Episode 69 / June 14, 2020

Ganesh Rengaswamy, Quona Capital, on the growth of Digital Lending and Neo Banking in India

hr min

Episode 69 / June 14, 2020

Ganesh Rengaswamy, Quona Capital, on the growth of Digital Lending and Neo Banking in India

hr min
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Ganesh began his career working in Strategy & Acquisition at Infosys in the San Francisco Bay area. He founded his first startup – Travelguru (later acquired by Travelocity) while he was pursuing his MBA from Harvard Business School.

In 2006, he began his journey as a VC with Greylock Partners. In 2014, he Co-Founded Quona Capital, which is a Fintech-focused VC firm, making investments across Asia, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa.

A few of its successful exits include – IndiaMart (went IPO) & (acquired by Gojek). Some of its current Portfolio includes – ZestMoney, Fisdom, & Neogrowth among others.

In this podcast, Ganesh shares his experience of investing in emerging markets and fintech-businesses with robust teams.

Notes –

00:54 – His Journey from working at Infosys to Co-founding Quona Capital

04:39 – Quona Capital: Countries of operations, Cheque-size & Ideology

07:58 – Starting Travelguru while pursuing MBA at Harvard Business School

14:07 – Investing in teams who respect & fear lending

18:17 – Exit from IndiaMart – Most Successful Digital IPO

22:30 – Exit from – Acquired by Gojek

28:08 – Managing investments across multiple countries and diverse markets

34:02 – Fundamentals driving rapid growth in Indian startups in Quona’s portfolio

36:23 – Rise of Neobanks in India


Read the full transcript here:

Siddhartha 0:01

Today we have with us Ganesh Rengaswamy. Ganesh is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Quona Capital, which is a growth stage venture capital firm focused on FinTech in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Welcome to the 100xEntrepreneur podcast, Ganesh.


Ganesh 0:45

Thank you. Thanks so much for having me.


Siddhartha 0:49

Ganesh, we would love to know about your journey from your Infosys days to here working at Quona.


Ganesh 0:58

So, If I look back at my career, it’s been a combination of technology, entrepreneurship, venture capital, and financials, working on financial services solutions all through my career, lot of my Infosys experience was back in the West Coast, Silicon Valley and broader US working with retail, commercial, consumer internet, and financial services clients. And one of the largest programs I managed was actually re-architecting, the authorization clearing and settlement system at visa International. That’s really what got me into financial services and the blend of financial services and technology primarily. And from there, I went to Harvard Business School where I started a company called Travel Guru along with my partner, which eventually became the largest hotel consolidator in India and Southeast Asia when Travelocity acquired it. And since then I’ve been an investor both in the valley and then back in Asia and India for over 10 years now. And a lot of my personal passion and focus comes from two things. The one is trying to figure out how to combine my experiences in technology in entrepreneurship and in financial services, to back impactful entrepreneurs and to be able to work with them, hopefully, to create success. And the second aspect really is from the perspective of having experienced venture capital and entrepreneurship, as a startup founder early in my life. And my personal perspective, coming out of that was there is a significant gap between startup founders perception and an investor’s perception and largely without having been in founder shoes, it’s very hard to actually empathize with founders, or the challenges that people go through. So my entire investing and venture capital journey has been really about being an entrepreneurs’ investor rather, and how do you really support entrepreneurs by having empathy? And that fine balance of when do you challenge entrepreneurs versus when do you be supportive to them through tough situations? So that’s really what drew me into venture capital. And we started Quona about six years ago. Before Quona,( I’m going sort of in reverse now), but basically, I invested in a whole bunch of other financial inclusion and microfinance organizations when I moved back to Asia and India from Valley, and a number of them today are fortunately even public. The number of them are small finance banks. And frankly, that’s what got me excited to see if we can blend in a market-oriented approach to financial inclusion and, combined technology has given the digital revolution that we are all seeing, it will hopefully help us produce more impactful results over time. And before I moved to Asia, I started my venture capital career with Greylock Partners back in the valley helping start Asia and India operations more specifically for them.


Siddhartha 4:31

And can you tell more about Quona Capital. The countries which Quona is operating in? What’s your cheque size and what stage do you come in?


