Pune turns fertile ground for startups

By: | Updated: November 23, 2014 2:00 AM

The line-up is quite exhaustive. Homegrown cyber security company Quickheal Technologies...

The line-up is quite exhaustive. Homegrown cyber security company Quickheal Technologies is going for an Indian IPO.The line-up is quite exhaustive. Homegrown cyber security company Quickheal Technologies is going for an Indian IPO.

The line-up is quite exhaustive. Homegrown cyber security company Quickheal Technologies is going for an Indian IPO. Bets are on for ad tech company PubMatic and backup storage company Druva to become billion-dollar babies, possibly with overseas listings. There are others such as Sapience, Swipe Technologies, Vaultize, kPoint and Rolocule waiting in the wings to take the big leap. Even if some of them can pull it off, it would catapult Pune to one of the top startup destinations in the country.

CK Prahalad, the late management guru, had said at a February 2007 talk in the city that Pune had a rare combination of being a hub for education, manufacturing and IT at the same time — hence it was best positioned to leverage convergence of IT with other sectors, as well as the best place for sourcing innovations. His words are proving to be prophetic as the startup ecosystem is buzzing.

A recent iSpirit survey says 21% of product startups are from Pune. Around 11% of the Nasscom 10,000 startups are from the city. Between 2005 and 2012, Pune received 11.5% of India’s angel investments. Pune is home to 350 corporate innovation centres and is an R&D hub with eight universities. There are 35 venture funds that have invested in startups here.
Nexus Ventures has eight investments in Pune, their highest in any city in India.

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Gaurav Mehra, the former president of Software Exporters’ Association of Pune (SEAP) and MD of Saba Software, says the rare combination of having a large IT, manufacturing and university hub has boosted growth in the number of startups in Pune over the past four years.
“There has been an expansion of startups of all kinds and in different sectors,” he adds. Ashutosh Parasnis, president of SEAP, says if one takes stock, there is a whole lot of things happening in Pune and many of the companies have the potential to go global. “Pune has the visibility,” Mehra adds.

Pune is being identified as a hub for product-driven startups, says Manish Bhandari, representative of IIM Ahmedabad’s Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE). “Pune has become an innovation hub and can do well without any VC fund or accelerators,” notes the Think Pune report by IIM-A CIIE, along with SEAP, Nasscom, TiE Pune, PuneTech and Pune Open Coffee Club.

Anand Deshpande, CMD of Persistent Systems, who is a big influence on Pune’s IT ecosystem, while releasing the Think Pune report at the PuneConnect 2014 startup showcase event recently, had said that for the first time India is slated to become a viable market for homegrown products and technology both on the enterprise and consumer side, which was an opportunity for startups.

“It has become easy to put together a team and build good products with new technologies. The barriers to experiment have gone away,” Deshpande had said.

Pune has become a fertile ground for youngsters with big ideas in new technological areas. Almost 50% of the startups are into big data/ analytics, cloud computing, mobility, cleanttech, Internet of things and the Web.

The Think Pune survey shows there are 11 companies in the payment space, 10 companies in the security space and half a dozen each in the enterprise mobility space, PLM and biotech areas. Most of these startups have started showing healthy revenues and are targeting the global markets. There are 16 startups in the social entrepreneurship space.

The Think Pune report notes that 30 startups have been spawned by just three companies—Persistent Systems, PubMatic and Veritas/Symantec. As per Bhandari, over 80% of the new company founders are from outside the city who have come to Pune owing to the fact that it provides a good startup experience and they have in turn energised the ecosystem.

But Mahesh Murthy, co-founder of VC firm Seed Fund, is not impressed. He says Pune is a fine city to live in with extraordinary potential but not realised completely. “There are no success stories in the ecosystem to celebrate in Pune,” Murthy points out. “Everything is good on paper but they are not driven and are happy with small successes. Everybody is prematurely retired. You don’t want to fight and compete. Nobody has big ambitions,” he adds.

Sharad Sharma, one of the founder members of iSpirit, says the sweet spot for Pune lies ‘pardhe ke peeche’ or the business application behind the curtain. “If you crack this, then it is a global business. It is an area where leadership can happen in Pune,” he adds.

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