In Order to Create More Jobs, Indian Govt. Allows Startups to Raise $3Mln/Year

In an attempt to boost innovation and create jobs, the Reserve Bank of India has allowed start-ups to raise up to $3 million for a three year term via external commercial borrowing.

The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) move comes at a time when India has become the world’s third largest start-up base and is poised to double such ventures by 2020. The growth in the number of start-ups and entrepreneurial ventures is expected to foster innovation as well as augment job creation – a high priority area for the current establishment.

Reserve Bank of India on Startup

India in recent months has taken various steps to facilitate investments in the startups sector. The RBI in February this year relaxed the foreign direct investment (FDI) norms for start-ups. The startups will be allowed to raise funds commercially (ECBs), in Indian rupees, any other convertible currency or a combination of both.

The RBI, however, specified that ECBs can only be raised from a country which is either a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) or FATF-Style Regional Bodies. The guidelines only allow foreign banks to act as lenders, while excluding overseas branches, the subsidiaries of Indian banks, overseas wholly owned subsidiaries, or the joint ventures of Indian companies.

Interestingly, the Indian banking regulator did not fix any interest rate cap on these borrowings; typically RBI specifies the maximum cost financial institutions can charge when lending money via ECBs. Earlier in January, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had unveiled a slew of measures to create incentives in the sector. The government has also relaxed the procurement norms for them.

According to a Nasscom report, the number of startups is expected to double to 10,500 by 2020 and provide jobs to over 200,000 people. A recent Labour Bureau survey said India’s unemployment rate shot up to a five-year high of 5% in 2015-16. More worryingly, World Bank research says increasing automation and the adoption of technology threatens 69% of the jobs in the country. Startups are expected to open new avenues for job creation and take more people in the organized workforce.


DIPP Proposes Collateral-Free Loans For Startups; Only Rs 1100 Cr Disbursed Via Rs 10k Cr Fund of Funds Till Now!

n June this year, Govt. of India had created a special Rs 10,000 crore worth fund of funds for Indian startups, which expected to generate 18 lakh jobs. Under this scheme, Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) was empowered to allocate funds to various Alternate Investment Funds (AIF) registered under SEBI, which in turn would fund emerging startups in India.

In a recent event organized by World Economic Forum, Govt. has admitted that disbursement of funds via this special scheme has been slow as of now, as only 600 startups have been funded for a total amount of Rs 1100 crore, out of Rs 10,000 crore corpus.

Although Govt. plans to eventually provide Rs 50,000 crore via Fund of Funds scheme, the process of allocating funds to startups have been rather slow. Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) secretary Ramesh Abhishek has assured all investors and entrepreneurs that they are now fast-tracking the process, and more startups would be now funded via Fund of Funds route.

He said, “So far only Rs.1,100 crore has been disbursed. Our aim is to mobilize Rs.50,000 crore of private investment through this fund..”

Collateral-Free Loans For Startups

As part of fast tracking the process of disbursing venture capital for emerging startups, Ramesh informed that DIPP would soon launch a corpus of Rs 2000 crore, which would provide collateral-free loans to startups.

In fact, a proposal has already been sent to the cabinet to create a special ‘Credit Guarantee Scheme’ of Rs 2000 crore, which would empower banks and financial institutions to provide loans to startups without any collateral.

If approved, this can be a game-changing move for entrepreneurs in India, who are stuck at approvals because the current rules and regulations are strict in giving out loans for unestablished businesses. Startups needs money to expand, and banks/financial institutions provide loans only to established businesses with proven track record of generating revenues; and the vicious cycle continues.

Besides, Ramesh also informed that they have written to 100 companies to use their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds to set up incubators which can groom and help startups in India.

Indian Entrepreneurs Share Their Ideas For Helping Startups

At the event, some of the most successful Indian entrepreneurs shared their ideas for improving startup eco-system in India and to groom future entrepreneurs.

Mahesh Murthy, managing partner of Seedfund, said that a shift in culture and mindset is required to provide better assistance for Indian startups. As per him, till now, Indian startups have been copying Western ideas, but now, we need to think out of the box.

He said, “Only now they are beginning to have original thoughts in this generation. It is culturally very difficult for us to be innovative,”

Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Founder of Paytm, emphasized on ‘Make in India’ drive, as he said,

“Japanese built Honda, Toyota, Nissan when Germans and Americas had built their largest auto companies. We have to build products, built in India, made in India, made for India in Indian context. The world needs lower cost, higher scalable built out of countries like India..”

