General Partners (GPs) are, and will be, among the best of brand ambassadors for India. We iterate and reiterate the India opportunity when we raise funds across the globe, across a multitude of Limited Partners (LPs). The VC/PE industry has grown in numbers and, today, there are lot many more voices out there, vocalising the India story.
From a country-positioning perspective, it is an acknowledged fact that India is a complex story and, to communicate it, it is even more complex. This communication challenge can be best compared to the parable of “The Six Blind Men and the Elephant”. Like in the parable, where each blind man touches a different part of the elephant and believes the elephant to be a tree trunk or a snake, each of us appear to be interpreting and conveying diverse messages about India.
Thus, the answer to “What can GPs do to position India better?” is that they should collaborate to create a very cohesive message. We should be aware and mindful in positioning the India opportunity in a manner that serves a broader country agenda and avoid doing so in a narrow, goal-driven manner.
Let me illustrate. “In India, growth investing has not proved itself but early stage investing is great” “Consumer tech will grow boundlessly for a longtime” “Buy-outs are the only way to invest in India”.
These illustrative statements seek to reposition the opportunity space in India so as to propagate the cause of the speaker but, in doing so, they detract from the overall investing opportunity space. I am sure this is inadvertent and can be changed easily. What we need is to express views more expansively in terms of the country’s opportunities and, at the same time, be more clear and appreciative of our challenges.
India, since the turn of the century, has seen exponential growth in investments both in public and private markets. From a fledgling industry, the VC/PE industry has come of age, has seen the best of times and the worst of times. Our voice will thus carry weight when we talk about our country’s attractiveness vis-a-vis the BRICs or other emerging markets.
We can clearly position that India is a much bigger opportunity than any of the emerging markets like Vietnam, Indonesia, etc. The investment climate is more straightforward and favourable than that of China and more consistent in comparison to all the markets. We can drive the differentiation wedge further by reinforcing the facts that we remained steadfast when the globe melted in 2008, that we are driven by strong domestic forces of growth, that we have the potential to proffer very deep markets, an entrepreneurial talent to power Indian businesses and also international businesses, and many more.
Here is a great slogan to be broadcast through the GP Boom Box: #India versus the rest of the world, and the verdict is in our favour!
The author is senior managing director, NEA India.
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