Our aim is to bring to our community some of the unique and compelling stories from the start-up ecosystem. As part of this endeavour, we invited yet another passionate entrepreneur Tushar Kansalfor an exclusive interview with us.
What is your educational background?
I have completed Executive Education from Harvard Business School, an MBA in Finance from University of Delhi and B.Tech (Textiles) from Technological Institute of Textile & Sciences – Bhiwani, which is affiliated to the “Textile Institute Manchester, UK” and part of the leading Industrial & Education house in India “The Birla Group”. Major part of my Schooling has been at Montfort School, Delhi.
How did you begin your career? Was it in conjunction with the present role that you have taken up?
I got campus placement from Engineering College at Indo Rama Synthetics, a big poly-staple fibre manufacturing company at Nagpur. But I soon realised that I wanted to be either in IT or Finance. So I prepared hard for MBA Entrance examinations and got through MBA in Finance at the University of Delhi.
I got campus placement in M&A division of SBI Capital but post my MBA, I co-founded an Education company called KITES which trained high school students in IIT entrance examinations. The company grew to 800 students and 3 centres in North Delhi and I got a very good exit when we sold it to Narayana Institute in 2006.
For the last decade, I have been in leadership role, driving Business, with large companies and as an entrepreneur.
At Deloitte, I executed Private Equity assignments/ Valuations & Financial Advisory. At Brand Capital, I was part of the team investing across companies. At MTS India, as head of Debt division, I was instrumental in raising almost $2.5 billion of debt in 3 years and handled all round Financial goals as CFO of DLI, including compliances towards the PE Fund Guggenheim, as the main investor and owner.
I am Founder of Kansaltancy Ventures, an Investment Management firm as also Saffron First, a Startup Network/ Fund and all the roles played by me have deeply helped me in executing my present professional journey.
Tell us more about your journey?
My social media links are at Linktree – https://linktr.ee/tusharkansal and Corporate website is www.Kansaltancy.com
I founded a startup Indus B2C Global in 2013. It was a startup into B2B consumer space. The product was Human Hair extensions which are sought after by mostly women of African origin. It was during my time with this startup that I realized the gaps between what startups need and what companies are offering to help the startups.
I quit full-time Management of this startup and became a financial investor. That’s when I launched Kansaltancy Ventures – we assist startups and growth stage companies with equity fundraising, debt, mergers and acquisitions and mentoring. We also help in getting business for the startups which we handhold.
A large part of my work at Kansaltancy Ventures is doing webinars and helping founders and team members of aspiring startups, reach their goals.
Today, I have made a lot of progress in creating an ecosystem in this field.
I am a Mentor and Judge at Entrepreneurship cell’s of IIT-Mumbai, IIT-Delhi, IIT-Chennai, IIT-Kharagpur, IIT ISM-Dhanbad & such marquee Institutions. I have expertise of Financial & Business advisory, Fund raising & creation of docs/ collaterals for VC Funding.
I am a Venture Advisor with Loyal VC, the INSEAD-led Canadian VC Fund, having a core portfolio of over 160 investments in more than 35 countries. I am also Partner with GSD Venture Studios, a Silicon-valley based Venture Builder.
Over the years, I have arranged Funding for startups & growth-stage companies in diverse sectors like, EdTech, FinTech, Consumer B2C, B2B & D2C, AgriTech, Disruptive & DeepTech as well as non-Tech sectors. The full list of 40+ Recommendations are on LinkedIn
My expert opinion is often sought by leading business news channels and publications like CNN-News18, VCTV, Business World, Business & Economy, Qrius and Digital Market Asia. I have come on 150+ talks – Just check on YouTube, VCTV streaming site https://latoken.com/vctv/investor/1040 & Kansaltancy.com!
What are the offerings of Kansaltancy Ventures?
