Irresistibly drawn to technology and gadgets and emerging DJ in local circles
Having pulled together the team over the last five years, Sandeep is the one responsible for keeping the machine moving as one.
As an early investor in InMobi and InfoEdge, two of India's billion dollar technology companies, Sandeep Murthy is one of the builders of India's Internet economy. And he hasn't just seen the highs and lows play out as an investor, but actually roughed it out in operational roles including one as the CEO of Cleartrip in 2006 for three years.
A dreamer from the start, who doesn’t believe in choosing between “this or that” he did his undergrad in both business and engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. Like all good Penn grads he dove into investment banking. However, since it was the height of the dot.com boom, he did it a little differently by moving out to Palo Alto, California to join CSFB Technology Group.
He teamed up with a friend to build a digital music company that was incubated by Sony Music and ended up selling the company to Sony after the Internet bubble burst. Sandeep lived the Bay Area dream for a few years before moving to New York to join InterActive Corp (IAC) the owners of Expedia, TicketMaster and Home Shopping Network where he helped launch Gifts.com. He started to explore the India technology opportunity and ultimately moved to Mumbai to manage investments for Sherpalo Ventures, a fund based out of Menlo Park in California.
Having raised over $400M from leading institutional investors, his most recent investments include Droom, Rebel Foods, Furlenco and AI-platform Embibe, which received a $185MM investment commitment from Reliance, India's internet super power. This is the largest AI investment in edtech any where in the world. Sandeep also supports platforms like Magic Bus, a non-profit organization that uses activity based curriculum to teach underprivileged kids life skills.
Most of his time is spent figuring how to make something unprecedented happen. With an all-in, nothing-held-back style, he loves diving in, getting to the heart of the matter, trying new things and getting as many people as possible involved. In a somewhat unpredictable market, Sandeep’s investment success stems from a combination of deep product instinct and unconventional thinking. If you want to hear some stories of what it takes to build a consumer technology company in India, just pull up a chair and buckle up... it’s been a rocket of a ride.
What does failure mean to you?
Failure is a painful learning opportunity, without which, success would never be as sweet.
What’s your superpower?
Which is your favourite city in the world?
Welligama on the southern coast of Sri Lanka… great waves, cool beach shacks and amazing people
Favourite books this year
AI superpowers by Kai-Fu Lee and Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollen
If you weren’t a venture capitalist, you’d be..
Namita Gokhale, who is a writer, publisher, and festival director. She's authored many books and is the co-founder and co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival. And we're going to talk a little bit about content, where it's going, culture, how it's evolving, and a little bit about how tech maybe playing a role in all of that through the lens that she's experienced.
On this episode, we're speaking with an expert in investment management, Martin Green, who runs Cambrian asset management. Martin has 25 years experience in the tech sector. He began his career at Morgan Stanley, where he was a senior executive at CNET Networks, which was later acquired by CBS and Meebo, which was acquired by Google.
A note on the happenings of the last quarter and state of the market.
Free money has disappeared. Vanity metrics are out. As the venture capital market resets, the Lightbox playbook of concentrated bets on differentiated, technology-enabled businesses, focused on India’s fragmented consumption markets is poised to deliver significant value accretion over the next few years.
COVID-19 made its severity felt during this quarter causing widespread lockdowns and an already major dent in the economy. To prepare ourselves for the pandemic’s far-reaching consequences, we decided to take a look at where these implications might trickle down to, including the inevitable recession
Given the various inefficiencies that exist in India there is an opportunity for businesses to address customer needs through a range from pure tech models to tech enabled models where they own the creation of the product but use technology in aspects of either production, distribution or customer acquisition.
This quarter was rather eventful. We grew a lot more comfortable living and working in the midst of a pandemic. COVID provided us with a new lens to look at some sectors. We deep-dove into some of the major trends in the Indian startup ecosystem and consequently met some promising, relevant startups.
For us the true metric of success for any company in this space should be measured by the outcomes they deliver and not necessarily by the scale they achieve immediately. If a company can start meaningfully improving the lives of mentally ill patients it will be best placed to build scale further on.
A growing, powerful trend we observed in 2020 was the rise of Social. Not necessarily as a category by itself, but a powerful enablement tool in all the sectors. Just as every industry makes the crucial transition from analog to digital, nearly every category of company will eventually make the transition from single-player to multiplayer, from company-driven to community-driven, from individual to social.
The pandemic has turned the way businesses function, and even how investors approach them. Sandeep, in a conversation with YourStory, speaks about the changes the ecosystem has seen over the last year and what investors expect from entrepreneurs.
Read Sandeep's note on the quarter that was...
We saw fear driven adoption in 2020 and will see convenience and value driven growth in 2021. Consumers have experienced the benefits of product discovery and the ease of access to a breadth of products, that will make going back to the “old way” seem like moving into the Stone Age. Read on to see what we think will change and what won't
Gradual change doesn't disrupt life. It wears a giant stealth cloak of business as usual, while being pregnant with disruption. And then, sudden change makes everyone sit up!
True to his style - Parmesh Shahani wears many ‘fabulous and stylish’ hats, One of which includes being a writer and his most prominent hat is that of a scholar at MIT, Yale, The World Economic Forum and he’s also a Ted senior fellow; all of which gave him an opportunity to learn and understand the different aspects of the world we live in.
