After spending around 10 years as an entrepreneur, Vani Kola turned Venture Capitalist in 2006 supporting entrepreneurs in building their companies. At present, she is the Managing Director of Kalaari Capital. She interacts with Ritu Marya, Editor-in-Chief, Entrepreneur India Media, in the chat on chaat, to share her views about woman entrepreneurs, leadership and the qualities that go into making a good leader.
What is your style of investment?
There are sectors that we are constantly thinking about but also a lot is dependent on entrepreneurs we end up meeting. Because I might have a viewpoint on a certain sector but if I don’t meet the right entrepreneur in it, I am not in it. So our investment style is the founder first. The qualities of an entrepreneur are written at different places. It’s your judgment of it that makes a difference. We are looking for somebody who is a clear thinker, we are looking for someone who has thought about a particular problem and has a lot of deep insight about that problem, a differentiated insight about that problem.
What qualities of a fund seeker attract you?
He should have natural leadership qualities, because he has to build a team. Someone who is mature because as you build businesses, there are disagreements, there are conflicts, all of which are a natural process of the business. You need a lot of maturity as to when to listen, when to say no I am going to do this way and without maturity you could kill the company. Even a good product, a good idea can be killed if you don’t have the right maturity of how you deal with people.
Does being a woman investor make any difference?
Being a woman investor is not any different. I think the mindset is important. If you make something in your
mind very difficult, your probability to succeed, you yourself create a negative impact on that. You need to start with a notion that it is not very different and I can make it happen.
In general, women are more accommodating. Your view?
Women are more accommodating, less conflict prone and they try to find solutions. And sometimes it’s good and sometimes that can be viewed as a weakness to be taken advantage of, the credit that is due to you might not be given.
Does woman entrepreneurs need special treatment?
When a start-up comes to me, it’s a start-up. I am not negative about investing in woman start-ups, you have to be neutral. Why should I be pro, why should be negative. And I don’t think as a woman anybody is expecting a special quota. Why do we need quota? We don’t need any special quota. I think if we are good enough at least don’t be unfair with me. Nobody is asking for special treatment.
Your tips for budding entrepreneurs.
I think in the context to do a start-up, there is a vibrant, infectious and fantastic energy in being an entrepreneur today. But you also need to be audacious and say, “I want to disrupt something big.” You also need to have the tenacity to really execute. You need to have a sort of angular personality, approach and mindset and say, “Next 15 years I am going to spend, whatever it takes but I want to be a disruptor.
This article first appeared in the Indian edition of Entrepreneur magazine (April 2016 Issue).