Prof Ramesh Raskar, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and head of the Camera Culture research group at MIT Media Lab, will give a talk on “How to think like an MIT Media Lab Inventor” at COEP, on 10 July (tomorrow) from 11am to 12noon. (Note: the talk has been kept early to ensure that you will not get stuck in Palkhi traffic restrictions. There is parking at the venue)
Most recently, he has started an initiative to bring innovation to solve real world urbanization problems in smaller towns in developing countries. This is Kumbhathon, which has been running in Nashik for the last few years.
Raskar is an alumnus of College of Engineering Pune.
The topic of this talk is to discuss Prof Raskar’s idea hexagon to let you build your own innovations the Media Lab way. Having been an inventor of 50 plus patents and author of numerous international publications, Prof Raskar proposes an idea hexagon that allows anyone to build game changing innovations.
Top Executives from Pune’s Persistent Systems, Intel Ventures India, Zensar, Deloitte, Kirloskars, KPIT, and a bunch of other companies have come together to create I4C (Inter-Institutional Inclusive Innovations Center), a non-profit public-private-people-media partnership organization that aims to strengthen the product innovation market in India.
The primary objective of i4C is to scout, showcase and mentor technology innovators and help them market products, which have the potential to positively impact the lives of people, he added.
Who is involved? Here are some interesting names. Anand Deshpande of Persistent is involved and:
Other prominent members of i4C include Ganesh Natarajan (Vice Chairman and CEO at Zensar), Kirloskar Brothers President (Innovations Society) Pratima Kirloskar, KPIT Chairman and CEO Ravi Pandit, Deloitte Partner Hemant Joshi and Sakal Media Group Chairman Prataprao Pawar, among others.
What are their goals?
“We want to help ‘productise’ 100 innovations in the nex three years. Innovators face a number of challenges ranging from funding to patents to right mentors and this is where we want to help,” i4C co-founding Director Arun Jamkar said.
And these are the areas that they plan to focus on:
i4C will search for technology innovations in the fields of Healthcare and Diagnostics, Water and Energy conservation, Information Technology, Engineering, Environment, Defence and Agriculture.
I4C also runs an annual Innovations Conference where they invite nominations for innovators in Health Care, Water, and Technology, and the best innovations are felicitated at the event, and also invited to pitch to get funded. The event was held in December last year, and received over 9000 nominations.
The city’s economy (and real estate market) is now driven by the presence of two large and growing sectors: automotive manufacturing and information technology.
Why is the Pune story so compelling? First is the ecosystem already in place:
Willy Praet, a Belgian expat who moved to Pune nearly five years ago, is managing director of the India operations of Kongsberg Automotive, a Norwegian automotive components manufacturer. He says he found “the perfect supplier base for our products in Pune and the 50km area surrounding it.”
Second is the easy of recruitment, since we have over 40 engineering colleges:
“Also, the presence of engineering colleges makes recruitment easier.”
And, Bombay the financial and commercial capital of the country is very expensive and easily accessible via the expressway. It quotes Samir Patil, founder of http://Styloot.com on this point:
“We chose Pune because the cost of living is low, and the quality of life is high. Mumbai was unviable because the costs of living for the developers would have been too high and we wouldn’t have found the technology talent. And had we been in the US, we would not have been able to create this depth of technology with seed funding.”
And, Pune is also one of the top cities in India if you’re interested in design:
Hrridaysh Deshpande, the director for the DYPDC Centre for Automotive Research and Studies, agrees that Pune is poised to become a hub for innovation. “There are more than 70 design entrepreneurs, several design schools and many clients. We plan to apply for ‘world design capital’ status for Pune, to the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design.”
Obviously, there are challenges, the primary among them being the lack of infrastructure. The traffic, lack of public transport, and the lack of an international airport are cited. But, on this point, the article quotes builder Rohit Gera’s stoic approach to the city’s shortcomings:
“My definition of a developing nation is a place where people live before the infrastructure is in place,” he says, suggesting that it is only a matter of time before the roadblocks to growth are removed.
