SoftBank Vision Fund (SVF) is expanding its India team, as the Japanese heavyweight investor looks to add a dozen executives in the next few months, primarily for its new operating team.
SoftBank, which opened an outpost in Mumbai recently, will hire at least six operating partners who will not only spot opportunities for prospective investments, but also help portfolio companies scale up globally and leverage from the group’s overall ecosystem.
“We want to make the ecosystem connections through this team. Young entrepreneurs could benefit from added management bandwidth in order to scale faster, tap international markets, and roll out adjacent products,” Munish Varma, managing partner, SoftBank Investment Advisers, told ET.
Last year, SoftBank roped in Sumer Juneja from Norwest Venture Partners to head SVF India. Juneja has since strengthened the local team by bringing on board half a dozen new hires.
Varma is based in London and sits on the boards of Indian companies such as digital payments major Paytm, hospitality chain Oyo, and logistics firm Delhivery while Juneja takes care of the Mumbai office for the $100 billion fund and is on the ride-hailing platform Ola’s board.
“While the operating team will focus on helping our portfolio companies grow globally, they will also be actively investing. The investing and operating teams will work very closely,” Varma said.
An operating team allows late-stage investors like SoftBank to track its portfolio’s progress more closely.
SoftBank has already deployed $10 billion across Indian startups, of which $8 billion has come from the Vision Fund.
The Masayoshi Son-founded group has also been assisting a number of these firms tap international markets.
Among its India portfolio companies, Oyo has expanded to China, Europe and the United States; Paytm has entered Japan and Canada; FirstCry, the baby products etailer, has launched in the UAE, and Ola has made inroads into the UK and Australia.
SVF is beefing up its investment team globally to manage its ever-increasing portfolio.
Last month, Son said at the company’s annual general meeting that SVF would more than double its team size globally to 1,000 members along with its portfolio, taking it up to 150 companies over the next two years.
On the financial services theme that the fund is tracking, Juneja said, “Financial services is a very big opportunity, highly under penetrated and it’s not a winner take-all market unlike a lot of other sectors. ICICI, HDFC, Kotak are all large businesses happily coexisting and growing. No one company can satisfy the loan demand of an economy; there will be multiple large outcomes in this space.” So far, Paytm is the only bet for SoftBank in India in the financial services industry.
SoftBank, which plans to invest $2-4 billion in India over the next two years, has been in talks with the Piramal group to back its financial services arm. ET reported in its July 15 edition that a potential investment by SoftBank in the Piramal group will likely depend on the Indian company’s willingness to aggressively move into the consumer finance segment away from its current wholesale focus.
The deal talks come at a time when Rajeev Misra, who heads SoftBank Vision Fund, said in a July 5 interview with ET that the group was bullish on financial services and would plough $1-2 billion into the space.