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Expats quit hefty pay packages to start up in Bangalore

28 May 2009, 1458 hrs IST, J Padmapriya, ET Bureau

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BANGALORE: When US-born Sean Blagsvedt packed his bags to move with Microsoft Research in Bangalore five years ago, little did he know that India
would become his second home. After a three-year stint at Microsoft creating solutions for emerging markets, Sean realised that his calling lay elsewhere.

“I liked India. But, India is a place where it is impossible to deny that some people are lucky. The inequity and unfairness bugged me,” says the 33-year-old technologist, who believes that computers have an ability to change lives. And, babajob.com, a portal for blue-collared jobs, was born when Sean Blagsvedt quit Microsoft in 2007. So far, Sean Blagsvedt’s babajob.com has facilitated 900 employments in the blue-collared job space.

Sean’s case is not a rare one. Bangalore, the tech hub of India, is full of expats with ideas and the energy to chuck a well-paying job and start a venture of their own. And a resurgent and confident India is providing them opportunities.
“India chose us. We did not choose India ,” says Chris Baker, who promoted Bangalorebuddy.com.

Historically, the city has been a favourite with multinational companies and expat professionals thanks to its salubrious weather, technology edge and perhaps its pub culture. The tech boom provided a lot of opportunities for westerners to come, stay and work in Bangalore. Many of them, it appears now, don’t want to go back.

Jean Michel Jasserand quit Leela Palace Hotel to start his own Italian bistro chain Toscano; Italian chef Paolo Nonino has started restaurants Via Milano and Colonial in the city. Dr Thomas Binford has made Bangalore his R&D base to develop handwriting recognition technologies; Laila and Chris Baker, who earlier worked in a foreign bank in India, have started a recommendation-based directory service, bangalorebuddy.in, to smoothen relocation into the city; Japanese Masamichi Kawagome, former managing director of KVH (IT solution provider to Fidelity Investments Japan), has set up Geocom Consulting in Bangalore to enable companies from his homeland to set up base in India; Footprint Ventures, an early stage fund based out of India, is started by Neill Brownstein, a co-founder of Bessemer Venture Partners.

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Footprint has investments in online digital photography firm Canvera, a bus ticketing firm Ticketvala and restaurant chain Mast Kalandar.

Some experts, ET spoke to, grant credit to the city that clearly has much more to it than the weather. Manish Sabharwal, chairman, Teamlease says, “Bangalore has always been the ideas hub of India. The labour market here has been very liquid and fungible with people moving back and forth.”

Bharti Jacob, CEO, Seed Fund says, “it is about people who worked here, loved the city and decided to make a go for it. At one point, most global professionals wanted an India stint on their CV and they would end up in Bangalore.

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