“Smart women figure out what, exactly, makes them happiest. They spend generously on those things but cut out the rest.” The attitude of the women investors in the current Indian startup ecosystem truly aligns with these words of the renowned author Laura Vanderkam. These women investors are imperative to the startup ecosystem, particularly because they signal to their counterparts that they belong here and bring along their own emotional quotient and gut instinct.
As industrial output oscillates, startups emerge to align themselves with the top business houses in the country. Today, they not only represent the youths emerging new ideas but also a new asset class for investment. What gives them the power to grow rapidly? The belief of the Angel, Venture Capital, and Private Equity Investors.
However, when one researches early-stage investors, it is difficult to find anyone other than male investors who dominate the Indian and global startup space. Changing this notion and the face of investing is none other than the new age modern woman. Moving ahead with gumption and unbridled enthusiasm, these women investors are successful entrepreneurs and have a deep appetite for innovation and creativity. At the same time, they are leaving no stone unturned in creating a sustainable ecosystem for the future generation of startup entrepreneurs.
Related Article: Underrepresented – The State Of Women In Indian Venture Capital
They are now becoming role models for the upcoming generation of women entrepreneurs as well as the common working women. Asha Jadeja Motwani, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Bharati Jacob, Rekha Menon, are a few of the leading names in this regard.
These leading ladies, together, bring strength to the ecosystem and look out for their peers. They don’t just follow the crowd, but lead by example, ask questions and share knowledge. They seek entrepreneurs with the courage to re-imagine the world, dedicating themselves to what they feel most passionate about.
This article sets out to highlight such women investors and epitomise the change they are bringing about in establishments. These women investors are the champions of investing and are leading a revolution to build tomorrow’s great companies. These ladies bring with them a new template for inclusive growth and have set out to make a difference. They are some of the most active and influential female Angel, Venture Capital and Private Equity investors spread across New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Jaipur, and Hyderabad.
Please note that the order is arbitrary. The information has been collected from available public resources and websites.
Here Is A List Of The 22 Active Women Investors
Location: Bengaluru, London, San Jose
Industry: Healthtech, Edtech, Fintech, Cybersecurity, Foodtech, Ecommerce, Data and Enterprise tech
Average Ticket Size: $500K
Portfolio: Licious, Luxola, Consure, Uniphore, Pretty Secrets, Inner Chef, Fitternity, GoCoop, Mpaani
Startup Selection Criteria: Focus on healthcare, AI, fintech, cybersecurity, Block Chain and IoT and invests in tech-focused/ enabled Pre Series A and Series A startups globally.
Ankita Vashistha is the CEO and Founder of India’s first venture capital fund to invest in gender parity and innovation called SAHA Fund. She is also a member of the NASSCOM Product Council. Earlier, she was also the President of Innovation and Ventures at Tholons Capital.
Prior to Tholons / SAHA Fund, she worked at Wavemaker Labs, Aureos Capital, and Abraaj Group. At Aureos Capital, Ankita was part of the global investor relations and portfolio management team based in London and was part of the team to raise funds from cornerstone investors like CDC, Norfund, FMO, ADB for the group’s regional funds.
Ankita has experience working with a diverse investor set across Institutional investors, Development Finance Institutions, Banks, Fund of Funds, Family Offices and HNI’s. She is an active member of the ecosystem and is part of the Indian Angel Network and a Charter Member of TiE.
Ankita Vashistha has over a decade of experience in Tech Ventures, Private Equity and Venture Capital across the UK, the US and Asia. Ankita works very actively in the startup ecosystem in India, Singapore, the UK, the USA, and Japan to source, evaluate, mentor and invest in early-stage technology enabled and focused companies.
Ankita is very passionate about promoting gender equality at the workplace across the emerging markets. Further, she works closely with portfolio companies to help them create value, scale and expand.
Bala Deshpande, NEA
Industry: Sector Agnostic
Average Ticket Size: $5 Mn – $25 Mn.
Portfolio: Air Works, FSS, Panacea Medical, MediSys, Naaptol, Nova, GreytHR and Intelligence Node
Startup Selection Criteria: Startups that create value by disrupting the “business as usual” format. The disruption could come in the form of innovative applications of new technology, leveraging data or perhaps by redefining market boundaries.
