Very few people command respect the way Ratan Tata does. Be it an entrepreneur, politician, actor or cricketer, everyone stands up in due regard when the Chairman Emeritus of Tata Group enters a room. Since his retirement in 2012, Tata has been a keen observer of the Indian startup ecosystem. For a lucky few, he became an investor too, with his personal wealth.
While investors often mentor and hand-hold young entrepreneurs, the entry of India’s business patriarch into their list of investors means they have got the best guide possible in the country. Although most of his investments are undisclosed amounts, startups which succeed in getting Tata on board are excited for reasons that go beyond financial benefits. After Tata’s investment in Ola was declared, CEO Bhavish Aggarwal said that it was "a huge endorsement from one of the most respected business leaders of our times and reflects Ola's commitment towards the future of mobility in India.”
Riding high on the startup wave, VC firms and angel investors have been pouring in millions into India. In June 2016, Tata’s private investment company RNT Associates and the University of California’s Office of the Regents (UC Investments) joined hands to fund startups, new companies and other enterprises in India as ‘UC-RNT funds’. Around the same time, RNT Associates also tied-up with Jungle Ventures, Accel Partners, and Infocomm Investments, to form seed-stage venture capital firm SeedPlus.
The following are Tata’s investments this year so far:
- GOQii: US-based virtual fitness platform founded by Vishal Gondal in 2014
- IdeaChakki: Delhi-based food tech startup co-founded by Gunjan Mehrish, Monica Narula, and Noopur Tiwari, in 2013
- Kyazoonga: Mumbai-based e-ticketing startup founded by Neetu Bhati and Akash Bhatia in 2007
- MadRat Games: Wearable gaming platform founded by Rajat Dhariwal, Madhumita Halder, and Manuj Dhariwal in 2010
- MUrgency: San Francisco-based medical emergency response founded by Shaffi Mather in 2014
- Niki: Artificial intelligence-based chatbot co-founded by Sachin Jaiswal, Keshav Prawasi, Nitin Babel, and Shishir Modi in April 2015
- Lenskart: Online seller of eyewear accessories, founded by Peyush Bansal in 2010
- NestAway: Bengaluru-based home rental startup co-founded by Amarendra Sahu, Smruti Parida, Deepak Dhar, and Jitendra Jagadev in 2015
- Moglix: Singapore-based B2B e-commerce platform founded by Rahul Garg in 2015
- Bollant Industries: Hyderabad-based producer of biodegradable products employing differently-abled people, founded by Srikanth Bolla in 2012
- Snapbizz: Bengaluru-based B2B cloud platform founded by Pram Kumar and Yashwanth Prakash in 2013
- Invictus Oncology: New Delhi-based cancer therapeutic startup co-founded by Raghunath A Mashelkar and Shiladitya Sengupta in 2011
- Dogspot: Petcare platform co-founded by Rana Athreya, Shailesh Visen, and Gaurav Malik in 2007 which came online in 2011
- Teabox: Premium tea brand founded by Kaushal Dugar in 2012
- Cashkaro: Delhi-based cash-back platform co-founded by Swati and Rohan Bhargava in 2012
- Firstcry: Pune-based online seller of products for kids and babies, founded by Supam Maheshwari in 2010
- Tracxn: Bengaluru-based market research platform co-founded by Abhishek Goyal and Neha Singh in 2013
The following are his earlier investments:
Recently it was reported that RNT Capital Advisers is planning to invest $300 million in startups across South Asia and the US. With Tata taking charge as interim chairman of Tata Group again, whether these plans change is yet to be seen.