Qualcomm Ventures India eyes mobile tech, healthcare start-ups

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New Delhi: Qualcomm Ventures, the venture capital arm of the $100 billion Qualcomm Inc., is looking to back Indian companies in mobile technologies and healthcare, said Varsha Tagare, its managing director for India.

Qualcomm Ventures India may invest in six start-ups every year, Tagare said. Since 2007, when Qualcomm first made an investment in an India company, the investor has grown its portfolio to over 20.

Qualcomm Ventures India invests from a dedicated $150 million India-focused fund announced in June 2015. A third of that money has been spent to date, said Tagare, adding that the firm will maintain its investment pace over the coming years.

“We think that, in emerging markets, mobile is really becoming this very key enterprise device” as companies are using smartphones to deliver a range of solutions for both consumers and enterprises, Tagare said in an interview.

The India practice is part of seven locations—China, Korea, Latin America, North America and Europe, where Qualcomm Ventures has a presence.

Tagare took over as the local head from Karthee Madasamy who moved on this year to start his own fund.

A number of Qualcomm’s bets were in the area of core technologies and software, such as Capillary Technologies and MapmyIndia, but later it leaned more towards consumer technology sectors.

Between 2014 and 2015, Qualcomm Ventures-backed Ridlr, a traffic alert and bus ticketing app; media site Yourstory; home services platform Housejoy, and FabHotels, a budget hotels brand.

It also invested in Yebhi.com in 2012 and Housing.com in 2014. Housing.com was sold to PropTiger early this year.

Qualcomm announced two big investments this year: Tonbo Imaging, a computer vision firm that supplies night-vision systems to the military, and Borqs, that does end-to-end design for Internet of things (IoT ) systems for enterprises.

“In core technologies, we are seeing a mix of companies whether they are into IoT, computer vision, robotics or drones and even autonomous driving space. We are also encouraged to see an increase in the number of companies in core tech in India, and good improvement in terms of management teams and their ability to address global markets,” said Tagare.

Qualcomm doesn’t discuss its deal-size publicly, but Tagare said the first cheque is typically in the range of $3-5 million, with resources to support a company for multiple follow-on rounds. In 2017 alone, six of its companies raised follow-on rounds where Qualcomm participated.

Qualcomm’s only exit so far has been from Tessolve Semiconductor, an electronics manufacturer acquired by Hero Electronix in 2016.

“India cycle tends to be long and we do need to be a patient investor here in terms of exit horizon,” said Tagare.