A life as a rich entrepreneur in Silicon Valley was not enough for Kanwal Rekhi. He had emigrated from India to the U.S. more than 30 years ago, created his own high-tech company, sold it for $210 million, and went on to become a successful venture capitalist for Indian entrepreneurs living in California. But Rekhi, 54, wanted to help his country of origin. So two years ago he started making trips to India to promote high-tech startups, meet with young up-and-comers, and become an angel investor for their ideas.
Those activities have made Rekhi a model for other wealthy Silicon Valleyites of Indian origin. Dozens are following his lead by bringing home talent, ideas, and valuable sources of capital to help power India's high-tech boom. When he's in India--about four to five months a year--Rekhi is a celebrity, mobbed by entrepreneurs who want both his advice and his financial backing. Rekhi has invested millions in Indian startups, though he won't disclose the amount.
Rekhi also spends considerable time persuading India's bureaucrats and politicians to open up the economy, so India can earn a better return on its English-speaking and technologically skilled populace. "The country is full of smart, underachieving people," he says. "I want India to have a vibrant economy in my lifetime." This year Rekhi finally cleared one Indian bureaucratic hurdle: He convinced the government to change the country's archaic laws and allow foreign venture capital into India to fund the technology boom. Analysts estimate the change will help bring more than $3 billion in foreign investment to India this year alone. Says Rekhi: "My mission is to move India forward." And he's succeeding.