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Internet entrepreneurs: The next big thing

They're not there yet, but they're getting close. Having gained investor confidence, these new economy entrepreneurs are pushing for entry into the exclusive club

Itika Sharma Punit 

Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal

Despite having changed their business model nearly half-a-dozen times during the early days, Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal have managed to establish Snapdeal among the top three e-commerce players in India. In 2014, Snapdeal was valued at over $1.8 billion. According to filings with the Registrar of Companies, Bahl and Bansal own around 8.5 per cent in the e-commerce company, putting their stake at around $145 million. The single largest shareholder in Snapdeal is SoftBank Group with a 33 per cent stake. Snapdeal has so far raised $1.1 billion from 16 investors.

Bahl and Bansal have not stopped at creating wealth in their own venture, but have also been active angel investors in Indian startups, having invested in Delhi-based (a marketplace for entertainers and party planners), apparel start-up Bewakoof, travel community Tripoto and Mumbai-based food ordering app Tiny Owl.

While in an earlier interview with this newspaper, Bahl had said that most of the wealth for him and his partner will be created by Snapdeal, their decision to mentor and engage with younger entrepreneurs has led to their being described as “brave entrepreneurs”.

Sachin Bansal
Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal

In just seven years of starting from scratch, Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, co-founders of India’s e-commerce posterboy Flipkart, have outgrown the financial success of several iconic Indian businessmen. It didn’t take decades for the duo, who are unrelated to each other, to cross a combined net worth of $1 billion, like it had for technology stalwarts like N R Narayana Murthy and Nandan Nilekani, both of Infosys.

At the time of raising $1-billion last year, the Bansals’ combined stake of around 15 per cent in Flipkart was valued at Rs 6,000 crore. Murthy, along with his family, had a net worth of around Rs 8,500 crore at the time, while Nilekani and his family’s worth stood at around Rs 6,500 crore.

The story of how the two men started with just two laptops and grew to its current size is inspirational. They were not only able to ride India’s robust consumption story, but also earned the investors’ willingness to place their bets on their company. In 2014, this resulted in Flipkart raising close to $2 billion.

Deepinder Goyal
Deepinder Goyal and Pankaj Chaddah

They didn’t choose the route of big fund-raising like their Indian peers in the consumer Internet space, but Deepinder Goyal and Pankaj Chaddah are clearly focused on establishing their seven-year-old company, Zomato, as a global leader in the online restaurant search business. Currently valued at around $700 million, experts estimate that Zomato is all set to enter the billion-dollar club in 2015, setting the stage for the founding duo’s combined net worth to touch a billion dollars over the next few years.

The two former Bain & Co executives have taken the Gurgaon-headquartered Zomato, which began in Goyal’s bedroom, to its current status through global acquisitions, buying out companies in the US, Turkey, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, Slovakia and Czech Republic.

In six funding rounds, Zomato has raised $113.8 million from three investors, most of it coming from online classifieds and e-commerce company Info Edge, with venture capital funds Sequoia Capital and Vy Capital participating in later rounds.

Bhavish Aggarwal
Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati

If sources are to be believed, the valuation of mobile app-based taxi aggregator Ola (formerly OlaCabs) doubled in the first six months of 2014. That would put the Bengaluru-headquartered company, started by Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay alumni Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati, among the fastest growing technology startups in the country.

While Aggarwal and Bhati have kept a low profile, their venture was in the limelight when it entered the $1-billion valuation club late in 2014, just three years after its inception. In addition, Ola attracted funding of $210 million from Japan’s richest man, Masayoshi Son, the chairman of telecom and media group SoftBank Corp. Ola has so far raised $276.8 million from nine investors.

Aggarwal and Bhati, both in their late-20s, have not only created landmarks in terms of valuation, but also set records in terms of growing their business: Ola entered nine new cities in a span of 45 days between October and November last year. The company now has a presence in over 67 cities, and has an ambitious plan to expand to 100 cities by the end of 2015.

Aggarwal’s dedication towards his idea reflects in the fact that along with his wife, he has pledged never to buy a personal vehicle and always use Ola for transportation. Besides, they are already known for their philanthrophy. In 2014, Aggarwal accepted the “ice-bucket challenge” from Vikas Malpani, co-founder of Commonfloor, and Kunal Bahl of Snapdeal, and donated an undisclosed amount to the Akshaya Patra Foundation, which provides mid-day meals to 1.4 million children every day.

Naveen Tewari
Naveen Tewari, Mohit Saxena, Abhay Singhal and Amit Gupta

On February 11, InMobi announced that it had become the first mobile advertising company to reach over one billion unique mobile devices. “To put that in perspective, it is as big as India’s population,” said an excited company spokesperson. “Or for that matter, remember Facebook has over a billion mobile users on its network.” Working in the enterprise segment, which attracts far lesser attention than consumer Internet companies, the four founders of InMobi — Naveen Tewari, Mohit Saxena, Abhay Singhal, and Amit Gupta — have slowly but steadily built a business that is today a big competitor for Google.

Often referred to as “the next Infosys”, InMobi was founded in 2007 by the four Indian Institute of Technology alumni. It is among the top three mobile advertising firms globally and has business across nearly 200 countries, with revenue estimated at $200 million for 2013. According to sources, InMobi clocked revenue growth of over 40 per cent over the last six months and is currently valued between $2.5 billion and $3.0 billion. While there is no clarity on the stakes held by the founding quartet, an industry insider says, “SoftBank owns one-third of In-Mobi, but the founders also have a substantial share.”

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First Published: Sat, February 14 2015. 00:15 IST