How Aditya Birla Bizlabs is connecting with innovative startups

As a leading conglomerate in the country, the Aditya Birla Group has created a paradigm of partnership with startups to seek innovative solutions in deep tech areas to assist them in addressing their business challenges

The Aditya Birla Group, a $48.3 billion conglomerate, has a global presence in over 34 countries with business interests spanning sectors such as metals, textiles, carbon black, telecom, cement, and finance.

With new technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, and cloud computing taking the centre stage, the Group is constantly seeking out innovation. For this, it has started Aditya Birla Bizlabs, a platform that enables innovative startups to collaborate with them in a win-win relationship. Started in 2015, the focus this year is on the fintech segment.

Ajay Srinivasan, Chief Executive, Aditya Birla Capital Limited (ABC), spoke about the goals, experience, and aspirations from Bizlabs. Aditya Birla Capital is the financial services business of the Aditya Birla Group.

YourStory: As a leading conglomerate in the country, what was the driving force for the Aditya Birla Group to engage with startups since 2015?

Ajay Srinivasan: The Aditya Birla Group (ABG) is focused on continuous pursuit of innovation across its businesses. While we continue to invest heavily in that direction through our businesses, the Group also took a conscious decision to explore the external innovation ecosystem to address our key challenges.

This initiative is in line with ABG’s strategy to explore open source innovation in areas of advanced capabilities like artificial intelligence, machine learning, big-data analytics, cloud computing, smart automation, etc., to boost our digital and tech agenda.

YS: What has been the experience of Aditya Birla BizLabs on its engagement with startups over the last four years?

AS: BizLabs has evolved as a platform over the last four years, and our experience has been really encouraging, leading us to continue the journey.

Over the previous four editions, we have had more than 2,000 applications, of which 120 startups have had the opportunity for live interaction with our businesses. These interactions have culminated into more than 20 strategic collaborations or investments made by ABG.

Over time, BizLabs is getting established as a marquee platform, one with which startup communities from major global innovation hubs look forward to for a rich and meaningful engagement.

YS: How does BizLabs help in aligning the innovation capabilities of startups with the business interests of the Group?

AS: BizLabs has three tracks catering to startups at different stages in their life cycle:

Discovery track - wherein the Group looks for existing solutions to relevant challenges and focuses on scaling them to a global scale.

Creation track - wherein the Group looks for interesting ideas that are yet to convert into a solution but are relevant to challenges faced by the Group.

Thought leadership track - wherein the aim is to drive thought leadership in areas relevant to both the Group and the society.

The current edition of BizLabs (Fintech 2019) aligns itself with the Discovery track and focuses on challenges faced by the Group in its financial services arm. Our key objective this year is to reach out to innovative fintechs who can help us address 17 areas which are our priorities across domains of insurtech, invest tech, lending, analytics, and productivity, etc. We are exploring potential innovations from the fintech ecosystem to augment our internal capabilities. BizLabs Fintech 2019 is a formalised format to enable that.

YS: As startups get the backing of the Group, what capabilities do you bring to the table for these young companies?

AS: As part of BizLabs Fintech 2019, select startups will get to work on real business cases across 17 problem statements we have published across various domains.

They will get access to ABC’s reach and scale through long-term strategic contracts. ABC has an overall revenue of over Rs 18,000 crore, comprising 11 million-plus customers, over 10,000 SMEs, more than 80,000 agents, and a network of over 2,00,000 distributors.

Our business leaders will directly mentor the startups through the process of integration to enhance their chances of success. Startups will also get an opportunity for potential investment.

YS: There are many startup engagement programmes run by various corporates in the country. What differentiates BizLabs?

AS: The key differentiators of the BizLabs platform could be summarised as: decision for pilot within three months of application start date, meeting with key decision makers from respective businesses (CEO and CXOs) on first day of interaction, three-month pilot opportunity to fine-tune proposition in real business situations with support from ABC leadership throughout the process, an opportunity to accelerate the learning curve before commercial launch, and access to investment opportunity. Bizlabs provides a perfect platform for innovative fintechs and a large financial conglomerate to come together to create value for all stakeholders.


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