Eat, Sleep, Start up, Repeat: here are India’s top serial entrepreneurs in recent yearsSohini Mitter
These serial entrepreneurs are continuously brimming with ideas, identifying pain points, and itching to build solutions.
The journey of a startup founder is inherently “lonely” - a word many entrepreneurs use to narrate their stories. There are, of course, highs that kiss the sky, but there are lows, more often than not, which can make founders slip into a deep, dark abyss.
Some though manage to evade them and can successfully run with their ventures - not once, but twice or even more times.
“Serial entrepreneurs”, as they are called, are continuously brimming with ideas, identifying pain points, and itching to build solutions. A recent Forbes article notes: “Serial entrepreneurship is a calling. In fact, not many people actually know they’re a serial entrepreneur until they have already become one.”
They are often willing to quit the cushy comforts of an established business and get themselves into the frying pan all over again. Many times over.
India’s had a few of them too. Those have gone on to set benchmarks in entrepreneurship over the years (2018 excluded).
YourStory lists some notable ones.
Mukesh Bansal founded Myntra, India’s most successful online fashion retailer, and sold it to Flipkart in 2014 in what was then the largest ecommerce transaction (Rs 2,000 crore deal) in the country’s startup ecosystem. In Myntra, Bansal not only built a strong brand, but also a successful private labels business that continues to drive Flipkart’s fashion sales, and is likely to be a critical cog in the wheel in the Walmart-Flipkart era. Bansal, like most true-blue entrepreneurs, moved on to another idea, and a fresh challenge in 2016. He launched Cure.fit, a health and fitness startup, in Bengaluru and plans to foray into 15 cities by 2020. Cure.fit expanded into the mental wellness space with Mind.fit in 2017, and into the QSR space with Eat.fit in October 2018. The startup is funded by IDG Ventures, Accel Partners, Kalaari Capital among others.
Aprameya Radhakrishna’s first stint as an entrepreneur saw him set up a taxi startup for budget riders, grow it to a 15,000-vehicle fleet, and eventually sell it off to market leader Ola for $200 million in a cash-and-equity deal. That was 2015, and IIM-A alumnus Aprameya was deemed a success because he had “built and sold” his venture. Ola, of course, shuttered TaxiForSure a year later, but by then Aprameya had moved on to other pursuits. Towards the end of 2017, he launched his second entrepreneurial venture - Vokal, a peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing platform for India’s regional language users. The startup has been active for nearly a year now, and is funded by Accel Partners, Blume Ventures and Shunwei Capital. Aprameya is also an active angel investor having backed about 12 startups, including Unacademy, DailyNinja, Goodbox, YourDost, etc.
Vishal Gondal founded IndiaGames back in 1999 when mobile internet was non-existent and mobile games were unheard of in India. Despite that, he managed to build it into India’s largest mobile gaming company, and eventually sold it to Disney in 2011 for a lucrative $100 million. Gondal was restless and loved the “chaos” of entrepreneurship. So, three years on, he returned to the startup space with his wearable tech venture - GOQii. The California-headquartered startup counts New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Edelweiss’ VC arm, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, and Ratan Tata among its investors. Gondal wants to make GOQii a holistic, subscription-based health and wellness solution that consists of a fitness band, a health coach, preventive health services, access to hospitals and diagnostic centres, and more.
K Ganesh is one of the most prominent - and celebrated - faces of India’s startup ecosystem. He has under his belt four successful greenfield ventures and exits — TutorVista, Marketics, CustomerAsset (now known as FirstSource), and IT&T (which he founded back in 1990). His fifth - and present - startup, Portea Medical, brings at home to patients the full spectrum of geriatric, chronic, post-operative care as well as allied healthcare services. Besides that, K Ganesh (along with his wife Meena Ganesh) has set up GrowthStory that nurtures and incubates startups across verticals. Ventures promoted by GrowthStory include Bigbasket, Bluestone, Homelane, Housejoy, FreshMenu, Avagmah and Acadgild. K Ganesh has gone on record to say that his modus operandi has always been to “build, scale and exit”. He’s also an active angel investor in startups such as Pokkt, SilverPush, DogSpot, and Oximity.
Alok Kejriwal is a leading entrepreneur in the mobile gaming and digital space. Back in 1998, when the word “startup” wasn’t fashionable, Alok built Contests2Win, India’s first online contesting site. In 2001, he launched a mobile-to-TV interactive platform, Mobile2Win, in China and turned it into a “sailing” success by 2005. It was later brought to India, and credited with partnering with multiple TV channels for reality shows. (Alok sold Mobile2win China to Walt Disney and Mobile2win India to Norwest Venture Partners). In 2004, he set up Media2win, an interactive digital agency, as non-conventional forms of marketing and advertising started picking up. In 2007, he launched his fourth - and most successful - startup, Games2Win. It specialised in developing original mobile games, and was a huge hit in the US market. It also ranked among the world’s top 20 online gaming businesses. Alok is known for his ability to create value at minimal investments. At present, he mentors first-generation entrepreneurs and helps them connect with VC networks.