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It's time for start-ups to focus on India's real problems to be disruptive

Raghu Krishnan/Bengaluru 12 Oct 17 | 03:21 PM

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India has an abundance of problems that have not been solved by any organisation globally and start-ups need to capitalise on this to be truly disruptive globally.

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There might be some truth in Ratan Tata saying that Indian Internet ecosystem has only a few disruptive companies compared to the West. 

It is a low hanging fruit for entrepreneurs to mirror successful business models from other markets and fine tune them for India. This obviously works and there is plenty of money in such businesses. But it is also open to competition from companies who disrupted similar models globally.

More than a decade ago, Google’s entry into India killed a local search engine Guruji in no time due to its superior technology. Now, firms such as Flipkart and Ola are able to compete with Amazon and Uber because they have sufficient venture capital backing. It will be a fight till the last man stands and there is no clear winner yet in this game.

ALSO READ: Niti Aayog working on digital transformation index for start-ups

The bigger opportunity, however, lies in nurturing start-ups similar to what Tata has backed  Team Indus, a Bengaluru based start-up that is looking to land and drive a rover on the moon, take images and send it back to earth. So far, there is no private firm that has landed on the earth’s satellite and if Team Indus achieves the feat, it will be disruptive.

With this, it will also gain expertise in systems engineering to build satellites and spacecraft that very few countries and companies possess. This also could revive a new generation of local engineering talent that Bengaluru lost to the software services boom since the late 1990’s.

Take MedGenome, a Bengaluru-genomics start-up which is the only Indian company in the GenomeAsia 100K initiative that is looking to sequence 100,000 genomes in South, North and East Asia. Once this is completed, it will have a database of genome sequence for the Indian population, helping planners and drug makers to discover drugs to cure specific diseases that is unique to this population. MedGenome is already thinking of itself as a data company.

ALSO READ: Identify the game changers: Lessons for start-ups from HBO's Silicon Valley

While there are definitely competitors to such start-ups across the world, the work they are currently pursuing is at par with global counterparts.

India lags behind other nations in search engine, e-commerce and ride-hailing. As a country, we, however, need to push ourselves in areas such as AI, Machine learning, neural networks, genomics and bioscience.

There is an opportunity in using the population data of India to build unique solutions, using artificial intelligence and machine learning. The IndiaStack is a good experiment to bring in more people into banking and eventually into the formal economy.

India also needs to encouragement disruptive start-ups further. Our Universities need to improve their academic rigour, publish more papers and recognise individuals who have ideas to translate their ideas into products.

“We must create an environment where (an individual) can be motivated here (in India) and that requires a community of investors, capitalists who take risks... Then you'll get those (globally successful results) here too. It cannot be a typical, bankable project. It has to be risk-bearing and there will be failures. The failures themselves will be lessons leading to successes." said Tata according to Economic Times.

ALSO READ: Looking to fund your start-up? Here are 10 most active investors in India

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