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New York and Singapore-based venture capital firm Big Idea Ventures (BIV) and Ashika Group, one of India’s leading retail financial services companies, have partnered together to launch a new investment fund and accelerator focused on supporting India’s alternative protein ecosystem. The new venture will begin running next year and will be supported by the Good Food Institute India (GFI India), a nonprofit organisation supporting plant-based, cultivated and fermented alternative protein innovation.
Announced on Thursday (October 8), a new focused investment fund and accelerator program has been launched by BIV and Ashika Group, with support from GFI India. It will be backing and supporting startups working on plant-based, fermentation-derived and cultivated meat, seafood, egg and dairy alternatives. Alternatives to animal-derived products are crucial if we are to sustain a planet of 10 billion people healthily and sustainability alongside the inevitable challenges that climate change will bring to food production.
“Alternative protein is a key lever in our fight against climate change, malnutrition and food insecurity, and public health risks,” said Varun Deshpande, managing director at GFI India. “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.”
Currently, BIV already operates a US$50 million international fund and two accelerators across New York and Singapore, with prior investments in over 20 companies including India’s Evo Foods, a Mumbai-based food tech creating a 100% plant-based egg substitute that is set to launch within this year. Now joining with Ashika Group, the partnership with support from GFI India hopes to help numerous startups in India’s alternative protein sector raise funding and scale-up their innovations.
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.Varun Deshpande, Managing Director at GFI India
Ashika and BIV have begun raising investment for the new fund, with US$25 million as its target, and plan to begin opening up applications for their Mumbai-based accelerator in 2021. The accelerator, the first of its kind in the country, will provide Indian entrepreneurs with mentorship, funding and access to their local and global network across the supply chain, while GFI India will offer its expertise and advice.
“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,” said Chirag Jain, CEO of Ashika Group.
The news comes as consumer and investor awareness about the dangers and vulnerabilities of the meat supply chain has grown significantly amid the coronavirus pandemic. A recent study has revealed that Indian consumers, in line with global trends, are now willing to pay for plant-based meats and cell-based meats even at a premium over conventional animal meats, signalling strong demand for sustainable, safe and healthy alternatives that will help prevent the risk of future zoonotic diseases.
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.Andrew D. Ive, Founder & Managing General Partner at BIV
But even prior to the pandemic, Indian consumers have indicated strong openness to try more plant-based products for health and environmental reasons. In a Frontiers study published last year, Indian and Chinese consumers demonstrated far higher interest in trying alternative proteins than their American counterparts.
“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,” said Andrew D. Ive, founder and managing general partner at BIV.
“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.
Lead image courtesy of Good Do.