india: ET Power of Ideas: Pune to emerge as fintech incubation centre for India

MUMBAI: If Bengaluru has already emerged as the technology hub for the country, Pune with its favourable weather conditions and rich technology resources could be playing catch up provided the infrastructure issues plaguing the western city get addressed soon.

In a panel discussion in Pune for the Economic Times Power of Ideas event, investors and entrepreneurs based out of the city deliberated on the challenges faced by startup entrepreneurs in a non-metro city and how it can be overcome.

“The challenge is not only to develop the product but how to take it to the market. There are no incubators or string network accelerators available in this city,” said Akshay Mehrotra, cofounder of EarlySalary, aPune-based lending platform that disburses short-duration loans to people at the click of a button.

While Bengaluru has led the ecommerce and technology revolution in the country, Pune with its strategic location could emerge as the fintech incubation centre for India. The challenge remains lack of early adopters in Pune.

“We got a decent response when we launched our product in Pune, but once we went live in Bengaluru we not only got user feedback, techies came back and told us what was wrong on our platform,” said Mehrotra. “This kind of feedback system helps a platform strengthen and grow.”

If the entire smart city initiative can help entrepreneurs come up with more disruptive services in the city, Maneesh Bhandari said Pune needs to act like a customer to all sorts of innovation in town planning and others to help improve the infrastructure of the city.

Bhandari is the founder of Propeluss, which is an investment banking platform for startups-—for fundraise, corporate partnerships and M&A—and is backed by leading Investment Banking firm Equirus.

“Personally, I am not a big fan of this smart city concept. I think the municipal commissioner of Pune is extremely bullish about this and he is trying to create a centre for innovation for the whole country. But these things take a lot of time,” he said.

In today’s world where executives need to travel all the time to manage corporate affairs which are typically spread globally, Pune has a major air connectivity problem.

“There is a need to upgrade the city’s airport. If I am not mistaken, there are only a couple of international flights from this city. That way, for everything, we have to travel to Mumbai,” said Shachin Bharadwaj, founder of TastyKhana, which was sold off to Foodpanda in 2014.

Though travelling is an important requirement, the top executives said with technology their travelling needs have gone down drastically, especially since the live tracking of their businesses is possible from their own desktops.

Further highlighting the importance of mergers and acquisitions in the startup business, Supam Maheshwari, the founder of online mothercare and baby products website FirstCry spoke about how the two companies need to be a perfect fit and it should make financial sense as well. FirstCry had acquired Mahindra Retail promoted Baby Oye last year.

“I think, overall, it is extremely useful when two companies build an aggregated story,” said Maheshwari. “I realised it is very hard to merge two consulting companies. It depends therefore on the business models of the two companies, scenarios and also chemistry of the two companies.”

(The Economic Times Power of Ideas is presented by Facebook, in partnership with DST, Govt of India, and CIIE, IIM-Ahmedabad)