Tuesday, June 05, 2007

India

So I have been out of business for a few days now. Was traveling to my parent's place in Mumbai and whenever someone lands in India, it takes some time to absorb and get one's bearings right. The place is madhouse. The usual clich├ęs are true, and then some are not. Here are some observations in the week I have been here:

1. The infrastructure sucks
It does. It really does. It’s terrible but surprisingly people think things have gotten better. I don't know how. I lived in India for 20 years of my life, and the roads are more crowded, Bombay gets flooded every time it rains, the nearest park is further away, and in general, its messier. What has happened is that people have access to the things that make life easier to cope with. So the middle class has multiple ACs in the house, multiple cars, multiple phones, TVs and all that. But I do not know how sustainable that is. God save Antarctica at this rate!

2. The economy is booming
Dat true. And boy, is it booming or what! Scorching pace of growth. The signs are all over the urban areas though I have my reservations about the boom effect in the rural hinterland. Retail, Real Estate, IT, Telecom, Airlines, everything is dynamic. Whether they do well in the long term or not is up in the air, but right now, things are just crazy out here.

3. Venture Capital has a rosy future
Am not sure of that in the short term. Absolutely sure of that in the medium/long term. Too much money chasing too few good investments. This country needs good managers and the older generation of large corporation managers are too risk-averse. Whether the traditional Internet space is viable or not, no one knows. The telecom ARPUs are actually down. But then there are these unbelievable, crazy inefficiencies in the market that beg for attention. And these inefficiencies will make the future rosy for the deals of vintage 2009 or later. Venture Capital in India is a different business from what we know of as Venture Capital (in US).

4. The market opportunity is big
Are you kidding me? This can't be doubted. However, it is not in the places people are expecting it to be. The opportunities are India-style. They solve problems that are very specific to India. The solutions have to be tailored accordingly. Do not expect to superimpose a US technology roadmap on India, and expect things to work. The mobile Ads market does not really work here, finance software, Insurance and retail related investments are better bets than your traditional Web 2.0 gigs. It’s really a hotbed of opportunities, but those opportunities have to be vetted out.

5. The Media sector is exploding
It really is and there is tonnes of money to be made here. But the content really is shit and that means such an opportunity for someone to come in make a killing. By content I mean things like Independent movies, intelligent News, offbeat music etc. There are markets galore. The go-to-market needs to be fleshed out. The broadband is getting there for a small, elite percentage of the population, but if done right, that group is a small European country, and is only growing.

Bottomline: Loads of opportunities for those who can live in India. This is not the place for people who want to jump in, make a few investments, and the jump back. You need to be here. Be vested and be ready for the madness.

On a personal front, I am in India because I have to flesh out a couple of opportunities that I was working on earlier. Right now, my search is incremental. I look at opportunities as they come and then make a decision wrt what I have. Its tricky because I am open about all the options I have, no apologetic about finding what is best for me (personally and professionally), and still mean no disrespect to the opportunities that I don’t accept.

I have turned down the two VC opportunities. I have a few more I am looking at, in India, and in Bay Area, and then that lovely PM job is there too. I was never obsessed with VC, and so it was never a matter of just accepting what came my way. I have a vision for myself and those opportunities don’t fit with that vision. However, something else might come my way that I might believe in more.

Some people look at me funny these days. Some days I wake up and think the same. It must be crazy to turn down these great opportunities. But I believe I know what I am doing. And even if I am being silly, its good to make these mistakes and learn. In the long term, hopefully I will be wiser. On another note, a lot of you have emailed me personally and through blog-comments, with your insights. I appreciate all of it and really really thank you for your support. Will keep you posted on my journey to a post-MBA career.

Right now, it is back to eating these unbelievable mangoes, and downing some milkshake. The monsoon clouds are gathering in the hills behind my house. I have run through 5 books in the last 3 weeks. My life is good.