Indian Startup Hubs: Pune Startup Ecosystem Builders That You Should Know About

Indian Startup Hubs: Pune Startup Ecosystem Builders That You Should Know About

As a part of  the series Indian Startup Hubs, we have brought to the fore the aspiring and the dark horse startups looking to make it big, ones that have struck top dollar and witnessed mega buck exits.

This time we thought of shedding light on the people behind the vivacious and the shimmering startup community of Pune. Presenting a comprehensive list of Influencers, Mentors, Investors and Organizations:

It is a known fact that no startup can function without the experienced knowledge of Mentors. The wisdom that mentors bring to the table goes a long way in instilling better understanding of the ecosystem. The domain expertise further adds immeasurable value to the startup’s journey. Here is a peek into the mentor world that is so instrumental in making the Pune startup ecosystem grow by leaps and bounds:

Mentors – Advanced Stage

Karamveer Singh

KaramVeer SAn electrical engineer, an alumnus of IIT Bombay, Karamveer Singh is currently the Co-founder of He has worked as a software engineer for Veritas before taking the entrepreneurial plunge and subsequently founding a host of companies such as Androit Web Solutions, Mantra HR, Ayush Software Pvt Ltd, Citrus Web Solutions and Akube Technologies. Having deep expertise in B2C online ad supported online content businesses, Karamveer is an excellent mentor for startups for business development, web analytics, product management and Web 2.0 among, he is also an angel investor.

Shridhar ShuklaShridhar Shukla

Shridhar Shukla is the founder and  current MD of GS labs and kpoint technologies. Previously, he was associated with Persistent Systems as a Director and responsible for strategic direction & organizational growth, for more than 8 years. His specialities include creating next generation core network elements, Identity management infrastructure, and building an innovative organization.

Anand DeshpandeAnand Deshpande

Founder and CEO of Persistent Systems, Anand Deshpande is also the founding member of the iSPIRT foundation, apart from being the board member of deAsra Foundation and trustee of computer history museum. He has worked with HP Laboratories where he handled data management. He possesses a wide array of skills from distributed systems, cloud computing, software development to mobile applications, product development and scalability.

Maneesh BhandariManeesh Bhandari

Angel investor and mentor to a number of technology startups, Maneesh Bhandari is currently the Director of Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE), Pune operations. He also founded SENA systems, from which he later exited. Apart from serving as the Investor Director at Framebench and LetsIntern, he was the angel investor and mentor at CIIE for four years before becoming its full time director.

vishwas mehraVishwas Mahajan

Currently, the president of TiE, a non-profit network of entrepreneurs, Vishwas Mahajan is an entrepreneur and a senior level manager with over 10 years experience in the software industry. He started his entrepreneurial drive with Compulink and exited the company as its CEO/MD. He holds a number of important positions; Director at Talentrackr, a recruitment automation software product and LifeLine Systech, an idea incubation and framework and support service, Advisor at ARTITUDE, a performing and various art education disseminator among kids.

gaurav mehraGaurav Mehra

Starting his career as a System engineer at Oracle, Gaurav Mehra is currently the President of Squer solutions, an industry body aimed at making Pune the startup choice for software development. He co-founded Saba Software in 1997 and quit the enterprise last year. He also served as an angel investor in Indian Angel Network, where he provided mentorship and advice to young companies. Previously, he was the Managing Partner of FRMware, a software services company and Director of HTR Inc, where he led all aspects of the company’s for-profit training business.

Ajay Bhagwat

An electrical and computer engineering post graduate from Iowa University, Ajay Bhagwat is the founder of Renu Electronics. a platform providing products for the factory floor automation industry. He is also a charter member of TiE, a non-profit global network of entrepreneurs and professionals, established to foster entrepreneurship and nurture entrepreneurs. He has expertise in the electronic sector and areas involving manufacturing and hardware.

Kiran DeshpandeKiran Deshpande

Technology entrepreneur and corporate leader, Kiran Deshapande is the cofounder and President of AirTight Networks, a startup that provides secure cloud managed Wi-fi facility. Before becoming a full time entrepreneur, Kiran was CEO at TechMahindra and group leader at TCS, one of India’s leading software company. He holds skills in areas spanning wireless Security technologies, running a software services company, compiler and language processing tools and software engineering tools.

