Author: Vikram Upadhyaya, Chief Mentor & Accelerator Evangelist at GHV Accelerator
Corporate stalwarts like Narayana Murthy, Ratan Tata and Azim Premji, who have led Indian conglomerates from the forefront, have been playing a crucial role in boosting the domestic startup ecosystem. They are not only acting as angels to innovative startups but also pumping in large investments in startups that have already received angel-funding. Using their rich experience as successful leaders, these iconic business leaders are helping these startups with not just money, but also with their expertise in having built worldwide renowned global giants themselves. It is also a means for them to pay back to the community and do their bit for the ecosystem, and therefore, the economy.
Ratan Tata who has led corporate giant Tata Group with interests in salt to steel is no less than any large fund now. His first personal investment was in online marketplace Snapdeal in 2014 and ever since then he has been on the go. Right from investing in Alteroes Energy, Bluestone, Urban Ladder, Swasth India, CarDekho, Paytm, Grameen Capital, he has been on a spree to continuously fuel startups that have the potential to make it big. His interest in contributing to the startup eco-system is evident from the fact that he has joined the VC fund – Kalaari Capital – as an advisor.
There are other corporate moguls too who have been active on the India startup scene. It was a very quiet start for Azim Premji, Founder of Wipro, in the year 2006, who has since then build a portfolio of around $16 billion and has funded around 40 publically and private listed companies such as Snapdeal, Myntra, Financial Software and Systems, Healthcare Global, to name a few.
Even Narayan Murthy, known as the IT Czar of India, had set up his own VC fund, Catamaran Ventures, in 2010 with a corpus of Rs. 600 crores and has joined hands with Amazon to set up an e-commerce joint venture in India. He recently invested in Fintech startups – Coverfox and Innoviti – and is an investor in beverages startup Hector Beverages, which sells ethnic beverages under the brand Paperboat. He has been constantly invigorating the startup ecosystem and has been recently picked by SEBI to head its new regulatory framework for startups and alterative investments for advising on policy matters. These are just a few examples.
The growing trend of Indian corporate honchos and ex-honchos getting involved in the startup ecosystem has been a boon for the entrepreneurs. There are many ways these startups benefit from the big leaders of yesterday. First of all, investment from these biggies puts them in a ‘special club’ as they get instant publicity. Every now and then we see startups in the limelight for getting investments from VCs, but getting funds from someone like Ratan Tata, Azim Premji or the likes is a sure shot way to grab attention. Apart from giving serious validation to the business model, it also injects a big doze of confidence in the entrepreneur.
We understand how important getting a mentor is for startups, and if you find someone who has already been there, done that and has all the expertise you need to go big, then nothing like it!
Above all, these corporate moguls are well connected to influential people and have a huge network, getting access to which is yet another huge advantage for startups. After all, having the right connections can make all the difference, particularly when starting up. One gets easy access to the mentor community, resourceful people and industry experts. Once the name of stalwarts like Ratan Tata or Narayan Murthy gets attached to any company, a higher degree of credibility automatically comes in, and that is a big feat for a startup to accomplish, because whether its startups or other stakeholders in the ecosystem, credibility is of prime importance to them.
Many companies have been quoted saying that having these stalwarts as their mentors/investors, they have not only got validation from their family, angel investors and consumers, but running day-to-day business becomes easier too.
The Indian eco-system has got serious momentum going. Nothing can be better than having corporate leaders acting as strong anchors for the sailing boats of new age entrepreneurs, providing them investment, expertise (through mentoring) and invaluable support; taking things to a whole new level altogether.
Apart from such individuals, institutional investors and VCs have been in the game for long. A new trend has emerged of late though. Even large corporate like Infosys are entering the race to contribute to growth of the startup ecosystem in India. I guess I should leave it as this though, since this can make for a perfect topic for another article….
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