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So, Where Is India’s Silicon Valley?



There is never going to be one city in India. Its tough luck. But in a way its also the strength. So here’s my perspective:

Bangalore has great weather, but as someone mentioned on Quora, the culture has really gone mercenery. Unless you are VC funded, its going to become harder and harder to build a company out of there. It might make better sense just to move to the valley. In a few years, i doubt it will sustain. that said, there is weather, probably the highest density of capital and every coffee place talking about starting up.

Pune – of all the places, its the city that i really love. The community there is amazing, though honestly speaking, a fair bit less vibrant than i remember a few years ago – with Santosh Dawara restructuring Pune OCC (Edited after comment), with Navin Kabra focusing in a startup, it looks like its a bit out of shape. One thing i also noticed is that folks there have very good specialization (Finding folks in Hadoop, or Game development or highly specialized skills in Security/Virtualization software is easier), but there is a bit out of balance business sense. Since it has been a city that has always had backend product development (but never the strategy or the marketing bits), it seems a bit lacking. But i can see how certain businesses, and niche (with strong tech focus) can thrive here very well. Very little distractions and good weather. Close proximity to Mumbai.

Mumbai, is a lost cause to me. Ive spoken to quite a few VCs there, who agree to that – except for one guy who thinks its the last golden goose that everyone is ignoring. Sure TCS might have its biggest workforce there, but an IT company with the mantra of the cheapest bid possible, is probably not where you hire startup talent from. And trust me, you have a great company VCs will fly down to fund you. They have to put the money to work, let them work. Dont let them tell you otherwise. In most of the meets in Mumbai, no matter what we try, the conversation inevitably turns towards retail and finance. Nothing against it, but thats the strength of the place.

Chennai – super conservative, horrible autoguys, and bad weather, but it has old money, business sense and some success stories – like Zoho going for it. It has a bit of diversity with a thriving movie industry (they actually churn out more movies than bollywood – dont ask me about the quality though), and people who come back to Chennai, the US returns are quite open to taking a pay cut. But the numbers are small and you will have to look. But it has a thriving tech community, and with the effort of guys like Siddharta GovindarajDorai Thodla,Senthil Nayagam, there is a ground up community there. Successes such as Freshdesk, Orangescape also add to it.

Hyderabad – majorly influenced by Deloitte, and Google (the non-tech part). The saving grace there is Microsoft, even though the last product they developed there was Windows Me. The last time i had a meetup there, people were still very gung-ho about wanting to build a consulting/services business.

Edit; The MS thing was partly a joke, in reality the India Centre does a lot of tools for the MSDN platform and for developers. But you get the idea.

Delhi: from the report published by Yourstory on Mint, it seems they are the vibrant community. Why? Because the delhi hustle will get your revenue clock running – unlike Bangalore startups which are still after cool technology. But the problem with Delhi is that, while its haven for “deal sites” like Snapdeal, Jabong etc, tech startups will struggle there.

(A few of us keep joking that the “perfect” startup is one that has the delhi hustle and the tech of Bangalore/Pune)

And then we have the actual success stories of India, coming out of Shimla (Instablogs – by Ankit Maheshwari) that i wonder what this whole excercise is about.

Listen, this whole one Hub concept is from an old world, a world were people had to be face to face to learn and share things – a world before Skype, Google Hangouts, Quora and the zillion other ways we can learn, share and approach markets. Even the Newer hubs in the US are not Silicon Valley Centric, the world is shifting towards a distributed cluster model where there is a play for Seattle, New York, Chicago, Boston heck even for Boulder. (Europe seems to be following a very similar model as well, with hotspots opening up in London, Hensinski, Frankfurt/Hamburg, Estonia etc etc)

The Indian model will also follow a similar trend. Depending on whether you are building an enterprise business, a deals-business, a tech startup, or one that needs careful cashflow (platform businesses), or one driven by ads and media influence, the city where you need to plant your feet in will vary. There is no one city.

But, dont move to any city in the first year or so. You will burn yourself in the overheads. Till you figure out your product, focus and market-fit, stay in a place that gives you maximum mileage for your buck – people and networks you know that you can hire from, food that doesnt cost you an arm and a leg, fewer distractions, anything at all that will keep your costs low – and my bet is that, it most probably is wherever it is that you are at right now, and are planted. Even having to think about who is the electrician in a new city will consume bandwidth that you don’t have.

Make the most of it. Move when needed to give your startup that push. Eventually all startups facing the US/Global market will move to be based out of the US or Singapore, so don’t get sentimental about it – We live in a Globalized world and lets take advantage of that. Be wherever you need to be, where you can get the maximum runway for your startup. My guess: Its probably the city you least expect.

Once the commitment to start is done, what is expected of you is to keep your head down, have absolute focus and just day-after-day build what you are building. Ecosystems are a tad bit over-rated and hyped. Think about it – for decades people have been building businesses out of thin air in India. What’s your excuse?

