In a first for a corporate entity, Tech Mahindra is all set to create a ‘startup garage’ for its in-house entrepreneurs.
“Within our set-up, we have a number of companies that is working already. But we are about to launch a garage soon …Ours will be the first corporate garage for the startups,” TechM chief strategy officer and head of the ‘growth factories’ initiative Jagdish Mitra said.
At present, as many as 15 businesses have emerged from among the over 1.05 lakh TechM employees and they work as part of the ‘growth factories’ set-up, Mitra said.
He said all the businesses which are getting incubated will be physically housed together in the garage and doing so will give them independence to operate.
Mentoring the businesses will also be easier if they are housed together, he adds.
“All these startups need a very different business environment. They cannot run in this kind of an environment. They need independence to hire, to run the business, and to set it up,” he says.
When asked about the location of the garage and if it will be in Pune, which has the largest operations for the company, he declined to comment and also hinted that there can be multiple locations for housing the garages.
He, however, declined to answer further queries saying the company will soon be announcing the initiative.
On investments, he said the money will be spent on infrastructure and in the movement of people into the garage, but declined to share a number.
“It is more about ensuring that the environment exists. We invest in nurturing that environment,” he adds.
Mitra says the company runs a programme called ‘Iris’ to encourage business ideas. After that, they are funded according to their need and milestones are set for the progress of the businesses.
“We offer them a certain fund, they run for a certain period, and by proving themselves with the milestone, they get the next level of funding or they can go out and seek funds,” he says, adding the budding entrepreneurs cease to be TechM employees when the ‘growth factory’ picks them up.
The proposed garage will house both existing companies as well as help incubate new startups, Mitra says.
It can be noted that a slew of corporates have various levels of engagement with the startup world. Some like Reliance Industries do competitions to select businesses/ideas and then support them with a mentoring programme run jointly with Microsoft, while many have dedicated funds for tapping potentially disruptive ideas.
TechM, the country’s fifth-largest software exporter, has created a USD 150-million fund for engagement with startups, which invests both in the in-house startups, and in companies outside those which have been promoted by its employees.
There are three such ‘external startups’ which it has backed till now, he says.
Mitra explains within the company, each of the five verticals has been asked to look for potentially disruptive business outside and look for opportunities to partner or invest.
This ensures that at any given point of time, the company has conversations going with at least 8-10 startups which have the potential to disrupt.
“We don’t want to be caught unawares and be disrupted by a provider who can actually do the same stuff in a different manner, leveraging the global connectivity,” he said, adding that the engagement with the startups started around two years ago.