Mentors – Early Stage

rohanRohan Dighe

Founder of ViralMint, Rohan Dighe is a web developer-cum-serial entrepreneur. After completing his computer science degree from Pune University, Rohan worked for an year at Codewalla as a Facebook developer and afterwards joined Webchutney, a startup offering web design, web promotion and web marketing services. Later on, he founded another startup by the name of Social Web Factory on similar lines. Rohan possesses knowledge of ecommerce, the internet business and ways to bootstrap a startup. He is also an excellent marketing mentor.

Baishampayan Ghose

BaishampayanCo-founder of Helpshift Technologies, Baishampayan Ghose is a hardcore entrepreneur with startups such as ocricket, a sport-based social network company and also to his credit. A computer engineering graduate from Shivaji University, Baishampayan worked with Cleartrip Travel Services as a back-end and front-end developer before deciding to launch his own ventures. He has a substantial amount of experience in the design and implementation of search engines, transaction processing systems, rules engines, distributed systems which make him an amazing technology and product management mentor. Baishampayan is also an active member of the Free & Open Source Software community and has contributed to many projects including Clojure, Ubuntu, Python and Django

Navin Kabra

Navin KNavin Kabra is a software technology professional with over 15 years of experience in the industry. He is currently the co-founder and CTO at, a platform for job-seekers to showcase their skills by solving problems, completing programming challenges and where required, submitting the software code. He is also the creator of, a portal for the tech community in Pune, India. He has done product development and research; besides writing consumer and enterprise software. Navin is a highly networked entrepreneur with connections spanning across the spectrum of pune startups and the tech ecosystem.

Shashank Deshpande

Having more than 20 years of experience in designing interactive systems, Shashank Deshpande is the Co-founder and current President of Clarice Technologies, a consulting firm specialising in design. Earlier, he worked as senior manager in Symantec and was Chief of Technical Staff at Human Factors International.  He took his first entrepreneurial steps by  starting Quipus Design, a small multimedia design company in 1992. His top skills include User Interface and User Experience design.

SSachin Bhardwajhachin Bharadwaj

Founder and now the CEO of online food ordering company TastyKhana, Shachin Bharadwaj is a professional software engineer. He has worked as senior quality control specialist at Synygy Inc. TastyKhana was acquired by Foodpanda in November 2014 and will be merged with the global food delivery marketplace.

Amit Paranjape

Amit PranjpeeAmit Paranjape is a technology professional and entrepreneur with leadership experience across Product Management, Marketing, Strategy, Business Development, Consulting and Outsourcing. Presently, he is involved with a number of startups as the founder of Reliscore, BharatHealth . PuneTech, a repository of software technology information related to Pune, was Amit’s first venture as an entrepreneur. He has a very strong network of influencers in Pune, India and in the US.

Mukul Kumar

Mukul KumarCo-founder and Senior Vice President Engineering of Pubmatic, Mukul Kumar started his career as a software developer in Wipro and moved into management as he became a senior manager in Symantec. Soon after his managerial stint, he developed highly scalable and performant storage appliance with Panta Systems. Pubmatic has been involved with a number of acquisitions, notable one being that of MobiPrimo, a mobile development technology firm.

Rahul KulkarniRahul Kulkarni

Starting as an applications engineer, Rahul Kulkarni has been a product manager for most part of his career. After working with Google for almost six years, he shifted to Sokrati, a digital media management platform. In January, this year, he founded Early Stage Social Enterprise to increase employability and foster product innovation in India. He counts consumer behavior, cloud computing, data mining, social, mobile, ad targeting, digital marketing, analytics among his corpus of skills.

arunArun Prabhudesai

Arun, an avid Internet geek runs, which is counted among one of the emerging tech blogs in the country. He is very much active in the tech/startup in Pune. Besides, he is also the co-founder of My Open Campus, a free collaboration platform on cloud that makes communicating and learning within a college secure and easy.

Mentor – US based

These are US-based people who have strong ties to Pune and are known to help Pune-based entrepreneurs:

Nikhil JakatdarNickhil Jakatdar

Nickhil Jakatdar is currently CEO and co-founder of Vuclip, a mobile video search and delivery service. Prior to Vuclip, he has founded or run various startups, such as Timbre Technologies, CommandCAD & Praesagus and led them to successful exits. Recently, Vuclip has opened a R&D centre in Pune.

