There is no question that Mohandas Pai holds strong opinions on an impressive variety of subjects. He walks the talk too, playing key roles in financial governance, democratic processes, civic issues, education, philanthropy and important in the context of this article, as an angel investor and a mentor.
“What guides us in investment is how we see it making an impact on business; that is, disrupting the traditional business models, coming out with new models, and growing and making a lot of money.”– Mohandas Pai
Becoming an innovation enabler, investor, and a mentor was a very natural thing to do, says Pai in this interview with Sandhya Mendonca. After leaving Infosys, the blue-chip IT company where he was the CFO and a Board member, handling two technology businesses – the BPO and the banking business, he wanted to do something very different. That’s when he started Aarin Capital with entrepreneur Dr. Ranjan Pai (the two are not related).
They set up 10 funds, which have grown to 266 stock investments in startups. They have a total investment of US $ 450 million, with 35 fund managers who all work independently. The Pais are GPs (General Partners) and LPs (Limited Partners) in all these funds. Apart from this, Mohandas Pai’s family has investments in 32 funds. While he meets 2500 companies each year, he also works on the startup policies with the Governments of Karnataka, Rajasthan, Goa and the Government of India.
It’s not the numbers that make Aarin Capital stand out as a venture fund. While it invests in technology-intensive businesses in life-sciences, healthcare, education and others, it is clearly focused on potentially large India-centric or India-first market opportunities.
To this end, Pai is working on building innovation networks between cities across the world. “We work to get companies to remain in India and not get domiciled outside. We are working with some governments outside to create various devices to create co-operation and to make sure that there is a connection between Bengaluru and London, Paris, Berlin, Dubai, Singapore, Shanghai and Tokyo because now this innovation network has to spread to cities.”
The applications of IT at every step, like edu-tech, med-tech, and life sciences have taken off because IT has become horizontal, says Pai. He predicts that robotics and electric vehicles will become more visible.