SoftBank’s Manoj Kohli: E-commerce, education, healthcare, and fintech to transform faster post Covid

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Updated: November 24, 2020 3:26 PM

"The government is very sensitive to technology changes while a lot of policy evolution is taking place and we are happy with that. Atmanirbhar Bharat is an excellent slogan given by the PM," said SoftBank India Head.

Business models will also change because of digitisation, said Kohli.

E-commerce, education, healthcare, and fintech are the top four sectors where transformation will be faster after the Coronavirus due to digitisation, Manoj Kohli, Country Head, SoftBank India told Financial Express Online in an interaction. Masayoshi Son-led world’s biggest startup backer – SoftBank already has investments into most of these sectors and others such as hospitality, transportation, logistics, and more in India. “Every sector can utilize digitization as a catalyst. Growth will improve post-Covid because a lot of consumers are now comfortable with digital transactions. These are top sectors where transformation will be faster. However, not Covid, digitisation is the catalyst,” Kohli added. SoftBank counts leading Indian startups such as OYO, Paytm, Ola, Delhivery, Grofers, Lenskart, Unacademy, FirstCry, etc., in its portfolio.

Covid-19 has emerged as perhaps a watershed moment in the consumer behaviour journey over the past many years with the digital channel of delivering services strengthening its prominence amid existing and traditional routes of discovering, browsing, and buying goods and services. Along with addressing change in the consumer behaviour, businesses are looking at digital procurement based on artificial intelligence and machine learning, integrating online and offline digital touchpoints to influence and enhance the consumer shopping experience, investing in digital technologies to reduce cost structure and more for faster post-Covid recovery, according to a joint report Reboot by Deloitte and FICCI in October 2020.

“Another thing that will happen because of digitisation is that business models will also change because earlier it was more physical. Now they will be much more digital. Therefore, the innovation of products, services, and features will also become very necessary for a company or brand to succeed. This is a big change that is happening in the market,” said Kohli.

While Covid did take a toll on startups’ operations but contrary to expectations, investors remained optimistic to bet on startups during the pandemic. Post 338 per cent increase in startup funding in Q2 2020 from the year-ago period, Q3 (July-September) saw a 201 per cent jump in investments vis-à-vis Q3 2019, as per the data from research firm Tracxn. Startups had raised $14.90 billion in 316 rounds up during Q3 up from $4.94 billion in 447 rounds in the year-ago quarter. “All these new digital businesses have grown very well in the last five years and will grow more in the coming decade because of consumer behaviour changing towards digital businesses. This is important for these businesses to grow faster,” SoftBank India chief added. Kohli had recently launched a book titled Leadership in Unprecedented Times by Ritesh Wig. According to Kohli, Wig wrote that digital ventures will perform well in the country given the change in consumer behaviour to online shopping in the past eight months.

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To promote Indian small businesses, startups, and others, the Modi government had launched its Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative that has also been seen to counter imports of products from foreign countries particularly China in the wake of the military standoff between India and China. Apart from the Startup India campaign by the government, The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) in its Vision document last year had aimed at 50,000 new startups, 20 lakh direct and indirect jobs by 2024 along with 500 new incubators and accelerators, 100 innovation zones in urban local bodies, and seven research parks to help startups. The department had also proposed allocating the entire corpus of Rs 10,000 crore Fund of Funds along with increasing CSR funding to incubators.

“This (digitization) shift will be good for India especially when we are saying it will be Atmanirbhar Bharat. The government is very sensitive to technology changes while a lot of policy evolution is taking place and we are happy with that. Atmanirbhar Bharat is an excellent slogan given by the PM,” said Kohli. SoftBank Group had recently announced its Q2 FY21 results with $6.1 billion profit for the quarter vis-à-vis $6.5 billion loss in the year-ago period following losses from Uber and WeWork. The group also had announced the exit of four of its top leaders from its board including Vision Fund’s CEO Rajeev Misra, group COO Marcelo Claure, CSO Katsunori Sago, and Governor and Board Member of the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia Yasir O. Al-Rumayyan.

This story was updated with the image of Manoj Kohli.

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