In a move that would give a tremendous boost to the startup ecosystem in India, social media major Facebook is gearing up to make substantial investments in technology startups, a top official from the company revealed on Friday.
“We now have shown willingness to make direct investments in technology startups in India. We are willing to spend our time, and energy to tap the massive depth of engineering talent in the country,” said Ajit Mohan, Vice President and Managing Director, India Facebook, while addressing the opening session of the second edition of ‘Huddle Kerala 2019,’ one of Asia’s largest congregations on startup ecosystem. The two-day event at Hotel Leela Raviz, Kovalam is being organised by the Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM) in association with Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).
In his keynote address, Ajit Mohan said: “A couple of months ago, we announced the first minority investment that Facebook has done anywhere in the world in a company called Meesho. What Meesho does is it relies on the existing behaviour of communities in India and leverages on women entrepreneurs essentially pitching products to their friends and families.”
The best thing about their model was it could bring 2,00,000 first-time female entrepreneurs online, he noted. “It is an innovation that was coming out of India which can be exported to rest of the world, and that model has scaled a dramatic impact in job creation. Any analysis of economy, most of the job creation happens from small business,” he said.
Citing the government data, the Facebook official said women’s representation in the technology sector stands between 30 and 35 percent. “A lot of our energy must go to break gender imbalance. We have to think about what are the barriers that limit women from coming online,” Ajit noted, adding that the company’s focus is on skill-building, and introduction of platforms to startups.
Anil Agrawal, Joint Secretary, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), who was the chief guest, said other states should replicate the Kerala model in building the startup ecosystem.
Referring to the ubiquitous startup milieu in the country, he said around 1.95 startups are getting registered every hour in the country. “In the next month, it may be two startups per hour. We have 22,895 registered startups in the country as per the records till September. Around 45 per cent of startups come from tier-2 and tier-3 cities. About 9 to 10 per cent startups have women as founders, and we have to promote women entrepreneurs,” he added.
In his presidential address, M Sivasankar, Secretary, Electronics and IT, Government of Kerala, said the penetration of startups in the state during the last three years is amazing. “The social change startups have brought is commendable. We have to give more emphasis on access, skill and content to sustain the unique status of Kerala in startup ecosystem,” he added.
Jitender S. Minhas, CEO, IAMAI Startup Foundation, said Kerala is exploring emerging technologies like blockchain and no other states have achieved the kind of ecosystem it has created so far.
Dr. Saji Gopinath, CEO, KSUM, while proposing a vote of thanks, said ‘Huddle Kerala’ is a key event for knowledge transfer, informal interaction and to impress upon others about the happenings in the state’s startup ecosystem.
The event, which hosts an array of technology experts and marketing leaders, will offer a unique platform for startups to showcase their products before technology and industry leaders from around the world. More than 30 speakers, investors and industry challengers are also part of ‘Huddle Kerala’.