Bala Deshpande has a total of 27 years of experience of which 17 years have been investing. Her private equity experience has seen the full cycle from nurturing young companies to executing multiple exits, including IPO’s, buybacks, strategic sales, and capital market divestments. She currently heads the India operation for NEA, the US-based, 20 Bn AUM investing firm. She has completed her post-graduation in Economics from the University of Mumbai. She also holds a master’s degree in Management Studies from the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies.
She believes that “Ideas, thoughts, and dreams are completely gender-agnostic and each one of us is by genetic design capable of contributing to the world in our own unique way. It is up to each one of us to rise above gender-based roles, perceptions, and constraints that were historically perpetuated by society, to achieve our aspirations.”
Industry: Sector Agnostic
Average Ticket Size: $7.70K – $15.41K (INR 5- INR 10 Lakhs)
Portfolio: INCLOV, Mobilewalla
Startup Selection Criteria: Innovative startups with passion, commitment, and capability to find creative ways to solve critical problems
Debjani Ghosh is former VP SMG Intel and MD Intel South Asia. She started with Intel in 1996 and has held numerous leadership roles over her 21-year career with the company. She currently serves as an Independent Director on the Board of Yes Bank and is a member of Cisco’s India Advisory Board. She is also a trustee of NASSCOM Foundation and Honorary Advisor, FICCI S&T /Innovation Committee.
Her involvement in the startup community is always with time and funding. Debjani has just started the angel investor journey and most of her early investments are with IAN and the IAN Fund. One company she has invested directly in is INCLOV that is the world’s first matchmaking app for differently abled people.
Debjani feels that “Every research done in this area shows that startups with women founders perform better. Yet the percentage of women entrepreneurs remain dismally low. If we want to change that, we have to raise our hands and get in the game. I believe women entrepreneurs can add tremendous value as they tend to be natural problem solvers and are more connected with the ground realities.”
Industry: Sector Agnostic
Average Ticket Size: Undisclosed. Typically participates in Series Seed or Series A rounds
Portfolio: Innerchef, Easygov, SAAHAS
Startup Selection Criteria: Looks for companies with smart and transformative solutions to problems that exist on a larger scale.
Dr. Aarti Gupta holds a doctorate in Economics from IIT Kanpur, a postgraduate diploma in business studies from Harvard University and a Master’s degree in Economics from Northeastern University.
Married into the promoter family of the Jagran group, she has been managing the family office of Devendra Mohan Gupta for the last seven years.
Her role as the Chief Investment Officer of her angel investing entity involves diversifying the family’s portfolio through investments in early stage startups. She is currently an LP in funds like IDG Ventures and SAHA. She also has an inner inclination towards women entrepreneurs.
A message for the women out there would be similar to how she approaches her life with ‘Impatient optimism’.
In her words, “Be eager to cause disruption for the betterment of all around you, not because the current situation is bad but because you are optimistic that with your help the future will be better.”
Average Ticket Size: Undisclosed
Portfolio: Meetings and offices, Kalaage, Edgefc, Imaginry, Swajal (in process)
Startup Selection Criteria: Looks for individuals who are passionate about their ideas, have failure stories to share and are “ready” to be coached
A trained doctor (MBBS MD Pathology) with an MBA from Indian School of Business (ISB), Dr. Anu Gupta brings a unique outlook through her 17+ years’ experience in global pharmaceutical industry and Indian hospitals.
Dr. Anu believes in investing in “great individuals with decent scalable ideas”. Dr. Anu holds a portfolio of five tech-enabled early stage startups ranging from media, publishing, education to the social sector, out of which three ventures are led by women entrepreneurs.
Since returning from Switzerland in 2015, she has been an active investor member of ah! Ventures, Hyderabad Angels and Rajasthan Angel Innovator Network (RAIN). As a Charter member of TIE Hyderabad, Anu is committed to the development of the startup community and is on the Board of Mentors and Panel of Advisors for various incubators and accelerators including INVENT – IIT Kanpur Social Incubator Programme, Tapchief, Z Nation Lab, Spark 10 and Times group’s Brandshoot Ventures.
