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Desi dreams for this videshi

| | Updated on: Jun 15, 2015
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Aspada provides early-stage risk capital and has $70 million under management. It invests out of two vehicles.

For eight months in 2005, this New Yorker toured India, living, as he says, “on a couple of hundred rupees a day, travelling sleeper class, staying in retiring rooms or PGs. I really had an opportunity to see a large part of India.” Tom, who will turn 38 in August, admits that stay in India as a tourist is now helping him in his present avatar as an investor in companies that have a predominantly rural play.

Education: BA Economics from Providence College, USA, and MBA from Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. While at ISB he focussed on innovations in early-stage financing and entrepreneurial ecosystems in India and other emerging markets.

Experience: Worked in the Investment Management Division at Goldman Sachs in San Francisco and in SeaChange Capital Partners, a social sector financial intermediary, in the US.

Typical working day: We have a portfolio of 12 companies. We engage with the companies. At any given time, there are lots of projects going on. We are an active everyday investor, so we are constantly meeting new companies. We meet experts in the sectors we operate in, meet with high quality young teams that are building things, constantly interacting with people from the industry and with other investors. We spend a lot of time on the road, trying to get the pulse of the people and trying to understand the broader India.

Hobbies: I try and play tennis. I have a three-year-old son. He is actually one of my biggest hobbies. Trying to be father, playing… that takes centre-stage outside of work. Still trying to learn the guitar.

Gadgets: I love to cook. We grew up in a very active kitchen. One weakness is for kitchen gadgets – different kinds of peelers, slicers, I have good quality kitchen knives. I cook when I can. To me it is a hobby. It is something I enjoy and getting to learn my way around the Indian spices is a lot of fun. We do a lot of experimenting at home with all kinds of dishes.

Advice to entrepreneurs: We want teams that show a lot of conviction. India is a large market. We like a clear understanding of how large the market actually is, and very clearly define who your customer is. That there is a demonstration of willingness to pay. Entrepreneurship is tough the world over, but some of the sectors we are in are very difficult in the Indian context. If you really want to tackle a big problem in India and build something of value, it is not going to be easy. If it is easy, someone else would have done it. So, we are testing the execution ability. You are taking a bet on the team and you are taking a bet on execution.

Published on January 24, 2018

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