With easy money around, tech entrepreneurs turn risk-averse
N.R. Narayana Murthy launched Infosys in 1981 with six other colleagues on a mere $250 borrowed from his wife.
The tiny sum kept the company going for some time but the hunger and animal spirit in him did not die. "We stayed in very inexpensive hotels... we didn't have any cars, sometimes we took buses, sometimes we walked. It was tough," Murthy said once.
A story of struggles and extraordinary persistence, it took a lot of patience for Murthy to create what Infosys is today - a giant tech powerhouse.
Although there is no doubt that the current Indian tech startup ecosystem has witnessed a dramatic rise amid fast adoption of emerging technologies, do we witness the same exuberance of animal spirit among young entrepreneurs?
The country added 1,200 new technology startups in 2018 as against 1,000 in 2017, and the momentum has not dipped in the first half of 2019.
The momentum is on simply because of easy funding route amid scores of venture capitalists and angel investors lining up to put their money in the growing breed of fintech, agritech and healthtech startups.
The funding in the Indian tech startups hit $5.85 billion in the first half of 2019, according to DataLabs by Inc42.
However, the easy funding route has killed the passion to go beyond the obvious and take big risks among young entrepreneurs who are often accused of copying Silicon Valley ideas and replicate those in the Indian market, feel experts.
"As India's middle class grows, startup entrepreneurs focused on solving consumer challenges are benefiting from the fresh green shoots of easy capital availability," said Prabhu Ram, Head, Industry Intelligence Group (IIG), CyberMedia Research (CMR).
The advent of large investors with deep financial pockets and stamina for big bets, and the heft to play kingmaker is changing the nature of startup scene.
"In comparison, the earliest wave of Indian entrepreneurs took big risks, with no easy access to capital, and navigating large swathes of information gaps, with no clear trajectory to the market, to finally see market success," Ram told IANS.
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak who visited India last year, categorically said that he does not see big advances in tech companies in the country.
Speaking at the ET Global Business Summit in New Delhi, 'Woz" said: "What is the biggest tech company here, Infosys maybe? The culture here is one of success based upon academic excellence, studying, learning, practising and having a good job and a great life".
One can be optimistic on the booming tech scene in India now but this may not be the case tomorrow as big risk-taking capacity appears to be dying.
A report by IBM Institute for Business Value and Oxford Economics found that 90 per cent of Indian startups fail within the first five years and the main reason is lack of innovation.
The IT industry's apex body Nasscom is also "cautiously optimistic" about the year ahead, considering macro-economic factors and various geopolitical "uncertainties" such as India-China and India-US trade relations.
The success stories of tech startups will remain confined to India without global footprint as, according to "Woz", "I do not believe there will be any big tech company or breakthrough in India similar to Google, Facebook or Apple".IANS