25 Apr 2017 14:48 IST

IBM looks to deepen engagements with product start-ups in India

Targets 200 customer wins through entrepreneur programme in the next 12 months

Although a late entrant into the start-up ecosystem engagement space, IBM has started working with 1,000 product start-ups in India as a part of its Global Entrepreneur Programme.

The company is currently in the process of selecting 100 from that list to forge deeper levels of engagement with; a number that it is looking to double in the next 12 months.

IBM veteran, Nipun Mehrotra, who was appointed Chief Digital Officer for India and South Asia, effective January 1, told BusinessLine that he is looking to foster deeper engagements with 200 start-ups in the next 12 months and is targeting 200 customer wins on the IBM marketplace through its start-up engagements over the next 12 months.

As the business head of the newly formed ‘Digital Business Group,’ with a team size of a couple of 100 executives in India, Mehrotra is responsible to help transform the way IBM engages and partners with the tech ecosystem comprising start-ups, academia, developers and investors and lead IBM’s customers in their digital transformation journey in collaboration with the tech ecosystem. “There are 4,000 product start-ups in India and we are already engaging with 1,000 of them through our partnerships with Kalaari Capital and Indian Angel Network, which helped us reach start-ups. Last year, I started off by opening up all of IBM Labs in seven locations including Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam to start-ups. This year, we are accelerating that effort by taking start-ups to customers for meaningful interactions at our client centres, Labs, and IBM garages,” said Mehrotra.

Three-pronged strategy

Elaborating on the company’s three-pronged start-up engagement strategy, he said, the biggest issue start-ups face is the need to access customers; we help customers and start-ups co-create and co-innovate together. Second, we provide start-ups with deep technology and business consulting in simple areas like HR, Finance etc, that they need to scale to become world class. Third, we want to infuse the power of cognitive computing in every start-up with our enterprise-grade AI capabilities, focused on solving deep industry issues in healthcare, education, fintech etc because, if start-ups are building a new capability today and not thinking of AI, they are already two years behind.

IBM’s start-up engagement has already resulted in a few dozen start-up solutions being sold on the IBM marketplace that has over 1,000 IBM products along with third party and start-up products that are available for sale to a large base of IBM customers including 4,000 of its mid-tier customers who are on a digital transformation journey, a dozen large enterprise accounts and also 50,000 other customers who visit the marketplace.

The Global Entrepreneur Programme is a start-up initiative by IBM to engage with start-ups providing them with technical mentoring, go-to-market assistance and free cloud credits on IBM Cloud Solutions worth $12,000 for one year and also work with accelerators in India. Last year, IBM hosted SmartCamp in four cities to identify the next-gen start-ups in Fintech, Healthtech, Deeptech and SmartCity, to help them scale.

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