grown from $44 million to $73 million3 within the
Editorial Team: Please tell us more about how the
Indian government is investing in AI startups?
Arvind Gupta: In the last few years, the Indian
government has supported AI-focused funds and
also supported a broader ecosystem of early stage
venture capital through a Startup Fund of Funds,
which has a total worth of $1.5 billion. The Startup
Fund of Funds only invests in funds and not directly in startups. The objective of this fund is to
bring in a rate of return and stimulate job creation.
We expect this investment to create a market of
7. 5 billion dollars. As a rule of thumb, around 8 to
10 percent of the Startup Fund of Funds is invested
in data and AI-related startups. Each fund within
the Startup Fund of Funds has its own investment
strategy with part of their portfolio that may be
in AI. The Small Industries Development Bank of
India manages the fund for the government. Venture capital cycles are 6 to 7 years long. We believe
that we are successful because we are becoming an
anchor investor with funds that are now raising
their own money.
Let me provide here some examples of the startups
that have benefited from this scheme. All these companies are solving very specific problems in India.
Note that all the names given here are examples illustrating the impact of the Funds of Funds schemes;
we are not endorsing these companies here.
In the space of healthcare, we have MFine, that
connects individuals to the best doctor for them
using an AI-powered healthcare platform. Sigtuple
is creating computer-vision–based diagnostics for
blood diseases. Niramai is a sensitive thermography
solution capable of detecting early malignant cases
of breast cancer. These companies have a very significant reach and impact in the context of India
in healthcare. There are many other examples that
could be provided in other sectors, such as education and financial inclusion (for example, Active.
ai, Embibe, Niramai, Skymet, AskArvi, Ten3T).
Other funds supported by the Indian government
include the Electronic Development Fund, which
has a total worth of $1 billion4 and contains a sector
focus for startups. There are other funds like Stellaris
that have the backing of the Indian government, but
they have a diverse portfolio (with AI constituting
about 8 percent of their total portfolio). A few funds
specialize in AI such as Pi Ventures.
The startup funding schemes I mentioned above
have given startups new sources of capital. The National Strategy for AI5 that National Institution for
Transforming India Aayog, a government policy think
tank, has published in June 2018 also mentions the
creation of AI hubs for research and development in
AI. These would function as one-stop-shops where
startups would find all the support they need, including assistance in acquiring funding.
Editorial Team: Can you describe some of the Indian government’s initiatives in healthcare and AI?
Arvind Gupta: In the space of health, one of our
key initiatives is the recent rolling out of the world’s
biggest medical insurance policy, targeting the poorer,
lower-middle class, consisting of up to half of the
nation’s population. If a citizen falls under a certain
income threshold and is not getting covered through
their employer, he or she is eligible for this policy.
This program is called the Ayushmaan Bharat6 and
provides $8000 of medical insurance per family per
By way of an open-architecture the National
Health Stack has been proposed, 7 health records for
insured patients will come to a central repository
in specific formats with the right data governance
policies that gives the patient full control on her or
his data. As an individual, even if you don’t want to
be enrolled in the health insurance policy you can
make your data available in the cloud to use these
This is huge! Just imagine the data of 100 million
families (about 500 million people) in a single managed repository that can fuel data-driven and AI applications. This data are very rich and diverse, with
different diagnoses, health parameters, treatments,
India is also using AI in fostering flow-based credit,
specifically in the recently launched initiative9
providing loans up to $150,000 to a micro, small, or
medium enterprise within 59 minutes of their application, based on the financial data of that enterprise.
Data and technology are being leveraged to speed up
processes with the objective of accelerating the pace
of India’s development.
Editorial Team: What other stacks are there?
Arvind Gupta: One that is proposed is agriculture —
we call it the agri-stack or the village-stack. This deals
with questions like what are the elements or resources
required in a village for agriculture? In agriculture,