Dr. Anu urges women to self-actualize themselves by invoking their inner “Devi” meaning “to shine” (root word “div”). Her message to all is “Never too old to fail and never too young to succeed…Try Learn Fail Shine…Repeat”.
Industry: Sector Agnostic
Average Ticket Size: $30K – $100K
Portfolio: Voonik, YourStory, LetsVenture, Kinetic Glue, Axis Rooms, Varana
Startup Selection Criteria: Escape Velocity: Can you acquire and retain customers in a sustainable manner?
Meeta Malhotra is a 3X founder with two exits to her credit. She was one of two partners at Ray+Keshavan, a leading design, and branding agency. After running the agency for over a decade and building industry-leading brands, she and her partner sold the agency to WPP, the world’s biggest communications conglomerate with a revenue of $14 Bn. Meeta also cofounded Kinetic Glue, a social enterprise software, that was acquired by BMC Software, a Fortune 500 company, in 2015.
Meeta is currently part of the founding team at Varana, which aims to create global fashion and beauty brands from India. She is an active angel investor and a mentor to several startups. She is also an advisor to Kstart, Kalaari Capital’s seed stage fund. In an effort to give back to the community, Meeta runs a free brand and marketing Q&A at meetamalhotra.com
Her startup investment thesis arises from her marketing background. She looks at businesses and ideas from an ‘outside in’ perspective to judge if the startup has ‘escape velocity’. She asks two questions:
- Will the market and customer value this?
- Can the team acquire and retain customers with high speed and low burn rates?
In her words, “Understand yourself clearly first – what are your strengths and weaknesses? Learn how to amplify your strengths and give your startup access to the skills you lack”
Nandini Mansinghka, Mumbai Angels
Industry: Sector Agnostic
Startup Selection Criteria: The idea needs to look scalable, grit and determination of the founding team and the co-investors are critical.
Nandini Mansinghka is the founder of The Booster Network, discovering and building new businesses with tech, and the Chairperson of the Mumbai Angels. She is focusing on building Digibooster; a B2B content market for the media and entertainment. Previously, she has worked with J.P.Morgan and the Times of India Group.
Nandini has so far invested in 12+ ventures. Apart from investing in startups, she is on a continuous hunt for newer asset classes that she can invest in. She has invested in furniture assets of a rental company, films and now is an avid learner of the cryptocurrency space. She invests in start-ups primarily through Mumbai Angels.
What has worked for her over the last 6-7 years of investing in a portfolio approach. While Her current approach is to allocate a similar ticket size across investments so that whenever one or more of them give returns, they should be able to give her returns across the portfolio. She cuts a smaller check initially to keep aside funds in case there is a potential to up the investment in the next round. She has invested in companies in the media space, tech products, Call Center SaaS, home cleaning, hotel aggregator, sales analytics areas.
She believes, “I do not see investing or entrepreneurship to be gender dependent. Once you are into an ecosystem, any ecosystem, what matters is learning, building and creating till you become an expert. I never worry about not knowing people as I as walk into a new room, and keep building my expertise till I am invited on the dias as a speaker! It’s a more fun way of focusing on 3-4 areas I want build as lifelong crafts. Gender has zero role to play!“
Industry: Technology, Consumer Services
Startup Selection Criteria: Innovative startups that address a consumer need. Looks for clarity of idea, felt consumer need, the team leading the innovation, knowledge and a go-getting attitude and the pivots underwent by the team.
Nita Kapoor’s work experience spans over three decades. She has immense knowledge in consumers, brands and new products in the FMCG and consumer goods sector. She has learned the ropes in business operations, P&L responsibilities and held various leadership roles. She is currently mentoring Hult Prize India – HP, which is globally the largest for-profit social enterprise for students. In India, they are working with the top 100 campuses and aim to take the startup culture to them.