Ritesh Agarwal, Founder of Oyo Rooms said that laws related to startups and entrepreneurship needs to be changed if Govt. wants to truly help them. He said, “It is our responsibility as entrepreneurs to proactively go out and converse with the lawmakers and explain to them what the problems are..”


The endgame for venture investing in India

The future of India’s nascent venture capital scene hinges on the outcomes of the battles between homegrown start-ups like Flipkart and Ola and American rivals Amazon and Uber

Venture capital firms and other investors have poured roughly $6.5 billion into Flipkart, Snapdeal and Ola (and their units), since 2010, betting that they will be able to keep their American rivals Amazon and Uber at bay.

The investors reckoned that the headstart that online retailers Flipkart and Snapdeal and cab aggregator Ola enjoyed, their superior local knowledge, nimbleness, and the passion and ability of their founders would keep them ahead of the American technology giants. Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. were perceived to be slower in taking decisions and hesitant in giving too much power to the management of their local units. Unlike “pure-tech” businesses like Google Inc. and Facebook Inc., which are dominant in India, any operations-heavy tech business such as e-commerce and cab hailing would favour Indian start-ups over US firms, the investors believed.

But the speed at which Amazon and Uber have expanded over the past 18 months or so has shocked venture capitalists (VCs), putting their investment thesis at grave risk.

The transformation has been so sudden that Snapdeal, whose CEO Kunal Bahl predicted in August 2015 that it would become the largest online marketplace in the country, is now already considered an also-ran in the market share battle.

Consequently, the future of the country’s nascent venture capital scene, in its current form, hinges on the outcomes of the market share battles between Flipkart and Amazon and Ola and Uber, according to VCs and entrepreneurs.

Flipkart and Ola didn’t respond to emails seeking comment.

If Flipkart and Ola list their shares or sell out at attractive prices, it will usher in a golden period for VCs; if, however, either one or both of them fail to generate investment returns, some VCs may have to shut shop and investor sentiment towards Indian start-ups will take a serious hit.

Big names, Big money

The numbers are staggering: Together, Flipkart (valued at $15 billion) and Ola (valued at $5 billion) along with online marketplace Snapdeal (valued at $6.5 billion) accounted for a mammoth 55% of the cash raised by all Indian start-ups in the go-go years of 2014 and 2015. Their combined valuations constitute 65-70% of the valuations of all Indian Internet start-ups, according to Mint research.

These three firms are backed by practically all the best-known venture capital firms operating in India: Accel Partners, Kalaari Capital, Sequoia Capital, Matrix Partners and Nexus Venture Partners.

Apart from traditional VCs, three of the most influential bulge-bracket start-up investors in India, Tiger Global Management, SoftBank Group and DST Global, have poured huge amounts of money into Flipkart, Snapdeal and Ola.

Flipkart, Snapdeal and Ola are at the top of the list of the handful of Indian start-ups that have gone through all the stages of the venture capital investing model: angel investors fund a potentially great but nascent idea, VCs provide early capital to convert the idea into a mid-size start-up, then growth-stage investors pump in large amounts of capital to try and turn the start-up into an established company.

“There’s a lot riding on Flipkart and Ola,” said Sharad Sharma, an angel investor and co-founder of iSPIRT, a software products think tank. “If these two companies can deliver returns above the watermark, then we will have a soft landing for B2C (business to consumer) sector. If, however, in the worst-case scenario, they don’t deliver basic returns, the investor sentiment towards Indian consumer start-ups will turn bad.”

Until the 2015 surge of Amazon and Uber, investors believed all the three firms were on track to listing their shares in the near future and deliver the hard-earned blockbuster returns they craved for.

SoftBank, Kalaari, Nexus and Tiger Global declined to comment. Accel and Sequoia didn’t respond to emails seeking comment.

Lure of big exits

VCs have been investing in India for a decade or so, but they have struggled to deliver good returns to their backers, called limited partners (LPs). Typically, a venture fund is said to have performed well if it returns four or five times the capital invested. For this to happen, the fund needs to make one or two investments that will deliver an exit of 10-50 times the capital invested.

For VCs in India, Flipkart, Snapdeal and Ola are those bets, along with a handful of others such as payments and e-commerce firm Paytm, online marketplace ShopClues and enterprise software provider Freshdesk.

