Venture capital firm SAIF Partners India has raised USD 400 million for its seventh fund to back early-stage startups in the country, which houses the world’s third-largest startup ecosystem. This is the VC firm’s largest India-focused investment vehicle to date.
The multi-stage investment firm which entered India 18 years ago and manages assets worth close to USD 2.4 billion in the country is also rebranding itself to Elevation Capital.
“While SAIF enjoyed a great amount of equity in the ecosystem, the name itself didn’t communicate what we stand for. It was, at best, an acronym,” Ravi Adusumalli, managing partner, told local media Economic Times (ET) in an interview. “So, as we looked to raise a new fund, we thought that it’s a good time where we should think about a new name and communicate what we stand for, and our investment ethos a lot better.”
SAIF Partners India is an affiliate of SAIF Partners, a China and India focused investment firm, which was started as SoftBank Asia Infrastructure Fund in 2001 with a USD 400 million fund in which US networking giant Cisco Systems Inc. was the sole limited partner and Japan’s SoftBank Group was the general partner. Adusumalli led the fund’s first Indian investment in IT services company Sify Technologies.
In 2005, SAIF’s eight partners were able to come to an agreement with SoftBank to form an independent entity and launch a new USD 643 million fund called SB Asia Investment Fund II. SoftBank remained a limited partner in SAIF’s new fund.
In 2010, SAIF Partners India raised its first country-dedicated fund of USD 350 million, followed by two more funds of the same corpus. SAIF had closed its sixth fund in 2017 with a sharpened focus on seed-stage deals.
Overall, SAIF Partners manages assets close to USD 10 billion. It has invested and managed close to 400 companies, including over 60 companies that already went public.
In India, SAIF Partners has backed more than 100 startups to date, and has written checks for seed, pre-Series A, and Series A financing rounds.
The VC firm is known for partnering with startups at a very early stage. Some of its notable pre-Series A investments include food tech firm Swiggy, social media platform ShareChat, social commerce platform Meesho, and home services platform UrbanClap. The firm takes long term bets on startups across segments.
“We tend to be very ownership centric when it comes to the early stage. Our approach is to back single teams and single spaces,” Mridul Arora, managing director, SAIF Partners, said in an interview last year with local media Mint. “We don’t take multiple bets by backing several companies in one space. We invest for a longer period and partner with founders with larger cheque size as they grow across stages.”
Having become one of the active investors in the country, it has five unicorns in its portfolio including digital payment startup Paytm’s parent firm One97 Communications, food delivery startup Swiggy, and online learning platform Unacademy.
Over 15 startups including home services platform Urban Company, insurance tech startup Acko, digital loan platform Capital Float, real estate property marketplace NoBroker, and online marketplace to buy digital gold Rupeek, in Elevation Capital’s portfolio are projected to become unicorn companies in the next few years, a Techcrunch report said, citing data from Tracxn.
From the new fund, the VC firm is expected to focus on new areas such as enterprise SaaS.
Elevation Capital isn’t the only one betting aggressively on India. In the last 12 months, Sequoia has raised USD 1.35 billion, Accel has announced a USD 550 million India-focused fund, and Lightspeed has put together a USD 275 million fund for India and Southeast Asia as well.