(This is a live blog of Suhas Kelkar’s talk at the SEAP Breakfast Meet. Suhas talked about his experience of building an incubator at BMC Software.)
Suhas joined BMC Pune and was given the job of creating an innovation incubator within the company.
This was the second attempt at creating an incubator in BMC. A previous attempt had failed spectacularly. The previous one had been started with great fanfare, with a 100 people team, and over time, it went down to 80, to 60 to nothing. With this history Suhas started his incubator with zero employees, and minimal fanfare.
Suhas defines innovation as “Ideas to Cash.” This is important. The focus on cash, i.e. revenues, was an important difference between this incubator and the previous incubator, and also other research labs in companies around the world. Invention for the sake of invention, research for the sake of research is something that they definitely did not want to do. The wanted to ensure that everything they do has a direct or indirect revenue impact upside for BMC.
There actually exists a document called “The Oslo Manual” which is a set of guidelines for how to do innovation. It is a free PDF that anyone can download, and Suhas recommends that to anyone interested in innovation.
The Oslo Manual points out that innovation can happen in 4 different areas Product, Process, Marketing and Organization. Suhas adds a 5th category of innovation: “User Experience”
The BMC Incubator
Why does a product company need an incubator? Product teams get bogged down by tactical improvements for existing customers, and the larger vision (beyond 12-24 months) does not get attention. Startups innovate all the time, and BMC does buy innovative companies, but then integrating them into the company is a huge overhead, and fraught with risks. It would be much more efficient to do innovation in-house if it could be made to work
The incubator is a separate team who can focus on these issues. It is a small team (about 25 people) compared to the 200 people in just one of the product groups that BMC has. And these 25 people try various different innovative ideas, 9 of 10 of which are bound to fail. But even that failure adds value because that means there are 9 things that the 200 people product team does not have to try out – hence they’re shielded from dead ends and unproductive explorations.
The mandate for the new incubator (partially based on lessons learnt from the failure of the previous incubator was):
Don’t alienate the product teams – you’ll never succeed without their help and blessings
Understand the base products thoroughly. Superficial understanding of the issues, toy applications, will not earn the respect of the product team
Frequent communication with the business teams
File many patents
The incubator takes inputs from:
The office of the CTO, which strategizes and puts together a vision. Before the incubator team, the office of the CTO would hand over the long term vision and strategy to the product team, which was ill equipped to handle it. Now, the incubator fits this gap
Product Business Units
Customers and Partners
Academia (what is the latest in research)
The idea backlog is looked at by these three teams:
The governance team which meets once in 6 months
The alignment team which meets once a quarter
The execution team which meets once a month
The output of the incubator are:
Challenges for an Incubator
How to measure innovation? Number of patents is not a good enough metric.
Motivation: the motivation for the incubator and the people on the team must come from within. Creating the motivation, and staying motivated, in the face of 9 failures out of every 10 ideas tried, is difficult.
Difficult skill set: the team needs people who are smart, intelligent architects, but also hands on developers, with ability to switch context frequently, understanding the overall BMC vision, ability to sell/market ideas internally, and most importantly they need to be technology as well as business savvy. Finding people like this is a tall order.
The incubator only does small projects. There are two kinds of projects: “research” and “prototype”.
Research projects which are just 1 person 1 week, where that person is supposed to study something for a week and come back with a report.
Prototype projects are just 2 or 3 people working for a maximum of 2 months to build a prototype – not necessarily a shipping product. The prototype should prove or disprove some specific hypothesis, and there is a tricky balance to be made in deciding which parts of the prototype will be “real” and which parts will be simple mocked up.
From technology incubation, they want to move to co-innovation, where they work in conjunction with product teams, and customers to innovate.
After that they would even like to do business incubation – where the product team is not interested in looking at an adjacent business, in which case the incubator would like to have the ability to go after that market themselves.
The Indian IT industry, from humble beginnings, is moving up the value chain.
