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.
- 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.