Sanjeev Bikhchandani is a pioneering Indian internet entrepreneur. In 1995, he founded Info Edge, which now operates India’s largest job portal, Naukri.com, and owns stakes in leading players in the online matrimony, real estate classifieds, and education sectors. Bikhchandani was also one of the earliest investors in food delivery giant Zomato. In 2020, Bikhchandani set up Info Edge Ventures, a $100 million venture capital fund to back Indian startups.
Lately, venture capitalists have been talking about down cycles a lot. What do you think has changed?
Venture capitalists are circumspect, a little conservative. All the emphasis now is on cash flow and profit. Less on the top line and user growth. It’s more profitable growth and conserving of capital and making your money last longer.
We have been conservative all along, so we have always looked at it [that way]. But, look, when money is abundant these [metrics] become less important. When money becomes scarce, these [metrics] become more important.
As someone who has witnessed multiple boom and bust cycles, what’s your primary piece of advice to your portfolio companies?
I always think that the customers’ money is better than the investors’ money. If you’re taking the customers’ money, and you’re getting it repeatedly from the same customer, it means that you probably have a viable business. That’s why the customer is coming back. If you are getting customers’ money, the investors’ money will almost definitely follow. But getting investor money does not guarantee you customer money.
Many Indian startups have laid off employees in recent weeks. How do you think this trend will play out?
It will vary from company to company. Companies that are distressed will have to cut costs. Some companies are not distressed but just want to rationalize costs.
Due diligence on startup fundraising is now taking longer. What has changed when it comes to the mechanics of investing?
Our diligence processes have not changed. It’s just that we are being very careful of some aspects and conservative on valuations. We have a harder focus on margin and unit economics and financial viability of the business and the path to profit than earlier.
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