Older professionals are launching new ventures by bringing in a blend of experience and technical expertise to India’s burgeoning startup ecosystem. Aged fifty years or more, they are setting up companies in sectors ranging from alternative energy to technology services and gaining support from investors who are banking on their experience and wisdom.
In India senior entrepreneurs are taking advantage of a supportive environment for startups that would not have been available to them earlier. Of the 600 new ventures set up across India every year, in the last 2 years around $1.7 billion (Rs 10,000 crore) of venture capital has gone into early stage companies according to consulting firm Ernst & Young. “Many of them were lying low and have now found the right opportunity,” said TC Meenakshisundaram, a managing director at IDG Ventures India Advisors.
Sam Venkatesan a former officer in the Indian Air Force, co-founded Energy Plantation Projects India with Satheesh Gundappa and Murali Anur in 2005. The firm created plantations of fast- growing trees that could be harvested to produce bio-fuel. Additionally Venkatesan launched a second company, Vana Vidyut, an alternative energy company & raised 18 crore from early stage investor Aavishkaar Venture.
“I am only 72 years young and have the passion and the enthusiasm to take this business forward,” said Sam Venkatesan, chairman of Vana Vidyut.
The early stage fund has invested in online women’s apparel company e-Shakti set up by a 55-year old entrepreneur BG Krishnan.
Ashok Soota, a former chairman of ex-MindTree, launched his second venture Happiest Minds in 2011, he raised Rs 250 crore from investors like Canaan Partners and Intel Capital. Seventy-year-old Soota feels that late-stage entrepreneurs have a stable outlook that draws from varied experience. “We are well aware of what works and what doesn’t.” He expects his company to reach the $100-million (Rs 600 crore) mark in revenue by 2017. “We plan to go public within seven years.”
Older professionals with savings also find it easier to cobble together the seed capital required to start out. Fifty-four-year-old V R Venkatesh teamed up with two former colleagues at Wipro, H K Katti and P S Hariharan, to set up wireless networking company ZeeSense Systems. They pooled in savings of Rs 2.5 crore and used the experience of dealing with global clients to set up their business.
The year-old company has signed a power purchase agreement with IT services company Cognizant, for their Chennai campus and will soon set up power plants at Mana Madurai in Tamil Nadu and Arni in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district.
This is in keeping with trends in mature markets like the US where there are twice as many successful founders over 50 as under 25 according to research by a team at the US-based Singularity University led by Vivek Wadhwa. Strong professional track-records are also a crucial factor in attracting investor support.