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Why Bangalore Doesn’t Need Silicon Valley

Bangalore, however, has been attracting Americans and Europeans to start companies in India for Indians. And this phenomenon is hardly new

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Visitors to Bangalore, India, these days can see street art, have beer at local microbreweries or take an Uber ride to a distant neighborhood to meet with venture capitalists about a recent startup that grabbed their attention.

Gone are the days of a city dominated by call centers and American visa seekers.

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“There’s an artisanal hot dog place there,” Sean Blagsvedt, founder of online job portal Babajob, said of a nearby neighborhood, speaking over his plate of salmon sashimi. “You have a bazillion 20-something tech people who don’t like to cook and suddenly have a [large amount] of money to start paying for interesting food. … You saw the same things in San Francisco.”

Babajob employees take notes on a window overlooking a neighborhood in downtown Bangalore. (E. Sarai/VOA)

Babajob employees take notes on a window overlooking a neighborhood in downtown Bangalore.

A wide variety of dining options, nightlife and other activities has blossomed alongside the tech industry in “India’s Silicon Valley.”

Bangalore was rated the most dynamic city in the world, two spots ahead of California’s Silicon Valley — which isn’t a city but was ranked as one — by the JLL City Momentum Index this year. The index looks at more than 100 cities around the world, rated by their “ability to embrace technological change, absorb rapid population growth and strengthen global connectivity.”

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Not looking abroad

Call centers and outsourced IT workers still make up a part of Bangalore, but a vibrant crowd of modern, enthusiastic, tech-minded people has grown to dominate the city — and for most of them, the promise of “a better life” abroad is not on their radar.

Bangalore, however, has been attracting Americans and Europeans to start companies in India for Indians. And this phenomenon is hardly new.

Sean Blagsvedt, an American, moved to Bangalore over 10 years ago and started his own company. (E. Sarai/VOA)

Sean Blagsvedt, an American, moved to Bangalore over 10 years ago and started his own company. (E. Sarai/VOA)

Blagsvedt, who is also Babajob’s CEO, moved to Bangalore from his hometown of Seattle, Washington, when he was 28 to work with Microsoft. Although Blagsvedt enjoyed his work, he felt compelled to work more directly with Indians, for Indians.

“I always had this nagging thing, like, am I doing enough to address the inequity that I saw, am I doing enough to make the best use of my skills, to try to do something important to make a difference?” he said.

After reading a study that said to get out of poverty, one needed to either change jobs or start a successful business, Blagsvedt was inspired to change how people found those positions.

“If only we could find a way to digitize all the jobs, make it accessible to people who don’t use computers, and digitize the social network, then we might be able to catalyze the escape from poverty for a lot of people,” he said.

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Twelve years, a successful company and a family later, Blagsvedt is “more Bangalorean than me!” according to an Indian on his team, Akshay Chaturvedi.

FILE - Visitors crowd at the Global Mobile Internet Conference in Bangalore, India, Sept. 10, 2015.

FILE – Visitors crowd at the Global Mobile Internet Conference in Bangalore, India, Sept. 10, 2015.

In the past 10 years, however, it’s not just Americans and Europeans with humanitarian motivations who are starting companies in Bangalore.

Indians, even those who paid for American educations and planned to pay off those debts with American jobs, have seen the increasing opportunity back home.

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‘A lot of vibrancy’

“[There is] a lot of young talent trying to build solutions that are uniquely India on almost every sector, whether that’s health services, education, digital media, even financial inclusion,” said Vani Kola, a venture capitalist who has been in Bangalore for 10 years after working in Silicon Valley. “I see a lot of vibrancy with respect to opportunity for building unique companies with unique solutions for India.”

And Indians have taken advantage of that opportunity. The number of startups in Bangalore rivals those in the top tech cities around the world. In 2015, San Francisco research firm Compass rated Bangalore as the second fastest-growing startup ecosystem in the world, and it was the only Asian city besides Singapore to place in the top 20 startup ecosystems.

Akshay Chaturvedi, who recently began his own startup, checks in to a communal office space on an iPad. (E. Sarai/VOA)

Akshay Chaturvedi, who recently began his own startup, checks in to a communal office space on an iPad. (E. Sarai/VOA)

Chaturvedi is one such person who, after completing a fellowship in the United States, returned to India, specifically Bangalore, to join the world of unique Indian startups.

“I can’t imagine my life without startups,” Chaturvedi told VOA. “Everything I do — I’m touched by a startup at least 20 times a day. Every single dinner I order by some food tech startup.”

In the days after we spoke with him at Babajob, Chaturvedi quit to work on his own startup — Leverage, an online platform for higher education services.

Although the question of the future of H1-B visas, a visa most often granted to IT workers from India, is on the minds of American companies that employ them, Bangalore seems less concerned.

“When students studied there, I said, ‘Look, there’s a lot of opportunity calling in India — can’t I do something here?’ That, I think, was a trend that was already there for the last few years,” Chaturvedi said. “And now [the] Indian economy seems to be strong and the opportunity from startups seems very viable in India.”

FILE - Commuters drive past the power transmission towers installed inside the International Tech Park, which houses several information technology companies in Bangalore, India, Sept. 26, 2015.

FILE – Commuters drive past the power transmission towers installed inside the International Tech Park, which houses several information technology companies in Bangalore, India, Sept. 26, 2015.