Narendra Kale

Founder of Kale Logistics Solutions, an IT solutions company focused on logistics and  the airport industry, Narendra Kale is an entrepreneur who has built multi-million dollar companies from scratch. He is actively involved in healthcare and educational activities for social uplift programs in India.

Bobby JadhavBobby Jadhav

An electronic engineer by qualification, Bobby Jadhav has worked as a software architect with firms such as TCS, TAB and ZSP Corp. He is the founder of a number of ventures, SpotZot, a location based commerce platform that connects brands & retailers with high intent mobile consumers, being the pick of the startups. It has been acquired by Valassis where Bobby works as chief of Mobile offers.

Angel Investorsmaneesh

Maneesh Bhandari

Maneesh Bhandari is the Director of CIIE Pune where he was the angel investor of iAccelerator and mentor to Power of Ideas and Social Entrepreneurs. He is also an angel investor in Ideophone, Actionrun, Mobiotics, Framebench, apart from being the advisor of TookiTaki and LetsIntern.

AnilAnil Paranjape

Anil Paranjape is the owner of Grubshup, a restaurant chain startup apart from the Director of Aagami lighting, an LED lighting startup. Currently, he is  Partner at venture fund INFUSE, where he is involved in investments in the clean technology domain.

VikramVikram Mehmi

Ex-CEO of Idea Cellular, Birla Sun Life Insurance and Suzlon Green Power, Vikram Mehmi is also the founder of Smartpluggers Innovation Labs, where he provides mentorship and support to early-stage startups in category of B towns. He is also the  co-founder of a niche CSR Strategic Advisory organisation called CHHAYA.

VaibhavVaibhav Domkundwar

Founder of a number of startups such as Roamware and ReadyContacts and Nurture, Vaibhav Domkundwar has also started his own small venture firm by the name BetterLabs– which incubates early stage startups and does aggressive customer development. So far, he has invested in 6 startups–Simplewall, PicBackMan, Magik, DataDoctor and his own ventures, ReadyContacts and Nurture.

vishwas mehraVishwas Mahajan

Vishwas Mahajan is the President of The Indus entrepreneurs, the world’s largest Non-Profit Network of Entrepreneurs committed to fostering entrepreneurship in all forms. He is the Director of Talentrackr and LifeLine Systech and the adviser to ARTITUDE, an education startup that seeks to profligate art and other performing art among elementary school children.

gaurav mehraGaurav Mehra

Evangelist Gaurav Mehra is a serial investor and founder of Saba software. He has invested in startups such as Candy Cane Club and Squer Solutions apart from being the advisory board member of Saviant consulting. He is also a member of India Angel Network(IAN) where he provides mentoring and advice to young companies.

Sunil Nikhar

Sunil NikharAs an entrepreneur and technocrat, Sunil Nikhar founded the famous Ascent Computing Group in 1993, now acquired by Chinadotcom. He is also the founder of Pyxis Systems, which provides services to global investment banks. He was the Chief Mentor and Advisor to e-Zest Solution Limited based in Pune, a startup focused on Mobile Development, Cloud Computing and Business Intelligence. He is actively engaged with TiE Pune as an Angel investor.

Vikas Kumar and Koushik Sekhar are also involved in the Pune Startup ecosystem.

VC Firms with Pune Connections

nexusNexusA VC firm based in the US, Nexus Venture Partners has invested in more than 50 companies of which 8 are from Pune which include Pubmatic, among others.

lightboxLightboxA $100Mn VC firm based in Mumbai has recently made investment in Pune based Faasos.

lightspeedLightspeedWith assets of over $3Bn, Lightspeed Venture Partners has invested in more than 200 companies. Lightspeed has invested in number of startups , Vee, ItzCash, Asklaila, Tutorvista, Fashion Ara, Phone Warrior and other international startups.  Dev Khare is a regular visit in the Pune Startup circle.

qualcommQualcomm Ventures: Launched in 2000, Qualcomm ventures makes strategic investments in early stage high technology ventures. So far it has invested in, Yebhi, MapMyIndia, Apalya, Deck, Portea, AppsDaily, Capillary and others. Varsha Tagare, Director Qualcomm visits Pune often to gauge the startup scene.

