NIC to launch Rs 5,000 cr VC fund for innovation: Pitroda
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"We are creating a Rs 5,000-crore venture fund which will be operational by the end of March. We have already spent a year-and-a-half structuring, working on it and getting government approvals," Pitroda, who is the advisor to the PM on public information infrastructure and innovation, told a CII conference on design through a video link.
The fund, which has got a seed money commitment from the government, will work on a commercial basis like any other fund but support enterprises which drive change at the bottom of the economic pyramid, he said.
"Best brains in the world are busy solving problems of the rich who really don't have problems to solve. As a result the problems of the poor don't get the right kind of talent," Pitroda, he said.
He added that solving the problems of the large number of the poor is our "moral responsibility".
He further said though the government is providing the seed capital, some banks have already committed money for the fund and eventually, we will also see private capital flowing into the corpus.
Pitroda, who is credited with ushering in the telecom revolution in the mid-1980s and currently heads the NIC, also said, "the fund will invest in ideas which are affordable, scalable and sustainable."
However, the technocrat sounded pessimistic about the long-celebrated frugal innovation in the country or "jugaad" as it is referred to, saying "many of our solutions, the so called 'jugaad' don't scale. How do you scale 'jugaad' so that a large number of the people get the benefit is the challenge."
Pitroda called on people in the innovation ecosystem to help the government drive the innovation programmes through the fund.
"We hope many more can join us in this effort of creating risk capital that is badly needed. We don't have that tradition (of investing at the more risky stage) here yet as well as in some other parts of the world," Pitroda added.
Listing the contours of the innovation drive, Pitroda said apart from the NIC, as many as 25 states have already formed state-level innovation councils and the joint work will eventually be complimented by 70 sectoral councils, of which 30 are already working.
Additionally, the NIC is also taking a cluster-driven approach to innovation, targeting one cluster after another. It has seven such councils working in diverse areas like brassware, already operational, and is looking to expand to 100 clusters in the next 18 months, he said.
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