Fewer seeking H1-Bs

Blagsvedt holds a stronger opinion, saying that H1-B visas are exploitative, and that the rise of opportunity in Bangalore has limited the number of people desperate for those options.

“They haven’t raised that minimum salary in 22 years,” Blagsvedt said. “Now you tell me where you can hire a five-year programmer in Silicon Valley for $65,000 [a year]. You just can’t. And what does that guy have as recourse? If he doesn’t like the job, his visa is sponsored fully … he can’t complain, he can’t even switch jobs!”

Blagsvedt and Chaturvedi both said that in the Bangalore startup ecosystem, they had heard no talk, or worry, about the proposed changes to the U.S. visa program.

Chaturvedi did admit, however, that any threats to the H1-B program “would have been far scarier 10 years back.”

In today’s Bangalore, any widespread panic that Silicon Valley might imagine simply hasn’t taken hold. (VOA)

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Shoot The Rapist At The Sight

 And which type is contributing more dangerously to the society can easily be measured with our simple plus and minus equation

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This glaring aberration in the world of media is visible as clearly as stars in the darkness of the night.
India is plagued with a disease called Rape. Wikimedia Commons

Salil Gewali

  • India is plagued with a disease called Rape
  • There are no rigorous punishments for rape
  • Rapists openly commit crimes without anny fear

Why the clamour only for the rigorous punishment for rape and other sadistic crimes which have their roots in the mental-degeneration? Apart from the toughest punishment to the perpetrators, let’s go deeper to analyze what could be the possible  “causes”  that push men to commit rape. Why so much mental degeneration that certain individuals can stoop to the gutter being to their status, their position and social values? Well, how to address those issues is certainly a challenge. And that “challenge” certainly calls for a serious brain-storming and a serious self-assessment vise-a vise the environment in which we all are living.

Ranaghat Nun Rape Case
Rape culture in India garnered more spotlight following the Nirbhaya-gang rape, after which the issue has continue to remain a burning topic in the country. Pixabay

True, in the physical world we are highly convinced brag about that healthy environment is a must for our healthy living. Even kids know these days that we can’t breathe well if our surroundings are filled with high levels of  “toxicity”. We have well studied through our academic textbooks that people invite the environmental disaster if they keep on allowing excessive emission of CO2, CO, methane and other dangerous gases into the atmosphere. We have fully acknowledged that each tall and black chimney of the industries and the nozzles of the motor vehicles are here only to mar the beauty of this planet? What kind of damages the toxic gases are doing to our ecosystem are not at all tough job to analyze with modern appliances. Again, a lot amount of books have been published to create the awareness, to inform us about the scientifically tested measures to resolve the environmental concerns.

However, do we have the same amount of literature that pinpoint the “causes” which contribute to turning “males into perverts”? Who else is emitting the “toxic substances” that overpower the inborn sensitivity of the deviant? What are the properties of toxic filth that is polluting the mind-scape of the society? Now we have Donald Trump, the president of the USA, whom many prefer call him a pervert. At this rate, the number perverts are increasing and they have become dangerously ubiquitous. And, all those perverts have brought nightmares to the ill-fated females. We often stage candle march in protest against the rape, but remain blind to the glaring “causes”. Should we still fiddle about and be appreciative of the society that shameless covers itself with the vulgarity — the “toxicity” that might numb the sanity of males? Watch out, dear friends, those perverts have begun to see even “baby girls” as objects of lust!

Please note:  what our sages said:  “What you see that you think, what you think that you do and what you do that become !!!!”

Also Read: Eat Grapes To Ward Off Depression

Again, I would like to draw another similarity with what prompt big people to “rape”/violate the harmony of the Mother Earth. The case is very regularly brought out by the conscious citizens across the country. A senior journalist Patricia Mukhim of Meghalaya has pointedly driven home recently how the “greed for money” has corrupted many leaders who are trying hard to justify the senseless exploitation of the “body” of Mother Earth. Many big shots of big companies struggle to convince the politicians to tweak the laws to grant the permission to perpetually “rape” the country.

In my mind, both are infected with common syndromes! While the one type is interested in the body of the females, the other type has a fetish for the rocky body of the “Mother Earth”. And which type is contributing more dangerously to the society can easily be measured with our simple plus and minus equation.

The rape victims are not getting the justice they deserve.
The rape victims are not getting the justice they deserve.

Let’s assess the issues from another angle, given the advancement of medical science. Till some years back malaria, dengue, cholera, HIV, smallpox were life-taking diseases. But the medical science has pretty successfully eradicated or contained them all. The scientists have correctly identified the causes of those dangerous diseases and recommended the remedial measures. No doubt, that is a very productive achievement. However, why have the modern studies practically failed to “identify the causes”  of the pandemic rise of the horrendous instances of rapes and criminality associated with them? Is it not a strong slap in the face of the modern civilization considering we have not yet spelt out the causes and the characteristic symptoms the  “toxic emitters” who turn decent males into sadists? How long will we endure the depravity which has already strangulated the decency of the society? Should we still wait to work out the tough laws? Should we still hitch to explore for the “causes” and remedial measures? I guess the time is ripe that each morally conscious individual be allowed a shotgun to shoot the “perversion and depravity” of any kind at sight!

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali.