Igate co-founder Ashok Trivedi bullish on biosciences opportunity for India

“What is happening right now is that emerging biotech companies are getting showered with risk capital,” Trivedi said

Neha Alawadhi  | 
New Delhi 

Last Updated at January 29, 2020 23:17 IST

Igate co-founder Ashok Trivedi, who also co-founded Ashoka University, feels synthetic biology is the next big frontier in technology investments. As Silicon Valley investors put risk capital into the field, Ashoka University is launching a course in biosciences to prepare Indian talent for this emerging area.

The Ashoka University on Saturday launched the Trivedi School of Biosciences with a commitment of over Rs 100 crore.

The tech industry veteran and the managing partner of SWAT Capital, also runs a family fund for social causes. He also co-founded a tech company called Mastech Digital, based out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the US. Igate, founded in 1996, was sold to French IT major Capgemini for $4 billion in 2016.

“About two months ago, I was in Silicon Valley, and I noticed there was a huge buzz in the venture capital community that it’s a great time to be in biotech. 2018 was a record year for investments in bio related companies and totalled $17 billion. It was also a record year for exits. There were 46 bio-related IPOs and $37 billion of merger and acquisition transactions,” he said.

He added that tech titans in the software and Internet industries, like Bill Gates, Jerry Yang of Yahoo, and Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel have shown interest in the sector, which is increasing investor appetite.

“What is happening right now is that emerging biotech companies are getting showered with risk capital,” Trivedi said.

While he has invested in over 55 early stage companies in the past, he is now looking at investing in early stage venture funds. With the biosciences centre, he sees an opportunity that matches what the Indian information technology did for the country.

“I spent my life in the trenches of IT industry, and I saw millions of jobs, millions of high paying jobs were created in India, and I saw the industry enhance the image of India in the world more than anything else…Now the opportunity is, India’s influence in the world will come from biological sciences. This technology will come like a tsunami and what India needs at that time is a huge talent pool. An Ashoka can’t do it alone, there has to be similar type of efforts all over the country,” Trivedi said.

The advisory board of the Biosciences School at Ashoka University will be led by Nobel Laureate and President of the Royal Society, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Nobel Laureate Jack Szostak of Harvard University, James Collins of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ronald Vale of Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Satyajit Mayor of National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, who will help set the research and teaching agenda.

The Trivedi Centre of Political Data, also housed in Ashoka University, promotes data-driven research and policy work related to India’s electoral politics.

“I’m going to take it to the next stage now, and bring in judicial data. And then we’ll do bureaucratic data,” said Trivedi.

On the other hand, Trivedi’s family office is working on several philanthropic initiatives including ta programme with the US-based ProjectArt that transforms public libraries into cultural hubs and developing a programme with hospitals, parents ans children on mental health issues in the US.

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