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Unacademy CEO Gaurav Munjal's comment on Indian tech founders sparks debate

Country lacks culture of research and innovation but Indian entrepreneurs found solutions to country's problems

Unacademy CEO Gaurav Munjal

Unacademy CEO Gaurav Munjal

Abhijeet Kumar New Delhi

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Gaurav Munjal, the founder and chief executive of edtech company Unacademy, has stirred a debate by saying Indian tech founders lack innovation, according to media reports.

“Indian tech founders are only copying everything from the US. You can't tell me one single technology that we made…,” Munjal was quoted as saying at TechSparks 2024 event on Wednesday. According to reports, he also said that startup founders are hostile and suffer from “god complex”.

One expert said research and funding for it is lagging in the country. “American universities and the government spend lots of money on fundamental research which is missing in India. So, it is almost impossible to get fundamental ideas in the country,” said Shriram Subramanian, of InGovern Research Services. The American venture capital system – one that fosters risk – has been around since the 1960s. The Indian setup is fairly new.

But not everything Indian companies do is copied, said Subramanian, praising Indian tech founders’ ability to identify problems unique to the country and scaling up solutions.

“Indian tech founders have worked on problems that are unique to India and solved them at scale. For example, Redbus is a unique Indian problem-solving solution. UPI is a tech solution that was implemented at scale,” he said, referring to the digital payments system Unified Payments Interface.

 “Some business models like IT (information technology) services, BPOs (business process outsourcing), software as a service (SaaS) etc are examples of how this has happened. Many Indian founders are bridging the India and US markets.”

Munjal said entrepreneurs should shift to Bengaluru (Bangalore) for a better chance of success. “I don't think you should be based out of Mumbai or Delhi, I think you should be based out of Bangalore. Come to Bangalore, increase your odds (of being successful). I don't think you should be optimising for anything other than your product market fit in the beginning. I don't think you should optimise for your friends and family," he reportedly said.

Munjal said Mumbai is a “better city” to spend a weekend and Bengaluru the “best option for startups", he was quoted as saying. “In fact, the goal of tech parks in Mumbai and Delhi should be to convert people to go to Bangalore."

Founded in 2015 by Munjal, Hemesh Singh, and Roman Saini in 2015, Unacademy is backed by Tiger Global, SoftBank,Temasek, General Atlantic, and Dragoneer Investment Group, among others.

Unacademy connects educators and learners across different fields and generates revenue through both online and offline learning subscriptions.

In FY23, the company had an operating revenue of Rs 907 crore compared to Rs 719 crore in FY22.

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First Published: Apr 04 2024 | 4:25 PM IST

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