India GameChanger recorded an inspiring conversation with Munish Bhatia, a Co-founder at India Accelerator. India Accelerator is a seed-stage accelerator program that helps startups grow from good to great through a structured program that includes mentoring and networking.
Some of the topics that Munish covered:
  • Small city mindset VS big city mindset
  • The leap of faith necessary to leave a corporate job
  • Building and growing India Accelerator
  • How India Accelerator sources startup deal flow
  • The evolution of India’s tech startup ecosystem
  • Creating a dynamic environment for startup founders to share ideas
  • India Accelerator’s big opportunity
Some other titles we considered for this episode:
  1. Making a Lot of Difference
  2. Making a Difference While Scaling Up Faster
  3. Giving Startups Everything They Need That They Don’t Already Have
This episode was produced by Stephanie Ng.

Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):

Michael Waitze 0:04
Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to India GameChanger. Today we are joined by Munish Bhatia, a Co-founder at India Accelerator in the US. I cannot thank you enough for doing this today. How are you? By the way?

Munish Bhatia 0:16
I’m good, Michael. And thank you so much for having me here and talk about what we are doing doing or looking forward to our conversation.

Michael Waitze 0:22
It is my complete pleasure. And before we get to that conversation, can we get a little bit of your background for some context

Munish Bhatia 0:28
Sure, would love to talk about that I come from a small city called Fatehabad from Haryana. It’s a type three city gentle piano around 200 kilometres from Delhi, the capital of India, I did my education there and then move to a big city in Gurgaon, which is what we call as NCR. Now I did my graduation there, and Bachelors of Engineering in electronics and instrumentation. And since then, you know, I’ve been living here in Google, almost, you know, 2022 years have passed, do not feel like I am from whatever anymore. I feel like I’m from Google. I’ve spent more time in this city than the city I was born in.

Michael Waitze 1:05
Interesting. What do you feel? What do you feel you you bring with you when you come from a small town or a small city in India into a big city? And the reason why I’m asking is because I want our listeners outside of the region to understand just the scope and the size of a big city in India, and also in reverse just the scope and how small some of these small towns can be.

Munish Bhatia 1:25
Sure. So the city that I live in now Google, which is a big city, it’s just close to capital of India, Delhi. So it has all the facilities that you need education, hospitals, and of course, commendation in mere size of it, I think we are like, second it hub after Bangalore here. Okay, so don’t have professional walk out of here. And we have everything I would say. But in small city, it’s not like that, where I was born, they were hardly like, you know, eight to 10 schools, three colleges overall, you know, less than five, like I would say, half a million and below the population for over a region, including that city. So they were resources were less but you know, very rarely like there because it gives you a humble beginning in terms of you know, how to manage your money, how to, you know, talk to people and create relationships, because it’s small city, that’s what works a lot. You know, people are not that money minded. They would like to, you know, have a conversation just because they want to speak to you rather than if they have some work with you. So I think that kind of mindset comes from small city, and that does help a lot while you go to big city. And you know, you want to create a name for yourself. And that’s what I learned in my job as well. I started way back in 2005. After I did my graduation, it was like, first job for me, I got really excited. It was an MNC AON Hewitt, I was a lot of mainframe analysts, it’s a full tech job. For me. First one, I was excited, my parents were excited, I got a job. But I was bringing what you know, I got from my humble beginnings that, you know, I could connect with people a lot more than anything else. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do in the job, but I was sure that you’re not going to make a lot of friends. So that was my focus at that time.

Michael Waitze 3:01
This this small upbringing, the small city, the small town upbringing informed the way you look at the opportunity for investment in India at scale. Does that make sense?

