"I could have been anywhere... but nothing comes close. Mumbai, NCR (National Capital Region) do not come close, although they are catching up. Bangalore is still far ahead," Bansal said at a panel discussion at the ongoing Bengaluru Tech Summit on Wednesday. The discussion was titled ‘How Bengaluru has influenced and helped founders achieve the unicorn status’.
Bansal, and the founders of three other unicorns - Bhavish Aggarwal, co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of ride-hailing company Ola, Mu Sigma founder Dhiraj Rajaram and Hari Menon, CEO and co-founder of BigBasket, traced their own personal journeys in Bengaluru and the startup ecosystem here.
Aggarwal echoed Bansal's views. Though he started Ola in Mumbai in 2010, he moved back to Bengaluru two years later, the city he began his career in.
"I was missing Bangalore. In Mumbai, you can't really build a large technology company...the ecosystem is not there. So I moved back to Bangalore in 2013 to scale Ola, and have been here since then," he said.
They also discussed various reasons why the city grew to become a technology and startup hub.
Bansal pointed out that Infosys Ltd and other IT services companies "sowed the early seeds of technology and entrepreneurship."
Global innovation centres of multinational firms took the next step in fostering the culture of innovation here, he said.
"I was working for a 50-member team in Amazon in 2006-07. Ten startups came out of one team," he said. He added that global tech majors such as Yahoo, Google and Microsoft had a positive influence on the startup ecosystem in Bengaluru. These companies also created the culture of product innovation that was missing here, he added.
Rajaram appreciated the mentorship that was available in Bengaluru, from the early days of the tech revolution. "We are standing on the shoulders of what companies like Infosys and Wipro did. The people of Bengaluru are also quite welcoming," he said.
Aggarwal added that the city has "a very proud legacy of building upon waves of talent development" and a very inclusive culture. "Right from the days of HAL, ISRO, to the IT revolution, that got built on top of that talent layer, to the MNCs setting up their global innovation centres to product companies emerging...if there one city in India that is best suited to develop the talent required for the technologies of the future - deep tech, data science, AI, Machine Learning - it has to be Bangalore," he said.
"The city continues to be attractive for anyone who wants to start up. Anyone from any part of India feels at home here. You have mentors, early employees willing to work, without pay sometimes, and investors right here," Bansal added.
Rajaram pointed out that around 20 companies had emerged out of Mu Sigma. However, he added, to go to next level, "education has to be a big part of the ecosystem and we have to create talent in abundance."
Bengaluru is also considered one of the best 'test markets' to launch new products or services. Big Basket's Menon pointed out that there is "tremendous amount of early adoption" in the city, which helps fine tune products and offerings. "Even now, when we launch a new service, we choose to launch here. Bangalore has the right set of customers to try products and give feedback," he said. Bengaluru continues to be the largest city for Big Basket, but other cities are scaling up, he said.
Aggarwal added that Bengaluru was an important market for Ola when the company was growing, and even now, when Ola launches new initiatives, they focus on Bengaluru, he added. "We have seen that in new, technology-driven spaces, the business which wins Bangalore wins the country," he said.