Bharat Innovation Fund: IIM-A incubator is betting big on deep-tech startups

Raising early-stage funds is an uphill task for deep-tech startups. The first product is often expensive to build and takes years to launch. Not many are willing to back such bold startups until they make a breakthrough in the technologies they are building. It was this that led to the launch of IIM Ahmedabad’s Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship Continuum (CIIE.CO)-backed early-stage venture firm Bharat Innovation Fund (BIF) in 2018. It was meant to provide pre-Series A and Series-A funding to deeptech and IP-focused startups, which remain outside the profile and deal flow of most venture capital (VC) funds at their initial stages.

This category-I VC firm has so far funded seven deep-tech startups, and has seven other investments in tech infrastructure/inclusion solutions, deploying almost 40% of its fund pool of $100 mn. The fund has secured commitments from institutional investors like SIDBI (Fund of Funds), ICICI Lombard, SBI Life, RBL Bank, and Federal Bank, and corporates such as Philips and Bajaj Electricals, along with global entrepreneurs, family offices, and HNIs.

“Under our deeptech umbrella, we have experience in running both tech-focused as well as industry/sector focused startup support programmes,” says Priyanka Chopra, chief operating officer and managing partner – seed investing at CIIE.CO, and a venture partner at BIF. “We are currently running the Sustainability Value Accelerator in a partnership with Accenture and plan to launch more programmes this year.” The $100-mn corpus is allocated to two major funds – BIF and Bharat Inclusion Fund. BIF focuses on deep-tech start-ups while Bharat Inclusion Fund backs India Stack-based products that target the next billion internet users.