Interview: Helion Ventures’ MD Ashish Gupta Unhappy With Social Networking, Music Sites Businesses

Ashish Gupta, managing director of Helion Ventures Partners — a $ 140 Million India-focused, stage independent venture fund — is disappointed with the revenue growth of social networking and music sites. Here’s more of the what the venture capitalist had to say about the Indian investment scene in a telephonic interview.

How have things changed from when you started to now?
The most important change I see is in the quality of companies. For example we could have had teams of pure technologists who might or might not have a sense of what it takes to build a business and you might have pure business guys who might not have sense of the fact that unless you leverage technology the efficiencies in our business don’t get interesting. Today the entrepreneurs I meet are people who have a better business sense.

Which investments that you have made do you see bearing fruit soon?
A lot of it depends on the maturity of the company. We don’t want to get out of a company until it gets incredibly valuable. We would like to see companies become a $1 billion plus…there is no limit to the greed. With respect to our investments there are two aspects to it — one is our getting out and then there is the company becoming a liquid commodity. If a company goes public then I would put it in the category of becoming liquid. If you take a company like makemytrip…it will likely be liquid earlier than our other investments.

Do you think makemytrip will list within two years?
…within that time.

Which sectors have met and which ones have missed your expectations?
The Internet sector has been less than what it has been made out to be. It is growing slower than at least what everybody had thought it would be. The number of companies that are able to find meaningful revenue streams are fewer than what had been projected.

Which businesses are you talking about?
One business that falls into the category of too many companies and too few revenues is social networking. Another is music sites, which have been hyped… they get a lot of traffic but revenues are slow to come.

And what is the problem with these businesses?
Part of the challenge there is that growth in advertising dollars and number of users have been slower than expected. So the whole space is not maturing as quickly as we thought it would. There were expectations ahead of reality.

So how has the time period of your revenue expectations changed for these businesses?
We are saying not these two years…the next two years. (laughs). At this point I certainly am not saying the next five years. If the market is not ready, the market is not ready. You cannot force people to buy blankets if it is not cold.

What action is happening in the mobile space?
One of the biggest issue there is that the carriers eat up everything. What we have done is we have looked at companies like JiGrahak and Kirusa, which are not dependent on carriers.

What kind of companies are you scouting around for investments?
We are more interested in transaction-oriented companies than content-based firms. In the mobile space we are looking at a bunch of stuff. The entire space is bottoms up than top down. A lot has to do with a particular company you come across than a hypotheses that you have.