Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt was in Delhi on Wednesday. After meeting President Pranab Mukherji, he launched Nasscom's 10,000 Startups Program amidst much fanfare. Nasscom, the Indian software industry's lobby, will partner with angel investor groups such as IAN, Mumbai Angels and startup accelerators such as The Hatch, Morpheus and Venture Nursery to mentor startups and provide seed funding. Nasscom's aim is to launch India among the top 10 entrepreneurial and innovation economies of the world. On stage, Schmidt spoke with executives from four Indian startups: Mobstac, Ezetap, Skill Kindle and Practo. Taslima Khan presents some edited snippets of what Schmidt said through the conversation:
Q. On why startup companies find it difficult to scale up.
A. Startups should not accept a limited view of what they want to do. Then only will you be able to build systems that are likely to scale. Having the right technical people is critical to any startup.
Q. On whether he envisioned what Google would achieve.
A. No, I certainly did not. I believe luck is important. The problem is that most people underestimate the opportunity in what they are doing. Look at mobile payments. Do all startups know the size of the opportunity?
Q. On interesting opportunities Indian entrepreneurs can look at.
A. India dominated the BPO industry for many, many years. Now, the opportunity is in the internet. Yet, broadband penetration is very poor, just 10 per cent. Imagine if in the next five to six years, 600 million to 800 million people come on to the internet and start using internet based services such as e-commerce and healthcare. That's the opportunity. I see that the government is quite serious about the opportunity. There is massive demand and enough competition between telcos here. YouTube is doing very well in India, even with terrible bandwidth.
Q. On what needs to be done to make India comparable to Silicon Valley.
A. Forty per cent of the startups in Silicon Valley are headed by India-based entrepreneurs. Without prejudice, the IITs might be a great hub for startup talent. The next thing is money. You need more VCs to understand this opportunity. The government needs to look at every barrier to innovation and remove it. India needs jobs. They will come from startups.
Q. On the next big thing.
A. In the near future, the next big thing is mobile. It was the same in the near past as well. (laughs). There are hundreds and millions out there who will use internet first on mobile. If you are not going with mobile apps for your solution, you are not doing good. The next thing is data analytics.
Q. On Mobile payments.
A. It makes intuitive sense that a billion plus people will use mobile payments. M-Pesa in Kenya is hugely successful. Startups must try to figure out how to work with banks and become a platform for them. (Congratulates Indian startups Mobstac and Ezetap for being mobile first.)
Q. On finding a partner in business:
A. If you can find yourself a partner in business, that is a great thing. That is so invaluable. You can live and die with them in arguments.
Q. On the difference between a good CEO and a great CEO
A. Look at Steve Jobs. Steve was able to command a vision to change the world. Communication is a great thing, even though you might be nice or mean to people. It is a skill to get people to believe your vision and get them excited about it. Steve Jobs did it, even though he was a complicated personality, personally and professionally.
Q. On what differentiates Google from the competition.
A. The greatest difference is the quality of computer scientists. We invented search. People tried to copy but weren't as good. It is extremely difficult to get a job at Google. One thing I would like asking startups is what do you do to get the best people. My experience is that people care more about the impact they can create than for money or power. The great thing about a startup is that you can feel the energy of your people, as you work in a close environment.