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June 27, 2011

Freshdesk, Reach 360 emerge winners at BizSpark Startup Challenge 2011

Edited excerpts from the Press Release:

Microsoft has announced the winners of the BizSpark Startup Challenge 2011. At an event that witnessed top 15 startups battling it out for the coveted prize, Freshdesk and Reach 360 emerged winners of the challenge. The two winners were rewarded with a grant of USD 40,000 and the runner-up teams; Zevenseas and Live Inbox got a grant of USD 10,000 each.

Microsoft BizSpark India Start up Challenge is a unique contest for start-ups in the field of product software to showcase their innovative business plans, receive feedback, and mentorship from top investors and Microsoft. The challenge was open to startups that currently have product/IP and are leveraging Microsoft technologies. The participants were assessed on three key parameters; innovation, market potential of the business and a compelling story behind the idea. The challenge was launched in April 2011 and within six weeks of the launch, over 400 product start-ups enrolled for the challenge and 15 startups were shortlisted for the finals.

Congratulating the winners, Moorthy Uppaluri, General Manager, Developer and Platform Evangelism, Microsoft India, said, “We believe the entrepreneurial spirit will play a key role in driving the growth of the Indian economy – and it is essential that it be fostered. At Microsoft, it is our attempt to nurture the startup community in the country. He further added, “There is undoubtedly a great opportunity in the mobile space for innovation, and the Cloud is where the future of IT is – both offer ample scope for startups to come up with new solutions or business models and take them to the market.

Freshdesk is an on-demand customer support software that combines a robust back-end help desk with a community management platform and knowledge base. Currently, Freshdesk is the only product in the category that offers multi-product support capability and has a separate dedicated knowledge base and community forums.

Reach 360 has developed a stack of interlocking technologies that delivers the maximum value to digital ad spends. Their innovative approach effectively addresses all forms of digital advertising – branding, performance and social media. Reach 360 is the first company to enable conversion of Static Banner Ads to Rich Media Ads and a homegrown technology of global standard that deliver ads up to 3 times faster.

Thrilled on winning the challenge, Girish Mathrubootham, Freshdesk, said, “This challenge has given us the opportunity to showcase our innovative business models as well as receive constructive feedback from our peersand Microsoft. The initiative has provided us some of the most important resources required by the startups to operate in this evolving business landscape. Our business plan focuses on on-demand customer support software that combines a robust back-end helpdesk with a community management platform and knowledge base. We are confident that the guidance and mentorship that we have received will go a long way in transforming our start-up into a robust business entity.”

Adding to this, Rajesh Agarwal, Reach 360, said, “The Bizspark Startup challenge was extremely competitive and a thrilling experience. Our business is centered around developing a stack of interlocking technologies that deliver the maximum value to digital ad spends and this grant will certainly help us grow our business and take it to the next level. We thank Microsoft for providing this opportunity to build connections and share ideas with the member startups and network partners in the BizSpark community.”

The Bizspark Startup challenge was introduced in line with Microsoft’s commitment to promote innovation and entrepreneurship and foster the growth of the local software ecosystem. Over the years through its ‘Spark Series’, Microsoft has consistently impacted several aspiring entrepreneurs at crucial stages of their lives- right from their education to the moment they begin their own ventures.

For more information about BizSpark Startup Challange, please Click Here

Super Angels Pitch: CazBak

June 24, 2011

Deal Alert: Fidelity to invest $15-M in K-12 education firm Mind Shaper

Edited excerpts from the press release:

Fidelity Growth Partners India (FGPI) is to invest up to $15M to acquire a significant minority stake in Mind Shaper Technologies Private Limited. Branded as Classteacher Learning Systems, the company is a pioneer in K-12 educational content in the country.

The investment will be used to further the company’s product portfolio and strengthen Classteacher’s role as an organization that combines technology and innovation as part of its commitment to education. At present the company has one of the largest repositories of digital education content in the industry with about 85,000 teaching modules mapped to multiple education boards. The company offers an integrated solution to assist teaching in classrooms using software, hardware and school support services. This provides an ideal platform to make learning an enjoyable and enriching experience.

As part of this investment Mr. Kabir Narang and Mr. Raul Rai with FIL Capital Advisors (India), the private equity advisory arm for FGPI will join the board of the company. Commenting on this, Kabir Narang said “We are excited to partner with Mind Shaper Technologies and be a part of the large and growing education sector. The company has an exhaustive content library that can be leveraged beyond digital whiteboards, a reference base of leading schools across the country and a strong management team”.

Mr. Rohit Pande, CEO, Classteacher Learning Systems, said “This investment will help us enhance our product offering as well as expand into new segments of education. We see this as a key milestone in our evolution and are glad to partner with FGPI to achieve our goal to support learning and teaching in classrooms across India.”

About Classteacher Learning Systems:

Classteacher Learning Systems is a pioneer in educational content in the country with over 85,000 modules, 500 schools and 0.5 million students, providing consulting and innovative technology solutions in the area of school education. Classteacher focuses on providing measurable technology driven learning outcomes with standardised education solutions.

About Fidelity Growth Partners India:

Fidelity Growth Partners India (FGPI) is the India-focused private equity arm of Fidelity International, focused on cross-sector growth capital investing. FGPI seeks to invest in high-quality, high-growth companies in India across a broad range of sectors with typical investment sizes ranging from $10 million to $50 million. FGPI is committed to making the companies it invests in leaders in their industries through access to patient capital with a long term investment mindset, a powerful network of resources and a team of investment professionals with a proven track record of success.

June 22, 2011

Profile of social venture investor Omidyar Network

From the Business Today profile of the philanthropic investment firm founded by Pierre Omidyar, founder of Internet company eBay.
Unlike other philanthropic organisations, ON does not come with a project-centred approach. Rather, it enters with the intention of building institutions. The two main requirements are: the organisation should fit into the ON portfolio and be scalable.

