Dr. Ashish Gupta of Helion Venture Partners is one of the earliest investors in India. About 10 years ago he moved from Silicon Valley to Bangalore, India and started investing in startups. Helion is one of the leading investors in Indian starups. Dr. Gupta has seen the evolution of the startup landscape in India and in Bangalore in particular. Helion Venture has raised over $600 million so far and is in the process of closing another new round of funds.

We sat down to speak with Dr. Gupta to find out about the current investment trends in Banglaore, India. Bangalore is the startup capital of India and has more startups than other any other Indian city. Has Bangalore stepped out of its world back-office as James Crabtree of The Financial Times put in? What is the startup scene in Bangalore like? How are startups exiting in India?  It seems like acquisition is one of the exit strategies for Indian startups. Why is that? For example, Gupta’s Helion Ventures decided to exit Flipkart, an Indian unicorn company and we wated to find out why.

Dr. Gupta now divides his time between Silicon Valley and Bangalore, India.

This interview aired on TV in San Francisco bay area.



Anshuman Bapna

Anshuman Bapna

Meet Anshuman Bapna of Bapna and Prateek Sharma founded their startup in Bangalore in 2009. They raised a seed round and Series A and pivoted a couple of times. Here is how Bapna describes the pivots:

Arguably, travel planning is one of the top worst ideas entrepreneurs can think of. In our quest to crack that impossible nut, we changed (ahem, “pivoted”) our product 3x before finally getting it right.

Earlier this month MyGola was acquired for an undisclosed amount by MakeMyTrip, a publicly traded travel company in India. Bapna made the announcement on their website.

I’m incredibly excited to announce that Mygola has agreed to be acquired by MakeMyTrip (NASDAQ:MMYT). It’s been a remarkable journey that we set out on 5 years ago to truly solve travel planning.

Here is a fun video that Bapna and his team created to announce their acquisition by MakeMyTrip.

We recorded this interview with Bapna in 2013, where he talks about entrepreneurship, MyGola and the pivots they made. In fact when we interviewed him MyGola was in the process of making a pivot. MyGola is the second startup Bapna co-founded. He founded his first startup while he was a student at IIT, Bombay.

Bapna studied at Stanford University and worked at Deloitte and Google in the US and then decided to head back to Bangalore to co-found


American Fruits and Nuts in Bangalore

American fruits and nuts in Bangalore you ask? Yes, you can find California pistachios, Washington apples and Oregon pears from big grocery stores to the corner mom and pop shops.  According to one report  California almonds rank fifth in the list of American exports to India.

Flipkart Hires Google’s Punit Soni As Chief Product Officer

Punit Soni

Punit Soni

Former Googler Punit Soni has left Silicon Valley to join Bangalore-based e-commerce company Flipkart as its Chief Product Officer according to The Business Insider. This is an interesting development since Soni has left a high-profile job at Google to join Flipkart, another high-profile company, whose valuation is over $10 billion. Flipkart raised $700 million in its latest round of funding in December 2014.

The e-commerce space in India is pretty competitive with Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal duking it out and trying to capture the market.

Soni joined Google in 2007 and worked on Google news and archives for 2 years. And from 2009 he worked in Google’s mobile division and rose up to become VP of Product, Motorola Mobility according to his LinkedIn profile.

This is what Soni wrote in his Google Plus post on joining Flipkart:

“My goal and mandate will be to help build the world’s best product company with a global ambition. Over time, we will build programs to attract the best talent to Bangalore and also establish a significant presence back home in the Valley.”

But, given Soni’s strong, hands-on experience in the mobile space at Google –  could it be that mobile will be one of his top focus at Flipkart? Mobile is a key factor in giving a competitive edge to any e-commerce company in India. If Flipkart wants to snag the top spot then the mobile piece becomes pretty crucial. It will be interesting to see what Soni brings to the table at Flipkart.

You can read Soni’s post on why he is joining Flipkart and NYT’s post on Soni joining Flipkart.

