It was a networking pitch of a different kind with at least $10 billion of venture capital funds, literally at play. The venue: Squash & Badminton Stadium at Delhi’s Siri Fort.
A dozen-odd head honchos of marquee venture funds were on the court for the badminton tournament on Thursday. Some were playing each other, fiercely fighting for each point on the court — just as they do when pitching for new investments. Several teamed up with competitors to put up a joint front.
“It is a competitive, but fun and friendly event,” said G V Ravi Shankar, managing director, Sequoia Capital, who partnered with Bharat Singh, the firm’s CFO. “We get to meet in formal settings over meetings, dinners and conferences when everyone’s guards are up. Here, one just takes off the investor hat, and play,” he said, as teams from InfoEdge, Avendus Capital, Nexus Venture Partners, Kalaari Capital, IndigoEdge and Sistema Asia Fund, among others, sweated it out on the courts.
Arpit Agarwal, principal at early-stage investment firm Blume Ventures, felt this goes beyond business. “On the courts you get out of your comfort zone and meet the real person on the other side of the net,” he said.
The brain behind the India-specific event, Pankaj Makkar, managing director, Bertlesmann India
Investments, said the idea was to celebrate the spirit of collaboration in the Indian venture capital (VC) ecosystem. “This will help to build a strong informal relationship among the VC ecosystem.”
VC funds typically invest in start-ups for a five to 10-year period. They co-invest and collaborate with each other in the journey of the start-up. “I will surely get better with a person while collaborating on a deal if we have bonded well on the courts,” Makkar said.
A game of badminton also brings out the sporting spirit among the VCs.
Even after losing two games, Rahul Khanna, co-founder and managing partner at Trifecta Capital, a venture debt fund, was not complaining. “Badminton is a great leveller. Helps people to deal with adversity,” he said.
While Indian venture capital investments have seen some lull over the past 18 months or so, many feel the phase is close to tapering off. “Investment flow will improve over the next six months,” Khanna said.
Bertlesmann’s Makkar is of the view that new start-up companies that are coming to the fore are those that solve India-specific and developing world problems. “This phase will need a lot more collaborative effort among the VC community,” he said.