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This VC is Scouting For Start-ups Which Plan to Serve the Next Billion Indians Ankur Capital's focus is to invest in technology for the new one billion Internet users, a majority of which are going to come from India' rural areas, Tier II and III cities

By Shreya Ganguly

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Ritu Verma

According to a recent report by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), India has the second-largest Internet user base after China with 451 million monthly active users as of March 2019. According to the report, while 51 per cent of people from urban areas are online, only 27 per cent of the rural population have access to Internet. Not surprisingly, companies are now focusing on this next billion users i.e. people across India who will get digital access for the first time.

Given that several start-ups are now focusing to serve this next billion, Mumbai-headquartered Ankur Capital is looking to invest in such start-ups. "We are investing into technology for what we call the next billion for the larger masses in India including rural India, tier II and III cities. From my perspective, technology plays a role, and the companies we invest in have a positive impact on the lives of the people who live in these markets," said Ritu Verma, co-founder, Ankur Capital.

Investing In Technology

According to Verma, technology-led solutions have a large role to play and have a massive impact on people's lives. Founded in 2011, this early-stage venture capital firm focuses on investing in agritech, healthtech, and edtech, among others. It has 13 active companies under its portfolio and has already exited one. It counts brands such as Niramai (healthtech), BigHaat (agritech), CropIn (agritech), Health Sutra as a part of its portfolio.

Verma explained that Ankur Capital looks at two kinds of technology, software and innovation. While many focus on software technology, Ankur Capital is open to explore innovation technology as well. "So for example, we have invested in an artificial protein company who make single-cell protein out of methane, which is fairly unusual. Most people do software but we are fine with science-led IT technology as well," added Verma.

"Our main theme here is that we think that technology brings down the cost because of digitization. This allows new business models because it brings down the cost of access to a customer. That unlocks a whole set of different kinds of models," Verma explained.

What Can Start-ups Expect From Ankur?

Verma explained that firstly as an early-stage investor, entrepreneurs working behind start-ups are very important as they need to address the market. She added that the second important thing to be considered by Ankur before investing is the business model as what is being expected out of the company and thirdly, the start-up need to fit Ankur Capital's mandate. However, once a part of the portfolio, start-ups can expect all the support it needs, according to Verma.

"Whether it's some sort of human resource issues, marketing and sales issues, getting strategic advisers on the table, getting business development. We are very involved investors and looking to help the company in any way we can," Verma said.

Shreya Ganguly

Former Features Writer

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