Responding to a popular request, we are now sharing transcripts of our investor podcast interviews in this new series. The following interview with Rahul Chandra was recorded on July 2019.
Rahul Chandra, Managing Director at Unitary Helion Ventures, provides an excellent overview of the opportunity around India’s next 400 million consumers.
Sramana Mitra: Tell us about yourself and about Unitary Helion. What are you investing in? What is the investment thesis?
Rahul Chandra: Unitary Helion Ventures is a new venture fund which I co-founded after investing out of Helion Ventures for 12 years. It was also an India-focused fund. Unitary Helion Ventures is a fund that we are starting with a more specific focus on the areas that we have learned more about or understood better over the last 12 years of investing.
We’re trying to keep that focus on India. We are trying to go deeper into middle India, which is the next 400 million Indians. The last 12 years has been a good journey of learning and helping several companies. Those learnings are what we are expecting to put to good use.
Sramana Mitra: How big is the fund?
Rahul Chandra: It’s a $100 fund to invest in early stage. The typical check size would be in the $2 million to $4 million range. We’re expecting to do mostly Series A’s. What applies to us in these check sizes is more of the ground reality in India even though it’s changing fast. That is the check size that is typical for something that can get us into a Series A deal.
We expect to build a portfolio of about 16 to 18 companies. It is a hands-on fund. We want to keep it narrower and have the bandwidth to work with each and every founder.
Sramana Mitra: If you could go back to Helion, give us a few examples of the kinds of companies that you’re talking about that would be your primary focus in this fund. We know Helion very well. We’ve had Ashish here before. Give us a little bit of an illustration of what you mean by your more focused investment thesis.
Rahul Chandra: Helion started in 2006. At that time, very few VC firms had an entrepreneur-first mindset. It was still an evolving phase of the industry. Funds that were investing were coming more from fund management background versus the Silicon Valley-style of working alongside founders.
That spirit continues in Unitary as well. Helion was a bigger fund. We started at $140 million. Our second fund was $210 million. The third one was $250 million. As our fund size increased, so did our areas of coverage. We also were going through a phase in India where digitization was minimal, to begin with. We were still investing in a phase where we had to cater to people booking tickets through a phone call.
We saw it change slowly and then very quickly from 2011 onwards. From 2006 to 2011 was a prolonged stage of adoption with of course, the percolation of digitization in India.