Wipro Ventures is the brainchild of Rishad Premji, 40, chief strategy officer and member of the board of directors of Wipro Ltd. He expects the fund to mature into a powerful two-way street for fostering the type of innovation that only a startup ecosystem can generate, and channeling the best of that innovation into Wipro Ltd’s services play. Edited excerpts.
Q. What was the trigger to start Wipro Ventures?
There were multiple factors. Within Wipro Ltd, we have been successfully running several initiatives to encourage and foster innovation. However, given the rapid pace of technology-led disruption, we felt that the internal initiatives [within Wipro] were not enough and had to be augmented by tapping into the external ecosystem in a structured manner.
In the business we are in, we are exposed to emerging trends and disruptive technologies across the enterprise stack.
At the same time, because we are a trusted advisor to many big corporations, they are always seeking our inputs on adoption of new technologies and streamlining their operations. We realised that a corporate investment arm would allow us to leverage this unique vantage point by helping our customers with innovative solutions to their business problems and also creating meaningful opportunities for the startups.
Q. Corporate investing by technology companies has a history of over 25 years, from Cisco, Intel and Microsoft to Google and Facebook. Wipro and its peers in Indian IT are attempting something new in the outsourcing sector—what will you focus on?
The entities that you mentioned are marquee institutions in the corporate venture capital industry. We will certainly adopt the best practices from different organisations but at the same time, we all bring unique and different perspectives to corporate investing. Our primary focus is to invest in enterprise software, fintech and health care IT segments and we are very deliberate in our approach.
The goal of Wipro Ventures is not to be the biggest corporate investor but to be the best value-add partner that drives growth for our portfolio companies.Q. What next for Wipro Ventures?
We are just beginning. We will continue to invest in four to six startups every year and we feel that is the right cadence for us. We believe it is very important to be selective because our emphasis is on forging a strong partnership with our portfolio companies and crafting innovative solutions rather than on the number of investments.
Solutions from our portfolio companies are becoming key pieces of Wipro Ltd’s offerings to customers. For example, the investments we have made in the cyber security segment are part of our managed services offering and are becoming key differentiators for us. Similarly, we have incorporated Artificial Intelligence, big data, chatbots and IoT technologies from our portfolio companies to create end-to-end solutions that are being deployed at some of the largest enterprises in the world.
The ITeS industry is going through a major transition and this, coupled with the increased pace of technology innovation, will create new opportunities for those willing to embrace change. On the flip side, our clients are inundated with new technology presentations every day and want a partner who can guide them through these technology transitions. That is why we see tremendous synergies between Wipro Ventures and our business units. Wipro Ventures has a ring-side view of innovation and together with Wipro’s ability to create differentiated, end-to-end solutions, it will become one of the key drivers for the future growth of Wipro.