MeitY fast-tracks work on ₹5K-cr fund-of-funds

New Delhi | Bengaluru: The Ministry of Information Technology (MeitY) is fast-tracking its ambitious ₹5,000-crore fund-of-funds targeted at deploying much-needed domestic capital into India’s software products ecosystem, as the government looks to reopen the economy in a phased manner after a two-month lockdown.

MeitY officials are expected to approach the finance ministry as early as next week with a detailed proposal for the Software Product Development Fund (SPDF), according to three sources aware of the developments. The SPDF was first announced in the National Policy on Software Products, which was approved by the Union cabinet in February last year.

The Covid-19 pandemic-induced lockdown effectively shut down Asia’s third-largest economy, but with its gradual reopening under strict guidelines ministry officials are now speeding up the fine tuning of the fund and are expected to have a cabinet note ready by early-July. The ministry is also considering tapping the country’s bellwether information technology services companies, including TCS, Infosys and Wipro, apart from large family offices, to serve as limited partners or investors in the fund, sources told ET.

They indicated that there was a preference towards raising domestic or Rupee capital for the proposed ₹5,000-crore fund-of-funds.

“If companies like Infosys and TCS show interest in software product development, which carries good valuation, then we would be delighted to have them on board,” said a senior government official. “Of course, Rupee capital is more than welcome in the fund, compared to foreign capital.”

While ministry officials are expected to formally approach corporates by end-June or early-July, back channel talks between the parties have already been initiated. “We are targeting that after cabinet approval, by the last quarter of this financial year we should be able to disburse something,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

Sources also indicated that MeitY may look at third parties to manage the fund, with the likes of SBI Funds Management, which manages SBI Mutual Funds, and HDFC AMC being thrown into the mix as potential fund managers for SPDF.

MeitY, Wipro, SBI and HDFC did not respond to ET’s emails till the time of going to press. Infosys declined to comment.

MeitY’s current plan is to deploy the ₹5,000-crore corpus into at least 50 daughter funds that would comprise of Sebi-registered Category 1 and Category 2 Alternative Investment Funds, by the last quarter of the current financial year. These daughter funds would, in turn, back startups in the software products sector.