We’re not here to make money, but the future: SoftBank CEO

Debangana Ghosh | | Updated on: Dec 03, 2021
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Company funds nearly 10 per cent unicorns in India, created over one million new jobs

SoftBank has invested over $3 billion in India this year alone, said Masayoshi Son, Chairman and CEO of the company on Friday. Nearly 10 per cent of the unicorn funding here at present is from SoftBank, he said, adding, “Our portfolio companies have created over one million new jobs in India. I believe in the future of India and the passion of its young entrepreneurs.”

Over the last 10 years, the Japanese company has invested over $14 billion into Indian startups, Son said. He was speaking at the InFinity Forum organised by Bloomberg and IFSCA.

Biggest foreign investor

“Several years ago, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi came for his first trip to Tokyo, I had said we believe in the future of India and would like to invest. I had committed $5 billion investment in India then. After 10 years, we have invested $14 billion in the country. We are the biggest foreign investor in India,” Son said.

“Our portfolio companies have created over one million new jobs in India. I believe in the future of India and the passion of its young entrepreneurs,” he added.

Also see: MSMEs look to adopt digital tech, smart manufacturing

Some of SoftBank’s unicorn portfolio in India include Swiggy, Meesho, Oyo, Ola, Paytm, PolicyBazaar, Eruditus, Zeta, Cars24, Mindtickle, Flipkart, and OfBusiness, among others. Earlier this month, SoftBank Investment Advisors CEO, Rajeev Misra, while speaking at another Bloomberg event had said the firm is looking to invest $5-10 billion in the countryby next year.

Investment risk

Speaking of failures, Son said, “We are crazy enough to invest in their (entrepreneurs’) vision, sometimes we lose all the money and sometimes we get great return. Overall, our return is way bigger than the loss. This is an amazing, dynamic but risky journey.”

It may be noted that SoftBank had found itself in the middle of a debacle in 2019 when WeWork, a company it had backed, failed to get listed at the Wall Street after its IPO filings were heavily criticised.

Also see: Convergence of blockchain, smart tokens and IoT will create economic growth for India: Mukesh Amabani

“We get criticised every three to four years, because the stock market goes down. As long as my goal is to create a future and happiness for the mankind, short-term criticism doesn’t bother me. Because we took that long-term view, our returns on the investments over the last 20 years is 43 per cent internal rate of return (IRR), compounded over 10 years. We have got the highest return on a 20-year scale. But in this process, there has been a lot of ups and downs,” he said. “The interest rates change, the currency exchanges rates change by a few percentage, but if you are growing 43 per cent compounded every year, it’s just a minor error.”

Son likes to call himself a “capitalist” rather than an investor. He believes investors are a group of people, who invest to make money. For them, interest rates, current exchange rates, employment rate are important but for capitalists like Son himself, those are not the most important parameters. “For us, technology, new business models and innovations are more important. We are not trying to make money, we are trying to make the future,” he said.

‘Dream big’

“They (entrepreneurs) have to ask themselves what is their interest, their dream and passion that will keep them going even after two to three years. The biggest reason for businesses to fail is that the entrepreneur gets tired of themselves. In every business you face some difficulty, you would get tired intellectually and physically, but if you can still go on, there’s always a solution to the problems ... Dream big, focus, and go at it,” said Son.

Published on December 03, 2021

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