Fringe Notes!
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Why has India Failed to Produce Tech Giants like Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.?


This was a question asked at Quora about the failure of India in producing tech giants.

While there have been many answers with the focus on obvious villains like the Indian education system, lack of vibrant technology market, risk-averse VCs, and Blah! Blah! Blah! I think the root cause is much deeper and fundamental.

First, I think the obvious villains are too obvious like in any crime thriller and do not point to real symptom/villain, and second, I am not so negative on Indian education system as the popular wisdom would like us to believe – that Indian education is that bad as far as basic issues are concerned. Given the success rate of entrepreneurs and their ability to create mega large companies in a complete resource scare situation, one can’t just conclude and say that Indian education system has been a failure. I don’t know if the American education system works, given the academic performance of American children in Maths, Science, and Humanities these days!!

Basically, lack of great product companies like Apple / Google / Facebook in India points to a much deeper and fundamental problem and relates more to culture and society than the mere education system.

The bigger issue is that we as a nation/society have never valued craftsmen/artisans, or in a nutshell – product makers. As a country, we have respected/valued traders/money-owners or managers more than anything else, and have continued this tradition of following generalists than craftsmen (No wonder generic degrees like BA / MBA have been more popular in India forever).

The aspiration to be a project manager rather than being a hardcore coder is just not limited to the software profession only but is fundamentally prevalent in all walks of society. Where we as a nation always celebrate the king/minister or bureaucrat but rarely the architect or craftsmen – be it Sambhalpuri / Banarasi weavers, or brass craftsmen, or a passionate creator, or even the architect of The Tajmahal!!! It is Shah Jahan‘s Tajmahal and not Ustad Ahmad Lahori’s Tajmahal.

Hence, in India, everybody is aspiring to be a supervisor or manager or project manager, rather than being a great machinist, a great brick-layer, or a great coder, because as a society the respect goes to the person who doesn’t do things by his hands, but to the guy who supervises, and majority of the time, practically knows nothing. Unlike the Western world where the business was driven by craftsmen themselves – be it Samuel Colt or Louis Vuitton or Ford Motors, In India, business was always driven by a money-owner with little understanding/respect or liking for the craft. All that mattered was money and profit margin, and hence, India achieved huge success in the service industry as all you needed here was to hire a battalion of people and drive them without going deeper in the craft.

The other minor issue stems from the fact that as a society, we do not celebrate or accept failure. Given the resource scarcity, it’s not appreciated that a person can be callous enough to try many options and waste resources rather than focus on making good of whatever he has got. Hence, just 15-20 years ago, changing job was almost unheard of.

And these two factors have created a situation where there is very less focus on craftsmanship and more on trading, with limited risk-taking appetite and intent to destabilize the status quo, and that reflects in the lack of great product companies in India. However, last 10-15 years have caused a significant shift in behavior patterns and clear-cut changes are visible.

So for a country where the VC industry is less than 10 years old, mega products giants will come, and probably with changing times, this will change as well.

(This question was asked at Quora where it received some 44 responses. The above post in my answer to that question.)