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A growing international portfolio at the UK-India Tech Hub

Four months ago, the UK-India Tech Hub launched at RAD,
and has been supporting start-ups and entrepreneurs in both countries ever since. The Hub was established via a joint partnership between ABP London and Pontaq to provide subsidised workspace and access to venture capital for participating companies and accelerate their growth and success.

We caught up with Prem Barthasarthy, Managing Director of Pontaq, to find out more about the reasons for setting up the hub and his plans for the future.

1. Why did you decide to team up with RAD to launch the UK-India Tech Hub?

Pontaq is a cross-border innovation venture capital fund.
We specialise in fostering new business connections and opportunities between India and the UK.

We wanted to set up a way for companies to expand on an international scale using the UK as an entry point into the West, which led to the creation of the first-ever UK-India Tech Hub, in the UK and our partnership with RAD. The location was a great choice given the strong transport links and low occupation costs, far less than competing schemes in the City Fringe which have historically attracted the tech firms.

This is also the first time a VC firm is joining hands with a business district to provide access to funding, workspace at preferential rates, and opportunities for internationalisation for its portfolio companies, all under one roof. It is also the first time in history that a UK-India Tech Hub has been set up in the UK, and we have already seen a huge spike in interest since we inaugurated it four months ago.

2. Can you list some of the benefits for companies and start-ups taking part in the hub?

The new hub is an entry point for globalisation for companies, giving them the opportunity to branch out into countries throughout South East Asia through ABP and into the four markets that Pontaq operates in namely UK, US, India and Canada, where they are able to access a huge array of clients from our business portfolio, including multi-billion-dollar companies. We will therefore be able to give our portfolio businesses preferential access to those companies and their markets, accelerating their growth through a thoroughly streamlined business mechanism.

They are able to access funding which in turn fuels their growth and success and have access to workspace at a greatly subsidised rate, which is at least 25 per cent cheaper than similar workspaces in nearby locations.

3. What does the hub aim to achieve and what have been some of the key highlights since becoming operational?

The main aim of the hub is to cross-pollinate technology transfer between UK and India. ABP London and Pontaq are also working together to foster cross-border technology collaboration and to jointly promote the new UK India Tech Hub.

One of our Portfolio firms, GoodBox, is moving its UK HQ to the tech hub.

Finally, we are also working with Indian State governments as well as engaging with the Department for International Trade, to see how we can accelerate trade between the UK and India.

4. How can entrepreneurs or start-up owners participate in the new Tech Hub?

We are always welcome to new entrepreneurs and start-ups – they are free to get in touch, and, should they meet the criteria, we are happy to invest.

We primarily focus on companies operating in the tech business to business (B2B), and business to business to consumer (B2B2C) environment, both digital and non-digital in nature. They don’t necessarily have to be revenue-making but will have need to have crossed the minimum viable product (MVP) stage. These companies can be global, and the sectors we focus on are Fintech, Smart Cities Tech, Emerging Tech, Agritech, and Healthtech.

5. With the tech sector in India and UK growing strongly, how do you expect the hub to evolve over the next couple of years?

Currently, the tech universe is led by the USA and China, with the UK in third place and India, which is growing, not far behind. As such, the UK and India have more reasons than ever to increase collaboration post-Brexit. UK is the perfect route to globalisation in the creation of unicorns and dragons, while creating sustainable jobs in both economies.

With the fundamentals of the UK economy being so strong, even despite temporary pressures of Brexit, coupled with the talent pool of 2.1 million people in digital economy, there is clearly a sizeable market in the UK to be able to help scale the businesses and for the UK to be the entry point for Indian businesses into the Western world, and the new Tech Hub will only continue to add to the advantages on offer to potential portfolio businesses from abroad.

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