Many VCs including Accel Partners, Kalaari Capital and Nexus Venture Partners have raised new funds over the past 18 months, partly on the back of selling some of their shares in Flipkart and Snapdeal at attractive prices.

In general, most VCs even in the US fail to return the funds invested to their LPs, studies have shown. Since 1997, venture capital firms in the US have returned less cash to LPs than the invested amount, according to a 2012 report by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a think tank.  What keeps LPs coming back, however, is the lure of big exits such as those of Facebook, LinkedIn Corp. and Twitter Inc. in recent years and those of Intel Corp., Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp. and hundreds of others in the early years of Silicon Valley.

Indian VCs haven’t seen any such blockbuster exits, which is why Flipkart, Snapdeal and Ola are so important.

And it’s not just that Flipkart, Snapdeal and Ola have raised disproportionately large amounts of cash. Their founder duos—Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal (Flipkart), Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal (Snapdeal) and Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati (Ola)—are considered to be the best entrepreneurs in the country and role models for start-up founders.

“The likely scenario is that Flipkart will exit through a big IPO (initial public offering); then, the funding market will go through the roof,” said Abhishek Goyal, co-founder of Tracxn, a start-up tracker. “In the worst-case scenario, if Flipkart’s valuation dips to $5 billion or below, opportunist investors will flee India for the short term and a few venture capital firms may close down. But there’s so much interest in the India growth story that it will continue to be one of the most attractive start-up markets.”

IPO or sale?

The endgame for Flipkart, Ola and Snapdeal is far from clear. Though analysts say Amazon and Uber currently are favourites to emerge winners because of easy access to large amounts of capital, Flipkart and Ola have formidable strengths while Snapdeal has changed its strategy to focus on cutting costs and growing net revenue rather than boosting gross sales through deep discounts and extensive advertising.

“We have a clear strategy to build a long-term oriented, profitable e-commerce business and have been making tremendous progress in that direction over the last year. The decision to go for an IPO rests with the board of the company and they will take it up when appropriate,” a Snapdeal spokesperson said in an email response. “We have witnessed a clear shift in investors focusing on revenue market share and growth vs GMV (gross merchandise value) market share over the last few quarters. Hence, we are witnessing significant inbound interest from investors who believe this is the right strategy for Indian e-commerce going forward. That said, we are currently well-capitalized and have no immediate needs to raise a round.”

Flipkart is still India’s largest e-commerce firm, has a near-monopoly in online fashion (a key category) and a large- enough cash war chest to keep up with Amazon’s spending power, at least over the near term.

Ola is a clear market leader and it has shown it can hold its own against Uber.

Even if Amazon and Uber were to overtake Flipkart and Ola at some point, as long as the Indian firms remain within touching distance of their US rivals, the chances of successful exits are high.

“I am certain that Ola and Flipkart will certainly be among the largest Indian Internet companies a number of years down the road,” said Avnish Bajaj, managing director at Matrix Partners India, one of Ola’s largest investors. “The likes of Bhavish (Aggarwal) and Sachin (Bansal) have the ability, the staying power, personal will and the financial backing to carry their companies to an eventual IPO, and not be forced to sell. They will inspire future Indian entrepreneurs.”

And if there are IPOs, India’s start-ups would’ve achieved their holy grail, he said.

“The biggest challenge will be for the first one to get to an IPO. Once that happens, the floodgates will open for others. But I expect an Indian start-up to do an IPO within two-three years,” added Bajaj.

Others believe some sort of consolidation among Indian e-commerce start-ups is inevitable. China’s Alibaba Group, which is already an investor in Snapdeal and Paytm, is believed to be one of the only suitors which can drive consolidation. In case of such consolidation, it’s difficult to predict what will be the financial outcome for investors.

Copycat investing

This year, investors have already started diversifying away from consumer Internet investments. Apart from taking more time to strike deals, investors have also turned more demanding.

Last year start-ups in hyperlocal groceries, food delivery and hyperlocal services attracted large amounts of capital partly on the basis that they were replicating similar business models from the US or China. That has changed to a large extent so far this year.

In the first half of the year, start-ups in enterprise software, financial and automobile technology, and online pharmacy were popular with investors, according to data from Tracxn.

To be sure, investors and entrepreneurs will always keep an eye on the US and China for start-up ideas. Some of the investments in fintech, for instance, are inspired by start-ups that have come up in the US and China.

