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Start-Up India: 6 key takeaways from Softbank's Masayoshi Son

The Softbank CEO says 21st century is India's, but needs investment in infra

Alnoor Peermohamed  |  Bengaluru 

Masayoshi Son
Masayoshi Son (Photo: Wikipedia)

Masayoshi Son, the founder and chief executive officer of Japanese giant Softbank, which has backed Indian unicorns such as Snapdeal, Paytm and InMobi, on Saturday laid out the reasons for his optimism and faith in the Indian market. Putting his mouth where his money already is, the 58-year old business leader, one of the richest people on the planet, said the more he learns about India, the more it excites him.
 
Here are the six top takeaways from his talk at the Stand Up India event being hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Delhi:

 
Improve Infrastructure
 
and electricity need improvement, Son said. One of the biggest hindrances to India’s growth, according to him, is the lack of infrastructure in the country. “In this country, is too slow,” he said. is the new standard for last-mile connectivity and while the backend is built on fibre, not enough is being done to make affordable enough for the masses.
               
21st Century is India’s
 
The 21st century belongs to India, since the demographics are on its side when it comes to being a superpower in the 21st century, the CEO said. There are over 800 million young people in the country, who are smart, said Son. This along with the fact that the country has a large English-speaking population and is the world’s largest democracy, has Son convinced that India is the country for the 21st century.
 
to scale up India investments, not down
 
Investments will only increase, he noted. has invested $ 3 billion in Indian firms in the past one year. If the company sticks to the same pace of investments in the country, it will run through its $ 10 billion fund allocated for India before the prescribed 10 years it was supposed to be invested in. When quizzed about reevaluating his strategy, Son said if he were to consider rescaling his investments in India, he would only go up.
 
In Failure, What should the Entrepreneur do
 
“Whenever there is danger, the entrepreneur should say i will be the last guy to jump ship,” said Son. Speaking on the ups and downs that every company will go through, he fondly recollects being richer than Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates for three days before the stock of his company crashed by 99 per cent. The only thing that helped him make a comeback was his passion.
 
How do I identify
 
There’s no textbook method for finding the right entrepreneur to invest in, he noted. Apart from looking for a “sparkle” in their eyes, Son believes a lot of it has to do with gut instincts. "In the case of investments in China, we did not have a team. It is always instinct. In India, I have Nikesh Arora and team who prepare. Whatever preparations they do, investments is not just logic," he said, adding, on a lighter note, that "You don’t fall for a beautiful person with logic."
 
Burning cash versus profits
 
"We need a constant balance. you cannot burn money (in a) stupid way. As long as you invest in (a) smart way, it is OK. Businesses need 5-10 years to make profit. It is OK not to make money, but what is important is customer acquisition, business model and customer satisfaction. The overall business should be created that to get enough scale, active user base and you willl make profits."

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