First we were doing cost arbitrage (1990s)
Now we have process maturity (2000s)
The next step would be to get product ownership, and product management here (2010s)
Finally, in the 2020s we’ll be able to do innovation, incubation, entrepreneurship
The bottomline is that Indian IT industry should be focusing on taking on more and more Product Management responsibilities
Questions from Audience
Q: The incubator needs people who understand the current products thoroughly. Which means that you need to steal the stars from each product team, because you cannot really hire from outside. And obviously the product team is not willing to give up their stars. How do you solve this problem?
A: In general, trying to get stars from the product teams is not possible. You wont get them, and you sour the relationship with the product teams. Instead, what works is to hire the smartest outside people you can hire and then make them learn the product. These people are then teamed up with the right people in the product team during the ‘learning’ process. The learning process is still a bit ad hoc and we haven’t yet formalized it, but at the very least it involves doing some work hands-on.
Q: What do you answer when a product team asks what is the value you are adding?
A: We constantly worry about the value we are adding, and we keep pro-actively stay in touch with the product teams and constantly keep reminding them of the value we add. If it ever happens that a product team asks what value you are bringing, you are already too late
Q: How are you engaging in academia, and what else would you like to do?
A: Currently, we get interns from academia. This allows them to do look at projects that would not get “approved” as regular projects, because “it’s just an intern project.”
Q: Customers are in the US. Product Managers are in the US. And you cannot innovate unless you understand customers and have close ties with the Product Managers. How do you do that sitting in India?
The head of the incubator must be the ultimate product manager, and more. First, s/he must have almost as much understanding of the market and the customers as the product manager of the actual product. In addition s/he must have a vision beyond just what customers want, so that they are able to generate innovative ideas. Successful engagement and understanding of Product Management is key to success of an incubator.
Q: How do you ensure that the output of an incubator prototype is actually accepted by a product team, and how does the process work
All prototype projects require buy-in from the product team and other stakeholders, agreeing tentatively that if the prototype is successful, the product team will actually put that project onto the release schedule. Once the prototype is completed, it is incorporated into the release schedule, and the 2/3 people who worked on the prototype transition into the product team temporarily.
Update: The contest is over. Winners and Judges comments are:
Satish Tilokchandani: “Good News Reporter”. Comments: A simple idea that could really catch on if done well. And can spread beyond Pune too.
Hemanshu Narsana: “Transportation Options Calculator”. Comments: Would be really useful if it included estimated rickshaw fares, and 6-seater routes.
Dhanashree Srivastava: “RFID tags for kids”. Utility is limited to only certain contexts, but an interesting project for students/techies to work on.
On Saturday, 8th January, Pune will again play host to a number of innovative inventors from across the country, as part of Innovations 2011, an event organized by the IIT-Bombay Alumni Association, Pune Chapter. This event showcases the best science and technology innovations in India (whether they are from startups, large companies, or elsewhere) that have been implemented in practice. The innovations are from varied fields such as medicine, agriculture, mechanical/electronic/chemical technology, IT products, etc. Here are some example innovations from previous years:
a simple mechanical device that prevents toilets in Indian trains from discharging waste products at a station (i.e. when a train is stationary), but opens up when the train is moving over 40mph
a health alert emergency system for senior citizens, to be worn on the body, and which can automatically detect if they’ve fallen, and can alert emergence response systems
a solar powered pivot irrigation by a lone inventor
an integrated system for ethanol production from sorghum, by Pune’s Praj Industries,
wi-fi security by AirTight networks,
stem cell therapy for pre-eclampsia
This year, again the event promises to be great. The keynote address is being given by Chetan Maini, CTO of Reva Electric Vehicles (which is now a Mahindra & Mahindra company). For more details of the event schedule see here.
Register here if you wish to attend. There is an entry price – Rs. 750 (with dinner), or Rs. 500 (without dinner).
Every year, Innovations holds a contest where PuneTech readers have a chance to win free passes for Innovations.
The contest this year is this:
Briefly describe a product or service that the tech community can design, develop and deploy for the benefit of the citizens of Pune.
The basic idea is this: there are lots of enthusiastic techies in the tech community in Pune, and we could easily harness their energies to build some great products that can benefit Pune. It could be some simple Question and Answer website like ForPune.com, or something more complicated. It need not necessarily be a InfoTech idea; could be anything else.
