BOTTOMS UP

In 2016, India’s most prolific venture capital firm is keen on food, pharma, and beer

Quartz india
Quartz india

In 2015, Sequoia Capital was the most prolific investor in India’s startup ecosystem, backing 33 startups in a year that saw unprecedented amounts of money chasing entrepreneurial ventures.

In the last 10 years, the Silicon Valley-headquartered Sequoia has invested around $1.4 billion in Indian startups, including Ola, Micromax, Zomato—and most recently, Indian craft beer company B9 Beverages, which sells the Bira91 brand. Outside India, it boasts of a portfolio that includes giants like Apple, Google, LinkedIn, and WhatsApp.

On the sidelines of the Wharton India Economic Forum in Mumbai on Jan. 5, Quartz spoke to VT Bharadwaj, a managing director and partner at Sequoia Capital India, on his outlook for the year ahead. Here are some edited excerpts:

On sectors to look out for in 2016

At Sequoia, we have invested a fair bit in consumer and health care sectors. In consumer, we are excited about food, beverages, personal care, and pharmaceuticals. We’ve invested in a whole bunch of pharma companies, so those are very, very interesting sectors. My passion is consumer companies.

Why did you invest in Bira91?

Beer consumption in India is at a very early stage. Bira91 offers an opportunity for craft beer at an affordable price. (Beverages including) RAW Pressery, Paper Boat, Bira91 are all trying to attack the market, and we are excited about it.

Is there a valuation bubble?

I think it is the wrong question. At various points in time, there will be good companies, which will raise capital and at different valuations. Because valuation is not a function of how a company is performing, it is a function of availability of capital, and a function of how many investors are interested, among others. So the valuations keep on changing. Take any public market company, over a time of three-four years, the prices go up and down, every day. But in the public markets, nobody asks these questions. The right question to ask is: Are there good number of ideas available which can scale? And is capital readily available for these ideas?

On Indian government’s efforts to encourage startups

Anything that the government does to improve the ease of doing business, the ability to set up a company, raise capital will be fantastic for the ecosystem.

On Sequoia’s plans in 2016

We don’t put a number to our deals. We are in the business of backing interesting ideas and if there are more entrepreneurs who show up with good ideas, we will back them.

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