India is in the golden era of entrepreneurship: Netcore Cloud’s Rajesh Jain
In recent years, the Indian startup ecosystem is seeing many startups dashing to the coveted billion-dollar unicorn club, with several entering the Indian bourses.
However, the biggest milestone perhaps took place on November 30, 1999, long before an ecosystem for tech enthusiasts existed.
India’s first website creator Rajesh Jain sold his news business IndiaWorld to Sify for $115 million, marking the country’s first dotcom acquisition — at a time when the company had less than a million dollars in revenue.
Rajesh and his wife had put their heart into building the internet platform, thinking they would run it for life, and he was hesitant on selling it away.
In a conversation with Siddhartha Ahluwalia, Founder and Host of 100x Entrepreneur podcast, Rajesh recalls veteran investment banker Hemendra Kothari’s advice to entrepreneurs: “More important than knowing when to enter a business is knowing when to exit it. You are a creator and have a lot of ideas. You may not get this kind of value easily for a long time. So how much you love the business, don’t get too emotionally attached to it. Remember you are an entrepreneur.”
The deal was an eye-opener to the power and potential of the internet in India.
Rajesh’s wife also echoed similar advice soon after the deal was made, when at the age of 32, he had accumulated several millions of dollars of wealth without planning.
“She said, if you think about the money you have made, you will never do anything again in life. Forget about the past. You are an entrepreneur, start again, and go back to what you like doing,” says Rajesh, who now heads the mail server business at Netcore Cloud.
Decoding internet in India
In the peak of the Dotcom Era in 1998-99, Rajesh recalls many businesses coming up and rapidly scaling with capital freely available. People cared little about profits and carried a lot of excitement for the internet as the next big thing in the world. “And, no one wanted to miss out on those opportunities,” he says.
“Then came Google, Facebook, etc., after the 2000 period, after the first internet era. Today, we are seeing something very similar play out in India in the last year and a half or so,” he adds.
He lists four factors that have spurred the growth of tech startups in India — cheap internet access allowing a vast population to spend time online; ease of payments via Unified Payments Interface (UPI); logistic infrastructure; and the digital revolution amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Today, there are about 10 million Indians who have the lifestyle equivalent to Singaporeans or those earning $50-60,000. Around 100 million Indians have a middle income similar to Poland, and then we have a billion Indians who are very poor, probably like Africa with $1,000 per capita income. Out of this, there is a large reasonable-sized market with the top 10 million Indians, with a total spending capacity of about $2 trillion,” Rajesh explains.
As a growing market, India is capital surplus, with $100 million coming into the country on average every day in 2021. The incubators and programmes like Shark Tank India are also encouraging middle-class India to step into entrepreneurship.
“Our entire belief till probably five years ago was that we needed the government to solve our problems. Now, entrepreneurs are India’s future… I think, if you just let entrepreneurs in India loose, they will fix things,” he adds.
But to be big winners, he believes, entrepreneurs must be big losers too. Rajesh advises startups to strive to become a “proficorn”: a private, profitable, and promoter bootstrapped company valued at least over $100 million.
To know more, listen to the entire podcast here.
03:17 – Early career and failures
09:42 – Learning entrepreneurship from his father
11:32 – Starting and scaling IndiaWorld
22:04 – “More important than knowing when to enter a business is to knowing when to exit a business.”
24:26 – His perspective about businesses in India
31:46 – “StarTech: Great Golden Era of Indian Entrepreneurship.”
34:33 – Building Netcore after the previous acquisition
38:45 – Pivots and growth of Netcore
43:45 – What is proficorn, and why has Rajesh strongly advocated for it?
51:48 – 25 percent ownership by employees.