Ganesh 4:40

So, Quona is a fund that the three of us came together to start. The ethos of the founders is very much aligned, which is what I was alluding to in terms of how we believe the whole digital landscape and the future of financial inclusion in the context of the digital landscape would rapidly change given the newer distribution mechanisms, SaaS solutions, cloud, just a lot more efficient ways to obviously develop solutions and you know, this very well integrated with your day job. And, and the idea was a large part of the target segments for whom we wanted to back entrepreneurs creating solutions in emerging markets are essentially underserved or unbanked. And to your question, we operate in India, in Southeast Asia, in Latin America, in Sub Saharan Africa, South Africa, and we are now starting to get more active in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The couple of constant themes you’ll see across this market is one which I’ve already mentioned, where a large part of the target segments when it comes to basic Access Solutions or basic quality of solutions are underserved or unserved. And the other dimension of Quona’s thesis is that the entrepreneurs we back, are essentially creating a financial innovation or a financial solution for the certain end purposes. I mean, it’s basically to figure out how you make the life of consumers or SMEs better. It could be about better education, better health care, how do you progress or build up your business or scale up your business, so on and so forth. It’s essential towards an end outcome. And from that perspective, as much as Quona invest in digital, consumer and consumer lending SME lending payments, insurance, wealth tech, etc. We also invest in a number of adjacencies whether it’s a segway of Agriculture and finance, health and finance, education and finance, commerce and finance, mobility and finance, so on and so forth. And we typically come in at the pre-A to A-plus stage. So you can say it’s largely A and to certain extent B but we are getting more flexible as we evolve as a fund and just recently we closed our new fund and we have been getting more flexible from pre-series A up to B but leaning more towards an investment plan ticket sizes, quite flexible. It could be anywhere from a million to $10 million to start with, but usually in the sweet spot of three to 5 million.


Siddhartha 7:54

Ganesh, during the first year of your MBA at Harvard, you started an eCommerce company called Travelguru. What were you thinking at that time? Was it like the idea was so thrilling you couldn’t wait to execute? Or the MBA didn’t seem fascinating to you?


Ganesh 8:12

It’s a good question. Frankly, Siddhartha when I started at Harvard Business School, the focus was very much on a specialized business degree in entrepreneurship and venture capital. I mean, through my stint at in the valley, I’d come across a lot of investors and successful entrepreneurs with an HBS pedigree. And that really inspired me to go to HBS. So the idea the walking to HBS was really not to start a company while there, but I think a couple of months into HBS, I’ve met Ashwin de Damera who eventually became my partner at TravelGuru. And Ashwin had been sort of working on this. He was a year ahead of me in the school, and over the previous summer, he had been working on this business plan. It was sort of stand to shape up, but still early days. But frankly, I was obviously planning to try my luck with entrepreneurship after I graduate. But at that point in time, I think Ashwin’s speech was compelling enough, the idea was exciting. Digital commerce was just getting started in India, frankly, there were a lot of gaps still, travel was a massive space with lots of inefficiencies. So I think, a combination of all of this put together and the fact that you could really digitize the massive but fairly complex space is what got me excited about it, but I think frankly, It was when we made the decision It was probably early in the morning, we had gone through a six seven-hour late-night discussion and I guess it was the early morning high which also led us to make that decision.


Siddhartha 10:15

So, you did complete your MBA while work starting TravelGuru?


Ganesh 10:20

Yes, it was a very delicate dance and balance. After the summer of setting Travelguru up along with Ashwin in Mumbai, I did go back to complete my MBA.


