Could India be the world’s next greentech hub?
Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla thinks so.
At the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco this week, the Khosla Ventures founder and managing partner -- and Sun Microsystems co-founder -- said the country, with its vast intellectual talent, is well-positioned to develop some of the next big greentech breakthroughs.
The United States simply doesn’t have enough energy scientists, he said.
"The single biggest challenge in cleantech is really a lack of technologists here. No self-respecting Ph.D. graduate in the last 10 years has studied energy," he said, adding that the stigma is quickly changing, with energy becoming a popular subject in U.S. colleges. "That’s where engineers and technologists in India can complement [the industry]. They are actually doing what they were trained to do."
Khosla pointed to fuel-cell startup Bloom Energy, which is building a "massive" facility in Mumbai, and said that companies are building testing centers in India to take advantage of the country’s engineering talent.
And initiatives such as Kyoto’s clean-development mechanism create millions of dollars in incentives for cleantech innovation in India, he said.
In another sign of growth, the Cleantech Group announced Tuesday that it has expanded into India with offices, its first market report on cleantech trends in India -- expected to be published next month -- and an inaugural Cleantech Forum India slated for October.
Khosla will serve as the chairman of the Cleantech India Advisory Board.
Jashwinder Kaur, executive director of the Indian Venture Capital Association in Delhi and the Cleantech Group’s country director for India, said she expects to see India become a center for cleantech innovation as early as this year, after a number of venture groups raising money for cleantech funds begin looking to spend.
Venture-capital and private-equity investment in India already grew about 58 percent to $210 million last year, compared with $133 million in 2006, according to the Cleantech Group.
Kaur said that India has a culture of entrepreneurial spirit and innovation, pointing to the impact the country has had on the IT industry. The Cleantech Group plans to work to increase the deal flow in India by playing matchmaker, she said, and is looking for entrepreneurs who want to connect with global investors.
Not surprisingly, Khosla and Kaur also expect India to become a large market for green technologies, as its demand for energy skyrockets.
Kaur said environmental awareness in India has grown tremendously since she moved to Delhi from Canada less than two years ago. She pointed to evidence such as grocery stores and parks banning plastic bags. "I wouldn’t have imagined that two years ago," she said.