Gastrotope (an agrifood tech accelerator founded by Taizo Son’s Mistletoe, serial entrepreneur and InnerChef founder Rajesh Sawhney and Infobridge) recently signed an agreement with the Andhra Pradesh government to set up a unique ‘Farm to Fork’ ecosystem in Visakhapatnam.
Gastrotope (an agrifood tech accelerator founded by Taizo Son’s Mistletoe, serial entrepreneur and InnerChef founder Rajesh Sawhney and Infobridge) recently signed an agreement with the Andhra Pradesh government to set up a unique ‘Farm to Fork’ ecosystem in Visakhapatnam. “India has a rich food culture and our aim is to nurture and grow India’s farm economy,” Rajesh Sawhney tells Sudhir Chowdhary in a recent interview. Excerpts:
How do partnerships with governments help young tech start-ups?
Both state and central governments have to play the role of nurturer of the start-up ecosystem. A start-up can flourish only when government policies are aligned to foster new businesses and support them in their initial stages. Further, partnerships with the government can enable start-ups to work with government departments or ministries to create new solutions for the citizens. In this way, governments also end up improving the quality of citizen services and facilities with the help of start-ups.
What can governments do to nurture young tech start-ups in India?
There are four key roles that governments can play. First, governments can provide direct and indirect funding for the young start-ups. This could be in the form of grants or direct funding to start-ups based on formal evaluations and due diligence of the applicants. Indirect financial support could be through relaxed tax policies or tax waivers to early stage start-ups, providing of necessary infrastructure and resources and allowing start-ups to use government-owned data for their product-market validation.
Second, governments can help leading accelerators and incubators create labs and necessary infrastructure for nurturing start-ups; like what Andhra Pradesh government has done with
Gastrotope. Third, governments can support seed funds by becoming a limited partner in them. And finally, they can also support angel investment in start-ups, by offering tax incentives towards such investments.
Is it fair to say that India’s start-up ecosystem is back in business?
Yes, the investment cycle is finally turning around after two years of relative drying out of capital. Indian start-up system has also matured and become more robust in the last two years and there are many quality companies at different stages of investments (seed, series A, Series B and beyond) that will benefit from the new investment cycle. The ‘Make in India’ initiative by the central government is now bearing fruits with many foreign players betting on Indian start-ups.
How far are we from witnessing a truly global start-up success story out of India?
We have already created some of the most successful start-ups in B2B and B2C domains. B2B companies such as Mu Sigma, Zoho, Freshdesk, inMobi, HackerEarth and whatfix are already global companies and scaling fast. On the consumer side, companies like Paytm, Zomato and Ola have already built significant international operations and show positive signs of growth in the future.
As a nation, we should be able to support as many start-ups with high potential as possible, as there is infinite scope: both for the market (to embrace new products) and for new start-ups to develop and expand. We are appropriately placed well on the world map when it comes to building start-ups, all we need to do is to continue nurturing start-ups and let them conquer the world on their own strength.
What draws you to the foodtech space and how do you see start-ups this sector performing in the near future?
We think “Cloud Kitchen” opportunity, especially in India and South-east Asia, will offer great opportunities to investors to build new-age foodtech businesses that not only scale fast, but also become profitable faster. As the founder and CEO of InnerChef and Healthie, I am fortunate to be at the center of this transformation; and feel happy and thrilled with the possibilities that are opening up.
You have been an investor and an entrepreneur. What do you enjoy the most about these two completely different roles?
Being an entrepreneur is definitely more challenging and exciting. One enjoys the ups and downs that come with being part of a start-up. Also, one learns to deal with an unforeseeable situation and unexpected challenges and roadblocks that arise very often in the course of growth of a start-up.
On the other hand, as an investor, I enjoy getting exposed to different ideas and meeting some very smart and talented founders. Wearing the investor’s hat helps me to keep learning and stay connected with the fast-paced tech world.