"R & D expenditure by public and private sectors as percentage of the GDP in India only 0.9% ," - Ashpi Gupta, Mumbai Angels

17th Aug 2012
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This is a part of the 'Investors on Student Entrepreneurship' series.

We had the opportunity to interview Ashpi Gupta from Mumbai Angels to understand their perspective on student entrepreneurship.


Ashpi Gupta has over 4 years of experience across Consulting, Valuations and Corporate finance. She has previously been associated with E&Y, PwC & Merrill Lynch. She has worked on Valuations, Debt Syndication and structured Capital across various sectors. In PwC, performance improvement & restructuring business processes were her primary responsibility. Projects included Finance strategy & transformation, E-procurement, Management reporting and System analysis.Ashpi has done B.E.(Comp Sc) from Mumbai University and MBA from National University of Singapore and IE(Spain).

The proportion of students abroad that startup while in college is considerably higher than in India. Do you see the scenario improving in India any time soon?

The scenario in India is indeed improving , IIT's , IIM's , BITS Pilani , NMIMS , Jamnalal Bajaj , are all having large scale entrepreunership events with incubation suppport and prize money to the winners. Institutes like MIT are running joint programs (MIT AITI Program) with the likes of IIT Mumbai to promote entrepruenership among students.

Why would you choose to invest/not invest in student led ventures?

What we like in student led ventures: Fire in the belly, drive to work hard and achieve more, new innovative idea , good valuations, lower salary expectations/ baggage (lifestyle expenses such as rent , family expenses).

What we don’t like: Running a company needs some maturity, business sense and industry experience. Every venture ends up needing twice as much money and time. However this can easily be balanced by an experienced person on the team. Longevity of the start-up is also another factor.

There is significant emphasis on research and development at colleges abroad. What do you think is the state of research in technology from Indian colleges/universities?

India is still far behind in terms of equipment and government grants for students research. Also research tends to be more academic here and not very applicable to real world problems

The R & D expenditure by public and private sectors as percentage of the GDP of the countries are Israel (4.86%), Sweden (3.75%), Finland (3.46%) and US (2.82%) where as India (0.9%) lags behind other countries. The merit system is threatened by reservations. Bureaucracy, politics, imitation and plagiarism dominate universities and government research institutions. About 60% of the women Ph.D researchers are unemployed for various reasons. The private sector R & D is almost non-existent. Indian researchers get better opportunities and recognition outside the country, hence brain drain to other countries continues.

In comparison between engineers and management graduates, who are likely to startup? What is the trend that you have noticed among the companies that you have seen so far?

Engineers are more likely to start-up given that they have higher appetite for risk. Management graduates on the other hand tend to look for lucrative jobs in industry after graduation and are more likely to start-up after accumulating some savings. The trend we have noticed among our more successful companies is a balance between technology and business skills.

 There is huge emphasis on technology – with engineers becoming entrepreneurs, what about the other kinds of businesses coming up? What is your take on it?

Though technology start-ups are the most common one sees all kinds of businesses started by students ranging from social ventures, education, healthcare, entertainment and services. Technology start-ups are the most common due to reasons as they are easy to scale and have low capital requirement.

 What are your 3 pieces of advice for student entrepreneurs and students aspiring to be entrepreneurs?

  • Start young
  • Dream big
  • Execute well. Work towards your dream

To know more about Mumbai Angels, you take a look at their website

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