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 that 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 counterintuitive 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 they did in the West in the 90s. Despite the valuation bubbles, no one can deny how they have impacted our lives positively, whether in 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 on people, resources, technology, and the 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 energized 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 defense 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 impacts on the environment, climate, workforce, and healthcare. Information is freely available and people travel all over the world for work or otherwise.
India today speaks from a place of knowledge and expertise, from a place of pride, not vulnerability, nor is it nervous and aggressive like its neighbors. Our entrepreneurs need to be 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 Kashmir and the northeast 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 have not come easy either. India today has a seat at 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, and 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 desires. So the short answer is, no, start-ups and their technologies can help defend the country, can arm terrorists and soldiers alike, can bend elections, and can do good and just as much bad but they cannot prevent wars spawned by power fanatics and disillusioned and greedy humans. 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 troublemakers enough for that still.