Global Investors are looking at India as the Next Silicon Valley of the World, says, Claude Smadja, President, Smadja &Smadja & Former World Economic Forum Managing Director

At a time when the Start-up boom is sort of fizzling, what brings you to the Silicon Valley of India?

India has always been a land of great entrepreneurial promise for me. I am looking forward to opening the India Global Innovation Connect in Bengaluru, among business enablers, accelerators, public figures, and government representatives from India and several countries across the world who will talk about driving innovation and developing new business synergies among peer entrepreneurs' communities. 

We are witnessing an unprecedented turmoil in the start-up ecosystem. Against this backdrop, where do you see Indian start-ups moving forward?

The global start-up ecosystem is going through a cyclical phase, with funding conditions tightening and greater scrutiny regarding valuations. Despite some slowdown, I expect the Indian start-up ecosystem to continue to grow at a healthy pace. First, there will always be enough money for investment in innovative start-ups and plenty of them are emerging in this country. Second, Silicon Valley is losing its monopoly on innovation and entrepreneurship. It remains a cradle of innovation, but it is now incredibly expensive, close to saturation. So, investors and start-ups are venturing out and India can utilise this opportunity to highlight and strengthen its comparative advantages. This is where collaboration between Indian and foreign VCs becomes vital. We realised during the preparation of India Global Innovation Connect that a great number of VCs and start-up founders in countries like Korea, Israel, Germany or Switzerland have a keen interest to extend partnerships with Indian companies, but they have a limited knowledge about the dynamic unfolding in the country. 

The Indian government has been extremely supportive of its new digital economy. What more can be done to make the next Silicon Valley, in India, especially Bengaluru?

India has extended significant policy support for the growth of start-ups in the last few years, which helps attracting talent and developing new technologies. The consultative approach of the government bringing industry into policy-shaping conversations is also helpful, giving impetus to sunrise sectors particularly in the new-internet economy space. However, two elements require attention. First, there needs to be a much intensive linkage between academia and business to increase collaboration and boost the translation of technology innovation into new marketable products and services. Countries like Israel, Switzerland, or France have built an excellent connect between business and academia. India is at a nascent stage and this requires a systemic national approach.

Secondly, well-established businesses must do more to ensure the right collaboration with start-ups. Many of them end up acquiring their nascent competitors instead of creating partnerships with them. Business houses should protect the dynamism of startups and not try to insert them in a corporate structure with all its rigidities. Established businesses in Switzerland are now investing in start-ups through top technology and scientific institutions. Through this, they want to sustain the innovative impetus of these startups..

As someone who has seen the global entrepreneurial ecosystem very closely due to your previous association with the World Economic Forum, what stands out for India and holds it in good stead

WE see the development of a very interesting trend: Big MNCs - Indian and foreign - are increasingly leveraging the fact that India has evolved from being the back-office hub of the world, to becoming a new source of technological innovation. These big companies are realising that made in India innovation can increasingly add value to their global offering of products and services. This applies already to healthcare, automotive industry, IT, and financial and insurance sectors. We are at the beginning of this evolution. This trend will increase India’s integration into the global economy, will provide an additional boost to start-ups and technology creation. Over the years this is bound to become a major growth driver for the Indian economy.

*India Global Innovation Connect is among the first platforms in India to function as an enabler for upcoming and recognised innovators with accelerators, public figures, and government representatives across the world for driving innovation and developing peer entrepreneurs' communities. 

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