These former football teammates have only one goal - helping startups on their entrepreneurial journeySameer Ranjan
Gurugram-based Huddle is an incubator and co-working space that has an impressive mentor network to help startups get their business going.
At a glance
Founders: Sanil Sachar and Ishaan Khosla
Year it was founded: November 2017
Where it is based: Gurugram
The problem it solves: Provides incubation and co-working space to startups
Funding: $300,000 (seed funding)
In sports, 'huddle’ is the action of a team gathering together, usually in a tight circle, to strategise, motivate or celebrate. Huddle, hence, became the name of choice for former football players Sanil Sachar and Ishaan Khosla. The duo, who used to kick around the ball in their school days, decided to leverage their strategic prowess off the field to help startups develop their business, execute their existing and upcoming plans, and also help raise funds.
The Gurugram-based venture operates two separate verticals - one being an incubator and the other a state-of-the-art co-working space and innovation lab based in DLF Cyber City. As an incubator, Huddle is sector-agnostic and works with startups at various stages.
Partnership on and off the field
Ishaan and Sanil met at Modern School in Vasant Kunj, and grew up assisting each other on the football field. Both have since found new common ground: entrepreneurship.
Ishaan had earlier started an online shoe boutique store for women whilst in business school, while Sanil stepped into the entrepreneurial world by chance when completing his education in the UK. He had joined Trusox, a global sports brand.
Sanil wears many hats. He is an author, entrepreneur and also happens to be an angel investor, and has invested in a few startups, like KultureShop, among others. “Being an angel investor myself, I have made some early-stage investments, where I look to work closely with the portfolio company, in return hoping the investment is more of smart capital rather than just monetary investment,” Sanil explains.
Ishaan holds a Bachelor’s in Commerce from the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia. He started his career on the strategy front at The Boston Consulting Group, and then went on to work at comScore, a leading data analytics and market research firm. Both Ishaan and Sanil, having spent about five years in the US and the UK, respectively, decided to move back to India after seeing the growth prospect of Indian startup ecosystem.
So the duo set up Huddle, an incubator and co-working space, in late 2017. “The initial funding was through bootstrapping and personal funds, post which Huddle secured smart capital through Suhail Chander and Rakesh Bhatia,” Sanil says. The seed funding was around $300,000. San Francisco-based Suhail Chander, the corporate and commercial head of IndusInd Bank, stepped in and his investment was a means of inducting him as a core partner in the organisation. The investment was further strengthened by Rakesh Bhatia, former CEO of HSBC Indonesia, fintech expert, and a co-founder of Singapore-based fintech firm Hektor.
“Sanjiv Sachar, former Partner, Egon Zehnder International, is Chief Mentor at Huddle, and his advice has seen us through the inception,” Sanil adds. The current team consists of seven members, with a marketing team based outside Huddle.
Building the mentor network
Huddle’s current portfolio consists of eight startups, ranging from firms that have been in business for over three years to some that walked into Huddle with an idea and are now on the ground serving customers.
And things seem to going in the right direction for the young co-working space. “Revenues from the first co-working location alone will be over Rs 1 crore this year. The incubation vertical, we believe, will generate maximum value with exponential returns, as the space is building up. Huddle’s recent expansion of extending services to co-working spaces through ‘Powered by Huddle Incubation’ and ‘Open Innovation’ programmes will drive the bulk of business going forward, along with the goal of venturing into newer locations, and partnerships,” Ishaan adds.
On the co-working front, in a period of six months, Huddle has managed to achieve 80-percent occupancy. “Over the past three months, Huddle has witnessed a 25-percent growth month-on-month, despite emerging competition in the Cyber City area from the likes of WeWork and Innov8.”
The founders explain that the thrust has also been on developing the mentor network to expand on their incubation vertical. “Huddle has been consistently growing its mentor base, starting out with Delhi NCR and now has a global reach of over 25 mentors. Each of our startups can leverage the expertise and network of a close-knit global community of leading professionals,” Sanil says.
Its mentors are located all across the world, in locations like the Silicon Valley, Dubai, Singapore and Delhi. The panel of Huddle mentors consists of former CEOs and CXOs, along with industry stalwarts like Manoj Kohli (Executive Chairman, SoftBank Energy), Bhaskar Pramanik (former Chairman, Microsoft India), and Rajeev Kakar (former CEO, Dunia Finance).
The process of incubation kicks off after the investment committee at Huddle evaluates a company. “Huddle works with the startups to identify their short- and long-term goals and actively maintains a regular review process to ensure all stakeholders are well-informed and updated,” Sanil explains.
The co-working space in India has been seeing a lot of activity and growth. A report published by CBRE Group last year stated that the co-working space segment in India is expected to touch 10 million sq ft by 2020.
The co-working segment in India is expected to receive $400 million in investments in 2018, according to a study by JLL. The study suggests the key drivers of co-working spaces in India are, predominantly, cost, infrastructure, and networking opportunities. Currently, there are a little over 200 premium business centres across the country, and the number is set to double by 2020. India’s top locations for co-working spaces include Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Pune.
On the horizon
Huddle is in the process of identifying new locations and geographies and also adopting unique approaches within the current co-working environment. It recently partnered with Mumbai-based co-working venture Mosaic, which now holds the ‘Powered by Huddle Incubation’ tag. This, put simply, means the space provides all the services to its startups and organisations that Huddle brings to the table. In addition, all co-workers in either location have full access to both spaces. It is also exploring tie-ups with various institutions and large corporates.