Photo credit: Punit Soni’s Google Plus Page


Podcast: Atul Chitnis on India’s Telecom Boom Part-I

LISTEN: Atul Chitnis on India’s Telecom Boom

Atule Chitnis

Atul Chitnis

In 2006 I did a series of interviews with technologists and entrepreneurs in India to understand the booming telecom (mobile) boom in India. One of the people I spoke to was the late Atul Chitnis, who described himself as a disruptive technologist. He is the person to talk in Bangalore was a common refrain I heard from other technologists. An incredibly accessible person Chitnis spent quite a bit of time then and later on talking about one of  his favorite subjects – technology.

In 2006 if you visited India, you would have seen an incredibly new phenomenon – mobile phones. Everyone seemed to have a Nokia mobile phone, and you had an incredible array of ring tones. People were either talking, sending missed calls or SMS (text). And it was uncommon to see folks with 2 or 3 phones. Back in the US, we were barely using our phones to text or SMS  and missed calls was a totally alien concept. Of course, things have changed now in 2014 both in India and US on how we use our mobile phones.

So, we turned to Chitnis to find out about the mobile phone and broadband boom in India. Internet has been available in India since 1996, but the whole concept of broadband is only a year old says Chitnis. However the lack of broadband does not preclude people from accessing the Internet.

An interesting profile of the Indian cell phone users is that they use their phones largely for non-voice traffic like SMS and accessing the Internet. Cell cell phones and mobile devices are increasingly being used to access the Internet. In fact Chitnis pays Rs. 600 (about $12-14) to use his GPRS phone to access the Internet 24/7.

One of the fascinating facets of the conversation was Chitnis’s  picture of  two Indias: one India  consists of a small minority of power users of technology and mobile device, and in the second India cell phones have become the main point of communication. While cell phones have become a basic necessity to both these groups the difference lies in the way they use these devices.

India is an unique position argues Chitnis. India does not have a baggage and history of using old technology and that puts the country in a unique position to implement the latest technology in the telecom space. For instance, the Indian government is actively involved in promoting open and free software, and IPV6 the next generation Internet protocol. The Indian government has put Internet technology on a fast track says Atul.

Internet is available, cell phones and mobile devices are available, but what is not available is a lack of awareness about mobile computing he argued. Chitnis is on a crusade to promote the use of mobile device as an alternative to the PC to access the Internet. He points out the mobile device goes with you, and you can use when you need, and wherever you need it.

Chitnis was born and brought up in Berlin, Germany and speaks fluent German. He relocated to India in the 1970s. He has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Gogte Institute of Technology.

Chitnis passed away on June 3, 2013 in Bangalore.

Photo credit: Atul Chitnis’s Facebook page

Podcast: Atul Chitnis on Telecom Boom in India Part-2

LISTEN: Atul Chitnis on Telecom Boom in India Part-2

Atule Chitnis

Atul Chitnis

We continue our series on the Indian Telecom boom. This interview was recorded in 2006.

In Part-II of our conversation with the late Atul Chitnis talks about the two competing technologies in India: CDMA and GSM, and how they are duking it out and finding their own levels in the Indian  market.

It was only four years ago (2002) that CDMA was introduced in India. Today, CDMA handsets have about 50% of the market share in India.

Chitnis points out the challenges in collecting statistics about cell phone users in India.  He feels that the number of cell phone users is higher than what is currently reported: about 90 million cell phone users. India is a unique market in many ways he points out.

India has been able to convert its late entry into the cell phone market by tapping into the latest telecom technology and fiber optics. As a result India’s phone lines are predominantly fiber optic and not copper wires says Chitnis.

Indian consumers are quick to adopt to this new technology, and cell phones have empowered a whole new section of the population. Possession of a cell phone was considered as a criteria to pay income tax in India. Atul points out this criteria can no longer be applied because of the changing profile of the Indian cell phone users. The whole notion of how to define Indian middle class in this new India has to be rethought says Atul.

Chitnis was born and brought up in Berlin, Germany, and speaks fluent German. He relocated to India in the 1970s. He has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Gogte Institute of Technology.

Chitnis  passed away in January 2013.

Photo credit: Atul Chitnis’s Facebook page


Christmas in Bangalore at Taj Vivanta

This gallery contains 6 photos.

