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Ratan Tata Will Resume Investing in Startups After 5-Month Hiatus

Tata, who has been a keen observer of the Indian startup ecosystem, calls it a new ‘page’ in his life.

Published
Business
2 min read
Ratan Tata (Photo: Reuters)

Ratan Tata, who will resume interacting with entrepreneurs and investing in startups starting 23 February, batted for an open market in India but said regulators should watch out for unfair competition in the market.

“There is traditionally this feeling, protect me but let it be a level-playing field. This is the dictum of yesterday,” the Tata Sons’ interim chairman said during an event organised by venture capital firm Kalaari Capital in Bengaluru on Tuesday.

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The regulators need to focus on the areas where there is unfair competition which is done to kill newer startups, and ensure that there is enough latitude and level-playing field so that everyone has their chance. I can only say that one should look for a more open environment and shouldn’t be concerned about blocking; sometimes it is worthwhile and other times it is just a stifling competition.
Ratan Tata, Interim Chairman, Tata Sons 

In December last year, the two poster boys of India’s startup industry, Bhavish Aggarwal, co-founder of ride hailing service Ola and Sachin Bansal, co-founder of India’s largest e-commerce company Flipkart, had hit out against so-called “capital dumping” by foreign rivals in India and had urged the government to create a ‘level- playing field’ for homegrown startups.

Making a Comeback

Tata, who has been a keen observer of the Indian startup ecosystem, calls it a new ‘page’ in his life.

“When I retired in 2012, I hit upon investing and interacting with startups. I left the big business, large competitive challenges behind and became excited with what I saw and what I experienced in the startup community. I starting giving much more of my time, attention to this because it stimulated me,” he recalled.

Tata backed about 36 startups in 2016, including Teabox, Nestaway, Lenskart, among others, according to VCCEdge, the financial research platform of The VCCircle Network. However, things changed after a long-drawn boardroom battle broke out in October between him and ousted chairman of Tata Sons, Cyrus Mistry.

He will resume working with startups from 23 February after handing over the reins of Tata Sons to N Chandrasekaran, Tata said. Chandrasekaran, managing director and chief executive of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), will take over as the Tata Sons chairman on 21 February.

The last five months have put me back forcibly to the older mould. And, I really long to be back in the startup community with the vigour, innovation, challenges and as of February 23, I am back.
Ratan Tata, Interim Chairman, Tata Sons 
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Fears of US Visa Overhaul

Speaking about the H-1B reform Bill, recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, Tata said Indian entrepreneurs and businesses can reinvent themselves to meet challenges thrown up by the Trump administration.

I think the challenges for the last several months for me personally and also for startup community have been challenging. Mr Trump has given new challenges and I am quite sure we can reinvent ourselves to meet those challenges, and look back at having made a difference.
Ratan Tata, Interim Chairman, Tata Sons 

Among other things, the new legislation calls for more than doubling the minimum salary of H-1B visa holders to $130,000, making it difficult for firms to replace American employees with foreign workers, including from India.

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