Indian tech unicorns are gaining at China’s expense. Is this a blessing or a bubble waiting to burst?: Bhaskar Chakravorti

(Bhaskar Chakravorti is the dean of Global Buisness at the Fletcher School at Tufts University. The column first appeared in the print edition of The Indian Express on September 24, 2021)

  • Tiger Global Management, a New York-based investment firm, has a reputation for tracking and hunting unicorns — startups with billion dollar-plus valuations. This year, if we were to track the Tiger’s shifting gaze, we would catch sight of an interesting migratory phenomenon: Fewer unicorn sightings in China — ordinarily the biggest unicorn habitat outside the US — and the beginnings of a unicorn stampede in India. While the shifting of the Tiger’s gaze cannot be good for China, I worry it may not be good for India either. But, first, let me step back up and fill in the story. For this, we begin in China, where President Xi Jinping seems hellbent on knee-capping its most dynamic sector. I speak of China’s tech industry that contributed over 38 per cent to the country’s GDP last year, and was key to managing both Covid and the economy. Nevertheless, Beijing has decided to crack down on the industry, wiping out $1.5 trillion in market value. The crackdown began with the abrupt suspension of the much-anticipated initial public offering (IPO) of Ant Group last November, while founder, Jack Ma, the very face of Chinese tech worldwide, mysteriously went underground. To add to the intrigue, pressures on Ant only continued to mount. It wasn’t just the Ant Group in the government’s crosshairs. China’s regulators stopped the ride-hailing company, Didi Chuxing, from accepting new users, as soon as it went public on the New York Stock Exchange. Founders of companies, such as JD.com, TikTok and Pinduoduo seem to have been sufficiently spooked to seek early retirement…

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