Chennai now a hot spot for startups and entrepreneurs

Chennai has a well educated population, skilled technical talent and is now emerging as a competitor to Bengaluru for startup and entrepreneurial activity.

Who would have thought? “Conservative and slow” was how Chennai was first described to me. Now it has changed.

chennai 3

Active angel investors operating in the region, are boosting the change.

But Chennai is not a city to boast or shout – it will let success do the talking for it.


The region’s economy was earlier more dependent on the automobile industry but has shifted towards information technology sector.

Here are some of the startups – Freshdesk, OrangeSpace, Bharatmatrimony, Zoho and CaratLane – all doing exceptionally well.

Why Chennai?

Chennai is a home to many investors with deep pockets willing to invest in startups with innovative ideas. Good governance and integrity further make Chennai the preferred city for business leaders.

Add to that good roads, ports, railways and airports as positive factors.


Chennai is among the top Indian cities with a maximum number of engineering and medical colleges in the region.

Another reality is that the former home of these new ventures – Bengaluru – just cannot accommodate all the new entrepreneurs, so many turn to Chennai.


Chennai has hosted a number of entrepreneurial events to attract emerging startups and one to watch coming up soon is Pudu Chennai, 2018.


10 reasons every business can find a market in India

To understand what a great long-term opportunity India is, consider these facts:

  1. The numbers are on your side:  564 million below the age of 20
  2. The middle class is growing: 600 million growing middle-class, saving rates have tripled in last 12 years
  3. The mindset is right:  adaptability, competitive, entrepreneurial, believes in “learning, earning and spending”
  4. Challenges lead to opportunity:  mainly in areas such as transport and agricultural infrastructure, medical, power generation & distribution, education, healthcare
  5. Eating and drinking is changing: food & Beverages: food processing, food packaging, food warehouse and transport, health drinks
  6. Homes are stylish: home decor products, kitchenware essentials, bed and bath
  7. Paying for Healthcare: diagnostics and testing, medical equipment, health supplements, clean air and water products
  8. Consultancy Services are flat out: engineering, business development, product development, security analysis, accounting
  9. Infrastructure is big ticket: waste management, solar and wind technologies, temperature-controlled warehouses, air and noise pollution control technologies, towing trucks, and automated parking lot equipment.
  10. “Franchising” is popular: Top sectors with franchising opportunities are Education and Healthcare due to a huge mismatch between supply and demand now and in the coming years

Time to find your niche in India?


What is the “India Stack” and why does it matter?

Aadhaar, which means foundation in Hindi, is the foundation of the India Stack and is an identity program for all residents of India. Despite its opt-in nature, about 1.12 billion have Aadhaar identity cards today.

Indian PM Modi launches extension of Aadhaar program.

The intent of the program, which was initiated in 2009, is to eliminate the inefficiencies in the public distribution system as well as to facilitate the disbursement of cash transfers directly from the government to the intended beneficiaries, cutting out middlemen.

The 12-digit card number is linked to an individual’s biometric and basic demographic data including a photograph, iris scans, fingerprints, name, address, date of birth and gender.

The Aadhaar database containing this information is the largest biometric database in the world and was built using internet-scale technology.

Aadhaar is purely an identification tool, so having an Aadhaar card affords no privileges to an individual; unlike a driver’s license for example,which allows one to drive.

The goal, therefore, is to build an identity platform and allow others to build an ecosystem around it, or link services to it – hence, the India Stack. The Aadhaar database can be queried (or pinged) by a bank to verify a person’s identity: Is this person who they say they are? the database returns a binary (yes/no) response to the query.

The other layers in the India Stack interact with the identity (Aadhaar) layer to facilitate digitisation.

Document or credential issuers can send digital documents such as birth certificates, degrees and diplomas, driver’s licenses and digital medical records to the digital locker which can then be used by an individual (using the consent layer) to share documents with those who may demand them such as health insurance providers.

This removes paper from the system as well as fraudulent documents.

The cashless layer facilitates mobile payments. The Immediate Payment System (IMPS) provides an immediate (and 24×7) interbank funds transfer service through mobile phones using a mobile money identifier linked to a bank account.

The Unified Payment Interface (UPI) is built on IMPS and is an open source platform which uses a single virtual identifier that may be linked to multiple bank accounts as well as mobile wallets.

The India Stack sets up most of the infrastructure required for India’s digital transformation. It provides secure identification to nearly all Indian residents hence eliminating a basic barrier to financial inclusion. It reduces transactions costs as well as fraud and paperwork. However, since it is a platform infrastructure, it’s up to the private sector and the central and state governments to use the open APIs (application programming interfaces) to find use cases and build applications which utilise the platform.

The India Stack is gathering pace – with Telcos and the financial sector leading the charge.

India’s MSME sector to borrow up to USD100 billion

More rapid change in India – borrowing, especially by small business, used to be frowned upon. But a new study reveals digital lending to the MSME sector will grow 15 times to up to USD 100 billion annually in five years.

India’s rapid shift to digital is transforming MSME sector

Traditional banks will remain averse to lending to MSME’s – the micro, small and medium enterprises – with the new funding from “informal sources”, according to impact investing firm Omdiyar Network and consultancy firm BCG. Lending for this sector is primarily through the non-bank financial institutions.

