Astarc Group’s maiden seed fund – “Astarc Ventures”

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With a networth of over $ 400 Million (Rs 2500 crore) Astarc Group is venturing in to diversified sectors such as Private Equity,Mining, Agro, Real estate, Power, Ports, IT enabled services in India, East Africa, USA, and Indonesia.

In line with their diversification strategy has launched its own seed fund called Astarc Ventures. The size of Astarc Ventures maiden seed fund is corpus of $2 Million with an aim of increasing it to $10 Million in a few years. ​​

The fund will mainly invests in tech focused, tech enabled companies in emerging industries such as mobile payments, digital healthcare, digital communication, 3 D printing, data analytics, etc.

The company is in advanced talks with 3-4 companies who are addressing a pain point with great product/service. These companies target customers in the retail and healthcare industries. Their vision is to change the way consumers do things using their products/services.

The Group has a networth of over $ 400 Million. Astarc Group began its operations in 1983 in a niche sector of automotive decals and gradually it has established its presence in the automotive, retail and agro & infrastructure verticals across India, Indonesia, East Africa (Tanzania, Uganda) and USA with a workforce of 1300+ people globally.

Techaloo got an opportunity to have a chit chat with Mr. Salil Musale, Executive Director @ Astarc Group. Let see what does he want to share with us.

Techaloo: What motivated you to move into Entrepreneurship?

Salil: We have been in business for over 3 decades and I have seen my father’s passion as a first generation entrepreneur. Over the years, we have built several businesses from scratch as a group in varied industries that have become global companies in their respective niches.

We believe this skill, expertise and learnings can be passed on to other young first generation entrepreneurs. Many young entrepreneurs have a great product but might need some help in other business areas – like marketing, distribution, partnerships, finance, hiring etc. We can add value since we have such a background, apart from funding. It’s a sense of giving back as well.

Techaloo: What was your vision/mission while starting Astarc Ventures?

Salil: As I said, we want to transfer our learnings and business building expertise to a large number of young entrepreneurs who have talent, vision and are hungry. We have access to resources, great advisors, domain experts in various fields, and the know-how to scale businesses into large global brands.

Today we see there is an entrepreneurial revolution in the making in India. Everyday we see budding entrepreneurs with a diehard spirit and big dreams come to us and we want to help them with funding and be part of developing the ecosystem for giving them better chances of succeeding. Our value addition would be on-demand when the entrepreneur needs it, without coming in way of his vision.

Techaloo: What are the top hot segments currently for startups?

Salil: Firstly we don’t go by hot segments because everybody is doing it. We look at tech enabled companies that solve a real pain point in emerging industries such as mobile payments, digital healthcare, digital communication, 3 D printing, data analytics, etc. We have a liking towards consumer businesses where scale can be achieved.

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Techaloo: What would you like to see in a startup?

Salil: We like passionate and honest founders with a big vision and very good knowledge about the business they are building. We invest in a stage where the startup has figured out their Product-Market fit – i.e have a product or prototype rolled out in the market and has few users for it. We like to talk to users and get their feedback as well.

Techaloo: What do you value more, an idea or a team?

Salil: Businesses are built by people. We bet on people who can be adaptive, while being focused and ambitious. People are full of ideas and markets are full of opportunities. Passion and spirit to achieve is most valuable, because an idea without execution is just a dream.

Techaloo: What should be the typical range a startup can look from Astarc?

Salil: We do early stage seed funding. We look at funding size upto Rs 1 Cr in most cases – that’s the sweet spot. Occasionally, we can invest higher amounts in areas where we have strategic interest. We also look at actively participating in co-investment opportunities.

Techaloo: What makes you different from other venture funds?

Salil: We are not a typical fund – we are part of a business group that has decades of business building experience. My father started as a first-generation entrepreneur and has built the group, so we have a liking towards first generation startups because we exactly know what help they need. Since we have run businesses ourselves, in various domains – retailing, manufacturing etc and on a global platform – with operations in the US, South East Aisa, East Africa, we believe we can bring much more value than just funding.

We plan to invest in limited number of companies and give time to mentor and handhold our entrepreneur partners to achieve “their goals”. We will not interfere in operations and will allow their vision to be executed. We are like the father who allows his child to fall when he learns to walk and then guides the child to run a marathon.

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Techaloo: How is the response till now?

Salil: We receive 3-4 good applications per week. We have our diligence team who process the person more than the idea. It is like marriage and we want to partner with not just the willing or qualifying ones, but with the ones who can be developed and are compatible.

Techaloo: What are your plans for next 3 years?

Salil: We are looking at investing into 3-4 growth start ups and 8-10 early stage startups initially and take it forward from there.

Techaloo: What will be your advice for budding entrepreneurs?

Salil: I would advice potential entrepreneurs to firstly think about the right reason for becoming one. Please do not be awed and swayed by the lure of just making money. If you have a vision of solving a problem then that should be the motivation and not just becoming a billion dollar company. Look for people/investors who can really sit with you to build the company. Always recruit people with diverse skill sets which are relevant for your business. Energy and passion and inspiration are hugely important in recruiting good talent and retaining them. Lastly be focused and get into the details of your business and always be ready to adapt quickly to fast changing market trends.

Techaloo: What do you think about techaloo.com?

Salil: It is a good initiative. All the best to you guys!

Meet Mr. Salil Musale

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Mr. Salil Musale is the Executive Director of Astarc Group and Astarc Ventures.

As a director, Mr. Musale currently works with multiple group companies for improving business performance through financial and operational analysis. He leads the group’s team building activities for diversification into new areas of growth for the Group.He has been a critical member of the project management team of the Group’s thermal power project. He has planned and executed the East Africa operations of the Group.

Prior to this, he has led the integration of an American acquisition for one of the Group’s manufacturing business. He has led and grown the retail business division of one of the Group’s decal business. Prior to joining Astarc Group, Mr. Musale worked with A.T. Kearney where he was involved in project management and business analysis for various clients which included large Indian business houses. Education: B.E. D.J. Sanghvi College of Engineering (Electronics Engineering).

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Mohit Bansal(23) is B.Tech in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, India. He has interest in business and entrepreneurship and has published couple of research articles. He is also associated with various NGOs. He is with Techaloo when it was just in concept stage. The Techaloo site was not existing even then. Currently Mohit is working with Mu Sigma as a Business Analyst Profile.

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