India’s angels: 10 investors who have backed over 400 startups

Leading the pack.
Leading the pack.
Image: EPA/Anindito Mukherjee
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India’s booming startup culture has not only attracted marquee global venture capital firms but also hundreds of angel investors, including Bollywood actors and cricket players.

An angel investor typically provides financial backing to early-stage startups. It could be a one-time initial investment or over a period of time. Several leading Indian angel investors are entrepreneurs themselves, and often turn into mentors for fledgling startups.

In the last year alone, according to industry body Nasscom, the number of angel investors in India almost tripled to nearly 300. But there’s a select group of 10 that has backed some 425 startups over the last decade, according to a report by Xeler8, a US-based venture and startup analytics platform.

These are the ”archangels” of India’s startup ecosystem:

Rajan Anandan: Google India’s managing director has been an angel investor since 2006 and now backs over 80 startups. Most of his investments are in e-commerce companies and cloud-based services. “For him, the team is the most important parameter for investment in a startup,” Xeler8 said in a blog post.

Some of the startups in Anandan’s portfolio are:

Anupam Gopal Mittal: Founder and CEO of People Group, which owns matrimonial portal, realty portal, and mobile media company Mauj Mobile, Mittal is an angel investor in over 50 startups. He was among the most active angels in India in 2015, investing in 12 startups. ”Anupam likes to back businesses that have huge market potential backed by a strong, experienced core team,” Xeler8 said.

Mittal, a member of the Indian Angel Network and Mumbai Angels, typically invests in startups related to mobile and consumer internet.

His investments include:

Sanjay Mehta: An active member of four prolific investment groups—Indian Angel Network, Mumbai Angels, B2B 1K Ventures, and Venture Nursery—Mehta has a portfolio of over 40 startups. His investments are mostly in big data, marketing automation, and consumer services.

Some of the startups that he has invested in are:

Zishaan Hayath: A serial entrepreneur, Hayath began making angel investments in 2011 with Ola, Uber’s competitor in India. He now holds over 30 startup investments and runs an angel investment group called Powai Lake Ventures.

Hayath is the co-founder of online test preparation startup Toppr and phone-based commerce startup Chaupaati Bazaar, acquired by Future Group in 2010.

Some of the startups where Hayath has made angel investments are:

Sharad Sharma: The former head of Yahoo’s research and development in India, Sharma is a founding member of the software industry think tank iSPIRT. ”Sharma considers a startup worthy for investment depending upon the attractiveness of idea in his preferred segment,” the Xeler8 report said.

He has invested in over 25 Indian startups, including:

Anand Ladsariya: The CEO and promoter of Mumbai-based chemical maker Everest Flavours, Ladsariya is an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. He is the former chairman of CHEMEXCIL, an export promotion body set up by the Indian government. Ladsariya has a portfolio of over 35 angel investments, and actively invests through Indian Angel Network and Mumbai Angels. His investments are “largely sector-agnostic but tech-oriented,” according to Xeler8.

Ladsariya’s angel investments include:

Sunil Kalra: New Delhi-based Kalra, who began investing in startups in 2002, is now a full-time active angel investor with a portfolio of over 50. Before entering the ecosystem, he ran an exports business, and a leather apparel manufacturing firm.

While he has remained largely industry-agnostic, Kalra told Forbes in early 2015, “I am not from a tech background. However, tech-based companies have the ability to prove their concept with less capital. They are also leaner and far more scalable. Therefore, I am concentrating more on tech for now.”

Kalra is a “pernickety” about his investment choices, “typically zeroing in on one out of 20 companies,” according to Forbes. He is also a member of the Indian Angel Network, and a founding member of  the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies in Dehradun, Uttarakhand.

Some of Kalra’s angel investments are:

Rajesh Sawhney: Founder of Times Internet—the digital media arm of India’s largest media house, Times Group—Sawhney has supported several startups while building some of his own. His portfolio currently includes over 35 angel investments. Sawhney was also the founding president of media and entertainment firm Reliance Entertainment, and started the GSF Accelerator that provides mentoring and initial capital to startups.

He is also an entrepreneur currently running a Gurgaon-based food technology startup called InnerChef, which delivers ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook meals.

Sawhney’s angel investment portfolio includes:

TV Mohandas Pai: A former CFO of Infosys, India’s second-largest IT outsourcing company, Pai has made angel investments in over 40 startups so far, according to Xeler8. Pai is currently the chairman of Manipal Global Education, which provides  higher education services, and owns and operates university campuses across Malaysia, Antigua, Dubai and Nepal.

Most of Pai’s investments are related to technology. Some of his portfolio companies include:

Rehan Yar Khan: The founder of investments firm Orios Venture Partners, Khan has made angel investments in over 20 companies. His areas of interest include mobile technology, e-commerce, and the internet.

“For him, the commitment of team is the pre-requisite he often looks for before investing in a startup,” Xeler8 said. “A quantitative culture, a strong team, innovative strategy and a strong focus on quality are the key attributes of Rehan that he adds to the venture along with financial capital.”

Some of the startups that Khan has made angel investments in are: