In the basement of a Bangalore building, hundreds of young Indians sit in neat rows of desks typing furiously, all dreaming of becoming the new Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg.
A quarter of a century after liberalisation kick-started India’s economic transformation, a new generation of young people are capitalising on their parents’ hard-won financial security to try their luck in the risky business of tech start-ups.
“It’s really picking up,” said Aneesh Durg, a young Indian-origin student from Chicago who came to the southern tech hub of Bangalore to help develop a device that helps blind people read written text.
“It’s actually not what I expected it to be. There’s really cool stuff coming out of India these days.”
More and more young people in the country of 1.25 billion people are opting to go it alone, in stark contrast to previous generations that valued the stability of employment above all else.
India now has some 4,750 tech start-ups – the highest number in the world after the US and Britain, which it is fast catching up.
From robots and mobile apps to smart kitchens and a cocktail-making machine the cavernous Bangalore office, which houses one of India’s biggest start-up incubators, is a veritable ideas factory.
Vikram Rastogi is a robotics expert who set up a small incubator named Hacklab after visiting the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2014.
“I saw the kind of hardware work they were doing. We could also do the same kind of hardware work in India, it’s just that people do not pursue it much further,” he explains.
The engineering graduate is working on ways to enable drones to operate as part of a fleet in order to harness more information.
Experts believe the rising prosperity of India’s middle class has given young people the freedom to experiment.
It is a trend that looks set to continue – according to forecasts, between 200,000 and 250,000 people will be working in tech start-ups by 2020, according to software industry association Nasscom.
Traditionally there has been a well-trodden path from Indian IT institutes to a master’s degree in America and then on to a plum job in Silicon Valley.
But US President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigration – including a proposed restructure of the H-1B working visas often used by tech firms to recruit foreign skilled workers – may mean even more of India’s tech stars opt to carve a new route to success at home.