Neelesh Bhatnagar, Managing Director of NB Ventures, talks about his journey from the retail industry to venture capital and how his company’s philosophy, approach and value addition have enabled the startups in its portfolio to grow and prosper.
You had a long, illustrious career in the retail sector, so how did you decide to venture into venture capital?
I appreciate your curiosity about my career shift from retail to venture capital. This transition was a significant change, and it happened for several reasons.
First and foremost, my extensive experience in the retail industry gave me valuable insights into consumer behaviour, market trends, and the challenges traditional brick-and-mortar businesses face. This knowledge gave me a unique perspective on the rapidly evolving retail landscape, particularly with the emergence of e-commerce and digital technologies. I observed how innovative startups disrupted the industry and recognized the potential for substantial growth in this rapidly evolving space.
Venture capital allowed me to actively engage in and support the advancement of these disruptive technologies and innovative business models. I saw a chance to utilize my industry insights, extensive network, and financial expertise to identify and invest in promising startups poised to revolutionize the retail sector and various other industries.
Can you tell us about your investment philosophy and approach?
Absolutely. We are actively contributing to creating a sustainable ecosystem for new-age digital startups across the globe.
The firm’s investment thesis is a carefully crafted blend of pragmatism and vision. It carefully analyses scalability, saleability, and possible exit prospects while considering the founder’s passion for the business.
We’re passionate about contributing to the success of the next generation of digital pioneers and helping them shape a brighter future for all.
What sectors or industries do you typically invest in?
Our core focus at NB Ventures is to identify and invest in promising new-age digital companies, particularly in sectors like Fintech, Foodtech, F&B, Retail and Edtech, E-commerce, and sustainability sectors. We see these sectors not only ripe for disruption but also as the critical drivers of progress in today’s ever-evolving digital landscape.
TEXUB is a fascinating recent investment, and it’s impressive how this startup, despite being just a year old, has already had a significant impact on the industry.
How do you add value beyond capital to your portfolio companies?
Indeed, our approach to supporting startups is holistic. We don’t just provide funding; we offer a range of resources to help them succeed. It’s about fostering growth and sustainability beyond financial returns.
What stage of companies do you typically invest in?
We typically invest in companies during their seed round to Pre-seed round.
Can you provide examples of successful investments you have made in the past?
From our portfolio, some companies have already shown their success. Purplle, HealthifyMe, Webengage, Leverage Edu, Pernia’s Popup, Thirdwave, Wrogn Fashion, and GOAT Brand Labs are a few of the names that have made us proud.
Also, my latest tech investment is TEXUB, a unique global B2B marketplace. It connects buyers and sellers, revolutionizing how 3C trade happens worldwide. It allows traders to discover products from around the world and find the perfect fit for their business needs.
In 2015, we opened ‘The Yellow Chilli by Sanjeev Kapoor’ restaurant in Dubai, offering authentic North Indian cuisine by a celebrity chef. Today, it’s a strong brand in the UAE, with various dining formats.
I’m passionate about investments in the sports arena and involved with United Pro Sports (now UPro). I also connect with the Delhi Bulls cricket franchise in the Abu Dhabi T10 League. Being from Delhi, I closely follow Delhi Capitals’ games as they hold a special place in my heart.
These investments have been financially successful, allowing me to explore diverse sectors and contribute to their growth.
What is your approach to due diligence and selecting investments?
When it comes to selecting investments, we have a meticulous approach. We consider the experience and expertise of our co-investors to help mitigate startup risks. Founder pedigree is crucial; we carefully assess their background and track record. We also evaluate a startup’s capital potential, focusing on scalability and growth opportunities.
Our investment philosophy follows the four ‘S’ framework, which means we look for startups with a strategic vision, scalability, sustainability, and saleability. This comprehensive assessment guides our decision-making process to support promising startups effectively.
How do you support and mentor your portfolio companies?
Our involvement with the portfolio companies is not limited to only funding. We provide mentorship from experienced professionals, strategic guidance to define clear growth paths and access to our extensive industry network for partnerships and opportunities. We also assist with resource optimization, continuously support startups, and prioritize their positive impact on their industries.
What is your exit strategy and timeline for investments?
My approach to exiting investments is flexible and not rigidly defined. It depends on the company and the situation at hand. While I generally aim for a three- to five-year timeline, I adjust my strategy based on what makes the most sense for each unique case, and I don’t have a fixed limit on how much equity I’ll invest.
How do you handle conflicts of interest with other portfolio companies?
Handling conflicts of interest among our portfolio companies is a top priority at NB Ventures. We emphasize transparency, neutrality, and open communication. We have clear policies and may engage independent advisors if conflicts persist. We aim to ensure the best interests of each company are upheld, and we’re committed to ethical conflict resolution.