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Why there is no WhatsApp from India yet

Monday, 24 February 2014 - 6:00am IST | Place: Bangaloe | Agency: DNA

India produces 1.5 million engineering graduate a year, but when it comes to creativity, imagination and guts they all fall behind the wacky, outrageous minds that work in the computer application field in the US.

There are many Indian who work in cutting edge technology in the US, but in India they all stagnate or got sucked into corporate bureaucracy or get lost in the ennui of routine.

There is still a long way before we could see a Facebook or Twitter, or WhatsApp or Snapchat emerging out of India, say experts.

"Most Indian engineers lack the innate ability to take risks. This is a barrier to innovation," Shekhar Sanyal, director and country head, Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) India, a professional society for engineers, says.

Indians are mostly conditioned to move into the traditional path of college, job and marriage. "Though now we are seeing startups, there is still not enough risk taking ability amongst our talent. Till there is an attitudinal change, nothing much can be expected," says Sanyal.

To generate ripples globally, innovators should think big. The idea should address the needs of a boundary less audience across age groups. Classic case is that of Blackberry's BBM versus WhatsApp. "Though BBM is a much better technology, WhatsApp did better since it is accessible to all and sundry," says Sriram Kannan, founder of Nivaata Systems, which started Verayu, the solution that works without a GPS device and lets you track locations.

Like the US, which built Google and Facebook; China created platforms like Alibaba and Baidu that operate in their own language, and have progressed to become big.

"And like China, India has the advantage of a large population base, which means big user base, and its own languages. Maybe solutions that allow consumers to communicate in any Indian language can become a hit," says Mohandas Pai, chairman, Manipal Global Education.

After the attitude and thinking has been corrected; there needs correction in the course curriculum in institutes.

Great brains might bring out great products, but if there is no marketing prowess, the great solution can pass out of sight.

"Simply bringing out a great engineering product is not the end. Much more is required in terms of understanding customer needs, marketing the product. This sort of knowledge our engineers don't have," says
Pai.

"The ecosystem here is not mature," says Kannan, from Nivaata Systems. Though efforts are on by associations like Nasscom, Microsoft Accelerator etc to beef up the ecosystem by providing infrastructure,
access to technology, mentoring and funding for early stage innovators, a lot still remains to be done.

Getting a place to operate from, to getting low-cost infrastructure and technology, to getting funding is a big headache for most entrepreneurs, says Sijo Kuruvilla, CEO, Startup Village, Kochi. "Hence several ideas fail to take off in the early stages and collapse before they can even see success. For a country the size of ours, more

channels are needed to provide hand-holding support for innovators."

And if all these metrics are in place, an idea can go on to garner a large user base, thereby making it attractive for the likes of Twitter and Facebook to consider a buyout.


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