“US’ ban decision is India’s gain”, says Kunal Bahl on Trump’s new US visa regulations


Every cloud has a silver lining.

When Trump passed on his new visa regulations last Tuesday, many dreams and hopes came crashing down in the Indian side. Families got separated, aspirational youths’ ideas of the future were lost, and notedly India’s tech industry was left rattled. Social media was filled with stories gloom and doom. But amidst these times of despair, there’s always something positive to look for.

Former US President, John F. Kennedy, once said, “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger–but recognize the opportunity.” Kennedy was only elected to be US President in 1961 and his recognition of the Chinese characters in this speech is still a contested one, but Kennedy’s timeless inspirational wisdom still resonates to millions even after half a century.

One such story of crisis-yielding opportunity is the story of Indian entrepreneur and Snapdeal co-founder Kunal Bahl. In 2007, after graduating from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, Bahl bagged a job an engineering job at Seattle-based Microsoft, but US immigration officials rejected his application for an H-1B visa, which led to Bahl’s return to India.

The rejection turned out to be an opportunity for Bahl. Three years later, in February 2010, Bahl and his friend Rohit Bansal launched Snapdeal.

After an elaborate meeting in one of the smallest and shabbiest office they had then, the duo found their investor in Vani Kola, MD of Kalaari Capital (which was initially called IndoUS Advisors), and launched Snapdeal. And, Bahl’s epic entrepreneurial journey began.

Snapdeal achieved the unicorn startup status in 2014. Snapdeal has now grown to become one of the largest e-commerce marketplaces in India and was valued at $6.5 billion in 2019. Snapdeal is one of the fiercest competitors for US-based Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart.

When the Trump’s H-1B visa ban news broke on Tuesday, Ash Lilani, Founder and Managing Partner of Saama Capital, took to Twitter to remind Indian techies for the opportunity crisis like this throws up.

Lilani tweeted that US’ ban decision is India’s gain, “I keep thinking of today and how a US visa issue led him to come home and be a catalyst in the creation of Snapdeal. I hope we see many many more such success stories come out of this.”

The Snapdeal founder further quoted Lilani’s tweet, and mentioned that ‘India is the land of big opportunities’. “I didn’t know this 13 years ago when my H1-B visa was rejected, but haven’t regretted a moment since,” he wrote.

The talks about ‘Aatmanirbhar’ India picked up pace only after PM Narendra Modi’s speech during the coronavirus-induced lockdown. But, Bahl had shared the secret to India’s e-commerce success way back in 2018.

He further said that the small sellers in the country need a safe online space to grow, without being crowded out by the very platforms they are expected to trust.

Stories like Bansal should inspire young minds and entrepreneurs to invest in India, and try to gain the support of the government. Bad news is usually a cover for something good, and entrepreneurs who can identify the multitude of challenges that India is facing has lot to gain. After all, India is still a “developing” country, which means there are countless opportunities lay to be taken.