The answer may be found in many of the tech sectors in vogue these days: Blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), nanotechnologies, robotics and quantum computing, among many others—and, perhaps more importantly, in a convergence of many of these technologies for quicker innovation. The government’s recent draft National Deeptech Startup Policy attempts to differentiate deeptech ventures from their ‘non-deeptech’ counterparts; and then goes on to spell out what makes for deeptech activity.
The biggest difference is that a non-deeptech startup typically relies on the business model rather than science and technology for its competitive edge. A deeptech startup delves into early-stage technologies based on scientific or engineering progressions that are not yet commercially proven. This, along with the fact that the solution tends to be based on new knowledge, allows deeptechs to create and own intellectual property.
Nasscom reckons that India’s deeptech startups are India’s “Next Big Opportunity”. According to the apex body representing India’s tech sector, India’s deeptech startup base has grown at a compound annual rate of over 40 percent in the four years till March 2021. Funds raised over this period had grown 2x and AI and Internet of Things (IoT) accounted for two-thirds of deeptech startups.
How has the deeptech landscape changed since then? That’s what Forbes India’s technology editor Harichandan Arakali set out to explore. And that paved the way for this fortnight’s deeptech special—a collection of stories of deeptech entrepreneurship, from robotics to aerospace, as well as the burgeoning number of venture capitalists (VCs) opening the purse-strings to fuel these potentially ground-breaking ideas.
On the cover are entrepreneurs leading the charge at three of the 10 startups from Arakali’s selection that are working on the cutting edge of aerospace, robotics and cell therapies. Consider, for instance, Jogin Desai, founder & CEO of Eyestem, which is working with a team of scientists on scalable cell replacement therapies in ophthalmology. Eyestem’s big breakthrough over the past 12 months, reckons Deasi, is to have garnered the data required for a regulatory filing, which will pave the path towards clinical trials. “My hope is that once we get safety and efficacy out of this particular product, which will take about 12 to 15 months from the time we start, we should be able to get provisional commercial approval,” says Desai. For more on how Eyestem hopes to launch its first commercial product by late-2025, turn to ‘A Vison For The Future’.
Deeptech is a high-risk, high-return gambit, involving time and sustained financial backing; the good news is that, as Vishesh Rajaram, partner at Speciale Invest, puts it: “More and more VCs are beginning to accept and realise that you could build deep science and tech from India.” Don’t miss Arakali’s snapshots of the VCs that are bullish on deeptech.
Don’t also miss Salil Panchal’s deep dive into the San Franciso-headquartered 10-year-old Celesta Capital which, after the US and Israel, has spread into China, Japan and India. The India portfolio comprises 15 of a little over 90 startups, which have absorbed close to $100 million in funding.
The potential in deeptech is highlighted by a recent blockbuster listing of a Celesta-portfolio company: ideaForge Tech, a manufacturer of drones, whose public issue was subscribed over 100 times, giving Celesta a dream partial-exit. ideaForge may have shed a third of its value since listing 94 percent above its issue price, but that’s the nature of the business—demand may fluctuate but the tech that goes into its drones is less likely to sway.
Editor, Forbes India
Twitter ID: @Brianc_Ed