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Bharat Innovation Fund, which is part of Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad’s incubator Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE), has closed its first USD 100 million venture fund. The fund, which centres on early-stage deep-tech investments, announced that 50% of its commitments had been from marquee institutional investors.

The list of investors for the fund include Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), which is the Indian government’s financial development institution, as well as its Fund of Funds for Startups (FFS) programme, insurer ICICI Lombard, private lender RBL Bank, and the corporates Philips and Bajaj Electricals Ltd.

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The fund is planned to be invested at the pre-Series A and Series A stages for innovations in healthcare, agriculture, energy, fin-tech, digital and other emerging sectors.

Kunal Upadhyay, managing partner of Bharat Innovation Fund, pointed out startups in India are coming up with globally competitive IP-driven innovations in spaces such as healthcare, biotech, agriculture, energy, and enterprise-tech. cutting-edge research and trends like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), Internet of Things (IoT) and India Stack are enabling this innovation. India Stack is a term that apply to a set of Application Programming Interface (APIs) that lets governments, businesses, startups and developers to make use of a unique digital infrastructure for solutions to India-specific problems.

“Bharat Innovation Fund will catalyse these transformational deep-tech startups by providing them capital, access to market, strategic inputs and partnership connects,” he added.

Apart from Upadhyay, managers of the fund include Shyam Menon, who co-founded seed and early-stage firm Infuse Ventures with Upadhyay; Ashwin Raguraman, the chief operating officer of India Innovation Fund; Sanjay Jain, Google’s former product manager and chief product manager at UIDAI; and Som Pal Choudhury, Analog Devices, India’s former managing director.

M.K. Raveesha, CGM, SIDBI said, “SIDBI and FFS (DIPP) are delighted to partner with the Bharat Innovation Fund to support deep innovation-driven startups. Bharat Innovation Fund is a unique partnership comprising strategic and financial investors – and a strong experienced team. We hope to together create breakthrough and globally competitive solutions from India.”

The IIM Ahmedabad established CIIE in 2002 initially as an academic research centre. In 2007, CIIE’s infrastructure came up at IIM Ahmedabad’s new campus with support from the Indian government with the goal of being a national centre of excellence to promote entrepreneurship and bridging gaps in the ecosystem. Since then, several startups have received support from the organization, in the form of industry experts, mentors, corporates, the IIM-A community and investors.

In 2013, with its clean-tech-focused venture fund, Infuse Ventures, CIIE has backed companies such as Fourth Partner Energy, which has raised USD 70 million from global private equity major TPG Growth’s The Rise Fund.

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In May, CIIE also started a USD 25-million-project with the aim of financing startups with a social impact, called the Bharat Inclusion Initiative project.  The project aims to provide entrepreneurs the domain knowledge, training, financial support, mentorship and the market access they need to run inclusive, for-profit businesses. The project has a goal of mentoring startups in the next three to four years in domains like financial inclusion, livelihood, education and health.

Gopalakrishnan, Chief Investment Officer, ICICI Lombard, said, “We saw deep insight and enthusiasm embedded in team Bharat Innovation Fund. We hope to see the fund helping to bring to the fore Indian startups introducing globally competitive innovative solutions and benefit from the resultant value creation.”


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