Creating an ecosystem for challenging entrepreneurship

This City was founded as a garrison town by the British. It became a retiree’s paradise by 1950. The government then set up a large number of defence enterprises, and R&D laboratories attracted by the availability of talent, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), a cosmopolitan culture and the distance from the borders.

This led to the flowering of educational institutions nurtured by benevolent government policies. Bangalore was essentially a middle-class town dominated by the government and the public sector with focus on higher education but without a dominant business class.

Then came the information technology (IT) industry and the magic unfolded. The IT industry set up roots here attracted by high quality talent, research labs, good policies, a welcoming attitude to the outsider, good climate and a place where the educated got respect. Suddenly, Bangalore was networked into a global phenomenon, the rise of technology as a predominant aspect of our lives.

Jobs were aplenty, compensation attractive, global travel and working the norms. The new Heroes were entrepreneurs from the middle-class like a Narayana Murthy who demonstrated that wealth can be created ethically, that government licences and quotas were not needed, management of government need not be a big determinant of success and that the middle-class with no capital but great talent could become entrepreneurs and succeed.

Risk-taking became acceptable to the middle-class, driven by stock option schemes and high growth of their employers which resulted in self-belief and confidence. A new generation of entrepreneurs emerged, confident, secure in its talent, unafraid of failure and above all innovative and bursting with ideas. Today, Bangalore has more than 3,000 young companies, founded and run by first time entrepreneurs, with very young extremely talented employees, globally networked in a system which has over 6,50,000 people working in technology, the second largest in the world next to sunny California.

Nutured talents
Along with these entrepreneurs grew an ecosystem which nurtured entrepreneurs, the providers of risk capital-angel investors, venture capitalists, private equity providers, mentors and sounding boards for ideas, lawyers, accountants, networks and the like, all linked together in search of the next great idea which would change the world.  If one were to step back and look over the last 20 years, it is indeed an amazing transformation, one with few parallels in the world.

It caused the then Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Bangalore and invite our entrepreneurs to create a Bangalore in Russia, Presidents of the United States to point to the networked computer savvy children of Bangalore as role models for their own children, global leaders to visit and try to create a Bangalore in their own countries.

It also caused India and Indians to believe in themselves and dream of a much better life, it caused a huge subcontinent to assert itself and seek its rightful place globally. Of course, this huge growth and wealth had its impact on the City. Dear sleepy Bangalore was unable to cope with all this growth and wealth, it’s infrastructure breaking down, governed by old power structures, giving us daily traffic jams.

So we see a lot of pain around, nostalgia for those times when we could walk calmly on our streets, go on our bicycles, not use fans in summer and generally have a leisurely quality of life. Sadly, Bangalore has lost its innocence and charm, growing up too fast with all the headaches of a big city, but then I guess you cannot have it all.

The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) and other networks took this message, of entrepreneurs as agents of massive change, globally and created events where this spirit could be celebrated so that it becomes a shining example for our young citizens to follow. The forthcoming TiE Entrepreneurship Summit would further the cause of entrepreneurship and inspire many more to join the ranks of entrepreneurs, who dream of a new world, where ideas dominate, where the spirits soar, where they create great wealth for all and have great fun in so doing!

(The writer is Chairman, Manipal Global Education Services P Ltd and also Mentor, TiE Bangalore)

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