Nita’s investment thesis is basically to work to a plan .i.e. Draw out one’s long-term financial needs, lifestyle goals, assets, kids education, health and personal longevity. Then, create a pool of investments that will take care of this. Build this nest egg over time. As she started early, Nita has a variety of investments that include fixed assets, recurring income plans, insurance, equity, and debt.
Nita has invested in the top 30 listed companies and funds. Her outliers have been startups in the domain of technology.
She says, “Financial freedom is your lifeline. Not just for you but your loved ones too.”
Padmaja Ruparel, IAN
Location: New Delhi
Average Ticket Size: up to $25K (personally); up to $1 Mn (through IAN Angel Investor Group); $1mn to $5 Mn (through IAN Fund)
Startup Selection Criteria: The startups be either “disruptive” or “creating a new need” with an exceptional team with relevant domain understanding and high focus on execution. Looks for startups where she can add value either directly or through her network.
A key figure in the Indian entrepreneurial ecosystem, Padmaja Ruparel is the co-founder and President of the Indian Angel Network (IAN), She built IAN from inception, making it within 10 years a unique institution globally, with over 450 investors across 10 countries and a portfolio of 130+ companies in seven countries, spanning 17 sectors.
Padmaja has been nominated as Co-Chair of Global Business Angel Network (GBAN). She has been awarded the “30 Most Powerful Women in India” by Business Today in “Most Powerful Women in Indian Business Awards 2017”. She also set up and operationalised the Delhi chapter of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE) an organisation focused on entrepreneurship with 15,000 members in 60 chapters across 14 countries.
In the startup/early stage, her investment thesis rests, firstly, on the entrepreneur and his team. They should understand the space, know what they are doing, have an ability to “sell” the concept and be of high integrity. Secondly, it should be in a space she understands. Padmaja has a portfolio of over 15 investments.
Padmaja says “The world is your oyster and it is for you to open it to find the pearl. But it does need you to dive deep, search for yourself and string the pearls together!”
Paula Mariwala, Stanford Angels, Entrepreneurs India & SeedFund
Industry: Fintech, Education, Deep Tech, Social Impact
Average Ticket Size: NA
Portfolio: RedBus, Carwale, Voonik, Heckyl, Browntape, Frontier Markets, VResorts-(through Seedfund); Unacademy, Gyandhan, KopyKitab, Betaout, YourDost, AawazDe (Angel Investments)
Startup Selection Criteria: Looks for scalable startups solving large, impactful problems, an innovative and differentiated solution
Paula Mariwala is currently the Founding Managing Director of Seedfund, an early stage venture capital fund, founded in 2006. The fund has a portfolio of more than 35 companies including two with women founders. She is also the Co-Founder and President of Stanford Angels and Entrepreneurs India and Co-President of Stanford Alumni Association India Chapter. Plus, she is the promoter and Director on Board of Hinditron Group of companies, a high technology company started by her father, Hemant Sonawala, in 1966 which is involved in IT, Instrumentation, Telecom, High performance computing and Infrastructure management, etc.
Her investment thesis revolves mainly around the startup team and vision. She likes entrepreneurs who are focused on execution with a clear vision. Since there are no numbers to audit or evaluate at startup stage, it is the chemistry of the founding team and the rapport between the investor and the entrepreneurs that is important to gauge. She bets on the team and their ability to take feedback and listen to others – whether it is investor, customer or team members as well as their resilience to face failures and challenges.
Further, she also look for sectors where she can value add and where she can see growth and possibility to exit in a reasonable time frame. She currently has investments in Bay Area, Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Jaipur and four of her investee companies are founded or led by women.
Her message to women out there is to go out and pursue your dreams with the passion and perseverance.In her words, “Believe in yourself and your vision. The only thing that can stop you is yourself. Seek out good mentors and teams. Take feedback, reach out for help when required and aspire to become a role model yourself.” She also adds that,
“I have seen that women entrepreneurs tend to have better empathy. communication and commitment required to build a company. Balance your ambition with reality and take one step at a time while keeping the end goal of reaching your summit in mind. The ecosystem is replete with alpha males but there are many supporting men and women who will respect you and support you in your journey. So go out, and as they say – just do it!”