Siddhartha 10:34

And Ganesh, can you tell us about your experience and the size of the exit of TravelGuru. And what made you then convert into a full-time VC after TravelGuru? Was that you financially retired from life? Just kidding 😉


Ganesh 10:50

Yeah. So I think, everyone has the calling and purpose and I guess It’s not necessarily tied to financial success or an exit or life of semi retirement because of financial success. But in the case of Travelguru, I think, no, we exited the company in 2008-09. By that time, I had become a non-executive director because part of our initial strategy was I could help expand internationally while Ashwin really, you know, focused on building up the company in India and Asia. Frankly, very soon after we raised funding the market became quite tough. And we decided to focus a lot more on hotel consolidation, instead of airlines focus, a lot more on the digitization of entire value chain, including payments and a lot of our focus became India and adjacent markets in the region, and hence I slowly transitioned into a non-executive role before our exit, and also in 2008, when we exited, this was clear towards the end of 2008, this was probably amongst the toughest of times. And we had a couple of the largest travel players in the world back then as suitors who were keen on Travelguru. And as you can appreciate, for confidentiality reasons, I probably can’t go into a lot of the details of it. But eventually, Travelocity, which at that point was probably the largest travel company in the world along with Expedia acquired Travelguru and as I’ve mentioned earlier, my drive to become a VC or a startup investor was really from the perspective of being able to connect with entrepreneurs and work with entrepreneurs by appreciating the challenges of running a start-up and really have an inside out view as opposed to an outside view into it as an investor. And when we raised capital or funding at Travelguru, I think, a lot of investors in those days were, frankly, Ex consultants or bankers, and really smart folks who helped catalyze the startup ecosystem. But there was a significant mismatch between the way they would approach a startup versus the way a founder or classic entrepreneur would approach a startup. And, we ourselves face some of those challenges. We had a fairly full base of investors around the company. And we also went through some of those challenges, which, frankly, you know, really is what motivated me and appreciated me to realize the gap between an entrepreneur’s perspective and investors. And that was the primary reason I became an investor. Aside from the fact that I thought, you know, an investor’s life would be an easier life and I’m just kidding, but Sadly, I realized that is far from the truth if anything.


Ganesh 10:53

You said in one of your interviews, that Quona invests in teams, which understands, respects, and fears lending. What do you mean by that?


Ganesh 14:18

Yes, I, in fact, was on a webinar or master class yesterday where I was elaborating on this point. And we really stand by that. And what I mean by somebody who respects and fears Lending, is that in the hustle of FinTech, I think sometimes the sequencing is misplaced. And people let the tech override the financial services. And there is a lot of leverage that the digital aspects can obviously bring, especially if you take lending whether it’s through the front end or the middle way of KYC and authentication and underwriting or the back end of collections, but fundamentally, you know, lending is a set of things, which all rely on the lender’s ability to really, really understand that customer segment, the life cycle, the way the customer thinks, the way the customer generates free cash flow, the way the customer operates with the loan and the ability to really meaningfully utilize that loan in order to be able to repay successfully. And there are lots of different products. There are a lot of different dimensions to underwriting but fundamentally it comes down to deeply understanding the customer. Secondly, from a certain vantage point, when I say deeply understanding the customer, it’s a very generic statement, but it’s from the vantage point of the product you’re offering and the purpose you’re offering, and the customer’s ability to really fulfill that purpose and then be able to repay. Secondly, there are some players in the market who have been on the receiving end of originating, you know, even, let’s say a single bad cohort. Those who have really been at the receiving end of it, you know, like those who have been at, let’s say, Wanda, or those who have been at on deck, which is kind of going through its own challenges. Now, they know that even a couple of cohorts of tough origination can take maybe up to even a couple of years to recover from because the nature of the revenues and the margins therein are not enough to cover for one or two cohorts of bad origination. And the challenging part is that a lot of the younger entrepreneurs or a lot of the folks who are new to lending irrespective of the age who have limited perspective on lending do not appreciate this enough. Because a couple of bad cohorts of lending can wipe out a company, period. People just don’t recognize that. And, either you have to realize that and figure out how to protect that with your life. Or if you’re not a founder who understands it, your first order of business has to be getting someone on board, who really really understands it and who would be a peer. And in the hustle of FinTech and sort of treating FinTech like the next eCommerce or the next Atlantis, I think, a number of entrepreneurs and investors are forgetting that basic principle. And I guess, post-COVID, we will see a lot of fintechs which are going to find it very challenging to stay alive. Some of it might be because of COVID, but a fair bit of it would also be because they were on the weak footing and on fragile principles to even start with.


Siddhartha 18:11

One of your companies IndiaMart went IPO, Ganesh. When you invested it is reported that Quona had a 4% equity in the company or share of the company when IndiaMart in 2016 grade $22 million at IPO. That must have been a fantastic exit, can you share you know more details if possible?