Let's dive right into the conversation
Nisa Godrej is the chairperson of Godrej Consumer Products part of the Godrej Group. It's a business with diversified products across health and beauty, insecticides, and a variety of other areas. We're going to talk a lot about consumers habits, brand, sustainability, geographical expansion, product development, direct to consumer brands and just generally how the market has evolved over the course of the last year.
Each year we take time to study the latest trends playing out across India and try to understand what opportunities they may present entrepreneurs and investors. These presentations are an outcome of those efforts. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed putting them together.
"Whatever ramp time you are budgeting for in terms of demand coming back - double it. However long you think you need cash for - double it." When this is over, companies that have been household names will disappear and a new crop will emerge. How you prepare and use resources today will determine which group you are in.
As the restrictions pullback these new consumer preferences will become apparent. In the short to medium term consumers will disproportionately value transparency and hygiene. However, companies looking for long term sustained differentiation should also develop their ability to differentiate based on sustainability and provenance.
Understanding your feelings, or that of potential customers, is central to making connections. Using machine learning, data science and AI, HaikuJAM is able to understand the various moods of the writer, how they react to different topics and insights into how they feel about different situations, brands, or topics.
We are seeing a changing of the guard from old world businesses to new technology companies. This shift has been taking place steadily around the world at all stages across industries for the past 20 years and has accelerated in the recent decade.
As citizens of our planet we all need to be worried about what fashion is doing to our world. The fashion industry is considered to be the second most polluting industry globally. Bombay Shirt Company is synonymous with custom shirts. and going forward they have the opportunity to build a personalized men’s lifestyle platform that is financially and environmentally better. Technology will be central to facilitating this evolution with data being a key driver to understanding customer preference.
Chronic patients have no source of reliable information or network to rely on to help them manage their diseases. Doctors are short on time and pharmacies operate like dispensaries, dolling out pills alongside shampoo and mosquito patches. This is where Generico (now ZENOHealth) steps in. They currently runs a network of 40 pharmacies. These pharmacies sell pills but also provide a suite of preventive health services that give patients the solutions to managing their conditions.
Walmart is undergoing a metamorphosis; we are witnessing the emergence of the 21st Century Walmart.
Experiment, fail, learn and repeat. Try things at a small scale and at a low cost, and quickly assess if they work or not and then take a call on what is worth scaling up. The experiments should either stop or continue based on consumer feedback.
Your Product Is Your Business Model. Changes in one impact the other and in the best cases they play off each other.
We are technology investors, building new business models. This approach has served us well, but in the modern climate where technology is disrupting traditional industries.
Entrepreneurs and investors are jointly trying to imagine and create a new world. There is no straight line to this process… it is a series of assumptions and iterations – a process of Experiment, Fail, Learn, Repeat.
What started off as a simple goal to make the world a better place has turned into a race to make it happen within a certain time. Once you are sure about that, take a deep breath and get ready to jump on the treadmill, because it will definitely be an exciting run.
Handling a downturn has little to do with what you do when the downturn starts, but more to do with how you built during the boom. At the start of a downturn, if you’re asking “What do I do now?” it’s probably too late.
Sandeep Murthy talks to Abha Bakaya on Bloomberg TV about building sustainable businesses that can weather inevitable downturns in the economy. By optimising business operations and putting frugality at the heart of the company, a startup can accelerate faster during up-cycles.
The nature of the game and the implied rules of determining value for disruptive companies are very different than the game being played by traditional companies.
In this investment we are doing our small part in affecting the consumption patterns of our society. Harvard University sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson claims the earth can support 10 billion people – a number others predict may be hit by 2100.
As technology investors, we strive to find ways to use technology to make an impact in people’s lives. What better way than with everyday food?
Taylor Swift demonstrates that while Spotify has 40MM users, she has a direct connection with 46.3M followers, known as the Taylor Nation. As a brand, her direct connection with people is so strong that she controls the balance of power in the distribution chain. This is a very strong statement and a real truth that all distribution businesses will quickly need to come to terms with.
Tech companies are nothing without growth. The real value creation will take place in companies that are able to demonstrate differentiated growth by taking advantage of the imminent technology boom (a result of the explosion in data & apps).
Those that make it through are not unscathed – they have battle wounds. The challenges of the first year take their toll… emotionally, organizationally, culturally. While the first year has likely felt like a sprint, it is important to remember that this is a marathon and it is impossible to continue to run a marathon at a sprint pace.
It’s really hard, but so powerful. The "hack" culture of Facebook or the "do no evil" approach of Google or the "respect everyone" culture of the Mahindras. It is amazing to see what great things can be accomplished when a founder drives core values effectively through an organization.
Failure is one of those things that is inevitable when you stick yourself out there… especially when you are young.
Like many good stories, it all started over a beer after a game of Rugby.
Hitendra and I discovered this opportunity through an iterative set of conversations that took place prior to funding the business. It was this deep engagement and exchange of ideas, even before there was an economic incentive that allowed for a strong relationship with an open exchange of ideas to develop.
We’re Calling it Operating Venture (till we think of something better)
The Indian ecosystem lacks market consolidators. But that could change imminently.
Yes Bank interviews Sandeep Murthy about how the Indian entrepreneural system is evolving and what founders should be thinking about.
It’s not the size of the Indian market but the immensity of the aspiration across income levels that businesses need to take into account. Products that deliver aspiration at value bargains is where the game gets exciting.
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