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‘Recession not a bad thing for India’

Believe me,the ongoing downturn isn’t a bad thing to happen to India’s IT sector. It is in fact,quite good.

Written by Dinker Vashisht | Chandigarh |
February 14, 2009 2:48:32 am

Entrepreneurship is the key,says well-known technocrat and venture capitalist Kanwal Rekhi

“Believe me,the ongoing downturn isn’t a bad thing to happen to India’s IT sector. It is in fact,quite good.” In the present gloomy scenario,any such observation would have been dismissed as unsympathetic and plain stupid. But since it came from Kanwal Rekhi,the famous IIT-Mumbai alumnus,venture capitalist and software engineer who along with Vinod Dham is regarded as the stormy petrel of India’s IT domination in California’s Silicon Valley,everyone at the function hosted by The Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE) in Chandigarh on Friday listened intently.

And sure,64-year-old Rekhi,a venerable philanthropist and entrepreneur,offered solid reasons to substantiate his comment. “Tell me what is common between Google,Apple,Microsoft,Sun Microsystems and Cisco? All were started during downturn. It is recession which shakes us out of our comfort zone and makes us do something big. For a long time,India has been a service provider in the field of IT,but if we really need to be counted we need to come up with solid ideas and entrepreneurs,” he said.

Rekhi was hinting at the glaring lacunae in India’s software success. A lot of experts have pointed out that for all the claims of its software prowess,India’s record in new product development is abysmal. “The reason why Indians were started to be taken seriously in the Silicon Valley in the 1990s is because we started producing entrepreneurs and some of our technocrats were part of teams that developed new products,” he said.

A striking parallel of Rekhi’s observation can be found in the Indian context. In the dot-com bust of 2000,when a lot of website start-ups vanished,the companies that had sound business plans thrived and became big names. Two prominent examples are naukri.com and shaadi.com.

But then,it may be a factor of circumstances also. Does the Indian system provide the sort of encouragement,which led people like Sergei Brin (Google),Steve Jobs (Apple) and Bill Gates (Microsoft) to set up their legendary firms? Rekhi said: “Adversity is suitable for new ideas. Why are Punjabis regarded as good entrepreneurs? In 1947,we were displaced and that forced us to think afresh. We had to make the best of what we had and the spirit of entrepreneurship was born. So I don’t see any reason why systemic inefficiencies could hamper our growth.”

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