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India gets agri-business and food-tech startup accelerator

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Taizo Son
Taizo Son

Related tags Food

Billionaire serial investor Taizo Son will bring an early-stage food incubator to India, where it will back startups that focus on farm-to-fork processes—a segment he believes the country has yet to fulfil.

The younger brother of tech giant SoftBank’s chief executive, Masayoshi Son, has enlisted GSF Accelerator and Infobridge to partner in the Gastrotope incubator for agri-businesses and food technology firms. 

Having made his money through mobile gaming company GungHo Online Entertainment, Taizo Son has branched out into tech investment through his Mistletoe vehicle, which he launched in 2013. 

Through Mistletoe, he has invested some US$160m in scores of startups, including Innerchef, Ninjacart and Kiwan Network in India. 

Disillusioned with his native Japan, he recently moved to Singapore and has appeared to shift his focus to other parts of Asia, though his business roots will remain in the Far East. 

“India will be at the centre of agriculture and food technology. There are some issues here. We could solve these locally, here, and then these ideas could be adopted by the rest of the world​,” said Son.

Japan is also a country with deep agriculture technologies and food culture. I have always believed that innovation comes from the connecting of diverse dots, and this time, with the bridge between India and Japan, new and unique solutions to the fundamental questions of food and agriculture will arise​.”

Rajesh Sawhney, founder of Gastrotope partner GSF Accelerator, said the incubator’s aim is to “democratise healthy gastronomy experiences for millions​”.

“The food consumption habits are changing globally with a focus on nutrition and wellness. Gastrotope seeks to play a vital role in catalysing India’s adoption of these trends through the birth of a completely new agriculture and food tech ecosystem​,” Sawhney said.

More from South Asia…

SL food prices now 35% higher than in India

Sri Lanka’s rising food prices have prompted a Colombo think tank to launch a project to monitor import tariffs on food. 

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The Advocata Institute will initially provide weekly updated figures through its website’s “Food Tax Tracker​” in a bid to highlight tax policy’s impact on household costs.

According to recent figures released by crowdsourced database Numbeo, grocery prices are 35% higher in Sri Lanka than in neighbouring India.

“The government intervenes heavily in the trade regime for food items through para-tariffs [meaning] the public is unaware of the extent to which food is taxed​,” Advocata said in a statement. 

So we have compiled a table showing the tax on basic food stuffs, items that would be on table of many families​.”

The think tank claims that import taxes currently add LKR130 (US$0.85) to a bottle of cooking oil, LKR880 (US$5.75) to a kilo of butter, LKR625 (US$4.08) to a kilo of yogurt and around 141% to a kilo of cheese.

Due to the time it takes to gather accurate data on food taxes the initial exercise will be limited to a few basic food items, though Advocata hopes to expand this scope to eventually include all major food items.

According to available data only 4.3% of government revenue is raised through the special commodity levy imposed on food items, which ironically is almost exactly equivalent to the losses incurred by the major state enterprises​,” it said.

The tracker will be used as a part of campaign by Advocata to put pressure on the government to remove tariffs such as its Special Commodity Levy, and return to a regime of low and uniform duties for all products. 

Keventer raises $25m to fund expansion

Kolkata-based dairy, fruit and grocery major Keventer Agro has raised US$25m in capital from Indian private equity firm Mandala Capital to fund its expansion in agro-food processing in eastern India. 

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With this fresh infusion of capital, we intend to invest about US$100m into our dairy business in West Bengal and grow our food processing business exponentially—all towards our endeavour of turning into a US$500m company by the year 2022​,” said Mayank Jalan, who was recently named chairman and managing director of the company.

Jalan will also serve as chairman of Metro Dairy, which Keventer recently took control of after the West Bengal government divested its stake in the tripartite joint-venture. 

Mahendra Kumar Jalan, Keventer’s founder will continue to guide the company’s strategic direction as its chairman emeritus. 

We have charted out a robust growth plan for each of our businesses, be it dairy, bananas or frozen foods​,” Mayank Jalan said.

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