Kansaltancy Ventures (http://www.Kansaltancy.com and https://brutnow.com/ is an investment management and advisory firm into Equity fund raising, fund raising for VC Funds, Debt and Mergers & Acquisitions. It has years of experience Growth Companies to prepare for the unknown while meeting their Needs. Our verticals:
- Funding: Equity & Structured Debt Planning & Pitching to Investors
- Mergers & Acquisitions
- Pitch Deck Preparations & Presentations
- Business Plans & Project Plans Preparations
- Start Ups & Growth Strategies & Planning
- Go-To Market & Digital Marketing Strategies
- Financial Strategic Planning & Analysis
- Strategic Planning & Execution Advisory
- Business Valuations Advisory
As an independent Growth delivery firm, we can access many different Funding Options so that the customer can get the right Funding and services
Saffron First https://brutnow.com/) is a Global Crowdfunding/ Angel Network & Fund, headquartered in Singapore, crafting investments in APAC/ India & providing domain specialists, capital & an ecosystem of strategic partnerships
In your opinion, what are the hurdles that keep people away from starting an entrepreneurial career?
Entrepreneurship is not taught in our schools. The school focuses on technical aspects, on geography, on the sciences and arts and commerce but ignores the critical aspects of entrepreneurship, which is money planning financial planning, which is accounting, which is human relationships, working in teams, being the leader, being a manager.
All these aspects are very sadly ignored in our educational ecosystem. Hence, the journey for an entrepreneur becomes very steep.
I think it is very difficult to start companies, it’s quite painful. A friend of mine has a good phrase for doing a startup. It’s like eating grass and staring into the abyss. If you are wired to do it, then only do it. Not that not otherwise. So think of it this way. If you need inspiring words, don’t do it.
Firstly, being an entrepreneur has been overly glorified in movies and TV shows, but for the most part running a company is difficult. Most of us are not ready for it, or are more interested on the idea of being an entrepreneur rather than actually be willing to put in the work to become one
One thing entrepreneurs should understand is the meaning of being an entrepreneur, an entrepreneur is someone who has chosen to do what he wants with his life. When you are doing what you want with your life. That is the greatest joy that you can have. But slowly, you forget that you are doing what you want, you start working for someone else’s expectations. That’s not the way.
The meaning of being an entrepreneur is that you are doing what you want to do and you should continue to do that all your life. Success is not only in terms of money, success must also be looked at in terms of finding full expression of who you are, your capabilities and your competence.
Our educational ecosystem is yet to get equipped to make students take up entrepreneurship and instilling in them the necessary skills and experience to take these challenges head on.
What is the Startup and Funding scenario in India as of now?
India’s startup domain is poised to gain further momentum after the unprecedented funding boom created 20 unicorns, or private firms valued at $1 billion or more, this year.
By 2025, the Indian startup ecosystem is set to witness three-fold growth in valuation and a substantial rise in the number of Unicorns, which currently stands at 59, according to a report by early-stage venture capital fund 3one4 Capital.
The number of startups will jump to 100,000 in 2025 from about 55,000 currently, the report said. They will attract investment of a whopping $100 billion between 2021 and 2025, employ 3.25 million people and become the second-largest ecosystem in the world after the United States, it said, adding that India will be home to over 150 Unicorns.
How do Investors look at investing in India nowdays?
Let me give you a general overview of the tech investing landscape in India over the past few years, or even a decade
Tech investing in India is now almost technically two decades old but the real momentum started ten years ago with significant capital coming in to jumpstart, some of the big success stories today like Flipkart etc. This euphoria that started in 2008-09 culminated in 2014-15 when companies crashed and burned.
If you were a consumer startup in 2015, VCs would chase you relentlessly to accept a $100 million investment. People get so excited about internet consumer startups because we’ve seen them create gigantic value over time.
Then we saw a big bubble burst at the end of 2015. This marked the immediate end of the era of hype about India being a gigantic market. Investors had invested ahead of time. Tiger Global left town and SoftBank stopped making new investments. This period spanned 2016-17.
However some investors did make investments and sometimes sizeable ones, but most often they were in companies that they already had stakes in through earlier investment rounds. SoftBank with Paytm, for example.
Then in 2016, the buildup started again. People were super cautious. Now in 2021, we’ve seen lots of investments.
So what changed from the earlier era?
