NEA invests in Indian IT firm(3)

NEA, a US venture firm, has made an investment in Novatium Solutions, an early stage India company trying to bring internet computing to the masses.

US venture firm New Enterprise Associates has made an investment in Novatium Solutions, an IT systems company based in India that is developing a thin network computing device designed to be affordable and accessible. NEA did not disclose the size of the investment, which was made out of its $2.5 billion (€1.8 billion) NEA Partners XII.

“We're bringing down the cost and the complexity of internet computing,” said NEA general partner Kittu Kolluri, who along with Ben Mathias, vice president of NEA India, will join Novatium's board. “It's not something that we could relate to here in the US, but it's a genuine problem in India. A lot of people can't afford PCs, and they can't deal with the complexity of PCs.”

Novatium sets up service sites with hub computers that run Windows or Linux operating systems. Novatium then provides users with small network computers that can be plugged into a monitor and keyboard, and connects users to a broadband provider. System maintenance takes place at the service site, allowing users to avoid set-up and maintenance of their PCs.

The company will launch its service “within days”, Kolluri said, having signed contracts with two local telecom providers. Novatium plans to offer its service at Rs500 ($12.60, €8.90), including internet access, hardware, software, virus protection, maintenance and electricity consumption.

Novatium will use NEA's investment to scale its operations. The company said it plans expand beyond its base in Chennai, and hopes to reach 50 million households in five years.

NEA has invested in India for more than five years, and has an office in Bangalore. The firm typically targets later stage investments in the region. Its India portfolio includes wireless systems software maker Sasken and direct-to-home satellite operator ProtoStar.

NEA also makes early stage investments indirectly through its affiliate fund, NEA-IndoUS. The fund was launched in January and held a second close on $189 million this July.