Vinod Dham, the US investor known as the father of the Pentium chip, has a travel itinerary that gives away his firm’s strategy for funding the next big idea.
First stop: Indian Institute of Management, in Kolkata. Next: Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. Later, a flight to Hyderabad to visit the Indian School of Business.
“We are looking for innovative ideas that come out of business and technology schools in India,” said Dham, a former vice-president for Intel Corp. “Google, Sun, Yahoo all came out of universities like Stanford and Berkeley.”
Launched last month, Dham’s firm, a partnership with New Enterprise Associates, a large Silicon Valley player with $8.5 billion (Rs37,570 crore) in capital commitments, is looking to invest in technology and information companies. He said he wants to formalize exchanges among the IITs and business schools to discuss entrepreneurship and funding.
As college campuses around the country focus on job placements, Dham’s tactic is one that is becoming more familiar and welcome—pre-empt others’ offers with seed money so students can work for themselves. A joint report released in December 2006 by Boston-based Babson College and the London Business School found that 10% of Indians are engaged in entrepreneurial activity.
Already, Dham has agreed to fund a start-up he came across at IIT Kharagpur. A group comprising students, an IIT alumnus and a professor will develop a personalized search engine.
Other venture capitalists (VCs) are backing retail and food businesses floated by students. The day after he won a business plan contest, Mitesh Karia, a class of 2007 student of Delhi’s Faculty of Management Studies, received an e-mail from a Bangalore venture fund. He is now discussing with it a chain of fast food outlets selling Kolkata rolls.
“Earlier, students drew up business plans as an academic exercise,” said Anjan Raichaudhury, who teaches a course in entrepreneurship at IIM Calcutta. “Now they stand a serious chance of getting funds.”
IIM-Calcutta students Vik-ram Gunjal and Gurvesh Sanghera say they enter business contests on campus regularly because such events are “hunting grounds for VCs”. They have drafted a business plan for a wine-tasting bar and are confident someone will fund it.