While India is famous for its software factories and call centers, it’s actually home to quite a broad-based technology community–including a host of companies in wireless communications, e-commerce, semiconductors, pharma and biotech. And what about start-ups pursuing Smarter Planet-style technologies? That’s just starting.
But it could pop–and quickly. “The rate of change is very high in India,” explains Ashish Gupta, a senior managing director of Helion Venture Partners, an India-focused venture capital firm with $350 million in its fund. “We’re not developing things in a gradual sequence. You have entrepreneurs who are trying out things for the country’s current level of development, and you have others who who are working on things that people say are still years off. There’s no limit to what can be done if people try them.”
IBM is doing its part to get things rolling. Today and tomorrow, for instance, it’s holding a SmartCamp event in Bangalore, India’s technology capital, aimed at helping entrepreneurs who are focused on making the world work better. The five start-ups that are taking part get feedback and advice from investment firms, serial entrepreneurs, academics, and marketing and technology experts. The outfit that wins the competition will get on-going assistance.
The Bangalore event is the first of nine competitions that will be held this year as part of IBM’s 2011 Global SmartCamp Startup Competition. The winner of each event will compete in a World Finals Competition at the end of the year. The participants include:
Adiro (http://www.adirosys.com) Enterprise mobility including automatic identification and data collection.
Connect M (http://www.connectm.com) Machine-to-machine business intelligence technology for the telecom, utilities and transportation industries.
Indrion (http://indrion.co.in) Embedded sensor and actuator network technology.
Infobotique (http://www.infobotique.com) Compliance and risk management for the oil and gas industry.
Quantama (http://www.quantama.com) A mobile information service that enables consumers to find places of interest, promotions and events nearby.
While venture capital has been a vital ingredient in the development of America’s Silicon Valley, most of India’s tech companies that emerged in the 1990s and early 2000s got going without it. Many of them bootstrapped themselves with friends-and-family money. But now India has a healthy venture capital market, made up of a combination of local and global firms, so its easier for start-ups to raise the money they need to accelerate development.
That’s especially important for companies targeting Smarter Planet solutions. The markets they’re going after are immature in India. They can’t count on revenues from early-adopter customers to tide them over. So they can benefit greatly from VC bucks.
Helion, which focuses primarily on IT and consumer service businesses, hasn’t made any investments in Smarter Planet start-ups yet, but Gupta says he and his colleagues are actively looking for prospects. He predicts that demand for such solutions will come sooner than most observers predict. “I think you’ll see these things hit inflection points within the next three years.”