If the startup market in India is headed for a crash, no one will pay as high a price as Vani Kola.
The 52-year-old is co-founder of Bangalore-based Kalaari Capital and one of the country’s largest venture investors. She’s raised about $650 million and holds stakes in more than 60 startups, including the country’s two most valuable, Flipkart Online Services Pvt. and Jasper Infotech Pvt’s Snapdeal.
But this year is shaping up to be perhaps the roughest ever for India’s technology companies. Foreign giants like Amazon.com Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. have trained their sights on the market just as many venture firms slash investments, fueling predictions that most local players will be squashed. Kola isn’t backing off. She has kept up her pace of investments and even launched an accelerator a year ago to nurture more entrepreneurs.
“There’s a recent view that the story of most Indian startups is over and Uber and Amazon can declare victory,” she said during an interview in the board room of Kalaari’s incubator, decorated with traditional Indian brass oil lamps and an impressionistic painting of a sheep and train engine. “I will never underestimate these entrepreneurs’ ability to think their way out of a problem.”
Kola has a record of success. She raised her first $210 million fund in 2006 with Vinod Dham, best known for developing Intel’s Pentium chip, and placed bets on e-commerce startups just as that business began to take off. Since parting with Dham, she has raised another $440 million, making her the second-largest firm in India by assets and the biggest run by a woman, according to researcher Preqin Ltd. Of the firm’s 84 investments, Kola has managed to sell 21 startups.
“She is among the top five VCs in India,” said Mohandas Pai, chairman of the venture firm Aarin Capital Advisors and former chief financial officer at outsourcer Infosys Ltd. “She came to the internet business very early. Nobody else saw its potential then.”
News and Image Source: profit.ndtv.com