Pankaj Jain, partner at 500 Startups believes that there is tremendous amount of opportunity for start-ups to solve basic problems in India and earn money
Ideal startup strategy in India today
I don’t think it has to do with something right now, in general the ideal strategy for a startup is to have a sustainable business model and try to make money. The faster you are growing the more money you are making, investors will chase you and want to invest in your company. I think some people have lost sight of that over the last couple of years and said, "Well, let’s grow on based on what investors are throwing at us." That works at times, but sometimes it may not work. So if you are solely relying on that you are not building sustainable business models. So think of sustainable business models. It’s easier to do when you are doing B2B than you are doing B2C , still just think of a business model that is sustainable. If you grow that, it should be.
What can Silicon Valley learn from Indian start-ups?
I think it’s the opposite, what can U.S. learn from India. There is a difference between entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley and entrepreneurship in northern land. So somebody opens up a restaurant, he is still an entrepreneur. Some people (in India) becoming entrepreneurs are purely in need, they have no choice. They aren’t doctors, lawyers, they are not well educated. To survive they have to do business. There is a certain amount of intuitive understanding about business that they have when they do that, I think that is tremendous amount of learning people can learn from them. The way some of these businesses in India work, it’s amazing! They sit there and in their hands do all those number calculations, and it’s like how did you do that? You are absolutely right but I need to pull up my excel sheet to figure these numbers out, but you just did it in your hands like that. So those are things that entrepreneurs globally should be learning from people here.
Indian start-ups can learn professionalism from Silicon Valley
I think professionalism is something Indian entrepreneurs can learn from Silicon Valley. How to be professional entrepreneur and investor. How to be a serial entrepreneur and a successful serial entrepreneur. In a lot of ways a serial entrepreneur is somebody who is dabbling in businesses that they don’t necessarily have a strong background in. Take Elon Musk for example, PayPal to SpaceX, where is the connection there? So, it’s not necessary that you have to keep doing business in a thing that you understand. You are building that way of a thinking as a real entrepreneur.
Evolution pace occuring in Indian start-up pace is faster than Silicon Valley
I think people tend to forget that Silicon Valley was built over 30 to 40 years. There is a lot of evolution that happened over a period of 40 years.There is a lot of wealth evolution and distribution that has happened in three or four years, we haven’t even gone through one cycle of success yet. So there is a long, long time of evolution ahead of us. However, the pace at which evolution is occurring in India, is far faster than it was in Silicon Valley. Where we are in 10 years , Silicon Valley was not in 10 years. So in 50 years where we are going to be, is going to be very different from where Silicon Valley is today. So short answer is, there needs to be success, there needs to wealth creation, there needs to be wealth distribution, before people are willing to take on more risks.
Understand the psyche of an investor and entrepreneur
I am not saying people should go slow, I am saying understand the psyche of an investor or an entrepreneur is - I need to be successful, I need to build confidence. Confidence will come from success, the money will come from success. I am confident and I have the capital, I am obviously going to be freer to take more risks either as an entrepreneur or as an investor. So don’t blame the entrepreneur, don’t blame the investor, help them find success. Once they find success, they will automatically look for edge case scenarios and say, "Hey, let’s go try something absolutely crazy that no one else is going to do. Today I am scared of putting food on my table, let me solve that problem first. Once I have enough food to feed my family for ten generations, then I will worry about something like, "Hey, let’s send somebody to Mars."