Gates’ view of India, and Comparing Silicon Valley and Bangalore

From a Reuters article on Yahoo! News:

Gates, on his first visit to Israel, said Israeli companies would also confront increased competition from China and India.

“There will be competitors for Microsoft and for Israeli companies coming out of those countries although today the success, particularly in India, has mostly been in the software services area, outsourcing work, doing call centres and things like that,” Gates told a news conference.

This is not how we want to be viewed by the world. “Outsourcing and call centers” should not be the focus of our technology industry; we ought to be aiming far higher. We do not want our Telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran saying things like “BPOs are the nation’s pride”, as he did a few days ago. Because in contrast to India’s tech. industry, here’s how Gates sees the U.S. and Israel:

In contrast, Israel, along with the United States, is focused on inventing new, patented products and software, he said.

That is where we ought to be – defining the industry, not servicing it. And the only way to do that is to foster more entrepreneurship. Here is Rajesh Jain’s excellent series of articles on “India needs more entrepreneurs“. You see, you cannot compare today’s Bangalore to California’s Silicon Valley of the 70s.

1.) Home-grown: Silicon Valley was constituted almost completely of home-grown startups which grew up to be the giants of today. Bangalore, in contrast, is home to the Indian development centers of most of those same companies.
2.) Entrepreneurship: The entrepreneurial spirit that swept the west coast back then – when every Bill, Steve and Marc with half an idea set up a technology company – isn’t quite reflected here – yet.
3.) Universities: Most of these startups were set up (with the glorious exceptions of SteveJ and BillG) by graduate and post-graduate students in Universities in the area (for recent examples, think Google and Sun). Surely it isn’t coincidence that Berkeley, USC, UCLA and Stanford happen to be in California, and MIT, Harvard and UMass Amherst happen to be in Massachusetts – and that these two areas were the West and East Silicon Valleys? In contrast, our Universities are – well, pathetic doesn’t even begin to describe the shoddy state of affairs there.
4.) Local Market: Most of those great companies started by concentrating on local markets, not those in Europe or South America or Asia. Why was that? It wasn’t that you were more likely to be successful if you did that, but because the opportunity was right there, at the right time! As is the case in India – now!

More on the Local Market:
There is a huge latent demand for solutions to uniquely Indian problems. As a case in point: the spread of mobile devices in semi-urban and rural India has meant that those populations have leapfrogged the fixed land-line era, moving on from the telegraph straight to mobile phones. This is one area; there are scores others.

Most of these solutions will lie in the areas of cost-effective infrastructure development, like low-cost community wireless internet, so we don’t have to criss-cross the country with costly, ugly and cumbersome optical fibre connections. If you’re in the mechanical industry, solutions like faster and safer train designs on the same track infrastructure will be immensely successful. (An article on how we can, and why we should, turn around the railways is on the cards).

There is so much to be done in India Today, with rewards so great – but few people to get down to it!

One Reply to “Gates’ view of India, and Comparing Silicon Valley and Bangalore”

  1. Having moved from IITB to UTA, I think I will want to specifically include the IITs in the your Indian universities list. It’s just the attitude that matters — attitude of faculty (who mostly are interested in making money and feeling powerful in administrative post they are absolutely incapable of handling), staff (wouldn’t a little politeness help boost our productivity?) and students (ever tried studying in a coffee shop, without a hundred thousand people staring at you? and talking about it behind your back later?)Also, I just love this line… “There is a huge latent demand for solutions to uniquely Indian problems.” I think it’s a very nice way to put it!-nikhil

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