I write to you from India, having just completed an exhausting tour across four cities and hosting speeches and meetings over 5 days – getting to hotels at 2am, off a flight, then setting the alarm again for 6am. The cities I covered were Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Chennai. I met with entrepreneurial incubators, accelerators, angel investors, Venture Capital funds, the companies and entrepreneurs.
I spoke to them on a one-to-one basis, in groups, on panels, including at TIE Conference where Narayana Murthy and Ratan Tata shared the stage. Here are some key observations:
- The interest in the UK for such companies to establish themselves is greater than I’ve ever observed.
- Ahmedabad is no longer the laggard and only focussed on manufacturing, oil, gas and chemicals. It too has a tech community and is catching up.
- There is a need for greater entrepreneurial mentoring and know-how.
- There are a lot of wealthy angel investors, but too often there is not enough ‘smart money’ which can help the companies and the smart entrepreneurs will not take ‘dumb money’.
- The UK Government is working with India to help it rise up the ‘ease of doing business’ rankings
- Brand UK is important
- More Indian companies think about going global on day 1
- India has a focus on patents, which is good, but commercialisation is still an issue needing resolving
- There is a lot of money chasing a few deals, as often happens, and angels are investing in each other’s deals without always casting a wide net
- A few funds like Pontaq focus on bringing Indian companies to the UK and expanding them globally from here
- Hyderabad remains US obsessed, but is very open to the UK focus due to the UK’s special relationship with the two largest trading blocks – the United States of America and the united States of Europe aka EU
- Many Indian businesses see Brexit as an opportunity for them
- Many Indian entrepreneurs see their businesses as a ticket to HQ and live in the UK which they like the idea of
- Few Indian companies solve purely an Indian problem
- Some Indian companies copy western ideas and exit to Western companies at huge premiums eg FlipKart
- India could do with EIS like in the UK ie proven rules which have worked to encourage investing and savings into entrepreneurial companies
These are just some thoughts from my latest trip, in my 15 years as a dealmaker for the UK Government looking to source outstanding Indian tech companies. Going above and beyond what the Government requires of me is what’s helped keep the UK at the heart of the Indian entrepreneurial eco-system more so than any other foreign Government presence. Our outstanding FCO High Commission staff are relentless in their support of such initiatives.
When I retire, I think my ashes will be scattered at an Indian accelerator, for surely with the exhaustion of these trips, it’s where they will find my body, in my suit, in the middle of a meeting or deal. I’m not complaining – there are people going hungry outside, as I told my wife.