One of India’s top VC firms is on the hunt for deeptech startups in healthcare and agritech

One of India’s top VC firms is on the hunt for deeptech startups in healthcare and agritech
Sudhir Sethi, Chiratae VenturesBCCL
  • Sudhir Sethi and TCM Sundaram of Chiratae Ventures share how the COVID-19 pandemic has only convinced them to go deeper in deeptech.
  • During the pandemic, the bar for investments in technology has gone up as for technology companies COVID brought in a tailwind.
  • Chiratae has just announced the 7th edition of its Innovators Program.
Chiratae Ventures, a venture capital firm that backed Flipkart, Myntra, Policybazaar and many other popular startups, is looking to invest in deeptech. Using deeptech means to go beyond end-user services, into solving scientific and engineering challenges by using artificial intelligence, robotics, blockchain and other relatively new tools.

“Today, there is a company called Cropin, which is using satellite imagery and can detect health of the crop, disease onset and quality of soil. Effectively, our concept of tech has changed and we are looking for such deep tech startups that Covid has given a tailwind,” Sudhir Sethi, founder of Chiratae Ventures, explained in an interview with Business Insider.

Some of Chiratae Ventures investments
FlipkartFirstCryCureFitLenskartBounce
PolicybazaarNestawayNewgenMyntraCropIn

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The hunt is on...

Chiratae Ventures has just selected 19 companies for its 7th Innovators Program – a five-six week program where startups go through the process of finding the right product-market fit, building a culture of the organization, looking at digital marketing, understanding product scalability.

The range of over 500 applications received for Innovators Program
SegmentApplications receivedSegment Selected startups
Consumer tech45% Consumer Tech4
Software20%SaaS (Software as a Service)4
Healthtech15%Healthtech3
Deeptech12%Deeptech 3
Fintech8%Fintech 5

In similar cohorts in the past, startups backed up Chiratae Ventures have gone on to raise over $500 million at the seed stage.
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But, there is appetite for more. “We are looking at agritech much more strongly than before. We are looking at affordable healthcare for a billion people – how can technology provide access to so many… We are looking for companies that are solving the scale challenges,” Sethi said.

“Through the innovators program, we are discovering companies like KBCols, which uses microbes as an inexhaustible source for extracting different natural colors or companies which are making silver nano-particle base catheters that stop the flow of infections,” Sethi added as an overview of the companies they look out for.

Boom or bust, tech is a safe bet

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The experience of the pandemic has intensified Chirate’s love for tech startups. “During March 2020, the combined revenue of all our active companies stood at a billion dollars and they were valued at 7 billion dollars. In the month of April, the revenue fell by 65% – we huddled, marveled at the resilience of entrepreneurs as they handled the situation. In May, the total revenue stood at $650 million and Oct we are back at $1 billion,” he said.

For him, the last eight months have proved that technology companies grow fast during normal times and recover faster under stress.

But Chiratae’s cheques won’t be a handout. During the pandemic, the bar for investments in technology has gone up. “The bar has definitely gone up, in a time like this where there is a tailwind for tech companies it is very easy for a company to come and say we have grown by this much, especially when offline wasn’t growing. We had to differentiate between temporary and permanent growth,” said TCM Sundaram, founder and managing director of Chiratae Ventures.

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For those firms, where physical interaction is still an important part of the business, Sethi and Sundaram are in wait and watch mode.

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