Munish Bhatia 3:11
Absolutely, absolutely. And in fact, if I talk about, you know, what I do at India Accelerator, of course, Co-founder is just a designation, but I work very closely with startups, you know, I meet almost 30 100 startups a year. And out of that, almost 60% of them comes from tier two and beyond. And the problems are lot different in type two and type three cities, the the mindset of the founders are a lot different, they are looking for solving some real problems. And they may not know the jargons as such, but they are very well, you know, from their skills point of view, they know how to manage their money well. So I think that gives me that perspective, because I understood to explore them while I was growing up. So I can give them some leeway in terms of you know, how I select those startups while I’m part of the Accelerator. And that does add a lot of value. Because I’ve seen those startups growing very well. One of the qualities that we look at founders, while they raise money from us is that they should be able to manage their money well, as well. And of course, you know, utilise it for what they have taken it for. And that kind of honesty and understanding of managing money, you know, kinds of help.

Michael Waitze 4:12
I don’t know what the stats are. And it’s not a quiz. Right. But I’m just curious, I wonder what the percentages of people in India that live outside of the big metropolitan areas? Do you know what I mean? And the reason why I’m asking is because does it then inform the ideas that come to your company, the India Accelerator, because those are the bigger problems to solve, if that makes sense? Absolutely. I think if in sheer number of people in terms of percentages, almost 75 and above, I would say, and that would mean like 800 million people is like almost 1.3 billion people now. So out of that 800 to 900 million days entire two and ethnicities the problems are lot different, definitely. And that’s where the masses you know, we differentiate in terms of terminology with them, we call India which is like a metropolitan driven and then we call it Bharath with just like type two and type three cities beyond and the problems are different, the way you acquire customers becomes lot different. And the strategies that we asked founders to implement also change in terms of the numbers that you require to acquire the your CAC, those are totally different in those cities. So that’s where we want to make a difference and acquire a lot more customers for these founders so that they can test your products initially, for sure. At the same time scale up faster.

Yeah, what was the impetus for you leaving a corporate job? And I want to get back to this, right? Because you said you were super happy when you first got your job. But I think an instance like yours are very similar to mine. You know, when you get your first job, it’s not just you that’s happy. It’s your entire family. And maybe in a way your extended family. They’re like, okay, that’s one of us, that’s going to be fine kind of thing. We don’t have to worry about him anymore. And he can help us out. I know what that’s like. But then when you decide to leave, and start up something brand new, and again, you when you did it, you weren’t 25. I don’t know how old you were, but doesn’t matter in a way. But did your family just think, Oh, come on, what are you doing? Do you really mean?

Munish Bhatia 5:58
Yeah, absolutely. So I come from a service background, you know, my parents have always been job. And when I got a job, they were like, okay, you know, he’s there, he’s kind of settled. So I worked almost for 15 years in my corporate jobs, a couple of MNC I travelled across the globe worked in different regions, you know, did quite well, I changed my stream from mainframes to project management, lean consulting, six sigma. So I became the numbers guy, and I was working with, you know, finest minds there, and, you know, trying to help them solve their problems in terms of, you know, reducing the cost for the operations or cost of the infrastructure. So I learned a lot in my corporate life, for sure. And I was quite happy because I was, you know, travelling, there was fun. Yeah, it was fun. I was solving the problems that was bringing industrial 4.0, I was working with one of the large MNC insurance sizes Corporation, which then merged with HPE HP Enterprise, right? Okay, so I’m a large corporate of almost $22 billion. And there was a lot to learn, but then I realised that, you know, I was still working for someone else. And probably I was solving someone else’s problem, and maybe not contributing a lot more to the real India problem as such, and at the same time, the startup ecosystem in India was growing really well, I was monitoring it for three, four years, especially after the current government came in in 2014. They were very bullish on startup ecosystem. So you know, I would say rational reader, I, you know, read a lot in terms of blogs, news, you know, kind of stocks that are going in, so I was seeing how the trend is going. And then I realised that I’ve already done this for 15 years now, I probably should do something, which is for next 2030 years, probably, you know, which is the future of India, probably. And that’s why I got excited. And of course, to your point, you know, the family was very, not very sure you know why I’m doing that. Because I was in a high paying job, and you know, evil devil, and I have a kid also. So it was almost like, I was 35, I would say that time and 15 years of you know, life like this, you kind of become stable and probably in comfort zone. But that’s where I thought, you know, I can make a lot more difference. If I jump into the startup ecosystem. And I got this opportunity, I thought I will take it I discussed with my parents, of course, my wife was very supportive. But my father and my parents, they were not sure you know, how this will turn up. They were like, Why do you want to do this? And initially, they said, you know, you should not do it. But of course, you know, gradually, they started supporting it, and they could see I’m progressing. And it was helping a lot of startup. But it was difficult initially, to your point. You know, if you come from that background, people tend to say, why don’t you stick to something safe rather than take a risk, but that’s where I wanted to be different.

