Q&A with Anjli Jain, Managing Partner, EVC

Held on 30th of April 2016, Chindia TMT Dialogue Conference which was organized by EVC Ventures in collaboration with ZD Investment & Consultancy, opened up new business opportunities between India and China. The vision of the summit was to promote cross-border entrepreneurial synergy and help fill the gaps that exist in the China-India Internet industry through cooperative efforts.

anjli jain

Anjli Jain

As an event partner, iamwire got in touch with Anjli Jain, Managing Partner, EVC to develop a better understanding about what investors think about the growing Indian startup hub. Below are the excerpts of the interaction:

How’s it going? How has been your experience in this industry till date?

It’s going great. I am really excited as we have made a few major announcements, especially about Milkbasket which we have recently funded. Such events hold a lot of importance as they help build up crucial dialogues between entrepreneurs and investors.

EVC could actually be hailed one of the forerunners of the Indian startup ecosystem. I came here in 2006, and around that time, the ecosystem was only in its embryonic stage. Gurgaon was not like the way it exists today. Our country was struck by a strong entrepreneurial wave that ignited a passion for innovation in young minds, and encouraged people to take risks, something they had never seen their parents do. To support that interest, they needed a foundation, someone they can go to for guidance and create a corporate structure. And EVC did that by providing them with intellectual capital.

What is your take on the Indian startup ecosystem?

I am very optimistic and positive about the rising startup ecosystem in India. I thinks it’s a very niche currently. We have a humungous, and probably the largest intellectual capital sitting here- educated and potentially creative. Also, because of the recession in other parts of the world, e.g. the US, we have people who have come back, forming another extremely important layer in the intellectual capital.

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Interesting startups are coming up now. Many even seem similar to the ones I had seen in the US in the late 90s. And then you have more people like me who with their experience are keen on putting money in innovative businesses. Moreover, the market is receptive and there’s a lot of support from the government as well coming up.

I would also like to add that events like these could be instrumental in accelerating the growth of the Indian startup ecosystem as they work towards encouraging foreign players to help build a collaborative industry. I think, we should be looking towards opportunities of collaborating similar technologies in similar environments to make businesses more efficient and agile.

What is the size of your fund? What kind of startups are you looking to invest in?

We have created a fund of $50 Million, and it is exclusively for Indian startups.

We are focused primarily on AI driven companies who are capitalizing on data. A lot of them on my table are actually Chatbot based.

Then we are interested in companies which enables integration of businesses, for example mobile wallets, payment gateways etc. Paytm kind-of opened up this area.

And the third segment which holds our interest is Ed-tech, not exactly e-learning, but the ones which capitalize on students.

Key speakers at Chindia TMT Dialogue Conference

Chindia TMT Dialogue Conference held at Leela, Gurgaon.

What are the three things that you look at before investing in a startup?

The three things I look at before putting money in a startup would be

  1. Passion- that pulse in the founding team which generally comes with experience.
  2. Business model- that is potential of generating profit. It’s the seed of a business. It does not happen automatically. Therefore, before investing, I make sure that I learn how these guys are going to make money.
  3. The fundamental mentality of building a business- I see, if the startup is capable of being adaptive and responsive to feedbacks or not. I believe, startups should be responsive, not reactive to the market dictates.
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On a funny side, what was the most ridiculous business model that you have come across?

I don’t think I would call any of them ‘ridiculous’, for that’s very harsh. You do not say that to people. I might have myself sounded ridiculous to someone in my first venture. (Laughs)

Rather than calling someone’s efforts ridiculous, I would say “May be you should try this way or that way”. As a VC, I have to be more open minded, and welcome new ideas no matter how weird they sound. My job is to help startup founders better their ideas. Facebook sounded ridiculous to someone once, and now see where it stands.

What are your tips to startups for scaling-up?

Don’t say yes to everything because saying yes to everything is the recipe for failure.

Stay focused. Scalability sometimes happens not because you say yes to everything but because you stay focused and develop an understanding of your niche, and start working towards validating it. That’s the beauty about India, there’s enough of a playground- locality and hyperlocality. You just need to find where to pivot.

Disclosure: iamwire is an Event Partner in Chindia2016 TMT Dialogue