The entries will be judged on the basis of these factors:
Usefulness: How much does it benefit the citizens of Pune? How much does it benefit society?
Ease of implementation: How much effort will it take to implement. The easier it is to implement, the more the chances of winning. For example, any idea that requires the “co-operation” of PMC, or some other government body, has a low chance of being implemented successful, and hence a low chance of winning. (On the other hand, an idea that requires the co-operation of Pune Traffic Police will get higher marks because PTP has been pretty fabulous last year at implementing innovative IT based ideas)
Uniqueness: The more “innovation” your idea has, the more different/unique it is from anything else we’ve seen before, the higher marks it gets.
Please describe your idea in brief in the comments section below. The last date for submitting ideas is Thursday, 6th January, 12 noon. Winners will be announced by Friday, 7th Jan. If you’ve already bought a ticket for Innovations, and you win the contest, your ticket price will be refunded. If you don’t actually want the ticket, or if you’re happy to pay the price (which is rather reasonable), you can still enter the contest – simply indicate at the end of your entry that you’re not interested in the ticket. Please ensure that you give correct email address with your comment – so we can contact you if you’ve won.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Media Lab and College of Engineering Pune (CoEP) will host a five-day design and innovation workshop in the city from January 24 to 28.
This workshop aims to engage and inspire students across all disciplines in Indian universities in inventing the future. The week-long workshop will engage students in ideation, design, and implementation of prototypes together with Media Lab and local mentors.
The workshop will culminate in a plenary conference and exhibition that will be open to visitors from academia, industry leaders, and the media. The Media Lab culture of research involves working closely with industry and we believe this workshop will offer participants and attendees a flavor of how the Media Lab “invents the future.”
The workshop is free for COEP stduents, and students from partner institutions. Other students have to pay Rs. 2000, and industry applicants have to pay Rs. 10000. Normally, PuneTech does not feature paid events, but we are making an exception this case, since this event seems rather unique, and also it is free for at least some PuneTech readers.
The keynote speakers will be Prof Joseph Paradiso, Prof. Ramesh Raskar (remote), Pranav Mistry (remote), of sixth-sense fame. There will be tracks on living mobile, hacking pixels, media recrafted and living with machines. Detailed background information about the instructors can be found here.
The idea is that about 120 students will participate and four teams would be chalked out with 30 participants in each team. The teams will interact, brain storm and would present around five projects.
Guruji, a solar-powered, LED-based “blackboard” targeting rural education, has won the Manthan 2010 awards for the “Innovation of the Year”. Guruji is a product of Pune based Databyte Equipment Pvt. Ltd. which has been working in the area of multi-lingual hardward and software since 1981.
Guruji is a programmable, LED based blackboard that can show text (in various languages) and simple images on the LED-based screen, can play recorded audio along with the visuals, and can be controlled by an infrared remote.
It’s about 15″x12″ in size, can be placed on a table or hung on a wall, runs on rechargeable battery for about 8 hours, and the battery can be charged from regular mains, or from a solar panel.
The basic idea is to use this in rural classrooms to teach elementary skills such as reading, writing, counting, addition, etc.
In addition to the hardware itself, Guruji also has a number of pre-recorded lessons in Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, and English.
Keeping the rural market in mind, it is priced at approximately Rs. 4500.
Databyte Equipment Pvt. Ltd., founded by Jugal Gupta, is a Pune based company which has been working in the area of multi-lingual hardward and software since 1981. Their customers include various sections of the Indian Army, various sections of Indian Railways, many of the biggest banks in India, and a bunch of other government departments.
Databyte is also the inventor of the basic Indian languages input system that powres Lipikaar.
About the Manthan Awards
Since 2004, Manthan Awards have been organised by the Digital Empowerment Foundation, in partnership with World Summit Award, Department of Information Technology, Govt. of India, and various other stakeholders. The basic idea is to recognize and promote innovative products in information and communication technology from across South Asia. This year, there were 456 entries mainly from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan.
Do you have some cool new technology that you would like to showcase? In that case, now is your chance to show it for free at the India International Trade Fair 2010 that’s happening in Delhi starting on 14th November, 2010.
