In India, it is hard to miss that we are in the midst of an entrepreneurial revolution. From government policies and initiatives creating an enabling ecosystem for the sector to well-known global investors mobilizing funds into start-ups, all around us, the start-up ecosystem is abuzz. Entrepreneurship is seen as a pivotal link to propelling India into a global innovation hub and economic leader in the near term.
I am certainly excited about the potential of start-ups in India to solve critical problems across a complete range of tech-enabled sectors. However, as my team and I are building a startup of our own, CashCare, I can’t help but think about the potential our start-up and others like us also hold for the global context. The Indian startup ecosystem is at an inflection point, about to take off and surpass the current heights it has already achieved. To that end, I believe three central characteristics of Indian startups make us more nimble to create global companies than startups from any other market.
First, the dynamism, ambition, and awareness of our entrepreneurs are unparalleled. Many of today’s Indian entrepreneurs, including myself, have come back to India after establishing careers and studying abroad. We are rooted in our Indian culture, but our global exposure helps us from day one to see how our businesses can be adapted for other markets.
From having a deep understanding of how global markets function to having personally used global products and services, the new age Indian entrepreneur is wholly aware of the world outside India and this paradigm informs his or her startup.
We are inherently programmed to compare and contrast our businesses to counterparts in more developed markets such as the US. As a result, Indian entrepreneurs are in a better position to innovate and tailor their products to cater to a wider, more global set of needs.
Our Problem Solving Approach
Second, Indian entrepreneurs are compelled to build more resilient companies given the lack of data and infrastructure in our ecosystem. For instance, Cashcare who offers consumer’s access to credit at the point of sale to help finance their purchases. In the US and Europe, similar companies harness existing data on consumers to provide credit.
CashCare, however, is unique in that in addition to harnessing existing data, we also use novel metrics to identify new data sources and to create data sets that elucidate more about the credit worthiness of our consumers. This is because only 1-2 per cent of Indians have a formal credit score and traditional lenders currently use ambiguous and inconsistent standards to identify worthy borrowers. Consequently, CashCare has to do much of the legwork in terms of developing innovative, analytical methods of evaluating our customers in addition to providing them the convenience of point of sale credit.
The creativity required of us Indian entrepreneurs to build multi-million and billion dollar companies in resource-strapped settings enables us to create solutions that can succeed across the globe. If we can succeed and build volumes in India, then there is no reason why we cannot adapt our companies to similar infrastructure deficient economies in other parts of the developing world or take on competitors in more developed markets.
Finally, what stands the Indian entrepreneurial ecosystem the most apart from the rest of the world is our consumer base. The sheer volume of the country’s increasingly sophisticated consumer base coupled with its heterogeneity is unique only to India. As start-ups in this country, our challenge is to be able to serve the different customer segments that make up this market. Successful Indian start-ups have managed to effectively cater to the diverse Indian market, which essentially covers the multitude of customer profiles world over. As Indian companies, if we achieve excellence with our own consumer base, we are well placed to scale our products and services across the globe.
Given our potential, to achieve global and scale and success, we need to have patience and confidence in our abilities and replication frameworks. As more ecosystem enablers recognize Indian start-ups and evangelize the pathway for collaboration and expansion, Indian start-ups will be willing to take the risk to establish an offshore presence, following in the footsteps of companies such as InMobi. Until then, it is up to us as an entrepreneurs to continue to diligently build our businesses in India as a stepping stone to our global success.