Japanese VC firm Rebright Partners to step up Indian operations

Tokyo- and Singapore-based venture capital firm Rebright Partners, which  focuses on seed to early stage investing, is looking at ramping up its Indian operations. The firm, which entered the country last year, has roped in Brij Bhasin from startup accelerator GSF to lead its activities in the country. 

"We are looking at making tens of investments in India. We will make five-six investments this year itself," said Bhasin, who till recently led GSF's accelerator programme in South India. 

According to Bhasin, the firm typically invests anywhere between $100K and $1 million in startups and is slated to make a few announcements in the coming weeks. It has made two investments in India till now—Singapore- and Bangalore-based Tookitaki Holding Pte Ltd, the company behind the data intelligence startup Tookitaki, and Delhi-based ADA News in Shorts Pvt Ltd, owner of News in Shorts, a mobile-based service that aggregates news stories. Both bets were co-investments made along with other investors.

Rebright Partners, through its debut fund Rebright Partners Fund I, has been active in Southeast Asia for the last four years and has made 16 investments till now. The investment firm is currently on road to raise its second fund with a primary focus on India.  

"The key focus of our second fund will be India. We think that we can leverage our experience drawn from Southeast Asian markets for our investments in India," said Bhasin. He declined to divulge the size of the second fund or the limited partners that it is approaching to raise money from. "It is backed by publicly listed Japanese IT companies and prominent individual angel investors," he added. Rebright Partners' first fund was about $10 million in size and has made about 16 investments till now. It primarily invests in consumer internet, mobile apps, e- and m-commerce and digital media.

Its investments include Indotrading (an Indonesian trading portal), iMoney Group (a financial comparison website in Malaysia) and MBDC Media  (a Jakarta-based online media company). Rebright Partners is also one of the entities behind Indonesian VC firm Batavia Incubator. 

Japan's interest in the Indian VC space is on the rise. Japanese technology major SoftBank is one of the significant investors in the Indian e-commerce space with bets in heavily funded startups like Housing, Ola and Snapdeal, among others. While SoftBank makes large commitments at relatively later stages into companies, Rebright Partners seeks early stage exposure. Japan's Netprice.com Inc, a consumer internet incubation-cum-investment firm, is also planning to step up its activity in India by investing in a clutch of startups in the web and mobile space.

There have also been reports that Tokyo-based global startup incubator-cum-early-stage investor Samurai Incubate is looking to foray into India, in partnership with domestic incubators.

Rebright Partners joins a growing number of foreign VCs which have either forayed into or enhanced their India play in the recent months. Global investors have invested at least $4.36 billion in Indian internet ventures in 2014, according to data compiled by VCCedge, the data research platform of VCCircle, compared with $1.1 billion in 2013. The capital continues to flow as investors have already invested $1.2 billion in the sector in the first three months of 2015. 

To be fair, some of the fundamentals driving India’s digital startups boom are supported by strong macro trends: growing number of smartphone users, increasing internet penetration and an urban middle class seemingly more comfortable living their everyday lives on the Internet—be it booking travel, ordering cabs or buying and selling used goods.

(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)

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