NRI and Entrepreneurship

Wed, May 13, 2015 3-minute read

Currently, am an NRI. Wow!! And an expat in Singapore. Super wow!! I never thought I’d be any of that. You know only NRIs are able to afford housing in Abhiramapuram and Mylapore, right? For Teynampet, you may need to be NRI banker or something. And you know the kind of life expats live in Chennai? Splurge is the word. They are the only people who buy stuff at KNK road and that European coffee boutique off-Gopalapuram. Someday, I’ll be an NRI expat in Chennai.

Anyway, when I was still a simple Chennaiite/Indian, I aspired a lot to be an entrepreneur. I still aspire to be, but they have a new word for it now – Wannapreneur. I used to attend some OCC meetups and tried to hang out in the places where the usual suspects were. I found myself really getting there. You know the rush, don’t you? It was fun. And it seemed promising. Only, I never seemed to see a problem with Chennai. Everything worked. They have AC buses to my work place. The buses are quite frequent – one in 15-20 minutes. The buses played radio, tamil songs but hey at least it’s not silent. The commute took only about 90 minutes (for about 22 kms) and it cost me less than 40 bucks.  Internet on the phone worked. I could read all my entrepreneur articles in the bus. I could check facebook and twitter and get my dose of @krishashok and @ir_squared right in the morning. Same holds for the evening. Where is a problem to solve?

Then I came to Singapore. Last couple of times when I went back to Chennai to visit my folks, Chennai was rather dysfunctional. As though the two years that I left the city, every body decided to stop working and stop making it the perfect city it was. Or, Singapore set me a new standard for functional. Now I understand why all those NRI junta bitched about the lacks of the city. I always wanted to slap them hard and tell them, dude you studied here.  But today I want to slap myself and tell me, dude you studied and worked here for a frigging 30 years.

This also explained something I always wondered. Most of the entrepreneurs that I came across were foreign-return (NRIs). I usually presumed you needed to work abroad to make enough money so that you can start you own show here. Then later when I was in Singapore I found out from quora that you don’t really need a lot of money. To put in perspective, I could have saved up the money I needed from what QCOM was paying me. So, if its not money, why are NRIs predominantly starting companies? Because they see problems. Everywhere. And they know how the other countries are handling these problems. They try to solve them here because it needn’t be a problem. As long as you are a local, you don’t see what is fully wrong with your city/state/country. You need a bit of varied experiences to see the problems.

Of course, there are many visionaries who didn’t need an eye-opener. They were alert enough to see problems with their naked eyes. But looks like I was not among them.

Actually, I was going through my idea-log. I found that most of my ideas were actually good and went on to become products (some successful, some funded and some not-so-successful) in some market. So, I did see some valid problems. Either they were too ahead for my city or I didn’t see how my solution worked in my city. Anyways, now that I am an NRI, may be one of these days I’ll solve some problem for Chennai (and maybe become an entrepreneur doing that).