Late in 2019, top officials from Indiana, including Gov. Eric Holcomb and leaders of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, and Indiana University met up in Mumbai, India, to help celebrate the National Basketball Association’s first-ever game in the country. In addition to cheering on the home state Indiana Pacers to an overtime victory over the Sacramento Kings, the teams from IU and the state attended a networking event, hosted by the IU Alumni Association’s Mumbai Chapter and the IU Office of the Vice President for International Affairs, which included top business leaders from India as well as IU alumni and friends living and working throughout South Asia.
The networking event was a slam dunk—both for the IU-affiliated entrepreneurs and innovators in attendance, as well as for the state and its flagship public university, which continue, in close collaboration, to strengthen business, cultural and educational partnerships across one of the most dynamic and fastest-growing economic regions of the world.
For longtime technology entrepreneur and IU Kelley School of Business alumnus Manish Jain, the connections he made at the event were a genuine game-changer, specifically a new friendship with fellow Kelley School graduate and financial advisor Jatin Karani. They recently enabled MProfit, a fintech startup he co-founded with 4 others, to complete its first-ever fundraising round, which included investments totaling approximately $2 million made by several of India’s leading financial tech funds. Headquartered in Mumbai, MProfit has developed a proprietary software as a service platform that allows investors, family offices and financial advisors to effectively track multi-asset investment portfolios in one place.
For the past 14 years, MProfit has been bootstrapped without any outside investment. Though non-traditional, several of India’s largest and most successful startups continue to be “bootstrapped” in this way. He and Karani, an active investor in early-stage technological innovations, met and bonded at the IU networking event and kept in touch—in part, over their mutual love of cars. The firm where Karani is a co-founder and a partner, Samarthya Investment Advisors, is one of the investors backing MProfit, which will look to expand its service beyond the 300 cities and 700 institutions it already supports.
Jain’s investment case reflects the growth of India’s venture capital landscape, which, according to an analysis last fall by GoingVC newsletter, is in the midst of a period of “explosive” growth. Venture capital investment in the country reached a decade high of $38.5 billion in 2021, and estimates indicate there is over $400 billion in valuation across more than 50,000 startups in India.
India’s arrival as a major player in the venture capital arena—and the country’s potential to benefit from investment in innovation and entrepreneurship—has added another layer to IU’s economic engagement strategy in service to strengthening Indiana’s economic vitality.
“Through increasing engagement with Indiana University’s many Indian alumni and partners, we have seen substantial numbers of company founders and funders all across the South Asian region and beyond who are extremely eager to expand their networks and access the kinds of resources, including talent, education, mentorship and investment sources, that can push forward their early-stage ventures,” says Tony Armstrong, president and CEO of IU Ventures, IU’s early-stage venture and angel investment arm. “Our graduates will be the leaders in the important industries of the future global economy, including AI, machine learning, clean energy and healthcare. Expanding IU’s and the state’s global entrepreneurial ecosystem—whose members are typically among our most loyal, generous and passionate alumni—has the potential to bring huge economic benefits back to Indiana.”
IU’s work to support and further ignite the innovations of its international alumni and deepen its foothold in India has occurred as Gov. Holcomb, the first Indiana governor to visit India, continues to prioritize growing Indiana’s partnerships in the country and pursuing additional Indian investment in the state. In the decade between 2006 and 2016, Hoosier exports to India increased 117 percent to nearly $276 million, and recent years have seen several major India-based corporations, including Infosys, Wipro and Axiscades, establish large headquarters in the state. In addition, numerous Indiana-based companies maintain global operations in India, including Eli Lilly, Genesys, Zimmer Biomet and Windstream Technologies.
The university’s efforts have also coincided with the U.S. Embassy in India advocating for Indian investment in the U.S. and strengthening its support of young Indian entrepreneurs and early-stage businesses through its Nexus innovation hub, which it launched in 2017 at the American Center in New Delhi.
All of these actions are indicative of the high-impact economic developments that IU leaders anticipated several years ago when the university inaugurated the IU India Gateway, the second of the university’s five global gateway offices around the world. Since opening in 2014 in central New Delhi, the India location has worked with IU’s campuses around the state to support faculty research and student-focused activities in India. These activities include those of the acclaimed Madhusudan and Kiran C. Dhar India Studies Program at the IU Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. The office also serves as a key resource for connecting with IU’s partner institutions and alumni in India.
In 2019, several months before IU and state leaders made the trip to India for the NBA festivities, IU further extended its international network in Asia with the opening of the university’s fifth global gateway office in Thailand. The IU ASEAN Gateway, located in central Bangkok, currently serves as a hub to support IU activities in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations region. Shortly after its formal opening, in fall 2020, the gateway office and IU Ventures hosted a virtual, startup pitch event for IU alumni based in Southeast Asia. The idea for the event, which also included alumni startups from India and China, came about when Peter Boonjarern, director of the IU ASEAN Gateway, learned about IU Ventures via social media during a meeting of the IU Board of Trustees. IU Ventures and IU’s Office of the Vice President for International Affairs are considering partnering on another pitch event in the future.
Since India gained its independence in 1947, IU has built one of the nation’s leading programs for the study of Indian culture, history and languages, while establishing longstanding and productive partnerships with several of India’s top teaching and research universities, including O.P. Jindal Global University and FLAME University. IU now also has more than 10,000 alumni affiliated with India, who represent IU’s ever-growing global community along with the hundreds of scholars, dignitaries and students who visit IU’s campuses in Indiana each year.
The university’s strategic relationship with Thailand is equally deep, spanning more than seven decades of engagement and several of the university’s most productive educational and institution-building partnerships. IU now has more than 1,000 Thai alumni living and working around the world, many of whom have gone on to positions of great distinction in business, education, government, health care, higher education and other important fields.
“As we know from the activities of our entrepreneurial alumni, there are forward-thinkers, big ideas and promising innovations, many with strong IU connections, all across Asia,” Armstrong says. “Fortunately, IU, our state’s government and economic leaders, and our partners across the state have the vision, experience and connections to match and to further relationships that will elevate the global reputation of the Hoosier state as a destination for success.”
Watch a video of 2002 IU Kelley School graduate Gaurav Parikh, president of the IU Alumni Association’s Mumbai Chapter, talking at the NBA game in Mumbai about his love of IU. In 2021, Parikh, managing director of his family trading business Steam Flow, also wrote a letter to his younger self, describing his journey from India to Indiana and back.