Raakhe Kapoor Tandon, Co-founder, ART Capital (India)
Location: New Delhi
Industry: Tech-focused (Fintech, Edtech, New Age Retail tech, Logistics, agribusiness infrastructure and others), Education, Media & Entertainment, New Age Real Estate led businesses (viz co-working spaces)
Startup Selection Criteria: The Institutional Office is an incubation led model, but is selectively open to inorganic/ brownfield investment ideas.
Raakhe Kapoor Tandon is the Co-Founder of ART Capital (India) Pvt. Ltd, a financial services holding company. Under ART Capital, Raakhe has incubated a few ventures viz a) ART Affordable Housing Finance (India) Ltd, an NHB approved HFC that is engaged in providing long-term affordable mortgage finance to retail customers; b) ISME-ACE, India’s largest Fintech Accelerator and c) Seven Rivers Capital Fund, a growth-focused, sector agnostic Private Equity fund. Her latest venture is the Indian School of Management & Entrepreneurship (ISME), Midtown Mumbai’s foremost institution of Entrepreneurial Studies built upon the foundation of forward-thinking and innovative curriculum to develop human capital for the future.
Raakhe has completed an MBA with a major in Entrepreneurial Management from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania (2007-2009), in Philadelphia, US. She is a Member of the Committee of the Young FICCI Ladies Organization (YFLO), New Delhi. She is also on the Board of Trustees of The Three Sisters’ Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation that works towards educating and empowering the girl child. Raakhe’s father, Rana Kapoor is the Founder, Managing Director & CEO of YES BANK Ltd, the fifth largest Private Indian Bank.
For women getting out of the household trying to make a name for themselves, there is a Walt Disney quote that she personally stands by. “If you can Dream it, you can do it.”
Renuka Ramnath, Multiples Alternate Asset Management
Industry: Sector Agnostic
Portfolio: Arvind Fashions, Delhivery, Vastu Housing Finance, India Energy Exchange, Dream11, Cholamandalam Finance, Peoplestrong.
Renuka Ramnath is the founder and CEO of Multiples Alternate Asset Management, a dedicated India focused private equity fund with an AUM of over $1 Bn. She is one of the most experienced private equity fund managers in India with a full cycle track record of investing capital raised from global Institutions. Multiples manage funds of marquee global and domestic institutional investors to partner with Indian companies and entrepreneurs and create value in these investments.
Previously, as the MD & CEO of ICICI Venture, she led the firm to become one of the largest private equity funds in India scaling the proprietary platform from $50 Mn to $2.5 Bn under management in eight years. Her experience pans buyouts, growth equity, incubation of several companies and success stories of backing entrepreneurs in India include PVR Cinemas, ACE Refractories, VA Tech Wabag, Tech Process, Infoedge. She has successfully built businesses and led the teams on strategy formulation and delivering exits in different and varied situations.
Renuka is also an independent director on the Boards Tata Communication Limited (the Chairperson), Ultratech Cement Limited, L&T Technologies Limited and Institutional Investor Advisory Services India Limited, a proxy advisory firm. Further, she is on the Board of several portfolio companies of Multiples such as Indian Energy Exchange, PVR Limited, and PeopleStrong.
Renuka reveals her success mantra as, ”Believe in yourself. With conviction and application of mind and skills, hard work you are bound to succeed.”
Industry: Enterprise products in Storage, Security Technologies etc., Data Driven Technologies,
Big Data, Cloud Computing and Analytics, Internet and Technology-enabled Logistics, Healthcare and Mobility
Portfolio: Druva,Jigsee(exited), Xprime,Orangescape,Stelae,Pikkol,Saahas,GoCoop,Wishberry
Startup Selection Criteria: The most important criteria she considers is the quality of the founding team, their passion and belief in the idea, their ability to innovate, be flexible, make course corrections and scale. Equally important is how compelling is the product or the idea, its potential for scale and disruption and solving a customer need.
Revathy Ashok runs an Independent Consulting Practice, Iris Consulting working with mid and early-stage companies, helping them build value and scale. She has been a member of the Indian Angel Network from its founding days and is passionate about fostering entrepreneurship.
