The pandemic last year hasn't dampened the entrepreneurial spirit. In fact, the acceleration of digital adoption has unleashed newer business models and expanded the market opportunity for startups. There is a massive digital transformation underpinning monumental changes in several industries. At Kalaari, we have seen a higher momentum of transformative ideas and undaunted founders with humongous aspirations. Stronger follow-on financing from growth investors is further accelerating experimentation that is essential for innovation. In the first half of this year, our portfolio companies have raised more than $265M in follow-on funding.
In other good news, this has been a successful year for exits and fund returns, living up to the faith and confidence our LP's have in us.
While the future seems exciting, I often wonder: How can we make it more inclusive? How do we ensure the expansion of the pool of entrepreneurs and reduce bias in access to funding? How do we encourage ideas and solutions that serve different segments of society?
I get frequently asked whether I personally face challenges as a woman managing a venture capital firm, whether there is a bias in funding women startup founders. My own experiences as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist leave no doubt; it is much more difficult for female founders. The truth is illustrated in the numbers: number of female CEOs, founders, investors etc.
Various factors contribute to the low participation of women at the top. Globally, research has shown that the presence of female leaders results in higher profitability, improved motivation, and a collaborative environment. It also fosters a culture of honesty, transparency, and learning. The presence of women in decision making breeds positive outcomes.
So, how do we create a systemic change to enable more women to have access and mentorship to achieve their full potential? I have been reflecting on this for some time now. The extreme sport of entrepreneurship highlights a discomforting situation. Among Indian companies that have received startup funding, only 6% have women founders. And only 1.4% have women founder-CEOs.
How do we action change? I recognise the challenges faced by female founders and am deeply committed to the cause of promoting women entrepreneurs. Over this year, Kalaari has planned several initiatives to make our funding access more diverse and inclusive, including a program to mentor female founders.
Awareness is step one; action is step two. Driving change and delivering results is the final reward.
Your suggestions, support, and encouragement matter to us.
The 'Kirana Commerce' platform founded by Sandeep and Shitiz enables large businesses to reach small Kirana stores across rural areas. The company intends to use the latest fund raise for increasing its presence to 1M+ retail outlets and for effectively scaling its annual run rate past the $1B mark over the next 12 months.
The startup founded by Paavan and Saumya has built one of India's largest vernacular social gaming platform, offering 70+ games in 10+ languages. It managed to record tenfold revenue growth over the last one year and intends to use the funds raised to continue this growth momentum and maintain its position as a category leader in the space.
The microblogging platform founded by Aprameya and Mayank serves India's diverse vernacular audience. The company intends to use the latest fundraise to expand its user base from 5M to 100M regional users, and offer support for 25+ Indian languages over the next 12 months.
The AI SaaS startup founded by Akshay and Sourabh offers voice and conversational intelligence solutions for more than 160 Indian dialects. The company intends to use the latest fundraise to double their headcount for supporting the rapid expansion of its enterprise customer base.
We are privileged to have been early partners in their journey
and wish them continued growth and success.
“Getting a front-row seat to pathbreaking innovation and seeing it blitzscale excites me. Kalaari provides me an opportunity to work with people who envision and execute for a better tomorrow.”
Akul Jindal is a fellow at Kalaari. A lifelong student of asymmetry, behaviourism, microeconomics, and psychology, he loves to read between the lines - of data. Badminton, Basketball or Football – he is always ready for a bout. A firm believer in the idea that no one believes a poor philosopher, he enjoys listening to podcasts on investments and philosophy, in that order.
“Venture Capital is more of a People’s business rather than a Financial business. At Kalaari, I have been fortunate to speak to visionary founders who are looking to disrupt industries with Technology. I strongly believe that Entrepreneurs are the king at the end of the day and it is a privilege to be a small part of their journey.”
Harshit Kumar is a fellow at Kalaari. A big proponent of the Bharat opportunity, he is really passionate about alternative commerce models targeting SMBs. Outside of work, Harshit loves to read and binge watch TV shows. He spends his time playing Cricket and badminton as well and is an avid follower of the Indian Cricket Team.
Parallels between Sports and Entrepreneurship
Perseverance, teamwork, leadership skills, humility and adaptability are essential characteristics of both founders and athletes. Here is a deep dive on these shared traits and how they help us grow.
The first step on the journey to becoming a successful leader is to consider an inclusive language of leadership that goes beyond the traditional testosterone centred vocabulary and allows for different views to coexist.
Be obsessed with customer delight: Keeping your ear to the ground and listening to the customers can pay disproportionate dividends. It has to be baked in as an integral part of a firm's culture.
Broaden your horizon: Expose yourself to a lot of context and do not jump to 'assumptional' conclusions.
Follow the maxim of strong opinions, loosely held: Have strong conviction, but if data disagrees, remember to let go and reinvent yourself.
Wish to join us in the future #PayItForward sessions.
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In his book ‘Deep Work’, Cal Newport talks about the one skill that he believes is becoming increasingly valuable (and rare) in today’s world – the ability to do “deep work”: activities and tasks performed in a state of distraction-free concentration by pushing one’s cognitive capabilities to the limit.
Here are some key takeaways:
Schedule periods of productive meditation: Physical occupation with mental relaxation like jogging, driving etc., and focus your attention on a problem.
Adopt a shutdown ritual: Make sure that there is nothing urgent left to do, and organise your tasks to allow your mind to take a break and recharge.
Contain procrastination cravings: Activities like watching YouTube videos while brushing atrophy your willpower and make it harder to engage in deep work.