Michael Waitze 8:23
When you stepped back then, you know, looking at all the stuff you’ve been reading all of the information you’ve been gathering, whether it’s blogs, or newspapers or radio or television and thinking about what the opportunity was in the startup space in India, you said it already, right? Tier two tier three cities, 800 million people, the whole country, 1.2 billion people, it’s just a massive opportunity. Absolutely. But what did that opportunity look like to you? Right? And then how does it manifest itself inside of the India accelerator? If you understand what I mean? Alright, because there’s this massive thing to do, you can’t do everything. So you see this whole thing? And then you say, we want to do this? How does that work?

Munish Bhatia 8:58
Right. So I think initially, we were working with some startups to build them tech products. And we realised that it’s not just tech that they need help with, because we come from tech background, so we understood, you know, that is something that we can help them but there were aspects like you know, BD getting disconnected to cooperate or SMEs or even funding to them, most of things were alien to them. These founders were just out of grad tuition, they know how to build a product, but other services or how to scale up, they were not sure of what I have done in my previous organisation was that I was transforming the clients right, either by automation or pipe voting tools. So I was good in that. So I realised that I can add value there and coming up with extra to make sense because then I’m giving them everything they need, other than what they already have, basically. So I need to pick up small use cases for especially for startups who are just starting and who need probably, you know, start off with a space to sit probably some digital marketing, probably small seed funds so that at least they can survive for six to one year. Because at that stage, that’s become very critical. If you’re not surviving. You can’t even Think of scaling up, right? So that hand holding becomes very critical. And I realise, let me pick up five to six startups, then you’re working with 100 of them and try to make a difference there. So we started very slow, we just used to do 12 startups a year, I’m talking about 2017, right. And we realise that we have to build an ecosystem around this of all these services, as well as probably give them what they want. And we slowly build that. So first three years of journey. 2017 2019 was more to build our organisation, you know, the co working centres, we build, the partners that we on, boarded the corporates, we all bought it, of course, started working with governments as well to see what kind of policies can be implemented to startups, at the same time, get them access to funds, and we were quite happy with the progress because we were domain agnostic initially, but then we realise that the same ecosystem, we can create it for some specific domains as well. Go ahead. And it was like, so huge opportunity that we said, okay, you know, let’s pick agritech, as first use case, and to your point that 800 million people in try to tie three cities agritech is such a huge impact there. Yeah. Because a lot of them come from agricultural background. And if we can bring technology to them, and you know, help them improve their life, probably income, that would be great. And that’s where we pick agri tech and specifically set up that vertical within India Accelerator, where we brought in some high tech startups and started there helping them. So that was,

Michael Waitze 11:22
how do you get these companies? Like you say, we picked up this, we picked up this startup, we picked up that one? I’m sure it’s not that easy. Right after? So how do you do that? How do you find them? How do you vet them? What do you care about the most when you’re looking at it.

