Starting my own venture in India always seemed like the natural thing to me but was it an emotional bias or an objective choice? Turns out – my growth story and India’s growth story goes hand in hand back to 1991; since then we have shared the same aspiration to outperform what’s expected of us. And that’s what makes us the right partners.
My familiarity with the Indian business environment spans across my corporate life both as a country head and subsequently being a part of my larger regional/global responsibilities. I have created value both as a growth catalyst steering Hyatt’s growth to a formidable operator in the country as well as a seller with a successful exit strategy for Whitbread. And while my fundamentals on how to grow business in India grew stronger, India’s stronger fundamentals also started demonstrating consistent growth.
India and I started our growth story together in 1991. I would call 1991 to 2015 as Chapter 1 of the Indian growth story that was driven around economic reforms, privatization, and disinvestments. Government initiatives to improve public education, increasing literacy across the country and moving people to above the poverty line have resulted in tremendous improvement in the per capita income and in the overall size of the market. All that has laid the foundation of chapter 2 (2016 onwards) making India one of the fastest-growing economies of the world.
India’s contemporary demographic breakdown was another integral factor in my decision to be an entrepreneur here. India is getting younger. In the coming decades, the increasing working-age population will also contribute more towards economic activity. Consumerism will transform and evolve to fulfill the modern Indian’s lofty ambitions and aspirations. These aspirations will fuel faster-growing cities and create better opportunities in metropolitan and developing cities alike.
India’s rapid urbanization story is a testament to it being a land of opportunity. We all know that 25 years ago Bangalore was a place where people would go to retire but today it’s the Silicon Valley of India. Same goes for Gurgaon; 15 years ago Gurgaon was barren, with barely a handful of offices. Today, it’s the fastest emerging and the most viable alternative to Delhi. The next transformation of a city will take even less than 15 years.
All urbanization surveys in India indicate that these transformations will keep happening, increasing upward mobility. There would be a need for an infrastructure that matches pace with these needs. Take Gurgaon for example, the bulk of Gurgaon consists of people coming from both within and outside India to work in different roles and capacities. That has led to the formation of nuclear families. In these families, the increased burden of independently handling the household tasks with limited time has created a mobility handicap. To top that, urban cities also tend to be highly densely populated and that creates further stresses on the ability to be mobile.
I can’t deny that there has been a lot of work done on the infrastructure but it’s near-impossible for it to keep pace with growth. That has resulted in a greater mobility handicap which I look at as an opportunity. The mobility handicap together with the surging future growth of the urban population has given birth to an expansive demand for hyperlocal services. It’s no surprise that ride-sharing and food delivery have boomed in the last 5 years.
But as Indians, we always want and need better alternatives. While half a decade may sound too short to gauge the efficacy of an industry, we’ve seen gaps form in service delivery. Sure, these could be attributed to attempting to replicate western business models, or to the lofty expectations of the Indian consumers; regardless and subsequently, the Indian consumer remains unsatisfied. And that’s what led to the formation of Pidge.