TE Connectivity recently partnered with the Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce (BCIC) Startup Hub to launch an accelerator programme in India. In an interesting conversation with Electronics For You’s Yashasvini Razdan, Rahul Mathur, Director, revealed the company’s plans as an accelerator for startups
Q. How has the Indian market evolved in recent years, and how has TE adapted its focus to cater to the specific needs of the Indian market?
A. The Indian market has historically faced challenges due to its relatively small size and slow growth. However, over the past few years, there has been a significant shift in this landscape. The importance of India for an industrial technology company like TE has been steadily growing, leading to a significant shift in the landscape. TE has recognised this change and actively focuses on the Indian market. We are now able to cater to the specific needs of the Indian market by offering India-specific solutions. This involves working closely with our OEM customers to understand their requirements and developing products tailored to the Indian market. This increased focus on India has been a key area of emphasis for us recently.
Q. Could you give me more details about your collaboration with BCIC?
A. We intend to be ‘venture clients’ for these startups and enable them to work on their PoC or prototypes in our manufacturing facility. We want them to develop products and new technologies for India and the globe. BCIC will provide the business framework, external support, and consultation so TE can run this programme. The framework allows us to select the right startups and provide support in areas such as business mentoring or connecting them with academia or other technology partners in the industry. So, that is what BCIC is doing—building the ecosystem to support the startup’s needs.
TE will connect the startups directly to the business by driving it. We’ll be the sponsors, and they will be the users. This way, their use cases and projects won’t be limited to research and development or a PoC (proof of concept). They can work directly with businesses and even scale globally, if possible.
Q. In this collaborative project with BCIC, would you call yourself an accelerator or an incubator?
A. An incubator supports a startup at the early stage. We’re more of an accelerator because we’d want to partner with startups ready with a minimal viable product or a PoC to provide them with use cases to implement. We want to be their first and, if possible, biggest customer and support their growth. They’ll also get good mentorship regarding technology and business via academia and business consultants. It’s an opportunity for collaboration.
For example, in the manufacturing sector, we’re looking for startups that can assist us with Industry 4.0, enhancing our throughput, manufacturing capabilities, and process efficiency. These startups will get connected with experienced engineers who have substantial knowledge and exposure to the shop floor. This expertise will be valuable for startups to progress from PoC to final product development and scaling.
Startups are looking for a large organisation that can use or adopt their products, and we intend to be the marquee customer for these startups and leverage their capabilities. That’s why we’d call ourselves an accelerator.
Q. What are your selection criteria for patronising a startup?
A. We have very simple criteria—the startup must be sponsored by a business from any segment—manufacturing, operations, product development, technology, or even a C-suite executive. The other criterion is that the startup’s solution should be unique and competitive for India and globally.
Q. How do accelerator programmes benefit large and established companies like TE?
A. Startups, with their entrepreneurial mindset and nimbleness, often hold the key to innovation. Companies don’t need to solve every problem internally, and there are challenges and areas better suited for startups. We have observed some remarkably innovative and interesting ideas emerging in the marketplace. Unburdened by the constraints of a large organisation, startups can bring these ideas to a stage where established companies can then engage and collaborate with them.
Q. What is the average investment you make in accelerating a startup?
A. The key aspect we bring to startups is our commitment to long-term business opportunities. Currently, startups have access to funding and technical/business mentorship. However, they often lack validation of their PoC and a long-term commitment to any potential business opportunities. As a client, we offer the most significant value by providing that validation and the potential for sustained business engagement to startups.
Q. How many startups have you incorporated in this programme till now?
A. We’re in the process of selecting startups as we’ve just launched the startup accelerator. We are reviewing about 50 startups and have narrowed down to three startups to engage with. So that process is on right now.
Q. Will the startup accelerator involve a two-way business interaction between your company and the startups, or will it be one-way?
A. We will offer our products for the startups to incorporate, but it is not mandatory for them to use them. While our wide range of products makes it likely for startups to utilise them, our primary focus is to find the best solution for their needs, irrespective of whether it involves using our products or not. We will support and optimise their product using our products, but it is not mandatory.
Q. What will be the impact on your accelerator if a startup isn’t financially successful?
A. As an accelerator, we fully commit to investing significant time and effort into working with startups. Ensuring the startup’s viability is crucial, and we, as accelerators, will evaluate this during the selection process. However, it’s important to note that predicting the success or failure of a startup is inherently uncertain. Engaging with startups involves embracing this unpredictability.
Q. Which sectors do the startups associated with TE Connectivity’s accelerator programme belong to?
A. From an industry perspective, our growth focus areas include mobility, smart cities, and smart energy. However, we are not limiting ourselves solely to these three areas. TE Connectivity is involved in various business segments across different industries, and we have a wide range of offerings. We intend to leverage startups on a global scale. If we come across a startup that aligns with our product roadmap, whether in manufacturing, product fit, or technological compatibility in areas such as processes or materials, we are open to engaging with them regardless of sector specificity.
Q. How does TE Connectivity plan to leverage all these opportunities and build bridges to overcome the challenges in achieving the same?
A. TE is a global organisation with a substantial presence as a $16 billion company. Our deep engagement with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and extensive knowledge of industry standards and specifications enables us to offer valuable insights and guidance. We understand the industry’s evolving landscape, including testing requirements, technology advancements, and potential challenges. When collaborating with innovative startups, we leverage our global experience to provide them with comprehensive support and connect them to the larger ecosystem. This ensures they can develop the right products, qualify them effectively, and successfully bring them to market.
Q. How is IoT transforming the Indian startup ecosystem in energy, smart cities, and infrastructure?
A. IoT includes ‘data and devices,’ which encompasses service providers like AT&T and Verizon and infrastructure companies like Siemens. We have observed a unique trend where many startups work on edge computing, creating an M-shaped curve in the ecosystem. This indicates opportunities for startups and larger infrastructure service providers, with the centre being an exciting space for convergence. The centre holds potential for further developments, especially for IoT use cases. Examples include further innovations in smart meters, connecting EV infrastructure to networks for mobile app interactions such as selecting EV charging stations and making payments online. IoT enables a wide range of applications and use cases, including factory floor monitoring, energy efficiency improvements, and utilising AR/VR for training purposes. The possibilities enabled by IoT are extensive and diverse.