Can Start-ups help prevent wars?
Wielding our soft power basically means we use our economic situation and cultural legacy to
persuade others or to negotiate successfully. We can definitely make India a juggernaut of startup bred soft power in the complicated geopolitical situation we find ourselves in, but can startups help prevent wars?
For a community which includes founders and investors that is working tirelessly to make a
better life for the world, wars and ingressions for land grabs in this day and age seem parasitic
and egregious. It seems strange and counter intuitive now that the world of venture capital was
born because of the need for better technology in World War II. And now we are wondering if
start-ups and their subtle power can help avoid a full-fledged war.
Start-ups have changed the Indian business landscape just as it did in the west in the 90s.
Despite the valuation bubbles, no one can deny how they have impacted our lives in several
positive ways be it healthcare, e-commerce, payments, logistics and the overall tech
infrastructure. It has added to our GDP and created millions of jobs. It has brought foreign
investment into India and fostered national pride. We rank third in the start-up ecosystem and
currently have 107 unicorns. Entrepreneurship has been part of our culture and today it
promises to solve the nation’s most pressing problems. Our start-ups provide goods and
services not only to India, but also to the entire world. They also have offices and employees
across geographies. Many companies function with teams that are co located across various
nations. We are interdependent for people, resources, technology and market. Many companies
in the world want to target and build for the Indian market. Investors from all over the world
continue to invest in our start-ups and in our economy. Wars cannot ignore economic interests.
Economic interests and the needs of the people impact, if not govern decisions by leaders.
Failure in this, sometimes will undoubtedly lead to crisis, as is being witnessed in Europe.
Indian entrepreneurs succeeded in the west and they sowed the seeds of venture capital in India
thereby enabling a culture of entrepreneurship that has energised the economy in more ways
than we could tangibly know. Indian entrepreneurs succeeded despite government policies not
always helping them. Indian founders have continued to look to other geographies for growth
and founders and investors are looking to India as a target market.
A country doesn’t simply reject innovation because it has happened elsewhere. WE welcome
it despite that because it has utility and many times we welcome it because we currently lack
the infrastructure needed for such innovation in-house.
While on one side better tech has helped spruce up and keep our defence systems up to date,
our economies and consumer markets have flourished because of better import and export
channels. We have vested interests in other geographies and their markets, quite literally. Many
of the nations’ entrepreneurs have worked to make the world a better place, many working
directly on solutions that yield positive impact on the environment, climate, workforce and
healthcare. Information is freely available and people travel all over the world for work or
India today speaks from a place of knowledge and expertise, from a place of pride, not
vulnerability, nor is it nervous aggressive like its neighbours. Our entrepreneurs need to
celebrated and supported even more. Our freedom was dearly bought and we will go above and
beyond to protect it. Our current economic progress has taken years of effort and we don’t take
anything for granted.
India has been trying to defend its lands in the Kashmir and the north east against incursions
by Pakistan and China. It has never tried to grab land or lay unwarranted claims on the land of
any other nation. Our freedom was dearly bought and growth and safety has not come easy
either. India today has a seat the table, a voice that cannot be drowned. Every sector has worked
hard and we owe a lot to our entrepreneurial spirit.
Our entrepreneurs have given India a new face. Our technological advancement, a new
identity. We are now assertive, but not aggressive. We are capable of defending ourselves.
And without feeling the need to attack other nations to shore up our esteem.
Furthermore, the success of Prime Minister Modi’s Make in India scheme cannot rest solely
on trying to be self-sufficient, but also to become a design and manufacturing hub for the world.
Several start-ups have focused on the SMEs in manufacturing and especially automobiles. Our
markets are flooded with good quality desi brands in all sectors. I do not believe that any nation
can become completely self-sufficient in an efficient manner. Let us not forget, despite some
efforts we still have a trade deficit. Even the haloed goal of becoming a manufacturing hub,
despite growth in technology and especially robotics and automation, we need the political
will, support and the right diplomatic moves to surge ahead towards our goals. We will not use
debt trap diplomacy like China, nor can we rest solely on the export of software, like the Middle
East has done so with Oil.
Let’s not forget the Ambani, Adani, Tata, Birla clans. They took bold strides in
entrepreneurship at a time when Venture capital did not exist. They are the ones with the true
power to tweak policies or to wield economic and political influence. Wars are rarely initiated
by the people but instead by a few egotistical leaders who refuse to think beyond their own
So the short answer is, no, start-ups and their technologies can help defend the country, it can
arm terrorists and soldiers alike, it can bend elections, they can do good and just as much bad
but they cannot prevent wars spawned by power fanatics and disillusioned and greedy
A lot has been said about the rise of robots and the dangers of artificial intelligence. It seems
for the time being we need not worry about machines waging war on humans. We humans are
trouble makers enough for that still.