Basically, Maharashtra has been allocated 11000 sq. ft. at this trade fair to show the coolest stuff from Maharashtra, and out of that 3000 sq. ft. has been allocated to Pune. The Science and Technology Park (STP) has been given the responsibility of using this space to highlight the achievements of Pune. They have decided to try to find a few innovative companies/technologies and showcase them (for free).
It should be a company or product that actually exists (not just an idea or a concept)
It should be something that is interesting or innovative. Something that shows that Maharashtra is on the cutting edge
Specific domains of interest include CleanTech, GreenTech, Environment, e-Governance, m-Governance; but entries need necessarily not be limited to these domains
The Trade Fair starts on 14th November, and will be at Pragati Maidan, Delhi
If you are a company who fits this description, or if you know some other company who does, please get in touch with Rohit Srivastwa (rohit.srivastwa @ scitechpark.org.in), Advisor, Science & Technology Park, Pune. If you are a company/product from Mumbai or elsewhere in Maharashtra, don’t give up hope. You can still apply, and if found interesting enough, they’ll try to accommodate you.
What: MCCIA & KPIT Cummins presents a panel discussion on “From jugaad to systematic innovation” When: Friday 21 May 2010 at 6:00 p.m. Where: Hall no. 6 & 7, A wing-5th floor, MCCIA Trade Tower, ICC Complex, SB Road, Pune Registration and Fees: This event is free for all to attend. However prior confirmation is desired. Mrs. Vinaya Ingale (email : email@example.com, tel : 25709180) Mrs. Madhura Chipade (email : firstname.lastname@example.org, tel : 25709213) Mr. S. H. Kopardekar (email : email@example.com, tel : 25709211)
(Note: NCL also has a seminar by Prof. Krishnan on this same topic on 20th May. See the PuneTech calendar for details.)
From Jugaad to Systematic Innovation
Grassroots innovation that adds value for many has emerged as the strongest theme driving innovation initiatives in India. This has resulted in some outstanding examples of frugally engineered products, that impact many people across a wider area. It is indeed a reason to be proud that many of these have been steered from Pune.
To foster the culture of innovation among businesses in Pune, MCCIA the apex trade body in Pune and KPIT Cummins – a leading product engineering and IT consulting company with a strong commitment to innovation have come together to present an exclusive opportunity to meet thought leaders who have played a key role in driving innovation.
MCCIA and KPIT Cummins invite you to a panel discussion ‘From Jugaad to Systematic Innovation’ based on a book by Mr. Rishikesha Krishnan, Professor of Corporate Strategy & Policy and Jamuna Raghavan Chair Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIMB). The panel discussion will explore the innovation paradigm in India and its implications.
Speakers at the Panel Discussion are :
Mr. M. S. Unnikrishnan, Managing Director of Thermax Limited
Mr. Shrinivas Sharangpani, former Head of Knowledge Centre, Teardown & Benchmarking Centre and Innovation Centre at Tata Motors.
Mr. Kiran Deshpande, President, Airtight Networks (Winner of the NASSCOM Innovation Award 2009)
Mr. Rishikesh Krishnan, Professor of Coprorate Strategy at IIM Bangalore and author of the book ‘From Jugaad to Systematic Innovation’
Mr. Anup Sable, Senior Vice President, Automotive Engineering, KPIT Cummins
About the Speakers
M S Unnikrishnan
M S Unnikrishnan is the Managing Director of Thermax Limited, the Rs. 3200-crore energy and environment solutions company, headquartered in Pune, India. The company operates in the areas of heating, cooling, power, water and waste management, air pollution control and chemicals. The company has been consistently listed by Forbes as one of Asia’s best under a billion dollar companies. Prior to Thermax he has worked in companies like EID Parry, Terrazzo Inc, U.A.E.He is a Member of the Development Council constituted by the Ministry of Heavy Industries, Government of India, towards creating strategies for the Industrial development of the country. Apart from that he is actively involved with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) as a National Committee Member for (i) Power and (ii) Capital Goods. He also served as a Member of the special Sub-committee created by the CII for enabling the Civilian Nuclear Agreement between India and USA. He is also co-opted as a Member of the Advisory Committee co-chaired by the Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir for creating a 2020 vision and plan for the state. Mr. Unnikrishnan is known for his strategic and human relations skills and is a keen champion of green technologies. He is also an alumnus of Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Programme.
