India is flooded with VC money. There are more investment firms than startups in some of the centers that have become the hubs for breeding new ideas. Every VC firm that I have been interacting with seems to give a number in the couple hundred of millions as the size of the fund that they are managing. Yet, it seems that very few startups do get funding, and very few VCs have been able to efficiently utilize the investment funds that they manage. What is going on here? Is this trend just going to cause an inflation in the value of venture capital and the companies that they invest in?
The reality is that, most of these firms really do have funds in the size of hundreds of millions of dollars. At the same time, most of these firms don’t have the manpower, nor the time to invest in a hundred companies (with investments of $1M to $5M) as they do dread the reality of not being able to focus – which basically means, most of these firms are looking to invest in companies that require funding in the size of $30M and above.
Taking a meager idea and a venture that doesn’t require more than $250K and meeting with a VC who is looking at funding a $50M venture, is obviously not going to grant you results. The firm might invest in one or two such initiatives just for the sake of curiosity and with hope, but that definitely will not be their trend and agenda. In short, you are meddling with chance, if you are one of those entrepreneurs, and not betting on practical feasibility – and as a startup entrepreneur you can’t afford to chase chances
‘We don’t dream big enough” says Mahesh Murthy, a veteran entrepreneur-turned-VC. We look at a need and formulate a temporary solution for it, with the slogan of “cheaper alternative”, but support, credibility, productization all seem to be coming at the cost of cost-effectiveness. More than all that, we barely begin to scratch the surface of innovative and differentiated thinking, and to solve the problem in a different way.
Imitation is china’s business plan. They are known to make a cheaper version of just about everything, even if it requires reverse engineering to hack the code that some organization might have taken years to develop. Yet they survive, as a cheaper alternative product manufacturer who can provide amazing finishing on their products. India unfortunately, and fortunately is not on that camp. We are stronger in technology, in building the core components and that’s what we should focus on.
When Tata made the announcement that they are going to be looking at building a car that would cost just a lakh, there was a lot of excitement in the air. Quite frankly, I was disappointed. This concept is anything but novel, and we are just taking a shot at the same ideology that inspired Ford. But more than all that, apart from the long term impact of not having the sufficient and right infrastructure to accomodate all these new cars at cheap prices, the concern was on innovation. Why is it that we keep thinking that “low cost” is our selling point? Why can’t we build products that are superior in quality, defining standards, breath-takingly innovative and can cross the chasm in terms of premium – and rightly be priced as a premium product?
I dream that there would be companies birthed that would have the vision, dream and the team to produce cars that can challenge and excel the Mercedes and Aston Martins of the world. I dream that we would see companies that would look at the open playground of military innovation that this country has barely looked into. I want to see the next Lockheed Martins, the Boeing and the best of the best of the best technology companies to come out of India – because, this is a time when you can justify it, when the capital is available, and India is on the rise.