The move makes perfect sense. Certainly India as a whole is exploding
with retail opportunity right now, but its cross-channel opportunities
are even more out-of-hand. Current projections call for e-commerce
sales to rise 300% nation-wide over the next three years.
Pantaloon expects 60% of those sales to come from Indians
between 19-30 years old, and is banking on studies that show
the ubiquity of broadband internet access (up 40% from two years ago)
as the key to hyper-driving online sales.
The company believes that Indians with broadband access spend
significantly more in the online channel, and envisions 75% of
Indians having that access by year’s end.
I believe we need a new approach to venture capital in India.
There is a very limited legacy, so it’s not going to evolve the
way the U.S. did or even perhaps the way China did. In India
there are lots of gaps across multiple value chains. Sometimes
a service fails to take off because some parts along the value
chain are not appropriately digitized. What ought to happen is
a large amount of investment across building out an ecosystem
of companies. Instead of waiting for an entrepreneur to come
up with a business plan, venture capitalists need to be much
more proactive. They should say, “The capital is available, now
let’s find a CEO for this business and back that person with
funding. Let’s start multiple companies based on what we have
seen in other countries, and what we think the opportunities
are in India.”
This is a very different, inside-out approach, where you end
up flipping the model around. That requires much more work.
It will not work if the core venture capital team lives abroad
and just comes to India once in a while. We need people on
the ground who understand the realities of India today, who
understand how the technology is evolving, and who can
make bets on what the future is going to be.
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