This secretive New York firm is quietly fuelling India’s e-commerce revolution

Online shopping in India is taking off in a big way and Tiger Global stands to reap big gains.
Online shopping in India is taking off in a big way and Tiger Global stands to reap big gains.
Image: Reuters/Parivartan Sharma
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This year, the battle for dominance over India’s exploding Internet market is even more brutal— and a secretive New York firm is discreetly fuelling these war flames by providing Indian startups with financial ammunition to take on bigger, established players.

Over the last decade, Tiger Global Management has invested in a number of Indian tech startups spanning sectors. Many of the startups they funded now have deep enough pockets to compete with successful American companies whose business models they originally drew inspiration from. For instance, the seven-year-old Flipkart is able to stand its own against Amazon. Hike, a messaging app, wants to eat Whatsapp’s lunch in India. And Olacabs is ready to battle Uber.

But very little is known about the US investment firm as it almost never discusses its investments with the media.

Chase Coleman founded the the company, which is part private equity fund and part hedge fund, in 2001 in New York. The reclusive billionaire has never given a media interview. Tiger Global declined to respond to our queries.

But it is one of the hottest funds on Wall Street, mainly because of its highly lucrative investments in Facebook. Media reports suggest the firm made $1 billion from its Facebook investments alone. It is also known for its investments in other big Silicon Valley names such as LinkedIn and Zynga.

The hedge fund part of the business is managing assets worth $6.5 billion. The private equity business, which includes 8 VC funds, has $7.5 billion assets under management. The firm also has a long-only business (where assets are held for a long time) where it manages assets worth $1.5 billion.

Feroz Dewan, who is of Indian descent and grew up in Singapore, manages the hedge fund. Lee Fixel and Scott Shleifer run the global private equity business. It is a young investment firms and all the partners are under 40.

The firm has been interested in technology companies in emerging markets such as China, Latin America, Middle East and India since its inception.

While they don’t have an office in the country anymore—at one point they were operating an office in Mumbai—they are one of the biggest investors in Indian technology firms. They funded some of pioneering Indian Internet companies such as online travel portal MakeMyTrip and search engine Just Dial, much before they went public. They have not exited these companies even after they went public, according to recent SEC and SEBI filings. Unlike most other private equity funds, the firm is agnostic in terms of when they invest into a company.

Tiger Global led the $1 billion investment in Flipkart in July. This is the biggest round of funding into any Indian startup. It is also an investor in fashion website Myntra which was bought by Flipkart in May this year—a deal most likely  pushed by the common investors to take on Amazon.

Last month, Tiger Global led a $60 million investment into online classified website Quikr and a $65 million investment into messaging app Hike.

Some of the other Indian companies that the firm has its footprints on are car rental service Olacabs, real estate website Commonfloor and gaming site Rummy Circle.

India is one of the most attractive online business markets in the world because of its future potential. So far only 12. 6% Indian use Internet. and a huge chunk is just waiting to be connected. As veterans and startups scramble to attract the maximum number of consumers, Tiger Global is quietly ensuring that it walks away with a lion’s share of the approaching online bonanza.