Why are highly paid workers in an industry that does lucrative contract work for multinationals jumping ship? It’s the same dynamic as you observe in the United States. Entrepreneurs start their companies when they are, on average, 39 years of age. They have 10 to 15 years of work experience and ideas for products that solve real customer problems; they get tired of working for jerk bosses; and they want to build wealth before they retire. So they defy their fear of failure and take the plunge into entrepreneurship.
Dozens of tech-service industry workers who had become entrepreneurs. A surprisingly high proportion weren’t developing products for their former customers, but were instead looking inward to solve India’s problems. The one such enterpreneur was K. Chandrasekhar, of Forus health.
“Chandrasekhar learned that that the vast majority of the 12 million people in India who are blind could have maintained their sight if only their problems had been diagnosed and treated on time. The diagnostic equipment for a single hospital cost at least US$60,000—which put it out of the reach of most regional clinics—and required ophthalmologists to perform the diagnosis. Chandrasekhar and Forus cofounder Shyam Vasudev decided to leave their jobs as senior executives at NXP Semiconductor (an offshoot of Philips) to create an affordable, all-in-one intelligent pre-screening device that is non-invasive and can be used by minimally trained technicians in rural India. The device provides an indicative report in 10 minutes for five major eye-related problems, including diabetic retina. This frees the doctor up to treat patients rather than administer tests. The product costs less than $15,000, and Forus expects the price to drop to half that in volume production”.
Another impressive entrepreneur at the event was “Vishal Gondal”. In youth entrepreneurship, Gondal is the Bill Gates of India. He dropped out of college to start his first company when he was 16, and launched his big success—Indiagames—when he was 23. He sold part of his company for a multi-million dollar sum 2005. He now mentors young entrepreneurs and invest in startups via his fund called Sweat & Blood Venture Group.
But college-dropout tech entrepreneurs like Gondal are extremely rare in India. Most make the wise choice to complete their education before joining a startup. So far, the biggest inhibitor of youth entrepreneurship in India has been the social stigma associated with failure and the low social esteem bestowed on startups.
It also used to be that nearly all the graduates of India’s prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) would join investment banks or take senior positions in the outsourcing industry. Given the huge salaries these workers commanded, entrepreneurship was out of the question.
And it isn’t just the Indians who are seeing opportunity in India.
A American women Valerie Rozycki had always wanted to be an entrepreneur and was keenly interested in emerging markets while a student at Stanford University. She believed India’s growing economy would provide great opportunities for someone like her. She had an idea to build a mobile engagement platform based on dialing numbers or “missed calls” (most Americans are not familiar with the concept of “missed calls”, but in the developing world, they are a common way of sending a short message: “I’m on my way home”, “pick me up”, “I love you”, etc.). So, in February 2010 she started a company called ZipDial, in Bangalore. The company leverages “missed calls” in marketing campaigns—to log votes.
Valerie clearly has many great opportunities in Silicon Valley. When asked by an interviewer that, what a (white) gal like her was doing in a place like Bangalore, she smiled and said, “when all of the action is in Bangalore, who needs Silicon Valley?”