Helion Venture’s Rahul Chandra to raise $100 million early-stage fund
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Rahul Chandra, managing director at Helion Venture Partners, is raising a new early-stage fund called Unitary Helion, which will target a corpus of $100 million.
The new fund will invest in financial technology firms, digital marketplaces and value-chain innovation in core sectors such as financial services, agri-business, logistics and healthcare. Unitary Helion will look at creating a portfolio of 18 to 20 companies.
“The new fund will have a lot of DNA of Helion, representing the early-stage focus of Helion. But from an investment thesis or theme perspective it is very fresh,” Chandra said in an interview. “The thesis is a lot more focused. It is only focused on three very adjacent areas, which are networks, payments and lending.”
“We are evaluating about 30 companies, 10 each in the three areas. That would reflect plays such as fresh agri-marketplace, flow-based credit; we are looking at patient financing, we are looking at medical supplies marketplace and also logistics marketplace,” said Chandra.
The thesis at Unitary Helion is derived largely from Chandra’s experience of investing in various financial services firms at Helion Venture Partners such as small finance bank Equitas Holdings Ltd, housing finance lender Shubham Housing Development Finance Company and payments services firm Ezetap.
Chandra is targeting a first close of $40 million by October. The fund will target raising around 40% of the total corpus from domestic investors and the rest from overseas.
“There are soft commitments from LPs (limited partners, or investors in venture capital funds), which includes strategics as well as family offices. So there is visibility toward that capital commitment,” he added.
According to Chandra, the timing of the new fund launch is a function of the fundamental shifts that are being witnessed in the Indian economy in terms of the availability of data. “Timing of this fund is because of the change in which India is approaching the data problem or the lack of data and how we see that changing dramatically thanks to Aadhaar, demonetization and GST (goods and services tax). The part of the population we are trying to address through the fund thesis is probably 80% of India, which is either unbanked or new to credit. The ingredients of building businesses that can scale all the way down to people who are in the informal segment is becoming possible through technology,” he said
Unitary Helion is investing in developing a proprietary data science-based investment methodology. Jonathan Hsu, partner and head of data science at American venture capital firm Social Capital, will serve as a special advisor to help in developing in-house data analytics tools for all focus areas.
Chandra, along with Sanjeev Aggarwal and Ashish Gupta, senior managing directors at Helion, will continue to manage the existing portfolio of Helion, which has raised and invested capital from three funds over the last decade. “Across the three funds at Helion, we invested around $600 million. We are currently actively managing a portfolio of 35 companies. The Helion portfolio will be kept separate from the new fund,” said Chandra.
The plans to raise a new fund on his own comes after the departure of several executives from Helion Venture Partners last year.
In 2016, Helion executives Ritesh Banglani, Alok Goyal and Rahul Chowdhri split from the firm to start their own venture capital firm, Stellaris Venture Partners. Stellaris announced a first close of $50 million in February. The firm plans to raise $100 million for its maiden fund.
Another senior executive at Helion, Dhruv Kapoor, left the firm last year to join Sistema Asia Fund.