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Published on: March 8, 2021, 8:02 a.m.
Focusing on technology, Kisho Capital marches ahead
  • Chhugani: strategic advantage

By Lancelot Joseph. Executive Editor, Business India

In February 2021, the Delhi-based, early-stage venture capital fund, Kisho Capital, announced the launch of a rolling fund – which will focus on start-ups looking to capitalise on a tech-focussed India growth story – in the world’s second largest internet market. “The fund plans to support about 20 start-ups annually, by investing up to Rs1 crore in each, under its programme,” explains Ankush Nijhawan, 43, MD, Nijhawan group & co-founder, Travel Boutique Online (TBO) group. “Our fund model is oriented towards start-ups in the seed/pre-series A rounds, which are technologically advanced with initial traction, especially those that use artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI & ML) for personalisation and automation.”

Nijhawan, a graduate from Bryant College, US, majored in marketing and psychology, set up and launched TBO in 2007. Today, the TBO group is a B2B travel portal in India and works with almost 60,000 travel agents around the world, with a turnover of $2 billion. As an angel investor, he has invested in 12 start-ups – In Shorts, Dineout, Lets Transport, Qdesq, Pee Buddy, Witlinger Beer, Advantage Club, Fleet X, My Green Box and Shaadi Saga. Also, the Nijhawan group exclusively represents some hospitality brands and excursions in India, such as Address Hotels, Armani Hotels, Banyan Tree, Aitkens Hotels, Adaaran Resorts, Kempinski Hotels, Serena Hotels, Ocean Park and Dubai Parks. 

Nijhawan teamed up with Akshay Chhugani, 34, who is also a serial entrepreneur, for his first start-up in 2007, which was acquired by ixigo.com in 2015. Chhugani has come a long way in the start-up ecosystem and before starting Kisho Capital, was the head of products at ixigo and an active angel investor working in the field of AI & ML, automated technologies and user-friendly apps.

A rolling fund 

The uniqueness of the venture lies in the investors on board, who are mostly start-up founders. “This gives the funded start-ups a high level of strategic advantage in terms of advice, mentoring and real-world connections, which is almost impossible for an early-stage start-up to access,” explains Chhugani. Kisho has been seeking opportunities in scalable technology sectors for a better tomorrow, including home automation, health tech, social community, B2B, SaaS, and fin-tech companies.

“The whole idea for Kisho Capital was conceptualised as a rolling fund, with investors from a few of India’s biggest corporate houses and start-ups, which have come together, both financially and strategically, to build the future of Indian start-ups,” says Nijhawan. “Our primary focus is to back early-stage founders, who are not only passionate about solving core user issues, but also understand the business and scalability side of things. A rolling fund gives Kisho the flexibility to raise a fraction of the total fund and start investing straight away, with quarterly/annual commitments from investors,” he adds. 

Kisho’s investment philosophy is simple: the focus is on the core team and how complex daily problems are being solved using technology. Kisho is sector-agonistic and encourages start-ups from varied fields – from banking to insurance to logistics to health-tech or a D2C brand – ensuring there is a big enough market size in the sector an entrepreneur is trying to enter.

“The opportunity for early-stage investing is still in its nascent stages in India, given the huge youth population and the brilliant mindsets of the entrepreneurs, combined with the never-ending on-ground issues that exist. A lot of venture funding is still concentrated in the metro cities, such as Delhi-NCR, Bengaluru and Mumbai. However, we have witnessed some successful start-ups coming out of Tier II cities and beyond,” says Chhugani.

The company’s mentor board includes Sandeep Dwivedi, COO, InterGlobe Technology Quotient; Sahil Jain, co-founder, Dineout; Azhar Iqubal, co-founder, inShorts; Pushkar Singh, founder, LetsTransport; Vikas Bagaria, founder, PeeSafe; as also the advisory board, consisting of Gaurav Bhatanagar, Ishpreet Gandhi and Tripti Singhal. 

In the next five to seven years, “We see Kisho Capital having a successful portfolio of 100-plus start-ups, with a minimum of 20 successful exits and a role in building two unicorn stories,” forecasts the duo. “We also plan to expand into the Asian market, especially into countries like Vietnam and Indonesia, where we see a great opportunity in terms of solving user problems at a low customer acquisition cost and greater LTVs.”

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