ICICI Bank, the second largest in the country, has committed Rs 100 crore for investing in upcoming technology startups. Out of the Rs 100 crore, the bank has already invested Rs 40 crore in six firms across lending, digital KYC and artificial intelligence on the mobility side.
It has backed firms like Fingpay, which lets merchants accept payments through biometric payments and Bengaluru-based Arteria Technologies, which offers supply chain solution on cloud and payments.
Madhivanan Balakrishnan, Chief Technology and Digital Officer of ICICI Bank, said that the bank might invest the complete amount by the end of this year. They can also increase the amount above Rs 100 crore.
When asked on what ICICI Bank looks for in startups, Madhivanan added, “On the partnership side, we see only two things – a working proof of concept and uniqueness of the solution. And when we strike these partnerships, the assumption is that not all of this innovation will happen within a bank, but there are others who have built these technologies and can’t scale them. At that point of time, we partner with these startups.”
ICICI Bank runs its ‘Demo Day’ programme once in a quarter and discover startups based on themes like KYC-related innovations or digital lending or data analytics on the artificial intelligence side. It has already partnered with close to 14-15 companies but invested in only six of them.
The bank also made partnership with several accelerators in the fintech domain, including Fintech Valley Accelerator in Vizag, to discover more startups.
While talking about the technologies which interest them most, Madhivanan adds, "Artificial intelligence (AI) is an interesting area they are actively looking at, and second sphere is taking Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to even more complex decision making, where both data quality and rules, as well as process, are equally ambiguous.
Also, the bank has set up their innovation centre, christened ICICI Innovation Labs, to build new strong business models and bring costs down through data.
Not only ICICI Bank, recently Indian Angel Network (IAN) has raised more than $33.22 million (Rs 227 Cr) for its maiden fund launched in April 2017. The fund will invest in early-stage startups specifically focus on areas such as SaaS, marketplaces, fintech, big data, artificial intelligence, and hardware. Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad’s (IIMA’s) centre for innovation, incubation, and entrepreneurship (CIIE) also has announced a $25 million ‘Bharat Inclusion Initiative’ to invest in early stage and seed segment over the next three-four years in areas such as financial inclusion, livelihood, education, agriculture, and health.