Responsible Innovation in India
In the 2010s, an Indian concept of innovation, jugaad, resonated as a buzzword in Silicon Valley. Loosely translated as “frugal innovation,” it described a time of higher productivity but inconsistent levels of sustainable innovation. We think it’s time to retire the term because it no longer reflects India’s dynamism. Poised to soon surpass China as the most populous nation in the world with one of the fastest-growing economies and 65% of the population under 35, India is ready for a new scale and depth of innovation as we think about the next 10-15 years.
We (Hemant with GC strategic advisor Fareed Zakaria) have recently written about the strategic necessity for a U.S.-India technology corridor and our global resilience thesis. The latter describes the changing geopolitical dynamics that require companies and countries worldwide to rethink their most critical sectors—healthcare and food production, energy and security, defense, and supply chain/production for critical components. We believe India is poised to emerge as a winner in this new world order. Not only does it have the potential to benefit from shifting alliances and displaced production, but it is also positioned to innovate in these new global resilience sectors among others.
At General Catalyst, we have been fortunate to partner with these next generation founders in India who are committed to building important, enduring companies positioned for growth and societal good. We believe these thoughtful founders are transcending the jugaad mindset by solving long-horizon global challenges like food insecurity and health disparities to bolster India’s prominence on the global innovation stage.
Fostering Responsible Innovation in India
As Anand discussed recently on the Return to India podcast, upon completing higher education opportunities abroad, Indian founders are increasingly returning to India (or staying back post their education) to build for India and unlock the subsequent phases of the country’s growth. Progressive government initiatives to spark startup growth are also a contributing factor. Our Bharat Digitization thesis examines the opportunities that will arise when the next wave of 250 million Indians enter the middle class and come online. This next wave would include previously excluded demographics, like farmers employing technology to increase nutrient-dense food accessibility. We see significant opportunities in population-critical sectors like agriculture, which comprises approximately 20% of the nation’s GDP.
Given the enormous potential innovation opportunity in India, we need to be mindful of what we build and how we build it. We want to ensure that the next wave of entrepreneurs in India is building in consideration of all stakeholders—and not replicating the “move fast and break things” model of many previous generation founders in Silicon Valley. Responsible Innovation rejects the “growth at all costs” mindset and endeavors to build enduring businesses that serve not just shareholders but all stakeholders.
We are excited to leverage our expertise and learnings from company-building and help Indian founders understand and apply Responsible Innovation principles to this new wave of digital transformation in India.
Last year, we had the opportunity to connect with our Indian founders in Palo Alto via a convening moment we call Namaste Silicon Valley. The broader GC team was assembled and our founders gained a community to reflect on their journeys and how Responsible Innovation is woven into their company’s ethos. We want to spotlight some of GC's founders who are applying Responsible Innovation principles and building companies that foster inclusive prosperity, sustainable development, and global citizenship.
Eeki Foods, founded by Abhay Singh and Amit Kumar, makes farming sustainable and climate-proof, thus endeavoring toward food resilience initially within India and eventually globally. They have developed the ability to build 10x larger (1.5 acres to over 20 acres) farms from scratch to grow residue-free tomatoes and other vegetables in the past year.
FarMart, founded by Alekh Sangera and Mehtab Singh Hans, is building the world’s first OS powering food value chains with over 3 million farmers in their network for a food-secure future both locally and exporting to other nations.
Loop Health, founded by Mayank Kale, Ryan Singh, and Shami Raj, promotes a healthy society by delivering India’s first health insurance with complete primary care for employers. By the end of this year, Loop will have over 1 million Indians in their network.
Orange Health Labs, founded by Tarun Bhambra and Dhruv Gupta, aligns with our Health Assurance vision by building India’s fastest, high-quality diagnostic lab.
In addition to the above, CityMall, founded by Angad Kikla and Naisheel Verdhan, promotes inclusive prosperity by bringing in entrepreneurs from small towns to act as community leaders. Magma, founded by Neal Thakker, digitizes factories and up-skills manufacturing to accelerate India’s position as a manufacturing hub. STAN, founded by Parth Chadha, Akshat Rathee and Nauman Mulla, gives esports stars from small towns a path to employment. Triomics, founded by Sarim Khan and Hrituraj Singh, leverages intelligent automation for equitable clinical trials. ZET (fka OneCode), founded by Manish Shara and Yash Desai, provides “agents” with well-paying jobs and fosters financial inclusion for new internet users.
At General Catalyst, we are grateful to partner with these founders in India who are working toward building a better future—for India and the world. We cannot wait for the rest of the world to catch up with their visionary aspirations as they scale their businesses and impact.