Hello Star­tu­p­land! Guess Who’s Back to Start Up Again

Tata to be back in the com­mu­nity by 23 Feb

The Economic Times - - Disruption: Startups & Tech - Mugdha.Vari­yar @times­group.com

Ben­galuru: Ratan Tata on Tues­day said he will be back with a vigour to in­ter­act with en­trepreneurs and in­vest in star­tups, stat­ing that the last few months had “forcibly” taken him back to the cor­po­rate world, re­fer­ring to the bit­ter episode within his group of com­pa­nies fol­low­ing the ouster of Cyrus Mistry.

Tata, who has in­vested in dozens of star­tups, in­clud­ing cab hail­ing ma­jor Ola and on­line mar­ket­place Snapdeal, did not make any fresh in­vest­ments in the last few months, but said he “will be back” by the end of this month. Tata, who has made over 30 in­vest­ments, said in­vest­ing in star­tups and in­ter­act­ing with the com­mu­nity was the next page in his life post re­tire­ment, be­fore he had to step up again as in­terim chair­man for the Tata group.

“When I re­tired in 2012, I hit upon in­vest­ing and in­ter­act­ing with star­tups as a new page in my life. I left the big busi­ness, crores of ru­pees and large chal­lenges be­hind. I be­came so ex­cited by the in­no­va­tion, pas­sion (in star­tups). It stim­u­lated me,” Tata rem­i­nisced in con­ver­sa­tion with Kalaari Cap­i­tal’s co­founder Vani Kola. Tata is an ad­vi­sor to Kalaari. “The last five months have put me forcibly in the older mould. I long to be back in the startup com­mu­nity with a vigour. As of 23 Fe­bru­ary I’m back,” said Tata, re­fer­ring to him hand­ing over the reigns to N Chan­drasekaran af­ter serv­ing as an in­terim chair­man dur­ing the in­ter­nal cri­sis.

Tata also touched upon the topic of pro­tec­tion­ism which has di­vided the startup com­mu­nity, af­ter founders of both Ola and Flip­kart called for a level-play­ing field against overseas rivals Uber and Ama­zon, re­spec­tively.

“Un­fair com­pe­ti­tion by some cor­po­ra­tions need to be con­trolled. The reg­u­la­tors need to fo­cus on ar­eas where there is un­fair com­pe­ti­tion which is be­ing done to kill newer star­tups, but should also en­sure that there is a play­ing field where ev­ery­one has their chance. Some­one like me would look for an open en­vi­ron­ment, and not be con­cerned about block­ing,” Tata said in re­sponse to a ques­tion by

Kola on the is­sue. He also briefly high­lighted the new chal­lenges for the broader cor­po­rate and tech­nol­ogy out­sourc­ing mar­ket, es­pe­cially in the Trump era.

“The chal­lenges in the last few months have been chang­ing. Mr Trump has given new chal­lenges. I am sure we can rein­vent our­selves to meet those chal­lenges,” Tata said. The 79-year-old busi­ness­man seemed to stick to his word im­me­di­ately af­ter the event, as he got into a meet­ing room where he met en­trepreneurs and Ks­tart (Kalaari’s ac­cel­er­a­tor) mem­bers for the next few hours. Among those who met him were Ravi Gu­ru­raj, who heads Nass­com’s Prod­uct Coun­cil and also has his own startup Qik­pod. Some of Kalaari’s port­fo­lio star­tups such as fash­ion por­tal StalkBuyLove and re­tail check-out pay­ment so­lu­tion provider Per­pule were among those who got to in­ter­act with Tata.

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