‘Focus on Long Term Value’
How has the Indian biotech sector evolved from the days of Biocon (founded in 1978)? (Those days) the entrepreneur had to take all the risks. There are now mechanisms through which risks are mitigated in terms of other players collaborating—universities, biotech parks, etc. Relative funding muscle is there. It is a better place now. But it has to go a long way to reach the levels of Silicon Valley or Boston.
What are your thoughts on the BIG grant? BIG is a great idea. I was a panelist for BIG. It is good because it is a complete grant. The bar is quite low; all you need is a good idea. They also match you with partner labs. The system is there. Instead of spending a lot of money on infrastructure, you can spend your money on the experiment. It is a great model for early-stage entrepreneurs.
Why are Silicon Valley and Boston better than India? We definitely need more biotech parks around the country… (Also,) we should not expect an entrepreneur to fulfil any revenue milestone in the initial years. BIG should help you position yourself for the next step of revolution. That should be the goal. The entrepreneur should focus on long-term value. Second, the ratio between grant and loan should be geared towards grant than loan. That is what happens in Silicon Valley. (In India), it is heavily tilted toward loans. How is the VC ecosystem for biotech in India? Very often, what we hear is from VCs is that they do not come across challenging proposals. They look for ideas that have big implications in terms of market volume. They mostly come across ‘me-too’ companies.
What more should be done to boost India’s biotech agenda? Serious (collaborations) should be made between government organisations and professional financiers, as against the government saying it will raise its own funds and investments. Government can put in some money and VCs can put in the same amount, and this can then be guided by the VCs. Something like that will be very good.
How can big companies help? Companies can lay out an idea and set milestones. If someone can achieve those milestones, if they can bring it up to a stage, (the big companies) can enter into a partnership with them to push it further.