Exclusive: I-banking firm Springforth ropes in former ITC exec, others to launch startup accelerator

9 Aug, 2016

Mid-market focused investment banking firm Springforth Capital Advisors Pvt. Ltd has joined hands with several high-profile names to launch a startup accelerator, Springforth Investment Managers (SIM), a top company executive told Techcircle.

Kalyan Vijay Sivalenka, CEO of Springforth Capital, said the company has roped in Pradeep Dhobale, former ITC executive director and Joseph Cherian, former CEO of Papa Johns India to launch the platform.

Sivalenka said the preferred sectors for investment would be early stage companies in sectors such as food, agri and logistics. Like other acceleration platforms, the Hyderabad-based firm plans to follow two engagement models.

"One, we will take direct positions in companies which need mentoring and domain expertise along with funding support. Two, we will help investors who have already invested in these sectors manage their positions through our operating team," he said.

When contacted, Dhobale said the opportunity in the Indian food and agri space is immense. "We are keen to track the new categories and brands taking birth and help them grow. Agri tech can be another sunrise sector," said Dhobale, who was previously heading the FMCG business of Kolkata-based ITC.

Though the company declined to comment on the average ticket size, Sivalenka said SIM is likely to make investments in pre-Series A rounds.

The company is aiming to put money, besides mentoring, in 12-15 startups. The firm said it has already given commitment to three companies across the preferred sectors. Sivalenka, however, didn't provide more details about them.

According to him, though there are many accelerators which are eyeing startups in the technology sector, SIM is the only one dedicated for food, agri and logistics.

The company's board also includes Mahen Kannu, a logistics veteran with over three decades experience and Richard B Saldanha, who was vice chairman of Blackstone India.

The investment banking firm has also raised funding from a non-resident Indian investor for expansion within the country and overseas.

The firm said it will use the money to start offering its services to early-stage companies in India and help clients raise funds from capital markets outside the country. A part of the money will be used to hire investment bankers. However, Sivalenka declined to disclose the amount raised.

The company, which was launched in 2012, offers investment banking services, including private equity and venture capital fundraising, mergers and acquisitions (M&As), convertible and non-convertible debt issuance, and strategic and financial consulting.

The company, which has offices in Hyderabad and Bangalore, is also planning to start offering its services to listed companies to help them improve profitability. Besides, it is planning to begin overseas fundraising activities, including in the debt capital market, and offer corporate finance solutions, he said.

The firm has been involved in nearly 10 deals so far across healthcare, infrastructure and food and beverage sectors. These include Zoi Hospitals' acquisition of Hyderabad-based Eesha Hospitals, and fundraising by OSR Infra Pvt. Ltd and Sanvita Biotechnologies Pvt. Ltd. The company, which also caters to the logistics and energy sectors, targets mid-market deals ranging between $5 million and $50 million.

Year 2015 had been a busy period for investment bankers as private equity and strategic acquirers signed a deal every three-and-a-half hours and the primary market window opened a tad wider, according to data collated by VCCEdge, the research platform of VCCircle. EY, formerly Ernst & Young, topped the top-five chart by number of transactions. Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and KPMG also entered the list while PwC and Edelweiss slipped. Avendus also slipped in the rankings though it remained on the list.

Other accelerator platforms

The accelerator space in the country has in the recent past seen the entry of big names such as Google, Barclays and Axis Bank to mentor and fund startups, particularly those in the technology space.

Technology startup accelerator Zone Startups India—which is backed by Toronto-based Ryerson Futures that is the investment arm of Toronto-based Ryerson University—too was in news of late. It has partnered with British banking and financial services firm Barclays Plc to launch the latter's Rise accelerator programme in India. It was also being roped in by Axis Bank to manage its accelerator programme at 'Thought Factory', the bank's innovation lab in Bangalore.

The Mumbai-based firm has also selected 15 women entrepreneurs for its six-week accelerator programme titled, 'empoWer'.

Technology giant Google has announced the second batch of Indian startups that will receive up to $50,000 (around Rs 33 lakh then) in equity-free seed funding as part of being selected for its startup accelerator programme, Google Launchpad.

Another technology major Oracle has also kicked off the maiden edition of its startup accelerator programme.

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