If Bangalore really wants to be Silicon Valley of India…

Bangalore has been dubbed as the Silicon Valley of India. One of the factors (that makes them say this) is the comparable number of technology professionals in both the regions. In fact, there was a report that stated that the inevitable has happened – Bangalore has taken over Silicon Valley 🙂 almost meaning to say that Bangalore is the Silicon Valley and Silicon Valley is the Bangalore of United States.

Bangalore has a special connection for me. My family members are still there and my very first and only job in India was at Bangalore (long ago). I visit Bangalore often enough that I am not a stranger there. And, Silicon Valley – I have lived here for the last ten years and I have enjoyed every bit of it.

At the outset, let me make my points –

1. Silicon Valley is not just about technology people. In fact, it is not about them at all

2. You can try – but it would be VERY hard to replicate Silicon Valley in the near future.

So, when someone asked me a question – “If Bangalore really wants to be Silicon Valley, what should change?” it made me think again. Here are is a partial list of “change requests” for Bangalore if it really aims to be Silicon Valley of India:

(For people in other cities, replace Bangalore with your city name)

1.  Entertain ideas from everywhere

Ideas can come from anywhere. When someone shares an idea that is worth listening, people do listen attentively without worrying about who is telling the idea. If you are young, you have a better chance of getting your idea heard in the valley.

2. Foster innovation

No, It is just not the number of people that work in technology. What is more important is “what projects are they working on?” For now, focus on the valley is building products and focus in Bangalore is services.  Long-term maintenance projects, call center work and support services don’t have a lot of room for innovation (as compared to building products)

3. Look at failure differently

Valley is a place where failure is really fine, especially when a person goes out on a limb to try something radically different. People also share their failures openly. In fact, if someone says they have never failed, it means that they have not taken a big enough risk yet.

4. Make it easy to do business

I have invested in a few companies in the Valley and one company in India. If I hear about all the regulatory requirements to operate a business in Bangalore, I get shocked. The complexity must be ten times that of what is required to operate a business here in the Valley.

5. Shrink

Yes, Silicon Valley is a small place. Meaning – it is probably the rule of “five degrees of separation” that is in play here. If you have a good idea (promise) and a structure to fulfill that promise in the most optimum fashion and you are committed, you can almost reach anyone here.  

6. It’s the eco-system that’s hard to copy.

It is not one thing that will set Silicon Valley apart. There is a complete eco-system that will help an entrepreneur to make his or her idea a reality. Copying an eco-system is hard work. There are so many moving parts (including the government regulations) that I don’t see that it is possible to copy even parts of the eco-system in the near future.

7. Infrastructure needs to improve

While in the valley we talk about miles per hour, in Bangalore it is hours per mile. I am not saying people don’t commute in Silicon Valley but what I saw in Bangalore was a real stretch.

8. It’s not the number of years…

With the software boom over at Bangalore, it is easy to get carried away and promote people when they are not ready for it. When the rubber meets the road (when those people face reality) it won’t help anyone. Silicon Valley has a talent retention problem but not of the size of Bangalore.

9.  Manage the bench.

Bench helps the organizations and mostly kills talent.

There are few tens of thousands of programmers who are “on bench” in Bangalore. It helps organizations to keep that bench as it gives them the power to be responsive. Part of them are working on “interesting in-house” projects and part of them have no clue that they are becoming vegetables. They just can’t see it because it is a “slow death.” When they do see it, they may be in a stage where the chances of recovery are very slim.

Fortunately, we don’t have that problem in Silicon Valley. Most people are working extra hours just to stay in the race 🙂

Thanks for reading this. All of you have a wonderful weekend.