I just spent 3 days in Bangalore for a board meeting. Staying in south Bangalore around JP Nagar and Jayanagar area feels like the old Bangalore of yesteryears – greenery all around, spring flowers, no high rise apartment buildings, and comparatively more tranquil ambiance. Once I went to north, around Whitefield area, the new Bangalore intimidates you – huge apartment complexes, no trees, chaotic traffic and what not. All over town, one notices the construction of the new metro – the overhangs spoil the beauty of the city. Of course the area around electronic city is all concrete jungle and heavy traffic. The airport is so far away, it takes at least 1.5 to 2 hours in mild traffic to get to the city. Moving around the city is non-trivial and everyone warns you of the rush hours in the morning and evening.
We looked at some new ventures to get services to the people using the Internet – how can goods and services come to people rather than people going to them. Suddenly the value of such services seem so high. One gentleman described how he shopped for a Samsung smart-phone for his son and went to three stores spending over 3 hours, ultimately not finding the model he wanted. He then ordered the phone on Flipkart (Amazon-like Indian company selling books and other goods over the net) and found it to be cheaper and with home delivery in couple of days. Residents of large apartment complexes can use many services via the Internet without going out of their buildings.
Innovation is happening in India, albeit at slower pace than anticipated. There are several hurdles, the most important being the change in mind-set. Young people still go for jobs in the service sector, rather than starting their own company. Investment community has not shown great interest in early start-ups. The IT services giants such as Infosys, Wipro and TCS do not foster innovation as a culture. The success of Flipkart like companies is motivation for more consumer-oriented start-ups. One hopes this will pick up speed, more out of necessity than anything else. The mobile-transaction sector seems to have great promise with the rapid proliferation of mobile devices. As someone said – there are more cell phones than toilets in India.
Traveling to Delhi reminds one of the growth in the aviation sector in the country during last twenty years. It is a common sight to see young people using their smart-phones and tablets on flight. Facebook and Twitter have the largest growth in the Indian market. Given the advantages of cloud computing, India can get into the innovation game with much lower capital expenses. But unlike the silicon valley, the motivation and required infrastructure are still lacking. There is no Stanford or UC-Berkeley that fosters innovation.
For India 2.0 to emerge, it needs much more focus and attention all around.