Aspada provides early stage risk capital to companies in India that help create market linkages, improve livelihoods, and provide access to essential goods and services.
We are entrepreneur-centric and support driven teams by providing early stage risk capital to businesses in India that increase market access, deliver high quality goods and services, and create large-scale employment opportunities in underserved market segments.
As a holding company, our approach is to back category leaders in large markets, with the intention of mobilizing significant future rounds of capital as our portfolio companies grow.
The Aspada Investment Company is a permanent capital vehicle anchored with a significant commitment from the Soros Economic Development Fund.
The SONG Fund is an early stage venture capital fund capitalized by the Soros Economic Development Fund, the Omidyar Network, and Google.
Essential Services:We focus on basic 'nuts & bolts' opportunities that those in more developed markets take for granted. It is our belief that many of India's essential services (affordable healthcare delivery, high quality education, well-functioning supply chains) are yet to be built. In addition to significant arbitrage to be found investing in these spaces, it is important to provide institutional capital to this underserved segment in order to support inclusive growth in the country.
Consumer Focus: We like mass-market, consumer-facing businesses in large markets that can create stickiness with customers, erect high barriers to entry, and that can achieve high brand recall.
Platforms: Distribution and service delivery is a significant and pressing challenge for both small and large firms in India. Accordingly, we tend not to focus on single product or device companies much preferring scalable "platform" plays that provide the basic infrastructure that can act as product and service distribution points. We like deeply integrated supply chain and logistics networks.
Cash Generation, not Depletion: We focus intently on unit economics and believe that sustainable and essential businesses must be built deliberately from the ground up and not via significant cash burn models. We seek capital efficiency across our investments and do not invest in real estate assets.
Although India is the world's second largest agricultural market, it is also one of the least efficient, employing 50% of the total labor force but contributing only 14% to the country's GDP. Served by archaic and highly fragmented supply chains, India spends significantly more on logistics as a percentage of GDP than most developed markets and achieves significantly less as an estimated 40% of all of the country's produce rots before reaching an end consumer. Despite the advent of modern trade and retail, the majority of India's produce is cultivated by individual smallhold (less than three acre landholding) farmers. Because of complex land holding regulations and strong cultural ties to agricultural property, we do not believe that India will become a market served by corporate mega-farms in the foreseeable future. Instead, we see tremendous opportunities for innovative businesses operating across the agricultural value chain to increase efficiencies by providing farmers with better quality inputs such as seeds, fertilizer, and small-scale mechanized tools, while also wringing out inefficiencies by creating end-to-end supply chain networks that link farm gates to consumers.
With total healthcare spending of 3.9% of GDP and only 0.6 beds per 1000 population, India substantially lags behind peer countries on healthcare indicators. Despite the lack of progress, the private sector has been at the vanguard of expanding accessibility, affordability and quality of healthcare in India. It added about 70% of all new hospital beds between 2000 and 2010. We see significant opportunities to build capital efficient models that can provide high-quality generalist and specialist care at affordable prices across urban and rural markets, such as within secondary and primary care segments, which continue to remain largely unorganized and provide sub-standard care. Buoyed by increasing patient awareness, per capita income and insurance adoption, we are optimistic about preventive care and chronic disease management models that encourage early diagnosis and treatment. In addition, we believe that patient and provider centric financing products that go beyond traditional banking hold great promise to unlock demand and supply in underserved markets.
Government and private sector firms spend upwards of $80 billion a year on education; however, educational outcomes have not remotely addressed the need to provide quality education to India's 600 million residents under the age of 30. We seek promising inclusive education models that promote classroom efficiencies, pedagogical improvements, and quality content delivery. Equally, the market for skills training is significant, as the country needs to train 400 million workers by 2020 to keep pace with labor market requirements. Despite government interventions to encourage private sector participation, the throughput of trained students is only 4 million per year based on current training capacity. We are interested in models focused not only on hiring and training but also placement and staffing of qualified personnel that meet the current needs of India's rapidly evolving economy.
Small and medium sized businesses (SME's) are the backbone of India's economy, yet remain perpetually underserved by domestic banking and capital markets, which in turn severely constrains their ability to expand their businesses and hire additional employees. Starved for working capital, companies that do not possess significant assets to post as collateral to banks are often forced to turn to expensive and non-scalable informal sector sources of capital. A complex and bureaucratic regulatory regime severely hinders the flow of foreign capital in helping to address this challenge. Within this market we seek significant opportunities for technology-driven platforms to lower the costs of lending diligence, create credit-scoring profiles, and lend against alternate forms of collateral within the small business segment.