clarionClarionAngel and Seed fund based in India, for startups in enterprise technology and solution services segment, Clarion Venture partners has invested in a number of startups. Iquotient, Planetria, Zingma and Saviant Consulting are the chief startups funded by Clarion. Ankur Agarwal, Managing Partner, Clarion regular Pune visitor.

blume venturesBlume VenturesA pre-Series A and early-stage seed venture fund based out of Mumbai, Blume Ventures provides funding in the range of $50-100 Mn to tech enabled startups. It is an investor in eFarm, InMobi, FrameBench, HashCube, Polama, DataWeave among others.

SeedfundFounded in 2006 by Bharati Jacob, Seedfund’s operations span Bombay, Delhi and Bangalore It has invested in successful startups such as redBus, Edusports, Mydentist, SportsKeeda, ViralMint among others.

helion venture partnersHelionAn India centred VC firm based in Mauritius,Helion Ventures  invests in early to mid-stage companies in India in sectors such as Outsourcing, Internet, Mobile, Technology Products, Retail, Education and Financial Services. Helion’s investments include Makemytrip, redBus, Yepme, Pubmatic, Ezetap, TaxiforSure. It recently funded TrulyMadly, an online dating app.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 4.18.35 pmah! Ventures: A Sector agnostic investment group, ah! Ventures has around some 10 startups in its portfolio including Catapooolt, UFaber, Ketto, based out in Mumbai, ah! also has a office in Pune.

POS Ventures is yet another VC fund started by a Punekar which have made multiple local investments


TiE PuneEvery year, TiE hosts TiE Nurture which provides a 6-month mentorship program that helps startups in Pune to grow and attract funding. Its monthly programs “My Story” and “Breakfast with TiE” and other events are excellent. Vishwas Mahajan, is the current President of TiE Pune and Mandar Joshi  is the admin.

NASSCOMNASSCOM hosts multiple startup, tech and software events in Pune, including NASSCOM Product Conclave– which provides a platform for showcasing product excellence, creating buzz, actionable workshops besides offering curated insight and networking facilities. Another flagship program, the Game Developers Conference, provides dedicated tracks on technology, game design, game art and publishing and advertising. Darryl Zuzarte, Senior Associate of NASSCOM is the chief follower of the Pune startup scene.

ciieCIIE-PuneLaunched by IIM Ahmedabad faculty, alumni and other individuals and partners with like-minded organisations to foster entrepreneurship, Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship  hosts workshops, publications and academic initiatives. It provides mentorship and  also helps in the ecosystem development of startups. Key Person: Maneesh Bhandari

Pune Open CoffeePune Open Coffee ClubPune Open Coffee Club is the biggest grassroots startup organization in Pune. It serves as a common place for the startup entrepreneurs to meet and make connections. One can find startup jobs and information on upcoming events. There is also a forum for sharing launch announcements and updates. The Club members usually meet on the 1st Saturday of every month.

LeanRoundsLeanRounds.comA unique accelerator launched by Vinayak Joglekar and other angels, LeanRounds is an alternative to traditional seed investors. By embracing the business idea itself, it treats each unit as a falsifiable hypothesis and not as a startup with a business plan, where investment is based solely upon the credibility of the investors

seapSEAPFormed in 1998, as a group of Pune’s larger software companies, Software Exporters Association of Pune represents over 125 software companies in Pune. It has been hosting startup-friendly events and activities. It launched PuneConnect in 2011 which attracted more than 100 startups. It has also been releasing a Pune focussed Compensation and Benefits Survey for the past three years. Ashutosh Parasnis, Saheli Daswani (admin).

pune techPuneTechPuneTech is a non-commercial forum formed in 1998 by Amit Paranjape  and Navin Kabra which brings together information about interesting software technology in Pune – the companies, the tech user groups and organizations, the people, and the technologies, the news and the events. Pune Open Coffee Club has a close symbiotic relationship with PuneTech.

sme joinupSMEJoinupAs a marketplace for wanna-be entrepreneurs, SMEJoinup guides entrepreneurs through various stages of starting a small and medium enterprise. It helps them find a solid investor, strategize their entry and get the precious leads so required to become a successful entrepreneur. Through its tie-ups with trusted Angel Investors and Venture Capitalists, leading marketers, new generation Techies, brand developers, innovators, designers, researchers, SMEJoinup helps startups get a firm footing to move ahead in the business world.

