Though seemingly unrelated, sub-cultures lurk at the edge before bringing change, driving technology and overtaking the mainstream, says Sandeep Murthy of Lightbox.
Of all the potted plants, legal or otherwise, the one poised for a remarkable growth story is marijuana. Sniffing out value in businesses related to this plant are investors with a strong nose for opportunity. Marijuana’s gradual rise in the corporate hierarchy of the plant kingdom was used as an illustrative example by Sandeep Murthy, partner, Lightbox. Murthy was participating in a panel discussion on the role of sub-culture in innovation in India. It is a topic he warms up to, given that sub-cultures drive the products that emerge out of tech startups.
“Sub-cultures push the envelope on thinking about how society might develop. The ones that interest investors are those with the potential to indicate where the world could go next,” he said.
Fighting a culture of bias
The starting point of many subcultures, according to Murthy, begins with fighting a bias. “The sub-culture is able to resonate with people who are disenfranchised and are looking for something new. It then grows and evolves. In doing so, it touches the chords of some in the mainstream, who feel they can grab certain aspects of it. It builds a bigger base, mutating from its original form, and takes on a different view,” he says.
From the margin to the centrestage
This is where investors come in.While there is no singular way of assessing culture, they are always on the lookout for a sub-culture that has the potential to drive the main narrative. When Lightbox invested in Cleartrip in 2005, a lot of people came up to Murthy and said he was crazy putting money in a company going to sell tickets online. People didn’t need it. “It’s become mainstream now,” he explains.
Murthy believes that people care ab out being connected , expressing themselves and about individuality.
Every one of these aspects has come from sub-cultures at various points in time, which turned mainstream .
For instance, the business of Snapchat where people send pictures that disappear after five seconds. “You say it’s ridiculous based on your bias and belief in how people should interact,” Murthy points out.”Then it evolves, develops and goes to different groups of people who find different uses for it. You find it’s not limited to that message of engagement or that reason for use. There is actually a broader application for it.”
Rap, Hip Hop and EDM even wearing hoodies and informal office environments -are some other sub-cultures, which Murthy believes have become mainstream.