A gold medalist from IIM Bangalore, she serves as an Independent Member on the Boards of several listed companies and on the Advisory Boards of startups. A former Governing Board Member of TiE Bangalore, she brings with her great operating as well as investing expertise.
Previously as Managing Director, Tishman Speyer, PE Fund ($53 Bn AUM), she set up the India operations and oversaw investments of $150 Mn over four years. At Syntel, a US-based Nasdaq listed IT services company, as worldwide CFO, the company saw rapid growth and increase in market cap from $600 Mn to $1.2 Bn.
She has invested in over 15 startups and works closely with her investee companies on various strategic matters.
Average Ticket Size: $3.08K – $23.11K (INR 2 – INR 15 Lakhs)
Serial social entrepreneur, Revathi pioneered the first ever women’s taxi service in Asia creating brands like FORSCHE and VIIRA. Winner of NITI AAYOG’s Women Transforming India Awards – 2016, she is now focusing on her new venture, Hey Deedee – the first ever all-women instant parcel delivery service.
She has been working towards empowering the urban poor women since 2007. Her aim is to train 10,000 women this year and create the world’s largest real-time logistics platform. She wants to focus on last mile delivery and be the UBER of parcels. Currently, she has about 3000+ girls under training and about 100+ on the road already doing last mile deliveries.
As an investor, she has five to six investments and selects startups depending on the potential that she observes in the entrepreneurs.
Ritu Verma, Ankur Capital
Industry: Agriculture, education, healthcare and selectively enabling technology that reduces friction in these markets.
Average Ticket Size: up to $770.5K (INR 5 Cr)
Portfolio: CropIn, ERC, HealthSutra, Big Haat, Niramai, Tessol, Suma Agro, Karma Healthcare, Skillveri
Ritu Verma is the cofounder of Ankur Capital, which focuses on seed stage investments. Before embarking on setting up Ankur Capital, she had a varied set of experiences globally from investment evaluations to operations. In most of these roles her focus was on either evaluating or bringing new products to the market. She has looked at IP led investing and played various operating roles from Marketing to R&D across Unilever and Philips.
She has PhD in Physics from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from INSEAD. She is interested in market opportunities and innovations that are “bharat” focused.
In words of Ritu, “Do something you are passionate about – it’s a long journey.”
Shanti Mohan, LetsVenture
Industry: Sector Agnostic
Average Ticket Size: $7.70K – $15.41K (INR 5- INR 10 Lakhs)
Portfolio: Tripoto, OnlineRT, Aureus, Truckola, Trell
Startup Selection Criteria: Looks for entrepreneurs who have a strong passion and belief into what they are building, their ability to think long-term, imagine the bigger picture and marry the macro with the micro.
Shanti Mohan is a serial entrepreneur with experience in building technology startups. She has been a part of senior management at HP, where she launched HP’s app store in the US in the early days of App stores in 2008. She is currently Co-Founder and CEO of LetsVenture, a leading marketplace for startups. She is an active angel investor in the ecosystem.
She holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from BIT Sindri and is known for her organising, team handling and management skills.
She stays away from founders who are strongly opinionated and don’t value feedback or are not coachable. Also, founders who try short cuts and hold ethics as a ‘chalta hai’ attitude are not something she follows through with. If there is no humility and respect, it is a deal breaker for her. She loves to meet people who believe they have the courage and the determination to work hard towards building what they believe in.
Shanti says, “Go follow what you believe in. Sometimes looking for validation from others may not be the best way to follow your passion. Alongside, listen to feedback and ensure you are always learning. And there is no substitute for hard work.”
Shrishti Sahu, Lumis Partners
Industry: Ecommerce, social impact, fintech
Portfolio: Inmotion, Also, is currently in term-sheet signing stages with two more startups (one in the impact space, and the other is a community focused content startup).
Startup Selection Criteria: Scalable, innovative and growth stage startups
Shrishti Sahu is a serial entrepreneur and an angel investor. She has a degree in mechanical engineering (with a focus on automation and robotics) from the University of Warwick and a certificate in Capital Markets and Investments from Harvard University. She has 7+ years of entrepreneurial experience and has worked on ecommerce, social impact and financial technology startups. Her expertise lies in business development, growth hacking and technology.
