If you grew up in India before the turn of the millennium, you would surely have heard this when you were young. “So and so went to America with just his degree and a handful of dollars in his pocket. All he had with him was his brain and (faith in god/ love for mom/ belief in himself). Look where he is now. If you (study hard/eat your vegetables/stop wasting your time), who knows, he may help get you a job over there.” For most Indians during pre-liberalisation days, the US was Xanadu, Utopia and El Dorado all rolled into one and it seemed to be every non-resident Indian’s sworn duty to get as many of his brethren across the Atlantic as possible. The impending Y2K bomb helped somewhat, but that frenzy abated soon. Now there are enough opportunities to make it big in India too, even as it becomes tougher to move to the US for employment and ultimately, immigration. But for many Indians in Silicon Valley, helping others has become something of a second nature. Offering practical help, that is. And, rather than getting a young relative from the extended family a mind-numbing job as a code monkey somewhere, they have been helping bright minds in the Valley become even better. In this issue, we feature some blazing stars of the past, and some rising young stars of the future. Read on …

In the late 1970s and early 80s, the nascent hi-tech industry in India received a boost of sorts out of the blue from unexpected quarters, when IBM was given marching orders to exit the country in 1978 by the then Janata Government. Big Blue’s exit created a big vacuum that was sought to be filled by indigenous hardware production and software writing companies such as Hindustan Computers Ltd (HCL), Patni Computer Systems, Wipro, Infosys, not to mention a whole plethora of small and medium sized Indian enterprises and start-ups. Though tightly controlled import restrictions and oft-misdirected socialist ideologies tended to render entrepreneurial growth cumbersome and difficult in the 1980s, early Western head-hunters were perforce amazed and captivated by the abundant reservoir of quality human capital available from India. The infrastructure was lousy, the machines and their underlying technologies primitive, but the quality of local talent was found unbelievable by global enterprises, especially those from America. Texas Instruments, Hewlett Packard and General Electric, all US companies, outsourced software development to India. In the words of Jack Welch Jr., the then Chairman and CEO of General Electric: “India was a developing country with the intellectual infrastructure of a well developed country.” Underneath the morass of bureaucratic red-tape and a beshackled economy, the then electronics secretary to the government N Vittal, and later finance minister Dr. Manmohan Singh took it upon themselves to act as catalysts to raise the “thud value” of Indian IT by unshakling it’s fetters, ordering bandwidth lines and tax holidays for software exports. The Y2K paranoia and the Internet-wireless boom of the mid-90s also enabled India to leapfrog decades of obsolete thinking and position itself for a tryst with digital America. This was the scenario that brought to the fore the ability, skills and business acumen of the Indiaspora, who scaled the peaks of innovation and wealth creation by creating iconic enterprises and building top-notch businesses in the Silicon Valley.

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