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Aneesh Durg, a young Indian- origin student from Chicago who came to the southern tech hub of Bangalore to help develop a device that helps blind people read written text.

Start-up fever grips young tech-savvy Indians

WT24 Desk

BANGALORE, India – In the basement of a  Bangalore building, hundreds of young Indians sit in neat rows of
desks typing furiously, all dreaming of becoming the new Steve  Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, AP reports.

A quarter of a century after liberalisation kick-started  India’s economic transformation, a new generation of young people  are capitalising on their parents’ hard-won financial security to  try their luck in the risky business of tech start-ups.

“It’s really picking up,” said Aneesh Durg, a young Indian- origin student from Chicago who came to the southern tech hub of  Bangalore to help develop a device that helps blind people read  written text.

“It’s actually not what I expected it to be. I thought that  they would be a little bit behind, but they are actually working  just as hard and there’s really cool stuff coming out of India  these days.”

More and more young people in the country of 1.25 billion  people are opting to go it alone, in stark contrast to previous  generations that valued the stability of employment above all  else.

India now has some 4,750 tech start-ups — the highest number  in the world after the United States and Britain, which it is fast  catching up. Success stories include Flipkart, Amazon’s rival in  India, and online supermarket Big Basket.

– Global product –

From robots and mobile apps to smart kitchens and a cocktail- making machine the cavernous Bangalore office, which houses one of
India’s biggest start-up incubators, is a veritable ideas factory.  Every meeting room bears a photo of a successful technology  entrepreneur.

Vikram Rastogi is a robotics expert who set up a small  incubator named Hacklab after visiting the prestigious  Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2014.

“I saw the kind of hardware work they were doing. We could  also do the same kind of hardware work in India, it’s just that
people do not pursue it much further,” he explains.  “So I thought let me start with something in India and try to  make global product out of it,” Rastogi adds.

The engineering graduate is currently working on ways to  enable drones to operate as part of a fleet in order to harness  more information, an application that could be used to gather data  over large areas such as the vast farms of Australia or Brazil.

But the path to building the next Google or Apple is not  always smooth.  “When I started this we had a lot of people who came to us
with start-up ideas,” Rastogi says, but he admits that some give  up over time often due to family pressure to get a salaried job.

– New generation –

Sylvia Veeraraghavan, one of the millions who have migrated  to Bangalore for work since the 1990s, is watching this new  generation of self-starters with interest.

When she moved there, the city was becoming a outsourcing hub  for Western technology companies seeking a cheap and well educated
workforce through companies such as Infosys, Tata Consultancy  Services and Wipro.

“For me, for the people of my time, getting a job was a very  big deal. The kind of values that we used to have are very
different from the values that people have today,” said  Veeraraghavan, who now works for a charity after a 25-year career  in IT.

She believes the rising prosperity of India’s middle class  has given young people the freedom to experiment.  “They are not constricted, or restricted, having to take up a   job, or finding their next meal,” she said. “They can be  innovative, they can be imaginative.”

It is a trend that looks set to continue — according to  forecasts, between 200,000 and 250,000 people will be working in  tech start-ups by 2020, nearly double the current number,  according to software industry association Nasscom.

Traditionally there has been a well-trodden path from Indian  IT institutes to a master’s degree in America and then on to a  plum job in Silicon Valley.   But US President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigration —  including a proposed restructure of the H-1B working visas often
used by tech firms to recruit foreign skilled workers — may mean  even more of India’s tech stars opt to carve a new route to
success at home.

It remains too early to say what impact Trump’s planned  immigration reform could have on India, but for Aneesh the answer
is simple.   He is already confident that when he finishes his studies in  Chicago, he will be heading back to India not California.

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