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With over 60,000 startups and 80+ unicorns, India is at the forefront in shaping the future of the Asian and global startup ecosystem. India added over 1300 new tech startups in 2019, making the country the third-largest startup ecosystem in the world according to the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India. Germany and India have built a strong bridge between their startup ecosystems and the future only promises a tighter bond. Germany is India’s largest trading partner in Europe and among the top 10 of India’s trading partners.

The relevance of startup exchange with India is steadily increasing globally and specifically to the AsiaBerlin network. To leverage this growing network, AsiaBerlin in partnership with GINSEP and OAV organized India Day as a part of the AsiaBerlin Summit 2021- with the goal of positioning India as a global innovation partner of technology and innovation, particularly among startups. 

The event was open to the general public but was mainly targeted at German startups internationalizing to India, Indian startups, industry bodies, enablers and corporates of AI and mobility, investors seeking German/Indian markets, policymakers, trade bodies, and agencies.

We kicked off India Day with a warm welcome address by Dr. Rainer Seider of the Berlin Senate Department, thanking all the partners, speakers, and participants for joining online and in-person from all over the world. He highlighted the importance of Globalization and emerging global companies in Asian countries like India and China. He also talked about how important is the strategic partnership between Germany and India and why the AsiaBerlin Summit is the perfect platform and the opportunity to strengthen this cooperation to a great extent. 

It was followed by the first keynote speech by Saketa Musinipally from the Embassy of India in Berlin, who drew everyone’s attention to the time when India around 30 years ago opened its border to the world for trade and thus unlocked its true potential, transforming the India economy completely in terms of legal regimes, financial markets, etc. “Given that India is a large and a diverse democracy with varied and conflicting aspirations and despite of all challenges such as global crisis or covid-19, the scope, the scale and the speed with which India has achieved the growth in the last few decades is quite remarkable – attaining the GDP of 2.9 trillion USD nominal in FY19’’, he mentioned.

He highlighted the 3 reasons for his optimism about India’s growth :

  1. Stable and sustained growth – India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and has always been able to achieve an average of 7% growth over the last 20 years. 
  2. Reform-oriented government – The Indian government has been working on new reforms to make India, a stable and predictable regime for investors, such as implementing good and services tax – One Nation, One Market, One Tax policy, stopping the retrospective taxation, etc.
  3. A boom in the Indian Startup ecosystem – India being the 3rd largest ecosystem in the world, has more than 50 unicorns, clocking almost 2 unicorns every month. In the first 6 months of 2021 alone, Indian startups were able to raise funding of about 10 billion dollars, which was more than the entire last year. He stressed that India has a huge consumer-based market and rapidly growing middle-class population and a pool of talent which creates a huge potential for companies.

He also addressed, how the government is playing a pivotal role in creating a robust ecosystem for startups from across the country, that can reach out to the government for support like mentorship, market-entry, funding, market surveys, etc. through its various flagship initiatives and schemes such as Startup India initiative, Startup India seed fund scheme, tax incentive initiatives, procurement initiatives, etc. 

We had our next speaker Meena Nagaraj from the Government of Karnataka. She mentioned how Bengaluru, being the startup capital of India, has reoriented its focus from science and technology from the 1970s-80s to IT-enabled services and business process outsourcing in the 1990s and 2000 to startups, innovation, and deep-tech over the last decade. She added that Karnataka has also embarked on developing global innovation alliances connecting the Indian startup ecosystem with innovation hubs of the world including Germany – through various initiatives such as market access, soft landing, B2B matching, exposure visits, etc.  

“Alignment of interests of Berlin and Bengaluru is revamping the tech scene around the world and brews talent for innovation like nowhere else”, she said.

These changes have put India on the map as a global trade and innovation partner.

Our first panel was curated by Enpact, where we discussed Sustainable Urban Mobility: The future of transportation in Berlin and Bangalore in a post-pandemic setting with our prominent speakers from Germany and India, moderated by Jan Lachenmayer of Enpact.

  • Jurgen Baumann of GIZ India talked about the GIZ mobility project SMART-SUT, how they are discovering better and sustainable mobility solutions for Indian cities together with the local transport authorities. He also spoke about the hurdles they face along the way and how working with the local teams and collaborating with the local partners add value to their project. They engage with the startups, entrepreneurs, students, innovators from both sides and invite them to work on some challenges or joint projects. 
  • Juliane Renz of Elo Mobility unveiled the mission of their Berlin startup – Elo Mobility, how they are transforming the city buses into hydrogen vehicles, which are emission-free. She shared their go-to-market strategies to enter the Indian market. At the moment, they have support from local staff and a network of local partners in Bangalore. She also mentioned why India is an attractive place for them to do business. “Indian clients are showing interest in hydrogen technology. We are adapting to the Indian market and addressing the demands of the smaller players who are interested in hydrogen buses.” She said that they see a huge potential for their products in India, as it is a fast-moving and emerging market. 
  • Hailing from the Indian city of ‘Bangalore’, where there is a serious need for improvement in the mobility sector – Vivekananda Hallekere, the co-founder of startup ‘Bounce’ mentioned how they understood the crux of this issue and built a business idea upon that. His startup offers scooters (mopeds) on a sharing basis, charging the customers only on the basis of distance travelled and time used. He highlighted how they started with the petrol scooters and then switched to electric scooters and how they are planning to expand to Europe, which they find an ideal destination for their startup.
  • Jeet Banerjee of Park Cy, shared his awe-inspiring story with us, as he talked about his startup, which he founded in Berlin. He transformed the challenges into opportunities in the cycling industry. Alongside promoting cycling, he found the solutions for the cycle parking issues which were faced by numerous people in many European cities such as Berlin, Amsterdam, etc. Being an Indian who founded a startup in Germany, he also shared what other Indian entrepreneurs can learn from his journey and how Berlin, as a startup hub of Germany, provides a good support system and resources to the startups or entrepreneurs who want to find innovative solutions. 