Munish Bhatia 11:36
So it’s a long process in terms of you know, we call for application, we do a lot of marketing online, of course, a lot of startups reach out to us organically as well, now that they know that we provide this kind of support. And we also have to look for the right use cases, okay. So once they apply to us, or we reach out to them, there is a four step process to filter them level one to level four, we call it, the team meet them to understand their use case, then I meet them to probably go into detail in terms of what they need help with or what they have, what stage they have reached, basically. And then we identify key four or five areas where they need help and how we can bring that help to them. And what we essentially look is that founders should be mentor able, in this case that it should be ready to change, the use case should be good enough. Or maybe I would say the market should be large that we can make a difference. At the same time, what is the competition and how the industry is going? Right. So that’s where our expertise coming in. We talk to a lot of VCs, we brought a lot of founders as well. So there is some bit of understanding how the industry is shaping. And based on that we select some of these startups we don’t select all of them are successful, in terms of selection is just two to 3% of the applications that we received. Got it, but we focus a lot on them once they’re selected, and you’re gonna help them with all the help they require.

Michael Waitze 12:49
So one of the things that we read a lot, I like to break these myths, right, because I’ve been involved in the startup space for a long time. I’m really curious about your opinion on this, one of the myths we read is that, you know, 90 something percent of startups fail, and I would make the contention that 98% of the ones that fail never should have been funded. So that’s right, you know what I mean? So honey, yum. And I think that the best investors, you notice, I didn’t say venture capitalists, but the best investors, including the best VCs don’t invest actually, in a tonne of companies that invest in like seven or 12, or whatever it is, because they’re saying the other we even if we have all this capital, we don’t want to waste it on things that we’re just not sure about. Right? Right. Is that fair? Like? Do you think you guys have a better way of doing this? So you’re not just funding stuff just to fund it, but being very specific about what you care about?

Munish Bhatia 13:36
Absolutely. And that’s where we are different from VCs? Michael, I would say we have the opportunity to work with a lot of startups. So we did start with 10 to 12 startup a year. But now we are last year, we held more than 50 startups and this we are doing this year we are doing 100 startups. Okay. So that’s the advantage that the Accelerator have, we don’t judge them just in terms of where they are right now. We see the potential where they can be and what help we can provide. So we see has a mandate of you know, probably some funds should go at which stage. But for us, that is not the case. If you like the use case, and we like the founders, and we know that they can build a good company, we will back them, right? We may not essentially put cash upfront, but we will bring them on board as part of the programme. We see how they are progressing in that four months of programmes that we have. And we will give them everything that is required. But if they are actually doing a tremendous job in execution, then we put money as well. Right? There are some use cases we are we have found them upfront also, right. We know this is a good use case. And they require money to scale up, let’s put checks database. So that ecosystem that we have created in an extra day is a lot different than Vc and that’s why, you know, to your point, you mentioned 90% of the sort of failed for us, the startup that we have selected. 92% of the startups are still surviving after three years, right? So that’s the beauty of it. And it’s totally different than how the sort of ecosystem work and that’s where Accelerator can add a lot more valued. And people appreciate that I think

Michael Waitze 15:02
you’re 100%. Right? Do you feel like the longer you do this, the more you do this, and maybe it’s already started, that you and the partners, and even actually, some of the companies that you’re accelerating are just sitting around brainstorming and thinking, we need to find a team that does X, like, if you look at Value Chain Innovation, you’re like, we’re missing this piece. And then you go out and look for it, or even just you don’t I mean, like, you’re not advertising for it, like, Okay, those are the those are the gals we’ve been looking for need to have them in here kind of thing. Do you do that as well?

Munish Bhatia 15:30
Absolutely, absolutely. That happens a lot. In fact, you know, we work with a lot of campuses where we provide can intrapreneurship programme, a lot of founders, we find room there and probably they are actually working on the use cases with they should not be working on the first place. But they are good founders, you know. And that’s where we come in, we because we also work with a lot of corporates and corporates have some use cases where they are not sure how to solve them, right. So we built them use cases to these founders who are, you know, good talent, guys. And we provide them all the support. And we bring that model into a venture studio model that we have. So these ideas are you have a ready made client. And the founders, of course, can execute it. And we provide a support system. So it’s a it’s a beautiful model. And we are now actively doing a lot more than what you’re doing earlier.

