5 Things I noticed about the startup scene in India during my...

5 Things I noticed about the startup scene in India during my recent visit!


As the clock struck 12, and 2016 was upon us, I was extremely fortunate to be on my very first trip to India. As we travelled there for what was a beautiful wedding, I grasped the opportunity to cheekily peek in and learn as much as I could about the local startup ecosystem. The timing couldn’t have been better, as we had recently launched included.co in India.

As this was my first trip to a country that’s rightfully famous for it’s culture, history and vast population, I did find myself travelling around quite a bit. I learned a lot from both direct discussions, and by simply observing how people just got on with their day.

Below are 5 of my observations, as someone who is inspired by innovators and is passionate about connecting growing businesses to the solutions they need everywhere in the world.

1. Cash in one hand, two mobiles in the other.

Cash is still king in India, with a lot of places not taking cards or simply having connectivity issues when trying to use them. Having said that, mobile-penetration is huge. Many people carry more than 1 phone, one of which is usually a smart phone of some kind.

With so many phones, mobile internet and connectivity is advertised a lot. Idea’s campaign to get folks to share internet with others who need it, being a notable example.

Thus it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that many entrepreneurs (and their teams) are tackling things like mobile wallets, payments and banking.

Fighting for the market share in the space you’ll already find Paytm (with $3bn+ valuation), Ola Money, MobiKwik, Freecharge, Oxigen and Citrus just to name a few.
olamoneyAs this market grows, and it will, I expect to see big moves from the winners and leaders of this (and their growing m-commerce) sector into other verticals and foreign markets.

2. ‘Net Neutrality’ vs ‘Universal Access’.

During a few discussions, with a variety of people, it became clear that some people were weary about offerings like Facebook’s Free Basics, knowing that they “couldn’t get access to the internet in reality”, instead only getting access to a “fenced-garden version” of it.

This discussion has also picked up online- on forums – on Facebook and Quora, amongst others.

There’s quite a lot of noise surrounding this topic, and a report is being compiled and fiercely debated as to whether these kinds of services are even constitutional.

This is a fascinating topic actually, but I’d need whole new blog post or series to get into all the details. What’s great to see though, is how vocal people are, and how seriously they take this topic.

3. Indian Startups are HUGE and growing.

From having a massive local market, to seeing a lot of interest from Investors, the startup scene in India is growing. It’s undeniable.


Just to clarify how much investor interest there is in India: the five biggest investors by deal value (Sequioa Capital, Tiger Global, DST Global, Alibaba Group and Softbank) invested $1.1bn into Indian Startups, with a total of $5.5bn invested in 2015 according to local paper BS Reporter.

After a visit to a Sunday Market in Delhi, it’s easy to get a grasp (or be overwhelmed) by exactly how large and closely-knit their local market actually is.

This is one of the very few ecosystems where the notion of ‘think globally from day one’, doesn’t seem too obvious or necessarily correct.

4. Local Startups fight for their local market.

With all this support and the experience of building products (through generations of outsourcing software development) the local startups are increasingly battling off global competitors who are trying to break into the regional markets.

1-IjTNBQ_lztByjYYcAP1YZgI find it amazing that Amazon has not one, but 3 competitors in their sector. But heck, with 1.3ish-billion folks calling India home, who can deny the opportunity?

5. The Government actively supports startups.

Most startup teams in the West grin sheepishly when you ask them about what their governments are doing to support them. With most preferring to grow rapidly in-spite of ‘the bureaucrats’, as opposed to waiting for their support.

From the signals coming out of India since my return to London, it appears that this isn’t the case, with members of the Indian government proposing actions to give young businesses 3-years of relative freedom from bureaucracy and an easy (read: non-catastrophic) way to exit incase of failure.

When even the government is telling you to take moonshots, expect to see even more innovation pouring out of Indian co-working spaces and startup communities.

So, in summary. Expect a lot from India, a powerhouse that’s really bubbling below the surface.

This article was first published on Medium by Hector Kolonas, Founder of included.co that helps growing businesses stay focussed on what’s important, growth and product, by bringing entrepreneur-friendly workspaces, communities and services within a click’s reach.

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