Several countries, including Australia, are looking at innovative ways to fund this sector.

The study said there are 60 million MSMEs having turnovers of less than US$35 million at present and they are a major contributor both to the country’s GDP as well as to employment generation.

However, the contribution of Indian MSMEs is far below that of their counterparts in the US or even China as they lack access to formal sources of finance and pay interest rates which are 2.5 times the ones charged by the formal sector, it added.

The study stated that 40 per cent of the MSMEs will be receptive to digital lenders.

This will be possible on government policies like introduction of the unified payment interface (UPI) and goods and services tax (GST), massive reduction in costs of data connectivity and also the ‘India stack’ (more on this in next post).

An increasing number of MSMEs are willing to share their data online and 60 per cent believe they will get larger amount of payments through the digital means in the next three years, the study said.

Change– a way of life in modern Indian business.

Study shows which countries are best at preparing children for work


An analysis of the latest PISA report (Programme for International Student Assessment), which assesses how 15-year-olds in OECD countries are performing in science, mathematics and reading, has revealed the countries in which children are best at “collaborative problem-solving”.


Employers highlight the importance of so-called “soft skills”, a suite of attributes that include social abilities like networking, communication, negotiation, team-building and problem-solving. At the root of these skills is how well a child gets on with others.

Asian countries Singapore, Japan and South Korea top the chart, with Canada, Estonia and Finland not far behind. Australia is at eighth spot. Denmark, the United States and United Kingdom also make the top 10.


Soft skills and hard yards

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report 2016 argued that by 2020: “Creativity will become one of the top three skills workers will need. With the avalanche of new products, new technologies and new ways of working, [employees] are going to have to become more creative in order to benefit from these changes.”

But, whatever qualifications, experience or technical abilities today’s job interviewees may possess, employers cannot necessarily count on them having the soft skills that are now required as soon as they walk through the door.


As an article on pointed out: “There’s a subtle irony in [the fact that] hard skills are relatively easy to learn, while soft skills are often hard to learn.”

It pointed out that “hard skills are specific, teachable abilities that include technical proficiencies and are easily defined and measurable. You usually obtain a degree or diploma when you have these skills, such as software programmer, mathematician, accountant, tool-and-die maker, forklift driver, etc.”

But it adds that soft skills are less tangible and harder to quantify. “There is no degree or diploma for soft skills. They’re mostly learned through life experience on the job, such as active listening, interpersonal skills, knowing how to recognize people, and demonstrating caring concern.”

Start ’em young

Such skills are likely to be best acquired at an early age and the PISA analysis shows that some education systems are taking steps in the right direction. Finland has already moved to a model where collaboration is part of the regular curriculum and France is eyeing similar moves as it shakes up its education system in an effort to boost economically deprived children.

However, companies will probably have to recognize that while schools and universities should teach core skills, the burden of providing much of the life-long skills learning employees are going to need will fall on them.

As Vishal Sikka, the former chief executive of Infosys, wrote in the Financial Times: “Curriculums should be modernized to encourage creative problem finding and solving, and learning through doing, with mandatory computer science learning as the bedrock for enabling digital literacy.

“Organizations also need to make life-long learning resources available for employees to enhance skills development. Indeed, they should be required to dedicate a percentage of their annual revenue to reskilling staff.”



Indian universities not preparing students for the workplace – study

Indian universities are losing ground to global competitors when it comes to preparing students for the modern workplace, according to a new “Global University Employability Ranking” study, produced by French HR consultancy Emerging.

Harvard University tops the list, followed by California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Leading in India are the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi and IIT Bombay.

India still only has three universities in the top 150 for performance in employability.

The report shows that successful universities value soft skills such as collaboration, teamwork and communication. Employers are also increasingly ranking critical thinking skills as very important.


The capacity to adapt to a changing world and to keep learning are seen as essential.

Most improved this year according to the rankings were universities in East Asia and parts of Europe.


India to create over 1.4 million new IT jobs as digital disruption gains pace

The numbers in India are always big!

India is likely to add over 1.4 million new IT jobs by 2027, primarily driven by emerging technologies like cybersecurity, Internet of things (IoT) and Big Data, a report by Cisco-IDC said.


“Of the 9.1 million IT positions in India in 2017, 5.9 million job postings from employers were for new-age roles,” it added.

The report said roles like social media administrator, machine learning designer, and IoT designer would be most sought after in the coming years.


It pointed out that about 22 per cent IT professional respondents said they self-funded their certification courses, while about 50 per cent of them underwent some training in 2017 – a reflection of the growing importance of upskilling in a rapidly changing technological landscape.

About 15 per cent IT professional respondents said took training leading to certification in 2017.

Interestingly, the report stated that seven out of 10 organisations look for IT certifications when hiring or promoting and getting certified put an applicant ahead of 85 per cent of his/her peers.

The top 10 technology trends impacting Indian job scenario include cybersecurity/data security, Big Data, Data analysis visualisation, IoT, Business Intelligence, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Virtualisation/Software defined infrastructure, Converged Infrastructure and cloud solutions/technologies.