AT&T seeks out Indian innovators

10 May 2012

NEW DELHI: AT&T, the telecoms giant, is looking to identify pioneering Indian start-ups which are developing innovative new technologies.

The US multinational runs a programme at the international level seeking to discover promising software, services and similar products, and launched a dedicated scheme in India last year.

It has now picked four indigenous companies in the Asian nation that it plans to form partnerships with, and might also then opt to invest in.

"Mobility and network optimisation is a critical area for these partnerships, given the demand on the network and the whole capacity crunch," Sanjay Macwan, assistant vice president at AT&T's chief technology office, told the Wall Street Journal.

One firm tapped up by AT&T was Invention Labs, based in Chennai and an expert in mechanical and mechatronic engineering. It has been tasked with enhancing AT&T's portfolio for customers with neuromuscular and developmental disabilities.

It was chosen after AT&T ran a "speed-dating" event in April with roughly 12 potential providers, all of which were given 20 minutes to demonstrate their credentials.

Having run a pilot project with each of the four Indian firms selected, AT&T could then supply up to $1m in funding, and may ultimately offer the relevant services to enterprise clients or consumers.

In a bid to uncover possible allies, AT&T has used Sequoia Capital and Norwest Venture Partners, the venture capital companies, for guidance, alongside Tech Mahindra, the software firm.

In 2011, AT&T held meetings with approximately 40 local operators, but in the end went on to work with just one, on cloud-based software services for developers.

Another of these firms was introduced to one of AT&T's partners – examples of which include Alcatel Lucent, Cisco and Ericsson – showing it can also be a "match-maker", Macwan said.

To date, however, India has not yet yielded results to match the world's premier innovation hubs. "We have had more successes in Silicon Valley and Israel than in India," said Macwan.

More positively, he added that India was "getting closer" to the level required, leaving room for

optimism about the future.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff