#TalentTalk - How To Create 'Silicon Valleys' In Emerging Markets


In our weekly Twitter chat #TalentTalk, we ask HR thought leaders, influencers and game changers for their opinions on HR related trends.

This week, we asked them how emerging nations could help create their own home-grown versions of Silicon Valley.

A 2014 study by Professor Vivek Wadhwa found that as many as 15% of startups in Silicon Valley were founded by Indians. Talent migrating to the West is no new phenomenon. According to a report by the National Science Foundation - the highest scientific body of the United States - migration of Indian scientists and engineers to the US has increased by 85% in 10 years.

However, as PM Narendra Modi said to a cheering audience in San Jose last year - "We must reverse the 'brain drain' into 'brain gain'." So how should the goverment adapt to retain top talent and create local Silicon Valleys? 

With a record number of engineers entering the workforce, talent isn't the issue. This popular Quora thread is a great place to understand the factors pulling talent to developed economies and pushing them far from home. These factors include everything from remuneration and better career opportunites to a better standard of living. But what caused this concentration of talent - migrating from all over the world to one place - the Stanford Research Park?

A brief history of Silicon Valley:

The 'catalyst' for the process of development of technical ideas that arose in Silicon Valley was actually a unique law.

This law, enacted in California in 1872, voided any restrictive employment agreements, and allowed employees unhappy with their state of employment to leave without restriction - either to a competitor, or to set up a competitive company.

The first and most famous use of this law specifically in the tech universe was when 8 former employees of Shockley Semiconductor were instrumental in the creation of 65 new enterprises (including Intel), and the 92 public companies that can be traced back to Fairchild (founder of Shockley) are now worth about $2.1 trillion. They had money, talent as well as government backing to fuel their growth. 

When emerging markets have aligned these three integral factors, similar results can be found around the world. For example, Israel currently has almost 4,000 active technology start-ups and in 2010 alone the flow of venture capital amounted to $884m! Some of the factors that contributed to this include certain aspects of Israeli culture itself - a lack of hierarchy, a constant drive for individualism and regular risk taking. However, most importantly - the government played a key role in the rapid rise of this start-up nation.

Indian Silicon Valley - How to make it a reality

According to multiple guests on our Twitter chat, only a radical rehaul of the Indian ecosystem can help create similarly favorable conditions for our very own Silicon Valley. Sarang Brahme of CapGemini has stressed that the necessary steps are three fold: 1) Align education with industries 2) Create strong pull for global talent 3) Build infrastructure. This was echoed by Gautam Ghosh who noted that the conditions necessary to nurture this ecosysten are a "matured market, capital, young talent, government policies that trigger it". 

So is the onus of creating this environment only on the government? Absolutely not. In the words of Kavi Arasu, Head of Talent Development at Asian Paints: "The Valley is not a place. It is a way of thinking". 

By creating active global talent communities that love problem-solving, and providing an environment for emerging talent to succeed, fail, experiment and restart, we can encourage the same climate that spawned a generation of new products and solutions in Silicon Valley. Incubation centres with easy access to capital, mentors, ideas and superb talent are also an integral component of this process. 

India already ranks third globally in sheer number alone, with the number of startups crossing 4,200 according to a recent NASSCOM report. So maybe we're not that far off from having home grown Silicon Valley(s). Maybe all we need is a unified push in the right direction. 

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