How insightful is the India Startup Report?

The study released by the World Startup Report has some interesting insights. But does it have enough depth or does it state the obvious?
Written by Srinivas Kulkarni, Contributor

I woke up in the morning yesterday with a few tweets on my timeline about India Startup Report by World Startup Report.

That was it. Something exciting to look forward to during the course of the day. Without even getting to my laptop, I quickly Googled it up and went to the slideshare link on my smartphone. 

"A 15-min guide by the World Startup Report" is what read on the introduction slide. Prepared by Bowei Gai, founder of CardMunch, which was acquired by LinkedIn, and Benjamin Joffe, founder of Plus 8 Star and startup mentor for 500 startups.

They prepared this report with help from various contributors with the likes of GiggleLoop, 500 Startups, Odio, YourStory, 91 Springboard, India Internet Group and Startup Kindness.

I quickly scanned through the first few slides which said "India at a Glance," essentially giving us numbers about the "State of the Internet and technology" in India.

The report is well compiled and takes you through the "key players" such as angel investors and incubators, the Internet culture, certain trends and talks about certain policies that affect the Indian startup ecosystem, and etc.

But that is only if you are a newbie and if you aren't tuned in to the startup ecosystem and the happenings of India. In fact I added this question "How insightful is the India Startup Report" on Quora, where you'll find a lot of Indian Entrepreneurs answering many questions and sharing their knowledge.

Most of them give much credit and many a kudos for taking the effort for compiling the insights which are available on the Web. Mostly useful for people who aren't that tuned in to our industry. However a lot of them felt that a certain depth in the report was missing.

So yes, as Sahil Parikh, SaaS entrepreneur and author of SaaS Edge Book said: "The report would be useful to foreign entrepreneurs trying to launch businesses in India, sometimes without taking any external capital. They could add a lot of facts from the report into their slides to show their VCs."

He also added the report doesn't have any mention of SaaS, wondering if it is because it isn't as sexy as e-commerce.

India vs China

One of my observations in the report is about India being compared to China.

It says the infrastructure in India is like that of China in the 1990s, IPO exits like that of China in 2000, Internet penetration like that of 2006, and while India's mobile subscriber base is roughly equal to that of China it has much fewer smartphone users than in China.

I agree on the fact India will certainly follow a different growth path from China. But I would actually like to say it would have a lot more to do with the entrepreneurial and enterprising nature of the people in India. It is also just one factor of flexibility and support in the startup economy taking it forward, despite the fact that the government is only just starting to show more interest in our industry as such.

Many know this but very few people focus on it, is about the provisions by government banks for entrepreneurs who want to start a business and have a concrete plan to support their business. In fact it is far better than getting funded.

But very few in the tech startup domain go for it. Why? Of course because of the bureaucracy involved. Hopefully that should change soon and so will the innovation in our industry, infrastructure and everything about our startup economy.

Nonetheless, India's startup economy is already underway irrespective of all those comparisons it has grown at a pace that would certainly make those differences irrelevant. Hopefully in light of the recent Budget announcements which surprisingly didn't make it to the report, I think India will be able to catch up with a lot of areas when it comes to China and NOT just smartphone and tablet usage.

I guess the report is only focusing on the current technology players or startups that thrive in that domain. But India has a lot more potential especially because of the offline businesses coming into the online space and will exceed China in that respect is what I would like to predict.

Like Pravin Jadhav, founder at Wishberg, mentions: "While the report highlights lack of infrastructure in India for startups, we also have to acknowledge that our large consumer success stories on the Internet which includes Naukri, MakeMyTrip, Justdial, Flipkart or RedBus have big offline components."

What he also personally missed in the report was a mention that India figures among the top 5 countries, in terms of user base, for every large consumer products like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Quora or Foursquare.

"We were not the first people to adopt these products; though the adoption curve for Indian users began a bit late, once we get started--we adopted them at a much faster pace. This is despite our minuscule 10 percent Internet penetration at 125 million users."

Which brings me to the mention of the key players in the report where Flipkart, InMobi are portrayed as recent successes. Snapdeal and Myntra as rising stars and lastly, JustDial, Bharat Matrimony and MakeMyTrip as past successes. Aren't we all tired of hearing about just these "startups"? The Indian startup scene is much bigger than just these few "key players".

Well, a little mention to the smaller startups, equally successful, maybe not in terms of volume or ticket sizes of their investment, but as much as the effectiveness of their application, would have certainly made for good viewing in this report.

"There's no mention on the grid of education, healthcare, domestic or global B2B SaaS, enterprise telephony, loyalty apps, POS startups, mobile payments and/or standalone logistics Firms." points out Pranay Srinivasan, co-founder of eVitaran.

Also very little emphasis on B2C products in the report given as opposed to many B2B products as highlighted by Nikhil Rishi, founding CEO of emPHi. He felt that the commodity innovation map on slide #26 was the worst part and that he doesn't feel it covered all the market segments active in India.

slide 26
Slide #26 from the India Startup Report.

However, Kris Nair, entrepreneur turned venture capitalist, liked the report very much especially the good macro view on the ecosystem and a positive outlook on the future. He highlighted the point from the report about vertical experts being still rare when it came to mentoring or advisory, but he hopes more and more entrepreneurs will come out and spend time with the first-timers.

On the contrary Nair loved the India commodity innovation map and felt it was a good study on the current market leaders and opportunities.

Overall the report had mixed reactions, as it does a good effort to grab eyeballs across the world who are constantly on the lookout for something really interesting and exciting about Indian Startup scene. So much so that if you use startup and India in the same sentence they would be all ears.

But if you are someone who has been in the industry for a while you would certainly agree on the fact that the report stated a lot of which was known across the web and that it didn't quite stand out.

In fact I'm sure some would beg to differ on a certain number of points that were off the mark in the report. Like Ashish Sinha, founding editor of NextBigWhat, who highlighted in his highly opinionated blog critiquing some of the many points and errors in the report. For example, the fact about 41 percent entrepreneurs resided in Bangalore and 33 percent being in e-commerce.

"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 e-commerce or SAAS plays, so isn't it likely that ecommerce will rule the charts?" said Sinha.

Something to ponder upon. You may want to read this article to get a better picture of what he was trying to say.

Stating the obvious?

Sinha felt the report stated the obvious, and while positioned as "a global report" did not even attempt to show the real picture. He said it talked of trends that were visible from 10,000 feet above sea level.

I found his article to be very insightful, a little too "in depth" if you ask me, but hey, isn't that what the India Startup Report should have actually been?

If you have thoughts that you would like to share, I would love to hear your comments and what you felt about the India Startup Report

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