Growth potential lures Indian start-ups to explore options in Africa

MUMBAI: Africa has been attracting large Indian corporations for sometime for rich mineral resources. But now, a steady stream of Indian start-ups are pitching their flags in several countries of the vast continent, attracted by a market opportunity that resembles India in many ways. 

About a year ago, Ramesh Emani, co-founder and CEO of 
Insta Health Solutions, expanded operations in Africa by tying up with vendors in Kenya. Prompted by the success, Emani recently signed up more vendors and channel partners in Nigeria andGhana, started training people and developing joint business development activities. A couple of years back, Mobi-Quest, an enterprise mobility solutions firm, set up local presence in South Africa by tying up with retailers. Now the company is eyeing similar opportunities to service clients inNairobi, Nigeria and Egypt. Arun Shenoy, co-founder of Green India Building Systems and Services (GIBBS), a Mumbai-based startup that enables buildings to reduce operational costs, is conducting feasibility study to take his energy efficiency products to Africa.

Emani, Shenoy, and Vineet Narang, CEO of 
MobiQuest belong to a growing pool of entrepreneurs from India, in sectors including value-added services on mobile phones, e-commerce, healthcare, information technology, telecommunication, gaming, media, transportation and education, who are being lured by Africa for its huge consumer base, high disposable income at the top level, and immense growth potential. Countries like South Africa, Kenya, Angola, Ghana, Cameroon, Tanzania are emerging as popular destinations for Indian start-ups, which might not have the financial muscle of the likes of Bharti AirtelBSE 0.64 %, Hindustan UnileverBSE 0.49 % or Procter & Gamble, but are keen tap the virgin markets.

"This is definitely a trend. Africa poses a great opportunity for the whole of India. There is lot of positive energy there. And it also looks familiar due to the presence of significant Indian population," says Emani of Insta Health Solutions. 
Adds Shenoy, whose two-year-old venture was incubated at ISB: "Our technology is environment friendly and Africa remains a good potential to expand. We are looking at an 8-12 month window. Some of the countries we will explore include Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa and Ghana." "We see a huge interest from Indian entrepreneurs in Africa, particularly West Africa that historically does not have ties with India," says Azeem Zainulbhai, founder of financial services and consulting firm Crescat International that invests in businesses across Africa with offices in Cameroon and Angola.