‘Talent is rewriting business rules around the world’ - insights from NASSCOM Product Conclave 2019, and startup showcase
Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 395 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery. world music festival, telecom expo, millets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.
NASSCOM’s annual Product Conclave (NPC), held in Bengaluru, is a regular draw for product innovators in large corporates as well as emerging startups. In addition to debates and demos in the conference track, the exhibition area featured dozens of startups and ecosystem enablers, some of whom are featured in this photo essay.
The exhibitor lineup includes Orbo, Watsan, SenseForth.ai, CloudSEK, PinMicro, IBI, AShield, Invento, Atoll, Inali Foundation, GoYaana, Optum, City Surveillance, M1, Sabre, VMWare, and Cisco. See also our earlier startup showcases from NPC 2018 and 2017, and YourStory’s TechSparks 2019, 2018 and 2017.
According to the NASSCOM-Zinnov Startup Report 2019 released at the event, around 1,300 startups were added to India’s ecosystem in 2019, making for a total of 8,900 tech startups. There are more than 335 active incubators and accelerators in India (see YourStory’s Startup Hatch section for profiles of some of their programmes and portfolios).
India has the third largest startup ecosystem in the world as well as the third highest number of unicorns. Unicorns added in 2019 are Druva, Ola Electric, BigBasket, Delhivery, Rivigo, Dream11 and Icertis. There are over 50 potential unicorns emerging as well, including GreyOrange, Pine Labs, CarDekho, Practo, Grofers, Urban Ladder, LendingKart and BlackBuck.
Startups created around 400,000 direct jobs this year as well, and the economic downturn has generally not affected the startup ecosystem adversely, according to NASSCOM president Debjani Ghosh. While the fintech, retail and enterprise sectors are mature, education and logistics are emerging, and the energy, gaming and agriculture sectors are nascent.
Startups need access to more funds and markets, and NASSCOM’s startup delegations to countries like Japan are meant to target this gap. A number of speakers in the conference sessions, however, pointed out that Indian policymakers need to more proactively promote tech innovation and startups, the way China has. This applies to long-term initiatives, patient capital, and access to government contracts.
More deep-tech startups are emerging in India (accounting for around 18 percent of all startups today). Typical use cases are medical diagnostics, precision agriculture, digital twins, predictive analytics, fraud detection, and aerial mapping.
Around 21 percent of Indian startups are focused on overseas markets, mostly in the B2B sector. These include ToneTag, Vue.ai, Innovaccer, Qure.ai, Moengage, Stellapps, RedwingLabs, and Intellicar.
While many Indian startups are embracing the product mindset, Indian services companies are struggling to develop a product focus, according to Mohanbir Sawhney, Professor at Northwestern University. Services companies can invest for the future in product R&D, but they may need to hive off these units. Technologies like AI and ML offer services companies a chance to develop a suite of products as well.
Successful founders in India are funding the next wave of founders, thus leading to regenerative effects, according to Ravi Gururaj, Member, NASSCOM Product Council. This is also the “secret sauce” of China’s startup boom, according to Debjani.
There needs to be better industry-academia connection in India with respect to entrepreneurship, according to Atul Batra, Chairperson, NASSCOM Product Council, and CTO of Manthan. He pointed to Stanford University’s catalytic role in Silicon Valley as a benchmark.
“Talent, tenacity and timing” are key for a country’s innovation movement, according to Yasufumi Hirai, CIO, Rakuten. “Talent is rewriting business rules around the world,” Debjani explained; NASSCOM’s FutureSkills initiative aims to upskill India’s workforce in this regard.
If India plays its cards well, it could have 95-105 unicorns by 2025. The startup ecosystem could account for up to 1.25 million direct jobs and 4.4 million indirect jobs by 2025, according to NASSCOM estimates. This can be enabled by improved capabilities, sector-specific initiatives, and increased corporate participation.
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(Edited by Megha Reddy)