Michael Waitze 16:13
Do you find that sometimes sometimes, right, you’ll meet founders, let’s say you go to I don’t know, some really great school in India, and you’re like, This is a great team. But again, because they’re young, right, and I find this to them a lot older than you are, but the idea is that, like, they’re super energetic about this thing that they love, but it’s not big enough, right? Because it’s only something that’s affected them. And because you’re experienced and your team’s experienced, you have a much more well developed 360 degree view, and you’re like, actually, that’s really great. But if you worked on this, I’m guessing some big percentage, just go, Okay, we’ll do that. But you find sometimes you’ve got to convince people like, no, no, we’re really committed to this thing. And you can change their mind.

Munish Bhatia 16:50
Absolutely. So they are founders who are, you know, open for mentorship, and they understand the value that we are creating, because we are coming from that experience. And they would love to, you know, pivot and, and we do that all the time, even in the programme, sometimes, you know, things are not working, and we tell them, Okay, you know, why don’t you do this, or maybe add this kind of feature, this could be a little bit of pilot pivot from what you wanted to do. But this could make sense. And they already, but there are also founders who are like, you know, I want to do this, because this is what I thought, that’s what the founders mentorship comes into change. Because, you know, the industry will never remain the same in another three to 10 years timeframe. And if you want to build a big organisation, you have to change your time also. And that’s where these insights, you know, kind of help them. So it’s a mix of both. But I would say, it’s mostly the founders are excited to change, because they understand, but at the same time, if we are not able to coach them, we tell them very clearly, you know, cause this will not work for you. And if you want to waste your time, please go ahead. But we want to make sure that you will waste your less time, you know, rather than even working for two years, and then decide, oh, this was not worth it.

Michael Waitze 17:58
Right. Do you how do you work with the government? I find this really interesting, because one of the first things you said at the beginning was we looked at what the government policy was back in 2014. So what does the government do? Or what did they do back then that changed? And how are they evolving over time as well to help support this startup ecosystem?

Munish Bhatia 18:15
So I think in initially, the policies were very nascent, they were also trying to see what works, what doesn’t work, the ecosystem has not evolved that much. You know, even the money that was coming was mostly from foreign VCs, Indian ecosystem, or Indian money was not much there. Okay, the corporates were reluctant to that. So the government had to push a lot of schemes where they started, you know, providing probably a seed fund, or your different facilities for incubators that have been set up in colleges, okay, so that kind of given a lot of ideas, or even some money for these founders, who started generating ideas started working on their use cases earlier, that kind of support was not there. So I would, you know, say kudos to the government that they have bring these policies. For us how that helps is that we understand what kind of policies are there because a lot of founders do not know what policies are there and how they can get the benefit of it. So we play that part where we tell them okay, you know, you’re calling for him for this grant, why don’t you apply for it or what do you if you do this, you will qualify for this. In fact, we are self to our journey, because now we have got access to a couple of grants ourselves, we work very closely with government and they have given us those grants to be given to these startups, right. One is the startup India Seed Fund, that we have access to at the same time, we have Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology submitted scheme, where we co invest with government. So we are we put money the government is also putting additional 40 lakhs if they want to. So that’s the access that we have got and there are so many policies, even at the state level and the centre level, but sort of do not know how to utilise it. So that education part comes in from our side. We give them a list where they qualify and how to go To the process, what is required in terms of the metrics that you need to measure for that? And probably how to engage?

Michael Waitze 20:05
Is it exciting because I can hear excitement in your voice actually, is it exciting for you to watch not just the mentoring that you’re doing and the startups that you’re helping but to see if you bring them into a building with other startups in their the interaction between the other startups that maybe you’re not talking to, and watching them help each other out as well? Absolutely.

