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Summary:

If there’s one thing that is acting as the pulse behind the growing entrepreneurial spirit in India’s cities, it’s the rise of the Indian middle class. I head off on a 2-week trip to Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore to capture the heart of this movement.

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If there’s one thing acting as the pulse behind the growing entrepreneurial spirit in India’s cities, it’s the rise of the Indian middle class. With India’s GDP growth rate of 7 to 9 percent over the past couple of years, an increasing amount of India’s 1.2 billion population are willing to buy goods online, consume mobile data and text messaging, and expect more electricity from a more reliable grid (and some of that from clean power). Just look at this stat: India is adding 20 million cell phone users every month according to The Climate Group.

India’s growing middle class will likely want many of the same things we have in the U.S. That idea has led to the launch of practically a dozen startups and big companies looking to be the Groupon for India. This population will also want to one day consume as much electricity as we do in the U.S. That energy consumption growth, along with China’s, will be a serious contributor to climate change.

But the more important aspects to understand about the growing Indian middle class and the emerging ecosystem of Indian entrepreneurs are the nuanced differences required to create successful, disruptive startups and game-changing services in India. In some ways the next-generation of Indian mobile, Internet and cleantech markets will actually leapfrog those in the U.S., because there’s less legacy infrastructure in place.

For example, India will be adding many gigawatts of solar power to its grid by 2020, just to be able to offer any kind of power (fossil fuel or clean) for the urgent electricity demands of its cities, many of which commonly face rolling blackouts. Trusted realtors we’re familiar with in the U.S. aren’t so common in India (no Coldwell Banker so to speak), so a startup like New Delhi-based Agni Property can take that opportunity to brand the home-buying process and start it online. Agni Property investor Ashu Garg, a partner with Foundation Capital, thinks real estate will move faster online in India than in the U.S. Mobile access and cellular networks in India are trumping landlines and fixed broadband infrastructure.

Some of these key differences are what has kept me thinking as I prepare to take off for a whirlwind trip to Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore over the next two weeks with the Geeks On a Plane group, organized by angel investor Dave McClure’s 500Startups (see disclosure below). Geeks on a Plane brings together about two dozen people who are a mix of founders, investors and tech execs (and one reporter: me) to meet with and learn about the entrepreneurs in another country. This month it’s India, and the Geeks crew in recent months have covered South America and East Asia.

Yeah, I know I’m lucky. It’ll be my first trip to India. But I will be working hard to try to uncover those differences and figure out what makes Indian entrepreneurs tick. No doubt I’ll be influenced by one entrepreneur and journalist (and long time friend) who left India to be a founder in Silicon Valley. (Yeah, that’s Om). And along the trip we’ll be meeting with fascinating entrepreneurs and investors like Snapdeal’s CEO Kunal Bahl, the Mumbai Angels, the head of Google India, a tour of GE’s Indian research headquarters and my own meetings with a couple solar execs.

I’ll be reporting all along the way and you can follow my stories on GigaOM and GigaOM’s greentech channel. Thanks to a Tata mobile laptop card, an added data connection from Verizon, and Wi-Fi in most places, I’ll be connected throughout the trip. I’ll be toting with me my Macbook Air, my Sony NEX camera, Flip video, and HTC Incredible. Stay tuned for my photos, videos, and reports from the trip.

Disclosure: Geeks on a Plane covered part of the cost of the trip.

Image courtesy of Friar’s Balsam, mckaysavage.

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  37. Bon voyage @katiefehren! Look fwd to reading about what you find “A trip to uncover the heart of India’s entrepreneurs” http://t.co/i4vRswuL

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  59. Our own @katiefehren will be reporting from India for the next two weeks. Read her first dispatch here: http://t.co/oEAUDQBz

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  62. Nice to hear that GigaOm (http://t.co/oMOn6pyP) is also bullish on online real estate in India. I’m very proud of how Nestoria.in is going..

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  85. RT @davemcclure: RT @GigaOm: “a Trip to Uncover the Heart of India’s Entrepreneurs” http://t.co/lnEwCxwE #GOAP @500 Startups #Delhi #Mumbai #Bangalore

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  87. Mariellen Ward Friday, December 9, 2011

    Hi Katie – Your first trip to India, that’s exciting. If you need some tips, I write an India travel and culture blog called Breathedreamgo.com. Have a wonderful time, and enjoy the chaos.

    Mariellen aka Breathedreamgo

  88. Mariellen Ward Friday, December 9, 2011

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  91. RT @autkast: A trip to uncover the heart of India’s entrepreneurs – http://t.co/dlblzndm Have a wonderful trip to #India fellow goapies! #goap

  92. Katie Fehrenbacher Friday, December 9, 2011

    Thanks Mariellen!

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  99. I arrived here yesterday on my 6th trip in three years. Working with two Idealab companies here in Chennai and Bangalore. Your crew should visit http://www.duronenergy.com while in Bangalore. Giving a talk on the topics the Geeks are covering in Mumbai tomorrow–New Ventures/WRI–and Bangalore on the 15th–TIE. Lots of entrepreneurs and VCs at both. Maybe our paths will cross. You will have a great trip. Everyone in India has to be an entrepreneur to live day-to-day.

  100. My bro @tjsonofander is on this @geeksonaplane trip “to uncover the heart of India’s entrepreneurs” http://t.co/s1ElsWET @katiefehren

  101. Nice to see some positivity about India. When I went there last year I could see that the country had promise, it just lacks a sense of direction.

    Latest Technology Blog

  102. Reblogged this on Indian Eco-System and commented:
    A nice article that captures many of the current growing sectors in India.

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