August 8, 2005
By Ishani Duttagupta
Remember Ashish Gupta? The co-founder of Junglee Corporation has
come a long way from 1998, when he made his first millions after
the web services company was acquired by Amazon.com for a whopping
$230 million. Gupta hasn’t lost his appetite for creating
and investing in companies and was one of the earliest investors
in Daksh, the BPO company which was acquired by IBM for $160 million
“I feel happy about Daksh for multiple reasons of which one
is indeed the validation of KPO and BPO as areas where the team
and I bet quite early. The other is the pleasure of having participated
in company building with one of the top teams in the world in that
space. The team was always focussed on validation from customers
because that was a precondition to build a business and hence subsequent
An advantage that an individual investor has over a venture investor
is that the decision process for investing does not involve educating
at large. In fact, this education process is frequently one of the
assets of a venture firm,” says Gupta who has recently joined
Redwood Shores, California, based early stage VC firm Woodside Fund
as venture partner.
Some of his other investments include Bodha, a web-services integration
solutions company acquired by Peregrine; Obongo, a unified login
company acquired by AOL; and Pointcross, a business process interaction
management solution company. “In India there are enormous
opportunities in general and the challenge is how to focus on the
right ones while not being on the ground and respecting the capital
intensity of sectors like retail.
Some areas that are interesting to me are - next generation BPO
(more vertically focussed or specialized opportunities), technology-powered
businesses that solve a non-tech problem, and also some specific
intellectual property oriented product companies. I have some associations
in companies of each kind as a way to learn more,” says Gupta.
Some of the companies with which he is working in India are Merittrac
that provides candidate assessment services to most of the top IT/BPO
companies in India, Textual Analytics Solutions (TAS) - developing
cutting edge text analysis software and using that to provide solutions
to some of the top internet players in the world and Musigma which
provides analytics services to several global players. At Woodside
Fund, he is on the boards of NuSym, an EDA company and Veriwave,
a test equipment player.
But Gupta, a Stanford and IIT-Kanpur alumni and holder of seven
patents, also believes in the fun aspect of business. “The
entertainment sector is very compelling - as people are looking
for ways to have fun. As an individual, I have invested in Mark
Pi - a Chinese food franchise in India.
Another sector that is very appealing to me is ‘technology
powered’ businesses that are delivering a non-technology service.
For example, travel services which leverage technology. I have recently
got associated with MakeMyTrip,” he says. But he also has
a caveat for this:
“Some of these businesses do not lend themselves to early-mid
stage venture investing because of the economics. Some are cash-flow
businesses which will continue to pay dividends but not provide
an exit, or they do not require enough cash to make sense for conventional
venture capital, or require so much capital that only private-equity
players could play in them.”
As an ex-IITian, Gupta works actively with the alumni network.
“I work with several IITians and rely on several others for
mentorship. The network brings with it a lot of opportunity and
responsibility. Opportunity in that a lot of IITians are great entrepreneurs
and therefore are a great source of learning and offer the opportunity
to invest/participate in successful companies. Responsibility in
that some of the alums are first-time entrepreneurs and are looking
for mentorship,” he says.
And like many other Indian American techies, Gupta is obviously
betting big on India. Last year he spent the first 6 months on the
ground - running Tavant's (a company that he has co-founded) operations
in Bangalore. This year, it has been two visits until now to help
introduce the Woodside Fund team to India.
“In the 1990s the credibility of the Indian tech entrepreneur
and Indian independent CEO was established. This decade is establishing
the credibility of the Indian tech industry being run out of India,”
As for his partners and friends from Junglee, he is in touch with
most of them and is even helping co-founder Rakesh Mathur in his
current business venture.