Ganesh 18:41

Sure, Siddhartha. So, IndiaMart is, of course, a public company. So, there is sensitivity around how much I can share. We collate Series B along with Amadeus in 2016. India Mark actually India, in that sense is a beacon of digital commerce. They’re patient, long term entrepreneurs, they only raised two rounds of capital, institutional capital over the lifecycle of the company and the series A was almost a little over 10 years ago, and the Series B was a little over four years ago, which is what you know, we collate at that point in time, it was basically us, Amadeus, Westbridge, and Intel as the existing investors who participated, the entire thesis was around a couple of things. India Mart had a very, very strong connection with the SME’s supplier and buyer universe. And they had worked hard over the years to educate that universe to really get them onboard digital platforms, to help them discover more meaningful solutions, to help them with price discovery, and to provide them a set of affiliated solutions. Around the core discovery and transaction process to make things a lot more frictionless for the buyers and suppliers, and our value adds coming into IndiaMart really helped them build out the transaction side. And the FinTech side, which was around smoother payment solutions, helps build Buyer Protection and escrow solutions, and also to scale credit solutions, which is in several cases are integrated into the MSMEs. And that’s primarily the area where we were helping IndiaMart, and the company was close to breaking even at that point in time, I guess. Now, obviously, the results are quite public, they’re probably reported three-plus quarters of results since they went public. FY20 was a fantastic year they grew profitability phenomenally. And the market has obviously recognized that and the stock has gone up about 2.5 times since they went public. So it’s probably been the most successful digital IPO in the country at least in the last decade, if not more, in terms of how the stock has sustained and performed on the back of companies’ performance. So we remain extremely bullish on IndiaMart and are very proud to see what journey the founders have traveled. So, we will continue to still be investors in IndiaMart. I think in the IPO, all investors had to exit to a certain extent to make the IPO happen, which we all did. But beyond that, we continue to be quite excited about IndiaMart and are still investors in the company.


Siddhartha 21:43

I believe that when you invested the valuation was somewhere around 100 Million in 2016. Currently, India Mart has almost crossed $1 billion in valuation.


Ganesh 21:54

That’s right. Yes.


Siddhartha 21:55

That’s a fantastic return in four years like never heard in VC, a company going public for four years in investment.


Ganesh 22:03

Yeah, it’s definitely very rare, at least in our country in the last decade or so, that kind of success while going public is unheard of for a digital company. So definitely they are they have done us all proud.


Siddhartha 22:23

Can you tell us more about which you exited to Gojek, when did you come to the company, when did you exit and how was the journey like?


