The Startup Enabler

Kumara Raghavan, Head of Startups Amazon Web Services India share his views on the upcoming trends in the startup ecosystem and growth for 2022

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The start-up ecosystem today has greasened the wheels of innovation in India ensuring economic growth further. This significant growth, the ability to scale up for new booming unicorns, and innovative solutions and services are flourishing in the fast-paced and dynamic economy of today. With the support of cloud providers such as AWS, startups like Innovacer, CredIndia, Byjus, Mobile Premier League have seen the growth and scale. Kumara Raghavan, Head of Startups Amazon Web Services India shares his views on the upcoming trends in the startup ecosystem and growth for 2022. Edited Excerpts.

Company

This year the Indian government has been encouraging more and more startups to come up in the country through initiatives like Startup Day. How does AWS play a crucial role in this growth?

The past year has been a momentous one for India's startup ecosystem. According to CB Insights, in 2021 startups had received funding of $28.5B, which is 173% YoY growth compared to 2020 where they received $10.5B.Furthermore, we've witnessed explosive growth at both the early and mature stages within the ecosystem as startup successes from the past years reached their IPO phase. Of course, we've also seen an unprecedented rate in startups achieving unicorn status. In the past year, the Indian startup ecosystem saw the rise of more than 40 unicorns, or those startups who reached a valuation of $1 billion or more.

One of my team's greatest privileges is that we have a front seat to all this action. Since 2006, AWS has worked alongside hundreds of thousands of founders all over the globe, supporting them in building and scaling their businesses. Here in India, we work with startups and former startups like Ola, Byju's, CarDekho, Big Basket and Paytm, and have loved being on the journey as they indelibly transform the industries they play in.

How does AWS take care of the "heavy lifting' in building a startup, allowing founders to focus on growth?

With over 200 products and services, we have the broadest and deepest set of capabilities of any cloud provider, ranging from basic compute and storage through to advanced database and architecture options, through to pre-built solutions. Furthermore, our team is dedicated to working with our startup customers to determine which services are best for them. Our range of advanced services takes care of much of the "heavy lifting' in building a startup, allowing founders to focus on developing those aspects of their business where they can deliver the most value quickly and cost-effectively, even for non-technical founders.

Think of our foundational services like a set of building blocks – we enable startups to decide which blocks are best for them, and then aid them in putting them together.

One of the areas we're particularly excited about is Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). As the tech industry and digital landscape evolves, startups are looking to reinvent their businesses and customer experiences using ML. Through the cloud, machine learning has become a significant part of software developers' workstreams, assisting them in writing more safe and dependable code. Given the democratization and widespread adoption of such advanced technology, we are seeing startups transforming their industries using ML innovations in verticals like ecommerce, EdTech, healthcare, and fintech.

The great thing about the cloud is that it allows for experimentation. Because it's so cost effective, startups can easily run tests and experiment without significant upfront investment. Should a startup find success it can easily scale up usage, and then scale back down again as needed. AWS solutions de-risks the growth process and ensures startups do not need to invest heavily in anticipation of future demand.

How do you support startups that are in the later stages such as unicorns?

AWS offers a broad range of programs and initiatives to support startups at every stage of their lifecycle. For startups entering more mature stages, AWS regularly leverages our network to facilitate connections in the startup and investor community, or make introductions to potential enterprise clients seeking the innovative new solutions that startups develop. One way we've done this is by organizing CXO roundtable sessions designed to introduce startups to groups of C-level leaders. A good example of where we've been able to help startups make valuable connections is of a cloud-based marketing automation startup MoEngage which was able to expand into ASEAN by engaging with more than 230 Chief Marketing Officers of enterprise clients from six countries, resulting in several new deals.

Another example of how we support our customers in the "scale-up" phase is a program we offer locally called SaaS Central, in collaboration with Prime Ventures. The program aims to accelerate the growth journeys of SaaS startups globally by providing insights, guidance, and mentorship in priority focus areas like product management, fundraising, scaling, and sales.

What according to you is the outlook for the startup ecosystem in the next few years?

India is moving from a land of promise and potential to performance, and we see that in the world of startups today. In 2021 we saw great traction for startups especially across sectors. Following are some of the trends that I expect to see in the startup ecosystem in the next few years:

Growth of fintech: Attracting $5.9B (376% YoY) in funding in 2021, India's fintech sector grew by leaps and bounds in 2021. One of the most exciting spaces, many of our customers are leveraging AWS's Machine Learning services to build innovative new solutions for a wide array of purposes such as lending decision making, customer support, fraud detection, credit risk assessment and others. For example, Perfios, a FinTech startup, is using Amazon Textract to extract text, handwriting, and data from scanned documents and is processing 2 million financial document scans per month.

Healthtech to the forefront: Healthtech organizations were pivotal in mitigating the effects of the pandemic. Healthcare technology companies have been innovative in using cloud-based technologies, analytics, and ML to create new value in patient monitoring and diagnostics. For example, Qure.ai, a healthcare startup built on AWS, developed a ML powered solution, qXR, which uses X-rays to classify patients as high, medium, or low risk for COVID-19 in less than a minute. Built on data from more than 2.5 million radiology scans, qXR is capable of detecting problem areas and abnormalities that are indicative of COVID-19. qXR's algorithm then uses a compilation of the location, size, and type of abnormalities, and presents the results.

Robust VC Funding: Much of the funding in 2021 has gone to tech startups. During the pandemic, investors have been eager to put their money behind the companies that are building software that empowers people to work remotely, shop for essential items delivered to their homes, connect with loved ones they couldn't see in-person, and stave off boredom at home. We've all seen the power of technology solutions that help us live better lives, more easily, and the startups we work with are at the forefront of those societal improvements. The increase in funding is indicative of the strength of the startup ecosystem and the growth that it promises for the year.

Sustainable and Green Businesses: With environmentally conscious policies, manufacturing and products, there is a shift in consumption patterns and the consumer's psyche. Recently, India pledged to get to net-zero carbon emission by 2070. As the green movement gains pace, the way forward is for Indian startups to embrace sustainable and environmentally friendly policies as early as possible, from manufacturing to packaging to distribution. In the years to come, companies who make sustainability a key element of their philosophy and practise will be miles ahead of their competitors.

Rise of SaaS: The software-as-a-service (SaaS) ecosystem in India has had a fantastic run, especially in the last decade. To accelerate this growth, we launched the AWS SaaS Factory that provides startups access to SaaS solution architects and business leads in addition to technical and business content.