We had our second-panel discussion focused on Artificial Intelligence in the context of Indo-German Startup Co-operation, organized by our amazing partner ‘GINSEP’ which provided us valuable insights in AI trends from the perspectives of startup founders and enablers. An important tangent of this discussion focused on building trust in AI across Berlin and India, moderated by Amrita Gandikota of GINSEP and AsiaBerlin

  • Philipp Günther of Berlin Partner für Wirtschaft und Technologie, talked about how Berlin is a very international and matured startup hub in AI ecosystem in Germany, which attracts a pool of international talent – “Berlin is a home to a number of excellent research and innovative startups, and corporates fostering the cooperation in the field of AI.’’ He also shared his thoughts on how Germany and India can collaborate, create values and build trust in this sphere on a broader level. 
  • Being a tech entrepreneur living in Germany, working in the space of cloud data and AI, Santhosh Jayaprakash of Ankercloud shared with us why he chose Berlin to found his startup and what were the bottlenecks. “Berlin is much easier for foreign entrepreneurs in terms of language barrier, bureaucracy, understanding the market landscape, the available support system and the access to talent.’’
  • Reena Dayal of QETCI touched on the approaches how German startups can benefit from the Indian startup ecosystem. “Germany should look beyond the manufacturing sector and the materials. There is a great opportunity for Indian and German startups to explore the cross-sectoral synergies.” She also spoke about how Quantum is an emerging area and how QETCI, as the ecosystem enabler for Quantum including startups can create the opportunities to connect the startups from both sides and then further connect them to end user community, to the market, etc. She also insisted that the multilevel stakeholders such as governments, startups, corporates and research organizations should join hands to accelerate the development of the AI and quantum ecosystem. 
  • This conversation was followed by some remarks from Purushottam Kaushik of the World Economic Forum. He spoke about how India is focusing on emerging technologies like AI, Blockchain, Drones and Data policy, especially in the sectors such as agriculture, healthcare, circular economy, etc. He not only mentioned the gaps in the data ecosystem and existing constraints in scaling these technologies across all these sectors, which are relevant areas of interest for both Germany and India. But he also suggested the solutions to bridge these gaps and harness the data more effectively through public private partnerships – successfully driving innovations, creating more impact and helping the businesses to scale.

Finally, our third panel discussion was led by our partner OAV which revolved around the topic of Corporate innovation in Berlin and India, where we mapped out valuable leads on potential areas of innovation in corporates and startups. The session was moderated by Oina Kerchner of EY Berlin, who shared “The big corporates need to change and that is often not possible to do it from the inside, but there are startups out there that have ideas to disrupt the market, to bring in fresh and new ideas, challenging existing business models. There is a big opportunity for both the corporates and startups to come together and shape the future.” 

  • At this panel, we were joined by Anzy S. Mohammed of SAP Labs India who laid out the roadmap of SAP to foster Corporate Innovation – helping startups to work on the problem statements, giving them the opportunities to build their framework, technology or products and to scale – thus deconstructing the boundaries of innovation through various initiatives like SAP Startup Studio (their in-house accelerator) in India. He also shed light on the current corporate innovation landscape in India. “There is a significant startup market in India but primarily in specific verticals. A lot of time, the market has to be created which is a big challenge for a lot of startups. If we look at the startups from fintech, healthtech or edutech, they are coming together and creating the market.”
  • Sampath Vinay of UrbanKisaan addressed the severe challenges faced by the Indian farmers due to the shortage of resources as well as lack of technological information and how their hydroponics startup is researching and creating robust and reliable agritech – to empower the farmers by deploying the tech in the farms. “Our scientists are working with the farmers, educating them to use best techniques for their farming, upskilling them on the ground and promoting sustainable farming, using renewable energy in farming and thus reducing carbon footprint.” He also mentioned the investments they received from BASF this year, which would help them to further expand their market presence. 

In this last panel for the day, we also heard from Dr. Frank O. Holtrup of Covestro, who told us about his German company which is operating in India and manufacturing high performance plastic for daily life products. They have recently invested venture capital into startups. He spoke briefly about the kind of startups they are scouting for to invest in.  

All videos of India Day panels can be found here :

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Deepak Dhawan

Deepak Dhawan

Hailing from one of the most vibrant and culturally diverse cities of India (Delhi), Deepak Dhawan graduated with a Master's degree in German Studies in 2019 from the University of Delhi. During his studies, he was awarded with a fully-funded DAAD scholarship by the University of Freiburg to attend an exchange semester. In 2017, he also got the opportunity to attend International Summer School in Weimar, Germany. Since the last two years, he has been working with international Non-Profit Organizations and been engaged in project management, communications & PR, market research, social media and website management. In his current role as a Program Coordinator at PrimedinFabrik, he is working along two international Startup initiatives - GINSEP (German Indian Startup Exchange Program) and AsiaBerlin - building the bridges between German and Indian startup ecosystems. Along this journey, he has developed a strong sense of Purpose, Optimism and Resilience.