Ganesh 22:33

Sure. So is today probably the largest digital payments solution provider in the Philippines and also now in some of the adjacent parts of Southeast Asia. The company fundamentally started its journey as a digital asset company, actually crypto-asset company several years ago now about 6-7 years ago. And the whole idea was to facilitate easier remittance into the Philippines because the cost of remittance was prohibitive in at that point in time to about seven 8%. But by leveraging the blockchain infrastructure they were able to bring that cost down dramatically up to 2%. And that so coins picked up and they also had an E-money license and had a wallet of their own, so they could hold money and they could more efficiently transfer and 10% of Philippines GDP depends on remittance. So that’s kind of how coins got traction. When we invested, they were just trying to take off. We led the series A and Naspers/payU came in soon afterward in an extension to that round, but we led series A that was also back in 2016, if I’m not mistaken, and the company very soon developed into the largest digital wallet and payments player in the country. This is despite two of the largest wallets in the emerging markets that have been in the Philippines, which were both launched by the incumbent telcos won by Globe and others by Smart and they were largely using closed-loop wallets to encourage the telco customers to utilize this wallet for various services. Now, in the midst of that, when coins came in with a wallet starting with the remittance, but then they started rapidly expanding their use cases, which is what led to the growth and they were interoperable, and they created an open payment system and wallet. It attracted a lot more customers to them, as opposed to having to deal with the closed-loop solution that the telco wallets are providing. And over time, the use cases really expanded phenomenally, whether it’s utility payments, through the click of a button, which today seems quite Common, but these are same people who weather for, you know rental payments, whether for property tax payments, whether for telco payments, so on and so forth, or top-ups, etc used to go to a store and stand in queues for 30 minutes to two hours, etc. and coins change that dramatically So, and then when Gojek actually acquired coins, they were on the path to start evolving their services beyond payments. I think if we look back from 2020 you know, if someone was in the position that coins was in 2017, they would put a pitch themselves as a Neo bank. But that’s kind of what coins was moving towards even, you know, they’re sort of ahead of their times on the Neo banking concept, but they were doing it without calling themselves a Neo bank. And they were basically three large suitors for coins who were quite excited about the asset and the reason they went with Go-Jek is that Gojek looked at coins as their strategic entry into Philippines. And this was around the point in time where Gojek had started moving from mobility into payments in a pretty significant way. And they looked at coins and said, Hey, this company already has a pretty expansive payments infrastructure. And we can roll out other use cases and services on top of it. And hence, which is something they had strong expertise in from Indonesia. And that’s kind of the reason why it was quite synergistic between the two and that’s how that transpired in 2018. The other option, you know, again, in the interest of sort of sharing the thought process, the other option for the company, where there were around the three investors who are quite keen was to raise about a 50 plus million series Series B because that’s the kind of war chest they would have needed to kind of remain independent in the market and keep scaling up. Because in 2018, we reached a point where, Alibaba, Tencent Go-Jek, all of them start getting very excited about the digital payments ecosystem in the Philippines. And the choice for coins was to be able to raise enough of a war chest to compete with those big boys or to sort of finding the home where they will have, hopefully, reasonable access to resources and capital, to be able to fight the others and still remain the dominant play. So that was really the decision. And frankly, there are no easy choices there. But the way it transpired is, you know, of the 4 couple of those players were exited. And, we thought the exit was fair for both the entrepreneur and to the investors who actually got a good return out of it. And we all agreed to go forward with it.


Siddhartha 28:04

Ganesh, you invest across multiple countries, how are you able to focus, you know, dealing with such diverse markets?


Ganesh 28:13

Sure. So, Siddhartha, If you look at venture investing, I guess there are three different dimensions sectors, stage, and geography. And typically it’s a local business and people take a geographic view to it and focus on a certain geography but very diverse from a sectoral point of view. And again, there are a lot of high-quality investors who are doing that. And, we decided to take the reverse approach, which is challenging on one side, but which is also what’s given us the differentiation and kind of the investors, LPs and entrepreneurs and peer, investors, that we have today. Because we all come from reasonably deep financial services and financial technology experiences. We also believe that financial services or FinTech innovations can be sort of, you know, the oil that greases the economic engine, in terms of being able to help people meet the targets in their life, through various financial innovations, again across sectors, as I’ve talked about before. And third, interestingly, financial services happens to be a space and FinTech, especially given the technology is an equalizer, there is a lot of transferability across markets, there’s obviously a lot of nuances, whether from a regulatory perspective, policy perspective, consumer or SME orientation perspective, so on and so forth. But also there are several similarities in terms of solutions being transferable, or the ability to learn from success in one market into the other. And the last dimension is, if you look at our focus, we are very deliberately focused on global emerging markets. As I mentioned, India, Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America, and GCC, we do not really invest in the US or Europe, primarily because we believe the emerging market ecosystems are quite different from the more mature market ecosystems for a number of reasons, including infrastructural, soft infrastructural reasons, but also because we see a fair bit of transferability and similarity in consumer behavior, the challenges and gaps in these markets, and over time, this has now held us in very good stead, because it’s one of those things that you can only build up over time, the case studies and reference-ability, transferability and knowledge only get built out over time. And now six years into Quona, we have very interesting reference points across markets, which sometimes also opens up our mind to newer ideas in other markets. And, it now has sort of a snowball effect of its own which is actually benefiting Quona as a firm a lot more than we expected when we started.


Siddhartha 31:30

So, which is a country you’re most bullish about?


