Thursday, March 13, 2008

Is Bangalore startup "Unfriendly"?

You are not tuned to the Indian Startup ecosystem if you haven't subscribed to Venturewoods blog run by Alok Mittal of Canaan Partners. Most important movers and shakers of startup community follow and write there.

I just came across an interesting article written by Vijayanand on Venturewoods that says:

"During a conversation with a friend recently, the conversation revolved around which city provides a better atmosphere for a startup, from a perspective of providing that initial feedback, customer insights and etc, so that there is clarity past the ideation stage before the prototype is built. I had this perplexed look on my face trying to figure out if there is yet a city which provides that here in India. While most do cry out “Bangalore”, if you ask me, that city is the most startup-unfriendly territory that I am observing.* Whilst there is a very active group of people, and some with disposable incomes, who have started an entire community of unconference events and discussions that surround that, very little is happening past that. Bangalore, as per the count that we have on the number of startups, measures quite low. Salaries are high, infrastructure is expensive, branding is a very costly affair, attracting talent is a dance on the pole - let alone quality talent, and there a dozen startups fighting for the starving number of resources who are available and will actually provide that high caliber value for a startup. On the number of new startups that are emerging, the city ranks quite low. But at the sametime there is quite an active number of “startups” in the city which have been lurking around for a while - and when I say a while, it means for roughly around a decade. They have neither joined the SME alliance, nor are they really a newborn child."

Being a hardcore Chennai supporter, Vijay always falls short of the need to base arguments on hard numbers. I think (even when I am sitting in Mumbai) when it comes to technology startups, nothing (Pune or Hyderabad or Chennai) comes even closer to Bangalore in their sheer number. It is for this reason that most people who return from the valley, settle in Bangalore.

Besides, it is the most conducive place for talent. Exactly the point that you mentioned - startup don't make a significant part of workforce generation. And that is why getting talent in Bangalore is not as difficult as you have mentioned.

But would you like to startup in a city where quality talent will be scarce? Or in a place which has the largest concentration of techies, has the best engineering research (IISc), hosts the biggest Barcamps (BCBs), the biggest MoMos, Foss.in (and pretty much all FOSS activities), the most vibrant technology showcase event (Headstart), hordes of engineering colleges (IIITB and others), one of the best management institutes (IIMB) in the country and where one, figuratively, breathes tech?

Or, perhaps, you would start a company in a place where water is scarce, talent is rare, weather is painful and whose only claim to fame is an IIT?

I respect Pune for what it is becoming. But don't you see the marked resemblance between Pune and Bangalore - big companies, engineering, research and management institutes, conducive weather and most importantly, close to market (Mumbai).

Is someone reading?

[To all those who have subscribed to my blog: Yes, I plan to write regularly now. A lot of inspiration has come in not-so-distant past from Snigdha (thanks to her!) and several others. Let us see how far it goes]

5 comments:

Abhay said...

>Foss.in (and pretty much all FOSS activities)
I find FOSS to be an odd model for startups. Maybe the tools are helpful but seriously doubt any other advantage.
(personal op, do not bring in company I work for)

Moreover, most of the advantages cited in here are tied to software startups (or to some extent technologies involving semiconductor work)

Arpit Agarwal said...

Abhay,

Presence of FOSS has an indirect effect on startups in Bangalore. Large scale development of FOSS implies presence of techies and the largest FOSS event implies the largest number of them present in the city. This, in turn, helps startups by encouraging a talent pool and collaborative work/network among techies.

Vijay Anand said...

Arpit,

I think I actually get misquoted on being a hardcore chennai supporter. Truth be told, I am not. I didn't even grow up in this place, and have absolutely no biases towards any location in India. Work keeps me here, thats pretty much it.

That said, I think Bangalore needs to step up a lot in terms of becoming "that conducive environment". As I wrote in the comments, the biggest let down is that we are not there yet and we are starting to pat on our backs as if we are. Some of the most "networked" individuals are starting to turn in their startups, and thats quite grieving to see.

The hope is that, this article will enable us to look for answers, and bring together answers. I probably shouldnt have mentioned names, for that yep, I do have a little bit of a regret.

Where are you these days? back in bangalore?

Arpit Agarwal said...

Vijay,

Very valid point. You have nailed it well "the biggest let down is that we are not there yet and we are starting to pat on our backs as if we are"

And I think the way forward would be more cooperation and collaboration between communities, presently fragmented along geographic lines. And this is where a lot still needs to be done.

No. I am in Mumbai, studying at Shailesh J Mehta School of Management (SJMSOM), IIT Bombay - at least for next 15 months. Do plan to meet up sometime you are in the town!

Vijay Anand said...

Arpit,

I am working on a followup post, detailing the Startup Ecosystem Manifesto. I am starting to see so much fragmented expertize all over the place and I dont think we havent even gotten close to pooling them together. We need to start seeing India as a whole. The potential with that is huge.

Now that I know who all are alert and awake, I can focus to get their support, me hopes :)

And seriously, I have been helping the Delhi guys get their grassroot level efforts off the ground and it was Sid and me who even seeded the OCC idea in Bangalore. i didn't expect you to call me a territorial mate :)

We should catch up sometime.