India's startup ecosystem needs more operator investors: Punit Soni
Punit Soni, who recently stepped down as Flipkart's chief product officer after a rather short stint, is returning to Silicon Valley where he wants to start his own tech venture. Soni says he will still stay connected with the Indian startup ecosystem as a seed investor and adviser. In a free-wheeling chat with Techcircle.in, Soni talks about his India experience, his view of the Indian startup ecosystem, Flipkart and former employer Google. Excerpts:
You returned from Silicon Valley to work with an Indian e-commerce company. How was your India experience?
It has been an emotional journey for me. What I saw has taught me inherently different things and I moved away from my comfort zone. I can sound very comfortable but the fact is I am in a different geography, I have never worked in India and I am in a different function because I have never really worked in e-commerce before and the culture is very different. You are in a very exciting area where things are happening rapidly. For me, it ripped off the Band-Aid of comforts.
Google is easy, every two years you can build something, succeed in some and fail at some. Coming outside, you really learn. I have learned that I can't just continue to do product work as they call it. I have ideas and I should do it. So if I do something big and succeed, I would always credit India and the fact that I could come here and do this.
The hunger I see in young peoples' eyes, the hard work they put in here in India is outstanding. If you are mildly lucky, you can build a $30-50 million company in the valley. I don't disrespect that. But in India, you will have to pound the streets.
How was your experience in Flipkart?
Working on something like the Big Billion Day was mindboggling; I have never seen something like this before. I have worked in Google for so long, but I have never seen so much being accomplished so quickly. Sometimes, you may come across some angst-ridden people who complain 'my microwave didn't come on time', but that is okay. Indian consumers are very passionate. Since they are very passionate, they can be very happy and very angst-ridden.