Ratan Tata, the chairman emeritus of the Tata Group, turned angel investor, has invested in over two dozen startups, including furniture e-tailer Urban Ladder, digital payments app Paytm, ride-hailing company Ola and its electric vehicle arm Ola Electric Mobility. For the Tata Group patriarch, the one thing which has definitely worked well in his favour while investing in startups is his intuition. Ratan Tata had a few suggestions for young startups, entrepreneurs and investors.
Invest in intuition
As Ratan Tata himself puts it, his inner voice has worked way better than numbers-crunching. “I found in my case that company selection was more by intuition rather than numbers, and by judging on the intent of the founders and their seriousness more than any other factor," Tata said, explaining the reasons why he chose to invest in certain projects.
The essential traits
For Ratan Tata, the most essential trait for any entrepreneur is to 'have a fire in the belly to find an area that is not explored'. An entrepreneur must find an opportunity to make a difference. Not only a good and exciting start, but entrepreneurs should also have courage and tenacity to see the fat lady sing. As an advice for entrepreneurs, the octogenarian says "the drive to start something new, the fire in the belly, a better way to do something that is being done or a good opportunity to undertake all to make a difference... and above all the courage and tenacity to see it through, be it good or bad, and yet make it happen are the hallmarks I look forward in entrepreneurs."
Take calculated risks
It was hard for Ratan Tata to invest while being at the helm of things at the Bombay House but thing took a got a bit exciting post retirement. "When I retired I was free from it and I started making small token investments from my own pocket in what I considered to be exciting companies. So, what I did was to take some more risks than I might have taken under different circumstances. With two-three years into this, it became a learning experience, as this sector is very active and have the best minds," said Tata who was quick to note that "contrary to common belief my pocket is not so deep."
Enjoy the journey
Anticipating the exciting times ahead due to the 'problem solving' nature of the surfacing startups, Tata would like to see his presence grow in the startup sector. "The excitement of being in new areas, participating in something that has not been done is the most exciting and absorbing thing. This is something I am looking forward to in the coming years," says Tata.
Transition is important
"I am glad the startup space is growing and becoming so prominent. Now more and more big companies will recognise that there is another way to do something and that something might be the better way to do cheaper and most cost-effective way," Ratan Tata says.
Be optimistic at heart
Ratan Tata has no major issue with the large cash-burn that startups report month-on-month, saying they are here to stay indicating venture seed capital funds are the way forward.
"Look at other countries, startups have been there for much longer. It goes without saying that this sector will grow and it already has proven to be the case. It will continue to do that in the coming years," he is confident.
"After all Indians are entrepreneurs at heart. What we need is opportunity to flourish. And I think startups are doing just that. I wish them all success," Tata says.