Bengaluru: Climbing up the innovation ladder
ver the last decade, Bengaluru has moved up the value chain, from BPO hub to the Silicon Valley of India. Multiple reports and studies point out that it is the preferred destination for homegrown startups and venture capital funding. The city’s IT-services legacy, talent pool and diverse culture have contributed to building brand Bengaluru. However, despite all that, it is still far from becoming a global innovation hub.
This problem was the subject of the latest round of the Forbes India CEO Dialogues: The Leadership Agenda, held at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM)-Bangalore, in front of an audience of the B-school’s students. SD Shibulal, co-founder, Infosys Ltd, Meena Ganesh, CEO and MD, Portea Medical, Srikrishna Ramamoorthy, partner, Unitus Seed Fund, Ganapathy Venugopal, CEO, Axilor Ventures, Rajiv Srivatsa, co-founder, Urban Ladder, Shashank ND, founder and CEO, Practo, and Manish Gupta, VP and director, Xerox Research Centre India, shed light on the infrastructure issues plaguing the city and the lack of big institutes there that can foster innovation. Excerpts from the discussion moderated by Sourav Majumdar, editor, Forbes India:
Sourav Majumdar: Startups foster innovation and Bengaluru is the startup capital of India. What is so special about the city and is it enough?
Meena Ganesh: There are a few things about Bengaluru which have really worked [for the city]. One is the kind of talent pool that it has attracted. Over the last 20 years, it has attracted a lot of technology talent, both in software and hardware. Having that kind of capability in one city has helped. Secondly, it is a great melting pot of people of different cultures. It also has a good mix of people with business backgrounds.
Innovations are happening in institutions like the Indian Institute of Technology [IIT] that exist in other cities. Unfortunately, Bengaluru does not have an institute of that calibre. Of course, there is the Indian Institute of Science [IISc] and IIM, but they are not of the size and scale that, say, an IIT offers in terms of talent.
SD Shibulal: When we started Infosys in 1981, the world was a completely different place. Bengaluru was a sleepy town. All the shops used to close at 12 pm and open at 4 pm… so, afternoons were for siesta. The world has changed since. When we started Infosys, it was a time of constraints and not a time of entrepreneurship. Infosys was probably one of the first entrepreneurial organisations to be built. Also, there was no funding at that time, there were no incubators; it was the regime of the Licence Raj.
Today, there are about a hundred companies which have research and development [R&D] centres in Bengaluru that are creating talent. But we still have a long way to go. We still struggle with infrastructure.
Srikrishna Ramamoorthy: In terms of statistics, of the 22 companies that we [Unitus Seed Fund] have invested in, 15 to 16 are based out of Bengaluru. It [the city] has lent itself very well to startups. And the startup culture has fostered because you are seeing success as well. The general workforce and managerial talent have also played a role. Nearly 65 to 70 percent of the venture capital money that comes into India comes to Bengaluru. The big draw for the longest time has been the weather, and it still remains a big draw!
Majumdar: What is the key change that is driving this huge pool of talent and keeping it going?
Shibulal: There has been a change in mindset. People with steady jobs are willing to give up their jobs and do something on their own. This was not the case 30 years ago. So, there is a fundamental change in their thinking, their ability to take risks and their ability to accept entrepreneurship. All these factors have changed.