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Article by Mohan Babu


Working Abroad - Valley of Dreams

A recent trip to Silicon Valley sets MOHAN BABU thinking on what differentiates it from Bangalore. The difference, he observes, does not stem from technology, infrastructure, communication or manpower quality, but people who dare to dream

Bangalore has long held the title of Silicon Valley of the East, and has seen a steady influx of companies from the US, Europe and elsewhere. Until my recent weeklong stay in the heart of the “real” Silicon Valley, I used to wonder if the moniker was really justified. There again, I had also read that Silicon Valley is a glorified idea eulogised by business and tech writers during the heady days of boomtime, where every garage literally sprung up an idea for a tech start-up. Also, Silicon Valley is not the only vibrant technical zone in the US. There are a number of other hi-tech belts around the US; and most large data centres managed by Fortune 500 companies are bigger in size than a dozen or so Silicon Valley companies put together (in terms of budget, size and number of people employed). However, “The Valley” as most people like to call it, still lures techies. Being a native of Ban-galore, having lived in Colorado for over five years, and worked in a few large data centres myself, a visit to the Valley came as a breath of fresh air.

The current tech slump notwithstanding, the atmosphere in Silicon Valley is vivacious and contagious. Even while sipping latte at a local Starbucks in San Jose, I was not immune to the “techie” atmosphere around me: talk of wireless protocols, VoIP and middleware wafting from different corners of the room did not let me forget that I was in the Valley. Lunchtime in restaurants near office parks continue to be abuzz with impromptu interviews (if it is vibrant in this slow economy, how would it have been during the boomtime, I wonder). Tiffin room at a chaat house on El Camino drive, a quintessential Indianised road, felt more like a canteen in a typical engineering college back home! Even the main public library in Sunnyvale carries a wide array of Indian newspapers and magazines (along with Pakistani, Chinese, Filipino and other publications, I must add). Little wonder then that authors and tech writers allude to the fact that it is hard to capture the real essence of the Valley anywhere. The closest we come to creating the “buzz” is perhaps at the Infosys campus in the Electronic City or the numerous pubs and coffee shops on M G Road in Bangalore.

There is little doubt or argument over the role Indians have played in the success of start-ups and high-tech companies in Silicon Valley. Indians continue to be a visible part of the socio-economic climate. Indians have also climbed the corporate ladder in many of the largest companies in the Valley and are actively involved in TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) and other organisations. Similarly, Bangalore too has attracted some of the best and biggest tech companies from across the globe. This aside from being the hometown of Infosys, Wipro and scores of other Indian giants. I could go on over the similarities between the “real” Valley and the Indian Silicon Valley, but will shift gears to look at where we are different.

Firstly, everything in the Valley is considered to be of a grandiose scale, and indeed thousands of start-ups have literally moved from garages to multi-million dollar offices in a span of just a few years. Arguing that because we pay our techies in rupees, we are “cheap”, does not hold water any more than trying to tell Microsoft that a copy of

Windows sold in India or China should be cheaper than that sold in New York. That brings us to the next point: The same genera of Indian techies, who can innovatively take a start-up into a multi-million dollar company are unable to “think big” sitting in Bangalore. Why is that?

The usual lament over lack of infrastructure or capital is passé. Infrastructure, technologies, tools and communication systems are as accessible in Bangalore as they are in San Jose. Then why can’t our local techies then dream of world-class ideas that could translate to world-class products sitting right there? Even when the occasional techie develops a product that could be considered world-class, he does not have the marketing muscle or thrust to think global. Also, for most Indian “tech” companies, placing bodies in projects, outsourcing low-end work or coding-for-hire is the end goal. It almost seems like moving up the value chain and capturing the market for a line of products or solutions is far from the minds of most business leaders. I am sure that I am going to get criticised by genuine innovators back in India for saying this. But isn’t the core of our much-touted success based on selling coders in the international market, not products or solutions? This is perhaps the key difference between the real Valley and Bangalore. In the Valley people dream of products and ideas and can (and do) take their ideas to fruition. I wonder how many techies in Bangalore dare to dream?





About the Author

  • A Bio and profile of the author, Mohan Babu, can be found at his homepage
  • Mohan has authored a book on Offshoring and Outsourcing (Publisher McGraw Hill, India), a link to which can be found here
  • Mohan has also authored an Online book on "Life in the US," available for free download.
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    ©Mohan Babu: All Rights Reserved 2005

    Mohan Babu is an international consultant trying to find the ‘sweet spot’ where IT meets business. E-mail: mohan He is also the author of a recent book on "Offshoring IT Services"

    All rights are reserved. Mohan Babu ("Author") hereby grants permission to use, copy and distribute this document for any NON-PROFIT purpose, provided that the article is used in its complete, UNMODIFIED form including both the above Copyright notice and this permission notice. Reproducing this article by any means, including (but not limited to) printing, copying existing prints, or publishing by electronic or other means, implies full agreement to the above non-profit-use clause. Exceptions to the above, such as including the article in a compendium to be sold for profit, are permitted only by EXPLICIT PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT of Mohan Babu. 

    Disclaimer: This document represents the personal opinions of the Author, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Author's employer, nor anyone other than the Author. This Article was originally published in Express Computers


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