Why do Indian Startups struggle on Content Originality?

Just as I work through the struggles (and hopes) of my own Startup (brandanew.co), I have become a more keen observer of what’s happening in the Startup world around me. From the 1990s when the Internet boom and its love through IT, KPOs, BPOs that saw India, we entered an economic liberal boom that meant, among other things, the ability to recycle, reuse and being Microsoft and Internet driven, the birth of the “copy-paste” mentality, at scale. (don’t miss to check the latest social media stats about India).

This is not to say that only Indians indulge in this systematically, but being an Indian, I see it as an epidemic- it feels larger and bigger given the volumes we produce. And so it made me think on why do Indian startups struggle on content originality?

1. Indians are poorly trained on plagiarism

As a master’s student in the UK in 2005, we had a lecture once when the professor supplied us with an answer paper and a questionnaire. He later told us that the student whose paper he had shared had failed the exam and been marked with a zero. We had to identify why the student had failed the exam. The answer seemed just right and the answer had been copied, without credits from the Internet. Even in my Bachelor degree in India, no professor seemed worried about students copying relentlessly from the Internet. In fact in Pune university where I studied, we had plenty of books from local publishers which were effectively poor copy-pasting jobs from various books written by foreign authors on the subjects. Our professors and teachers still feel, that way:

2. We are stuck in the cost-saving mentality for bringing value

At the time that the Internet industry started in India, the value that Indian companies brought in (and still do) had a lot to do with the value of our currency and the fact that we provided the goods at a lower cost of labour. Companies were promoting India as a low-cost location. And with globalization, that made complete sense. However, just as a programmer may use a piece of someone else’s code, we thought, we could copy-paste our way through everything.

Long-term value can never be based on cost alone. Because there’ll always be a replacement. After Gurgaon becomes costly, we invent Jaipur, and then Poland invents Krakow. We can fight out cost till the very end, but long-term value is provided by us being able to solve a genuine problem with a solution that’s not replaceable by how poorly our currency is doing. Unfortunately, even when I speak with Indians working abroad, their usual remark is about cost not quality.

3. A sense of entitlement, with or without a sense of quality

Now that the Internet has opened up many doors for us to interact with clients and agencies worldwide,we come with a sense of entitlement (and pride is essential) but forget to focus equally on the quality. We bully others that we believe should not see us as “cheap resources” and still act cheaply.

4. Indians are bullish about short-cuts (chalta-hai) attitude

While in the Delhi metro once, I was sitting next to a college kid. The metro being an air conditioned entity does not allow people to eat subzi-roti considering the smell refuses to get out. I did not say much for some part of the journey, and eventually asked the girl (politely) to step out of the train and finish her food at a station instead of the train itself. She looked at me in disbelief and asked, why can’t I adjust. Unfortunately, I can’t adjust to nonsense. And, we had an uncomfortable few moments. Pride about short-cuts are not doing favours to your personal or professional brands. No. I bet the Email marketing manager at MyGola was thinking, why can’t I adjust?

Because, look at their response here:

5. Indians believe in the urban legend that the Internet is free

Original content requires time, patience and effort. Visual content or writing, if it’s available on social media or on Google, it does not mean that it can be used without citations and attributions. And most of all, people do not publish content on the Internet for free usage. Look at the questions, we ask on Quora:


Get some help guys, sorry, it IS bothersome. Let’s not scale a country full of serial content plagiarists.

Based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Upasna is the Co-founder of content marketing and branding startup Brandanew. Previously, she has worked with Experteer, Rocket Internet and McKinsey & Co.

Upasna is a Guest enthusiast on Digital Insights and we feel so glad about it. If you also want to contribute and share your knowledge feel free to connect with us, here are some goodies for you.

Share your thoughts here!