Playing The Change Agent
‘I’ve been influenced deeply by Mr Tata’s philosophy of putting the founder first and above all else’
Mayank Singhal has been a passionate investor for over a decade, and is currently focused on venture investing across early-stage businesses. For him, venture capital is an ever-evolving business given the emergence of new technologies, investment themes, and opportunity sets.
Given his close proximity to new business of all shapes and sizes, it was only a matter of time that the entrepreneurial bug would bite him.
And so, in 2018 he launched Millennial Capital to invest in the next generation of consumer and technology businesses across emerging markets.
“The only way to keep pace with everything that’s going on in the world around us is to invest in infinite cups of coffee with entrepreneurs that are at the forefront of this change,” says Singhal, Managing Partner, Millenial Capital, speaking to BW Businessworld.
According to him, the upcoming decade, or the 2020s, will see the emergence of a number of new-age consumer brands across multiple categories, especially in the Indian context. “These brands will be cool and quirky, a little bit like Bira91, appealing to the sensibilities and identity of the millennial consumer — something that most legacy brands of yesterday have failed to do,” he says, adding, “Technology, of course, will play an unprecedented role in the evolution and success of these businesses, both on branding as well as in distribution.”
Prior to Millennial Capital, Singhal supported Ratan Tata’s global investment efforts, including RNT Capital, a $250-million venture fund backed by former Tata Group chairman, to invest in disruptive, technology-oriented businesses across the world. While at RNT Capital, Mayank led the firm’s investments in several marquee businesses including Ola, Nestaway, CureFit, and MSwipe.
“I’ve been influenced deeply by Mr (Ratan) Tata’s philosophy of putting the founder first, and above all else. Over the next ten years, I aspire to be a change agent for startups, with that same affinity towards founders. Because what they give up to make it against all odds is truly something that very few of us could ever imagine doing.”
Singhal first discovered his passion for venture investing while at TPG Growth, where he helped build the firm’s early-stage portfolio in India. He was all of 24 then. He believes that most venture capitalists play the larger role of being a “change agent” for society, helping uphold the spirit of entrepreneurship that ultimately forms the basis of most innovation and progress in society.
“Over the last few years, I’ve experienced firsthand the DNA that one needs to be a good venture capitalist, and perhaps, an effective ‘change agent.’ The most critical aspect of that DNA is the ability to break away from the present and be able to dream up the same dreams that founders thrive on when they decide to build something new,” he says.
While at TPG Growth, now a $13-billion fund platform, Singhal helped establish the firm’s India offices. As a founding member of TPG’s India franchise, he was instrumental in defining the firm’s strategic direction. Following TPG, Singhal put in a stint with Temasek Holdings, where he helped drive the firm’s consumer and technology efforts. At Temasek, Singhal also helped develop the firm’s e-commerce strategy for India.
Prior to his investing career, Singhal was a consultant at McKinsey & Company, where he designed a $200-million poverty alleviation programme for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In addition, he helped establish India’s first public health school as part of a pro-bono initiative led by a former global CEO of McKinsey’s.
Singhal holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from University of Delhi and also attended Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business for his MBA, where he now serves on the Dean’s Management Board.