India is a special market for us: Larry Illg of Prosus Ventures at Swiggy's Gigabytes

At the first edition of Swiggy’s tech conference ‘Gigabytes’, Larry Illg, CEO, of Prosus (formerly Naspers) Ventures, explained the tech giant’s investment vision and their approach to investing in India.

“As a group we tend to think about global consumer trends and global consumer needs and try to figure out how that will play out in local markets. But not in India; it is a special market for us. We look at Indian propositions differently. The opportunities that exist here that will address the consumer needs may not exist elsewhere in the world, or they are addressing the opportunity in a different way,” said Larry Illg, CEO, Prosus (formerly Naspers) Ventures. He was speaking at foodtech unicorn Swiggy’s first tech conference, Gigabytes.

Prosus, counted among the biggest global venture firms, is known for its investments in consumer tech companies. Some of its India investments include the ecommerce giant Flipkart, the fintech startup PayU, and most recently Swiggy.

“We’ve been investing in India for over a decade and have pumped in nearly $4 billion to $5 billion. We are not short-term capital investors, and we don't hop in and out based on the momentum. We are long-term investors,” said Larry.

Explaining Prosus’s operations, Larry said that while it works with the top 10 to top 20 companies across 90-plus countries, it remains a small company at the core. He added that while the company identifies opportunities and technology trends, the primary focus in spotting and evaluating potential investments is on the founders and the team that can actually deliver on the opportunity.

Larry Illg, CEO, Prosus Ventures

“We look for not just the ability to execute but also unparalleled ambition. We invest off the balance sheet. We take the cash flows from our more mature and successful businesses and plow those into new, emerging businesses. What that allows us is a lot of flexibility,” said Larry.

Prosus follows a wide range of investments and deal sizes, ranging from $1 million all the way up to over a billion dollars. Talking about their focus, Larry said they emphasised the long term. It was important for them that the founder and the startup have a long-horizon vision, he added, explaining,

“We don't have exit requirements. We want to help build companies in the long term. We offer operating support because we've been there and built tech companies. And, lastly, we bring a global perspective. We have investments and operations across the world, and among the things we can bring to the board are our experiences.”

In December 2018, Naspers had participated in Swiggy’s Series H round, which took the foodtech giant’s valuation to over $3.5 billion. It was the single largest fundraise by a foodtech company in India.

Speaking of the investment then, Larry had said: “We first partnered with Swiggy in April 2017 because we recognised the Swiggy team had built a sustainable, long-term business, which stood out amongst others in India. Now, nearly two years later, we have even more confidence that Swiggy has the winning formula and will continue to build a leading business in the country.”

(Edited by Athirupa Geetha Manichandar)