Padmaja Ruparel’s first brush with entrepreneurship was a need rather than a choice. She had a family business in real estate that was not going well. Her father was a doctor who was very focused on what he was doing. “So there was nobody managing it. I realized that I had to handle it or we would be in a mess.”
She shifted to Delhi from Kolkata once she got married. By then that business become sustainable and her parents could handle it so she handed it back to them. Once she moved to Delhi, she looked for a job. She started working at a software services company. She also led the entry of TiE’s Delhi Chapter in India in 1998-99 and also led the setting up of Indian Venture Capital Association in India.
It also was a time when she observed the gap in financial system as banks were not investing and VCs were investing only above $5 million. There was clearly an opportunity of gain to create something called Indian Angel Network.
Angle investment was brought to India by IAN. “When we thought we would take angel investment model from overseas and do a copypaste here, it didn’t work. So we had to tweak it as per the Indian ecosystem,” she says further. She didn’t have enough money to set up an organization. Moreover, she would use her nine-year-old laptop to buy a new one.
She remembers doing meetings at Oberoi and Taj because she didn’t have an office. Sharing an anecdote, she says, “At that time the Internet was very expensive and not as robust as it is now. So I used to go to the offices of IAN board team members – Raman Roy and Saurabh Srivastava – and asked for a 4’O clock meeting and reach there at 2’O clock so that I could use their space and the Internet.”
That’s how she got her work done. She would do pitch session at investors office. However, all this has actually paid off after a decade with 100 investments in place. The ticket size for IAN is currently Rs 25 lakh to Rs 6 crore. Presently, IAN is operational in six cities across India including Delhi, Bombay, Bengaluru, Pune, Hyderabad and Kolkata. IAN has also gone global that makes it the only angel investor group in the world to have operations outside of its home country in London.
(This article first appeared in the Indian edition of Entrepreneur magazine (March 2016 Issue).