Swati Ramanathan, Chairperson of the Indian Urban Space Foundation and co-founder of Janaagraha, an NGO working on urban quality of living, says the benefit of ON comes from its disciplined funding. In Janaagraha's case, while $3 million (Rs 13.8 crore) was given for three years, a third of the funds is for unrestricted use, while another third is tied to achievement of pre-determined metrics and the final third portion depends on the ability of the organisation to raise at least twice as much from other sources.

This, according to Jayant Sinha, Mumbai-based Partner, ON, ensures that the organisation makes the most of the network's money - leveraging to raise more funds and building fund-raising capacity. And, like a venture capital firm, this also ensures there is an exit built into the investment. As a proportion of overall funds, ON's contribution tapers over its period of investment.

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private equity, venture capital and M&A deals in India. View free samples of Venture Intelligence newsletters and reports. Email the author at

Profile of cricket gear firm Sanspaereils Greelands

From the Business Today profile of the 80+-year-old sports gear maker:
The company's revenues - split almost 50-50 between exports and domestic sales - are growing at an annual rate of 25 per cent and expected to close this financial year at Rs 80 crore, up from Rs 60 crore last year. The share of exports has steadily gone down. "The proportion of exports to domestic sales was 55:45 last year, and we are planning to reverse it this year," says Anand.

Buoyed by this growth, the company is planning to foray into uncharted territories now. "We will launch Maxxport, our sports-inspired apparel and footwear label by mid-March. The sports apparel and footwear market is growing at 20 to 30 per cent. A bigger market means bigger growth," says Anand, adding he expects Maxxport sales to touch Rs 15 crore by 2013. The year will also mark the debut of SG's own brand in the overseas markets - a move considered a little risky because its whitelabel overseas buyers may not want to deal with a potential competitor.

...The positioning will be value. "While the average price of a Reebok or a Nike product is about Rs 1200, a domestic brand costs around Rs 400," says the younger Anand. "We are entering a new category of sports apparel and footwear, offering products which are on a par with the international brands in terms of quality, but are about 20 to 25 per cent cheaper."

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private equity, venture capital and M&A deals in India. View free samples of Venture Intelligence newsletters and reports. Email the author at

Why OTC Pharma is hot property

From the Business Today article:
"The consumer healthcare segment is growing at around 18 per cent, almost 1.5 times the rate at which the FMCG sector is growing," points out Nikhil Vora, Managing Director at brokerage house IDFCSSKI. Rising fees of medical professionals, an increasing penchant for self-medication, aggressive advertising and increasing faith in traditional medicinal systems like ayurveda are driving this growth.

..."Companies like Amrutanjan, Zandu and Paras are in demand because they have established brands and a wide product portfolio," says Vora. At eight times its sales, Paras may have been valued richly, but analysts say it has commanded such a price because there are not too many opportunities for inorganic growth in this lucrative segment.

...A major attraction of OTC pharma is the margins, which are almost double those in FMCG. "On an average, the operating margins in OTC pharma could vary between 20 and 25 per cent compared to 12 to 15 per cent margins in the FMCG sector," says Khanna of CubeX. Like FMCG, though, investments in brand-building are an imperative. As Khanna adds: "Once the brand is established, it can command higher margins."

Consider the example of Ranbaxy's health supplement Revital, which was launched in 1989 - not as an OTC product but via doctor-focused marketing. For the next 13 years, Revital plodded along to become a Rs 35-crore brand. In 2002, Ranbaxy decided to sell it over the counter. Result: Revital has grown into a Rs 160-crore brand.

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private equity, venture capital and M&A deals in India. View free samples of Venture Intelligence newsletters and reports. Email the author at

June 01, 2011

Deal Alert: Rajasthan Venture acquires 30% stake in vocational education co Shree EduServe

From the Press Release:

Rajasthan Venture (RVCF) has taken about 30% stake in an early stage vocational training education company, Shree Eduserve Pvt Ltd., having over 65 centers across the country. Shree Eduserve Pvt. Ltd. , a fast growing company founded in 2006 , has been developing new generation products for better understanding and imparting quality education and vocational training. The company is headquartered in Jaipur with franchisee all over Rajasthan and parts of India.

According to Mr Girish Gupta, CEO of Rajasthan Venture “RVCF funding will enable Shree Eduserve to widen its scope by enhancing existing e-learning product features and expanding its reach to other states as well. India’s Education Sector is estimated to be worth US Dollar 60 billion. Out of this, vocational training accounts for US Dollar 1.50 billion. The vocational training market in India is estimated to witness a growth rate of about 20% per annum in next few years. English and related training are the major chunk of this market and English is currently the flagship brand (FOCUS) of Shree Eduserve Pvt. Ltd. There is special emphasis by the Government on the education sector, specially Vocational training programs for the rural youths and Shree Eduserve with its current infrastructure is well placed to cater to the growing demand, especially the English language training.

As per Mr. Karunn Kandoi, CMD, Shree Eduserve Pvt. Ltd. said, “Shree Eduserve’s association with RVCF will bring significant change in growth and expansion plans, as we aim to open more quality learning centers all over India. We wish to repeat the same success that we have got so far in Rajasthan across India with our revolutionary concept of learning and unique business model. The first round of funding shall be used to build the brand image and expand the existing operations across the country.”

Rajasthan Venture Capital Fund (RVCF) aims to invest pan India, in companies operating in high growth sectors and create value for all stakeholders. RVCF intend to support companies involved in growing technology in education sector.

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private equity, venture capital and M&A deals in India. View free samples of Venture Intelligence newsletters and reports. Email the author at