15 very important days. The ones that have just gone by.
Aditya Ghosh, the storied IndiGo airlines CEO, has moved to Oyo, the multinational conglomerate funded by SoftBank, which is now morphing from a hotel room aggregator business to just about any piece of real estate that can be put on rent (online) and managed. And Oyo wants to do this not just in India but anywhere investor money and common sense would allow it.
Then, after a hunt of more than two long years, SoftBank has zeroed in on Sumer Juneja as head of India investments. Now, he’s going to oversee spending of more than a billion dollars in the country. That doesn’t happen often.
Abhijit Bose, a financial technology professional-turned-entrepreneur, left his company to head WhatsApp in India. Very rare for a founder/entrepreneur to do that. But as they say in Bengaluru, the silicon valley of India, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls you for a gig; first, you listen, and then, you take it. Even if it is in Gurugram, Haryana.
And finally, Kaushik Anand, an old Sequoia hand, quit his international gig with Alphabet’s VC company CapitalG. He is now teaming up with old buddies from the American VC Sequoia, who have all quit to start a Rs 2,000 crore ($286 million) fund. Splits happen often, but fund raising of this size and the coming together of the old and the new is rare. The venture capital industry is calling this Westbridge Part II.
Now, on the face of it, all the above changes might seem disparate. You might say, there’s no thread.
But there is. Look closely.
Between them, the above four events will alter the technology-led business and venture capital landscape in India. They will answer questions which have been hanging fire for the longest time now. Can a Rs 2,000 crore fund make money for its investors by investing in tech and non-tech companies? Nobody’s done it before. Not, successfully. Will WhatsApp win in India? Will it be the threat to payments company Paytm* that everyone’s been waiting for? Or will fake news win? Will SoftBank finally merge cab companies Ola and Uber? Will it do e-commerce like Flipkart? Will it create another real-estate search portal like Housing or a hospitality company like Oyo, and who will that be? Can Oyo, a startup from India, really go global? With a business model that actually works, and which can, perhaps, serve as a roadmap for several other Indian startups?
With these four appointments, a lot has been set in motion in the last 15 days. Let’s dive in.
Anand is leaving CapitalG, earlier known as Google Capital. This is Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc’s growth equity fund which invests in technology-led startups across the world.