Speakers at the Center for Emerging Markets' 2023 India Summit: India – The Next Startup Nation? included successful CEOs and founders of Indian startups, investors, policymakers, and academic experts, who shared insights into India's current startup landscape and discussed how they forged their own paths to success.
Dr. Pawan Bakhshi is the India Country Lead of Financial Services for the Poor Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where he works to broaden the reach of low-cost digital financial services for the poor.
His focus is on finding innovative ways to expand access to financial services and encourage markets to determine which products and channels are most effective. He also works to identify how to efficiently and effectively deliver digital financial services to the poor which can be quickly scaled to national levels while closely working with the government, regulators, and public and private sector players.
Prior to joining the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bakhshi worked with MicroSave, Bharti Airtel, and SingTel in the area of mobile commerce and digital financial services. He co-created India's first mobile wallet service – Airtel Money and later incubated the Transformation Track for providing Airtel Money services for the social sector covering people from the bottom of the pyramid.
Bakhshi earned his Ph.D. from the Faculty of Management Studies, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar University, Agra, and his undergrad from Delhi University.
Kunal Bahl is the co-founder of the e-commerce company Snapdeal, and of Acevector Limited, the holding company of Snapdeal, Unicommerce and Stellaro Brands. He is also co-founder of Titan Capital, a leading early-stage venture capital firm in India.
Bahl is an influential voice on issues pertaining to Indian start-ups and entrepreneurship. He is currently a member of the National Startup Advisory Council, an advisory body constituted by the Indian Government to advise on the startup ecosystem, and a member of the Board of Governors of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, a leading economic think tank. He has been a member of the Executive Council at NASSCOM and is also the former Chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industry E-Commerce Committee.
Bahl serves as an Independent Director on the boards of Piramal Enterprises Limited, a leading Indian conglomerate and Investcorp India Acquisition Corp, a SPAC sponsored by Investcorp. He has been the recipient of various prestigious awards including Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year (Startup) (2014), Fortune Global 40 under 40 (2014), The Economic Times Entrepreneur of the Year (2015), and the Joseph Wharton Award for Young Leadership (2018), among others.
Bahl graduated under the Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology from the University of Pennsylvania and holds degrees in engineering and business from the Wharton School.
Pawan Chandana is the co-founder and CEO of Skyroot Aerospace, a private aerospace company established in 2018.
Skyroot is the first Indian private company to launch a rocket into space and has become the first startup to enter into an agreement with the government-run Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) for facility use and expertise. Skyroot was awarded a prestigious National Startup Award through Startup India in 2020 and won the National Award from the Department of Science and Technology in 2022.
Prior to founding Skyroot, Chandana worked as a systems engineer at ISRO for five years. In 2020, Chandana was listed on the Forbes 30 under 30 list, issued by Forbes Asia. He won Best Innovator Award at Telangana State Industry Awards in 2021.
Chandana holds a M.Tech in thermal science and engineering and a B.Tech degree in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur.
Aastha Grover heads Startup India under DPIIT, Ministry of Commerce. Startup India is a flagship initiative of the Government of India, launched by the Hon'ble PM Shri Narendra Modi in January 2016. Grover has been the founding member of the team and has seen the ecosystem grow to become the 3rd largest in the world today. Her team serves as a single point of contact for the entire Start-Up Ecosystem and enables the exchange of knowledge and provides access to market and funding.
Under her leadership, Startup India has worked towards recognizing over 99,000+ Startups and created India's largest virtual incubator with over 650,000 users. Grover has created a Pan India facilitation architecture for entrepreneurs, has driven high-impact projects to promote favorable policies, simplified regulatory procedures, and has provided access to funding and global markets. Grover works towards the ecosystem activation piece by working with various government departments, Fortune 500 companies, and incubators to help pilot initiatives with startups and provide mentorship.
With a zest towards research and writing, Grover has given key inputs towards the drafting of the new Industrial Policy particularly on the Technology and Innovation thematic group among other policy documents. Grover serves as a member of various startup committees such as Samridh, Steering Committee FCDO, NIDHI TBI Awards, Telecom Centre of Excellence, and Powerthon (Ministry of Power) among others. She was the recipient of the 2023 SheSparks Award in the category titled “SheSparks of India” by Yourstory and was featured in TheTechPanda's 15 Indian Tech Leaders of 2023 list.
Before joining Startup India, Grover worked with AT Kearney supporting the Financial Institutions sector across the APAC region and HSBC Bank. She holds an MBA in Finance from SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai, and a bachelor's in finance from the College of Business Studies (CBS), University of Delhi.
Pallavi Jain is the co-founder and Managing Director of Krsnaa Diagnostics Ltd., India's largest diagnostic services provider in Radiology and Pathology. The company aims to make high-quality diagnostic services easily accessible and affordable to anyone who seeks them, with locations primarily in non-metro areas and small cities and towns.
