Startups should focus on solving India’s biggest problems: Google’s Rajan Anandan

Indian startups should focus on solving the country’s biggest problems with technology enabled solutions rather than looking to build the next big app, said Rajan Anandan, Vice President of Google, South East Asia & India, in a fireside chat at the Global Mobile Internet Conference in Bengaluru.


“An app cannot solve India’s biggest problems, it has to be a full stack business. We are still not seeing the kind of focus on solving these large scale problems, partly due to regulatory issues” Anandan said.

“For instance, the real opportunity for on demand transport business in Bengaluru is in buses. Most Indians want to pay Rs 4-5 per ride, not Rs 25. But Intra city buses is still regulated. If you open that up and add electric buses and a technology layer, you get a business that solves a real problem.” he added.

Besides transportation, Anandan said that areas like Education, Healthcare, Energy, Pollution, Infrastructure and financial inclusion pose the biggest problems for India, and as a result, offers a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs to build large businesses.

“Lot of companies want to be AI startups, that actually makes no sense. What’s interesting however will be how startups use technologies like machine learning (ML) to solve real problems in a better way” said Anandan who is also one of the most prolific angel investors in India.

When it comes to monetization, Anandan believes that India is still a nascent market and while the cost of acquiring users is much lower than other markets, the value per user is also much lower. Hence companies will have to take 10-20 years view to build large businesses here.

“India is a great place to be if you have a very long horizon. You have to keep in mind that this is a 10-20 year game that you have to keep investing, because at the end of the day Indians have to get more disposable income. That determines how much money a consumer can spend either to buy products or you start paying for consumer subscriptions.” Anandan said.

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