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IIM Ahmedabad incubator marks first close of $100 mn deep-tech VC fund
Photo Credit: Shah Junaid/VCCircle

Bharat Innovation Fund has marked the first close of its $100-million venture fund that focuses on early-stage deep-tech investments, it said in a statement on Thursday.

The fund, which is part of Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad's incubator Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE), has received around 50% commitments from marquee institutional investors as part of the first close, the statement said.

The investors include the Indian government's financial development institution Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) through its Fund of Funds for Startups (FFS) programme, insurer ICICI Lombard, private lender RBL Bank, and corporates Philips and Bajaj Electricals Ltd.

The fund will support innovations in healthcare, agriculture, energy, fin-tech, digital and other emerging sectors. It will invest at the pre-Series A and Series A stages.

Kunal Upadhyay, managing partner of Bharat Innovation Fund, noted that Indian entrepreneurs are producing globally competitive IP-driven innovations across themes like healthcare, biotech, agriculture, energy, and enterprise-tech. These are being enabled by cutting-edge research and trends like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), Internet of Things (IoT) and India Stack, a term used for a set of application programming interface (APIs) that allows governments, businesses, startups and developers to utilise an unique digital infrastructure to solve India-specific problems.

"Bharat Innovation Fund will catalyse these transformational deep-tech startups by providing them capital, access to market, strategic inputs and partnership connects," he added.

The Fund is also managed by Shyam Menon, who along with Upadhyay co-founded seed and early-stage firm Infuse Ventures; Ashwin Raguraman, the chief operating officer of India Innovation Fund; Sanjay Jain, former product manager at Google and chief product manager at UIDAI; and Som Pal Choudhury, former managing director of semiconductor manufacturer Analog Devices, India.

The CIIE was founded to support entrepreneurs and turn business ideas into viable models. It partners with industry experts, mentors, corporates, the IIM-A community and investors to help incubate early-stage startups. It has backed a number of accelerator programmes and seed funds in India since 2008.

In 2013, CIIE had launched a clean-tech-focused venture fund—Infuse Ventures that has invested in companies such as Fourth Partner Energy which recently raised $70 million in investment from global private equity major TPG Growth’s The Rise Fund.

Earlier in May, CIIE launched a $25-million (Rs 169 crore) project to invest in social-impact startups looking to harness the next half billion Indians coming onto the internet.

The Bharat Inclusion Initiative project will mentor startups over the next three to four years across areas such as financial inclusion, livelihood, education and health, the statement added.

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