Can India produce the next Microsoft Corp., Adobe Systems Inc. or traffic app-maker Waze? Some Silicon Valley investors think so.
This week, the Silicon Valley chapter of an entrepreneurship trade body launched a program to identify Indian companies that are making technology products for a global audience and can be developed into billion-dollar companies.
The program ultimately aims to “shine a spotlight on India as a great source of…the next generation of product companies,” said Raju Reddy, a board member at Hitachi Consulting Corp., at an event to launch the program in Mumbai.
Some industry experts see this as the start of a new phase for India’s technology industry, which first gained global attention in the nineties, thanks to outsourcing companies like Infosys Ltd., Wipro Ltd. and Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. These companies have grown rapidly over the last two decades, mainly on the back of their ability to provide programming and other information technology-related services to companies mainly in the U.S. and Europe.
But India hasn’t yet produced big companies which make technology products, like software maker Microsoft or Israeli traffic navigation app-maker Waze, which was bought by Google Inc. last year for around $1 billion. Waze uses GPS information to map traffic flow on roads, and provide drivers with better routes.
Now, The Indus Entrepreneurs or TiE, aims to tap the huge presence of people of Indian origin in major technology firms in the U.S., to help nurture Indian product technology startups into the billion-dollar or “unicorn club”, as techies call it. TiE is a non-profit network made up mostly of tech entrepreneurs and professionals
To begin with, TiE has picked three companies which it believes have the ability to go global. These Indian companies will be given office space and other support to build their business in the U.S. One of the company’s founders will be required to move to Silicon Valley for a few months, and will be mentored by executives of Indian origin from companies like SAP SE, Microsoft, and Salesforce Inc.
The first crop of companies to be included in this program are Pune-based Sokrati Technologies Pvt. Ltd.,, whose algorithms help companies optimize the money they spend on digital marketing, as well as Mumbai-based security software-maker Seclore Technology Pvt. Ltd., and Noida-based Vinculum Solutions Pvt. Ltd., whose software helps ecommerce firms fulfil their sales requirements.
These companies already have clients in India but have in recent years been increasingly selling their software to companies overseas. Sokrati, for instance, now gets nearly a third of its business from outside India versus just 10% a year-and-a-half ago, according to Mr. Reddy of Hitachi.
Selcore says governments in nine countries use its products to protect their national secrets, and expects that the TiE program will help open doors for its growth. “The India technology community in the U.S. is pretty strong and fairly well-connected,” said Abhijit Tannu, co-founder of Seclore.
Mr. Tannu drew a comparison to Israel, which also has an influential diaspora that has helped Israeli software makers gain a strong foothold in the U.S.
“If Israel can do this, with just eight million people, why we do it? I think it’s a pride issue,” said B.V. Jagadeesh, managing partner at venture capital firm KAAJ Ventures, who is involved in the TiE program. He said it was a matter of pride for India to build global firms when countries with smaller populations such as Israel can launch companies like Waze.
Mr. Jagadeesh said that half of the companies that are founded and funded in Silicon Valley are founded by Indian entrepreneurs, which shows the knowledge and expertise in India. He said the timing of the TiE program comes at a time when entrepreneurs in India want to do more than just create outsourcing firms.