Responding to a popular request, we are now sharing transcripts of our investor podcast interviews in this new series. The following interview with Hemant Mohapatra was recorded in March 2019.
Hemant Mohapatra, Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners, India, talks about some of the large, open opportunities in the Indian market that are of interest to him.
Sramana Mitra: Today we’re going to start with a conversation with Hemant Mohapatra who’s partner at Lightspeed Ventures India. Let’s start by introducing our audience to the activities of Lightspeed India – the positioning and a bit of your background.
Hemant Mohapatra: I grew up in India and I left for the US In 2003. I spent about 15 years there across Austin, Texas, and Bay Area. I spent my career mostly as an engineer, six years in AMD and then five years at Google. From a product management role, I evolved into a business development and strategy role at Cloud.
I spent about four and a half years there and saw the Cloud growth. It really took off from 2013 to now. As part of my journey, I got a bunch of work that allowed the Cloud product to scale up. A lot of that involved investments as well as acquisitions. I got really close to startups during those days and enjoyed my experience there.
As I began investing and acquiring companies, I thought that this could be a career move for me. Why not do it as a full time job? At that time, I was losing a lot of my deeds to Andreessen Horowitz. Then they came calling in 2018 and said, “You’ve spent five years at Google. Why are you wasting your life away? Why don’t you join us in an investing role or you could join a startup? If you’re doing a startup, that’s another way to collaborate.”
I was ready to move to India at that time. I wanted try the venture capital route. Where else would you do it if not the Valley? So I joined them as an Enterprise Investment Partner. I spent about a year and then Lightspeed came by and came calling. Things just fell into place.
I’ve known the Lightspeed team a couple of years before as well. One of my investments at Google was a Lightspeed company. I had the relationship in the past. I moved back August of last year. I’m the sixth partner.
I’ll give you a bit of Lightspeed background. It’s a US vintage firm. It’s been around for over 20 years now, but it has mostly been popular with enterprise companies. We have diversified into crypto and Blockchain consumer and a bunch of other marketplace tech companies over the last 5 to 10 years.
In India, it used to be Lightspeed US. Four years ago, India’s opportunity became big enough and interesting enough for us to raise an India-centric or, I would call it, Southeast Asian-centric fund beginning with India.
We raised that fund in 2013 with $135 million. We invested in roughly 20 to 30 companies. Out of that, many of them have become global brands now in hospitality, EdTech, and in a few other categories. The second fund, when I joined in August of last year, earned $175 million. It’s a bit of a bump up from the last fund.
We invest across all opportunities in consumer and enterprise. We love tech-focused companies that are solving a very fundamental problem in a space that is humungous and very underserved. In India, there are many opportunities like that in healthcare, logistics, and agriculture. We feel that the game is just beginning in India. That’s Lightspeed India.
There are six starters including myself. There are a couple of companies you may have heard of. Oyo is global and is one of the biggest deal brands in hospitality today growing out of India, Japan, UK, US, and China. If you haven’t heard of BYJU’s yet, you will hear about it soon because they’re entering US pretty soon. It’s a Chennai-based tech company and one of the largest EdTech players in the world today.