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Silver Lake’s big bets come at a time when SoftBank is trying to regain momentum in India.
Silver Lake’s big bets come at a time when SoftBank is trying to regain momentum in India.

Silver Lake bets big on India story

  • Silver Lake has pledged $2.85 bn in India in just three months, highlighting its appetite to write large cheques
  • Silver Lake could emerge as a credible alternative to SoftBank for India’s technology startups, say industry experts

MUMBAI : A flurry of mega deals could see American technology investor Silver Lake upstage Japan’s SoftBank as the most prolific technology investor in India, said industry experts.

Silver Lake has committed $2.85 billion in India in just over three months, highlighting the company’s appetite to write large cheques. Key among those were a $1 billion investment in the retail arm of Reliance Industries Ltd and leading a $500 million investment round in Byju’s, which vaulted the ed-tech unicorn’s overall valuation to $10.8 billion.

Unlike Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank, Silver Lake made its maiden investment in India only in June this year when it invested $1.35 billion for a 2.08% stake in RIL’s Jio Platforms. Despite its major investments, Silver Lake does not have a dedicated team in India and is still to set up local operations, which, according to industry participants, may happen with time.

Silver Lake’s big bets in India come at a time when SoftBank, the most aggressive backer of tech startups in India, is trying to regain momentum, after a long pause following massive investment losses in WeWork and Uber.

Last week, SoftBank led a $150 million round in ed-tech startup Unacademy, its first investment in India since last December.

Silver Lake could emerge as a credible alternative to SoftBank for India’s technology startups, said industry experts, given its relatively deeper experience in investing in tech firms in the US and other developed markets. They said Silver Lake is just starting off in India and is scouting for more investment bets in the world’s second largest internet user market.

“They have been studying the ecosystem for some time. One used to often see them participate in bids, but they were not aggressive. But now they seem to have made a decision to get more serious and deploy capital to India. They will evaluate all areas of technology, including digital IT services businesses and BPOs," said a senior partner at a Mumbai-based law firm, requesting anonymity.

Outside India, the fund has invested in some of the largest and successful tech firms globally such as Twitter, Airbnb, Alibaba, Dell Technologies, ANT Financials, Alphabet’s Waymo and Verily. Founded in 1999, the firm manages more than $60 billion in assets.

A senior investment banker said the timing of Silver Lake’s investments is a function of the Indian tech ecosystem seeing the emergence of many large startups, which can absorb the quantum of capital that large investors like Silver Lake want to deploy.

The increased acceleration of adoption of digital services due to covid is also attracting such investors, he added.

“The ticket sizes they can deploy, as seen with Jio and now Reliance Retail, those opportunities were not easily available in India... But now there are enough of such opportunities," he said.

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