‘I said no to Snapdeal twice. And I passed on Ola and BigBasket’: Sanjeev Bikhchandani on his anti-portfolio

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Sanjeev Bikhchandani, the Indian investment maestro behind Info Edge, has a Midas touch…but with a twist. While his early investments in Zomato and Policybazaar have turned into gold for Info Edge, Bikhchandani himself admits to letting some whoppers slip through his fingers. Companies like Flipkart, Ola, BigBasket, and Snapdeal – all giants of the Indian startup scene –  were chances he passed on.

“My anti-portfolio is crazy. I gave up the chance to invest in Flipkart at the pre-Series A stage even without meeting the founders. I said no to Snapdeal twice. And I passed on Ola and BigBasket,” Bikhchandani told Moneycontrol.

In the realm of startups, the concept of an ‘anti-portfolio’ pertains to the companies that an investor chose not to support in their early stages, only to witness them evolve into significant success stories later on.

“People still think we are good investors. It’s because what matters is whether enough of the investments that you have made turn out to be good,” he added.

Info Edge’s early investment in Zomato turned a mere Rs 147 crore into a whopping Rs 18,300 crore stake – a 124X gain! That’s right, their initial investment grew over 124 times in value!
Similarly, their Rs 576 crore investment in Policybazaar is now worth over Rs 6,500 crore.

Of course, no investor has a perfect track record. Info Edge also has had some unsuccessful bets, like Canvera, Bijnis, and Rahul Yadav’s 4B Networks. 

“We don’t invest in sectors. We choose founders and companies… When we went to the Board about investing in FoodieBay (earlier avatar of Zomato), you know what the feedback was? They asked how many cities there are with a restaurant directory and how many of these restaurants have a marketing budget,” Bikhchandani said at the TieCon 2024 in Delhi.

Engaging with startup founders, he recounted stories of managing the company’s recruitment services platform, Naukri, during the 90s when it operated as a bootstrapped venture.

Bikhchandani said he wasn’t afraid to hustle. He initially dodged VC meetings, preferring to keep things simple. But when a competitor scored a cool $7 million, he knew it was time to play ball. Despite running on fumes each month, he somehow managed to keep the lights on until venture capital became unavoidable.

“I went for a couple of meetings with venture capital firms as there was in-bound interest and figured that I don’t want to complicate my life. So, I kept saying no. Then Jobs Ahead launched and raised $7 million. That’s when we were forced to go to the market and raise money,” he said.

“Before we raised venture capital, we had no money in the bank by the end of every month. But something would happen and we managed to stay put,” he added.

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