Our Bureau

Mumbai, Jan. 24

CALIFORNIA-based $1.8-billion venture fund Norwest Venture Partners, which recently invested in two Indian companies, sees huge opportunity in the country for early and mid-stage investments in the coming months and years in sectors such as media, content distribution, real-time information services and mobile application services and even non-technology sectors.

"We are looking at multiple investments in India every year," said Mr Vab Goel, Partner, Norwest Venture Partner.

Norwest Venture Partners, in the last few weeks, announced mid-stage investment of $13.8 million in Pune-based Persistent Systems Ltd and an early stage investment in centralised travel service provider Yatra Online, along with Reliance Capital and TV18 Group.

The venture fund is also in talks with some more companies in the country for early-stage and next-stage investments.

Mr Goel said Norwest Venture Partners, which till now funded over 350 companies in the US since its inception about 44 years ago, has a long-term commitment to build a portfolio of investments in India. "India is very unique for us," said Mr Goel, who is among the three Indians out of a total of eight partners in Norwest Venture.

In addition to the two `direct' investments in India, Norwest Venture Partners has funded about 20 `hybrid' companies (those having a significant Indian presence, such as an R&D base in India, while marketing and sales is done in the US). "The India factor played a big part in our funding decision," Mr Goel said. The venture fund's total investment in the 20 hybrid companies will be about $100 million.

Mr Goel said the venture fund was willing to wait for 5-7 years before exiting investments through IPOs or buyouts. "We are looking for new ideas and right management (for funding)," he said.

Norwest Venture Partner considers India more attractive than China, mainly on account of language, IP protection and transparency. However, the venture fund is looking at funding opportunities in China too, Mr Goel said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 25, 2006)
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