Don't let the vested interests stifle innovation: Prosus CEO

NEW DELHI: The Indian government must be careful with the intense lobbying of vested interests that feel the impact of technology disruption and not let them affect new business models, said Bob van Dijk, CEO of Prosus , which has backed companies such as the online food delivery player Swiggy and education tech startup Byju’s in India. Prosus, the investment holding company which was recently spun off from South Africa’s Naspers and listed on Amsterdam, is the biggest technology investor in India after Softbank with close to $ 5 billion deployed in the country.

“When you invest in disruptive models, someone is affected. There are local vested interests that are very expressive ... they press and press until the ears of key people are blue and they make decisions that frankly can stifle innovation, Dijk said in an interview for TOI. He added that in some cases the complaints are valid when there is unreasonable competition and everyone must follow the rules established by the government.

Dijk said that such movements in the end do not benefit customers while adding that India has found a good balance and the Modi government is impressive in its judgment in the past.

Dijk's statement comes at a time when the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) is looking into online food delivery companies like Zomato and Swiggy, where Prosus owns a 39% stake for a $ 850-900 million investment, for deep discounting, data masking and private labels. Restaurant body National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) has also filed a list of complaints with commerce minister Piyush Goyal. At the same time trade groups including CAIT have also intensified push against online retailers, Walmart-owned Flipkart and Amazon.

When asked if he thinks the recent push by the government to look into complaints by restaurants, Dijk said that “noise has been around Zomato which has been very aggressive I think with restaurants and Sriharsha (Majety, CEO of Swiggy) has been acknowledging their key role in the ecosystem and wants them to be successful. ”

Prosus has also made investments like social commerce player Meesho, logistics venture ElasticRun and carpooling player Quikride this year. Its other portfolio companies in India include payments company PayU and classifieds platform Olx, which it completely owns.

Dijk also added that, unlike Europe, India does not risk being a digital colony dominated by US technology companies due to efforts made by the government in areas such as digitalization, stable policy to attract investors and local innovation, including models like Meesho where you can help. globalize

Dijk added that India continues to be the top investment market for Prosus, which is most well known for its early bet on China's Wechat messaging application owner Tencent . “Most asked about geography was India when Prosus was the on the roadshow,” he said.