In conversation with Mark Kahn, Omnivore Partners on the fund’s bet on agriculture technology ventures
Most venture capital firms have certain areas of strengths – areas they are experts in and where a majority of their investments is parked. eCommerce, technology, education are the commonly known ones, so when we first met Omnivore partners we were not sure of their differentiation. However in a detailed conversation with Mark Kahn, partner, Omnivore Partner, he explained to us the genesis of the fund and why they are bullish about the future.
An Agtech fund
Omnivore Partners invests in early stage agricultural technology (agtech) companies in India. The investments are in companies that are developing solutions to improve farm productivity, agricultural sustainability and help improve agriculture business supply chains. The Rs 250-crore fund has already made investments in some interesting ventures, such as Skymet Weather Service, Khedut Agro Engineering, Arohan Foods and Frontal Rain Technologies since launch in August 2010. All these ventures are changing the country’s agricultural landscape in one way or the other.
Talking about the process of investing at Omnivore, Mark says, “We track and work with the venture for atleast a year, before we initialize the commercial discussions. The entire investments to be completed by the investment committee would take about 8 weeks time.” Mark says they are not in a hurry to exit nor do they want to have a very large portfolio of companies. “We are looking to invest in maybe 12 or 15 ventures in all and work with them for a minimum of two years before we think of an exit,” explains Mark. However there are no strict deadlines for these associations and if a longer association is required, Omivore can hand hold the ventures for a longer period of 5-6 years as well.
What they bring to the plate
Omnivore has an ongoing partnerhship with Godrej Industries who are their strategic advisors as well as the fund’s anchor investor. A few other public corporations based in India also contribute to the Rs 250-crore fund. We asked Mark about the pure focus on agriculture and he says that’s an area which is best placed for a revolution in India.
“We want to develop an eco-system around agtech ventures in India. We want to bring about an agricultural revolution in the country,” he says ambitiously. Omnivore has plans to start an incubator in the agtech space to indentify and help fuel the growth of agri businesses in the space. Mark is an Harvard Graduate and was earlier working Godrej Agrovet – the agribusiness vertical of Godrej Industries. Jinesh Shah is the other partner at Omnivore. Jinesh has earlier worked with Nexus Venture, HCL, Patni and Datamatics. The other two team members at Omnivore are Reihem Roy and Subhadeep Sanyal -- the investment managers at the fund.