'India is An open Economy & Offers Large Market Support for Startups' - Kris Gopalakrishnan, Chairman, CII Startup Council

A mentor to Pitch@Rashtrapati Bhavan, Kris Gopalakrishnan, Chairman, CII Start-up Council and co-founder of Infosys, also the Chairman of Axilor Ventures, throws some light on new-age entrepreneurs. He shares valuable tips and insights from his own experience in the industry on how start-ups can sustain in the longer run.

Recently to provide fillip to the ongoing start-up movement in India, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in partnership with Rashtrapati Bhavan organised Pitch@Rashtrapati Bhavan, a programme to connect VCs/Investors with Start-ups and secure funding and mentoring support for potential entrepreneurs. As an outcome, 12 VCs and Investors exchanged funding agreement/MoUs to the tune of INR 85 Crore with 12 start-ups in the areas of Automobile, Healthcare, Medical Devices, Fintech, E Commerce, Human Resource Management, Unorganized Retail, and Life Sciences.

Apart from spending good amount of time at Axilor Ventures which helps in mentoring early stage start-ups, Kris Gopalakrishnan likes to share his life’s learnings with start-up founders. He is better recognised as the Co-founder of Infosys and is now actively involved as a mentor to the CII Start-up Council programme which recently organised a pitch to connect VCs/Investors with Start-ups and secure funding and mentoring support for potential entrepreneurs. We speak to him on his learnings, journey and the message for the new generation.

Journey as an entrepreneur
The history and growth of Infosys has been a crucial factor for many businesses to succeed. When Gopalakrishnan started his entrepreneurial journey with Infosys in 1981, he remembers how Infosys was built brick-by-brick and focused on leadership and decision making models. In order to make the company a respectable global corporate entity, the company focussed on leadership development, training, research and innovation.

For an entrepreneur to start his journey, he says, “There are some things that never change in the ecosystem, in the sense that an entrepreneur will always need an idea to start a business, adequate funds and long-term planning. When we started out, funding for a software company was difficult so we had to bootstrap and develop the software remotely. But the team was so highly motivated and passionate about building high quality business, that a structured talent management process was setup where leaders learnt from other leaders to better prepare for the future. Today, the business environment is completely changed. India is an open economy and a very large market. There is a lot of support for startups with enough funding available from banks. For us, it was a struggle period and we survived.”

The rise and fall of new-age of startups

In today’s startup ecosystem, 60-70 percent startups might fail before the launch of the business. It is high-risk area. “Many optimistic entrepreneurs need a dose of reality. There are many who are passionate about their ideas, but the planning may not be right, the product may not be apt for the market, so on and so forth. It is still a difficult scenario for a start-up to sustain and succeed, even though all the environmental facts are right,” he feels. “Information Technology is the driving change in the environment. The government is supporting start-ups. The culture has changed to an extent that even students are now involved in start-ups. For our betterment, we need to learn and accept our shortcomings and learn to move on in life.”

Government Aid

With the government working hard to change policies, support start-ups in terms of tax breaks, tax incentives, investors to provide funds and investments for startups, there is a need to do more. “It is important to know how to shut down a business. What makes or breaks a business? Why most startups are expected to fail? All these are important areas and need to be addressed.”

CII Startup Council

CII is working with the government on the policy side and encouraging and mentoring startups with 7000 plus members present in 65 cities in India. Primarily, the focus is on Tier 1/2/3 cities like Coimbatore, Madurai, Cochin, Chandigarh. This year, CII will set up a Centre of Excellence (CoE) for startups in Andhra Pradesh’s upcoming capital Amaravati, which will be the national hub for all of CII’s entrepreneurial activities. “This will foster entrepreneurship, incubate startups, mentor entrepreneurs, and provide assistance, support and training to entrepreneurs,” he adds. “We want to focus on rural and non-technology entrepreneurship and are taking this phenomenon to rural areas, beyond tier 1/2 cities,” he says.

The next big wave in Start-ups

The impact of information technology will continue for the next 30 years. Every sector will see IOT, Big Data, Cloud, Beta, Analytics making wave in the ecosystem. Beyond that, IT will impact automobile sector with driverless cars; healthcare will look at precision or personalised medicines; large scale and quality education in the remote areas. Hence, Fintech revolution is visible and will impact every industry. “There is no end to disruption. As long as technology is evolving, I feel there is opportunity for new businesses to be created and hence for entrepreneurs to set up their business plan and try their luck.”

Follow an idealist

“All the traditional business values help drive long-term success. Qualities like hard work, perseverance and patience help in the long-run. One must be optimistic in approach and learn from the failures. We must reinvent business to drive maximum value and try to lead by creating an example.”

Social entrepreneurship

When one works with the bottom of the pyramid, it is important to have a long term prospect. “Social entrepreneurship can make a positive impact with the long term horizon. There are expected returns in the long term as well as in the short term. We are living in a society that has significant challenges like access to basic education, healthcare, banking and financial services. We need to create social enterprises that can address these problems and help in a positive social impact.”

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