In his most recent column in the New York Times, economist Hal Varian writes about how technology enables small companies (even really small fry) to go international. One of the two small-fry companies he mentions, is my company Uzanto and our experiences with setting up and running an office in New Delhi.
He calls such small companies “micro-multinationals“, and says: “Both of these micro-multinational companies work pretty much the same way, using e-mail, Web pages, voice-over-Internet phone services and other Internet technology to coordinate their far-flung operations.“
In my opinion, the biggest enabler of having an international office has been an Instant Messenger with voice. I do not exaggerate when I say that I live my life on Skype. Which is why I periodically wax forth about Skype on this blog, and recommend it to everyone I know.
Hal also talks about the foreign born element for founders of such companies. I think thats important, but not a must. For me personally, when we decided to open an office in India, it was a given that it would be in Delhi. Delhi is what I know, and where I have my contacts. On the other hand, I did my education in India, but my industry experience was confined to the US. So, I was not familiar with how to run a business in India. Many of my friends have experiences of another country, by birth, or because they spent time there. Its the cultural knowledge that matters far more than the business knowledge. When starting an international office, the most important thing is finding someone to run your international office who you can work with. Secondly its importat to work together – not just a meeting once a day, but actually work together for a few hours everyday – just the way you would in a co-located office.
Curious about what Uzanto is doing in its Delhi office? Just wait a little longer – we are having a lot of fun developing some cool technology that we will be ready to share pretty soon.
As a note, there was one detail that Hal got wrong – he says: “Paradoxically, it is easier for the micro-multinationals to deal with the inconvenience of outsourcing than it is for the big international corporations. Entrepreneurs are willing to do things that big international corporations will not do – like staying up until 11 p.m…”
Well, its 11 PM on good days. More often it is midnight or 1 AM! My one complaint is that its become really difficult to go out in the evenings. Our friends have become used to us becoming pumpkins as soon as its time for office to start in India!