Bangalore: Around 150 startups have applied for capital from the Rs 200 crore Bharti Airtel Innovation Fund. Sarvjit Singh Dhillon, Group Director, Bharti Enterprises said, "We have received an encouraging response to the Airtel innovation Fund which is aimed at promoting innovation and entrepreneurship in the field of telecommunications. Till now, we have received over 150 applications from potential start-ups."
The telecom major is expected to shortlist companies with interesting ideas and probably picks up equity stake in these ventures. Dhillon said, "We will be open to picking up equity stakes in these companies with the primary objective of playing the role of a mentor to these potential startups while promoting innovation and entrepreneurship." Mainly, the ideas received by the company include applications for mobile TV, M-commerce, wireless security, m-advertising, healthcare and social networking.
The fund was started by Bharti in September 2008, to encourage developers to come up with innovative applications for mobile users. While the company did not give details of the applications, Dhillon said, "The process to choose right candidates is on. We are happy with the response received by the fund as it meets our primary objective of promoting innovation and entrepreneurship in the telecom sector. However, we are still evaluating the suitability of individual submissions from an innovation and economic perspective. While we have short-listed several candidates for consideration, there is still further review/assessment and discussions to be undertaken."
Analysts said, "This move could be important in the light of third generation mobile services scheduled to be launched early next year." Mobile operators like Airtel, will require a host of innovative applications if they have to make money by offering 3G services.
At present, the mobile market is driven by revenues from voice-based services. However, with the tariffs spiraling downwards, operators are on the lookout for the killer application. Through this fund, Bharti may be hoping to have a nursery of ideas for driving up its revenues through value-added services (VASs).