Currently, she is working as a part of the Investment team at Lumis Partners, a US and India based PE fund and is also a part of Intellecap Impact Investment Network.
In her words, “Your ambition has to be greater than the sum of all your inhibitions, doubts and fears so keep striving! We really need more women role models! Every day I interact with and work with such brilliant women, but we’re so outnumbered.”
Shweta Singh, Lumis Partners
Industry: Human Capital Domain – HRtech, Edtech, Skills Development, Career advancement platforms, Communities
Average Ticket Size: $2 Mn+
Portfolio: Sheroes, Talentedge, Peoplestrong, Zostel, JustRide, Rapido, Ridingo, Curofy, Smartpocket, Cubito
Startup Selection Criteria: Interested in scalable technology solutions in the Human Capital Domain.
Shweta Singh is currently Vice President at Lumis Partners where she leads the firm’s investments in the education and Human Capital space. Lumis is an operating investment firm investing in both early-stage as well as growth stage companies across India and the US.
Prior to joining Lumis, Shweta ran an early stage investment firm – Sol Primero where she invested in high growth Indian internet businesses. She has also spent time at Zomato doing International Operations, where she launched the business in new geographies across Asia and North America.
She began her career as an Investment Banker with UBS in London where she structured and executed several equity raisings as well as acquisitions on behalf of her clients.
Sonali Thapar, Thapar Group
Location: New Delhi
Industry: Financial, political, Healthcare, Education
Average Ticket Size: $30.8K – $3.08 Mn (INR 20 Lakhs – INR 2 Cr)
Portfolio: GetMyParking, Carbon Masters, Witlinger, Innov8, Cubical Labs, Inc42, Biryani by Kilo
Startup Selection Criteria: Scalable startups that could align with the groups’ business interests, and also address a need in the ecosystem.
Sonali Thapar took charge of the Investment Company that is a part of the large Thapar Group that has interests in various domains like manufacturing, paper, textiles, infrastructure etc. As the Director, she spearheaded the company to make strategic investments in debt and equity-linked projects, stocks, mutual funds and real estate that now offer great returns.
As young female business women among generations of male entrepreneurs in her family, she learned about the functioning of the Startup ecosystem and expanded the scope of her investment company. Previously, Sonali worked with the Ministry of External Affairs.
Her target would be to slowly grow the selected startups into a large organisation by mentoring and supporting them while they are on their path to achieving their goals.
Sonali believes, “Skills are not defined by gender. Focus on your strengths and work on your weaknesses to be the best version of yourself. Don’t be disheartened with the thought of failure. Instead, always wonder what if you fly? Go out there and conquer the world. Be who you are. Be original! Be bold!”
Swapna Gupta, Qualcomm Ventures
Industry: Venture Capital, Mobile, Frontier Technology
Average Ticket Size: $1 Mn – $5 Mn
Portfolio: Fabhotels, Mypoolin, Attune, Ninjacart, Reverie, Moveinsync, Tonbo Imaging, Arkrobotics
Startup Selection Criteria: Frontier tech with the ability to disrupt large industries. She doesn’t look into brick and mortar or services led businesses.
Swapna Gupta is a Senior Investment Manager at Qualcomm Ventures who leads and manages investments for Qualcomm Ventures India, the venture capital investment arm of Qualcomm from the Bangalore office, across all sectors in the tech/related ecosystem. She spends a significant amount of time in building a high-quality deal pipeline, executing deals and portfolio management.
Swapna has gained experience across the corporate finance sector, being on the sell side & buy side. Her expertise lies in venture capital, corporate finance, mobile & frontier tech technology and emerging markets. In her current role, she is involved in identifying attractive investment areas with a long-term outlook. She is scouting for the next unique opportunity and wants to support the right team.
Swapna believes, ”Keep at it and get yourself heard. You will surprise yourself with what you can achieve. People appreciate the sincerity and hard work women entrepreneurs get to the table.”
