Sajan Pillai Announces VC Fund, Project for Elderly
Thiruvananthapuram: Giving a major fillip to Kerala’s startup ecosystem, top IT honcho Sajan Pillai who recently stepped down as the CEO of UST Global, has announced that he would kick-start a mega venture fund for startups to help them scale up their activities. Talking to mediapersons during his recent visit to the State, Sajan said the venture fund, with an initial corpus of $50 to $75 million, would be formally launched on September 8 to promote startups, with a slant on Kerala.
“The initial fund will be between $50 million and $75 million. The charter of the venture fund is to invest in product-based companies, primarily in the B2B (business-to-business) domain. We will focus on four sectors – healthcare, fintech, telecom & technology, and retail. An advisory board has been set up to help startups in these sectors. We have already spoken to the largest banks in the world,” he said.
Elaborating on it, he said Kerala has the potential to emerge as a global startup powerhouse. “The idea is to assemble senior-level executives of Kerala and they will be directly on the board of the startups. We are going to create a relationship with the government to help give an impetus to the drive,” he added.
Sajan stated that he would be reversing the existing model of randomly establishing startups and then hoping they would be successful. “We will sit down with the largest banks in the world, identify what exactly do they require and will build that product by investing in a local startup,” he said.
Eying to set up another global venture, Sajan has announced that he would invest heavily in global projects for assisted living for seniors and homecare. SP Lifecare, Sajan’s new initiative, would launch a string of projects to deliver world-class elderly care by combining care, technology and real estate. These would include developing Senior Assisted Living facilities, creating a pool of well-trained caregivers to provide home services, doorstep delivery of health and personal care and setting up a Super Store for delivery of essential items to senior citizens.
“Providing proper care to the elderly people is a global issue, which is all the more severe in Kerala where millions work outside, leaving their parents at home,” said Sajan, who is the Chairman of SP Lifecare. “Children are constantly concerned about their parents. Parents are also constantly worried that their children are concerned about them. This is a vicious circle,” he said, divulging that his own personal experience also inspired him to venture into this project. “I was really helpless when my father died two years back. My parents did not want me to come back as they don’t want me to sacrifice my career. I could not spend quality time with my parents because of various commitments. Like me, many are suffering this pain. That agony made me think of a project that offers proper care to the elderly,” he said.
SP Lifecare, which recently acquired Kerala-based Asha Care Homes, has already purchased land parcels at Thannimoodu near the State Capital and Aluva in Ernakulam for developing Senior Assisted Living campuses. It’s also planning to acquire land in Bengaluru this month.
Dr. M Ayyappan, CEO of SP Lifecare, said the investment in the two ongoing projects in Kerala is estimated to be Rs. 275 crore. “The plan is to invest Rs. 700 crore in the next three years,” he added.
“The company plans to expand its Senior Assisted Living project on a global scale in two years’ time when major projects are to be launched in the US and Europe. A dedicated Trust would also be floated, with SP Lifecare tying up with like-minded individuals and organisations, to take care of the economically weaker senior citizens, who cannot afford the cost of assisted living,” said Dr. Ayyappan, former CMD, HLL Lifecare Ltd. (HLL).
Sajan among top 100 CEOs in the world
For the exceptional vision and expertise that fuelled UST Global’s phenomenal strides, Sajan has been selected for the coveted Employees’ Choice Award instituted by the US-based Glassdoor, one of the world’s largest job and recruiting sites. Sajan ranks 56th among the 100 CEOs selected for the award, announced by Glassdoor at Mill Valley, California. He shares the honour with Microsoft’s SatyaNadella, Google’s SundarPitchai, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Apple’s Tim Cook and LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner. The awardees for 2019 also include CEOs of top companies cutting across diverse sectors in North America and parts of Europe.
Sajan, who holds patents in Internet Computing and Data Systems, was recently chosen as one of the elite 100 CEO Leaders in STEM by STEMConnector. Unlike other honours, Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Awards are based on the inputs of employees who voluntarily provide anonymous feedback by completing a company review about their CEO’s leadership, along with insights into their job, work environment and employer over the past year.
‘Startup Ecosystem can replicate Israel Model’
Riding on the robust entrepreneurial culture in the country, Kerala has the potential to become another Israel, a country having the third most powerful startup ecosystem in the world, according to Sajan. “In the next decade I would like to be part of a journey in which I dream of Kerala startup ecosystem becoming the next Israel. With the help of all my associates I would like to achieve this goal. I would like to work with startups, government and mostly private entrepreneurs to accomplish this mission,” he said. “There are thousands of seasoned executives from Kerala, who have not got a chance to contribute to the State’s startup ecosystem. Why can’t we assemble them to harness the strength to build a startup ecosystem here?” Sajan asked.
Revealing his plans in association with KSUM, he said: “In the first week of September, we will launch a venture fund to help scale up startups in Kerala. Apart from extending them support, the idea is to assemble senior-level executives of Kerala and they will be directly on the board of the startups. We are going to create a relationship with the government to get an impetus to the drive. We will create a window to Israel and increase access to technology. We can help a startup dream to grow a little faster and reach a little higher.”
Sajan also urged aspiring entrepreneurs to start everything with the customer in mind. “Startups should have customer intimacy and they must understand the nuances of problems. You have to meet the customer and you have to know where they come from,” he said, adding: “The customer is the essence of growth.”