The Third Web #11 – An Emerging India


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Recently I visited India representing the DFINITY Foundation. The trip was supported by upstart venture production and consulting group, Dunya Labs, and advocacy group, InCrypt. Those ten days altered my understanding of the way technology manifests products and the driving role the needs of high growth nations will have in defining the digital landscape of tomorrow.

In this episode, I’m joined by co-founder of Dunya Labs, Cathy Guo, and co-founders of InCrypt, Nitin Sharma & Sumukh Shetty. We examine the Indian startup, business and regulatory environments. We also look at the growth of telecommunications infrastructure alongside macro demographic trends and the unique business conditions they create.

Investment, community building, and policy research and advocacy
Has produced study and guidance on regulation

Dunya Labs
Research Arm
Product specific research
Infrastructure team connecting applications to protocols
Community and incubation

Cathy’s Book
Entrepreneurial philosophy
Corporate responsibility
Emerging tech landscape in India
Emerging startup ecosystem
The way that Indian startups create social and economic value

How do you see blockchain technology being deployed in India?
Low trust, high administrative friction in India
Middlemen are a big problem
Desire for transparency and automation
More data is moved through Indian infrastructure than the US
Beginning with banks and private ledgers
Supply chain, etc. basic pilots that we are used to seeing in the first phase of blockchain experimentation
Next step is public blockchain
This is limited by the regulatory environment
Look at India for talent, users & capital

The 4g Rollout
India is experiencing a leapfrog effect for technology rollout

Tech companies
Indian tech companies are moving from a service based model through a period of optimizing external business models for the Indian market to a native innovation model where they will begin exporting technology
There are 18 tech companies valued at over USD1b
It is important not to overestimate the Indian consumer base
There is limited local market protectionism
There may be 1.3 billion people but the number of consumers of tech products may be 30-50 million
Users can’t pay the way that they can in China or the US
Companies survive by being very lean
Talent is cheaper, this makes it a good place to launch
Deep tech is still limited
Need funding and educational support
If we compare the Indian market to where it was 10 years ago you see 10 – 100x growth but it is still an order of magnitude lower than China/US
There is a huge impact in reducing fees on increasing addressable market
Almost 50% of Indians are under 30
Little legacy infrastructure but high web and mobile penetration
3 million software developers in India with a 50-70% increase in graduates yoy

Primacy of agriculture
Fear of automation (computers)
This has changed

What are the business models that will drive the next generation of Indian unicorns
Many current unicorns are already expanding overseas
Enterprised focussed, or SaaS companies can be based in india and address markets abroad – Zoho, Freshworks
A new crop of SaaS companies are emerging with that model
This allows the targeting of specific niches because of the lower cost of talent
Many blockchain projects fit this model

Engineering Education
Lack of innovation focus
Desiged to pass you on to a services company
MOOCs and open source are enabling autodidacts and hackers to innovate
Tertiary education is of variable quality
Brain drain is a major problem

Indian government is pro-business and pro-innovation
Has supported identity and digital payment work
State and national government are experimenting with private blockchain
Ponzi schemes have damaged the support for public blockchain
Fear of capital flight

Bit Connect took USD3b equiv from India

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