But what may change is that start-ups and investors will have to be smarter in adopting these ideas in India and even come up with ones designed specifically for the Indian market.

“Investors will focus more on the uniqueness in operating models and not just on how these models have worked in other markets across the globe,” said Deepak Gaur, managing director at SAIF Partners, a venture capital firm. “We too have started to look for business ideas that are not easily replicable and are trying to solve problems unique only to India. Even entrepreneurs will witness this change and you would see less of business ideas that are me-too of US or Chinese companies.”

In consumer Internet, investors are looking for sustainable business models beyond pure-play marketplaces and niche verticals, said Sanjay Nath, managing director at early-stage fund Blume Ventures. “Redbus and Freecharge have shown India-specific models can create differentiated value vs simply replicating Chinese and Valley unicorn models. The best founders are building a strong technology and operations moat rather than just a capital moat. Another interesting area is enterprise-for-global markets or SaaS (software as a service). Here, start-ups can yield higher margins and gain global customers while leveraging India’s cost advantages,” he said.


Chinese investors bullish about Indian startups; jointly provide $50 mn of funding

A dozen Chinese investors offered at a technology summit here on Sunday to jointly provide funding of about $50 million (Rs 334 crore) for Indian start-ups.

The investors include a Cyber Carrier, a Hong Kong-based Chinese internet enterprise that has set up a $30 million initiative fund in January to invest in six Indian start-ups.

About 150 seed funded start-ups pitched for Series A funding at the two-day summit by presenting their ideas to a 17-member delegation of Chinese investors.

“Each start-up is seeking $4-10 million funding from the Chinese investors, including Carrier, which helps enterprises in FinTech, B2B, e-commerce, healthcare, EdTech and AdTech areas,” the summit organisers said in a statement.

Carrier partner Jessica Wong said that a few of the investing delegates were keen on first understanding the Indian market, while other were keen on investing in the start-ups here.

“The delegation varies from people who have invested in over 30 companies globally to a few who are here to understand the Indian eco system,” she said.

Participating in the summit, Aarin Capital Partners and former Infosys director TV Mohandas Pai said the opportunities for investment in India were immense, as 2,000 start-ups registered across the country in 2015, 1,250 of them got funded.

“The start-up revolution shows the potential and scope of the Indian market, with India, China and the US as growth engines in the near future,” he said.

The IT industry employs about 4.5 million techies across the country.

“We have decided to make this (summit) a quarterly event to pilot and facilitate the integration and complementation of technology iteration, market exploration, business model upgrade and capital operation between China and India,” said Onionfans chief executive Hutu. Chief Executive Brij said the networking opportunity for start-ups like his was encouraging and motivating, as the Chinese investors were keen to hear out and understand Indian products and ideas.

“Their feedback is helpful and first-time entrepreneurs benefit from events like these. We have received initial interest from the Chinese delegation and are keen to hear back from them,” he added. is an experiential marketplace that helps consumers to try out products they are keen on buying instead of seeing pictures online.

The summit was organised by Onionfans, Cyber Carrier, Technology Issue magazine and Xpressn labs.


ICICI Bank to invest in Fintech startups soon

Banking major ICICI Bank will soon invest in fintech startups by picking up equity stakes in them. The bank will also help them enhance their business plans and products.

ICICI Bank will, however, invest in only those startups who will reach the final stages of the Startupbootcamp’s FinTech program that it launched in Mumbai. Startupbootcamp is a global group of industry-focused startup accelerators.

Following the success of programs in London, Singapore and New York, the evolution of the FinTech program to Mumbai ensures coverage of the three main FinTech hubs around the world and now the fastest growing economy.

Startups can apply to be part of this three-month program from September 28, with the accelerator beginning in the early part of 2017.

The program is also focused on InsurTech, which is undergoing a transformation in India on the back of innovation in aggregation and comparison engines.

Abonty Banerjee, Senior General Manager & Head- Digital Channels, ICICI Bank said, “ICICI Bank has always been at the forefront to provide opportunities and avenues to the young Indians. We are delighted to partner with Startupbootcamp and see the fascinating ideas that come from the young Indian’s and play a role in their journey. ICICI Bank is committed to harness latest technology for the benefit of our customers across geographical and economic segments of the country”.

FinTech is a young but rapidly growing sector in the India economy, led by an innovation-driven ecosystem, and a large consumer base.

