After several false starts, India Innovation Fund (IIF)—led by IT industry body Nasscom and ICICI Knowledge Park Trust–which was announced almost two years back, is now finally good to go.
The fund has achieved its first close of Rs 40 crore–raised from domestic sources such as Tata Consultancy Services, Bharti Airtel Ltd, ICICI Knowledge Park Trust and the department of science and technology. Its launch is as close as in a week or 10 days.
The fund had originally planned to raise Rs 100 crore. “We are still confident of achieving the target,” Nasscom vice-president Rajdeep Sahrawat told VCCircle.
The IIF, which has been in the making for some time now, has faced several hiccups along the way. Satyam Computer Services, whose founder B Ramalinga Raju confessed to committing financial irregularities, was one of the key anchor investors of the fund, when it was proposed. It is not clear if the new owners Tech Mahindra, who subsequently bought out the troubled Satyam, will look at investing in the fund. The global economic slowdown, during the course of last year, too delayed the fund-raising activity to some extent.
In a recent setback, the fund’s CEO Ganapathy Subramaniam, who was earlier with Jumpstart Ventures, parted ways on account of personal reasons, it is understood.
So, for the time being, India Innovation Fund, headquartered in Hyderabad, will be led by Deepanwita Chattopadhyay, who is the CEO of ICICI Knowledge Park, the first wet research lab based in the city. Appointment of a full-fledged team is expected in due course.
Talking to VCCircle, Ms Chattopadhyay said, the aim of the fund is to produce over 10-15 good product-driven companies over an 8-10 year lifecycle. “There is a dearth of VC funding, government support and even debt for early-stage product companies. That is where we are stepping in to fill the gap,” she says.
The fund, which has already received nearly 40 proposals, may see its first investment as early as in January. It may invest from Rs 50 lakh to up to Rs 5 crore in milestone-linked stages in each portfolio company.
The fund has roped in industry stalwarts, with wide-ranging experience, on its investment committee. They include Sharad Sharma, currently with Canaan Partners and previously head of Yahoo India R&D; Shrikumar Suryanarayan, director-general of Assocation of Biotechnology-Led Enterprises and formerly with Biocon R&D; Jai Menon, group chief technology officer at Bharti Airtel; H K Mittal, head, National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board and Dr Bala Manian, a noted Valley-based scientist and entrepreneur. The fund plans to increase the number of members in the investment committee and also induct a panel of experts for mentoring the portfolio startups.
The fund will invest in innovation-driven startup companies in sectors such as automotive technology, medical devices, biotech, intelligent transport solutions, and mass market technology applications. It will steer clear of popular segments such as back-office outfits or online classifieds firms, which have attracted much venture capital funding in India, and will look at only IP-led ventures.