India: Innovation at Scale

When you think about where startup hotbeds can be found, London, Berlin, Tel Aviv and of course, Silicon Valley, are the locations that immediately spring to mind. It is somewhat rarer to find people citing the likes of Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore – but we feel this is starting to change.

In the last 5 years, the Government of India has launched initiatives aimed at supercharging the Indian economy through creating jobs, enhancing skills and encouraging innovation. More specifically, the Startup India campaign has led to a large pool of capital becoming available (a 108% growth of startup funding in 2018 vs. 2017[1]), a reduction in inhibitive laws and an increase in tax benefits for new companies.

India has long been known as a hotbed of global technology talent.  Culturally, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects are well promoted at every age of education. Indeed, India’s IIT (Indian Institutes of Technology) system rival and in many cases surpass the likes of MIT, CalTech and Cambridge.  For years, this tech talent favoured moving abroad to serve global technology centres across the West. This practice has undergone a sea-change, however, and now this talent is staying home to proudly build world class companies to first serve the growing and consumer rich Indian market with global aspirations thereafter.

There is also an increasing interplay between India and international interests, which should come as no surprise. A number of large investment funds (Sequoia, Accel Partners, The Tiger Fund) already have more than one office in India, and many more firms are forming deep relationships with the new UK-India tech hub opening in London in April 2019. This is seeing dedicated hubs in India springing up, all aimed at expanding the global reach of Indian startups.

True recently spent time immersed in the Indian startup scene, holding sessions with a global apparel brand to find technologies to optimise the business. This is what we unearthed:

  • There is a wave of interesting new companies at the intersection of social commerce and marketplace models. India’s growing population of tech-ready millennials are quick to adopt new retail tech experiences, are open to influencer marketing and possess a clear and defined retail appetite – this is driving a pattern of rapid adoption among today’s 450m smartphone users
  • Whilst until recently a somewhat nascent technology in the West, artificial intelligence is deeply ingrained in Indian startup culture. The ability to leverage computer vision and machine learning to present wrought iron use cases in retail and beyond means that these startups are well-positioned to capitalise on their expertise and expand globally

As it stands, India – and particularly Bangalore – seems to be a hive of disruptive companies set to challenge and change corporates’ thinking. With India’s High Commissioner, Ruchi Ghanashyam, quoted as saying that the “UK’s expertise in tech and fintech, its strengths in innovation [combined with] India’s skilled manpower and start-up culture will ensure the creation of high value jobs, higher productivity [all of which will] help us to tackle shared challenges” we see the spotlight on India getting brighter and we are confident that True’s work with the Indian startup community has only just scratched the surface of opportunity.

As our Live Network continues to swell and flourish, the True value-add that we offer Partners, Investors and Startups amplifies at an ever-accelerating rate. Our focus on retail and consumer lines up well with the tech trends we see coming out of India now and in the future and we are excited to explore this incredible startup ecosystem, leveraging our Partnerships to introduce innovative Indian startups to retailers on a global scale.

[1] https://www.nasscom.in/knowledge-center/publications/indian-tech-start-ecosystem-2018-approaching-escape-velocity

19 July 2019