The Indian Startup funda

I had this question for almost three years and have been searching for a credible, convincing answer since then. It has been gnawing me like a free snack and would appear unannounced with an irresistible urge to ask whoever I met from startup arena. It wasn’t until I stepped into the arena and experienced the brouhaha surrounding the startups that I could see the light.

Why aren’t there any startups in India that are original, disruptive and truly - wanting to be - global?

CEO of Microsoft, CEO of Google, CEO of Nokia and many other global firms are Indians. Clearly, it isn’t lack of capability!

In India, Amazon is Flipkart, Uber is Ola, Yelp is Zomato, and the promising electric mobility startup Ather Energy wants to be the Tesla of Two wheels. The list of ‘this is that here’ would never end. Startups or the businesses of ‘that of this thing’ ?

May be, you could argue, Flipkart is ‘inspired' by Amazon. Leo da Vinci was also inspired from Lisa Gherardini but in the process he created a timeless masterpiece, Mona Lisa! Read, Alibaba!

I have been working in a startup for past 7 months and more or less, the answers to my questions were thrown at me. The Indian startups, in essence, the people behind them (setting aside all the tangible cultural, educational, bureaucratic and other issues) lack certain things in common.

  • Clarity: In the beginning, ideas are only as good as they sound. Clarity of thought, purpose, market, positioning and distinguishing yourself from traditional businesses, models, industries and conventions are more important. You cannot have a disruptive idea and choose to rely solely on conventional business model. You have to constantly innovate and invent ways to prosper. For a startup, biggest resources are well thought out strategy, presentation, vision and well etched out execution, patience to see it through and ones ability to stick to the plan in the face of adversaries. It’s good to be aggressive but shooting at everything is akin to burning time with no definite outcome. Time is Money. You lose out.
  • Vision: Indian Startups seem to be plagued by short sightedness or lack of one, thereof. Startups shouldn’t be just businesses competing for market share. They should be houses of value additions to people’s lifestyle! This is one of the fundamental difference between Amazon and Flipkart: Amazon’s visions largely are customer centric, they acquire customers through customer satisfaction and by selling a service (Prime), while Flipkart largely relies on discounts that have temporary gratification. No surprise that Morgan Stanley devalued Flipkart, twice!
  • Standards: Standards are something that you should create in the long run, not follow. We Indians, historically, have followed examples rather than create one. Yes, to begin with you can look up to examples and kick-start, but following someone, something for long provides no room for innovation, creation and that essentially kills a startup.

Chaos are the most important part of any Startup and they are absolutely necessary.

It’s in chaos that you find order. Chaos, dilemma, confusion in every step are things that separates startups from traditional business houses. What is born from chaos is what delivers successfully. But, if you don’t see through the chaos, it will lead to poor decisions and that kills.

We are Jugaad, we have the uncanny ability to make things work. While we lack the creative ability to create new product, new market, invent capabilities, the urge to tackle a local problem while creating a global solution. For a country of Billions, there is demand but not many providers.

My question is only half answered as I keep my search open. And the startup noise may provide the answer in coming months and hope to update as and then.

Hope, in coming years there will be startups in India with such vision, clarity and disruptive ideas to take on the world.