The Indian opening scene has received considerable impetus in recent years due to the specific policy interventions of the government. This focused effort will help emerging entrepreneurs create a strong ecosystem for their ideas to flee. Famous startup hubs like Silicon Valley, Boston-Cambridge, Seattle, Virginia Tech Corridor are the envy of the US world. Many companies in the US are looking at ways to partner with Indian companies and startups for mutual success. Such programs will set a new, deeper stage of US-India trade relations in the future — without burdening the distances and tensions of the past.
Indian entrepreneurs have suffered from generations of neglect, yet have succeeded. Perhaps this is related to Gurcharan Das’ famous book, “India Grows at Night” – neglected as a better approach to success than the deliberate attention of policy makers. However, smart policy intervention by government agencies is an additive for entrepreneurs and government policy promotes ecosystem development. Using the annual budget speech as a proxy for government budget priorities, entrepreneurs received less attention during the Vajpayee and Singh governments.
The US has many world-leading geo-ecosystems, and these early ecosystems have built-in connectivity with India. There are important programs that connect key US startup players with Indian rivals. For example, the India Innovation Growth Program, run by Lockheed Martin, Tata Trusts and the Department of Indian Science and Technology, helps improve the skills of good entrepreneurs. Another high example is the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum, hosted by the US State Department and the India Department of Science and Technology. The third such event is the Nexus Incubator in Delhi, Delhi, organized by the University of Texas-Austin in partnership with the US State Department.
Such programs should be expanded and replicated. In the coming years, the two governments should consider creating a high-level platform to look at ways to increase such partnerships. There are natural complements, but engaging India’s startups also has significant long-term benefits for our overall partnership.
First, let’s look at our complements.
Incubator / Accelerator Development: India’s new startup programs are trying jump-start efforts to design accelerators and incubators to help young companies grow; However, there is no in-depth bench in India of experienced managers for this type of activity.
Access to capital: This is an area of true US expertise. India needs to expand access to capital; U.S. investors are hungry for high-growth companies.
Guidance: Mentorship is a key part of an entrepreneur’s journey. If successful members of the Indian diaspora as entrepreneurs have the opportunity to work with entrepreneurs from their homeland, they can create easy channels to engage in.
In fact, having the capacity to help India maintain a more efficient startup ecosystem is not enough to involve at the senior levels. There are also very critical strategic reasons for expanding our innovation connections. In addition to:
Cooperation in other developing countries: Many developing countries share India’s obstacles in providing basic public services. Indian entrepreneurs are constantly developing new products and services that will improve their livelihood. Such innovations should be taken to other countries that need help.
Improving livelihoods in the US: India’s “thrift innovation” climate provides important products and services that are applicable back here in the United States. Staying away from Indian innovations is a crucial platform to improve the lives of Americans.
A Bridge for India’s Future Leaders: India’s strong compounds are too slow to adapt to trade and competition. Their impact on policy making today is exhibiting a real headache in US-India trade relations as a whole. But Indian entrepreneurs are likely to back off against competition and other attempts to stem the flow of data and preserve the old order.
Many countries have tried to emulate the success of American innovation hubs such as Silicon Valley. Calculating the exact mix of policies, organizations and social values is difficult but not impossible. Talent is evident in India, and the everyday obstacles people face become opportunities for innovation. The US has individuals and organizations that are already playing important roles in helping India’s early ecosystems. Policymakers can extend successes with the right focus and hire such partners to broaden the effort. Labor is paid over time. Connecting innovators is crucial to transforming our trade relationship from a conflict zone to a world-class success zone.
(Richard M. Rosso Wadhwani Chair at US Center for Policy Studies, The Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC.)