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Kunal Bahl, Co-founder, Snapdeal
Kunal Bahl, Co-founder, Snapdeal

H-1b visa rejection: Kunal Bahl's inspiring story should be a lesson for everyone

Read the inspirational story of a 36-year-old Indian entrepreneur who founded a unicorn startup when his H-1B visa got rejected

US President Donald Trump on Monday promulgated an order to extend the ban on H1-B visa until the end of 2020. Trump's visa restrictions have not only separated Indian families, but also shattered dreams of lakhs of aspirational youth in India. India's tech industry is rattled and many stories of gloom and doom is being shared on social media.

As the numbers suggest, an overwhelming number of Indian techies aspire to go to the United States to pursue their career. As many as 1.84 lakh Indians applied for the total 2.5 lakh H-1B work visas applications for the current financial year ending March 2021.

Let's go back and borrow some inspiration from the 35th US President, John F. Kennedy, who famously said in 1959, “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word 'crisis.' One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger--but recognize the opportunity." Kennedy was only elected to be US President in 1961 and his recognition of the Chinese characters in this speech is still a contested one, but Kennedy's timeless inspirational wisdom still resonates to millions even after half a century.

One such story of crisis-yielding opportunity is the story of Indian entrepreneur and Snapdeal co-founder Kunal Bahl. In 2007, after graduating from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, Bahl bagged a job an engineering job at Seattle-based Microsoft, but US immigration officials rejected his application for an H-1B visa, which led to Bahl's return to India.

The rejection turned out to be an opportunity for Bahl. Three years later, in February 2010, Bahl and his friend Rohit Bansal launched Snapdeal.

Snapdeal achieved the unicorn startup status in 2014. Snapdeal has now grown to become one of the largest e-commerce marketplaces in India and was valued at $6.5 billion in 2019. Snapdeal is one of the fiercest competitors for US-based Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart.

When the Trump's H-1B visa ban news broke on Tuesday, Ash Lilani, Founder and Managing Partner of Saama Capital, took to Twitter to remind Indian techies for the opportunity crisis like this throws up. Lilani tweeted that US' ban decision is India's gain, "I keep thinking of today and how a US visa issue led him to come home and be a catalyst in the creation of Snapdeal. I hope we see many many more such success stories come out of this."

Bahl remembering the rejection period says, "I didn't know this 13 years ago when my H-1B visa was rejected, but haven't regretted a moment since." "India is the land of big opportunities," the 36-year-old is optimistic about the opportunities for young Indians.

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