The report says that the initiative is being driven by Wipro’s Chief Strategy Officer Rishad Premji and that he has already started exploring opportunities in start-ups focused in niche technologies like data, open source and industrial internet among others.
An Economic Times report suggests that the corporate venture arm will be part of the company’s recently formed independent business unit Change the Business Services and its head Anurag Srivastava will be an important member of Rishad’s team. Others in the team include Jagadish Velagapudi who currently heads strategic programs for the company and Haripriya Rama Iyer who is part of Wipro’s corporate strategy team.
Change the Business Services unit was formed earlier this year as an independent unit and it apparently offers opportunities for employees to experiment with ideas in emerging areas like machine learning and platform-based services, as indicated by a Times Of India report. Wipro CEO T K Kurien had told the publication that they will also setup an accelerator for machine learning.
Wipro Investments: Wipro has previously made couple of investments in startups. In June last year, it invested $5 million in a machine-to-machine and Internet of Things solution provider Axeda Corporation. Axeda was acquired by PTC for around $170 million earlier this week.
The company had also invested $30 million in the Big Data Science and Predictive Analytics Company Opera Solutions as part of a strategic partnership in May last year.
Similar funds set up by other Indian IT players
This isn’t the first time that an Indian IT player has set up an investment arm specifically for start-ups. In April 2013, Infosys had setup a $100 million innovation fund to focus on new ideas, products and platforms. The objective was to provide a much-needed fillip to its products, solutions and platform (PPS) businesses that contribute a mere 5.7% to Infosys’ overall revenue, according to a Business Standard report.
The then CEO and MD of Infosys SD Shibulal had told The Economic Times that the mandate for the fund is global, but incubating ideas within the country is also part of the plan. Last month, ET also reported that new CEO Vishal Sikka is apparently planning to set up a corporate VC arm on the lines of SAP Ventures, though neither Infosys nor Sikka have confirmed the news.
BSE-listed Persistent Systems had also setup a Persistent Venture Fund in December 2013. The objective of the early-stage fund was to provide seed capital to startups working in areas like social, mobile, analytics and cloud computing. Its portfolio companies include California-based wearable tech startup Hyginex, video calling iPad app Ustyme and life sciences company DxNow.
Last month, Cisco had also setup a $40 million fund to fund early stage firms in India. This is a part of Cisco’s $250 million global “thematic investment” fund that was announced earlier this year. The company had made its first investment through this fund in the Mumbai-based real-time analytics platform software provider Covacsis last month.
Global tech majors like Intel and Qualcomm already run early-stage investment funds and have significant presence in India. But in most cases the objective is to identify start-ups that can add value to the parent company. Some companies like Cognizant Technology Solutions and HCL Technologies incubate ventures within the company, according to a The Times of India report.