By guest authors Irina Patterson and Candice Arnold
This is the nineteenth interview in our series on financing for entrepreneurs. I am talking to Amit Grover, member of the Mumbai Angels and the founder of Nurture Talent Academy, a training institute for entrepreneurs in India.
Irina: Hi, Amit. Let’s start with your telling us a little bit about your background.
Amit: I am a mechanical engineer, an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi. I got my MBA from the India Institute of Management (IIM) Indore. I have worked with leading companies in the past few years, in different roles. I was a software engineer at Infosys Technology Limited, then I did my MBA.
After that, I worked with Asian Paints, India’s leading paint manufacturing and retailing company, for a couple of years in a sales and marketing role. Then I joined Onida, India’s leading electronic retailer and manufacturer.
At the same time that I joined Onida, I became associated with this group called Mumbai Angels. At Onida, my role was reporting to the chairman, Gulu Mirchandani, in decision making and new initiatives.
I also handled the field sales at the national level for Onida. Gulu Mirchandani and his son, Sasha, along with a few other prominent entrepreneurs, were the cofounders of Mumbai Angels. That was about three and a half years ago.
Irina: Can you tell us a bit more about Mumbai Angels?
Amit: Mumbai Angels was formed in November 2006. Sasha Mirchandani, Prashant Choksey, and a few other entrepreneurs of the country got together and said that in India, a country of one billion people, there was nobody who can write a check for maybe $500,000 to a startup.
Take the city of Mumbai, for example. It has a population of fifteen million, and nobody can write a check for $500,000 for an entrepreneur who wants to start his or her own company. In terms of angel investment, the scene was bleak.
Now the group has increased to one hundred members, each of whom is a high net worth individual. It includes Gulu Mirchandani; Ranjan Kapur, who is the country head of WPP, the world’s leading advertising agency; Rafiq Malik of Metro Shoes and other members.
For the past three and a half years, we have done twenty-five angel-stage investments. These investments have generated potentially 1,000 jobs across the country.
Five of these have already given us substantial returns in terms of exiting. These include InMobi, which is the world’s second-largest mobile advertising network after Google’s AdMob; Apalya Technologies, which is a live mobile TV; and Venture.com, which is into customized and personalized marketing solutions.
Irina: What is Mumbai Angels’ geographic focus?
Amit: The focus is Indian companies, all across India. A couple of our portfolio companies are in Delhi. Five companies are based in Bangalore. Ten are in Mumbai, and the others are around Pune and other locations across the country.
There is one instance of a company that is based in the United States. That is a company called NetElixir, an online customer acquisition management firm with headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey.
We have invested in companies that are based in India but have customers globally. For example, InMobi has now operations in more than thirty countries.
Irina: How do you get your deal flow?
Amit: We get at lot of our deal flow through our website, www.mumbaiangels.com. A lot of people search online and come to know about the work we have done, reach out to us, and send us their proposals. There is a simple template that we follow, and we request that the startups send us their proposals in that format.
Also, our one hundred members are always networking in the community of entrepreneurs, so whenever an entrepreneur is looking for funds, the members suggest that he or she come to the platform of Mumbai Angels.
Then, there are VCs who know about us. They also send us a few deals that they aren’t ready to invest in because the companies are too early for them, but they see potential in the companies to grow. Maybe two or three years down the line, they will invest, so they also send us deals.
Irina: Which VC companies do you have a relationship with?
Amit: We have a relationship with most VC companies. Sequoia Capital is one, IDG Ventures is another, Helion Ventures, Canaan Partners, and Reliance Venture – these are a few of the venture capital companies that keep sending their deals to Mumbai Angels.