How ABB is strengthening its bond with deep tech startups in India
In the recent years, Indian startups have been receiving increased attention from across the world. Being the third-largest startup ecosystem in the world, India has also become a hotspot for research and development.
Asea Brown Boveri (ABB), the 130-year-old Swiss-Swedish multinational corporation, has now come forward to enhance its commitment to the Indian startup ecosystem.
The Fortune 500 company has been in India since 1949 as a business enterprise operating across multiple domains, and it was only natural that this industrial conglomerate tapped into the startup prowess in the country.
Operating mainly in robotics, power, heavy electrical equipment, and automation technology areas, ABB is looking to tie up with deep tech driven young firms in the country through its various global initiatives.
The company's venture capital investment subsidiary ABB Technology Ventures (ATV), set up in 2009, has invested in a clutch of Indian startups, and has now extended the scope of engagement with the introduction of its accelerator programme – SynerLeap in India.
Founded in 2016, SynerLeap currently has over 60 startups under its portfolio spread across nine countries, and has established over 80 startups-ABB collaborations.
Talking to YourStory, Gaetana Sapienza, VP, Global Startup Operations, Synerleap, says,
“As an innovation growth hub, SynerLeap is here to support, accelerate, and scale the startups through its various stages.”
As part of the ABB group, SynerLeap comes with a deep understanding of the industrial conglomerate’s requirements in terms of its technology and business, and hence brings about the collaboration with startups.
“It is important to be part of the startup ecosystem where there are different actors, but the key stars are the startups. It is also important for us to co-create and collaborate,” says Gaetana.
At the recently held startup pitch event of ABB in Bengaluru, three startups – Flutura, Numocity, and Ecolibrium were selected as members of the SynerLeap programme.
Incidentally, Numocity, which is into the electric vehicle segment, was one of YourStory’s Tech 30 startups for 2019. Flutura is an artificial intelligence solutions company, and Ecolibrium is a leading provider of predictive asset intelligence for industrial and commercial enterprises.
As part of the programme, these deep tech startups are given access to the vast industrial network of ABB, they get to interact with the senior leadership both on the business and technology domains, and network with R&D centres. Lastly, they also get access to ABB customers and partners.
This gives the startups the scope to expand their horizon beyond just the Indian market and look at a global play.
As Wilhelm Wiese, Head ABB Common Technology Center, India, says, “ABB’s research and development has a history of more than 15 years in India, and with the ABB Ability Innovation Centre, we are well prepared for the future. With SynerLeap’s focus on Indian startups, I see the next step of collaboration for open innovation.”
The latest initiative by ABB with regard to its partnership with startups has been an active process for a couple of a years now. Arvind Vasu, Senior Vice President, Asia Investments, ATV, says, “We are always looking at the best in class in startups that strategically complement ABB as a whole.”
As an investment arm of ABB, ATV is looking for startups in areas such as industrial and factory automation, mobility, smart cities, energy management, etc. Arvind says they are always looking into the future, and how these deep tech startups can help them navigate with their innovative solutions or ideas.
ATV typically caps its investments at 20 percent of the equity of the startups, and the deal size is typically between $2-5 million. It looks for the proof of concept in these startups, where the solutions are deployable with customers in hand.
Some of ATV’s notable investments in India include Stellapps, a Bengaluru-based technology startup focused on the dairy segment. The startup’s wearable technology and associated supply chain technology platform has become a game changer for the dairy farmers.
Arvind believes the key differentiating factor for startups to engage with ABB is its industrial know-how and domain expertise. “They (startups) are able to leverage this, and we also advise them on the business aspects,” he remarks.
Now, with SynerLeap in the picture, the bond has only strengthened as these startups build stronger network within the ABB Group. “We complement each other,” says Gaetana.
Arvind believes their engagement with startups has been good till now, and ABB expects this could translate the country into becoming the hub for industrial AI.
However, ABB executives remark that startups have also realised that it takes a lot of patience to deal with the functioning of a large corporate. At the same time, many business divisions within ABB are now keen to have closer engagement with the startups.
(Edited by Megha Reddy)