Indian startups are approaching prospective investors virtually, with assistance from the industry body National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom) starting with Japanese Venture Capital (VC) firms.
Nasscom has selected over 20 startups for the initial investor connect sessions across healthtech, agritech, consumer tech, robotics. These startups will pitch to Japanese investors starting 28 May. This year would have marked the 2nd edition investor connect program with Japanese investors, which has been switched to a virtual pitching format after the physical event was delayed by two months due to the coronavirus.
Nasscom is also trying to conduct similar virtual events in US, Europe and Sweden among other geographies based on industry feedback.
The startup ecosystem in India has so far been reeling under the twin impact of business disruption due to the pandemic as well as the roadblock to prospective investment opportunities due to the travel restrictions.
“After the success of the September 2019 Japanese investor connect for Indian startups we started the process for 2020 edition in January itself, however due to the pandemic, the preferences of investors have shifted over the past five months. Many are not confident about investing in areas like e-commerce or hospitality anymore. But interest in mobility, supply chain, health-tech and personal hygiene startups among others are very high," said Gagan Sabharwal, Senior Director & Head, Global Trade Development, Nasscom.
Nasscom curates startups based on the matching ticket size, founder profile, revenue growth and business model requirements requested by the VCs with that of the startups that seek funding from these companies. Nasscom also conducts a customer connect program for the startups. Sabharwal notes that Japanese investors usually seek out mature startups that have already raised at least Series A or pre-Series A funding.
“In a virtual session obviously the decision making process will also be slower compared to when they actually meet the companies face to face," said Sabharwal.
Last year Nasscom’s partnership with Embassy of India- Tokyo took up the initiative to create a bridge between Indian tech start-up ecosystem with the VC community in Japan under its Global Capital Access Initiative to support Indian Startups that are looking to raise growth capital. The 2019 event was attended by more than 170 entities including Venture Capital firms, Corporate Venture Arms of Japanese Corporations, Individual Angel Investors, Business Enterprises etc.
Out of 26 participating startups over two days, five startups were able to raise funds and establish strategic partnerships with Japanese enterprises within six months of the program. Around 75 investors are participating in the 2nd edition.
“The VC participation in the virtual sessions is lower than what we had last year during the physical rounds because it is harder in the current situation to arrange for enough Japanese translation facilities which has limited our reach to those VCs who are comfortable with English," said Sabharwal.
However, the Nasscom hopes to bridge this requirement soon as they seek to conduct weekly investor connect sessions.
VC firms like Akatsuki Inc, Sumitomo Corporation, Marubeni, Denso International among others are participating. The first cohort of startups included Kaaya Tech- a healthcare robotics firm, Medikoe, Freshokartz, Redcliffe Hygiene and 1K Kirana.
Sabharwal noted that Japanese VC ecosystem can largely be divided between the corporate and non-corporate firms. The former, which includes the VC arms of giants like Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Toshiba, Fujitsu among others seek to also get controlling stakes in startups to aid their group companies with solutions from the startups. Many also seek to co-create solutions with the startups, especially in robotics. Many of these VCs make multiple investments across startups.
“Collaboration between the two start-up eco-systems and the larger corporate sector will be mutually beneficial for the two countries, especially in emerging technologies such as AI and IOT. There are enough opportunities in many sectors to create a 'win-win' platform. Japanese investors and businesses can look at Indian start-ups to tap into large Indian market or create customized products and solutions for various other markets including that of Japan leveraging innovation and technology strengths particularly in the digital area," said Sanjay Kumar Verma, India’s ambassador to Japan during the formal launch of the event.