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What Problems Do Tech Entrepreneurs Face in India?

techsparks-2011

TechSparks 2011, Photo by Vikas SN

Entrepreneurs across the world face a multitude of problems and the same holds true in India. In an early morning panel at TechSparks 2011 Bangalore, led by folks from Intel, Google, IBM, Flipkart and Sequoia Capital, the discussions centered on issues faced by the nation’s entrepreneurs.

A question was posted to the audience: “Besides access to capital, what are some of the problems you face?”

As you might expect, that drew quite a bit of reaction. I heard different answers, among them were marketing, mentors, networking, tech support, and inability to reach early adopters. Many of these are the same problems faced by all entrepreneurs. What is the one thing that I didn’t hear Indian entrepreneurs complaining about? Market, that’s what.

In addition, most Indians in tier one cities are able to speak English and compared to many other Asian nations where language is a barrier, this is a blessing for India. And the number of English-speaking, educated Indians are likely to grow exponentially as well. To put it simply, India is a homogeneous market, where a single language can reach an enormous amount of consumers, much like in the US (English), China (Chinese), and Indonesia (Bahasa).

The panelists were bombarded with many different kind of problems. But I thought they handled it pretty well. Jaideep Mirchandani of Google India said that entrepreneurs can reach a very targeted audience cheaply through Adsense. For enterprise support, Google Apps is also very affordable for most start-ups. On a related note, Vimal Abraham from IBM India said that his company offers mentorship and free software for start-ups in India — a way for founders to bootstrap and stand on the shoulders of a giant.

Most interestingly, Shailendra Singh of Sequoia Capital India said something that silenced the crowd for a moment before they burst into a round of applause. In essence, he explained that different markets face different challenges. Instead of looking at them as problems, start-up founders should embrace these difficulties and find a way around them. Essentially, founders who excel are the folks who can overcome these problems and make their product a success. He gave a very simple example:

Say a group of students study at the same school. After they graduate, they go on to different paths and achieve different successes.

True enough, the ability of the founders plays a major role in deciding whether a startup succeeds or fails. And that is why the team behind the company is often a more important factor to consider than the product itself, as far as investors are concerned.

[Photo: Vikas SN]

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