Dot-com veteran Sramana Mitra on the future of technology in India

The Indian-born entrepreneur and author who made a name for herself in the tech hotbed of Silicon Valley will speak Thursday at a Commonwealth Club event in Santa Clara. During the workshop, the 40-year-old will touch on her global project One Million by One Million, Capitalism 2.0 and the challenges India faces.

What is your project One Million by One Million?

It’s a virtual education program meant to help 1 million entrepreneurs reach $1 million in annual revenue around the world by 2020. We have an online curriculum and online weekly strategy roundtables where via videoconference, entrepreneurs can come in and discuss strategy with me. The reason it’s very significant, is that I discuss the genesis of the program in thinking about Capitalism 2.0.

What’s Capitalism 2.0 about?

I have come to the conclusion that capitalism in its current form is not really working. My thesis on the future of capitalism is that it needs to be returned to more of an entrepreneur creation phenomenon. One Million by One Million is effectively a practical program to implement that vision. I’m an entrepreneur, fundamentally, so just coming up with the analysis of the problem wasn’t enough for me. I needed to find solutions.

Can you tell us about your background?

I grew up in India until I was 18 and I came to the U.S. in 1989. I went to college on the East Coast, finishing with a [master of arts degree] in computer science and electrical engineering from MIT. I started my first company while in graduate school at MIT. This was the Internet’s boom time. By 1996, I moved to Silicon Valley. After my three startups, I consulted for a decade. That gave me a lot of perspective on what was happening in the industry. My generation of entrepreneurs who grew up in the dot-com era, we really drank the venture capital Kool-Aid big-time.

What is your book “Vision India 2020” about?

“Vision India 2020” comes out of my experience as an entrepreneur. I’ve traveled extensively all over the world and I’ve always kind of looked at life from the perspective of the entrepreneur. For about 16 or 17 years, I’ve been taking notes on opportunities for India. I’ve always felt that India’s development would need to follow and entrepreneurship-driven path. It takes place in 2020, so in sense, I invented a genre called business fiction. I think it’s the first one ever written.

What motivated you to pursue this career?

My father is an entrepreneur and he was definitely — and still is — a factor. It’s true that children of entrepreneurs have a much higher probability of becoming entrepreneurs. My father is going to be at the talk next week. He’s a shipping entrepreneur.

What challenges will India face as it moved into the future?

India’s infrastructure is very immature. China has made a huge amount of infrastructure investments. India’s is very poor. I talk about water in the book. India depends heavily on the Ganges [River]. The glacier that feeds the Ganges is drying up. China has also taken control of Tibet, which is where the water supply of India and Bangladesh is located. If China one day decides to shut that faucet, India is going to be in big trouble.

What’s your message to the aspiring entrepreneur?

My message is that you have to learn to put one foot before the other. One of the secrets to successful entrepreneurship is that you have to be very focused. That is something we can teach you.


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