[This article has been reproduced from Alok Kejriwal’s Rodinhood blog. An excellent piece on why India is the best place for Entrepreneurs to be present currently ]
As a kid, growing up in India, one is taught that the world’s biggest diamond – the ‘Kohinoor’ was found in India but seized by the British when they ruled us. It is a painful tale, embedded in my mind. That diamond is on display in the Tower of London.
As an entrepreneur, I decided to flip that pain and look at India with deep introspection. What emerged is the realization that India is actually the Biggest Diamond of them all – amazingly precious for any Entrepreneur!
Here is why:
D = Dedication
I met a senior director of AOL in the Bay Area a year ago and he narrated an interesting incident to me. His computer’s online system suddenly crashed and he couldn’t get it started up. In panic, he called the AOL ‘Help Line’ for help. His first call landed up in Dublin (Ireland). The gentleman on the other side answered and said ‘Sorry Sir – its 5:01 pm here and my job is done. Try somewhere else’.
Frustrated he tried again. This time the call landed in India. There, a young boy who was working late into the night answered the call. He was polite, helpful and quickly resolved the problem. Just before the AOL director was hanging up the young guy asked him enthusiastically, ‘Sir – I don’t want to take up you time, but can you spare a minute more for me’?
‘Go-ahead’, said the AOL Director, a bit irritated at this unusual request.
The boy then explained to the Director that while working on the crash problem, he had simultaneously figured out why the Director’s system had failed and what was needed to prevent such an incident from recurring. He was asking for permission to mail these instructions to the Director!
Ask an Indian professional in a Mumbai-Delhi office about our lifestyle. We work 12-14 hours, each day of the week, take calls at 3 am, work weekends, log on the laptop even when we are on Holidays and have 2 wives – the second being a Blackberry.
We are ravenous to prove ourselves and extremely dedicated to what we do.
I = Intelligence
We own the world’s largest ‘Army of Intelligence’.
Where on earth can you employ 100,000 fluent English speaking service industry workers (think Call Centers, Business Process Outfits) for just US $1500 monthly Salary?
The fact that English is the de-facto ‘aspirational’ language in India (my driver’s daughter is learning it) and that ‘Hinglish’ (English mixed with Hindi) is now mainstream, we are producing a workforce that can invade any service Industry on the planet. All we need are the Majors and Generals (Zoho.com type Companies and Entrepreneurs) to invade the Business World.
A = Age Dividend
Nowhere in the world do you have 1 billion people, 75% of whom are less than 30 years of age!
In a famous experiment, a few computers were left unattended outside a Delhi slum. The hypothesis was that the computers and their parts would be stolen very swiftly. Instead, illiterate kids intuitively understood how to start up the PC, work the mouse and generally click and browse the computers.
The way I look at it, ‘Digital immigrants’ are folks in the 40s who are being forced to migrate to the digital media (Computers, Websites) late in their lives.
‘Digital Natives’ are those typically under 15, for whom intuitive understanding of digital media comes wired into the brains.
India has 750 million such Digital Natives!
M = Markets
Very rarely do massively populous countries like India exist who have massively underdeveloped local markets and export trade (as measured by per head GDP).
This provides entrepreneurs with amazing opportunities. They can focus on a booming local market or focus on creating a huge export business from India.
India resembles China 20 years ago – where local markets expanded hugely and then the success was repeated in the global export market.
Singapore, Hong Kong, Finland, etc, had very small local markets from the start and were forced to grow via exports. Russia and lots of the Eastern European economies today have booming local markets, but very low export momentum.
In India, the lands and the seas are for the taking.
India is the real Diamond
O = Owners
In India, people are truly the masters of their lives.
Most of our Politicians are public jesters and thieves – forever screwing up, getting caught, being whipped in public media, replaced and forgotten. Even jailed once in a while.
While they play their Circus out, they don’t interfere in Business and Entrepreneurship. Forget the bribes and red tape that you may encounter for heavy duty brick and mortar businesses, but in new age start ups, they have no role to play. This is very crucial when it pertains to media and its regulations.
In China, when I sold my Company Mobile2win to Walt Disney, we had to write to the Chinese ‘Ministry of Culture and Information’ detailing why we were selling and begged for their approval!
As an Indian entrepreneur, I was shocked to even ask permission to be able to sell my own Company. Of course, as we all know, it’s impossible to create consumer media Companies in China without Governmental intrusion.
Another example – In China, you cannot hold rallies or meetings (even the biggest Multinationals) of over 40-50 people without prior police permission. During the Olympics, all large meetings were banned. This stems from a fear that the Chinese govt. has regarding public gatherings leading to unrest.
The fact that the government is non-interfering in Business in India is our biggest blessing.
N = Neutral Courts
The legal system in India is fair and it works.
In 2002 in Seoul, I met the CEO of Actoz Software – the global pioneer of massive online multiplayer games. In 2001, he had (unfortunately) licensed his game to a Chinese online games Company that very quickly cheated Actoz by duplicating their game and also not paying Actoz the committed royalty payments.
This Chinese Company grew very fast and became a giant and also listed on the Nasdaq. Its valuation today is U.S $2.5+Billion. Believe it or not, it also bought Actoz out at throwaway valuations since they had anyway bankrupted the tiny Company.
I asked the Actoz CEO if licensing his game to this Chinese Company was his mistake.
‘No, Alok! That was not the mistake. Our blunder was agreeing with filing for arbitration in Chinese courts if we had a dispute with the Chinese Company. The day the case came up for hearing and the arbitrator realized that it was a Korean Company against a Chinese Company, he decided the ruling against us even before hearing the arguments’.
I was too stunned to react! (Ps – that’s also a reason why lots of global agreements today settle for fair Countries like UK, USA, etc, for Courts of Jurisdiction).
In India, courts move fast for pressing matters. We recently sued a leading publication for not paying us and we received 80% of our money back with interest. Sure, courts can be slow but they are Just. Only in India can one file a case against the Indian Government for its Oil and Gas policies and be given a massively detailed hearing (ADAG against Govt. Of India and Reliance).
Let’s also not forget that Enron was kindly protected by Indian laws when it went bust globally and that legal cushion helped Enron to wind down gracefully. In China or in Russia, its assets would have been seized overnight.
D = Destiny
Our faith in God and general ‘fatalism’ is actually a blessing in disguise.
Most Indians live with side belief in Luck and Fate. The Indian may be the COO of a large Company or a simple factory guard. This ‘invisible hand’ that we believe guides our fate (Keynes please pardon me) allows us to take lots of ups and downs with a smiling face.
Hence, the massive wave of crime and unrests one witnesses in booming markets like Brazil is thankfully absent in India, despite having almost similar income disparities and societal layers.
When jobs get axed or promotions are passed over or even when factories are shifted, we whine and protest, then let it pass and blame our favorite God. And thankfully we have over 500 different Gods to pick from!
The Kohinoor is nothing more than a large piece of Carbon sitting in a velvet box, guarded by hi tech security. The real Diamond is India – open, free and for everyone!