Private sector lender Axis Bank recently launched an innovation lab to hone startups and announced that it will create a dedicated fund to invest in these new-age companies that would benefit its business.
The bank launched the 10,000-sqft lab in Bengaluru with an in-house innovation team, which will host a three-month accelerator programme to mentor companies.
We will enable startups to raise money by introducing them to investors and Axis Bank also has the option to invest in some of these as appropriate, the bank's executive director for retail banking Rajiv Anand told PTI here.
When asked if the bank has created a dedicated fund, like the recent announcement by country's largest lender SBI of a Rs 200-crore facility, Anand said, "We will have a corpus but that has not been finalised yet." The idea behind the initiative called 'Thought Factory' is to take innovation to a next level and also keep abreast of changes in technologies, he said.
The bank will work with companies in various stages of maturities, including those at the ideation level, he said, adding that there can be two-way benefit to the lender through the initiative. It can either get existing problems solved by startups or integrate their solutions into its business, Anand said, stressing there will not be an exclusivity clause while undergoing the mentorship programme.
Anand said startups can be beyond the financial technology sector as well and described a meeting with a mobile advertising company whose solutions seemed exciting for the bank. First of the accelerator programmes, conducted by Zone Startups under an advisory board comprising of external members, will start in a month, he added. The bank has already appointed about eight people to work in the lab and plans to take it up to 20 by the end of the year while Anand said the investments into the initiative called 'Thought Factory' are not too large as the space is a leased one
The bank will be looking at disruptive solutions in technologies such as block-chain, artificial intelligence, mobility and cloud as part of the 'Thought Factory', he said. With digital solutions growing fast, globally, banks are working more closely with startup ecosystem to get hold of solutions of the future. British banking major Barclays recently opened a similar accelerator in Mumbai. Axis Bank already has a dedicated team called 'New Economy Group' serving the banking needs of such new-age companies.