Have In­vested $4bn In In­dia In 6 Months: SoftBank Fund CEO

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - TIMES BUSINESS - Samidha Sharma & Boby Kurian

Mum­bai: In his first global in­ter­view to any media out­let, Ra­jeev Misra — who spear­heads SoftBank’s Vi­sion Fund, the world’s largest pool of pri­vate cap­i­tal to be mo­bilised at $93 bil­lion — said the Ja­panese con­glom­er­ate had just be­gun its In­dia play as a long-term in­vestor and as­set man­ager here.

Hav­ing ploughed more than $4 bil­lion over the past six months across two of the largest tech star­tups Flip­kart and Paytm, SoftBank will now help its In­dian port­fo­lio com­pa­nies like ho­tel ag­gre­ga­tor Oyo Rooms scale and ex­pand in­ter­na­tion­ally. Ad­di­tion­ally, it will bring to the do­mes­tic mar­ket tech­nolo­gies in life sci­ences and biotech the fund has backed in the US, China and Europe.

The idea is to cre­ate a SoftBank ecosys­tem which will ben­e­fit all our com­pa­nies while go­ing global, strik­ing part­ner­ships and syn­er­gies with other port­fo­lio en­ti­ties, said the 55-year-old In­di­a­born Misra, a Wall Street fi­nance vet­eran with stints at Deutsche Bank and UBS.

His com­ments as­sume sig­nif­i­cance as SoftBank has openly shown an in­ter­est in in­vest­ing in the em­bat­tled ride-hail­ing app Uber de­spite be­ing a large share­holder in ri­vals like In­dia’s Ola and South­east Asia’s Grab. Misra said SoftBank was mar­ried to its port­fo­lio com­pa­nies for the long term.

“We have a one-third own­er­ship in Ola and if we do end up in­vest­ing in Uber, the ob­jec­tive would be to get the ad­van­tage of the economies of scale and the dom­i­nance ON IN­DIA | Masa and I have a long-term view of In­dia. We are very pos­i­tive on Mr Modi and his re­forms and the sta­bil­ity of pol­icy mak­ing right now. In­dia will be a big part of the Vi­sion Fund... Are we done in In­dia, by no means, we are just be­gin­ning. Our in­vest­ments de­pend on the op­por­tu­nity and scale ON SNAPDEAL-FLIP­KART MERGER COL­LAPS­ING | It is be­hind us, we have moved on. There was no meet­ing of the minds, very sim­ple. The de­tails don’t mat­ter now that comes with it. We have am­bi­tions of be­ing a part of the global ride-shar­ing in­dus­try be­cause it has tremen­dous im­pact on ev­ery as­pect of hu­man life and we will try and work out the con­flicts,” Misra said.

An al­liance between the home-grown Ola and Uber has been widely spec­u­lated. Misra, how­ever, did not com­ment di­rectly when asked if a China-like sce­nario will play out here when last year Didi Chux­ing bought Uber China. SoftBank still doesn’t own a stake in Uber, he said.

Misra, who played a key role in get­ting the Mid­dle Eastern spon­sor of the Vi­sion Fund, said there was room for fur­ther con­sol­i­da­tion in the In­dian in­ter­net sec­tor and among SoftBank’s port­fo­lio here af­ter the group’s failed at­tempt to merge Snapdeal, where it’s the largest share­holder, with Flip­kart. “Con­sol­i­da­tion is a part of hu­man evo­lu­tion. In in­ter­net, the win­ner takes all. You have to emerge as the win­ner or merge with the win­ner. There is no room for No. 3. Whether we do it (con­sol­i­date the mar- PORT­FO­LIO | Con­sol­i­da­tion is part of hu­man evo­lu­tion, it will hap­pen. Win­ner takes all, you emerge as the win­ner or merge with the win­ner. There is no room for num­ber third. Whether we do it or not, that is the fact of life. You look at ma­ture mar­kets like China and US, there is no num­ber sec­ond even ON OLA, UBER | We are part of the ride-shar­ing in­dus­try, which has a tremen­dous im­pact on ev­ery as­pect of hu­man life and we will work out the con­flicts ON FLIP­KART, PAYTM | We are help­ing Flip­kart gain mar­ket ket) or not. Look at ma­ture mar­kets like China and the US, some do not even have a No. 2 player,” Misra said.

TOI re­ported ear­lier that on­line gro­cer Gro­fers, where SoftBank is an in­vestor, has held talks with Ama­zon for fi­nanc­ing — a move that will con­sol­i­date the e-gro­cery ca- amount SoftBank has in­vested so far in In­dia TOP IN­VEST­MENTS Flip­kart Ola Oyo Rooms Snapdeal Gro­fers Paytm tegory on the back of BigBas­ket align­ing with the AlibabaPaytm com­bine.

The Vi­sion Fund, which has al­ready de­ployed $25 bil­lion across 30 ven­tures in the last nine months, has emerged as a bul­wark in the global tech­nol­ogy in­vest­ing space. But many scep­tics like renowned bil­lion­aire in­vestor Howard Marks of Oak­tree Cap­i­tal have posited that the fund is fu­elling the tech bubb- share and be the dom­i­nant player in In­dia. Paytm, along with Ant Fi­nan­cial, will not only be a pay­ments plat­form but do other fi­nan­cial ser­vices like in­surance RA­JEEV MISRA | le and ques­tioned how it will clock re­turns. Led by its vi­sion­ary and in­de­fati­ga­ble founder Masayoshi Son, the fund has sprin­kled money in a wide-rang­ing group of com­pa­nies spread across biotech, bike-shar­ing and robotics in the hope of be­ing at the fore­front of the technological rev­o­lu­tion that’s im­pact­ing ev­ery­one’s lives.

“We are the first op­tion for any founder who wants to raise cap­i­tal around the planet but it is just not the cap­i­tal. It is also the global con­nec­tiv­ity. We back th­ese lo­cal com­pa­nies and take them global,” he said.

Misra said SoftBank will help Oyo Rooms ex­pand to Lon­don and Tokyo where it can make more money than the whole of In­dia and get scale-up rev­enues. SoftBank is learnt to have pumped $250 mil­lion in a new round of fund­ing in Oyo as we re­ported ear­lier. The group also plans to as­sist WeWork — the shared of­fice space startup — with its ex­pan­sion in In­dia, Misra said, af­ter hav­ing an­nounced a $4.4-bil­lion in­vest­ment in the com­pany re­cently.

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