Munish Bhatia 20:24
So when I, when we started, we thought, you know, how the programme should be, it should be at a place or it should be virtual, we decided that we should bring these founders at one place, and you know, let them interact with each other. And that’s where we started our co working centres also. So that’s where the cohort initially started running. But of course, in COVID, we kind of pivoted, and we started virtual programmes as well. But the access to the founders is there that they can come and work out of our locations. What happens here is that, of course, there are founders who are part of the programme, but there are a lot of partners, like, you know, there are digital marketing, the legal, there’s accounting, so they can just take the benefit of that, at the same time. Because these founders are, you know, at a similar stage, they are facing the same kind of problem, they talk to each other, and they understand, okay, this is how you fix it, maybe I let me try that as well. So that magic does happen while they are sitting. And in fact, we also learn a lot from them. So it’s not the only one way, right. These are like founders who, you know, just out of college is very enthusiastic, they have a lot of energy to execute. And we see okay, you know, they have they have a little bit of different mindset in terms of execution as well. Can we bring that to other sorts of right? But what is working for one startup, we can use those best practices for others or the falls. But isn’t that

Michael Waitze 21:37
one of the best parts about this is that, you know, it’s not like you’re a startup God in one way, it’s just like, you’re a startup accelerator. So you’re sitting there having a conversation, you’re trying to help somebody do something, and then maybe they say something new. And you’re like, actually, maybe that’s right, I need to put that tool in my toolkit from now on, then you share that with everybody else, as well as that’s fun. Absolutely.

Munish Bhatia 21:55
We are not saying we know everything, we are just the enabler for them. Right. Right. And we also learning because the ecosystem is evolving so fast that, you know, we also have to learn ourselves, we can’t say that we are the gods. So we are not frankly speaking. Yeah, but and we give them what they are missing, basically, you know, they are good at few things. But few things are missing a property, you know, in each of the startup, and we become that partner who bring those things to them.

Michael Waitze 22:19
So now that COVID is over, do you find yourself because you said before during your corporate career, you travel all over the world, right? And talk to people and help people solve problems and, you know, do all this stuff. And then there was COVID. And I mean, and then you started the accelerator, then there was COVID, you did some virtual programmes, but now that you can travel again, do you see yourself just as a team, we believe the startups for a second, but as a team just like travelling all over the world, again, to make sure that those relationships in the venture capital space in the angel investor space in the corporate space, are either maintained or strengthened to benefit what you’re doing at home and also to take some knowledge from overseas back into India.

Munish Bhatia 22:56
Absolutely. So now the programme have gone hybrid, our team is also giving access to the co working centres, they can work out of here, or we do virtual zoom calls, and you know, work with them. We also travel a lot to the point, you know, create partners and you know, relationship with PCs, because the follow on fundings has to come from them. We have also started doing now is that, you know, recently we received the Best Accelerator award from startup India, from the centre government. Thank you so much. And what happened was that open up doors for us to go to other countries, you know, they they are getting a lot of requests from Middle East and Africa as well. Countries feel that they are a little behind India from a storage system point of view. And can there be an entity who can come and you know, bring those best practices them? Yeah, and probably help create that ecosystem. So now we are travelling to those countries, and you’re talking to governments, how we can help them. In fact, we have recently launched similar Accelerator in Lanka. So Sri Lanka, we have launched alloga accelerator, and we are about to go in Dubai to launch our Dubai Accelerator as well. So these couple of discussion has happened after COVID. And after we won the award as well. And now we definitely want to help more than what we are doing in India. I want

Michael Waitze 24:05
to ask about Africa, because in a way, which is the right way to say this, there are some equivalencies to India, right? Some populations are about the same. Maybe Africa is a little bit bigger. Africa is not one country, 51 countries in Africa, the median age in Africa, in some countries is 19 or 2021 years old, so still young, but again, similar to the way you said you were brought up the second and third tier cities right outside of some of the major cities in Africa are just ripe for technological advancement. And building an accelerator there, and then helping those teams bring best practices from all the stuff you’ve learned in India into Africa could just be transformational. No, absolutely.

