CHENNAI: For Ratan Tata, who has straddled the shores of Indian economy like a Colossus for over two decades, new and disruptive technology start-ups are the future, if one goes by the invesments he made after handing over the reins of Tata Group in 2012.
Speaking to the media in Chennai on Wednesday, he said that among 10 companies he has invested in recently, the majority are in the e-commerce space.
“India has a large and dispersed population and the normal brick and mortar retail structure doesn’t get to all these. e-commerce, however, has that reach and it reaches people in a manner that was not possible 15 years ago without IT,” he explained his choices.
“I just think that it (e-commerce) is something that empowers and enables the population to have access to goods and services that they didn’t have before. There is a lot of potential there which is just starting to get tapped,” he said.
Tata gave further insights into his thinking. “I see the future in (these) young managers and start-ups. This is what I saw in the US in 1970s and 80s – the disruptive nature and ability to think out of the box is what has changed the US from a smokestack economy to one powered by innovative companies. I saw this as an opportunity to encourage and support start-ups in the new space. In my view this is going to change the face of merchandising and marketing.”
However, Tata did express some concerns in the valuations that these new companies seem to be getting on the market — not that they were over-valued but that the valuations would peak or plateau too early. “I have some concerns that it shouldn’t plateau or peak very fast, because the business has not reached its full potential yet,” he said.
“Valuations are high because of what new investors are putting into them.”
Tata also expressed his desire to invest in anything that has the potential to serve the common man — and hence his focus on enterprises that are looking into health, internet access, connectivity etc. “Anything that looks like it has a bearing on changing India, I am interested in supporting,” he said.
“The creative ones are usually the ones that have the greatest problem in getting support because no one has done that before.”
Tata has recently embarked on an investment spree in technology start-ups, 10 at last count, including SnapDeal, Ola and Coimbatore-based electric vehicle company Ampere.