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What Went Wrong in India’s Tech Sector

BANGALORE, INDIA—There’s a hangover feeling here in India’s Silicon Valley. The euphoria sparked two years ago by foreign investors writing big checks on absurd valuations for local companies has given way to despair in some pockets of the city.

The early leaders in transportation and commerce, such as Flipkart and Snapdeal in online shopping and Ola in ride-hailing, have lost ground to foreign entrants like Amazon and Uber. Some tech leaders and workers are quietly calling (but mainly wishing) for government intervention to halt the foreigners’ advances.

They say the early local “unicorns” were simply no match for the American companies’ deep pockets. I think that belief is wrong.

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A co-founder of one of India’s unicorns told me that he and his peers can now show restraint following a financing round—“knowing what to do after getting a lot of money”—and “not taking a higher valuation just because you can get it.”