Global Themes

On Globalization & Venture Capital

A nation of shopkeepers?…or entrepreneurs?

“There’s one shop for every 25 families in India. And 50 per cent of Indians are self-employed with many of them taking to small retail trade*. On the other hand, countries like the USA and UK have only four to five shops for every 1,000 of their population. So what does this mean for India?”

Delhi Shops

“Certainly there is good news and there is reason to celebrate, says Co Chairman of FICCI Retail Committee, Pranay Sinha.” From “India, no. 1 nation of shopkeepers

A lot of that infectious enthusiasm and energy was evident at the first-ever TiE Entrepreneurial Summit in Mumbai that I attended last month (17th – 19th Dec).

700+ people paid and turned upon Sunday morning (yes, Sunday!) to hear speakers enthuse about entrepreneurship, new ideas and India…

Saurabh Srivastava, Chairman of IVCA mentioned in his opening remarks how entrepreneurship had always been an intrinsic part of the India milieu and he quoted the FICCI figures (above) that mentioned 50% of Indians were self-employed – which meant a lot of entrepreneurs!

Pravin Gandhi, President of TiE Mumbai spoke about how things are different this time around for Venture Capital in India – not least because of the emerging ecosystem, policy-driven changes and new breed of VC practitioners.



Infosys’s amazing story:

On Tueday, Nandan Nilekani traced the history of Infosys and how being able to respond to the changes in India and the environment in the 90s enabled Infosys to move to the next stage which culminated in the listing of Infosys on NASDAQ in ’99 (the first Indian company to list on the US) with revenues of $110m.

The growth of Infosys since then is nothing short of spectacular. Revenues grew from $110m in ’99 to $1bn in ’04, then to $2bn in ’06 and are expected to hit $3bn by end ’07.

I hardly know any other company that has gone through such impressive growth and managed it so well. Clearly, Infosys’s position as a poster-child of Indian entrepreneurship is well deserved.

Nandan also talked about two challenges: (i) the shortage of good, talented people (in spite of the demographical advantage) and (ii) infrastructure: “If our employees are spending two hours on the road to come to work and two hours to go back, it affects their productivity and morale

I don’t regret spending the few hours that I did at the confab. Some other interesting asides:

The “C word”…
Nandan Nilekani mentioned how even the word “Computer” was a taboo in the early 80s. Apparently, Dr Rangarajan who authored the technology report in the 80s used the phrase “advanced letter posting machine” (when he meant “computers”!) in his report to avoid offending organised labour, unions and leftist parties.

Self-confidence, pride and change in attitudes:
Rakesh Mohan (Dy. Governor, RBI) on the evident change of attitudes:
“People talk in a different manner, walk in a different manner and behave in a different manner…”

Last word:
“To know what we do not know is the beginning of wisdom” (from a Sanskrit verse)
Quoted by Naina Lal Kidwai, CEO of HSBC India
.
*Image courtesy: P J Chmiel

January 6th, 2007 Posted by | Entrepreneurship, India | no comments

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