Today’s entrepreneur has to understand the emerging marketplace, even if their target is the United States, says Mohanbir Sawhney, the McCormick Tribune Professor of Technology and Director, Center for Research in Technology & Innovation at Kellogg.
In his research and consultation in the technology sector, Professor Sawhney has witnessed the significance an emerging market like India can have in a startup’s success, both as a marketplace as well as a source of development talent for U.S.-based companies. In 2015, Sawhney will offer an innovative new course for Executive MBA students, TechVenture India, that will give students an opportunity to dive deep into the intersection between technology and emerging markets.
The course will begin in January with lectures and guest sessions designed to provide students with a deep understanding of key technology trends and their impact on global business. In March, students from the Evanston and Miami campus will meet in India to experience first-hand technology businesses in emerging markets – from large multinationals to early-stage startups. The course will wrap-up with a self-directed research paper that will allow the students to develop expertise in a specialized domain of their choosing.
Sawhney sat down to talk about the course material, the trip and the evolution of the Indian business market.
How did this course come about?
In 1998, I created a course for full-time students called TechVenture that focused on emerging technologies and the Silicon Valley ecosystem. The experience there led me to publish two books, Kellogg on Technology & Venture, and TechVenture: New Rules on Value and Profit from Silicon Valley.
Fifteen years later, we are reviving the TechVenture course, but with several innovative changes and for the Executive MBA students.
How does this enhance the existing EMBA coursework?
Students will be studying how startups evolve, and the elements and ingredients of venture capital. They will also get to meet a lot of entrepreneurs which will give them first hand exposure to different business models. It will shed light on startup activity in emerging markets.
Ultimately, anyone who wants to launch a startup in the US needs to consider offshore development. This knowledge is crucial for students who aspire to global leadership roles.
What are the goals driving this course?
It’s going to give students a good understanding of key technologies and trends, like mobile, cloud, outsourcing, and social media. Secondly, they will experience first-hand the role of emerging markets and see how these emerging markets can act as sources of offshore development talent.
Finally, we’re experimenting with a truly global network delivery model. I’ll be teaching from Miami, but we’re using a high definition video link up between Miami and Evanston, so both campuses will enjoy the in-class experience. Everyone will take the field trip at the same time.
What learning opportunities will the students have while on the trip?
Students will visit two out of these four cities: Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bangalore. One of the unique things about this trip is that it is collaborative; students will be able to vote and discuss the proposed course material.
The trip itself will blend meetings with large conglomerates and startups. The students will also enjoy flex time to set up meetings to contribute to their project of choice.
What is the tech marketplace like in India today?
It has evolved and matured. For instance, recently an Indian ecommerce company named FlipKart just raised a billion dollars in funding. India is emerging as an e-commerce market, and it is a sign of times to come. I don’t think your next Google will come from the US. It’s going to come from China or India.
There are three main business models found in the Indian technology market. Often, a model which has worked in the US gets transferred to these markets. They’re replicating models but localizing for context. FlipKart is an example of this type of company. The second category is product technology, and in this case, the US is usually their market for mobile technology and infrastructure software. The third category includes back office business practices like offshore analytics, offshore business processing and offshore IT. These include world-class companies like Infosys, WIPRO and Cognizant Technology Solutions.
What do you think they will gain from working in India as opposed to another location?
India is the back office of the world. It’s the number one software development location for the world. That makes India unique. If you want engineering or software development talent for your US-based tech startup, India is likely to be your source of talent. They’ll be able to more deeply understand both India as a market and as a source of talent after completing this course.
What do you think students will take away from the course?
At the end of the day, the course is about how technology and global business come together.
It’s also important for students to understand that the local players are becoming stronger. Technology and startups are no longer a unique phenomenon to the United States: technology ecosystems are emerging all over the world, from Santiago to Tel Aviv to Bangalore.
If you had one piece of advice for an entrepreneur hoping to successfully launch a tech start-up, what would it be?
Think about the problem you’re going to solve. A product or technology only exists to solve a problem. What problem is it solving and for whom? Is it real and will people pay money for it?
Is there anything else students considering the course should know?
The course is highly experimental and innovative. The teaching delivery model is new, the content is new. For the 29 students signed up, fasten your seatbelts. You are going to be shaping the design and execution of this new course.