end it is just about economic exchange. This also gets complemented with the notion that a person is expected to get an employment as soon as he graduates. That happens because employment is mixed with work, which is just not true. You do not need to be an employee in order to do work. The less we identify our career as a set of years spent with company and more with actual work being done, the more the propensity to initiate side projects based on the various skills that you have acquired throughout your work, which could eventually lead to creation of a startup.
Making firing more hassle-free
Firing people in India is more difficult than in Europe. I can barely recall a company that has been firing people based on performance. India’s rigid employment laws, although not as rigid as Europeans, ensure that firing is not exactly an easy bureaucratic process. And we know that startups don’t have the time to deal with overly bureaucratic processes.
If India is to get closer towards creating a Silicon Valley, then it has to take both proactive and aggressive approach in finally shedding off the Anglo-Saxon legal framework from the pre-independence era. Many VCs in the US have explicitly told me that they couldn’t invest in India despite the massive potential because the webbed legal framework ads up for the confusion and uncertainty.
Further on, the change of law is not only needed in the financial aspects of running a company or incorporation (which is still a tedious process in India, even harder to close a company). Despite what it initially seems, India doesn’t have an elaborate policy for attracting migration apart from mere tourism.
It would be good to see that the country is soon introducing its own startup of entrepreneurship visa not to attract more people visiting Taj Mahal, but also to explicitly make a statement that the country has never been more opened and inviting for foreign makers and founders. That too, a startup visa which doesn’t provide merit on the basis of a famous college degree or employment in large existing corporation in order to be granted.
This might seem contradictory, considering that India brags more and more of both domestic and foreign VC funds gracing this land.
However, the reality is that there are very few professional VC houses operating in India. Most of the capital is made of former Fortune-500 companies, now turned angel investors who unfortunately never had significant experience maneuvering through the tidal waters of a startup journey.
Just like startup founders, professional VCs are not exactly the corporate executive type of people. They are in fact former tech enthusiasts and founder themselves, who were supposed to do something else but ended up doing something else instead.
More respect for the late bloomers
India is still deeply rooted in the idea that each person has a single definite occupation (probably drawing roots from the caste system and the old Vedic way of life). A child in India decides (or rather gets decided on his behalf) his future education in a medical college or engineering straight from high school or even earlier. If that doesn’t happen, the child and the parents end up terrified.
Contrary to US, India is a country that deeply appreciates stability and status quo. But in terms of economies which keep getting more and more liquid, this turns out to be a disadvantage. There is rarely any successful startup founder who has followed a linear course throughout his lifetime. More often than not, this is exactly what has brought him to the set of skills the connections and the know-how to start a company.
You cannot choose startup founder as a career straight from high school. People at that early age tend to choose more conservatively – things like a doctor or an engineer, in other words things that are proven to work. On the other hand, not knowing what to do, not knowing what your options are might look demoralising but at least it keeps your mind open.
Control the urban sprawl
To create another Silicon Valley, you need to bring the critical mass of smart people in one place and persuade them to stay in it. How do you do that? By exquisite care of urban planning and maintaining the persona for each city. The kind of people who create Silicon Valley types of companies belong to a special subset of the creative class. They don’t like long commutes or huge malls. They like cultural centres, green libraries, and biking tracks.
There is something opposite happening in most Indian metros these days. Individual building holding legacies and urban zest over decades back are now being stomped by same-looking grey residential buildings in the suburbs. Such people don’t like living in suburbs. To attract them, Indian cities must do startup-first urban planning – keep the city vibrant and design a town that puts cars last.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)