Venture capitalist Navin Honagudi, Shibu Paul and Aarti Kelshikar dazzle audience, book country a future pavilion
One of the largest technology conferences in the Asia-Pacific region called the Techsauce Global Summit 2023 was held recently in Bangkok, at the Queen Sirikit Convention Centre (venue for the mega APEC Conference last year).
It attracted more than 15,000 participants from over 50 countries. There were a wide range of panel discussions, seminars and workshops. There were individual talks by about 300 speakers which covered as many as 130 topics from the latest trends in technology (AI, Metaverse, Web 3) to start-ups, venture capital, tourism, health and women’s issues.
One never heard so many ‘tech’ words used before: Fintech, agritech, health tech, food tech, climate tech, agtech, femtech and so on.
India did not have an individual pavilion like some other countries, but judging by the response to some of the Indian speakers, Oranuch Lerdsuwankij, CEO of the organiser, Tech Sauce Media Co Ltd, informed attendees that there would be an Indian pavilion at the next Techsauce summit in 2024.
Two Indian speakers who created an impact and gave an impressive view of the vast strides made in the technology sector by India were reputed venture capitalist Navin Honagudi and Shibu Paul, vice-president of the US start-up company Array.
Mr Honagudi’s talk was full of amazing statistics.
He informed audiences that India was the third largest unicorn-producing country, after the US and China. There are at least 80,000 start-up companies in the country, 700 million Internet users and 500 million smartphone users, expected to become 800 million by 2025.
He informed that fintech was growing at the rapid rate of 18 per cent, and is currently valued at $68 billion. But he added that agritech was also growing and consequently, green fintech.
Talking of the rapid digitalisation in the country, Mr Honagudi stated that most people never carried cash in India and that the tea vendor used UPI. It helps that a third of India’s population are in the age cohort of 20-40 years. That is why there are so many global fund managers keen to check out India.
Mr Honagudi’s own venture capital company elev8 has teamed up with the well-known KB group from Korea, and during his trip to Bangkok, he met some of the big family-owned companies here for possible collaborative ventures.
The articulate venture capitalist answered many questions from his large audience about rules and regulations in India regarding start-ups. He informed everyone that there are no barriers at all, and that the Indian government had “democratised” all companies, in particular tech companies.
“India is open to the whole world,” he stated with pride.
Shibu Paul, vice-president of well-known American company Array Networks Inc. which specialises in digital security systems, was also upbeat about the digital explosion in India.
Paul said that the rapid digitalisation of the country had gained momentum during Covid-19.
“The right to the Internet has become basic now,” he stated. He informed that the government’s Digital India Plan had accelerated this, where almost everyone, from domestic helpers to street vendors, used real-time payment systems and not hard cash.
“We have out-matched the US and China in this field!” he added. He was happy that India would soon start “digital cash”.
Mr Paul said the government’s new Make in India Policy has resulted in a restriction of imports, especially from countries like China, leading to the production of low cost mobile phones for the masses, like the Jio Phone from Reliance and the K-Fon from Kerala.
He was proud that the Start-Up India policy had led to the explosion of start-ups. He informed that India currently has one lakh active start-ups.
According to Mr Paul, the recent digital privacy law, launched in August, made it mandatory for companies to keep customer data safe, which is why companies like his had become very important. He informed that Array provided application-level security to numerous large data centres in the region.
They also managed the cybersecurity systems for all PSU banks in India. They had recently made a foray into the banks in Thailand after starting an office in Bangkok. They planned to use Thailand as a hub, and spread their operations to the Asean countries like Vietnam, Indonesia and Philippines.
An interesting speaker at the tech meet was the author Aarti Kelshikar, whose book How India Works has been widely used by corporates, entrepreneurs and educationists wanting to invest in India.
For her second book How Women Work, Aarti interviewed 40 women from six Asian countries, belonging to diverse professional fields.
“My idea was to join the dots and find common connections,” stated the writer who describes herself as a cultural facilitator.
According to Ms Kelshikar, women had all the diverse qualities needed to be successful in business. They are “soft and hard, collaborative and decisive, rational and emotional, trustworthy and transparent, pragmatic and target-oriented”, she declared. “Vision is the key for start-ups, and women have plenty of it” is her observation.
Among the many SMI-sized companies present at the meet was the Indian-owned fintech company Dee Money which operates in 37 countries. They are particularly popular with NRIs, because of the high exchange rates they offer them, as also many special deals during festivals.
Ankush Bhardwaj, who recently joined the company from Mumbai, also manages Cloudee, the sister company of Dee Money, which focusses on online transactions.
“The Indian market is on the top of our list,” he declared with pride.