Jain has been part of Krsnaa Diagnostics since its inception in 2011 and has played a great role in the development of the organization. She has been the catalyst in the expansion and growth of Krsnaa Diagnostics from the tendering process to the implementation and execution of the projects.
Under her leadership, Krsnaa Diagnostics has emerged as the largest Public-Private Partnership (PPP) player in diagnostic healthcare in India, witnessing its growth from a modest start to a network of over 2000 centers.
Jain holds a bachelor's in home science from SNDT University in Mumbai.
Sarvesh Kanodia is a Director of Investments at Omidyar Network India, an Indian investment firm partnering with entrepreneurs to improve the lives of the 500 million first-time internet users in India who have come online over the past five years.
Omidyar Network India works with entrepreneurs in the private, non-profit, and public sectors, and invests in the areas of Advancing Cities, Digital Society, Education & Employability, Emerging Technologies, Financial Inclusion & Well-being, and Property Inclusivity. Sarvesh is responsible for sourcing, evaluating and managing investments in the Education & Employability sector.
Prior to joining Omidyar Network India, Sarvesh was an associate at BanyanTree Finance, a growth capital private equity fund, where he was involved in investments in the consumer, education, manufacturing, infrastructure, and healthcare sectors. Previously, he was an analyst at J.P. Morgan where he worked in investment banking and private equity.
Sarvesh is a former Board Observer at GPT Healthcare, a hospital chain based in Kolkata.
Sarvesh has an MBA in finance from the Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode, an M.S. in finance from ICFAI University, and a bachelor's in commerce from St. Xavier's College, Kolkata. He has completed all three levels of the CFA program and is an FRM charter holder.
Anup Kuruvilla is the co-founder and CEO of 1Crowd, an 8-year-old venture capital firm focused on connecting investors with promising Indian start-ups and early-stage ventures, with an array of capital solutions and co-investment commitment. He is currently based in Bangalore and works intensively with Indian entrepreneurs who have founded early stage companies by both investing in them and then providing them the requisite expertise to scale.
Kuruvilla spends his weekends helping Persons with Disabilities (PwD's) in his capacity as a Trustee and Treasurer (Hony) of the Cheshire Disability Trust as well as a Trustee & Treasurer of the Cheshire Homes India National Council. In his spare time, he plays tennis, swims and bicycles.
Prior to founding 1Crowd, Kuruvilla was in the banking industry for over 30 years having done stints at Citi, Chase Manhattan, ABN Amro & RBS. He spent the first 10 years of his banking career in India and the next 20 years in the Far East between Singapore, Jakarta & Hong Kong. In his last role, he was Managing Director of Loan Syndicate for RBS in Hong Kong. He has also been on the Managing Board of Asia Pacific Loan Markets Association (APLMA) for over a decade and was also the Co-Chairman of APLMA's Singapore Chapter for a few years.
Kuruvilla has done his B. Com from Loyola College in Chennai, and his MBA in Finance from XLRI in Jamshedpur. He is also a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India.
Karthik Reddy is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Blume Ventures, an Indian venture capital firm backing the next wave of revolutionary founders, from India, for the world.
Karthik founded Blume with Sanjay Nath in 2011. He has shaped Blume's investment approach and philosophy over the years, and in turn has overseen investments in some of Blume's leading portfolio companies such as Servify, Belong, Exotel, Grey Orange Robotics, Unacademy, Healthifyme and Railyatri amongst other emerging stars.
Karthik's stints at American Express, Reuters Instinet and The Times of India Group have given him a breadth of experience across the US and India in Financial Markets, Technology and Media.
He holds an MBA from the Wharton School at the Unviersity of Pennsylvania, and is an alumni of IIT Roorkee and IIM Bangalore.
Vijay Shekar Sharma is the founder and CEO of Paytm, one of India's leading financial technology companies specializing in digital mobile payments.
Sharma founded Paytm in 2010, with the aim of revolutionizing digital payments in India. After starting as a prepaid mobile and DTH recharge platform, Paytm soon added debit card, landline bill payment, and e-commerce functions. In November 2021, Paytm went public, raising $2.5 billion at a valuation of $19 billion, making it India's largest initial public offering at that time.
Paytm has introduced a secure and user-friendly mobile wallet to simplify everyday transactions and make digital payments accessible to millions. Today, more than 20 million merchants and 300 million Indians use Paytm to do business.
Sharma has been recognized as the Youngest Indian Billionaire by Forbes magazine, was one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people in 2017, and was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Economic Times in 2016. He is part of the board of management at Netaji Subhas University of Technology in Delhi, where he contributes to the advancement of the university's educational initiatives. He has also been named as the UN Environment's ‘Patron for Clean Air', where he helps to drive environmental action and awareness, and advocate for the goals of the United Nations Environment's global Breathe Life campaign.
Sharma holds a B.Tech degree from the Delhi College of Engineering.