Best time to be an entrepreneur in India

Best time to be an entrepreneur in India
Best time to be an entrepreneur in India

Naspers has been behind investments in some of India's most successful start-up ventures in recent years. Here Larry Illg, CEO for Ventures, explains what makes India an exciting prospect for the firm. What would you attribute Naspers′ success in the Indian market to Naspers is active in more than 130 countries and markets across the world, and our approach to investing in companies has been fairly consistent over the years. Firstly, we ensure that we understand the business model. Do we think it has legs Do we think there is long-term defensibility and profit potential This can be a few years out, because we look at a relatively long horizon for our investments. Is there a fundamental need in the market for this business to exist; increasingly, we look for businesses that address big societal needs. And finally, has the business got good potential to scale If the answer to all this is yes, then the second question we spend energy on is whether or not the company is being run by an entrepreneur and management team that we believe in, because we believe that being entrepreneurial takes something special. We look for people who are committed and dedicated and want to see their company scale, so we want to be sure they have significant ambition. Many of our successes have been down to putting our trust in local entrepreneurs and backing them to succeed. Local leadership is also important to us because in our experience it ensures a higher level of understanding of local culture, market and of course, customers or end users. If we see a business model and a leadership team that we believe in, then we start to get excited. The final consideration is price. Does the opportunity come at a reasonable price While we are not short-term investors, we do want to make a return. Turning to India specifically, I think all the above applies. We have backed people we believe in, with excellent local knowledge of the Indian market, and business models which address real societal needs in India. We are excited about the potential of all the businesses that we are involved with in India, whether you look at Flipkart, MakeMyTrip, OLX or PayU. How has the VC arm been developing since it was set up We established the Naspers Ventures team in 2015 to sharpen our focus on finding the next areas of growth for Naspers. Of course, finding new opportunities is something the group has been doing for more than a century, but today, there's never been a better time to be an entrepreneur. We see hotbeds of innovation and entrepreneurship right across our markets, and we established our global Ventures team to stay close to these fast-moving opportunities. Today we have dedicated Naspers Ventures team members in Silicon Valley, Latin America, the Netherlands, South Africa, Hong Kong, and of course, India. As well as exploring, finding, and investing in new opportunities, we also provide a number of unique support services to help our entrepreneurs develop and scale their businesses. For instance, we offer expertise in strategy, product and mobile, growth marketing, research and intelligence, organisational design and development, communications, and M&A. Today the Naspers Ventures team has invested in and works with companies like Movile, iFood, Delivery Hero, Brainly, Codecademy, Udemy, Twiggle, and SimilarWeb. What are some of the company′s high points since it began investing in India Naspers was an early investor in Flipkart, which has grown to become India's leading e-commerce business. In April this year, the company successfully raised a further $1.4 billion from a consortium of investors including Tencent, eBay, and Microsoft. This is the largest capital investment ever raised by an Indian internet company and we are proud of the team and excited about Flipkart's growth plans. In recent months, Naspers has also closed a couple of important deals in online travel, and payments. In October last year, we announced a merger between Goibibo and MakeMyTrip. GoIbibo is a business that we backed with Ashish Kashyap back in 2009. This business grew quickly, and included the acquisition of redBus, which has since expanded internationally. The merger with MakeMyTrip closed in January and since then Deep, Rajesh and Ashish have been working hard to bring the two businesses and teams together. They're making great progress already and everyone's excited about the new company and what it can do for the online travel industry and, in particular, for people travelling in India. The other deal I mentioned was between our global payments business - PayU and Indian payments technology player, Citrus Pay. In September 2016, we agreed a deal for Citrus Pay to become part of PayU in the largest ever M&A cash deal in Indian fintech. Has Start-up India contributed towards Naspers′ own growth trajectory We haven't yet felt the impact of Start-Up India ourselves, but we are excited about what the government is doing to boost the entrepreneurial ecosystem and obviously look forward to many more innovative companies coming out of India. What are some of your top tips for investing in the Indian internet landscape I'm very flattered you've asked for my top tips! But we don't actually have a country thesis for any geography; we seek to understand local dynamics insofar as they inform consumer needs, but never start with “let's do more in this country”. Coupled with that, most investors will have their own magic formula for investing, and so may not need my top tips. Our approach is around the business model, the team leading the business, and our perception of the opportunity. But at a general level, my top tip for any market we consider is to fully understand the local market nuances; things which are easy to overlook from afar, and potentially catastrophic if you get them wrong. Two quick examples for our markets are around product and payments. When thinking about online or mobile businesses, understanding how people get online and which people own what device is critical to product design and development, and subsequent marketing efforts. Markets vary hugely in this respect, particularly around data access and usage, in many cases due to both bandwidth and cost. In India, internet access is predominantly via mobile, and lower-spec smartphones proliferate. For payments, it's very easy to make assumptions about how people pay online if you are an entrepreneur based in the US or Western Europe, where credit card penetration is high. It's therefore important to ensure you are thinking about your payment models upfront, or investing in companies that know what they are doing in this respect. Naspers company PayU provides merchants with online payment solutions specifically tailored for local consumers in markets like India, Latin America, and Africa. What are your future investment plans in the Indian market That's not something we talk about for any market, other than saying that our approach is to look for growth opportunities that address big societal needs in markets where we see the greatest potential. In terms of why we like India, the size of population, the rapid growth we see in numbers coming online via mobile, the amount of innovation underway, and the progressive work of the Indian government to encourage the advance of the tech space are all good reasons. Larry Illg is CEO for Ventures at Naspers and heads the team which identifies emerging trends, acquiring and operating disruptive platforms for the group.

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