How Reliance Industries’ GenNext Hub is rewriting the India narrative in the startup space


With one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, India has witnessed a huge influx of new entrants in its flourishing startup ecosystem. But with so many contenders, the real challenge for these newcomers is to get noticed in the crowd. This is why Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has been actively giving a hand to startups, and helping them build a strong foundation to scale up via its GenNext Hub platform.

Backed by RIL, the GenNext Hub programme is an initiative to catalyse the startup community in India. The four-month-long immersive programme aims to provide startups with access to funding opportunities, business mentors, and technical experts, among other resources. In addition to the mentoring programme, GenNext Hub has launched the “Scalerator” programme that is aimed at providing an opportunity to high-growth startups looking at RIL as a potential client through facilitated discussions between startup founders and RIL leaders.

GenNext Hub Roadshows

As part of this initiative, the third GenNext Hub Roadshow was held in Bangalore on April 26, 2017. It was a full house at the event, which saw select startups pitch their business ideas to eminent investors and RIL leaders. Speaking on the occasion, Shradha Sharma, Founder and CEO at YourStory, said, “I am excited that Reliance is here because one of the big narratives that we’ve always discussed in the startup space is why all the big companies come from countries like the US and the UK? India ke bade companies kahaan hain? (Where are the big Indian companies?) But now, I can tell them that Reliance is here.”

Caption: A full house at the Hard Rock Café, Bengaluru for the roadshow
Decoding the innovation DNA

GenNext Hub’s main focus is to nurture technology startups in the areas of Retail, Telecom, Mobile Apps, Fintech, Messaging, Healthcare, Cloud Services, SME Solutions, Media, Industrial IoT or Consumer IoT, with a specific focus on Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Analytics, SaaS, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, among others.

Talking about unlearning innovation, Sushil Borde, Vice President, Reliance Innovation Leadership Centre, said, “We have reinvented global industries. So, Reliance is not just a growth story. It’s a huge innovation story. We started with challenging conventional wisdom, something that is very important for startups as well. Please make sure that you continuously challenge the norm.”

His advice to startups was, “India is a value conscious economy, so don’t go on to make expensive products,” and cited the example of Reliance products, which were developed for the masses.

The event had three tracks that were allotted to startups at different stages.

One track saw 15 of 51 GenNext Hub alumni startups pitch to angel investors and venture capitalists. These startups included Mobiotics, Dattus, Megdap, Doctors’ Circle, VDeliver, Pickcel, Codemojo, Curefy, Benow, BuyHatke, DSYH, Enguru, 1Mobility, Sqrrl and Health Vectors.

“Whatever help you need, it’s all available within the Reliance and GenNext ecosystem. What we also want is for all the startups to really help each other, making the community grow stronger by the day,” said Amey Mashelkar, Head of GenNext Hub.

Advising the startups, Naveen Asrani, Director, Startups at Microsoft said, “Keep your customers close to you. The customer is your first investor, right? They believe in your product. Then comes the rest of the business.” GenNext Hub’s partner Microsoft Accelerator provides technology mentorship for the selected startups through the four-month accelerator program, among other resources.

Investors present at the occasion included Asutosh Upadhyay from Axilor Ventures, Atulya Bhat and Sudipto Sannigrahi from Matrix Partners, Ashish Dave from Kalaari Capital, Brij Bhasin from Rebright Partners, Abhishek Bhatewara, Abhishek Subramanya, Narendra Pasupathy and Rohit Bafna from Mumbai Angels, Harsha Kumar from Lightspeed, Naveen Gupta from IAN, Rajeev Menon from Anthill Ventures, Deepak Agarwal from IdeaSpring, Harshjit Sethi from Sequoia Capital, and Brent Zettel from Unitus Seed Fund.

Caption: Startups pitch to Brent Zettel, Unitus Seed Fund (L) and Ashutosh Upadhyay, Axilor Ventures (C)

The second track had high-growth startups pitch their offering to the RIL business leaders, which included senior executives from Reliance Jio, Reliance Retail, RIL Enterprise IT and Digital Transformation. These startups are driving innovation in the areas of AI, drones, logistics, nanotechnology, fintech, among others.

Caption: High-growth startups pitch to RIL business leaders.

The third track had early-stage startups pitching to the GenNext Hub team and mentors to secure a place in the upcoming Summer Cohort 2017. The 2017 Summer Programme Applications are open till May 7, 2017.

Caption: Startups pitch to Brij Bahsin, Rebright Partners and Harsha Kumar, Lightspeed
Venture Partners (Extreme right)

In all, 24 startups from seed stage to post-Series A stage pitched to 11 panelists across different tracks. GenNext Hub plans to hold more roadshows going forward to identify high-potential startups that it can help scale-up.

It’s more than just an accelerator

What makes the GenNext Hub unique is that it is a “scalerator”, and not just an accelerator. The four-month-long programme helps startups evolve from a ‘minimum viable product’ to a ‘minimum viable company’, by achieving product-market fit, scaling up revenues, and increasing customer and user traction.

GenNext Hub provides participants with an elevated playing field that includes access to funding and mentoring. Investors, industry experts, and RIL business leaders with diverse experiences will help you scale up your business. In addition, executives and technical experts from Microsoft will also be available on a regular basis to provide early feedback and opportunities.

Applications for the Summer 2017 programme are open till May 7, 2017. So, what are you waiting for? Apply now!