By guest authors Irina Patterson and Candice Arnold
This is the eighth interview in our series on seed financing and angel investing. I am talking to Padmaja Ruparel, president of Indian Angel Network. She is based in New Delhi, India.
Irina: Hi, Padmaja. Let’s start with your telling us a little bit about yourself.
Padmaja: I have been in the early-stage entrepreneur ecosystem in India for over a decade now. It was something I did in addition to working for a software company as head of Indian corporate communications strategy. I operationalized The Indus Entrepreneur’s (TiE) Delhi chapter back in 1998.
From there, I have built it up over the past nine years and laid the foundation of an award-winning chapter in the TiE universe. I also helped rejuvenate the Indian Venture Capital Association. About three years ago, I stepped out of my corporate life to operationalize the Indian Angel Network and now focus on it full time.
When we started the organization was called Band of Angels, but we soon rechristened ourselves Indian Angel Network, which is how we are now known. We started off with a nine-year-old laptop and using our investors’ offices, to now having operations in four cities: New Delhi, Bangalore, Bombay, and Pune. We have a team of six people and we are looking to expand to other cities in the country. With about 125 investors across the country and overseas, we have more than 20 investee companies based in India and overseas. We’ve had four partial and full exits, the most recent one giving our investors about five times [return] over 15 months of investment. And we’ve got a deal flow averaging about 150 deals a month.
Irina: Do your angels have any particular industry expertise, or is it really broad?
Padmaja: Our angels come from various domains. We are largely sector agnostic but are size specific. Having said that, we are interested in sectors in which our investors have a background or domain expertise. Take something very high-end, such as as nanotechnology, for instance. I think that despite its being a great proposition, we may not have interest in it just because we may not have an understanding of that space. But tomorrow, if we have an investor from the nanotechnology sector who becomes a member, we may just take a punt on a proposition in this space it. It’s really driven by what we can understand, and more than anything else what we can help, mentor, and grow. I think mentoring is the real role of angels, apart from initial small funding that we may do.
Irina: Tell us more about your organizational structure. How do your chapters operate?
Padmaja: We don’t work as chapters and federal organizations as TiE does. For instance TiE, has, I think, more than 50 chapters around the country with each chapter being a separate P&L. We don’t operate like that. We operate as a single body. It’s a hub-and-spoke model. We have the hub in Delhi, and we have spokes with operations in all these other cities. It all feeds in. All our investors across the world have an opportunity to invest, participate, do due diligence, whatever, equally. In that sense, we are a national (and international) body.
Irina: Even international, I might say, because you also have members who are outside of India, right?
Padmaja: Correct, and we’ve also invested in companies that are based overseas.