Location: New Delhi
Industry: Foodtech, consumer products
Portfolio: Innov8, Wittyfeed, Simulanis
Startup Selection Criteria: Looks for non-linear growth & inherent profitability backed by a strong founding team. She does not invest in any startups working in dark categories like alcohol, smoking etc.
Vandana Chamaria is a passionate marketing and people leader with 13+ years of leading growth-focused marketing assignments across a deliberate mix of diverse categories ranging from Hospitality, Consumer Products, Healthcare to Automobiles. She believes that working across diverse categories allows her to explore various facets of marketing across a variety of demographic & psychographic consumer segments enriching her marketing prowess.
Presently, she is the General Manager and Head of Marketing for Deluxe & Premium Motorcycle portfolio and the Corporate brand at Hero Motocorp, the world’s largest two-wheeler manufacturer for 16 years in a row, managing a business portfolio worth ~$1.5 Bn.
Prior to this, she spent five years spearheading marketing for iconic food service brands with Yum Restaurants, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell.
Vandana is very passionate about using her experience to mentor all kinds of startups and help them scale via solving a real & large problem and have a business model that can be unlocked to create value.
Vandana says, “See the world everyday with a fresh pair of eyes, a curious mind and a confident will to succeed. Bring passion, courage & commitment to go after what you really want without killing yourself trying to be a superwoman.”
Vani Kola, Kalaari Capital
Industry: Sector Agnostic
Average Ticket Size: $5 Mn in first round followed by participation in subsequent rounds
Portfolio: Active.ai, Curefit, Urban Ladder, YourStory, Zivame
Startup Selection Criteria: Scalable products and solutions that can leverage technology
Vani Kola is the co-founder and the MD at Kalaari Capital – one of India’s leading early stage, technology-focused venture capital firms based out of Bengaluru. Having been an entrepreneur in the Silicon Valley, she now works with first-time entrepreneurs with disruptive ideas to build strong global companies with a focus on technology.
Her mission with Kalaari is to support founders who demonstrate passion, maturity, and strong leadership abilities, and can leverage technology to develop scalable products and solutions. They are sector agnostic but believe in the power of technology and its ability to substantially change the way of things across sectors, and for the better.
Vani says, “Be brave, be fearless and lead with conviction.“
Varsha Tagare, Qualcomm Ventures India
Portfolio: The Indian investments include Borqs, Capillary, Fabhotels, Housejoy, MapMyIndia, MindTickle, Portea, Reverie Language Technologies, Ridlr, Tonbo Imaging. A few investments in the US-based startups are JAMDAT, Mobile365, Pollex, PacketVideo, Canesta.
Varsha Tagare is Managing Director at Qualcomm Ventures India, a $150M India fund dedicated to investing in technology companies in India. She has 20 years of operating and venture capital experience in Silicon Valley and India. Prior to her current role, Varsha was at Intel Capital investing in Indian and US companies.
Varsha has an MS (Electrical Engineering) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a BE (Electrical Engineering) from VJTI, University of Bombay.
“Yatra naryastu pujiyante ramante tatra devata”. It means ‘Goddesses reside in those places where the women are worshipped’. In 70 years of an independent nation, the status of Indian women faced many ups and downs. Today, the new age modern women are the epitome of success and is a role model for future generations in every field whether it is politics, space or startup investments.
In a study co-authored by MIT economist, Esther Duflo, it was noticed that an increased presence and visibility of female politicians in the local government raised the academic performance and career aspirations of young women in India.
However, women investors or entrepreneurs are still being seen by the majority as an ‘emotional decision maker’, doubting their wit, abilities, and experience. Those excelling in their fields are often pounded with the questions like ‘difficulties they faced in the men world’ or ‘efforts taken to manage both home and work’. A recent study showed that only 2% of all equity funding raised in 2017 went to startups with a woman founder. Even though we are continuously raising the women empowerment flag higher and higher, it would still take more time to change the existing mindset.
The women’s era is approaching! Coming from various backgrounds, these women investors have emerged victorious in their own enterprises and are now on the path of encouraging others to thrive. Kudos to this female fraternity that have been the fierce faces of investment so far and are continuing on their path to enlighten the path of others.