Two to three things have changed for sure. People have realized that in India, after first 50 million, spending falls off a cliff. The next 100 to 200 million new internet users have very low spending power and it will take 10 to 20 years to build business models around them. The first 50 to 100 million Facebook users here for example cough up $6 a year. But for subsequent users, it falls to a maximum of $2, if that.
On the other hand, content has become very hot again. The funny thing is, no one has figured out a content business model as yet but there’s been massive adoption. And here, vernacular is a big theme. Every app goes vernacular very quickly since people have figured out that no more than 100 million can speak English in any meaningful way. But monetisation is still a question mark.
So what companies have been successful?
ShareChat has become immensely popular especially amongst the low-income urban economic demographic. Users use it to trade in Bollywood gossip and religious messages. Its investor is Chinese. NewsDog, UCWeb, and Dailyhunt (which has attracted an impressive 285 million users in relatively little time) — in other words, all the hottest content-driven companies on the block now with vernacular plays — have Chinese backers.
China was the big new investor daddy of the block. If you went to the Bangalore Indiranagar Starbucks in the recent past, you would have likely seen lots of entrepreneurs pitching Chinese investors. They’ve had lots of success in content in China and thought India is a good place to replicate it.
With Chinese Army being at India’s border, recent actions of Indian Government have given a jolt to Chinese investments in the country. My sense is these investments from China will come back as soon as the border flareup gets settled
What about the trendy theme of AI?
The problem is AI and machine learning tends to be more enterprise oriented. It is buzzy, but no one gets any extra points for doing it because everyone is using AI in whatever they do. It seems that even making pakoras needs AI these days! AI is being used in logistics robots, replacement of call centre operators, and many other similar things. The problem is this space doesn’t lend itself to a headcount model like a services business and therefore cannot scale.
You need to look at a platform-based solution if you’re looking at an AI investment. If your potential investment solves, say, a sales problem — your usual sales-automation-through-AI kind of thing. Here, you will see a proliferation of small shops. I doubt that giants will emerge from here.
What is the micro situation in the sectors where money is coming in right now? Is there no new investment theme to speak of?
There certainly is, it’s huge and it’s FinTech. This category is broadly divided into 3 parts: payments, lending, and insurance. Wealth management is also a category but nascent. The space is generally fragmented, and can be sliced and diced thoroughly. In other words, there’s no ‘winner takes all’ model here, like in rideshare or ecommerce. It is very execution-centric.
I would imagine that all what has happened in China with Messenger has propelled this. Messenger as a set interface has become very popular. But it’s not the kind of phenomena it has been in China. People on WeChat never leave the UI. In India, the dominant player is WhatsApp but the app hasn’t opened up its API. So that opportunity is not fully realized.
Within FinTech, payment has already happened. Winners like PayTM are well established. Even smaller outfits like MobiKwik and FreeCharge have dominated the lower rung.
Lending, however, is red hot. It has been the number one VC theme in since 2018. Every VC worth its salt has five lending outfits in its hand and there’s a good reason for this. The need for credit is still acute. For a small individual or business, a bank is really not an option. Insurance and wealth management is next. The market is not big enough for both today but they will see a lot of action in the next five years.
Lending has a murky past with all the horror stories and implosions in the microfinance business. But in the big picture it has still succeeded as an investment class. and has become a commercial success. Lending is going to add $50-100 billion in new value in the next 10 years.
Which other themes are likely to play out?
AgriTech is one — but it is small because of fragmented farm size. It is practically bespoke and doesn’t feel like it’s quite there today.
Logistics is another theme. It contributes 8% of GDP but it is a $200 billion industry and very fragmented so has a lot of upside. There are less than five trucks per company so there is a huge opportunity here for scale and efficiencies. The sector is spliced into intra-city, long haul, and mid-haul so each of these will have its own problems to solve.
Now with electric vehicles, there’s a new excitement in this area, making tech more relevant in the space. Rivigo and Blackbuck are two large venture funded companies that have become big.
Which sectors have not taken off?
Insurance registration has just a 3.5% penetration. People predicted a much higher effect. There’s lots of focus on product innovation, like vacation insurance for 10 rupees rather than the big packages.
How do founders and new entrepreneurs get in touch with you? How do they reach you?
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