David Shamah, The Times of Israel | Mar, 6 2016
This article was first published by The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.
Aditya Birla, India’s third-largest conglomerate, is a name not well-known in Israel – certainly not as well-known as Tata Group and Infosys. But Aditya Birla is likely to become a household name, at least in the Israeli startup space, following the company’s announcement that it is on the lookout for Israeli firms to invest in.
The company dispatched its number two man – Dev Bhattacharya, Group Executive President, Corporate Strategy and Business Development – to review as many as 500 Israeli startups in a wide variety of technology areas. The best ones in their fields will be invited to go to India, all expenses paid, to show off their technology to the conglomerate’s member companies and subsidiaries and apply for funding to continue developing their ideas.
Accompanying Bhattacharya, who visited Israel earlier in February, were several top executives in the company, including directors of three of its largest units, who reviewed companies in areas like cleantech, cyber-security, financial technology, water tech, new media, and more.
All those areas interest Aditya Birla, as the company, valued at some $41 billion, has interests in almost every sector of the Indian economy as well as abroad. It has more than 120,000 employees in 40 countries. Aditya Birla, headquartered in Mumbai, operates in both the old and new economies, working in everything from cement to fibers to fertilizers and chemicals, to financial services, telecom, and IT services. The company is either the market leader or close to it in all these areas, and the addition of Israeli technology, it believes, will give it an edge over the competition.
According to Anat Bernstein-Reich, an attorney with the law firm of A&G Partners which represents Aditya Birla’s Corporate Strategy department in Israel, the company has been toying with the idea of Israeli tech for a long time and company executives have been here before. But this time, the company is seeking to recruit candidates for its Biz Labs program, where start-ups show off how their technology can fit into the company.
Aditya Birla isn’t the only Indian conglomerate to express interest in Israeli tech. Infosys, another Indian giant, last year bought out Panaya, an Israeli cloud tech firm that helps customers upgrade databases and make them more efficient, in a $200 million deal. With Panaya’s technology, the Indian firm said, Infosys will be able to offer upgraded services to customers using databases like SAP and Oracle.
Meanwhile, Tata, which has units that work in everything from auto manufacturing to pharmaceuticals to packaged food, has invested in Tel Aviv University’s Technology Innovation Momentum Fund, which develops promising technologies in areas like cleantech, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and software development.
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