Express IT Awards: India needs its own version, not replica, of Silicon Valley

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Bengaluru | Published: December 8, 2014 1:16:23 AM

India’s growing start-up ecosystem needs to build its own version of Silicon Valley instead of aspiring to be a replica...

From Left: SAP Labs India MD Dilipkumar Khandelwal, Cisco India and SAARC president Dinesh Malkani, Google India MD Rajan Anandan, The Financial Express Resident Editor (South) Darlington Jose Hector, Startup Village chairman Sanjay Vijaykumar, serial entrepreneur and Nasscom Product Council chairman Ravi Gururaj and Tata Sons group CTO Gopichand KatragaddaAmit ChakravartyFrom Left: SAP Labs India MD Dilipkumar Khandelwal, Cisco India and SAARC president Dinesh Malkani, Google India MD Rajan Anandan, The Financial Express Resident Editor (South) Darlington Jose Hector, Startup Village chairman Sanjay Vijaykumar, serial entrepreneur and Nasscom Product Council chairman Ravi Gururaj and Tata Sons group CTO Gopichand Katragadda. (Amit Chakravarty)

India’s growing start-up ecosystem needs to build its own version of Silicon Valley instead of aspiring to be a replica, and it also needn’t wait for a Google, Facebook or an IBM to start making acquisitions here, according to the panelists at the second edition of the Express IT Awards in Bengaluru on Friday. Rather, the trend would see homegrown Internet-based companies buying local start-ups, like in China.

Insights into the country’s innovation pipeline came thick and fast at the awards where a high-powered panel — comprising Gopichand Katragadda, group chief technology officer, Tata Sons; Rajan Anandan, managing director, Google India; Dilipkumar Khandelwal, managing director, SAP Labs India, Dinesh Malkani, president, Cisco India and SAARC, and Ravi Gururaj, serial entrepreneur and the chairman of Nasscom’s Product Council — met for a discussion on the topic “Innovation through Incubation”.

It also set the tone for an evening which saw 19 awards being given away to the most innovative and scalable IT solutions.

The evening also saw Subramanian Ramadorai, former vice-chairman, TCS, winning the Lifetime Achievement award for his outstanding contribution to the IT industry, while Francisco D’Souza, CEO of Cognizant, took home the Newsmaker of the Year award.

To ramp up rapidly, India’s start-up ecosystem needs to have a couple of hundred very successful product start-ups, said Rajan Anandan at the panel discussion. “What is important for innovation from an India standpoint is to focus on the founders. Let’s focus on the start-ups and let’s make them buy,” suggested Anandan, pointing to how China last year saw around 51 start-ups getting acquired in just a span of four months. “What’s interesting is they were all acquired by Chinese Internet companies. So, we shouldn’t wait for Google and Facebook and Twitter and IBM to buy companies,” he said. Among the Internet-era companies in India, the market leaders in most categories were all start-ups and many have the funds to make acquisitions now, he noted.

But how do large companies incubate ideas, especially those that are disruptive? Gopichand Katragadda said the critical thing was to realise that ‘unless you are disrupting yourself, somebody else will disrupt you’. “At the Tata Group, for instance, the parent Tata Sons actually behaves like a start-up, he said. “It’s a company where we are constantly making investments in Tata firms and the group. It’s in a start-up mode always.”
Katragadda, however, believes that there is a difference between a business model innovation and the creation of new technology, an area where a significant amount of effort is still required. “If you look at the needs of India today, in the energy sector we need 250 gigawatts. How many start-ups are working on that? Hardly any. We need to be connecting our ideas to these market spaces and think big,” he said.

Ravi Gururaj reckons India should focus on building its own version of Silicon Valley rather than aspiring to replicate it. He also advised entrepreneurs to take up opportunities regardless of the resources at hand.

At least 45% of the largest R&D spenders in the world now have a presence in India with development centres, noted Dinesh Malkani. With cloud and software-as-a-service models, it is also becoming a lot more easier for start-ups to reach a global market at a much lower cost, unlike earlier, he said. Dilipkumar Khandelwal of SAP Labs India said that start-ups at its incubator had the freedom to come up with good ideas.

S Ramadorai recounted the challenges the $118-billion IT industry faced in its formative years and how the business models of the industry evolved over a period of time. “In the late sixties and early seventies, there was no Internet, lease lines, emails or video conferencing, and connectivity to the rest of the world was poor. The challenges were extremely difficult and different at that point of time. Now, it gives me great pleasure that the industry that we nurtured from that infant stage has gone from strength to strength,” he said.

The awards were given away by Rajan Anandan, Anant Goenka, wholetime director and head – New Media, Indian Express Group, George Varghese, Chief Executive Officer of the group, and Sunil Jain, managing editor of The Financial Express, who also spoke on the occasion.
The panel discussion was moderated by Sanjay Vijaykumar, chairman of Startup Village, the Kochi-based incubator, and Darlington Jose Hector, Resident Editor (South), The Financial Express.

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