Remember that whole trick we did with skipping landlines and going straight to mobile, we might be doing that with ecosystems as well.


Is There A Coworking Space Bubble?



An annual growth rate of nearly 100%, almost five years in a row? More than 60 coworking spaces in a city like Berlin? Are these the characteristics of a bubble? Nope, these are characteristics of a lasting change in our world of work, which has been further catalyzed by the recent economic crises in many countries. But what makes this change different to a bubble? We’ve summarized some arguments of why the coworking movement is based on a sustainable change. However, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy job to open a good working coworking space.

Five reasons why the growth of coworking spaces is based on organic and sustainable growth: 

1. Coworking spaces invest their own money and create real wealth

Already, there is a convincing argument supporting why coworking spaces are not developing in a bubble: the fact that they create real wealth.

Whether referring to the dotcom bubble a decade ago or the real estate crisis in Spain or the United States, the crisis originated in a glut of cheap money, in an environment in which the sender and the recipient were unacquainted. From funds and banks, money flowed in steady streams to investments which offered little resistance and the most promising returns – which only a little while later turned into delusions and ruined investments.

Redistributed risks create illusions. Those people who distributed the money rarely wore the risk of investment decisions. The risk was mainly taken by small shareholders or people who bought parts of those investments. This was because either both parties’ (better) judgement was drowned out by the noise of the market, or because shareholders were unaware of the risk, and were at the mercy of banks and funds for reliable information.

Another fundamental condition for the creation of bubbles are the sheer amounts of money that flow from various locations globally and are concentrated, by comparison, in much fewer places.

Most coworking spaces, however, receive their funding from local or nearby sources and do not operate within this financial system. In fact, the founders mainly inject the bulk of the required investment, and turn to friends or relatives for additional support. They wear the full brunt of the risks that are involved in small-time investment.

They have access to much more information, because it is their own project, rather than a foreign one thousands of miles away. This also includes failures and mistakes that are encountered along the way, but the risk is less redistributed, thereby decreasing the probability of failures.

2. Labor market changes demand on certain office types lastingly

Most users of coworking spaces are self-employed. The proportion of employees is also on the rise, in many cases simply because they work for small companies that increasingly opt to conduct their business in coworking spaces rather than in traditional offices. The industry of almost all coworkers fall within the Internet-based creative industries.

With flexibilisation of work markets, new mobile technologies that are changing work patterns, and the increase of external services purchasing from large and medium-sized enterprises (outsourcing), the labor market has changed radically in many parts of the world.

The long-term financial and emotional security of becoming an employee no longer exists, especially for younger generations of workers. Bigger companies are quicker to fire than hire, and precarious short-term contracts are on the rise. Promising options on the labor market are more often recuded to freelancer careers and starting your own company.

And that’s possible with less money to invest. All you need is a laptop, a brain and a good network. For years, the number of independent workers and small businesses has been growing worldwide – particularly in internet-based creative industries. Anyone who has sufficient specialized skills and the willingness to take risks may adapt more quickly to market conditions if they own a small business or are self employed; more so than if they were to work in a dependent position in an equally volatile market.

Coworking spaces provide an environment in which to do this. Once they have joined a (suitable) coworking space, these factors become apparent to coworkers, who will remain in their space for years to come.

Furthermore, independent workers rarely fire themselves in crises, and even small companies are less likely to give their employees the boot – compared to their large counterparts. This combination enables more sustainable business models – and less business models à la Groupon.

3. Coworking spaces don’t live on crises

Global economic growth is waning while the number of coworking spaces is continually growing. Do coworking spaces thus benefit from this crisis?

The current crises accelerate the formation and growth of coworking spaces, because they offer solutions and space for the resulting problems. Coworking spaces are therefore not a result of a crisis, but the product of change that pre-dates their existence. A crisis is simply the most visible expression of change.

The first coworking spaces emerged in the late 1990s; the movement’s strong growth started six years ago – before the onset of economic downturns in many countries.

4. Coworking spaces depend on the needs of their members

Most coworking spaces are rarely full. Does this mean they are unsuccessful? On average, only half of all desks are occupied. But the average occupancy rate of 50% refers only to a specific date.

In fact, coworking spaces generally serve more members than they can seat at any given time, since members do not use the spaces simultaneously. Coworking spaces are places for independents who want to work on flexible terms. Smaller spaces rely more on permanent members. Larger spaces can respond more flexibilty to the working hours of its members, and, can rent desks several times over.

If a coworking space is always overcrowded or totally empty, the purpose of said space would be defeated. Firstly, it is rather impossible to work in an overcrowded room. Second, it’s impossible to cowork in an empty room. Given the nature of flexible memberships, a coworking space only can survive if they fit the needs of their members. Members would otherwise be quick to leave, and membership would be much more transient.

