Financial Daily from The HINDU group of publication
These are start-ups with big ideas, growing fast in different sectors. But they all draw inspiration and hot cash from the same venture capital fund. A fund that nurtures small companies with some unique concept.

RUSHING out of office after work, Sunita remembers she had promised her son some chocolate. She goes to Cadbury's mobile phone-operated vending machine in her office complex, punches out some details on her cell-phone and a bar of `Dairy Milk' appears.

For Sunita, it was a very simple operation and she was able to keep her promise to her son. But behind the ease of operation, a fair amount of technology and a lot of innovation has gone into the vending machine, supplied by a Barodabased company called E Cube India Solutions Ltd.

Bhavesh is engrossed playing the `Cricket Pandit' contest on his Idea mobile phone. He keeps accumulating `runs' for every quiz question he answers correctly and by using different services offered by his mobile operator. The contest is being managed by an Ahmedabad-based company called Net4Nuts.

A mobile phone manufacturer is developing a new handset and wants somebody to design certain elements of the chip and verify the entire chip.

It also wants someone to take care of the embedded systems for the handset before it goes into commercial production. It approaches another Ahmedabadbased company called eInfochips India Ltd, which specialises in chip design and verification.

All these companies are small Indian IT firms that are growing at a rapid rate, trying to carve out a niche for themselves in their respective sectors.
Another common factor that binds them is that they have been funded by GVFL Ltd, a Gujarat Government and World Bank-promoted venture capital fund that has notched up an impressive record of creating successful small companies.

Of the 56 companies in which GVFL (formerly known as Gujarat Venture Finance Corporation) has invested, over 15 have turned out successful business ventures that now stand on their feet while several others are in the `growth phase' with indications of turning profitable in the coming years.

Companies promoted by GVFL now employ nearly 8,000 people and the successful ventures reported an annual turnover in excess of Rs 60 crore last year.

That is a good record to boast of in an industry where, experts say, even a success rate of one in 10 is quite good.

"We believe in nurturing smaller companies that have some unique concept. You will find that each of our companies has something very different to offer. The support extended is not just financial. We also help them design the company's structure, develop a strategic business plan and help them find a market for their products," says Vishnu Varshney, CEO of GVFL.
Agrees Neerav Parekh, Vice-President (Operations) of Net4Nuts. "When we approached GVFL, all we had was an idea and the memorandum of association of our company. GVFL even provided us with office space for the first few months of our existence," says Parekh.

Net4Nuts was launched as a B2C (business-to-consumer) company at a time when the dotcom bubble was about to burst. Its flagship product, `Avtaar', is an aggregation software and it was aimed at consumers who wanted to have information culled out from different sources on a single platform.

The dotcom bust showed that the B2C model was flawed and the company went into a rough patch within months of launch. But fortunately for Net4Nuts, the same package could be used for similar B2B (business-to business) applications and the promoter duo of Parekh and Chirag Shah had their Plan B ready.

Net4Nuts now boasts of clients such as Idea, Orange and Hutch. As the company faltered after a big-bang launch, before finally finding its feet, GVFL stood by its side, providing inputs ranging from market information to future strategy, Parekh says.

Similar views are echoed by Ashesh Shah, founder of E Cube, a company that specialises in mobile commerce applications through GSM or smart card technologies.

"GVFL has been involved with us right from the outset. They helped us prepare the corporate structure of the company, and draft a vision statement. We constantly use their expertise to develop new M-commerce applications. Whenever we get stuck, GVFL fills in the blanks," says Shah.

Another successful company in which GVFL has invested in is eInfochips, which is into ASIC chip design, verification and embedded software.

The company employs 280 people and logged a turnover of $6 million (Rs 3 crore) last year. It has its sights on a much larger turnover, says its Founder CEO, Pratul Shroff.