[TechSparks 2020] Experts say collaboration for innovation is the roadmap for startups and corporates
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned out to be both a headwind and tailwind for startups across the globe. While a few segments like edtech, healthcare, and communication seem to have benefitted, other sectors like travel and mobility were adversely impacted.
This has turned out to be a time for greater collaboration among all the participants of the ecosystem - be it startups, venture capitalists, and corporates - to emerge stronger during these trying times. This was the point of discussion during a roundtable at TechSparks 2020 on the topic: ‘Building global synergies and enabling innovations in a post-pandemic era’.
Radhika Malik, Investment Manager, Samsung Catalyst Fund, said, “Samsung has businesses across the world and is constantly thinking about new technologies and products for the future.”
According to her, Samsung has been engaging with startups across the world to develop new products.
Clockwise from top left: Anup Jain, Managing Partner, Orios Venture Partners; Vishal Krishna, Business Editor, YourStory; William Bao Bean, General Partner – SOSV; Radhika Malik, Investment Manager, Samsung Catalyst Fund; and Abhay Tandon, Director and Head – Lowe’s Innovation Labs India
Providing a perspective on how the environment has changed for startups across the globe, William Bao Bean, General Partner – SOSV, said, “The biggest challenge is in managing growth.”
In some cases, startups are struggling with very slow growth while in other cases there is too much on their plate, which makes it difficult to manage. However, William felt cross-border operations for startups is likely to become tough with restrictions coming up.
At the same time, it is also the case of how one is going to be prepared to the technology changes. Lowe’s, the US based retailer for home improvement, is an example of constant innovation.
Abhay Tandon, Director and Head – Lowe’s Innovation Labs India, said, “We are in a good situation and we have pivoted towards this over the last several years.” These include platforms like robotics, AR, VR, cloud technologies, etc.
According to him, Lowe’s has been ahead in terms of adopting various kinds of new technologies and had understood how it can provide the right experience for the end consumer. “Things are moving much faster than anticipated, and stores would not look the same as before,” he remarked.
This also brings us to the point on real change that has been felt among the startups.
Anup Jain, Managing Partner, Orios Venture Partners, said, “The post pandemic world has been very exciting as there are business models available, which is much more-efficient and high technology is available at a lower cost.” This has also seen startups expanding their horizons beyond their primary markets.
Given this environment, there is a need for increased collaboration between startups and technology-led corporates.
William felt that corporate partnerships are very critical for startups as it really helps them go cross-border and proves advantageous during these challenging times.
According to Radhika, Samsung is powering considerable amount of technology infrastructure for startups, and this has become an area of collaboration. “We are thinking of experiences like AR, VR, and deep tech. It is a long term horizon. We need collaborative approach for these new experiences,” she remarked.
Abhay emphasised that corporates and startups need to have a clear vision to make such collaboration successful. “It is not about building everything in-house as some can be done through partnerships,” he said.
It is also the question of incremental innovation, which are solving problems of the day and also look to solve for future challenges.
The pandemic has also thrown open many opportunities. Anup gave the example of direct to consumer (D2C) brands, where they can directly reach out to their customers without having to go through the traditional channels. Also, sustainability has become a big theme due to the pandemic.
The strongest advice these panellists had for startups to survive the pandemic is the character of resilience. Anup said, “Hang in there, be with the teams. Sacrifice growth so that one has the chances of survival.”
The biggest mistake that most startups do in these challenging times is the lack of communication.
Williams said, “They (startups) communicate when things are going good and not when it is bad. One should communicate at all times.”
TechSparks - YourStory's annual flagship event - has been India's largest and most important technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship summit for over a decade, bringing together entrepreneurs, policymakers, technologists, investors, mentors, and business leaders for stories, conversations, collaborations, and connections that matter. As TechSparks 2020 goes all virtual and global in its 11th edition, we want to thank you for the tremendous support we've received from all of you throughout our journey and give a huge shoutout to our sponsors of TechSparks 2020.