Coverage by Bhat Dittakavi of TiE Hyderabad and AI4ICPS.in on “Deep Tech” panel discussion on 13th December at TGS 2022, Novotel Hyderabad

Deep Tech means different things to different people. Everyone concurs that deep tech is not easy and needs patience and patient capital. I can’t agree more.

Moderator: Naganand Doraiswamy, Ideaspring

Panelists:

Dipanjan Gope, Simyog

Gautam Nadig, Mynvax

Umakant Soni, ARTPARK

Ashwin Limaye, VideoVerse

Naganand: What is Deep Tech?

Umakant: All tech companies are deep tech. Last few years have been an aberration. Mobile tech made lot of frothy ventures. Many may die. Deep Tech doesn’t mean only robots and drones. Any complete new way of doing things should be deep tech. Be data rich first and then asset rich. All of these startups are deep tech ones. Some are proving the science for say 4 years before taking off.

Gautam: For me deep tech starts from engineering R&D and translational research that is expensive with significant amount of trial and error and hence there is some time for time to mature. Examples like broad range vaccine and all. Translation into products will lead to patents and there is lot of play in the patent game with IP not local but global. If the products are highly differentiated they get highly differentiated. The ability to mass manufacture at very low cost is the key. There is lot of regulation around deep tech. Crops, drugs, COVID trials and all. Failure is essential component of any deep tech effort.

Prof. Dipanjan: Deep Tech is part of a cycle. Initially it is part of research. Deep Tech becomes big asset for a startup. Deep Tech is something that has entry barrier. This is India’s next big opportunity.

Ashwin: Can you think like a scientist and work like an engineer and have openness to collaborate with multiple disciplines and try to solve the problem in a step function different way

Naganand: I invest in technology startups and I confidently say three of them are deep tech. These startups can’t be replaced with 6-9 short months.

Naganand: Where are the ideas from deep tech come from?

Umakant: I personally ventured in 16 investees. I have been working with the government at a policy level for the past four years. We have to create structures here. Israel built the entire innovation engine where universities to companies is a cycle of research to commerce. I setup Pi Ventures. If we want to build a technology power house for the nation, we have to work with the government. This is into half a billion into cyber physical systems. Only government has a mandate in this country. How do we improve connectivity in villages in India? How do you make collages digitally mobile? 80% of the people will have their health needs taken outside the hospitals by 2030. How do we empower the young people of india at scale? These are large problems that need deep tech.

We created large service companies and pioneered them. We can do it again.

Dipanjan: In 2004, there was a move to cultivate cricket talent in tier 3 cities. This is where the next set of talent lies in India. Mentoring online and connectivity are the key. There are only very few deep tech startups in India. In USA there is a good university in every corner. I believe some kind of mentorship is required.

Umakant: Talent is there en mass in IITs and IIITs. We should free up the last one year of our students. This is where startups get easy access to talent and trust get real problems to work with.

Naganand: Deep Tech means funding challenges. How do we address?

Gautam: Look at the central feature of deep techs of the world? Government funded them centrally. This is essential from the numbers point of view. There are failures but then that failure will lead to a new idea. India has a reasonable public funding through CSIR and significant amount through BIRAC and has continued. Social imperative of funds distribution diluted it out. we can have planned path for science and we have to have robust funds available for it. Quantum of grants is startling. Deep Tech is not what gives you access to the market. These startups stand zero revenues for 7-8 years. Pre-series money should at least be $5 million. Patient capital is needed for validation. Low cost innovation is a misnomer in deep tech. Every stage of regulatory hurdle where we have to prove a concept happens at a very high cost. If it is low cost, then we oay Hugh cost later.

Naganand: Can yiu hold in India? Where is the market for deep tech?

Gautam: There is no shortage of big problems in India. There are people who do it in India or are from India. Build in India and sell abroad is very much there. Pandemic made talent come back to India. Mentorship coming back. Patient capital mindset is coming back.

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