Startup leadershipSLPThe Pune chapter of Startup Leadership Program started in 2012. It is 6-month highly selective, training program and lifetime network for outstanding founders and innovators. SLP has a globally defined curriculum, but delivers mentorship/workshops locally. It has provided mentorship to a number of entrepreneurs. Sanjeevani Nene, Binit Vishviker, Sohel Bohra, Ashish Bogawat, Abhishek Vallabh are just some of the many big Pune-startup names who have passed as SLP fellows.

IANIANStarted in April 2006, the Indian Angel Network, in addition to money, provides constant access to high quality mentoring, vast networks and inputs on strategy as well as execution to early stage businesses which have the potential to create disproportionate value. Vikas Kumar and Gaurav Mehra are involved in IAN’s Pune chapter.

pune connectPuneConnectOne of Pune’s biggest startup showcase programs, PuneConnect takes place in November every year. It provides young startups the exposure to angel investors and VC’s. Companies such as Rolocule, Zingma, Sapience, Framebench etc have exhibited themselves and raised money at the program. Gaurav Mehra, Navin Kabra, Amit Paranjape, Saheli Daswani are some of the notable faces of PuneConnect.

think puneThinkPuneLaunched by the founders of CIIE Pune in collaboration with  other Pune start-up ecosystems including PuneTech, TIE, NASSCOM, SEAP, POCC, MCCIA, NEN etc, ThinkPune prepares a report highlighting the characteristics of  Corporate Innovation Centres and Start-ups in Pune. It is a must read for anyone who’s interested in this area. More activities are expected to get announced soon by ThinkPune. Maneesh Bhandari and  Mainak Bhattacharya are involved with ThinkPune.

Venture CenterVenture CenterVenture Center is a technology business incubator specializing in technology startups offering products and services exploiting scientific expertise in the areas of materials, chemicals and biological sciences & engineering. It provides great support in pitching for government grants, investment, loans,applying for patent/IP help, especially to startups in chemical/life sciences segment.

DSTHoused in University of Pune, Department of Science and Technology is a nodal department of the Ministry of Science & Development. It connects startups with researchers in various Indian universities ( useful in non-software areas), and gives credibility if you’re selling products/services to Indian government bodies. Looking into matters of Ventures that promote the commercialization of technology is one of its major responsibilities as a government organization.

admin-ajaxIIT-Bombay Alumni Association (IITBAA): The Pune chapter of IITBAA which started in 2002, comprises of 1500+ alumni who are residents of Pune. It used to organize several events throughout the year, the flagship event being Innovations Pune, which showcases novel ideas in practice. Inspite of the level of participation on the startup scene diminishing, its mailing list still contains a lot of influencers, the key people being Suneet Chitale and  Atul Narkhede.

Office Space/CoWorking

Pune IT Park: Launched by promoter  of Vansum Industries, Pune IT Park is a model IT Park which offers infrastructural facilities to IT & Software Companies. Pune IT Park is the brainchild of Sunil Vanarse, a Chemical Engineer from UDCT (Mumbai). It is exceptionally startup friendly and provides “per seat” rates along with Plug-n-Play facility. Great for very early stage startups.

LeanRounds.comA unique accelerator launched by Vinayak Joglekar and other angels, LeanRounds is an alternative to traditional seed investors. By embracing the business idea itself, it treats each unit as a falsifiable hypothesis and not as a startup with a business plan, where investment is based solely upon the credibility of the investors

Pune International Incubation Centre: An office space launched by Synerzip, PIIC serves as an incubation centre and brainstorming hub for budding tech entrepreneurs. Most of the early stage startups in Pune are located in these areas: Northwest–Aundh/Baner/Sus/Pashan, Northeast–Kalyani Nagar/Viman Nagar, Central–SB Road.

[Editor’s Note: A special thanks To Navin Kabra for helping us compile this article]

Stay tuned for the list of Startups that are making big in the city of Mumbai.

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