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This Japanese Billionaire Wants to Change the Face of Indian Agriculture

The serial investor wants to address the larger issues of food production and quality in India
This Japanese Billionaire Wants to Change the Face of Indian Agriculture
Image credit: Taizo Son

He may be known amongst many as the youngest brother, of SoftBank magnate Masayoshi Son, but Taizo Son has come to build a niche for himself in the past decade.  The Japanese investor and incubator founder is now entering India by collaborating with GSF - a leading tech accelerator founded by Rajesh Sawhney and Infobridge, an Indo-Japanese business consultancy.

Together the team launched Gastrotope, a new Agrifood tech accelerator in India, through which they hope to build a strong network for the agricultural community by focusing on creation of a new agricultural domain and FoodTech enabled industry ecosystem.  It will incubate and invest in startups innovating at both ends of the food cycle: technologies that upgrade farming as well as those who devise strategies to make food production more efficient and ensure less wasteful consumption of food.

The Japanese serial entrepreneur and investor, who recently shifted his base to Singapore, wants to approach innovation in this area in a more holistic and long-term way than VC-funded startups.Entrepreneur India sat down to have an exclusive chat with Son, who on his first visit to India is hopeful of making it a long-term business destination.

Why did you choose India for this project?

We believe the current agriculture scenario and the food culture in the country needs to be updated. I feel globally India has the potential to make the biggest impact in this space with the help of innovative technologies.

How do you plan to take on the challenge of entering a highly unorganized and scattered sector like agriculture in India?

Our approach is not to do everything by ourselves. Instead we want to build a community consisting of entrepreneurs, investors and more, to improve the current session. We want o be more like a moderator or pollinator among these agri-tech innovators and make a collective impact. We will bring a host of players from all over the world to create concrete solutions to deal with the challenge here.

AgriTech and agriculture are not  cushy sectors for entrepreneurs to get into as returns are slow to come by. What’s your take on this?

I believe there are things more important than money. Especially the millennial crowd I feel understand that innovation and entrepreneurship goes beyond money now. I believe we will find great entrepreneurs who have passion for this field, and people like us are willing to take risk and we will take the lead in helping these ventures, especially for the beginning phase.

I believe addressing the food issue through better means of agriculture is one of the biggest issues in the world, and we will work together to bring more and more global partners to facilitate this change.

What is the timeline that you are looking for to start operations in India?

We are taking a step by step approach as we are still getting people on board. We hope to bring some more global members here within this year. And hopefully by early next year we could announce some concrete activity.

Other than agritech what are some of the other interesting sectors in the Indian startup community according to you?

I like issue-driven and agenda-driven sectors. So for me healthcare is a promising sector, and second would be the education system. If we find innovative companies under this sector, we are open to supporting them as well. 

Finally, what would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs in India?

I myself learnt a lot of lessons as an entrepreneur, and the biggest one was to never give up. You have to keep going, going and going and not stop. 99% of failures are because founders of companies gave up. But, also the theme chosen to start a company by an entrepreneur should be passion driven. So people should choose to do what they like and not just look at profitability. 

Since its launch in 2013, Son’s Mistletoe has made over 90 investments globally that are worth around $160mn. of which three investments in India in startups such Innerchef, Ninjacart and Kisan Network. Son also founded Japan-based mobile gaming company GungHo which