Sasha Mirchandani: The Guardian Angel

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It was the 1965 romance-war classic Doctor Zhivago that inspired Sasha Mirchandani’s mother to give her son a household variant of a very popular name. In Russian, ‘Sasha’ is the somewhat informal shorthand for the Greek name ‘Alexander’—literally, the protector of the people—which is historically best borne by the Macedonian military commander Alexander the Great.

A modern-day boss, Mirchandani now leads the early-stage investment fund Kae Capital as its managing director: assessing business ideas of tech geniuses, raising money from wealthy investors, and consulting in a group of partners before closing the deals formed the order of his 12- hour working day. True to the unaffected majesty that is written in his name, he seems to be doing all of this willingly without the kind of ceremony that sometimes accompanies his rank. “Too much self-importance in life is a recipe for disaster. However, entrepreneurs build everything. I just give them the money to live their dreams,” says Mirchandani.

The duality suggested by his name also plays into other aspects of his identity: Started his career with father Gulu Mirchandani in the 80s and 90s dream of the TV brand Onida Electronics, he is an established family business directly Beneficiary who gradually began to pioneer the angel ecosystem in the country, becoming an entrepreneur in his own right. Similarly, Mirchandani’s business acumen owes as much to his immediate social behavior—the Sindhis are one of the world’s largest trading communities—as to his cosmopolitan life, first as a college student at Strayer University. in the US and later a professional traveler around the world.

Like most savvy businessmen, Mirchandani used these male influences to his advantage; a case in point: restaurant reservations are made under his last name in India and first name abroad, saving many a host from an evening of struggling with syllables.

An Angel Is Born

In 1996, US returnee Mirchandani joined the Onida Group, his father and uncle’s company, as an ordinary salesman at the Mumbai branch, selling television sets and washing machines to various local electronics store as he interacts with competing vendors. In contrast, most of his peers returned to India after graduating abroad to join their large family businesses in senior positions, such as directors and CEOs.

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“I thought it would be the same for me but dad had different plans. He wanted me to go through the grind,” said Mirchandani, recounting his early experiences of riding jam-packed local trains. in Mumbai and learn to accept the trouble involved. Accustomed to the gentile behavior of the moneyed class in Washington, DC, he claims to have spent the next few years at Onida as an ordinary employee with limited resources, working his way up to several management positions. and appreciate the struggle involved. “If I had not seen such a life, I would never have felt and respected what the people who work for me have brought. the boss from day one,” he said.

It was over a coffee with his father in 2001—after about five years of working in the family business and observing India’s entrepreneurial ecosystem—that Mirchandani first expressed his dismay at the lack of capital for entrepreneurs in country. “My father, who graduated from BITS Pilani in the 60s, took a big risk in starting a business from scratch with no outside funding—venture capital or private equity. Twenty years later, the situation has not changed. ,” he explained as he recounted convincing Gulu Mirchandani and another board member of Onida to invest some of the company’s money into a venture run by young graduates from IIM Ahmedabad. “Dad, it’s 2001; we need to support entrepreneurs,” he once said.

Mirchandani with parents Geeta and Gulu Mirchandani and other family members

Between 2002 and 2005, the Mirchandanis made several more investments under a new entity in which the father acted as a limited partner (LP) providing capital and the son acted as general manager. partner (GP) who manages the funds. Angel investing is a risky business, much riskier than lending money. Of course, it’s not easy ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​gate “Dad had his fears but he understood my thinking: this is not about leaving money by the wayside but empowering future Gulu Mirchandanis to fulfill their potential,” Mirchandani revealed. According to him, while these investments are not made to make money, on paper, they make their investors “ridiculously” rich.

In fact, it was over a cup of coffee again—this time with close friend Prashant Choksey—that Mirchandani had another epiphany: “Tired of taking money from our fathers, we want to continue angel investment ourselves; so we thought, why not join an angel club and pool our capital to provide a small ticket size, somewhere between INR 10 to 15 lakh? ” Although the two later surprisingly discovered the complete lack of any such clubs, the seed for a future partnership had already been sown. Thus, in 2006 Mumbai Angel Network was started, one of India’s first angel investment platforms for early stage businesses. Over the years, the platform claims to have made over 200 investments and seen over 100 exits and subsequent rounds, earning a 35 percent IRR (internal rate of return) on average. Over the next three to four years, Mumbai Angels is targeting to invest INR 500 crore annually into Indian startups, co-founder and current CEO Nandini Mansinghka told Line of Business in April 2022.

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Venture Capital: A New Chapter

At the end of his time at Onida—now as head of corporate affairs and new business—Mirchandani met an Indian-origin US-based venture capitalist as part of a routine business meeting. The new acquaintance told everyone about his side gig with the angel investor, he unknowingly made an impression on the gentleman, who would later recommend him to the VC firm BlueRun Ventures or BRV (formerly Nokia Venture Partners) for running their global business in India. “I was completely surprised to be approached for the job. I didn’t know it existed. Although my father always told me to do my own thing, he advised me to apply for the job, saying that experience working outside the family business can be invaluable,” says Mirchandani.

After flying to California for several detailed interviews before the full partnership, BRV offered him the job. “In the middle of my career, I left my family business and entrepreneurship in general to work for someone else as an ordinary employee, even a senior one. Best decision I made, ” about joining the billion-dollar fund in 2007 as the head of India. Although his weekends are still reserved for Mumbai Angels (for which he sought special permission from his new employers), Mirchandani now makes investments professionally, writing checks to early stage startups. period worth six to ten million dollars.

Working with BRV’s intelligent colleagues, he gained familiarity with best practices — meeting with hundreds of potential investors, filing paperwork, compiling reports and analyses, conducting regular calls to portfolio companies and others—involved in running a VC fund. He incorporated these insights into Kae Capital, where the founding in 2011, Mirchandani’s transition to venture capitalism was complete. More than a decade, Kae is doing well, perhaps because of the caution and patience its founder learned from past mistakes (sometimes by others, sometimes by himself) in investing in hot markets in irrational appreciation. Last month, the company closed its third fund with a corpus of $96 million, which will be mainly invested in fintech, SaaS (software-as-a-service), consumer tech, B2B (business-to-business) commerce , healthtech, direct-to-consumer (B2C) brands and gaming startups.

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Although Mirchandani sometimes dislikes the bureaucratic nature of running a VC fund, he more than makes up for it with the young and interesting entrepreneurs he meets every day. “We empower extremely intelligent people to create something from nothing. Of course, many of the companies we invest in die, but the ones that make it through … it’s amazing to see their names on billboards or read about them in Forbes. For example, I was the first investor in Myntra, which is over a ten billion dollar company today. I laugh when I think of the first review and board meetings held at home by (founder) Mukesh Bansal. It’s amazing how much it has grown in just 10 to 12 years,” he said. In an earlier interview with Financial Disclosurehe expressed mild regret about exiting the online fashion retailer before its merger with Flipkart and missing the resulting opportunity to get more money from the investment.

When all is said and done though, it’s the thrill of recognizing the success potential of a business back when it was just an idea that keeps 50-year-old Mirchandani motivated all these years later. After all, in a business of such ebbs and flows, where good returns on investments are often emphasized by lost opportunities, one must be in it for one something bigger—the entrepreneurial spirit itself—than just money to survive in the long run.

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About Business Hours:

A new series of Entrepreneur India which aims to unpack the inner workings of the Indian startup ecosystem by following the intertwined personal and professional journeys of people in this world. Our goal? To put together the ‘real’ success story of how a startup was built from scratch.


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