For Lanka to become top tech start-up hub : More software engineers, migrant entrepreneurs needed - Rajan Anandan | Sunday Observer

For Lanka to become top tech start-up hub : More software engineers, migrant entrepreneurs needed - Rajan Anandan

Sri Lanka needs to produce more software engineers and open up to outside talent while creating forward-looking policies that will give it the competitive advantage to become a tech start-up hub, given its attractions as a great place to live and quality higher educational institutions, says Rajan Anandan, vice-president and managing director of Google, South-East Asia and India.

“Competitive advantage of nations used to be derived from low labour costs and tax free zones. In technology, the real advantage comes from talent and forward looking policies.

Sri Lanka should lead on these two fronts,” he said in an interview with the Sunday Observer.

Anandan, who helped set up Blue Ocean Ventures (BOVCapital), a venture capital firm, to develop the start-up ecosystem with a Rs 1.5 billion fund dedicated to investing in Sri Lankan technology startups, says he has a lot of confidence in the talent displayed by Sri Lankan technology entrepreneurs.

“All our investments from the fund are technology startups with very strong founding teams.

The most important criteria we look for is the founding team and in Sri Lanka I see teams who are deeply technical.

This is the country’s competitive advantage and what we are counting on - technical talent.” Building very sophisticated software solutions is a clear strength of the Lankan ecosystem and many of the investee companies will focus on niches that they can target across the region or globally, Anandan said.

What the government can do to help accelerate the development of the startup ecosystem is to increase the quantity of high quality software engineers and open up to talent from outside Sri Lanka.

“The reality is, to build a large and vibrant startup ecosystem we need to attract the best minds in the world. Silicon Valley was built by migrant entrepreneurs. Sri Lanka is a great place to live and there is no reason we can’t become a magnet for great founders and technical talent from all over Asia, to come here and build companies from here. The country should also develop forward looking policies in areas such as autonomous cars, drones, payments, block chain and AI (Artificial Intelligence).”

Anandan sees opportunities for start-ups in the domestic consumer e-commerce market and targeting global B2B (business-to-business) markets.