Infosys co-founder explains how the next Google, Facebook or Amazon can be born out of India

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Infosys co-founder explains how the next Google, Facebook or Amazon can be born out of India
Infosys
  • Kris Gopalakrishnan, co-founder of Infosys and Chairman of Axilor Ventures is betting on India’s tech startups to build on the opportunities during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • In an interaction with Sudhir Sethi of Chiratae Ventures, Gopalakrishnan said that Jio’s scoop of investments are just a reminder of India’s magnetic attraction for investments.
  • But the Indian venture and private equity capital has 95% to 96% traditionally been international capital and the need for domestic capital is now greater than ever.

India has been hoping that the next Google, Amazon or Facebook will be born on its soil. But what makes a company Indian will be the ownership and that is where investors have been penny wise and the regulations less than conducive.

This is the grouse of Kris Gopalakrishnan, one of the seven founders of $40 billion Infosys. “We have to create Indian VC (venture capital) firms. We have to create Indian funds that are billion dollars or ten billion dollars. The wealth is there, you know, whatever data we have shows that you know, maybe two trillion to three trillion dollars of wealth is there in private hands in India. So some of that has to actually flow into this ecosystem,” Gopalakrishnan said.

“You can directly invest, you can invest through funds you can invest fund of fund, in other various mechanisms that are available,” he added.

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In an conversation with Sudhir Sethi of Chiratae Ventures ⁠— which has placed bets on unicorns like FirstCry, Lenskart etc.-- Gopalakrishnan, who now runs the 6-year old Axilor Ventures, cited the slew of investments into Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Jio showed that foreign investors are looking beyond the COVID-19 crisis and the opportunities in India.

Infosys co-founder explains how the next Google, Facebook or Amazon can be born out of India

“Google is looking at Vodafone, Microsoft is also looking at Jio. So this is enforcing the story that if you look beyond covid all the things that I talked about India being an attractive destination for talent innovation and markets, all of them are true and that nothing has changed during business we have just taken a temporary break,” said Gopalakrishnan, who invests ₹20 crore in startups every year and has over 100 companies in Axilor’s portfolio.

The need for India and India’s needs

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The Indian government has used the stimulus meant to fight COVID-19 crash as an opportunity to revive the ‘Make in India’ programme, which aims to boost local manufacturing. The Modi government hopes that companies that are now looking to move facilities out of China ⁠— partly due to the pandemic and partly due to escalating tensions between US and China ⁠— will want to move to India.

The government may be hoping for too much too soon. “The changes in the physical space take more time than changes in the digital space,” Gopalakrishnan said, highlighting that immediate opportunities are in the tech sector⁠— from telecom giants like Jio, Vodafone, and Airtel to emerging startups.

The space for more unicorns

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Gopalakrishnan believes that gives Indian startups have an edge over the bigger and older firms and that makes them attractive to both investors and the government.

“In my discussions with the government offic ials, they said startups responded faster than established companies because they had less bureaucracy and less worries about you know, what impact it would have on the business etc,” he said, adding that India “will have a large number of unicorns,” and “significant investments coming into India to take advantage of the opportunity.”

And some of this money should flow into research and development as well. "..you know less than 0.1% of private investment is going into R&D in India,” he added.

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Waiting for foreign capital is a loss of opportunity

Reliance Jio attracted six new investors in the last six weeks, and all of them were foreign. “Now the Indian venture and private equity capital has 95% to 96% traditionally been international capital… whereas in other countries it is more than fifty percent namely China and technically if you take Europe and the US it's all domestic capital anyway,” Sethi said.

Gopalakrishnan couldn't agree more. “We need some of these companies to be owned by Indians, right so that you know, it's not just about ownership it's about the wealth creation effect of this right that's why I would encourage all Indian funds, family offices to look at a portion of their investable wealth to go to these class of assets, these startups,” he chimed in.

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Will the COVID-19 crisis help the cause or stall it?
Kris Gopalakrishnan, one of the co-founders of India’s largest IT company Infosys, had become the CEO of the company in 2007, when it all looked rosy. Within a year of his tenure, he was hit with the financial crisis of 2008. But Gopalakrishnan and Infosys sailed through the crisis and emerged stronger.

And now, when India is in the midst of another global crisis – the coronavirus pandemic – Gopalakrishnan believes it's just a temporary break from all the great things Indian companies have set out to achieve.

SEE ALSO: Oil dependency and carbon emissions — EVs may not be India’s answer to reducing either, say experts
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