Could India produce a Google or Apple or Amazon? The answer is no.

This is a very popular question in India and also among India watchers. This or variant of this question gets discussed in almost every entrepreneurship especially the technology kind of event. I recently attended one organized at a popular business school. The key speaker was a highly successful entrepreneur of Indian origin based in the US. When the floor was opened for questioning this was the third one. The answer the gentleman provided was: “Yes, it is certainly possible. I would not be too surprised if the next Google will be based in India. For example there is wonderful company in Bangalore called XYZ which is giving Google a run for its money in so and so etc. It is only a matter of time”.

I disagree. I believe for a Google or Apple to be born i.e. company that is changing the world requires the following parts to work together in a mysterious proportions:

  • People –with imagination to change the world and drive to pursue. To conceive a Google the goal should be to change the world. NOT an idea that could get funded to exit at the first lucrative opportunity. I am sure Larry Page and Sergey Brin the founders of Google did not start off with the intention to change the world but got there eventually.
  • Ecosystem
    • Resources – It’s not just money, its people willing to fund and nurture these ideas. These are not the run-of-the-mill HNI’s or VC’s. These are people belonging to the group described in the previous point with money and willingness to mentor.
    • Engineering – to build the darn thing
    • Distribution channel – the secret sauce

Let’s look what India has: We do now boast of a fairly robust set of entrepreneurs building good businesses. I have not heard of anyone with audacious goals of changing the world but maybe there may be bunch somewhere evolving into thinking really big. I am not holding my breath.

Ecosystem – Resources: we now have Angels and VC’s funding businesses.  It is said the Bechtolsheim the gent who wrote the first check of US$ 100,000 to “Google Inc” wrote it prior to the company even being founded. If there was a Google type of venture at the stage that it was when it got its first round of funding I wonder if there is a VC or Angel in India who would bet on it at reasonable valuation.

Ecosystem – Engineering: Bengaluru and other cities like Pune and Chennai has capability to build technology products. Then again with outsourcing industry sucking away most of the top notch engineering talent makes me wonder what is available.

Ecosystem – Distribution channel – Even if due to some miracle a ventures in India covers all of the points above this I believe is the secret sauce which only the US can offer.

Let me elaborate: I believe the greatest export of America is not computers or fast food or movies. The greatest of all its expert is a lifestyle that is aspirational across the globe. Not that I am saying everyone on the planet wants to be like American. All I am saying is that there is no other country or lifestyle which has found as many takers as American. Reminds me or an article I read recently said people who talk about lack of culture in America do so wearing Levis jeans, Nike shoes using iPhones/iPads sipping diet Coke. If one manages to sell a lifestyle selling everything that is seen as a support to that the lifestyle sells by itself.

So when Google launched its service in the US in the university it was other students and others who shared it with people they knew which is across the world. Look at any example of a technology business that has its roots in the US, once it’s accepted in the US it’s only a matter of time.

This is something no other country can boast of having. This is a secret sauce impossible to replicate.

So the question should be: Could any other country other than the US build a Google? The answer still is no.

7 thoughts on “Could India produce a Google or Apple or Amazon? The answer is no.

  1. Very well analyzed & thought for IT brains….Asians are good in copying what pplin US do. U-SA Innovate Asians Copy :)  It would take a lot more time (generation) for copying CATS to make their own KITTENS….

    1. Many thanks Murali.

      I agree.

      IMHO innovation reflects the state of mind i.e. kittens (whenever they appear) in India and other countries would be mostly regional or with regional impact. Google requires different state of mind and even if someone did have the required state of mind the venture would not live long enough to evolve.

  2. Nice one..should spur many a thought..Its got not only to do with the thought process but the environment..evironment right from schooling days and kids are allowed to express their thoughts openly and clearly..but the very thought that there is a debate raging if India produce a google is encouraging and it should be a matter of time ….

    1. Many thanks for stopping by Ravi.

      There have been discussion in the past about India producing a Microsoft or Oracle. Those names have been updated with the more happening companies :-)

      1. Not a long way to go Sanjay..look at the changes happening or that have happened in the last 12/13 years. Another 10 years, we will be there mark my word.

        The first automated restaurant has been launched in Chennai.. This may not be the first one in the world but we will get there.

  3. Dear Sanjay,

    Thanks for the thought provoking question.

