Yes, both these words share common initials, but in reality there is huge gap between India and Innovation. In past decade India has become a hub for outsourcing (specially in IT), and has shown some outstanding growth in fields like Telecom. But this post is specially for Internet Startups where all the action is happening today (both locally and Internationally)! I have recently started my startup journey and have experienced some fake expectations and harsh realities in past one year. My interaction with some young entrepreneurs and startup enthusiasts forced me to think about one issue- “Why we don’t hear Google/Twitter like stories from India?”
I have been to several B-Plan contests in India and have attended several other events as TIE-Con, OMCAR etc. These events do help us in creating an initial business network but the problem lies in the seriousness shown from both the startup side and Investors’ side. No, it’s not about the idea, in fact all the ideas are good and promising on paper.
The main issue is the expectations- we expect too much from Investors just by making a Business Plan and preparing some cool slides and in return they put some tough conditions on us (show me the real money!).
But real fighters do start their own thing. They apply their ideas and start creating an innovative product. The dream always start by seeing oneself as another Google on web, without giving a single thought on Indian Internet market :). But that’s fine, that’s how one should start and that’s how most of the web startups grow. Still, we don’t hear any big innovative success in Web from India (exceptions include naukri.com, cricinfo.com and few others).
When we read about startups like Google, Facebook, Twitter and likes there is only one quality which justify their success- their ‘vision’.
Indian internet startups don’t suffer from ‘can’t innovate’ syndrome, they rather lack a clear vision and strength to remain focused on a single goal.
This is mainly because the ground realities are much tougher in India than US/Israel/Germany which have fostered a very good entrepreneurial ecosystem in their country. My recent conversation with some of the Founders and even my own experience have given me a sense of the answer which I’m seeking throughout this post- “Why Indian startups stop Innovating?”.
It’s not much time since we launched the alpha version of our website, some people liked our design and concept and we have already started getting queries related to design and development of websites. Point to be noted here is that we haven’t posted anything that would suggest that we are a Web development firm.
When we start something new the joy of starting things on own and the challenge to show others that we can actually generate money overpowers the very basic idea of why we started.
This thought became much more prominent when I heard some other startups trying to do the same thing to generate cash. Since for a web startup the basic requirements are all there (coders, designers and infrastructure) the chances of getting lured into something which offers easy money are increased. But, in my opinion this should be the real phase when such startups should start looking for funding, as taking external projects increases the chance of loosing focus. The main reason why we see thousands of small IT firms doing web development may be this one only.
People may argue that when you are in the war-zone you have to fight for survival. I agree on this, but I just want to say that if you switch your path from an innovative product development startup to another web development firm, the fight will become more brutal and your strength to fight will also reduce drastically. With no focus and limited scope you’ll end up as just another company fighting for daily bread and the very premise on which you started will end (isn’t it better to get a job in such case?).
There are some very simple lessons we should learn from companies like Google and Twitter-
Twitter has grown from nothing to huge (3 Million unique page view per day) in just 3 years and still it doesn’t talk about making money. They are still very much focused on what they want to make:
We continue to follow user behavior and pay close attention to feature requests. We launched our mobile site, m.twitter.com after getting lots of requests for this feature. However, we are also very much guided by our philosophy of keeping things simple and intuitive so we like to restrain ourselves with regard to features.
Twitter has many appealing opportunities for generating revenue but we are holding off on implementation for now because we don’t want to distract ourselves from the more important work at hand which is to create a compelling service and great user experience for millions of people around the world. While our business model is in a research phase, we spend more money than we make.
These are the reason why Twitter allows 3rd party applications to foster without worrying about how they themselves will generate money.
Google always wanted to make a better search engine without even knowing how they’d generate any money. Today they generate more money than any other Internet company, still they want their search engine to throw even better search results.
If you know some Indian web companies which still hold on to the vision they started with, I would love to know about them.
I don’t know why I wrote this post, as I’m still not that experienced to talk about this. But this is from my very first observation of the real world. This is one issue I thought everyone should try to bring forward and we should talk about it more prominently. I’m writing this in hope that I, myself don’t loose focus from what I want to do with my product. We are yet to see major challenges but I hope that we would not look towards alternative ways of generating ‘main’ revenue stream. Side businesses are always good until it starts hurting the main business. What do you people think?