Munish Bhatia 24:42
Absolutely. And we have getting so much opportunities there that of course, the talent is there. And the government is also very excited. Yeah, it’s just that the ecosystem takes time to be created. It’s not just that you go there and you know, you start working, you have to build each of those elements that we have done. So the idea is can we do that in a long term and probably you know, take For 12 to 18 months to set up those bases there, so that the startup starts spending out of it themselves. Right. So that’s the focus for next two years, I would say, you know, built Exeter’s across globe, Africa, and Middle East is definitely on the map for us. And they will be awesome opportunities for us to, you know, learn from those regions as well.

Michael Waitze 25:20
Sure, sure. I mean, the stuff that’s happening in Africa, the Middle East is different, right? Because depending on where you are in Dubai, in particular, it’s a very wealthy country, right? It’s a super well organised country, the GCC. So the UAE is one thing, the GCC is another thing, but it’s a very interesting place to invest. And again, the population density isn’t the same as it is in places in India and Sri Lanka and in Africa. So you’re just solving different problems, right, the logistics problems are different, but there are things you can learn there and then there are things you can learn in Africa to bring back to India. So this is why I always ask like, are you building in India for India? Are you building in India for India and the rest of the world? Are you going to the rest of the world to bring back like how do all these things get organised in your brain?

Munish Bhatia 25:58
Right? So I think the priority is still India, I would say to 80% of our time and energy focus on it. In fact, we have gone deeper into it. Now, if I talk about AI to and beyond cities, we are launching a specific Accelerator programme, which we call as politics for types of anti Threepio. Charity. Yeah, and we’re just starting that along with a think tank called CI EU, who’s bringing lot of, you know, access to the policymakers and government policies, as well. So our focus is also that, but at the same time, we have seen there is a need for a entity like us to, you know, take these knowledge bases to the areas like UAE, GCC as well as Africa, because our interaction has, you know, shown us that they are very wealthy countries, but the ecosystem doesn’t exist. So, right now, a lot of funds are setting up based in Dubai, there’s lots of money, but there is hardly any entity who’s working with the startup on the ground level and giving them the support system that is required. They’re kind of on their own. Yeah, yeah, their own, if you want to raise money, you know, Dubai is the best place to do it. But if you want to support which should they go, right, Dubai has a great story around building infrastructure for, you know, co working or empty spaces for startups. So there are hardly any startup who are operating out, of course, there is no other support available. That’s why we are talking to these government, we have been talking to Dubai SME, right now to establish access to there. And you know, they are very helpful in terms of, you know, helping us set up the base there. And we will be creating that ecosystem for the startups who either need execution capability or they need mentorship, or they need access to, you know, India also. So a lot of the startups that we are seeing, they are actually set up by Indian expats there, and they are building products for not just GCC, but also for India, most of these tech products can be implemented. So we become the access point for them to come to India and you know, just market their product when it’s ready. So it’s both ways. Yeah.

Michael Waitze 27:51
Are you surprised that the what’s the right word, at the speed of the growth that India Accelerator has been able to experience just in the short time that you’ve been working on it? You know, because now you’re in Dubai and in Africa and travelling all over the place? Does this surprise you at all? Or were you just like, Yeah, we were a killer team. From the beginning, this was this had to happen,

Munish Bhatia 28:13
I would say that we are very surprised with we are doing vacuum speaking, we thought that we will create an impact for sure. But kind of impact, you know, where all we can do it even we never thought about it, we have actually grown last five years tremendously from in terms of the number of startups that we engage with, or the team that we have, we have a very low now. But we are still expanding. So Africa and everywhere we have not established yet. So we are setting up those teams. So to buy in Lanka is where we are now operationally working in next six to 12 months will be focus. We’re establishing businesses or you know, connections in Africa, which will take another six to eight months to set up basis there. But we are very bullish, because there is a need from the start or from the corporate cell. And we know we can help them

Michael Waitze 28:59
for sure. When you I’m sure. And I’d be shocked if I’m wrong about this. But I’m sure that on a regular basis, you’re chatting with your mom, your dad and your family. And I can see you’re smiling. I’m just curious, five years into this thing with all the growth in offices growing around the world, what are they thinking about your crazy decision to leave your corporate job to go into this?

