Yes, you know the face of angel investment is changing in India, especially when Ratan Tata himself speaks so fondly about an entrepreneur – in this case, Kunal Bahl, the founder of Snapdeal. Snapdeal was one of the first startups in the Indian ecosystem to have earned the hallmark of Ratan Tata’s trust when he started investing in startups in 2014.
In a very candid discussion titled “The Changing Face of Angel Investment” at TiECON Mumbai 2016 entrepreneurial conclave held today, Kunal Bahl in discussion with Ratan Tata, laid bare the journey of his meeting with the Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons. The discussion was as mesmerising for entrepreneurs and investors as was the thunderous standing ovation awarded by the august gathering to Tata.
Kunal retraced the journey of his meeting with Tata to a rapturous audience, starting from the day he received a call from an unknown person who wanted to set up his meeting with an investor without revealing the name. On realizing from the conversation that it was none other than Ratan Tata who wanted to meet him. Kunal hopped on to the next flight to Mumbai. But not before he had watched enough Youtube videos on the legendary businessman to anticipate what meeting him in person was going to be like!
Bahl, said, “I was extremely nervous. And yet when I walked into his office, expecting a typical big businessman like awe-inspiring environment with a huge office and big chairs, he simply pulled his chair next to me and said, Your growth story is amazing, but how do you do your logistics? And those were his very first words to me!”
He simply pulled his chair next to me and said, Your growth story is amazing, but how do you do your logistics? And those were his very first words to me! - Kunal Bahl
While it was Snapdeal’s name which had caught Ratan Tata’s interest, his inclination towards investing in startups has been fuelled by his desire to understand the rapidly unravelling digital ecosystem. Said Tata, “After I retired, I saw a whole new digital world out there; marketplaces driven by handheld devices which will become the business places of India. It is still a learning experience for me to know about this virtual world. However, when it comes to investment, the virtual part is overshadowed by meeting with founders. When you (Kunal) left my office, I decided I would invest in your company.”
Kunal also revealed that while he was very nervous for the meeting, he was much more nervous to ask Ratan Tata the permission to take a selfie! Recounts Kunal, “I was most nervous in asking if we can take a selfie? To my dismay there was a second’s pause, which I guess was because he has been asked that a million times, but he instantly said yes, and it is one of my most memorable photographs! The validation came from my mother who said you are on the right track!”