Tata Sons interim chairman Ratan Tata has said he would go back to investing in startups this month after handing over the reins of the Tata group to N Chandrasekaran, managing director and chief executive of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), who will formally take over on 23 February.
After retiring as the head of Tata Sons in 2012, Tata emerged as one of the most active angel investors in the Indian startup ecosystem and has so far backed around 40 startups.
In October last year, the internal turmoil at the Tata group saw him returning to the business house as its interim chairman after his successor Cyrus Mistry was ousted.
"The last five months have put me forcibly in the older world. I long to be back in the startup community with a vigour. As of 23 February I'm back," The Economic Times quoted Tata as saying at an event organised by venture capital firm Kalaari Capital. Tata is an advisor to VC firms Kalaari, IDG Ventures India and Jungle Ventures and is currently setting up a venture fund in partnership with University of California.
Tata has invested in a wide range of companies such as Snapdeal, Paytm, Ola, Urban Ladder, Bluestone and more. His cheque size is known to be in the range of Rs 10 lakh to Rs 10 crore. Tata makes his investments with the help of a small team under RNT Associates, a Mumbai-based firm.
"When I retired in 2012, I hit upon investing and interacting with startups as a new phase. I left the big business behind. I became excited by the innovation, passion. It stimulated me," Tata said.
To a question on charges of capital dumping and call for protectionism by some Indian Internet companies, Tata said India should remain an open market but with more regulatory intervention in order to ensure unfair competition is kept in check, a report in Business Standard stated.
E-commerce marketplace Flipkart and cab aggregator Ola have accused their respective global rivals Amazon and Uber of capital dumping and sought government intervention to create a level playing field. Vani Kola, co-founder of Kalaari Capital, which is also an investor in e-commerce firm Snapdeal, last week came out in support of protectionist measures against foreign-origin firms.
"Traditionally there is this feeling that liberalise for me but not for others. Protect me, but let it be a level-playing field for everyone else.
This is the dictum of yesterday," said Tata. "I think unfair competition done by some corporations needs to be controlled but the Internet has opened a highway for commerce which is being used by this startup community and is also being used by traditional companies when it suits them," Tata said.