Wipro Ventures invests in New York-based VC Work-Bench

Wipro Ventures' Rishad Premji
Wipro Ventures is overseen by Rishad Premji, Wipro’s chief strategy officer and director.

Wipro Ventures, the $100 million corporate venture arm of India’s third largest software services firm, has invested an undisclosed sum  in  a New York-based venture capital fund, Work-Bench, as it continues its strategy of investing in start-ups and funds that can help its parent.

This is the second investment by Wipro Ventures in a venture capital fund, after it invested in Israel-based  TLV Partners last year.

A spokesperson for Wipro confirmed the investment in Work-Bench, which is focused on the area of enterprise technology.

Wipro Ventures, which is overseen by Rishad Premji, Wipro’s chief strategy officer and director, started operations in 2015 and has invested $32million in 10 start-ups and two venture capital firms. Rival Infosys Ltd has invested in nine start-ups and two venture capital firms.

Wipro Ventures’ investment in Work-Bench will allow parent Wipro Ltd to access newer technologies from more start-ups and help it offer these solutions to clients ranging from Citigroup Inc. to Exxon Mobil Corp., especially in the areas of enterprise software and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.

Work-Bench VC was founded by former Morgan Stanley executive, Jonathan Lehr and former Cisco executive Jessica Lin in 2012 and has invested in 18 companies.

Wipro Ventures’ investments have allowed parent Wipro to offer new-age technology solutions in engagements with some of the firm’s 1,244 customers, highlighting one way in which large IT companies are keeping pace with new technologies.

“The total capital deployed till date (by Wipro Ventures) is about $32 million. We have worked with our investee companies in over 80 client engagements and won seven deals together in the first quarter of this financial (year),” said a Wipro spokesman.

Nine of Wipro Ventures’ 12 investments are in the US, two in Israel and one in India, a Pune-based big data start-up Altizon Systems Pvt. Ltd.

In addition to allowing Wipro to tap into the start-up ecosystem, Premji also oversees mergers and acquisitions, and over the last two years, the firm has been the most aggressive among Indian IT services firms on this front, having spent $1.14 billion in buying five firms, such as Denmark-based design firm Designit and US-based cloud computing firm Appirio Inc.

Both Wipro and Infosys are looking to hedge their bets by investing in venture capital firms, in addition to taking direct stakes, as this helps them gain access to technologies of a host of start-ups.

“Having your own ventures team is important, but adding a mix gives you the opportunity to try different approaches and a broader exposure to a new investment hypothesis,” said Ray Wang, founder of Constellation Research, a technology research and advisory firm.

Wipro Ventures is jointly managed by Venu Pemmaraju, formerly a senior investment manager at Intel Capital, and Wipro executive Biplab Adhya.

Both Pemmaraju and Adhya are based out of California and report to Rishad Premji.

Bets made by Wipro Ventures include those in cyber security-focused start-up Vectra Networks and Arizona-based fraud prevention solutions start-up Emailage Corp.

This article was first published on LiveMint.com.