There are just great entrepreneurs. There is no ecosystem yet!
NCR has produced more public tech companies than any other city.
NCR and Mumbai have the best infrastructure (roads) and public transportation than most of the other startup hubs.
So what’s the challenge with NCR startup ecosystem?
Let’s get out the obvious one, which is Delhi Vs. Noida Vs. Gurgaon divide.
And the trio shall never meet!
But beyond the obvious, here is what I have observed (and feel free to chip in) from my experience of staying in Delhi and of course, interacting with several NCR startups.
Lack of common Coffee Joints
In Bangalore, every entrepreneur has his/her fav coffee joint where they meet others. And then, there are some coffee joints where everybody meets everybody else.
For instance, I work from Costa Coffee (Koramangala) almost 8-10 hours a week. And there are others who are almost permanent members (extended office) of this coffee joint. So, you bump into several folks without any specific agenda!
And that’s when you have more fun conversation!
I end up meeting a whole lot of entrepreneurs/investors just by the virtue of being at some of these coffee joints.
Sadly, there aren’t too many such places in NCR. Everybody wants to meet at office which is extremely formal and uninteresting (i don’t want to use the word boring).
These common coffee joints really help in having great conversations, serendipity meetings and informal chats; which eventually builds connects/communities and conversations.
Lack of Peer Connects
Entrepreneurship is a lonely journey.
In India, everything takes a while to happen and if you are building anything deep in technology, your GTM/acceptance/launch is extremely overstretched.
And you really need like-minded peers to connect with/talk/share when you are down. That’s a bit challenging in NCR (Noida has certain pockets).
Of course distance adds to it, but lack of common emotional connects about ‘(product) entrepreneurship as a way of life’ inhibits these discussions. And that’s why companies move to Bangalore – where the ecosystem is bubbling up (of course, there is noise!).
Let’s Talk Events
My 2 cents : The quality of discussions / content needs massive improvement.
Most of the events in Delhi are all about networking. ONLY networking.
Of course, there is a reason for that as most of these events are heavily focused on business connections and networking / card exchange is one of the most important element of it.
The sad truth is that big names and fluffy content drives the events in NCR -this inhibits the serious ones to participate in such forums (think of it as a GIGO* intent model).
The serious ones again go back to their shell – because the other serious ones aren’t there too!
And of course, everybody wants a speaking slot!! :)
Driven by Big Names. Always.
Look at some of the startup events – same speakers talking same content for last 5 years! They are all big names. Infact, I can jot down the agenda of these ‘Internet Conference of 2015 right away (and in some cases, presentation content as well!).
Look at UnPluggd : not too many big names, but the audience doesn’t mind that. Heck! Sachin Bansal/Phani talked in 2009 edition of UnPluggd when they weren’t close to what they are today.
What amazes me is that some our speakers who came from NCR were never invited to any startup events in NCR! The local heroes are still the ones from 90s.
In general, there is an acceptance of great content and great thoughts in Bangalore- and I have noticed that Bangalore is more receptive to great ideas without getting into ‘kitna deti hai’ questions.
Like Attracts Like. Creates DisLikes.
There are a great number of services companies in NCR and you’ll find them mostly in sales mode at all these events. That doesn’t go well with product entrepreneurs. None of the event organizers in NCR filter such attendees or even attempt to curate these.
Some of the great product entrepreneurs in NCR I know of have stopped attending most of these events – they have a blanket approach to events now. And if they attend, it’s only because of free booze (i.e. wrong intent).
And One More Thing [Plus, A Call For City Champions]
Let me tell you how it all started in Bangalore. The initial wave was of Barcamps and these unconferences got great support from Bangalore based technology companies (Yahoo/SAP etc). Finding an event venue was so easy that the next bet was to crack great content!
You see, the friction to create communities was much lesser. Just to share, UnPluggd’s first edition was held in Qualcomm office (Bannerghatta road)!!
Support from these companies really helped reduce the friction to create common meeting joints / explore topics together and essentially, create more collaborative, conversational and fun culture.
The same is happening in Pune (Persistent Systems)/Chennai – but I really don’t see this taking shape in NCR.
Sometimes, entrepreneurs just want to have great discussions (around recent development/tech trends) and fixing logistics is the last they want to focus on.
There is no dearth of great companies in NCR – right from MNCs like Adobe to successful Indian Internet companies like Naukri/MMT/Paytm/Indiamart/ TimesInternet/ etc.
Most of them look at these events with a RoI lens (does this help in hiring?) and not from a community point-of-view.
They support/offer venue for a hackathon because they are hiring and NOT because they think it’s cool. And that needs to seriously change!
NCR needs more champions that support these initiatives for the love of it.
What Bangalore Entrepreneurs Can Learn From NCR?
Bangalore startups (and people in general) are a bit easy-going (thanks to the nice weather) and definitely need to be more cut-throat and think $$$s more often than NOT.
Bangalore entrepreneurs, SHOUT WITH ME : MAKING MONEY IS NOT BAD.
AND : STARTING UP WILL NOT GET YOU LAID. STARTUPS ARE NOT THAT COOL.
What NCR Entrepeneurs can learn from Bangalore
Not all great businesses need to be transactional from day one. Agree that NCR is full of businessmen (entrepreneurship isn’t a WOW word there and that’s just fine!), but most of NCR startups are about classifieds and commerce business (marriage/job/sell-apparels etc) – i.e. transactional from day one.
While it definitely works for them (Zomato monetized its product very early on, while competition was happily living in web2.0 world), the other truth is that it’s difficult to build a long term product/platform business from NCR due to lack of supporting ecosystem and peer culture. And that’s why most of these entrepreneurs move to Bangalore which offers a great technology culture (+ startup noise).
And having said that, proximity to customers (telecom/media outlets) is a huge win for NCR.
Note to NCR Entrepreneurs : SOMETIMES, PRODUCT FIRST : MONETIZATION LATER.
And Now, A Quick Summary [Why So Serious!]
Silicon Valley Startups (esp those who do not make money).
IN Making Money
NOT Making Money
ATTEND EVENTS, BECAUSE?
To Learn and Network.
To Network and Network.
INTERACTION WITH REAL WORLD
Only on Emails and Social Media.
Everybody talks code, databases and client calls even when drunk!
All over the streets. Most probably, your neighbor isn’t in same industry as yours.
LOVE IS IN?
Free Wifi :)
PS : If you are somebody who feels passionate about making NCR the business hub (tech + sales), would definitely love to chat (firstname.lastname@example.org).
[With Inputs from Avinash Raghava. Image credit : shutterstock]
* GIGO : Garbage-in-Garbage-out.
Aside, an interesting observation between Delhi and Bangalore police.