Kitty Agarwal of Info Edge says content-based startups should add a commerce layer and not just focus on consumption

In this episode of 100X entrepreneur podcast, Kitty Agarwal, Head of Corporate Development and Investor at Info Edge (India), shares her insights on the company’s investment thesis, and how it helps founders grow their companies.
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Kitty Agarwal comes from a Marwari business family in Kolkata, where it is not very typical for women to step outside their family business to pursue professional careers.

An MBA from IIM Ahmedabad and due to her interest in entrepreneurship, Kitty got in touch with Sanjeev Bikhchandani of Info Edge, and joined the company as an analyst in 2012.

Kitty Agarwal, head of corporate development, Info Edge.

Since then, Kitty has climbed up the professional ladder in many roles, and is now the head of corporate development at Info Edge. She also invests in early-stage consumer internet companies. Some of her portfolio companies include Zomato, Ustraa, and Meritnation among others.

Kitty says, she works closely with her portfolio companies to help them in building strategy, monitoring progress, follow-on fundraising, deal sourcing, due diligence, and legal documentation.

Siddhartha Ahluwalia, Head of Community at Prime Venture Partners, caught up with Kitty Agarwal in this episode of 100x entrepreneur podcast, a series featuring venture capitalists and angel investors.

Tune in to listen to Kitty in conversation with Siddhartha:

Info Edge’s investment value

Kitty says the typical cheque size at Info Edge ranges between $500,000 and $5 million, and the company is rather particular about which stage the company is in while investing in it. Though the cheque sizes are fairly flexible, Kitty says she tries to keep Info Edge as the first institutional investor in the funding round.

Speaking of the value addition the startups get while partnering with Info Edge as a VC, she says the portfolio companies have full access to the internal departments for any know-how related help and inputs.

Kitty says, “We leave our internal departments open to our founders. They can meet the sales department of Naukri as well as the marketing head at Info Edge, and learn how we do our PR. Even when it comes to hiring, when they make some top-level hires, Sanjeev and I interview the candidates and share our opinions.”

While the actual thought is to help with the general strategic direction of the business, she says Info Edge also has informal brainstorming sessions and business reviews, apart from the formal board meetings. These informal meetings have everyone in the company included for varied opinions and ideas.

The investment thesis at Info Edge is straight out of the balance sheet, and because of that, Kitty says the company can afford to be a very patient investor. She says the typical exit cycles could be short if the firm decides to make an exit or exercise its right to exit. However, the firm often exercises its right to stay on when the companies are performing.

“We have been investors in companies like Zomato, PolicyBazaar, and Meritnation for almost 10 years now. It takes time to build companies at scale in a country like India. So, we partner with companies and stay with them as long as they want us to.”

The evaluation process

When it comes to sourcing deals, Kitty says it could be reaching out to founders or through referrals from existing portfolio founders or from the influencer networks. The firm tries to keep the process short in the early stages and also ropes in Hitesh Oberoi, CEO of Info Edge, and Chintan Arvind Thakkar, the CFO.

She says, the startup meets the internal team twice so that the latter could understand the former better, before they take it forward.

“If it is a larger cheque size, we choose two independent directors from the Info Edge board, who usually are seasoned experts. As per the industry the company operates out of, we choose directors who are well-versed and experts in that particular sector,” she adds.

Kitty further states that Info Edge is also a player that closely looks at high-frequency marketplaces in the B2B segment, and does not shy away from putting eggs in it, considering that it backed foodtech player Zomato.

Speaking about content-based startups that can also fall under the vernacular space, she says she is not really a big fan of them because the team had a tough time trying to get their clarity around the monetisation part.

“The content is always great but if we look for the additional commerce layer that can be added to the vernacular part, and of course the exciting video space. So, we broadly look at startups that are not just about video consumption but also have some commercial transactional model tagged along to them,” she says.

(Edited by Megha Reddy)


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