I was at an Indian startup event today and did not enjoy the experience. It felt typical of what Indian startup scene has come to be (it is my perspective, of course. Feel free to disagree). There are two specific things which are wrong about startup scene in India: a) it’s a huge “ego-chamber”; b) most of early stage entrepreneurs are not solving problems for global market.
Indian startup community is a tightly knit one and ironically it is also one of the biggest disadvantages. In today’s event, I saw entrepreneurs discussing ideas amongst themselves. One would say: “your idea is cool“. The other would respond: “no man, your idea is cool“. You see — perfect ego boosting so that nobody feels bad about their efforts. The tiny startup community in India has absolutely no connection to outside world and the actual customers are least bothered about these startup events. The worst part, in fact, is that since entrepreneurs talk to other fellow entrepreneurs at such events and no body wants to be the bad guy, they end up getting false hopes about coolness of their startup. The only solution to this is getting away from ego-boosting talk at startup events and actually testing your product validity with customers and being ruthless at that.
Another aspect to this “ego-chamber” is that there are lot of buzzwords that entrepreneurs keep hearing without knowing the full context. People will talk about persistence, distribution channels, cloud computing, social media analytics and what not. But where’s the story I can understand? Who is going to tell me why persistence matters or how distribution channels increased your revenue by 10x? The startup community would throw around all these buzzwords and sadly nobody disagrees or asks for clarification because no body wants to be the bad guy crushing the other entrepreneur’s ego. I say: crush each other’s ego. It’s the last thing you want to have when starting out. Seek criticism.
Being nice. Yes, that’s the biggest problem with Indian startup community. For example, if an entrepreneur is working on a social network around Bollywood movies, instead of saying it is cool why can’t you ask: how are you going to make money, without funding how are you going to find initial users, how big is the market, what traction have you got so far and how you honestly think it is the lamest idea ever.
2nd problem: solving a small problem specifically for Indian market
Internet in India hasn’t still fully matured. People still buy more books in offline stores than online stores. There’s no money in advertising. On Internet, you never have to meet your customers in person and mostly nobody cares if you are based out of India or Mongolia. All they want is a product that delivers value to them. So, why do I see many entrepreneurs solving following problems:
- Videos aggregator of Indian movies
- Job tracking system for Indian market
- ERP solutions for Indian SMEs
- Vertical search engine for India
- Event aggregator for Indian events
Notice that most of the problems are global in nature, so why specifically target Indian market (which isn’t even mature yet). Why don’t you launch your product for US, UK, Europe or Australia? An excuse could be that you haven’t got a product to compete globally but that’s a poor excuse. Improve your product and make it globally competitive. What’s stopping you? Another excuse could be lack of funding. Well if you are ready to launch without funding in India, why can’t you launch without funding in San Francisco? It costs practically the same to launch a job tracking system in US. All you have to do is to run some targeted AdWords campaigns. (Just an example but my point is that launching is nothing fancy. You have to see where most of your customers are and launch there instead of launching and remaining only in India)
Please answer me: why is Indian market special even though it is small and with much less revenue potential?
If you can’t answer this, better gear up your product to compete Internationally. There’s a vast market out there!