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The Curse of Services:Why India doesnt believe in products and startups

April 5, 2008

It strikes often as a surprise to me in a country of billion people.
It stuns me too and makes me cringe.
To me from where I am standing, it seems that we have married ourselves to mediocrity for the rest of our life.
Mediocrity and the cohorts of a mediocre imagination. Like plagiarism for example. Lack of vision, zeal and dynamism too.
And unfortunately, all this or rather absence of all these form the most amazing concoction for an ideal candidate, fitted absolutely toto with the machinations of babudom. And yeah service sector.

I have great respect for the entrepreneurs of those companies. Why? They were entrepreneurs at times when setting up even a paan shop right across the street required license. Aah, the blessings of license raj. Even ferrying your products across the canal meant bribing the paan chewing official, his clique, his maid and who not. Yet continue to make a profit.
I have great respect for them, for they were able to build a business and a name for themselves at a time when Nehru felt lucky that communism exists.
And yes, I have respect for the coup of sorts they have pulled in brainwashing the generation of today, in believing this is heaven. Absolute clincher, I must say!

Each time, I ask my friends and people whom I know, who their role model is, you know what they reply?
Azim Premji
I don’t hold anything against AP, in fact I have great respect for him as a visionary, but I don’t think, the average Indian respects him for his vision. For being the CEO of a software service company, oh you bet!
When I ask the next point, so is he trying to emulate him in any way,pat comes the reply, “Oh yeah, I do have plans for software company”. I cringe at this reply. He is not emulating, he is copying. And you know what, I should reply to him, “You will have the rest of your life spent contemplating on making the move and still not make it”. Instead I just end nodding. All this just reaffirms three things:

  • Indians are risk averse(think babuism, software McJobs)
  • Indians believe/love/aspire for second grade mediocrity arising from plagiarism (think Bollywood,fashion,GRE,SAT)
  • Lopsided higher education system
  • Unfortunately, all the three apply to each one of us, since I can safely and almost blindly say, you hail from a middle class like I do. I had been almost pushed into a software McJob, babu-istic 7-4.30 work schedule(both at different points of my life) and turned down the temptation of both(thank god!,but that was a long time ago).

    But, we Indians lack even the iota amount of self worth and self esteem. I am harsh, for I cringe each time, I see “Life sucks!”comment from an Infy guy, servicing his boss in Oregon, yet doing nothing to take control of his desires,ambitions and life.

    I am harsh, for we have not broken out from our comfort zones and learned to fall and bleed. We want to get married, (mind you only arranged marriage from a pure Brahmin family), which in turn asks for a decent income, a risk-averse job. Even better if you work in Infosys.

    So, where does the finger point to. Society of course. Society after all.Society as usual. But its imperative even on my part and your part, to change what the society thinks. Societal thought process is a typical example of sin-sloth. If you believe you are made to blaze your way, if you believe you are not cut out for the McJob, then its a responsibility on your part to change the way Indian youth thinks. It is a debt which India asks to be repaid.

    It doesn’t matter, if you are a college graduate,who has just got his 2.7lpa offer letter from Infosys or Wipro or Cognizant or HCL. It doesn’t matter for you can still tear that out, and go out and make a life of your own. Yes, I assure you will get hurt in the process. I assure you will face challenges, and rejection and perhaps if you are lucky some support. But believe me, it will be worth all of it at the end. And believe me, it will be so much more satisfying to have broken the notions of the society in ways more than one.

    Its a revolution, which I ask for. A revolution which India is asking for. And likewise, every revolution asks for blood. There will be blood, plenty of it. But remember for every crimson drop dripping on the brown clay, there is one more shining feather growing on that dove of change.

    When I was in college, my friends told me, you can’t do anything without experience. I ask my friends now, what experience did you gain for entrepreneurship? A broken will when you were appraised as need to be less aggressive? Or when you were appraised that the subject needs to tone down his leadership skills? Wake up and smell the coffee, if you are reading this, then you were not supposed to have a boss. You were not supposed to be told what to do. You were not supposed to be appraised and made to run through the gauntlet once in a year.

    And when you take up the challenge and run with the baton in hand, please make it sure that you think big. You don’t ape someone, you don’t copy someone. Today, as you look and run your eyeballs around you see, shameless aping in everything, right from the look and feel to perhaps the very concept. Don’t create a product to show to your Mom,” Hey Mom, look I can code too”. When you create the product make it sure that it shouts on the top of the user’s head and screams, “Look, we know how to deliver products too”

    You can reach me on sohamdas [at] gmail [dot] com. I have opened the comments for this to have an exclusive discussion from your side.

    2 Comments leave one →
    1. April 6, 2008 8:29 pm

      Some questions:

      Is products and answer to everything?

      You have to be a part of startups today to see how many people are already there. Do we really want all those who work in large companies to come out and stat their own startups? We do need people to work in companies when our startups become giants. Big companies are the dreams for startups, probably not a competition all the time.

    2. Soham Das permalink*
      April 6, 2008 10:36 pm

      Dear Anuradha,

      Is products an answer to everything?
      No, but to have world class companies, it is. Look at it this way, what we do in India doesn’t have any advantage except of economics. And tell me, who wants to operate with shrinking margins and ever dwindling profits?

      Services are good, but zombie type services is probably suicidal.But yes, is Wipro/Satyam/Infosys doing anything about that? I dont know.

      Being a person so closely following startup community in India, I every time cringe when I see, a startup opening shop with perhaps zero effort going in delivering a world class solution.
      So does that mean, there are none out there?
      Absolutely no. There are some startups in Delhi (which I am not in a position to talk much about) who are doing mind boggling, world changing research. And they are on their way to monetize it.
      Here in Chennai, there is one particular startup which is well on its way to deliver a stunning data mining software.
      That is what I call innovation. Kudos to them!

      I don’t believe that starting up is a fad to be followed, just because my cousins and friends and their fathers and mothers opened a shop. No, absolutely no! Starting up is like giving birth to a child.
      Just because its cool, doesn’t mean we have to just start up. But yes, you have a gut instinct to start out? Then throw caution to the winds and jump in.
      We, in India lack people who can lead. And each time I see a startup, I feel proud to see leaders in action. We need startups, we need lots of it, perhaps because startups are the cradle of innovation and the most productive part in the economy.

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