Returning to India: A perspective on the “business” of India

There had to be a strong impetus for me to return to blogging after almost a year. Its been a thrilling year and half since we returned to Bangalore after 15 years in the US. I had never worked in India before, so was a little apprehensive about it, but confident that an entrepreneur who can do well in the US, can pretty much do well anywhere. 

After all the US market is possibly the most competitive, most difficult to navigate and the most alien to anyone from outside, right?
Well, after almost 2 years running BuzzGain from India, I can give you some insight into what we did well, what we did not and what we learned ourself. I was planning on a series of posts about this topic, and was just way too busy (or too lazy) to do it.
After getting this link to the NYTimes article on a few people’s experiences on returning to India from several friends on facebook, I had to give a view into our experiences.
First the basics:
1. Each country has its pro’s and cons according to me. I loved my experiences in America and wont give it up for anything. I have made the best of friends and have worked at some great companies with some excellent folks, while there. While some things bothered me in the US related to work – hiring was a pain, some developers were apt to adorn the “prima donna status”, legal paperwork was expensive and the costs of getting a basic product was a lot (although its dropping), it was by and large good.
2. There was not a compelling reason for me to return to India. We (my wife and I) decided that our kids had to experience India at some point and the younger the better. Besides, our parents are all here and we thought it would be a good idea for the grandkids to hang out with them.
3. We dont have any plans to return to the US after “a 2 year expat gig”. We have moved. Permanently. 
Do we love it so much in India? No? But we are happy.
Are we open to come back to the US. Dont know. Right now, No.
Did we not like being in the Bay area? We loved it. Its very similar to Bangalore, in terms of weather, which made the transition easy for us.
I moved back with no expectations at all in terms of the working culture. Having heard about all the paperwork and bureaucracy in India, I expected it to be a pain to get anything done at all, let alone ship product.
1. Bureaucracy
Its true. All the paperwork and red tape, gets in the way. There’s no better way of saying it. Expect everything to take 2 months more on average. The only saving grace is you can hire people to get things done. You’ll end up paying for what should be “free” to get done, but you’ll be better of paying for incorporation, “Getting a name approval” from the ROC, setting up basic infrastructure, etc.
2. Professionalism
Its hard even to say this is not true. You can expect some degree of professionalism from folks who have worked at large companies like Infosys, Wipro, or some other big Indian company for most parts. If you are looking for freelancers who can help you get your prototype done, dont expect it. It never has worked. I have had very poor experiences with consultants, who I expected to get some portion of work done in a given period of time (given that you pay them more). They either will email you a day before the work is due to tell you that their kid has extra homework that day so they have to help out or they have to attend their brother’s friends wedding in a place where they have no Internet access.
3. Access to lots of great talent
Yes, this is true. Much as been written about how all the top talent in India prefers to work abroad, but there’s still so many great people still here. The average student out of a tier 3-5 engineering school is still very motivated, hungry and diligent. The downturn (recession) has only helped hiring. We get good quality resources a fraction of the cost of what I have hired in the US.
Coming back to the article, the main points made were the bureaucracy, lack of follow up and professionalism, which has many who returned to India think twice and return back to the US. I think the points are valid, and India can be a challenge for most “outsiders”. Anyone who has been outside India for over 15-20 years and thinks like an American will “expect” a certain work environment, will be sorely disappointed, even if they are “Indian”. I say that in quotes because they really have not worked in India to know the ins and out of doing business here.
If you want to succeed in India, after you return, you have to think Indian which has 3 most important tenets (according to me):
1. Plan for everything to go wrong, hence have a back up for every scenario, including people.
2. There’s always more demand than supply for most EVERYTHING in India, so if you want it badly, expect to pay a lot more to get it.
3. Surround yourself with people who can get stuff done that you dont like to do. Its not that you cant do it, its just that its not worth doing.
As a follow up, India is apparently a top 10 destination for expats.
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