Vani Kola is the managing director of Kalaari Capital, an early stage venture capital (VC) firm based in Bangalore. She is seen as a visionary investor with an uncanny ability to identify emerging markets. At Kalaari, her aim is to nurture entrepreneurs with the conviction that Indian companies are poised to become global players. With a 22-year Silicon Valley experience behind her, Vani now works with first-time entrepreneurs to build strong global companies within the context of Start-up India. Her focus is on technology companies and has successfully led investments in e-commerce, mobile services, education and healthcare. She gives 'India Investment Journal' an insight into what drives her string of successes. Does Start-up India hold investment promise Indian tech start-ups have created more than $40 billion in value over a relatively short span of time. Great CEOs have emerged who have proved that billion dollar companies can be built out of India. While the ecosystem is relatively young, there has been a lot of learning - both practical and emotional. More collaboration among stakeholders will definitely lead to the realisation of the promise that the India opportunity holds. Is the start-up ecosystem building up in the country There were more than 4,000 start-ups formed in India in 2015, a 400 per cent increase from 2010. Entrepreneurship is now a mainstream career choice. More importantly, there's a certain degree of coolness attached to it nowadays. This has resulted in the best young minds of the country taking an interest in starting up or working for a start-up rather than taking up a job elsewhere. Years of economic development have finally paid off and many youngsters nowadays have a safety net to fall back on. That, along with a certain ambition which is perhaps a by-product of globalisation, has given rise to a risk taking appetite that's necessary for starting up. Access to capital is no longer an issue for talented teams. Many VCs have set up shop in India and have raised fresh funds. Also, many successful entrepreneurs have started actively giving back to the ecosystem in the form of mentoring and angel investing. To conclude, I believe that we live in special times and history books of the future may refer to this decade as the golden era of Indian start-ups.
What are Kalaari's major Indian investments We have more than 60 portfolio companies across three funds. Some of these are Snapdeal, Myntra, Via, Simplilearn, Urban Ladder, Attero, Zivame, 99 Games, Holachef, YourStory, ScoopWhoop, IndustryBuying and Dream11. What are your future plans for the market We raised our third fund last year and we plan to deploy it in exciting opportunities over the next few years. Being committed to our entrepreneurs for the long run, we look forward to working closely with our portfolio companies as well. We have also started a seed initiative called Kstart to discover and mentor young start-ups. What are the top 5 reasons to invest in Indian start-ups The India opportunity is centred around the 250 million plus Indians who will be exposed to the internet for the first time over the next five years. Never before has an event of such magnitude happened in history. Smartphone users are expected to grow from 160 million to 520 million over the next five years. This, along with rising consumerism, is expected to push annual online spend from its current level of $25 billion to northwards of $100 billion by 2020. There are many unsolved problems that Indian individuals and businesses face today and we are looking at disruptions that ease the digital life of a common man. From discovery to execution, technology has the power to make things more efficient. Take the example of e-commerce. Earlier, a consumer was limited to a small set of local retailers for product and price discovery. On the other hand, retailers were not only geographically constrained in their reach but also faced high real estate costs. Now, with e-commerce platforms in place, retailers compete with each other to deliver better products and price to consumers who were earlier inaccessible to them. Information is perhaps the greatest source of power in today's world. Internet technologies makes it accessible to everyone. What is the criteria used when investing in these companies The criteria for investing can be seen as a mix of founder quotient, disruption quotient, market opportunity and validation. First and foremost, we are in the business of investing in people. We evaluate the founding team on their capability to execute and this is mostly a subjective call. Then comes how disruptive the play is. Is the company reimagining the experience of the stakeholders If the company is wildly successful, will the experience change significantly The significance of the role that technology plays in the undertaking also impacts the decision. We also look at how big the opportunity is and is the business scalable. Finally, traction plays a role in validating the hypotheses that the business idea rests on. A business needs to score high on most of these criteria in order to merit an investment from us.