Ganesh 31:33

That’s a tough question. I think out of the 12 or so countries, we are quite active in India and Brazil. They are our top countries by far. If we look at sort of the past of Quona, the fastest growing country at this stage is probably Indonesia. And, but there are several countries which are emerging fast, including Indonesia, Mexico, and South Africa. And Southeast Asia broadly as a region is actually evolving very rapidly with Indonesia as the center of gravity. Because there are some soft infrastructure or digital infrastructure solutions that have been built, and some that haven’t been built. There is a lot more availability of capital today than there was five, six years ago in Indonesia and in Southeast Asia. And the good part of that is if you have capital available to scale companies, the disappointing part of it, or the negative of it is that there is too much capital and which is being prematurely thrown at these companies which can even kill markets before it’s like killing the golden goose. And you kill markets before they even happen by throwing too much capital after some sectors or sub-sectors or spaces which don’t even have enough of a time to justify venture investing. But generally, the promise of India especially with the kind of scaling up we’re seeing on the digital infrastructure side, whether it’s on payment, or digital ID or affiliated services continues to be quite exciting. I think the innovation we’re seeing in Brazil is actually quite refreshing. And that’s kind of what is catalyzing that markets on the FinTech entrepreneurship side. And the third market I would say is Indonesia and adjacent markets in the Southeast Asian region where we are starting to see a number of things kind of come together now for promising entrepreneurs.


Siddhartha 33:43

And in India, I believe your current portfolio except IndiaMart includes ZestMoney, CreditMantri, Fisdom, Shubh loans.


Ganesh 33:52

No, we are not an investor in SHUBH loans. Our current portfolio is IndiaMart, ZestMoney, CreditMantri, Fisdom, SME Corner, Neo Growth.


Siddhartha 34:01

And across these companies, I believe the fastest-growing has been ZestMoney?


Ganesh 34:11

Well, actually a number of them have been really fast-growing you know if you look at Fisdom or SME Corner has been the fastest-growing assimilating company in its generation, Neo growth is the fastest one in the generation before, Zest, of course, is probably now arguably the leading, online consumer financing company and Fisdom, the largest digital distributor on the investment, savings and mutual fund side in the country. So, fortunately, they’re all on strong footing today notwithstanding COVID.


Siddhartha 34:47

How do you continue to be so focused on your investments when every sector is seeing a huge FinTech uptake from retail to small SME banking like there are a lot of options to invest. How do you continue to be so focused in your investments in India?


Ganesh 35:06

Yeah, that’s a tough question, Siddhartha because nobody knows what’s the right answer. We will all figure out what is the right answer. In hindsight, I think what’s important for us is to maintain the consistency of what Quona stands for in the market. In terms of the type of entrepreneurs we back type of opportunities, we back. Why do we believe they can be successful? How do we figure out they have the right fundamentals? And I’ll be able to consistently show that across our different investments to ourselves and to our ecosystem, and the reason we have some of you know, investors we have, whether it’s the large sovereign development funds as LPs or some of the larger fortune 105 hundred companies or LPs is because of the consistency we believe so it’s a tough question because we obviously debate on border things. We missing out on. Thankfully, we have a Global Fund. And hence, you know, we maintain a balance between what we believe makes sense. And at what point we walk away if the irrationality of let’s say, valuation, or the exuberance of competition is just getting too much in certain opportunities. And I’ll give you an example, which is sort of a controversial one. But I’ve used it multiple times in public forums. So, you know, I’m happy to do it again. We have three new banking investments, we are close to making a fourth one, a couple of them in Brazil and in other markets, right, but we have none in India. 18 months back, there was not a single company called Neo bank in India. And today we have at least 25 to 30. Yes, so there was a point in time a couple of years ago, where lending was everyone’s last refuge. Sorry, actually, let me roll back, payment was everyone’s last refuge. You know, everyone was pivoting to become a payment company. But for a lot of guys that didn’t work and we had a small flash in the pan of PFM as well, when that didn’t work, then people pivoted to lending. And now Neo banking is the last refuge or last resort, right, of anyone who is pivoting from models that are not working. And this is the kind of challenge in our country that worries me. Brazil has five big banks. The second-largest Neo bank in Brazil is in our portfolio called Neon. And in the middle of COVID, they just closed $170 million round in the middle of COVID led General Atlantic etc, but banks are not terribly inefficient in India and there are 30-40 times more banks in India may be at least 10X of the number of banks in Brazil which are high quality. So in the middle of that, I think, without being able to articulate how you are different as a neo bank, it is just very hard for us to at least figure out what is it that’s different about a lot of these new players who are coming in, and how they’re different from Kotak 811, and the number of other initiatives going on. And they are better there, they probably have some better futures. And we can talk about some of them specifically. But is it meaningful enough to really be able to build a differentiated digital bank? That’s a very hard question to answer right now because I’m not able to see it. And we have at least talk with 15 of this. Right. So part of the challenge in our countries, sometimes we get ahead of the opportunity, and way ahead of the maturity of the evolution of the opportunity, and throw in too much capital to the detriment of all the investors and all the companies doing good. So whenever we see that happening, I think we typically take a step back And frankly, that’s helped us avoid maybe 60% of the highest barriers. Now, having said that, it’s probably likely we’ll miss out on some high-quality opportunities. But that’s the nature of what we do. And we are comfortable living with that.


