Startup India: SoftBank may scale up planned $10 bn investment in India

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January 18, 2016 9:31 AM

SoftBank Chairman and Chief Executive Masayoshi Son said Internet and solar are the sectors that excites him, but wants the government to develop a robust mobile phone infrastructure and resolve slow Internet issues.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a meeting with SoftBank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son. (PTI photo)Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a meeting with SoftBank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son. (PTI photo)

Japan-based SoftBank may scale up its planned investment of $10 billion in the coming years as the telecom and Internet giant sees the “beginning of Big Bang” for the world’s second most populous market.

SoftBank Chairman and Chief Executive Masayoshi Son said Internet and solar are the sectors that excites him, but wants the government to develop a robust mobile phone infrastructure and resolve slow Internet issues.

“If I rescale, I will scale up. What will $10 billion become, I don’t know. If I have said that we will invest $10 billion in 10 years, we have invested $2 billion in a year. That’s over pacing and I think we will accelerate,” he said at the Startup India Conference here.

He added the more he knows about India on every visit, the more he gets excited.

Stating that 21st century belongs to India, he said there exist huge opportunities in India. “Every market is different. I truly think this is really the beginning of Big Bang for India.”

“In the next 10 years India will repeat the growth China saw in the last 10 years and in my opinion, India could be bigger (than China).”

Stating that Indians are smart, English speaking, IT-proficient, he said, “All these things make me believe that the 21st century is of this country.”

“We are very happy with the portfolio we have. We will continue to look for new opportunities. Internet and solar are the sectors that excite me,” he said.

Son, Japan’s second-richest person with a net worth of $14.1 billion, said infrastructure was important and mobile broadband infrastructure was lacking in India.

“I think mobile Internet is too slow. More spectrum allocation to the mobile carriers is needed so that they can have better mobile broadband,” he said.

SoftBank had in 2014 announced plans to invest $10 billion in India over the next decade. It has already put in $627 million into online marketplace Snapdeal and smaller investments in property site

Its unit, SoftBank Internet and Media Inc is leading a group of investors putting an investment of $210 million in ANI Technologies Pvt, which runs the Ola Cabs taxi booking service. It paid $200 million for a 35 per cent stake in InMobi, an Indian mobile-advertising network.

It also has a joint venture with India’s Bharti Group, Bharti SoftBank, the investments of which include the mobile application Hike Messenger.

SoftBank in June had entered India’s solar energy sector with a venture with Bharti Enterprises and Foxconn Technology Group of Taiwan.

The Japanese group will own the majority stake in the new venture, SBG Cleantech that will bid to build 20 GW of solar power plants. Under the partnership, Foxconn will help manufacture solar equipment, and the venture will consider producing some locally.

“Startup companies can’t take care of infrastructure. Infrastructure requires a lot of capital. So today in India, the two things lacking are mobile broadband infrastructure, the connectivity is too slow and expensive and the second is electricity. Road and all is there,” Son said.

On the role of the government, he said licensing is bad. “Licence means the process will be a bottleneck of the passion. Whenever they (entrepreneur) are going to start something then they have to go through the process of licensing with someone who does not understand technology, the new opportunity becomes a bottleneck. So taking out all those obstacles will feed the growth that is coming up.”

There is an opportunity for startup companies in India regardless of service, content and technology, a huge opportunity exists, he said.

“I truly think this is a real beginning, especially for India. Beginning of a big bang of big market opportunity,” he said.

Stating that he was good at thinking ahead of times, Son said he had 30 years ago stated that people will have a PC or PC like device in their hands.

“Next 30 years computer intelligence, artificial intelligence will surpass human intelligence in many more forms. It will be one million times faster to calculate, store and communicate. When that happens the lifestyle, business models will change,” he said.

On what is looks for in a startup before investing, he said, “Whenever I invest I look at the eyes and I look at the field. Are they unique and is the market growing.”

“My team always does some homework before the season. In the case of China Alibaba they did not have much of a team. So it was like an instinct,” he said. “For a startup it is like falling in love with a beautiful girl, it’s not always about logic.”

Asked about when startups should look at making profits, he said, 5-10 years.

“Today is a digital revolution. This is going to be 100 times bigger that industrial revolution. There are huge opportunities every where in this,” he said.

New business models, he said, should have a lot of capability to analyse. Collect lot of data every aspect analysing it and create lot of algorithm. All those combined transitional business model should be disruptive.

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