Janam Mehta, Partner at Campus Fund and Venture Investments at JSW Ventures, discusses the progress of the Indian startup ecosystem.
Sramana Mitra: Tell us about a bit of your background as well as what are you up to with the investments.
Janam Mehta: I started out first as an entrepreneur. I was 18 when I started my first business. I was very excited to be in a startup because it felt new. That was the second wave of entrepreneurship in India. I was able to exit. That’s when I joined Mumbai Angels. Then I had another startup. I scaled another FinTech company as a second employee. I completed my MBA and came back to India to join JSW Ventures and Campus Fund.
Sramana Mitra: Before we go to the funds, I’d like to ask you a little bit about your startups. Since you’ve been involved with the Indian startup ecosystem for quite a while, talk a bit as an overview of what you’ve observed as the evolution of the Indian startup ecosystem both as an entrepreneur and as an investor.
Janam Mehta: Back in 2013, I would say that entrepreneurship and startups were quite novel. The quality of entrepreneurs, compared to the US, was still lacking. You saw a lot of very interesting ideas and not enough capital. You had a few successes. There were a couple of big exits, but it was nascent.
When I look at entrepreneurship, the ecosystem is significantly different. The bar has been raised. It’s significantly higher. There are second and third-time entrepreneurs who’ve got successful exits. The second is you have product talent in India that is booming given that in the last five to seven years, you’re seeing interesting companies being built. Some have been acqui-hired. Product talent has improved.
India always had a strong tech IT culture. Probably the nuance I would is that the quality of coders is growing but it’s not there yet for an ecosystem as big as India. On the talent front, we saw a significant boost. Now in 2020, I can say that it’s India’s time to shine in the startup ecosystem. We are now increasingly creating global products. You’re seeing Freshworks as a classic example of an Indian SaaS company being listed on NASDAQ, which is huge.
You’re going to see a lot of platform businesses building for the world. The last seven to eight years in India have been incredible for both entrepreneurs and investors.
Sramana Mitra: We have done case studies of companies that are India born. Freshworks was incubated in 1Mby1M. On Monday, I was talking to Raghu, the CEO of Yellow.ai. CueMath is a kick-ass company also.
Janam Mehta: What’s exciting too is the belief exists that we can build for the world. That cultural change is important to go to a foreign country. Playbooks have been made. Knowledge is being shared quite openly, which did not exist before. You have the right pillars being set up. Indian investors are understanding how they should be looking at global plays from India. There are so many companies that are already at $50 million ARR.