As a global technology centre, Bangalore has a lot in common with Singapore. The Indian city has become synonymous with outsourcing, especially call centers, meaning it has a technology-aware workforce and a robust infrastructure similar to Singapore's. But, like Singapore, it didn't have much of a reputation for a homegrown start-up scene, at least until recently.
A big reason for Bangalore's popularity is that the cost of living is lower than in India's bigger cities, like Mumbai. But the entrepreneurial influx has had its consequences. As soon as a start-up gets funded (especially when it receives large amounts of capital), the space can get crowded overnight with many early-stage start-ups without much differentiation.
Those entrepreneurs shouldn't be blamed for trying, though, considering what might await the winner in any given market. India is, after all, a country of 1.2 billion people, and now the second-largest Internet user base behind China (it overtook the US this year). Prashant Mehta, co-founder of VC firm Lightbox Ventures, cites more figures. About 80 per cent of traffic is mobile, and smartphone usage is doubling every year (up to 130 million in 2015). Indians downloaded an estimated 9 billion apps in 2015, up five times since 2012.
"It's the sheer scale of the population, sure, but the sheer scale of the people on the Internet too," says Mehta, who co-founded Lightbox with Sandeep Murthy.
It's the sheer scale of some of India's internet start-ups too. The top two most valuable companies in retail, for instance, are e-commerce firms started within the last decade: Flipkart (with $16 billion market cap) and Snapdeal (with $US5 billion market cap and founded by Kunal Bahl).
India as a whole is "clearly the hottest tech market on the planet right now," says Mehta. In part, it's because Bangalore isn't the only hot spot; there's Mumbai (where Lightbox is located), Delhi and to a lesser extent Chennai.Underlying the tech start-up activity is capital. In 2013, overall VC investments were about $US1 billion, estimates Mehta; in 2015, that jumped toward $US14 billion. Funding in Series A rounds averaged $US2.5 million in 2013, Series B $US6 million; both averaged double that in 2015.
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