Alok Vajpeyi has been named as the Chairman of the new program, which is backed by leading names in the global financial technology community such as ICICI Bank, ICICI Lombard, RBL Bank, AZB & Partners and PwC.

Sanjay Sharma, Chief Information Officer, RBL Bank, commented: “Technology usage among emerging economies is becoming increasingly more advanced and widely adapted, with mobile usage a driving force enabling great potential to make a difference to millions of people. There are great FinTech success stories in these developing countries, particularly in the digital banking and payments spaces, but so much more needs to be done. With the help of our partners, we can help hundreds Indian startups, joining them up with the financial services and making a real difference to the people of India.”

“At RBL Bank, we stand at the intersection of entrepreneurs, ideas, technology and banking services. As an institution, we have been an early supporter of the startup-ecosystem and have also been at the forefront of supporting the emerging venture debt market in India, which focuses on new-age businesses and early stage start-ups. We are happy to tie up with the Startupbootcamp Fin Tech accelerator program in India to partner with startups for developing cutting edge technologies that are responsive to the fast-evolving needs of Indian customers”, added Sanjay

AZB & Partners firmly believes in the game changing potential of FinTech, especially in India and would therefore like to assist Indian start-ups to transform into global leaders.

“Our expansion into India builds on the momentum of Startupbootcamp worldwide, which has accelerated over 340 startups in 14 different programs worldwide since 2010. India, as the fastest growing economy has many challenges it needs to overcome if it is to reach its potential, which presents great opportunities to FinTech startups in the country. We are excited to see the talent that emerges from the new program.” said Nektarios Liolios, Co-Founder and CEO, Startupbootcamp FinTech.

PwC has chosen to expand its global relationship with Startupbootcamp FinTech and as global partners, they are working together to develop trend reports looking at developments in the FinTech and InsurTech space, building on Startupbootcamp’s expertise in developing early stage companies.

“Cutting-edge technology is reshaping the financial services industry in India. Technology disruptions and innovations are removing the barriers and issues related to infrastructure and inclusion, and are enabling the financial services industry to serve a previously untapped clientele as well as improve service to present ones. The StartupBootCamp program has been instrumental in giving wings to startups and enabling them to grow in the FinTech space globally”, said Vivek Belgavi, FinTech Leader and Partner, PwC India.


Rise India Raises Rs 14 Crore Funding From NSDC

Rise India has raised Rs 14 crore funding in form of a loan from National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC).

Rise India is now an affiliated training partner of NSDC and has been allocated this fund to setting up Driver Training Institutes across the country, with a target of training 2.5 lakh youth over the next 7 years.

Rise India Skill Solutions currently has 14 centres which are operational. Additionally, 28 new centres are being proposed to be opened under the agreed project.

Startup india consultants

61 locations have been identified of which 28 will be selected for setting up of these centres. The locations are across NCR, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Jharkhand and Bihar. These training will be done in Light Motor Vehicles, Heavy Motor Vehicles and Heavy earth moving equipment like backhoe loaders, cranes and mixtures which are often used in infrastructure development.

Rise India offers effective training programme and courses in skill development that has transformed lives. Through this alliance, RISE INDIA would set up numerous driver training institutes across the country and deploy people, infrastructure, capacity, content, trainers to deliver the trainings efficiently. Rise India, through its own equity funding will contribute an additional Rs 4 Crore to make it total outlay of Rs. 18 crore, which will be invested in capacity creation over the next 18 months.

Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Minister of State for Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, GOI said, “We need commitments from corporate to help Skill India reach to the rural and economically underprivileged people of our country. We need more partners like RISE INDIA to come forward and help us empower the youth through education, training, skill and entrepreneurship development. This is certainly going to be a good example of a public private partnership for many.”

Commenting on the partnership, Manish Kumar, CEO, NSDC said, “Skill India needs the right kind of partnerships which have the last mile reach and help in filling the skill gap across sectors and geographies. We see huge potential in our partner Rise India and are certain that together this will bring about great impact along with some great opportunities for the youth of India especially for those who want to be a part of the automotive industry under this project.”

Ajay Chhangani, CEO, Rise India said, “This alliance is an important milestone for RISE INDIA and a recognition of our continuous efforts and diligent approach to provide effective skill training to youth in the country.” He added, “Our partnership with NSDC will take our journey forward to a next level, where we will multiply the existing number of skill centres, and contribute to the Skill India Mission.”