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Dec 09, 2022
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Future for Indian startups with indigenous solutions

-Sushant Bhatia, Investment Head, Caspian Debt

Team 100X interviewed some of the top investors across the globe about their venture investing journeys, startups, and India. Here, Sushant Bhatia, Investment Head, Caspian Debt shares his responses.

 

Q1.What is your motivation to be in the venture investing business?

Learning about innovative businesses that are creating social impact and meeting the passionate teams behind them.

 

Q2. Describe your workday and leisure day, how does it look like?

I start the day by reviewing emails that require immediate attention. I then talk to the team about the deals at hand and if they require any support in evaluation. I spend 60-90 minutes on LinkedIn and business websites reading about start-ups in impact sectors, and economy in general. Generally, 3-4 hrs/day are spent on scheduled calls. I rely heavily on tools like Office365 & MS teams for collaboration since the team and portfolio is spread across the country and we work in hybrid mode. I travel 4-5 days/month. I try to squeeze in a workout in the evening. 

On leisure days, I work out, read books, write a bit, and stream movies/series. I like to travel for leisure as well and keep exploring places with my partner.

 

Q3. What is your view on the future of India as a market?

I think the future is bright for India where start-ups would bring innovative solutions for local problems (rather than copying Silicon Valley), and more such businesses would go public and global. 

 

Q4. Help describe your investment thesis and ideas you would like to back

We like start-ups when they have:

-Established economics, profitable or a visible path to profitability.

-Focus on internal controls.

-Willingness to commit and monitor their impact on society & environment.

-We have funded 210+ companies in last 9 years. We are looking to provide customised, flexible debt capital to start-ups working in climate adaptation & mitigation, affordable healthcare, and food & agriculture. We like both digital and brick & mortar solutions because India needs lot of infrastructure, especially in Tier-2 and beyond.  We have a bias towards funding companies with women founders or majority women employees. We have even funded women-founded companies beyond our focus sectors.

 

Q5. What are your 5 key learnings from your experience as a venture investor

  • There are hidden ventures beyond the media-hype.
  • Stay away from people who are focusing more on valuations and less on value.
  • Focus on unit economics. 
  • Markets are FOMO-driven. Look for investors and founders who are building without FOMO.
  • Lack of transparency is a deal-breaker.

     

Q6. How do you support your portfolio companies

Since we focus on specific sectors, many of our portfolio companies work with each other, we provide them support in identifying such opportunities. We also try to bring portcos together on annual basis for identifying such opportunities.

Connections with relevant investors and impact ecosystem.

We provide multiple rounds of debt capital. Since we are structured as an NBFC (and not as an AIF), we are a permanent entity/company and can fund the same portco as many times as needed if they are following sustainable growth, for example, we have funded one portco 10 times in last 6 years and helped them grow from 7x.

We recently started providing financial and operational data-based insights and benchmark reports to companies on quarterly basis.

 

Q7. When you started your career what were your ambitions

I wanted work that made me happy. Glad I found it. 

 

About Sushant:

Sushant is currently the Investment Head for Start-up and Social enterprise lending at Caspian Debt, an impact-focused specialised NBFC. He leads the team for origination, due diligence, and relationship management across sectors like Healthcare, Education, Food&Agri, Clean Energy, Sustainability, and WASH. He has been active in the venture ecosystem since 2016.

Prior to joining Caspian Debt, Sushant worked as a Product Manager with Fincare Small Finance Bank where he helped set up the cross-sales vertical for financing solar lights, mobile phones, and pensions for rural microfinance customers. 

Sushant holds an MBA from the Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA) and a B.Tech in Biotechnology from VIT, Vellore.


 

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