Shrinivas is the former Head of Knowledge Centre, Teardown & Benchmarking Centre and Innovation Centre at Tata Motors. An author and researcher, Shrinivas has a patent on process of making mirror like reflective coating on large bodies and has 3 more patents pending. He holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Metallurgy and is an expert in the area of Innovation, Benchmarking, Product Development, Value Engineering, Cost Reduction and Creativity. Prior to Tata Motors he has worked with Bajaj Tempo Ltd (now Force Motors).
Kiran is the President of Airtight Networks, a global leader in wireless intrusion prevention systems, wireless LAN monitoring products and Radio Frequency management. Kiran brings 24 years of management and technology experience in the software industry. At AirTight he oversees sales and operations for the EMEA and Asia Pacific regions. Kiran was formerly the Managing Director and CEO of Mahindra British Telecom (MBT). Kiran grew the company from US $7m in five years achieving over 60% CAGR on revenue and 110% CAGR on net profit. The company became one of the top software services companies from India. Under his leadership Airtight Networks won the NASSCOM India Innovation in the New Technology Advancement category for 2009. Kiran has worked with companies like IMR (later acquired by CGI) and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). Kiran has a BSEE from Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, India and MSEE from Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai. He is a senior member of IEEE.
Rishikesha T. Krishnan
Rishikesha T. Krishnan is a Professor (and currently Area Chairperson) in the Corporate Strategy & Policy Area, & Jamuna Raghavan Chair Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIMB), India. His research interests are in the areas of strategy, innovation and competitiveness. Prof. Krishnan holds degrees from IIT Kanpur, Stanford University and the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. He has been a member of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) National Panel on Intellectual Property, R&D, Technology and Innovation; the Advisory Council of CIIâs National Innovation Mission; and on the jury of Nasscom’s innovation awards. He has been a member of government committees to review the performance of the National Innovation Foundation, and to study âThe Future of Aviation and Aeronautics in India.â He has done external reviews of the plan schemes of Indiaâs Department of Scientific & Industrial Research and the Department of Biotechnologyâs SBIRI scheme. Prof. Krishnan is an independent director on the boards of several companies He is a trustee of the Foundation for Excellence India Trust (www.ffe.org). He was the Fall semester 2008 Visiting Scholar at the Center for the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania. Professor Krishnanâs first book, From Jugaad to Systematic Innovation: The Challenge for India (see http://jugaadtoinnovation.blogspot.com), was published in February 2010.
Anup is the head of the automotive line of business at KPIT Cummins. With his commitment to innovation in product engineering and solutions delivery he has built strong relations with customers and has been helping them to globalize & standardize their products and operations efficiently. He has been instrumental in creating a robust delivery ecosystem which supports clients in bringing complex technology products and systems faster to markets. Passionate about technology in cars, Anup began his career as a research engineer at the Automotive Research Association in India (ARAI). With over 15 years of experience in the field of automotive electronics, Anup has played a key role in setting up the Automotive Electronics practice at KPIT Cummins. Anup has done his engineering from Government College of Engineering, Pune where he was awarded the Best Outgoing Mechanical Engineer. Anup has authored numerous articles and frequently speaks at national & international forums on automotive technologies and electronics in particular.
I want to estimate the number of innovative enterprises in India, and look into their (in)ability to access risk capital.
Why? Because I’d like to know how many Indian enterprises may offer higher returns than FDs, bonds, mutual funds & stocks. But with a lower risk than a VC funded startup.
Why? Because I believe it is possible to raise & deploy a large amount of risk capital to a large set of Indian companies. $1B+.
Why? Because 95%+ of innovative enterprises lack access to risk capital. And 95% of ‘rich’ Indians / NRIs lack access to private equity investments in India. That’s my hypothesis.
So what? Well, there’s a business model in here somewhere.
Definitions & Numbers
I’m mixing up the various terms used to describe relatively young & relatively small (by revenue) companies. These include: startups, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), Small Scale Industries (SSIs), new ventures, spin-offs, spin-outs, etc.
Per the 2006-07 census, there are over 26 million MSMEs in India. ~ 97% of these won’t show up in MCA statistics since they are unregistered or operate as sole proprietorships / partnerships.
A company is Micro, Small or Medium depending on the amount invested in plants & machinery. MSMEs employ ~ 60 million people (= 3 Mumbais) and contribute ~ 20% to India’s GDP.
Of these, over 98% are ‘Micro’ enterprises. The majority are ‘one-man shows’ that provide services to local markets with minimal investment. They use traditional techniques, have no formal management practices and lack access to bank credit.
The numbers are huge from a micro-finance perspective. But I’m looking for candidates for risk capital. Time to narrow down the potential market.
How many MSMEs have an innovative business model or technology, that is fairly scalable? Who knows! Let’s make a few random assumptions and pick numbers out of thin air. ‘Micro’ enterprises are less likely to be significantly innovative given their constraints. That leaves say ~ 0.5 million Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to choose from.
Ignore stuff like product vs. service, urban vs. rural, geography, etc.. Let’s assume that at least some % of these 5 lakh SMEs are innovative enough. To qualify, they should have products/services with some ‘edge’, which provides growth & profits. These SMEs were ‘Micro’ at birth, and since they are still around, they must be doing something right.
Maybe 2% of SMEs meet this criteria. That’s 10,000 innovative (and perhaps risk capital worthy) enterprises across India.
My assumption of 2% may be wildly off, but remember that I left out 25.5 million ‘Micro’ enterprises. If even a fraction of those get added to the ‘innovative’ pool, the 10K number suddenly looks small.
Risk Capital for Innovative (M)SMEs
Most MSMEs rely on family, friends & personal networks for funding. Only a select few have access to risk capital from angels, VCs, and certain schemes from government/banks. For example:
On average, < 100 Indian companies get VC funding every year.
On average, angels & angel networks (eg. Mumbai Angels) fund ~ 50 startups every year.
On average, government schemes for startups (eg. DSIR’s TePP, TDB seed funds) fund ~ 100 enterprises every year.
On average, ~ 50 companies get listed (via IPOs) on our stock exchanges every year. Of the ~ 2000 companies that traded publicly, 80%+ are quite illiquid.
On average, bank lending to MSMEs accounts for < 10% of total commercial lending. It’s usually in the form of secured, collateralized debt – not ‘risk’ capital. With personal guarantees from borrowers. And probably only to the ‘Medium’ enterprises.
By any measure, this is hugely insufficient in the context of my 10K estimate. And it gets worse:
The average VC deal size in India is ~ 20 crore. That puts the average pre-money valuation at 40 – 60 crore.
To stand a chance of an IPO on the NSE or BSE, a company must ideally have revenues of over 100 crore.
While governments & banks may be more open to smaller deals, they offer a different set of challenges – slower processes, risk-aversion, stringent spending terms & conditions, limited exposure to risk capital, etc.
SMEs need to invest 10 lakh – 5 crore in their businesses. In the Indian VC world, this would count as ‘seed funding’ or ‘early stage funding’. It is supposed to be followed by Series A, B, C, … on its way to a 100-1000 crore valuation. But not every SME is a glamourous, Silicon Valley style, tech startup. Not every SME is addressing a 1000 crore market. Or even a 100 crore market. So all this talk of ‘seed funding’ is irrelevant.
Bottom-line: There is a tremendous shortage of risk capital – in the 10 lakh to 5 crore range – for innovative (M)SMEs.
[Caveat: Then again, how many of these business owners are willing to part with equity?]
For the MBA/VC types, here is what the SAM (serviceable/sellable available market) looks like: 10K SMEs * say Rs 50 lakh per SME on average = Rs 5000 crore = $1B. Maybe much more!
Demand is not a problem. What about supply? Time for Essay #2.