The London based Bhaskar Majumdar is Chairman of Heath Ventures. A serial investor in a number of businesses across traditional and online media, technology and energy/ utilities, he has grown from an executive to an entrepreneur to an investor. Speaking to Deepak Sahijwala, he reveals his journey from living in Mumbai in the early years of his career and working for media behemoths like Times of India and Zee TV to starting his own venture-backed business Recreate Solutions which he sold. Subsequently, he started off Heath Ventures in 2010 with a view to help global entrepreneurs achieve their dream. And he’s back in India to urge Indian seed-investors to look at seed-investing in the UK…
Mumbaikar first or a Londoner?
In today’s global context, international business folks are comfortable in most cities. With homes in both the cities, I personally feel as much a Mumbaikar as a Londoner. You define where you stay on where your kids go to school. In that context my son goes to school in London and so as of now London is really home for me.
Easier doing business in London than in Mumbai?
A good question indeed. I think it is easier to start a business in London. Not just technology business but also manufacturing and property based businesses like restaurants, Night Clubs, Cinemas, etc. However, I think after the initial start-up pain; it is easier to scale businesses in India given the size of the market. India is like the US, where you need to scale to survive. In the UK, you can have years as a profitable small businesses. This actually presents opportunities to acquire these well-run-lack-of- ambition businesses in UK and scale up them up and take them global.
Also, in London; there is far more funding in innovation led businesses out of educational institutions. In India, this aspect hasn’t really taken off and we have been talking of this since my time in IIT some twenty years ago.
Talk us through your journey from Executive to entrepreneur to investor?
Each journey has been very interesting and different. There is learning in each stage of development for me as a professional. Executive life gives you the vision of a large company and gets you to become a team player and leader. It teaches you the importance of inter-personal skills and how to take teams along.
Entrepreneurship is all about your passion and dream. You suddenly become a “nobody” having left a large corporate role. That gives you a shock as people no longer want to have meetings with you. But your passion drives you. And while you are leading a small company, your experience as an executive gives you the vision of the organization you want to build out.
Being a seed investor is very difficult also; especially for an entrepreneur. Here you have to believe that you are merely a support for the entrepreneur. Often you want to get into the driver’s seat and take decisions, but that is a recipe for disaster as this would demoralize the entrepreneur. That is the biggest challenge I have on a daily basis.
Which role do you enjoy the most?
Difficult to answer. I think each of these roles has had its share of good and bad times for me. And I think each led to the other. There were learning’s in each that stood me in good stead for other responsibilities.
How do you keep abreast across such diverse industries as you decide to invest?
Many people have asked me this question. There are people who are very specialized in a particular sector. I started with investing in media but now I am investing only in online businesses. I think every business across every sector is becoming technology driven and online led. Technology is at the heart of any business model. So although the portfolio I have sounds diverse from energy to beauty; it is online-based models in these sectors that are at the heart of both these businesses. And so there is synergy across.
And finally, as an angel investor; you invest in teams and ideas. It is the team and commitment of the entrepreneur which you are really backing.
Best investment you have made?
It is like asking a parent to choose a child over another. Every one gives the same stress and joy; similar highs and lows. They are all in different stages of evolution so it won’t be fair to single anyone of them out.
Companies you are presently invested in?
I have invested in two companies in India. Saaibaba Telefilms which is a television production house and a technology business called Media Nucleus. Back in the UK, I have invested in a business called Solis Consulting, which is UK’s foremost Energy Consultancy business which also runs an Energy Switching site called My Utility Genius. I have invested in DI5 Ltd, which is UK’s leading advertising agency focusing at the South Asian market there and I am proud of my investment in ‘She Said Beauty’, which is the first of its kind social network for beauty lovers, brands and products.
How do you go about selecting companies to invest in? The investment term you look at? What about the exit route?
It is about investing in the individual whom you back to start the business. The person who starts isn’t often the right guy to take it to the next stage and that maturity is also important to have in the entrepreneur. Also, the domain must be fundable later by the institutional funds and so it is important to look at industries which are scalable. Some businesses unfortunately, after you invest you realize, are profitable but not scalable and for them then you need to change the strategy for growth and aim to make them cash-cows in the portfolio.
What would be your present size of investments?
I invest around $ 500,000 - $ 1 million in each of the funding round on my own and then get in other investors after the business has scaled up.
Any plans to invest in India?
I am looking at India but at this point, as an investor I am getting better value in UK both from valuations and access to management teams. Infact, I would like to urge many Indian seed-investors to look at seed-investing in UK and I am contemplating a fund strutter to enable this.
A graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology with an Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School and a chartered member of TIE, Bhaskar Majumdar started Heath Ventures as his holding company for various businesses. He has over two decades of experience in technology and media companies, at corporate levels and as start-ups across Europe, Asia and America. He has a unique mix of operational experience in the TMT sector and in financial services. He started these businesses after a stint as a Managing Director with Elara Capital. Earlier he had founded in 2001, Recreate Solutions, the digital media services company with venture backing and he sold the same in 2006. In Recreate Solutions, he had built a team of over 300 technologists across America, Europe and India in a niche sector of the broadcast industry. Prior to founding Recreate Solutions he was the Chief Operating Officer of Altavista’s European broadband arm based in London. Before that Bhaskar served as Managing Director of International Operations, with Zee Network.