For our 15th Silicon Global Online episode, Ask A VC Anything, our featured guest was Mohanjit Jolly. A seasoned venture capitalist, Jolly is a Silicon Valley-India connector, and currently a partner at Iron Pillar Fund. Jolly discussed his passion for making an impact on the Indian venture ecosystem, current technology trends in India, Iron Pillar’s new Top Up Fund, and the impact of Covid-19 on his portfolio companies and India.
10 Key takeaways:
1. Indian companies have always had disparate teams. As they were already used to remote working, India is quicker to adapt to new working realities than their Silicon Valley counterparts.
2. 2. India ranks as the 3rd largest country in venture capital spending, and will see north of 100 unicorns over the next five years.
3. 3. The India government’s $1.5 billion fund of funds in early 2017 to invest in venture funds backing Indian startups has been a big boost.
4. 4. Through the democratization of technology and software from Amazon’s AWS, Microsoft’s Azure, and Google’s Cloud, Indian entrepreneurs are now able to build products in tier 2 and tier 3 markets, not just major tier 1 markets.
5. 5. India has the lowest data rates as well as the cheapest but still fully functional smart phones in the world. The natural conclusion is that there is massive pent-up demand for consumption. Thanks to the push towards 5G, video consumption, gaming and live streaming will all see big upticks in the near future.
6. 6. Startups in the healthcare sector need to play a bigger and better role to impact broader India.
7. 7. India is NOT a homogenous market. The top 1-2% of the Indian population has high-speed internet, the large middle class is growing, and the bottom 40-50% of the population operates in an agrarian economy. A “bounty at the base of the pyramid” exists. Large companies are developing through online access to content, community and commerce that serve the 600-700 million population of India’s agrarian economy.
8. 8. The pressure is on India to innovate. India must create 12-15 million jobs a year just to keep the unemployment rate steady.
9. 9. If there is one country that India is trying to mimic from a technology and technology entrepreneurship standpoint, it’s Israel. Israel is not a large enough market in itself, so the business focus is on expansion globally. More and more Israeli advisors are appearing on Indian companies’ investor decks.
1010. Notable quote by Jolly to Flipkart’s founders, “I look forward to the day that Flipkart will not be called the Amazon of India, but Amazon will be called the Flipkart of the US.” Although Flipkart isn’t there yet, the success of Flipkart spawned a mindset switch among Indian entrepreneurs to think bigger and believe that their company can grow and scale globally.
Bio: Mohanjit Jolly, Iron Pillar
Prior to joining Iron Pillar as a partner in 2016, Mohanjit Jolly was a partner at Draper Fisher Jurvetson for nine years, splitting his time between India and Menlo Park. His venture career began in 2002 at Garage Technology Ventures in 1999, after working in tech innovation posts at Mattel and iTek. At DFJ India, which Jolly led from Bangalore, notable investments include online travel company Cleartrip, solar-powered lantern Dlight Design, and Attero Recycling, a recycler of e-waste and lithium ion batteries.
The Iron Pillar fund focuses on venture growth, targeting Series B and C stage companies with $10-$50 million financing rounds. Iron Pillar’s first fund of $90 million is fully committed to eight companies, including one exit in 2019: the sale of portfolio company NowFloats, a service for small businesses to go online in a simple way, to India’s Reliance Industries.
To support successful companies from its first fund, Iron Pillar raised a Top Up Fund in early 2020. Despite the onset of Covid-19, the fund was oversubscribed in seven weeks, reaching $45 million. The Top Up Fund invested in Uniphore in 2019, a conversational and advanced analytics AI platform specifically going after call centers and customer service verticals. John Chambers, former CEO of Cisco, took a 10% stake in Uniphore in late 2017.
Submitted by contributor Michael Weiss at Silicon Dragon