5. The coworking market is far from saturation

Less than 2% of all self-employed – and even fewer employees – currently work in coworking spaces. Reporting on coworking may increase, but inflated reporting on the coworking movement in the mainstream media is still far away.

Coverage of coworking space are most likely to be found in the career or local sections in larger publications – front cover coverage remains the dream of many space operators. This is because the whole coworking movement can’t be photographed in one picture. What appears to be a disadvantage, however, is actually a beneficial truth: niche coverage allows the industry to grow organically, and avoid over inflation.


Coworking spaces don’t operate in parallel universes – like the financial market. Demand and supply are almost exclusively organic and operate in the real world economy.

For the same reason, there is no guarantee that opening a coworking spaces will be automaticly successful. Anyone who fails to learn how to deal with potential customers in their market, or is unfamiliar with how coworking communities function, will have a difficult time of making one work. In the same way that business people in other industries will fail if they do not understand their market.

Those who simply tack on the word ‘coworking’ to their space’s facade will need to work harder. The structure of most coworking spaces is based on real work, calculated risk, and real-world supply and demand.


About the Author

This article was produced by Deskmag. Deskmag is the magazine about the new type of work and their places, how they look, how they function, how they could be improved and how we work in them. They especially focus on coworking spaces which are home to the new breed of independent workers and small companies. see more.

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Callum Connects

Dextre Teh, Founder of Rebirth Academy



Dextre Teh is a consultant and marketing guru, helping F&B businesses to tighten their operations and grow their businesses.

What’s your story?
I help frustrated F&B business owners stuck in day to day operation transform from a glorified operator into a real business owner. I’m a 27 year old Singaporean second generation restaurant owner and a F&B business consultant. Entering the industry at 13 years old, I have always been obsessed with operations and systemisation. At the age of 25, I joined the insurance industry and earned a six figure yearly income. However, I left the high pay behind because it was not my passion and returned to the F&B industry. Now I help other F&B companies to tighten operations and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services.

What excites you most about your industry?
The food. I’m a big lover of food and even have a YouTube show on food in development. But that aside, it is really about impacting people through food. Creating moments and memories for people, be it a dating couple or families or friends. Providing that refuge from the daily grind of life. So in educating my consulting clients and training their staff to provide a better experience for their customers, I aim to shift the industry in the direction of creating memories instead of just selling food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and bred in Singapore. I love the culture, the food and travelling in Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore hands down. The environment here is built for businesses to thrive. The government is pro business and the infrastructure is built around supporting business growth. Not to mention the numerous amount of grants available in helping people start and even grow business. If I’m not mistaken, the Singaporean government is the only government in the world that offers grants to home grown businesses for overseas expansion.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Learning to do things you do not intend to master is a BIG mistake in business. Focus on what you are good at and pay others to do the rest.

Many business owners including myself are so overwhelmed by the 10,000 things that they feel they need to do everyday. We try to do everything ourselves because we think it saves us money. The only thing that, that does for us is overload our schedules and give us mediocre results. Instead we should focus on what we do best and bring in support for the rest.

Who inspires you?
Christopher M Duncan.

At 29, Chris has built multiple 7 figure businesses. He opened me to the possibility of building a business on the thing that I loved and gave me a blueprint of how to do it. He also showed me that being young doesn’t mean you cannot do great things.

Imran Mohammad and Fazil Musa
They are my mentors and inspire me every single day to pursue my dreams, to focus on celebrating life and enjoying the process of getting to where I want to be.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Time is always more expensive than money. Money, you can earn over and over again but time, once you spend it, will never come back.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I am a firm believer that your experiences shape who you are. I am grateful for every single moment of my life be it the highs or the lows, the successes and the failures because all these experiences have led me to become the person I am and brought me to the place that I’m at so I will probably do things the same way as everything was perfect in its time.

How do you unwind?
Chilling out in a live music bar with a drink in hand, listening to my favourite live band, 53A. Other than that I’m big on retail therapy, buying cool and geeky stuff.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bangkok. It feels like a home away from home where the cost of living is relatively low, the food is good and the people are friendly.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Everything you know about business is wrong by Alastair Dryburgh. It is a book that challenges commonly accepted business “truths” and inspires you to go against the grain, think different, take risks and stand your ground in the face of the challenges that will come your way as a business owner.

Shameless plug for your business:
I’m the creator of the world’s first Chilli Crab Challenge. It gained viral celebrity earlier this year with 3 major newspaper features and more than a dozen blog and online publications featuring it in the span of two weeks. In the span of the two weeks, the campaign reached well over a million people in exposure without a single cent spent in ads.

Now I help F&B companies to tighten operations, increase profits and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services. Chilli Crab Challenge (

How can people connect with you?
You can connect with me on Facebook ( or visit for more information or book a 10 minute call with me @

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
Download free copies of his books here:

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