Bangalore has a long tradition of celebrating Christmas with Christmas cakes, plum puddings and other Christmas goodies. One of the places where you get to see Christmas celebration and goodies is at Taj Vivanta on MG Road in Bangalore. We … Continue reading

Video: Chef Tong William of Memories of China, Vivanta by Taj, Bangalore

Chinese food is very popular in Bangalore. There are 2 kinds of Chinese food – there is Indian-Chinese food and then there is authentic Chinese food. Chef Tong William has witnessed the growth and popularity of Chinese food in India and specifically in Banglaore. Originally from Hong Kong, Chef William first came to India to cook Chinese food in the 1980s for the Taj Group of Hotels. He eventually moved to Bangalore and took over running Memories of China at Taj Vivant on MG Road.

We have a 2-part video interview with Chef William where he talks about Chinese food in India, his work at Memories of China at Vivanta by Taj and his favorite Indian food. On his day off from work, he likes to explore local Indian restaurants in Bangalore.

Here is Part-1 of our interview with Chef Tong William where he talks about his initial trip to India and cooking authentic Chinese food and about his work at Memories of China.


I was a guest of Taj Vivanta at Memories of China.

December Special: Food and Wine in Silicon Valley and Bangalore

December is the season to celebrate and we are doing just that with a series of interviews on food and wine in Silicon Valley and Bangalore. We are talking California wines and Chinese food in India. Now, that is a combination to think about.

Santa Clara county is home to many of Silicon Valley hi-tech companies. The area is also home to some of the oldest wine growing regions in California. Santa Clara Wineries are a hidden gem of this region and we spoke to 2 vineyards from the regions: Solis Winery and Sycamore Creek WineryBoth the wineries are located a few miles south of San Jose.


Solis WInery at Gilroy

Solis Winery, Santa Clara WInery


And from Silicon Valley wineries we zip across the Pacific Ocean to Bangalore, often known as “Silicon Valley of India,” to find out about the second most popular cuisine in the city. And what is the second most popular cuisine, whose influence has seeped into the local, traditional restaurants? Chinese. Yes, Chinese food is the second most popular cuisine in Bangalore. There is the Indian-Chinese cuisine and then there is the authentic Chinese cuisine. Chinese restaurants have been part of Bangalore from the 1960s. In the last 15  years Chinese restaurants have mushroomed all over the city, and Gobi Manchurian, an Indian-Chinese dish is now part of traditional restaurants that serve idli, dosa, vada and sambar.

What about authentic Chinese cuisine in Banglaore? For that we turned to Chef Tong Willaam of Memories of China at Taj Vivanta on MG Road in Bangalore. Chef William came from Hong Kong to India in the 1980s and has had a long association with the Taj Group of Hotels. We sat down to find out about his culinary journey into India, and also got a tour of his kitchen at  Memories of China. And after all that talking and touring we sat down to have an authentic Chinese meal courtesy of Chef Tong William.

So, stay tuned for our video interviews on wines and Chinese food.


Chef Tong William at Memories of China in Bangalore

Chef Tong William of Memories of China

Video: Meet Karen Vasudev – An American in 1960s India

Karen Vasudev is a San Francisco bay area native, who spent time in India during the 1960s and 1970s. It was the height of the flower power and Hare Rama Hare Krishna movement here in the bay area when Karen relocated to Kanpur, India with her young son and husband. In a sense she missed the whole flower power movement of the bay area, but in spending time in India she got some fantastic real life experience of living in India and learning the language, food and culture of her husband’s country.

After finishing his PhD in Seattle her husband  landed a teaching position at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur. Karen did not know what to expect except since this was her first visit to the country. For starters she certainly did not expect to be greeted by a large group of her husband’s extended family at the airport. Karen was a quick study and learnt to navigate her way through the Indian social system. She learnt not one, but two Indian languages and honed her cooking skills in her mother-in-law’s South Indian kitchen. Today, Karen can quickly rustle up South Indian dishes like idli, dosa, sambhar and chutney in a jiffy.

We sat down to talk to Karen about her experience of being an American in India in the 1960s. We wanted to find out how she learnt to speak Hindi, cook Indian food and enjoy Indian films – think Bollywood. We also found out how she navigated her Indian kitchen and the cookbook that rescued her. That cookbook was  The Landour Cookbook, compiled by American missionaries in Landour, which is home to the oldest American school in India – The Woodstock schoolKaren still has her copy of The Landour Cookbook and we got to see it.

Karen lived in India for over 10 years before returning to the US and making the San Francisco bay area her home.