    To answer the question if India can produce a Google or Apple or Amazon we must first understand the environment required for ground breaking innovation to occur. I will only cover a couple of key factors.

    Historically the belief by many especially in the western world and as recorded in western history and economics books that modern ground breaking ‘innovation’ is a product of the fertile western mind has been accepted by most intellectuals and educated classes in most countries until recently. Still many do. They may not be apologists of such thinking but take pride in their ability to ‘innovate’ and see innovation as a natural adjunct to their culture and traditions with little or no contradiction or threat to their way of life. If anything many would quite confidently assert that innovation in the west to a very large measure is a result of the western cultural, religious, social and intellectual foundations and not the other way around. Although Christianity was antithetical to modern western democracy until the state demolished the absolute power of the Church, the reconciliation of these two powerful forces engendered a culture of free thought, independence, thirst for knowledge and a spirit of enquiry. This significantly accelerated ‘adventures’ in science, formal or informal, and advancement in technology.

    Generally for a nation or a group of people or any socio-economic-cultural identity to engender new ways of doing things it must have the following prerequisites:

    • A stable and a vibrant democracy with free speech guaranteed to all its residents. There are many nations or countries where modern democracy operates. However, Legal or political guarantees alone cannot guarantee advancement in various spheres of human life. This is a just the first pre-condition. The culture of free speech and scientific enquiry must permeate every aspect of a nation’s life – family, work, social-political organisation, schools and universities. A country or an organisation that lives in the past is less tolerant to challenges to its status quo. An authoritarian or a totalitarian state does not tolerate dissent in any form. However, a democratic people must always be vigilant to ‘freezing’ innovations because as genius turns to common sense, common sense could turn to prejudice. Why do some people buy digital phone? Because they cannot buy a rotary phone. Every change requires leaving an existing place and leaving something behind and arriving at a new place. Henry Ford was so convinced about the soundness of his T Model that every attempt to improve this model or build a new more advanced model met with Ford’s disapproval and resistance for a long time. He was forced to develop a new model only after a protracted battle with his advisors and his son. Ford became irrelevant to the car industry even as his new model was being rolled out of his factory.

    • If innovation has to happen in organizations, empower managers to make their own decisions and reward employees with new ideas. A manager who takes no risk, makes no decisions, makes no changes makes no mistakes and hence there is no progress leave alone innovation. Breakthrough solutions are possible only if managers and employees work in an environment of open dialogue and continuous feedback. Some of the best innovations in the western world were an offshoot of ‘Innovation Time Off’, a portion of normal working hours set aside to think and dream big on anything. Examples include Gmail, Google Map, GUI, multi-screen touch, dropdown menus, etc. Many of the ground breaking ideas happened not in formal settings such as labs and seminars, class rooms, but during informal chats, in meetings when mistakes were shared, in coffee shops, etc.

    Are the above conditions present in the eastern countries in general and India in particular? Can they engender ground breaking innovations that can transform our way of lives such as Google, Amazon.com, GPS, manned flight to moon, etc. and in the future fusion nuclear power, manned mission to mars, medical cures for incurable diseases, etc. Availability of resources, existence of universities and a large educated class is no guarantee of breakthrough innovations. The foundations of innovations are true modern democracies, societies that nurture individual freedom of thought and expression within the family, social and political organisations, organisations in which managers are empowered to make their decisions, and have the ability to turn difficult conversations and dissent into an engine for innovation.

    Can India’s primary focus on making the most of their existing technologies and markets lead to breakthrough innovations? Are our youth primarily interested in obtaining a professional degree if possible, get a good job preferably for life, get married, have children and take care of their aging parents, work in organisations where managers need their managers to make decisions for them? Are we ready to allow the Indian child to climb that ladder that is against the wall or tell the child that it is too risky to do so even under the supervision of adults?

    Can India then produce a Google or Apple or Amazon? The answer lies in responses to the above questions and fulfilling certain fundamentals.

    1. Dear Dr Benny,

      Many thanks for stopping by. I sincerely appreciate the effort in sharing your views.
      The core of my hypothesis rests on what I call “the secret sauce” is the American life style which has most acceptance across the globe. It is this mechanism which makes such ventures possible. Unfortunately India does not have that hence even if one manages to set up such a venture, it has to be made acceptable to the audience in the US to increase its probability of winning.

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