Munish Bhatia 29:20
No, they are very happy and very proud for what we are doing. And I’m really glad that they have seen that. In fact, I am very glad that the jump that I took from corporate to solve because this was kind of working for me. Yeah, I get to meet lots of exciting founders. You know, it’s a great learning curve for me as well. You know, how my thought process was in the corporate and how it is right now. It’s a lot different. I’ve expanded myself not financially, but also not just financially but also in the way I operate. I can do loads of things at the same time, rather than, you know, multitasking has become a different level. Thanks to these founders, you know, what they have been achieving in the one startup I get to see it and it motivates me every day. You know, that’s why you know what that’s keeps me going. I come here, I want to meet a founder a day or two founders a day, just to get a sense, you know, what they’re working on and what they’re doing?

Michael Waitze 30:10
Isn’t this the best part really about what you do. And that is, there’s this amount of personal growth that most people your age, don’t want to have the opportunity to experience because they’ve remained in a stable place, which is perfectly fine, right? Everybody has makes their own choices. And not every choice is right for everybody. And it’s scary when you go out and start your own company. Right? It is scary. And there are a lot of doubters, because they care about you. They just want good things to happen to you. It’s not even a question about your skill level. It’s just like Manisha, you’re gonna be okay. We’re just worried about that. But once you tackle the okayness part of it, the personal growth, there’s no price for that. Is that fair?

Munish Bhatia 30:44
Absolutely. In fact, you know, that’s how the journey has been the first couple of years have been very tough, I would say, and the COVID hit, like, that’s scary. What do you do now, it was scary, because we were actually, you know, paying rent on something like a co working as well, for the founders, they were not coming to the place, right, because of the COVID. But then we pivoted right, we also started thinking what we can do best to help the startups. And that’s where the online programme started. And we thought the application would dry down, but it actually, you know, increased by four to five times, because now the startup will come in from all across the country who couldn’t travel, they would still want the access to the programme. And we were very surprised. And once we started launching those domains basic programme, the application flow was amazing. So initially, first two years, we used to do 200, or 300, sort of evaluation a year, now we are almost doing 1300 to 1400, I would say, Yeah, and this was bound to increase now that we are also launching our own fund, or micro VC Fund, which is almost here under 50 CR, which is like close to $50 million. Now they know that not just the extra bit in terms of mentorship and access, they will get they will also get a lot more money than what we will. So now applications are, you know, flowing to

Michael Waitze 31:58
raising your own money and raising your own fund brings the capital raising closer to the experience of the founders. And that gives you as a team more leverage to say we’re gonna do this thing, even if nobody else believes in it, we’re so closer we know this thing is gonna work or we’re so confident we can put our own money into it.

Munish Bhatia 32:13
Absolutely. And that was the whole idea. Because while we were helping to recruit relaxation programme, and we were definitely giving them seed fund ourselves, but after first or second round, we have to you get enough money from the VCs, because that’s what they need for scaling up. And a lot of VCs were coming to us to, you know, asking for our pipeline, because these were curated startups, who have actually, you know, survived all those areas, and we were helping them. So they wanted to invest. So the idea was, if the VCs are so excited about our startup, why don’t we prepare? Right? That was a logical thing for us to do and launch our own fund. And we were quite excited that a lot of people wanted to help us do that as well. And we have got our saviour table for cat to fund. And we now we are in process to

Michael Waitze 32:59
the strength to strength look, I’m gonna let you go. This was really fabulous. Munish Bhatia, Co-founder of India Accelerator you have to come back and more importantly, I would love to get some of your great portfolio companies onto the show as well. We can talk about that later. But this was awesome. Thank you so much for doing this.

Munish Bhatia 33:15
Thanks a lot, Michael. Really, really nice talking to you. Looking forward to meet you again.


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