The fledgling alternative protein ecosystem in India is gaining traction, with a new focused investment fund from US based Big Idea Ventures (BIV), Kolkata based financial services firm Ashika Group, and supported by the Good Food Institute India (GFI India) in Mumbai.
The India Alternative Protein Fund will launch and run an accelerator in 2021, and will also support promising companies with further investments for growth in the Indian and international markets. These companies will focus on bringing to market innovative plant-based, fermentation-derived, and cultivated meat, seafood, egg, and dairy foods - upgraded versions of their animal-derived counterparts, but with a tiny fraction of the land use, water use, and climate change challenges, and without the risk of pandemics and zoonotic disease.
The alternative protein or ‘smart protein’ sector is soaring globally, with rapidly growing global consumption and billions of dollars in investments in companies such as plant-based meat and egg pioneers Beyond Meat and Eat Just, Inc, and corporate rollouts from the likes of big meat and food companies who are seeking to diversify their portfolio to include these sustainable proteins, such as Tyson Foods, PHW, and Maple Leaf Foods. GFI India has undertaken research which underscores Indian consumers are primed to eat these foods in line with their global counterparts, particularly as the Covid-19 pandemic brings increased attention on the risk of zoonotic disease and climate change.
Big Idea Ventures (BIV) already operates a $50 million international fund and two accelerators across New York and Singapore, with prior investments in over 20 companies including India’s Evo Foods. They worked with alternative protein expert think tank and ecosystem builder GFI India for over a year to evaluate the India opportunity and build an investment thesis focused on building the Indian ecosystem, and joined with leading financial services firm Ashika Group to manage the investment fund. Ashika Group runs businesses including brokerage, lending, wealth management, investment management, as well as an investment bank, and has helped numerous Indian companies in the food & beverage sector raise funding and scale their operations.
The two firms have begun raising the $25m fund for India, and expect to begin accepting applications for the Mumbai-based accelerator in 2021. They will provide entrepreneurs with funding, critical handholding and mentorship, and access to an Indian and international network of corporate partners, restaurateurs, retailers, and other investors. GFI India will continue to provide support in the form of expert advisory and network building.
Andrew D. Ive, Founder and Managing General Partner, Big Idea Ventures said, “The alternative protein sector is in a phase of rapid global growth, and India is one of the most promising markets for an ecosystem of world-class startups to emerge. Big Idea Ventures has always backed audacious entrepreneurs tackling big problems at every step of their journey. We believe we can help dozens more entrepreneurs in India to launch their alternative protein dream and build a thriving plant based global industry. I am delighted to work with Ashika Group and GFI India to launch the BIV-Ashika India Alternative Protein Fund and begin supporting great Indian entrepreneurs in 2021.”
Chirag Jain, CEO, Ashika Group said, “Ashika Group has worked with organizations across the spectrum of the food & beverage industry and the technology sector for many years, and has stayed abreast of emerging innovations within this landscape. Alternative protein is a major opportunity for Indian entrepreneurs and corporate players to get involved in the future of food. We’re looking forward to supporting Indian entrepreneurs through the BIV-Ashika India Alternative Protein Fund, and bringing our expertise in fundraising and scaling F&B businesses to their journey.”
Varun Deshpande, Managing Director at the Good Food Institute India, said, “Alternative protein is a key lever in our fight against climate change, malnutrition and food insecurity, and public health risks. It’s also a huge opportunity for business and job growth, with participation across the board from governments, large food and animal meat companies, and entrepreneurs. The Indian ecosystem is poised for growth over the next few years, leveraging our talent and agricultural biodiversity. This fund is a big step forward in that momentum, and we are glad to support Big Idea Ventures and Ashika Group towards our shared goal of a more healthy, sustainable, and just food system.”