I was about 10 years old. Among the 7 wonders of the world, I learnt about The Great Wall of China. Who can decipher the mind of a child, I don’t know really why this wall captivated me so much — was it the fact that glutinous rice flour was supposedly used to bind the bricks, or was it the length and tragedy of building the wall? The orient was exotic in my imagination, but only much later I realized, too was part of the milieu of exotic.

Pearl S. Buck and her “The Good Earth” shaped my early image of china. Coleridge fired my imagination of Xanadu and Kubla Khan. Mao Zedong’s biography held a fascination that Mien Kampf could not match. Amy Tan added to my knowledge, The Last Emperor epitomized my sympathy for the suffering of 30M people lost in the cultural revolution. So I knew something of China but it had no semblance to the current modern state. Almost like my going to America with the knowledge of watching the wild west movies (also a pastime of mine in my younger years). My fascination with china was of its past and modern china had not had the same lure.

I was born in the year of the Dragon, I knew that was special. I would rather not be a rat or a sheep, Speaking of sheep, in the year of sheep, on New Year’s eve alone, WeChat recorded more than 1 billion red envelope transactions and Jack Ma called it the “Pearl Harbor Attack”. Adopting the Thanksgiving turkey tradition was not as difficult for me, the Indian, but deciphering the red envelope phenomenon still baffles me.

Startups in China – Let’s Understand

I decided to set out on a 10-day visit to China to experience modern china, build friendships, learn from china’s venture capital success and understand the Startups in China. We went to Shanghai and Beijing mostly spending time with other Venture firms in china and catching up with a few large companies.

风险投资 (Venture Capital), meaning, throwing capital into the wind. Though in China, this throwing into the wind has been very profitable, representing $170B in total unicorn enterprise value generated or the 200+ IPOs. Check out the detailed stats for FY 2016 here, which Kalaari compiled. The numbers since then have only gone up.

The trip summary in this presentation does not capture the inspiration and aspirations we brought back from the visit nor can it capture the openness and warmth we experienced in both business and private meetings. Our stay had no glitches and we managed to navigate the cities easily I even relished all my meals, fully vegetarian.

Other travel details, first on getting the Visa, it was very easy, a 2 days process that went smoothly. We boarded the flight to Shanghai from Hong Kong and sat on the tarmac for 4 hours. If they gave any explanation, I didn’t catch it. Contrary to that, the bullet train from Shanghai to Beijing the next day was fast, on time and very comfortable.

On our trip, the takeaways from every meeting were about growth, velocity, ambition and transformation.


Like the death star that gobbles up planets and is an ecosystem to itself, Chinese companies have created large ecosystems like intergalactic empires. How else to describe the massive rise of a company to $50B in a short 6-year period?

Xiaomi now sells 2,000 non-phone gadgets, among them, a fitness band, earphones, a router, a smart TV, air and water purifiers, a Segway-like scooter and, soon, a smart bicycle and a VR device and my favourite rice cooker controlled by the phone.


With $500B in GMV, sells everything. Jack Ma coined that BABA was a data company. His famous letter to shareholders talks about Health and Happiness as two key areas of growth showcasing the breadth of products and services the group plans to dominate.


Valued at $200B, with 800M active users all pervasive with its products like WeChat and was in the news with its purchase of Supercell.

Baidu, JD, Qihoo, and Ctrip all have to build an expansive customer base and product suites.

It is this staggering breadth of the ecosystem of each of these companies that allows them to proliferate, which is breathtaking and offers clues to Indian startups to think of owning ecosystems not single product feature companies.

Crouching Tiger & Flying Dragon

Can India and China startups collaborate? Can the Chinese Dragon and the Indian Tiger cohabitate? Will it be sustainable and mutually beneficial in the long run?

If you’re wondering about compatibility, it helps to consult the Chinese zodiac. Your Chinese horoscope signs say a lot about ways to avoid conflict and encourage harmony.

A Dragon is motivated, exciting, intense, and drawn to power. Tigers are very emotional- showing their vulnerable sides and have irresistible magnetism. Both are born leaders, determined, intense and passionate, and both are used to getting their own way!

The beginning of a Dragon and Tiger union will seem blissful because the two are on the same wavelength. Although this relationship has the potential to be stormy, it can work if you make sure to keep separate interests. As long as you both have a lot of control over your own group of activities, there will be fewer power struggles in the home. Be careful to think first before jumping into serious commitments of any kind, since both of you have impulsive natures.

Only in the orient, the horoscope can be the place to find the advice that the Startups in China and India would do well to heed.

Read The Elephant in the Boardroom: An Indian Perspective on China’s Startup Success for more on our trip to China.