India tech/eCommerce/mobile “is like the late 1990s in the U.S.”

In a Bloomberg article entitled “America’s Unwanted Ivy Leaguers Are Flocking to India,” Kunal Bahl, the CEO of Snapdeal, said that for anyone now interested in programming or eCommerce or mobile-device apps, India “is like the late 1990s in the U.S.” Bahl, who’s application for a U.S. visa was rejected forcing him to return to India to start what has become the most highly valued startup in the country (valued at about $5 billion), also said he regularly fields inquiries from Indian graduates of his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, who are eager for jobs in India. This is a dramatic shift from the 1980s and 1990s when a graduate education and employment in the U.S. were considered the brass rings for Indian engineers.

The Bloomberg article went on to quote Dheeraj Sidana, the 32-year-old director of engineering at the messaging startup Hike who was planning to go to the U.S., but then changed his mind by his second year at the National Institute of Technology at Jaipur:

“While I was in college, I was repeatedly exposed to this phrase: ‘U.S. is nothing without us.’ It was a moment of clarity that hit me. If everyone is going to go to the U.S., who is going to make us?”

He doesn’t believe he missed anything with his homeland’s tech scene growing at a pace he never anticipated and startup employees commanding yearly raises of 10% to 20%.

Nevertheless, returning to India has its drawbacks as the country’s notorious bureaucracy and stressed-out infrastructure can take a toll. Anand Narayanan, who lived in the Los Angeles suburb of Burbank while working in the U.S., was quoted as saying driving on the chaotic streets of Chennai makes him fondly recall the “orderly traffic of LA.”

Anand and his wife moved to the U.S. in 2002 as newlyweds when he got a job with Tata Consultancy Services, but it took 18 months to get a visa so she could end up working as a senior financial analyst at Walt Disney Co. They returned home in 2008 when they decided to have children and staying at home with a baby would the wife having to relinquish her visa. He now works at as a chief marketing officer at a startup, but she says that: “I’m still looking for my Disney here.”

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