Responding to a popular request, we are now sharing transcripts of our investor podcast interviews in this new series. The following interview with Kanwaljit Singh was recorded in May 2018.
Kanwaljit Singh is Founder of Fireside Ventures, a fund focused on building consumer brands in India. This is an excellent conversation about the nascent opportunity that, I expect, will be a major, worldwide phenomenon in the coming years.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start by introducing our audience to you as well as to your fund. Tell us a bit about your investing focus. How big is the fund? What kind of investments do you like to make?
Kanwaljit Singh: We are an early-stage fund based in India. We are exclusively focused on consumer brand space. What I mean by that is we basically invest in companies in spaces like food and beverage (F&B), consumer packaged goods (CPG), personal care and other consumer products that are targeting Indian millennials. We have raised about $50 million from mostly Indian investors. We work closely with Indian family offices that represent the consumer brands they have built.
We have large consumer corporations who have invested in the fund. This whole space of consumer brands and early stage entrepreneurship in the space has become quite exciting. The entire ecosystem is developing to help support and understand the space a little better.
Sramana Mitra: Fantastic. It’s one of the great opportunities in India going forward. It’s to build real homegrown consumer brands. How big is your fund?
Kanwaljit Singh: We are a $50 million fund. Think of it as a pre-series A to a Series A stage of investing.
Sramana Mitra: What sized checks do you like to write?
Kanwaljit Singh: The whole thesis that we follow is consumer brands require multi-stage funding in the beginning because they have to start from proving their basic concept, creating infrastructure for distribution, and brand building. We can go as early as a quarter of a million dollars all the way up to a couple of million dollars. We would work within this range but we typically start with a smaller check and then write the next few checks.
Sramana Mitra: That’s great. Let’s double-click down on two issues. One is what does a company have to have in terms of proof points for you to want to write a quarter of a million dollar check.
Kanwaljit Singh: The first check typically is for backing the entrepreneur. While it’s a clichéd term that you’re backing the jockey before the horse, it becomes even more important in our case. We are almost working with the company to establish product-market fit. As long as they have an interesting product space that we believe is an emerging space, we bet the first check on the entrepreneur and try and work with them to develop the thesis around the product-market fit.
Sramana Mitra: The entire focus of the fund is on original consumer products; not e-commerce channels.
Kanwaljit Singh: Not at all. We are very clear that we will invest behind original brands. The range of these brands is pretty wide. We already had investments across food and beverage, personal care, education, lifestyle. It has to be a brand play and not a retail or marketplace play.