Feature

How Wipro is shunning risk and chasing innovation

The IT giant’s venture arm has scored big with its conservative strategy 

Xerox has many admirers. The American company transformed the computer industry with its Palo Alto Research Centre, better known as PARC. But, few want to be its photocopy. The multinational, bogged down by its daily operations, failed to see the potential of the first personal computer with a graphical user interface and mouse, connected to the Ethernet. It had dibs on the personal computing space and internet boom, basically on El Dorado, and blew it. Clearly, no company wants that to be part of their history. 

However, big companies still find it difficult to keep up, even in India. “None of the IT companies have been innovating internally in India. They continue to be masters of legacy technologies, which are becoming less relevant,” says V Balakrishnan, who has worked at Infosys as a board member and CFO for a decade, before founding Exfinity Venture Partners. He is talking about the likes of Infosys, Wipro, TCS, HCL Tech and Tech Mahindra, the software behemoths that have risen in the country over the past three decades. Their clients now want more, like robotic process automation, machine learning, Internet of Things or blockchain, but sadly, the Indian IT leaders haven’t always been up to the task.

One of the country’s biggest IT firms is trying another tack. It created Wipro Ventures in 2015, to race into the future. After all, the parent caters to the top 1,000 global corporations in enterprise IT.  Since it was setup, the $100 million-fund has bet on 16 start-ups over the past four years (11 in US, four in Israel, and one in India) across sectors such as aerospace, automotive, education, communications, healthcare and retail. These include Altizon Systems ($1.3 million), Vectra AI ($8.7 million), Sealights ($8.6 million) and Tricentis (See: Bold bets).

Wipro is not alone. Infosys raised $500 million for the Infosys Innovation Fund in 2015, and has done eight deals so far. Global biggies are on this path, too. Cognizant has Cognizant Accelerator Ventures, which buys minority stake at an early stage. Similarly, IBM Ventures which was founded in 2000 has made 28 investments till date. The Wipro fund, created at the instance of scion Rishad Premji, is now looked after by managing partners Biplab Adhya and Venu Pemmaraju. Wipro Ventures’ aim is to influe

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