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US Can Do Better In Visa Policy For Tech Workers, Says John T Chambers

After retiring as chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems, John T Chambers is busy meeting Indian start-ups and top government officials in his new avatar as an angel investor. Chambers, who has two investments in India, is optimistic that with a strong start-up ecosystem built by the central government in the past five years, India will produce more unicorns in the years ahead. In an interview with Romita Majumdar and Dev ChatterjeeJohn T Chambers said despite hiccups like angel tax, Indian start-ups have a huge potential to create jobs. Edited excerpts:

Just a few days ago, US president Donald Trump pledged to reform the H-1B visa process and encourage talented people to get citizenship of the US. This has been welcomed by both US and Indian technology companies. What’s your view on this?

I wish the US will be much more open to immigration issues, especially out of India, considering both have a common democracy set up and strong intellectual protection. I believe that our nation should be much more open for technology and educated immigration. We need to do much better in our skills education and immigration. We do see much more openness in companies from the US while collaborating with their Indian counterparts now.

The Indian government has done a lot to encourage start-ups and launched a slew of initiatives, but do you think it’s enough, given the start-ups do have concerns about regulatory issues?

India has been the start-up nation for Asia. India has made terrific progress in ease of doing business, GST and work towards the bankruptcy code. Then, you have PM Modi who understands the importance of technology to change things across education and start-up systems, among others. India has a start-up engine that will play a key role in growth much faster than China. Do we need to move faster and do better on issues like angel tax to make the process easier? Of course. Whether you are in the US or India, you win by having a long-term vision which I think your leadership clearly has.

Is there a need for a change in the way the start-up ecosystem itself works?

Start-ups had no role models and what the likes of Umesh Sachdev (CEO and cofounder of Uniphore System where JC2 has invested) have done is create role models whereas I am only accelerating them. Large American firms have always been open to working with start-ups but it is not happening as fast as it needs to in India. There’s is also a need to realise that certain percentage of start-ups will fail and it’s okay. Now, we see American firms turning to start-ups to achieve scale and innovation faster than they could manage earlier because the best minds go into start-ups now.

You invest in start-ups across India and the US. Are there any differences between start-ups built from scratch in the US and India in terms of challenges being faced?

This may shock readers that while we might think we are different around the world, we are not. Some of the governments around the world may be easier to do business with but the issues that start-ups around the world face are common. I talk to hundreds of start-ups every month and this is the most common question but the problems they face everywhere remain common. This is where I add value to these companies (where he has invested) in opening doors and guiding them. – Business Standard

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