India possesses a complex economic, cultural, and regulatory environment in which institutional financing markets are nascent, operating dynamics are complicated, and few proxies of significant scale exist within our sectors of interest. Building a business requires a unique blend of intelligence, stamina, talent, and grit and therefore we are entrepreneur-centric and work only with exceptionally dedicated teams that have tacit understandings of the headwinds in the Indian entrepreneurial journey and yet still choose to forge ahead.
Investment criteria: Aspada is a holding company that invests in what it believes can become large, category leading firms across its sectors of focus and with the intention of mobilizing significant follow on financing as its companies scale.
The company acts as a "Series A" institutional investor, and does not fund generally prototypes, business plans, or incubation, although there may be select cases in which very early stage funding can be provided in the case of an exceptional team with significant sector experience or a demonstrated proof of concept.
SV Agri is one of India's leading aggregators for the processed potato industry, working directly with thousands of potato farmers across five states. Through an extended network of over 80 company managed village storefronts, SV offers farm extension services (cropping techniques, insurance, financing support) and quality agricultural inputs (seeds, organic fertilizer) to its network of farmers. The company manages a robust potato supply chain for large domestic and international snack makers and also plays a key role in providing engineering consulting services to revamp potato processing capabilities in the MSME and SME segments. By providing support and creating end-to-end linkages to market the company has helped thousands of small hold farmers to significantly improve yield and price realisations.
LEAF is an end-to-end fresh fruit and vegetable supply chain company that aggregates, processes, and distributes produce such as carrots, potatoes, and exotic vegetables to major retailers in India in a branded, packaged format through its own cold chain and distribution facilities. The company works directly at the farm gate with small hold farmers and provides technical support and farm inputs that increase farmers incomes via yield improvements, productivity increases, and assured market linkages. LEAF has built dedicated primary processing facilities along with cold chain infrastructure to deliver fresh vegetables to leading food retailers as well as to local vegetable vendors across South and West India.
ThinkLink Supply Chain Services is a provider of turnkey project management, automation, design, skill development, and staffing services in India's logistics and supply chain sectors. The company has managed end-to-end engagements for more than 100 Indian domestic and multi-national companies across numerous sectors including food & agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and infrastructure.
To cater to the growing complexities of the industry, ThinkLink Learning was launched to offer professional development, vocational skills, and staffing services by working within India's supply chain sector to enhance and create career paths for managerial, entry level, and blue-collar professionals.
Schedulers Logistics operates a pan-India end-to-end cold trucking, storage, and secondary distribution network for dairy, QSR, fresh fruit & vegetable, food processing, and time-sensitive pharmaceutical deliveries. The company is focused on increasing its reach to Tier 2 & 3 cities and small towns across India and creating market linkages to the significantly underpenetrated Eastern and North-Eastern Indian states. Although India's cold chain is rapidly developing, it is primarily served by the unorganized sector, as only 7% of all assets are operating with professionally managed and staffed fleets. As a result, there are significant wastages and added economic costs which result in lower realizations for small manufactures and higher landed costs for end consumers. Schedulers is working to address this market deficiency, and specifically within segments catering to SME's and small producers.
K-12 Techno Services is an end-to-end school management company offering affordable school education in small towns primarily in the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh by applying modern pedagogy and school management tools. This investment is fully exited having been sold in a trade sale to a strategic investor.
Eye-Q is a leading chain of specialty eye-care hospitals, operating a network of over 30 hospitals across Tier II and Tier III towns in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, and NCR. It has a successful track record of building and leasing hospitals across greenfield, brownfield, and partnership formats. The company runs an efficient hub & spoke operational model, which allows it to deliver high-quality care while keeping costs low through optimised use of capital, manpower and equipment. The specialty hospitals form the 'hub' and health check-up camps form 'spokes' that screen and refer patients from remote hamlets. Eye-Q has treated thousands of patients for cataracts, glaucoma, and emergency care since 2007, maintaining outstanding clinical outcomes.
Be Well is a chain of affordable, high quality secondary care hospitals in under-served towns in South India. This large segment of the healthcare services market is largely unorganized; delivering poor quality care, charging exorbitant prices, and lacking accountability for outcomes. Be Well is transforming this market segment by bringing high-quality medical infrastructure and proven protocol-driven patient care while delivering outstanding clinical outcomes in geographies where access to reliable, 24-hour emergency and critical care services is scant. The company maintains sharp focus on operational excellence, capital optimisation, and economies of scale so that high-quality care can be brought to people at the most affordable price points.