Siddhartha 39:19

As you mentioned, you know, you have or you are investing across 12 countries, so you must be having a large team managing each country.


Ganesh 39:28

So, this might surprise you, but we basically have a few interns given it’s summer but otherwise, we have a full team of about 23. About 60% are investing team members. So this is about 14 team members spread across seven countries. So we have fairly thinly spread that sense.


Siddhartha 40:05

And how do you keep the pulse of each of these 12 countries where you are invested in?


Ganesh 40:13

Correct. So the good news is we have folks in seven countries and some of these countries are sort of the center of gravity in the region’s like we have a team in Mexico, we are constantly in Brazil. We have a team in South Africa, we are a team in Nigeria, we have a team in Singapore. The bulk of our Asia team is in Bangalore. We spend a lot of time in Jakarta I mean COVID notwithstanding, sometimes even twice a month for extended period of time. So across a number of the key markets, you know, we have boots on the ground. And if you see the way emerging markets and these regions work in these key markets become the center of gravity and the New York Markets actually learn from them, right or the new evolving markets learn from them. And seek out high-quality entrepreneurs or investors in the established relatively established markets in these regions. So, that’s kind of how we are probably able to develop our ecosystem as well. But at some point, some of these markets will really mature, like we did not have somebody in Mexico till our last fund. But now we do. We did not have somebody on the ground in Nigeria in the last fund, but now we do. So I think these things will evolve. But it’s a balance of a local understanding of core markets, and core FinTech understanding and how we blend that as we enter into newer markets.


Siddhartha 41:48

Ganesh, one last question, you know, in your second fund, you have raised $203 million. How is the deployment plan across various geographies of this fund and how it’s going forward for 2020 for Quona?


Ganesh 42:09

Sure. That is, again, a very tough question, given what we all are in the middle of right now. Having said that, no, we raised this fund over a period of time, roughly about one-third of the fund is deployed, but we are in a great place as Quona, because as 2020 evolves, and the world is going to be a different place, you know, post-COVID in multiple ways, I think we will be in the market in a pretty significant way. Because we have a new fund and we have a lot of capital to deploy in across several focused opportunities. I think we evolve is also getting reshaped to a certain extent by COVID. Nobody has time to see a lot more digitization of several solutions across markets, whether it’s payments, whether it’s banking API’s and banking, tech infrastructure, we are starting to see a lot more interesting adjacent solutions, whether it’s in ag-tech and finance, EdTech and finance, broader digital commerce or social commerce and finance, efficiencies across the supply chain and financial services so on and so forth. We believe a number of these things will see more rapid digitization and faster adoption than what we are seeing in the past because through this period of COVID people are starting to get more comfortable with digitization across various use cases in their lives. So generally I think you know that good news for us. We have obviously been backers are several themes that are likely to evolve more rapidly as a result of customer adoption and education as we come out of COVID. And if anything, it’s only going to provide us more exciting opportunities that we can believe in the back.


Siddhartha 44:20

Thank you so much, Ganesh for sharing your valuable experience and wisdom on 100x entrepreneur podcast.


Ganesh 44:26

Thank you. Thanks for having me. My pleasure.


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