HBS Conference on India

HBS Working Knowledge has a collection of reports on India, based on the India Business Conference, sponsored by Harvard Business Schools South Asian Business Association on April 4. From the venture capital discussion:

The pool of “extraordinary” technical talent in India is a big plus, said Venetia Kontogouris, of Trident Capital, a thirty-five-person firm with $1.3 billion under management that invests in information and business services companies. Finding good middle managers is more of a challenge.

“I think the quality of management in India is pretty good. You just have to work hard to find it,” said Ashish Dhawan, co-founder and senior managing director at ChrysCapital, a private equity fund that manages about $200 million. People’s aspirations have changed, said Dhawan, with many hoping to work at large multinational corporations that come to India. The trick is in luring talent to entrepreneurial ventures.

Ramanan Raghavendran, a senior partner at TH Lee Putnam Ventures, leads his firm’s investment activities in business process outsourcing (BPO) and software. “India is a standard now,” he said. “If you’re starting a technology company of some size and don’t have an India strategy, you’re not likely to survive long.”

Software portability means that offshoring will continue to be a big opportunity, with companies moving software services and customer interactions offshore, continued Guerster.

Navin Chaddha, of Mobius Venture Capital, said that his firm would be focusing on cross-border deals in the software and BPO sectors involving U.S. companies with Indian subsidiaries that build scalable operations around low-end transactions in health care, financial services, and life science services.

“I think the next big opportunity is to find the new sectors where you can take an Indian business global,” said Dhawan. Asian Paints, for example, is swiftly becoming one of the largest paint companies in the world. “They have proven that they can crush the international competition,” he said.

Raghavendran counseled the audience of largely Indian nationals to look beyond the established BPO model and think of companies like Asian Paints as the most exciting new category of opportunity: “businesses coming out of India that may go off and conquer the world.”

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.