The IndianStartupReport by WorldStartupReport is….Meh

When a super smart entrepreneur who sold his startup to Linkedin decided to do us all a giant favor by bringing out the Indian startup report, boy we were excited. Bowei Gai’s India startup report was published today. indianstartupreport While the report is a great resource for people who know very little about the Indian startup ecosystem, for anyone who has been anywhere near (even a few lightyears) connected to the Indian startup scene, most of it is common knowledge.

 Lets take some of the highlights from the slideshow/PR one at a time.

India’s level of competition is low given its relative market size which is hurting the development of the startup ecosystem. Gai believes this is a result of entrepreneurs having a bad stigma in Indian culture. 

The stigma exists – depending on who you talk to. It is also a gross generalization to lump it all into the so called “Indian culture”. There isn’t any bad stigma being an entrepreneur in India anymore. For a country of traders for ages, was there ever, outside a narrow middle class seeking jobs over the last couple of generations alone? Certain communities in India are highly entrepreneurial and certain are not. For instance, if you were born in a Marwari family, you’d be frowned upon if you weren’t in business by the age of 13. But yes, if you were born in a South Indian family of office goers, you’d find a few a few detractors for sure.

“Finding talented engineers can be a struggle. Although India graduates over 1M engineers a year, the best leave the profession to chase management roles with higher paychecks.”

This is stating the obvious. Its something that many startup founders in India cry about. This is also true. Part of the problems lies in uninspiring ideas and novice founders who find selling shoelaces on the Internet still exciting. The others you won’t hear about in reports until they raise multi million dollar rounds of funding are quietly building businesses.

Question to the team: Were you too dependent on Google god for such facts about Indian startup ecosystem?

Certain startups are solving infrastructure problems faster than the government! Flipkart for example, created its own nationwide delivery service in order to create a functional e-commerce business. Think about building USPS from the ground up. Gai believes, “in countries like China and Chile, startup ecosystems are thriving because of new government policies, in India they grow in spite of it. 

This is the most cliched part of the report. Its small talk you pick up in corporate waiting lobbies (or loos). Just go to Google and do a search for Indian grows inspite of the Government. You’d be surprised how many people have said this before. It isn’t completely true though. The Government has played a big role in making India the country which exports over $70 bn worth of software services by creating schemes like the Software Technology Parks of India. It has also had large innovation funds to help startups. Special economic zones and SME incentives have also been around for a while. New startup policies are being made by states and incentive schemes are being rolled out.

The least (and we say, LEAST) that report should have looked into was the recent budget 2013 announcement. Angel Investments have been granted ‘pass through’ by SEBI and Startups & MSMEs can now list in SME exchanges without a need to go for IPO. 

Gai, and Asia-focused investor Benjamin Joffe, see billion dollar opportunities remaining in mobile, organized retail, infrastructure and bringing 70% of the population out of extreme poverty. 

Of course! Tell us something more interesting!! To start off, let’s talk eCPM rates in India?

Too Anecdotal

If not for the fact that the report has been sponsored by LinkedIn and others, we wouldn’t have questioned this, but saying that ‘Indians are content despite difficult conditions’ is totally lame. Why? Indian stands at #32 as far as ‘Happy Planet Index’ is concerned. Not that we care about an index like that, but it’s important to look at relevant macro data than give-in to anecdotes (and happy faces around you).


#1: As per the report, 41% entrepreneurs reside in Bangalore.

Yes. If you add ‘Entrepreneurs who wear blue underwear on Thursdays’, the data might be correct. That is, ‘Whatever’.

And add to that, 33% are ecommerce? It can’t get arbit than this, as most of these WERE NOT even serious startups.

Well, the above two data points are from Microsoft Accelerators which is ONLY present in Bangalore – so isn’t it likely that Bangalore based startups will rule the charts? Plus, Microsoft’s Azure platform will be mostly useful for Ecommerce/SAAS plays, so isn’t it likely that ecommerce will rule the charts?


Leaving alone the typeos in the report, here are some obvious data mistakes:

#2: Snapdeal is NOT a groupon model anymore. They pivoted way back in mid-2012.

#3: Mint *alternative* is FutureWise? Really? They are still in closed beta!! (no offence to the team – they are smart dudes).

#4: AirBnB’s India alternative is AirBnb? Maybe, yes. But Oravel also exists, raised funding (and they are NOT in closed beta)!

#5: The report failed to find an alternative for TaskRabbit in India. We have profiled atleast 4 (TaskAroundMe, Chachii, TimesAverz and Viyanta.) of them just in the last 6 months(and again, they are NOT in closed beta).

The Missing point?

No mention of India’s SAAS/B2B growth/userbase culture. The team should have spent 6.07 minutes (the 42 page report starts with ‘15 minutes of guide’, so..6.07 for 17 page report :0 ) reading this data that we gathered in December 2012 (India Internet 2012: What World’s third largest Internet Population is like).


What are we trying to say?

 The report states the obvious while positioned as ‘a global report’ and does NOT even attempts to dig the true picture. It talks of trends that are visible from 10,000 ft above the sea level.

Maybe, the report should be called ‘101 on Indian Startups’ or a ‘Tourist guide to Indian startups’, but for sure it doesn’t do a justice to the growing ecosystem in India.

No offense to the WorldStartupReport team (they certainly have taken up a big hairy audacious challenge and have a huge respect for them), but they should have researched more. Anecdotes are fine, but one has to bring in more relevant context, join the dots around the anecdotes and build a framework/perspective around the data.

And for those of us in India – we just have to believe we – who live and breathe here everyday – know and understand the country better, and will be able to create models and serve its markets better without continuing to look at acknowledgement, gyaan and insights even if its from capable, high profile visitors – who are themselves trying to come to grips with a very different reality and at best “skimming it” through conversations, the internet and the odd whirlwind tour.

The NextBigWhat? We will share very soon.