Israeli startups seek innovation opportunities in post-Covid India

New Delhi: Israeli startups are looking for opportunities in India’s increasingly digital market, especially for innovative products and services in the areas of enterprise automation, cyber security, healthcare and agriculture.

Many founders, CEOs and senior executives of Israel’s technology startups presented their innovations to an audience of Indian business leaders and executives in a webinar organized by All India Management Association (AIMA) and OurCrowd, Israel’s leading venture capital and crowd funding organization. The dialogue was supported by Israel’s Ministry of Economy and Israeli embassy in India.

Mr Harsh Pati Singhania, President, AIMA and Vice Chairman & Managing Director, JK Paper Ltd complimented Israel government on accelerating promotion of Israel-India business ties during the covid period and highlighted the importance of trade and investment between India and Israel in a changed world. “Both India and Israel could help each other in making their economies bigger and better. India has a big capacity to produce and consume and Israel has shown a great instinct for technology development. The two countries can complement each other’s strengths and cooperate in the global market,” he said.

Ms Natasha Zangin, Counsellor, Head of Economic & Commercial Mission, Embassy of Israel, India, said that given the uncertainty of the times, it was important to bring together the cutting-edge companies from both sides for a dialogue.

AIMA’s Director General, Ms Rekha Sethi, stressed that Indian and Israeli business leaders needed to learn from each other’s experience of innovation during covid and identify opportunities for collaboration for the post-covid era. “Covid has forced everyone to think differently and creatively. The threat of business suspension, even closure, has injected a sense of urgency in innovation efforts that was lacking earlier,” she said.

Mr Harel Tayeb, CEO, Kryon, a process discovery and robotic process automation startup, said that covid had moved the conversation of automation from individual departments to CEOs and CFOs. “With 50%-80% employees working from home, it has become necessary to use AI to let the company know what is happening in the company,” he said. However, for automation technology adoption, it had to be as simple as using an iPhone, he emphasized.

Mr Uri Rivner, Co-founder & Chief Cyber Officer, BioCatch, pointed out that covid had increased online frauds and created opportunities for cyber criminals. “The people working from home are greatly susceptible to social engineering. In fact, historically, pandemic and social engineering go hand in hand,” he said. He pointed out that the first-time users and the rare users of online banking were targeted by criminals and they were manipulated into giving remote control of their digital devices or becoming mules for account opening and money transfer frauds.

Mr Rivner said that educating customers alone would not protect them as the criminals were clever and innovative and banks would not want to scare people away from digital banking. His company has pioneered behavioural biometrics to track and analyse online users’ physical and cognitive digital behaviour to identify suspicious activity in accounts.

Juganu, a digital lighting startup from Israel, has developed a healthcare solution using lighting technology and it is has started distributing its regular lighting and healthcare lighting products in Bengaluru. Mr Dubi Brian Lavi, VP Defense & HLS, Juganu, shared that the company combined low-intensity UVA and high-intensity to disinfect a premise through lighting fixtures. “We have entered healthcare through lighting,” he said. The company would make in India if it got large enough orders, said Mr Lavi.

Ms Tom Goldberg-Abramovici, Director of Business Development, Zebra Medical, an imaging analytics startup, said that the company had access to a database of scans and radiology reports of 30 million patients for 10 years and used AI to identify risks of disease and suggest treatments. Apollo Hospitals uses Zebra’s services. “Indian market is very open to technology and Indian companies are early adopters,” she said. However, the company has found it challenging to persuade Indian companies to buy annual subscription and international prices. Indian customers prefer one-time cost plus maintenance and much lower prices, she said.

On the subject of transfer of agriculture technology from Israeli companies to Indian companies, Ms Ilanit Kabessa Cohen, Advisor and former head of Dole Ventures DAF, Dole Asia Holdings Pte Ltd, said that Israel innovations in agriculture had succeeded because of an ecosystem effort. She said that India had different needs because of small farm holdings and specific climate, and someone had to take the lead in building an appropriate ecosystem. “Somebody needs to sponsor the pilots in order to try new technology in the land,” she said.

Mr Pramod Bhasin, Founder Genpact and Chairman, Clix Capital Services, said that covid had opened up many new opportunities for Israeli innovators in India. He counted healthcare, education, food, delivery, financial services, governance and automation as the emerging opportunities for innovation. He argued that innovation was not a preserve of startups and it was a function of organization culture. He pointed to the agility of some large banks and retailers which could be emulated by startups. However, he said that startups could add important pieces to large companies.

Mr David Schwartz, Managing Director, PepsiCo, pointed out that startups were keeping the large companies on their toes and he had startups approach him with innovative solutions every day. However, the company associated only with those startups that offered relevant solutions and that were different from other startups, he said.

Mr Neil Ackerman, Global Supply Chain Digital Executive, Johnson & Johnson, said that his company was focused on supply chain innovation in healthcare during the covid period. “Our focus is on track and trace – where the vaccines are, at what temperature, where they have been and where they are going. Delivering vaccine in one country is easy but very hard in 200 countries,” he said. He added that the inventories had to be managed at hospital and SKU level otherwise people would die.

Commenting on the much hyped conflict between automation and jobs, Mr Bhasin said that AI and technology would open up new markets in India by making finance and products available to more people. That, he said, will increase spending, which will create more jobs. He gave example of digital bank accounts, mobile healthcare, auto-rickshaw and scooter using Uber, streaming of education and digital distribution platforms for agriculture produce as new markets that would create new jobs.

Mr Dan Fishel, Vice President – Business Development, OurCrowd, and Pranjal Sharma, Economic Analyst, Advisor and Writer & Author-India Automated, moderated the panel discussions. Ms Laly David, Partner, Business Development, OurCrowd, made presentation about the company and Israel’s startup ecosystem.

 

The webinar was also streamed live on AIMA’s social media channels.

 

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