Mumbai: Generating power from industrial heat that goes waste, nifty software to turn your mobile phone into a universal remote control and water purification using a biological medium—these were some of the solutions showcased at the final round of a business plan competition by the seven finalists of the Siemens Venture Capital India Innovation Program in Mumbai last week.
Three of these—by Kakatiya Energy Systems Pvt. Ltd, Transparent Energy Systems Pvt. Ltd and Vision Earthcare Pvt. Ltd—made it to the top of the heap, winning the companies $5,000 (about Rs2 lakh) each, after two rounds of elimination of 105 submissions. And the bonus: “We will explore options of funding or setting up business collaborations with (the winners),” said Rajesh Vakil, associate, Siemens Venture Capital, the venture capital arm of the German conglomerate Siemens AG.
The finalists at the Siemens competition were distinctly different in profile compared with the winners at other business plan competitions in India, such as Eureka, hosted by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay, or TiE-ISB Connect, hosted by The Indus Entrepreneurs and the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. While Eureka attracts student entries at the concept or prototype level, and TiE-ISB mostly sees young start-ups, firms at the Siemens showcase were from three to 26 years old, some with sales of over Rs1 crore, but none backed by venture capitalists (VCs).
The difference can be attributed to the competition’s call for companies in sectors strategic to Siemens’ growth in the market—it received 29 entries in renewable energy, 26 in industrial applications, 24 in software, 10 in health care, and eight each in environment care and energy efficiency categories.
VCs traditionally have used business plan contests to spot promising start-ups. In 2006, the year that marked the return of venture capital to the Indian market after the dotcom bust, two VCs that set up shop—DFJ-ePlanet Ventures and Canaan Partners—sponsored similar business plan face-offs, both in association with TiE, but neither VC followed up the act in subsequent years. The Siemens showcase, too, could?be?a?one-off. “Organizing a business plan showcase serves not only for finding companies, but?also?to?tell?people we are here,” says Ralf Schnell, president and CEO, Siemens Venture Capital, explaining the rationale behind his company’s business plan competition.
Siemens’ venture capital arm, which invests in firms out of its parent’s balance sheet, set up its Mumbai office a year-and-a-half ago, but is yet to make its first deal here. It had earlier invested in Pune’s Airtight Networks Inc. out of its US office, but divested its stake in early 2007 after changing investment focus from communications to automation, energy and health care.
Besides the Top 3, other finalists included Bangalore’s Indrion Technologies (India) Pvt. Ltd, Vadodara-based Ankur Scientific Energy Technologies Pvt. Ltd, and Lucid Software Ltd and SN Windmill, both from Chennai.
Indrion offers embedded solutions to create intelligent sensors and controls. This allows, for example, a universal remote to communicate with the various gadgets it controls.
“Potentially, we could integrate such intelligence into existing mobile phones, so you could use the handset to control your air conditioning or lighting,” says co-founder S. Uma Mahesh. He previously co-founded chip design company In Silica Inc. and semiconductor company Arcus Technology Inc., which was acquired by Cypress Semiconductor Corp. for $20 million in 1999.
Lucid develops software for data gathering and automation of non-invasive industrial testing. It has deployed solutions for testing submarines and marine parts for the British and Dutch navies. Ankur Scientific makes biomass gasifiers to generate power for industries and rural electrification.
SN Windmill, the only prototype-level entry, proposes vertical-axis windmills (imagine a merry-go-round instead of a giant wheel) to generate five times more energy than conventional windmills.