Woke up today morning to this news:
This happens everytime!! I have been “pitching” India since 2006 — raising money for it, investing in it, acquiring companies in it, creating jobs for it, getting foreign capital into it. Everytime you sense that the India story is finally coming together (around 2004 under AB Vajpayee when infra finally started improving; in 2007–08 when bunch of NRIs returned to their motherland; in 2014–16 when Modi got a strong mandate for change etc. etc.), the govt. and its policy-makers shoot themselves in the foot? It makes me frustrated, angry, disappointed…even sad.
Over last decade, I have worked to bring several large overseas companies and institutional investors into India — selling the classic “rising up to the top-right” Internet users slide, the “demographic dividend” story that never goes out of style, the “largest democracy in the world” jingoism. For anyone who has grown up in the country, studied in the country, operated in the country and essentially come up the ranks in the country, we know that this high-level analysis completely glosses over massive structural complexities and weaknesses in the Indian economy and legal justice system. In my heart, as an Indian, I want all of this to be not true, but as a global citizen, professional and custodian of capital (which is fungible), it’s hard to not be affected by these developments. At the end of the day, emotions can’t hide the wide potholes in the India story.
I want to be a problem-solver, not a problem-identifier or a jingoistic reactionary. But I don’t know how! I have rarely reacted to such issues on public platforms in the past. But seeing this story truly made my blood boil today morning. Founders are the most giving stake-holders in any society — they take massive risks, put their comforts on the line to build something, create value, technology, products and jobs, generate wealth for everyone (and themselves) but with huge professional and personal sacrifice. Grounds-up founders don’t inherit family businesses or Millions of $$ in a trust or estate — they start-up to build better lives for themselves and in process, improve all our lives as well! This kind of one-sided #angeltax activism and freezing bank accounts just disrespects entrepreneurship and true human enterprise that moves our species forward.
I am, and will always be, a big believer in Indian talent, and will continue to back it all my life. But unfortunately, I am not a believer in the Indian govt., policy and legal systems.
Note 1: I felt the same anger & helplessness when Nirbhaya and 2G scams happened during my last years as an Indian resident.
Note 2: today, as Indian founders battle the tax authorities and essentially the Indian govt., I am for the first time truly internalizing the use case for a decentralized world and crypto.
Note 3: my personal experience with Indian real estate has been similar (non-transparent, corrupt, no way to enforce rules, full of outrightly fraudulent and criminal behavior). Couple of years back, I vowed to not invest any $$ in Indian real estate going forward.
Note 4: it’s unlikely that I will ever invest again in Indian legal entities of startups via Operators Studio.