The future is here: Indian product companies are potential global giants

Every year I speak at a dozen events – both within the country and outside. These events range from ones around entrepreneurship and startups to ones purely around technology. There is, however, one common thread at all these events. At home, I meet many young product companies that now operate on a global scale and overseas I increasingly bump into entrepreneurs who have set up a product company with a global footprint.

It will not be an exaggeration if I say the era of dominance by Indian companies has started and we will see young, smart, technology enabled product companies use their imagination and information to operate on a global scale.

What has changed over the years – the biggest factor is the Indian entrepreneur’s ability to think big. About 5-10 years ago an Indian entrepreneur would want to create a niche business that would create a good amount of wealth for himself. An Indian entrepreneur now thinks differently where he wants to create a big billion dollar business that straddles continents. They want to create a dominant business and dominate globally. A startup today does not aim to be a $100 million business, but dream to reach a billion dollars.

And is it easier to do so? Theoretically the answer would be a big yes. It is easier to start a company, especially in the technology domain, and have operations across the world. Many are now starting with the world in mind and in fact during their initial days India may not be the launch market for them. There are examples of many startups that prefer to start in the US and then look to spread operations here.

The reason behind this can be attributed to a phenomenon that started about a decade or two ago. The business process outsourcing (BPO) and the services industries like Infosys and Wipro led to a lot of food for thought over the years. Enterprising individuals were not content with being mere back office providers. As global systems and processes became pervasive at work places, many stated seeing clear opportunities that could be addressed. These individuals were some of the early pioneers of Indian product companies operating and addressing global needs. Starting product companies and not services suddenly became the vogue as factors like labour arbitrage took on a new meaning. Today it is a question of skill arbitrage where product companies are developing technology that are world class and price competitive.

The second reason behind the increasing appetite to operate on a global scale is because of professionals returning home from an overseas stint. When I started Rate Gain after returning from the US, I could see some clear business opportunities. While I was unsure if it would work out, I knew serving the world from India was possible. For entrepreneurs like me and many others, the fear and apprehension of dealing overseas do not exist. There is a strut in our step and a confidence that we are second to none.

A large part of this is also due to the successes of Indians abroad. From the investing companies to top executives at some of the largest MNCs, Indians are now where it matters. A large Indian investing community abroad and forums like The Indus Entrepreneur (TiE) and Indian Angel Network (IAN) have helped tremendously by opening doors.

This is now having a cascading effect. For people with an entrepreneurial ambition, there are clear role models to follow. Companies like Druva, ours (Rate Gain), Zomato, InMobi are hugely successful and changing the status quo. The startup ecosystem in the country is maturing with a healthy mix of angel and venture investing and a good idea can now be converted into a sustainable company. The Indian market may be large and lucrative, but the opportunities multiply when operations are on a global scale.

The global outlook at an early stage works well for a startup. Not all would be successful and there is every likelihood that there will be more failures. However, the penchant to create multinationals is the first step to create billion dollar companies. In the years ahead as technology reduces the barrier to entry and democratizes opportunities, startups going global would be the new norm.