NeoGrowth offers merchant cash advance to small merchants in India through loans against future credit and debit card transactions, thus increasing the flow of working and growth capital to its clients across small retail, grocery, and textiles. The company addresses a large market need, as small merchants with banking relationships in place are often unable to access mainstream bank loans, often resorting to the inconsistent vagaries of the informal sector. Through a sophisticated technological back-end, the company is pioneering a financial solution for small merchants that has largely been absent in the Indian MSME segment, allowing small firms to grow by stocking additional inventory, managing working capital, and hiring additional employees.
Capital Float provides small businesses with short-term working capital finance against future corporate receivables. Most small businesses in India operate with cash credit cycles of 60 days or longer, and receivables finance and overdraft facilities are largely unavailable for small firms, especially those in service-oriented businesses without significant hard assets that can be posted as collateral. Capital Float has pioneered a receivables financing model that currently exists in India for only very large-scale commercial borrowers as the existing factoring market in largely out of reach for small merchants. The Company has built a sophisticated technology back-end and credit rating approval process that takes into account qualitative, quantitative, financial, and psychometric scoring variables.
Kartik Srivatsa Co-Founder & Managing Partner
Kartik is a Co-Founder and the Managing Partner of Aspada Investment Advisors and also acts as the fund advisor for the SONG Fund through Aspada Capital Advisors. Prior, Kartik was with Lightspeed Venture Partners, a global venture capital firm with over $2 billion under management, where he was a founding member of the India office. Earlier, he was a management consultant with McKinsey and Company. Kartik received a BTech in Mechanical Engineering and MTech in Energy Technology both from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras. He currently serves on the Boards of Be Well Hospitals, SV Agri, LEAF, and Eye-Q Vision and previously served as a Board Observer on K-12 Techno Services. He is a Charter member of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE).
Thomas Hyland Co-Founder & Partner
Tom is a Co-Founder and Partner of Aspada Investment Advisors. Prior, he was one of the first employees of SeaChange Capital Partners, a social sector financial intermediary founded by former senior partners of Goldman Sachs. Earlier, he worked in the Investment Management Division at Goldman Sachs in San Francisco. Tom received his MBA at the Indian School of Business (ISB) in Hyderabad, and his BA in Economics from Providence College. While at ISB he focused on innovations in early stage financing and entrepreneurial ecosystems in India and other emerging markets. He has worked and traveled extensively throughout India and Asia. He currently serves on the Boards of ThinkLink Supply Chain Services and NeoGrowth Credit.
Kushal Agrawal Investment Manager
Kushal is an Investment Manager at Aspada Investment Advisors. Previously, he was the Financial Controller at Zovi.com, an e-commerce start-up funded by SAIF Partners and Tiger Global, where he laid the foundation of strong finance and compliance systems. Having also worked at ITC and PwC, he brings a rich experience in building finance processes, financial analysis, accounts and audit. Kushal is a Chartered Accountant from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, in which he secured positions in the National Merit list in both Intermediate and Final Examinations. He graduated from St. Xavier's College, Kolkata.
Tauseef Khan Investment Associate
Tauseef is an Investment Associate at Aspada Investment Advisors. Previously, he was in the Chemicals, Materials and Food division of Frost & Sullivan, a global growth consulting company where he was involved in key consulting engagements with the global majors in agrochemical and food industry. Prior to this he worked at John Deere, a global major in agriculture, forestry and construction equipments. Tauseef received his MBA at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA), and his BTech in Agricultural and Food Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur. While at IIMA he focused on agribusiness ecosystems and the intricacies of doing business in the agricultural and supply chain sectors.
Aspada Investment Company to Invest in Capital Float
Aspada Investment Company invests in Schedulers Logistics
Aspada Investment Company raises significant follow-on commitment from Soros Economic Development Fund
LEAF has opened up new avenues for producers in India's Nilgiris region
Aspada Investment Company Invests in NeoGrowth Credit to Provide Financing that Supports Small Businesses in India
India's agricultural sector is fast-growing but inefficient. Private equity is well positioned to capitalize on the need for better technology, information and distribution
A profile of SV Agri: Agribusiness or agricultural franchising is new in India, though it is quite commonly used in other businesses such as fast food, hotels and other service industries
Aspada team's views on early stage investing in India
A profile of LEAF's and its efforts to help improve farmer livelihoods in the Nilgiris region
Business Standard profiles Aspada partners Kartik Srivatsa and Tom Hyland
Soros Economic Development Fund Backs Aspada Investment Company With $10 Million initial seed round
Editorial by Kartik Srivatsa on what we're learning on the ground as relates to the rural/urban divide
India's agriculture needs intervention at every stage, says SV Agri's Hemant Gaur
Delhi-based eye specialty hospital chain Eye-Q has received series B funding from Helion Venture Partners and Nexus Venture Partners