Monday, January 19, 2009

State of Innovation 2009 : Big Change to the Risk vs. Reward Equation

The fundamental issue in India is the risk/reward equation. It is simply too easy for a young developer in India to get paid a lot by an outsourcing firm; then enjoy being headhunted every year for more money. Those of us old enough to see a cycle or two, can see the parallels between Silicon Valley 1999 and Bangalore 2007, when just being able to spell the words of a popular programming language on a resume meant fame and fortune. It is possible that when this comes back to some reality, the motivation to innovate will come to young Indian developers (yes, young; breakthrough technical innovation tends to come from people under 30).

Three kids working together, living at home, with free food and bandwidth, can change the world.

This has changed, thanks to the global financial crisis. The big outsourcing firms have hiring freezes, and some firms are laying off. "Big" no longer means "safe." Parents in India will need a while to accept this new reality. In America, many parents would advise their kids to go for start-ups when they are young and can afford to take a risk. In India, all the parents have to do is say "Yes" when their bright kid, who is no longer working for a big outsourcing firm, asks to live at home for a year with free food and bandwidth.

This is a big change. But it is a below-the-radar change. We cannot see the impact yet. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of young developers will do this in India now. Most will not create a great start-up but will just keep their skills fresh and add to their CV. But one or two will do something totally awesome. The class of 2008/2009 maybe the best ever. Let's see.

The innovation we are already seeing in the market today has been despite these and all the other hurdles faced by entrepreneurs everywhere.


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