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Entrepreneurship in Bengal: A Blueprint for India’s Next Stage of Development

Posted on Monday, Sep 3rd 2012

You have heard much about Jyoti Basu’s Bengal, Mamata Banerjee’s Kolkata, and various other dysfunctional views of the erstwhile capital of British India. Today, I am going to introduce you to Abhishek Rungta’s Kolkata, Pallav Nadhani’s Kolkata, Bimal Patwari’s Bengal, Srish Agarwal’s Bengal, and Arijit Bhattacharyya’s Bengal.

Kolkata in particular and Bengal as a whole have missed most of the Indian IT outsourcing boom of the past 20 years. Large companies like IBM, Infosys, and Wipro all have operations in Kolkata, but employment creation on the scale that Bangalore, for example, has seen has remained out of Bengal’s reach. Reasons span from political strikes to the work culture. You could easily conclude that the picture is dismal.

Not so. There is an interesting group of entrepreneurs – both IT product and services – working in Bengal today, building core competencies and sizable companies that can provide the blueprint for the state’s development.

Abhishek Rungta has built IndusNet into a $5 million a year web and mobile development company that caters to digital agencies in the UK and elsewhere from Kolkata. Pallav Nadhani has built FusionCharts to a $7 million a year software company that sells charting products to customers all over the world, also from Kolkata. Bimal Patwari’s PinnacleCAD is at $6 million a year, offering outsourced CAD services to architectural and construction firms around the world from Durgapur, West Bengal, a small town in the heartland of the state. Srish Agarwal has built A1 Future into a $1.5 million company that caters to the world’s logo design needs by leveraging Bengal’s artistic bent. Finally, Arijit Bhattacharyya has also leveraged Bengal’s artistic talent and built Virtualinfocom into a $4.8 million graphics, animation, and gaming company.

These are entrepreneurs. Yes, small entrepreneurs who have not accepted political strikes and work culture issues as limitations. They have not waited for venture capital. Instead, they have taken destiny in their hands and gone ahead to build successful, profitable companies.

The bottom line for Bengal is that we need more entrepreneurs like the ones mentioned above. In short order, we need another 100 of them who can expand the pipeline by a few orders of magnitude.

There are certain advantages that Bengal has, the biggest being that the talent war and attrition nightmare that other regions face – especially the large metro areas – doesn’t rage as violently. Salaries and cost of living are also commensurately lower. Small towns like Durgapur, where Bimal Patwari has set up PinnacleCAD, can be greenfield opportunities for entrepreneurs to operate practically in zero-attrition environments. Srish Agarwal and Arijit Bhattacharyya can look forward to places like Shantiniketan to expand for arts talent. Siliguri, Burdwan, Howrah, and many other smaller towns all over Bengal can provide similar opportunities for expansion.

What’s more, Kolkata itself isn’t yet saturated. Although there has been an exodus of talent out of the city in the past two decades, these talented people may be interested in returning home. Some of them, perhaps, may also be interested in becoming entrepreneurs.

There is much talk of Infosys setting up a campus for 10,000 additional employees in Kolkata. Frankly, the same level can be achieved by 20 entrepreneurs building 500-person operations. In fact, I would like to see both happen at scale: Infosys, Wipro, and others setting up large operations, and in parallel, the entrepreneurs succeeding in building both product and services companies based in Bengal. Then, by 2020, the picture can change.

This blueprint of development needs to spread to other parts of India as well. To the large numbers of talented IT professionals who moved to Bangalore over the past 20 years, now may be a good time to consider returning to where you came from to ride this wave of distributed, democratic entrepreneurship. Build a 500- to 1,000-person outsourcing company in Indore, Cochin, or Guwahati, and larger outsourcers may offer to buy it. Build a product company in Coimbatore, Jaipur, or Bhubaneswar using local talent.

At a pan-India level, if 5,000 IT entrepreneurs spawn in various parts of the country, building products and services companies that become profitable and grow to more than $1 million each over the next three to four years, we will see a massive surge in India’s growth rate. Today, countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Kenya, and so on are competing with Indian outsourcers. By moving out to India’s vast hinterland, and out of the five major metros, Indian companies can once again compete in the low end. In the high end, India has developed more expertise and training infrastructure than the U.S. or Europe. That should offer a good competitive edge. When I wrote the Death of Indian Outsourcing, I immediately recommended this spreading out into the heartland. It is happening today, and the trend needs to accelerate. I have also supported the concept arbitrage of SaaS businesses that have been successful in the U.S.. That too is happening today on a larger scale.

The trends are all there. We just need mechanics for acceleration. I believe, 1M/1M is one of the acceleration strategies. We’re training lots of entrepreneurs today. But of course, we’re not yet training 5,000 entrepreneurs in India.

We’d like to.

Related Reading: Building India’s Entrepreneurship Pipeline

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Really Happy to see such progress by some highly motivated entrepreneurs. Trying to create similar grounds in the healthcare segment. It is just a matter of time when healthcare services will also reach such high magnitude as to what IT is now and will be in coming times.

Manish Kr Saraf Monday, September 3, 2012 at 3:35 AM PT

Kolkata has its own advantage, I realize it when now we are 75+, this is the right time if you want to create something really big from Kolkata, the challenges are less at some levels. In some other cities, I might have struggled more than this. Our Digital Marketing Firm is doing good. The culture is different but in stage 1, I was concerned but in stage 2, I am happy to be in Kolkata. In stage 3, I will anyway have to have multiple location. This is from service industry perspective, from product industry, its a different story i guess.

Aji Issac,
Digital Marketing Strategist, Techshu

Aji Issac Monday, September 3, 2012 at 4:03 AM PT

Thanks Sramana for recognising entrepreneurs from Bengal.The reason is that despite bureaucratic as well as professional tangles,they have proved that " stickability" can work.I have had the privilege of meeting Abhishek at Bengal Institute of Business Studies,Kolkata while he addressed students of the MBA program.What he said about utility of time while he was a student of Xavier's college proved his tenacity to overcome odds.He would have to be successful,wherever he was. Wish each one a Royal Bengal Salaam!

Sonali Lahiri Monday, September 3, 2012 at 10:15 PM PT

Thanks Sramana for featuring our Kolkata. I have known Abhishek, Pallav, Srish and Arijit. One thing about them is that, they are always ready to help others. Thats the quality of true Entrepreneur.

This is great news for West Bengal and Kolkata in particular. I have spent 5 years in Bangalore when i was working with big 4 accounting firms there, and never wanted to leave Bangalore. But, had to choose Kolkata for my startup ( due to family reasons and as Aji from Techsu suggested, Kolkata has its own advantages, and frankly, i have no regret now.

Alok Patnia
Founder and CEO at

alok patnia Monday, September 3, 2012 at 11:15 PM PT


Pros: Cheap talent, less competition compared to other metros,

Cons: Lethargic work culture, no professionalism, 'Para' dadagiri/ chanda can prove negative to any entrepreneur starting fresh.

People are too busy discussing whats right and wrong, rather than doing something or taking an initiative. There is so much of talent in kolkata and its the only largest city in the entire North-east of India. If the Gov. can provide a welcome atmosphere for entrepreneurs, in 10 years a lot can change for good.

Kumar D Monday, September 3, 2012 at 11:24 PM PT

Thanks Sramana for all your initiatives! Work cultures will not change overnight. Good, that we are aware of it and we need to do it instead of waiting, to be done! 🙂

Somen Wednesday, September 12, 2012 at 1:56 AM PT