Tushar Kansal: India’s Most Influential Thought Leader of the Global VC and Startup Ecosystem

Tushar Kansal
Tushar Kansal

Real visionary leaders impact far beyond the corporate and industry confines of their particular domain. Tushar Kansal, a ‘Thought Leader,’ a ‘Thought Influencer,’ an accomplished VC advisory expert and Founder and CEO of Kansaltancy Venturesis one of the most popular visionary leaders to watch from India. The reasons are numerous.

Just to give you a glimpse, being well-connected with global investors, sharing one cross-border anecdote, Tushar says that one of the most unforgettable transactions involved a medical device firm situated in Switzerland, operating with an office in India. This company pioneered the development of a groundbreaking cochlear implant, addressing a critical need for individuals with severe or complete hearing loss. Countries like India, Pakistan, and Iraq are home to substantial populations with this particular disability. The company demonstrated meticulous attention to detail in bringing cutting-edge technology to market at an affordable cost, accompanied by low maintenance expenses. This initiative had a far-reaching impact, benefiting not only the population of Asia but also those in Southeast Asia and South America. Notably, the social aspect of this deal was heartwarming, as it enabled a significant portion of underprivileged individuals to access this transformative technology, empowering them to hear and enhance their quality of life.

The Deep Impact

This is the most powerful transformational aspect of exemplary leaders like Tushar, who has supported startups and companies in various tech and non-tech sectors. Tushar has over 80 recommendations on LinkedIn and has been honoured with

  • The ‘Best Startup Supporter’ award at the ‘IndiaFirst Tech Startup Conclave’ by the ‘All India Council for Robotics & Automation – AICRA,’ presented by Dr Kiran Bedi.
  • Additionally, he was bestowed the ‘Business Leader of the Year in Investment Management’ award by the ‘Asian African Chamber of Commerce & Industry.’
  • Tushar was also recognized as the ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ by Business Connect magazine.

Tushar completed executive education at Harvard Business School, holds an MBA in Finance from the University of Delhi, and earned a B. Tech degree from ‘The Technological Institute of Textile & Sciences,’ affiliated with the ‘Textile Institute Manchester, UK,’ and a part of the renowned industrial and educational conglomerate in India, ‘The Birla Group.’

In 2016, when he founded Kansaltancy Ventures, Tushar’s MBA college senior, Mr V Swaminathan, invited him to serve as a judge at a university event sponsored by his VC fund during a meeting at his home. “I accepted the offer, and following the event, I was approached by numerous individuals seeking my involvement in similar capacities, which I found highly appealing.” Subsequently, Tushar was approached by another platform to judge their event. In due course, the team at Venture Capital TV in Singapore reached out to him, inviting Tushar to participate in panel discussions on their television show. Once again, he accepted, leading to his involvement in 51 episodes covering various sectors for VCTV. Since 2016, Tushar has engaged in over 300 webinars, talks, and events, collaborating with prestigious institutions such as IITs, IIMs, Ivy League colleges, prominent corporate organizations like TIE, FICCI, and the PHD Chamber of Commerce, as well as media platforms like CNN News 18 and Business World.

Tushar has also authored several articles addressing critical issues, which are available on their website’s blog (https://www.kansaltancy.com/blog), as well as on platforms such as Inc42 and Business World.

On Tata Play’s channel number 510, named ‘Har Ghar Startup,’ partially owned by Mr Sunil Shetty, Tushar’s life story has been featured under the title ‘The Hustler – Tushar Kansal’ for the past six months. Additionally, a series of nine episodes titled ‘Business ki Pathshala,’ in which Tushar discusses various sectors and topics in each episode, is also airing on the channel. This series, along with Tushar’s life story, is accessible through the Tata Play app/ website and on YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/@TusharKansal

The Philosopher of the Biz World

Reflecting on his journey, Tushar says, “My journey as an entrepreneur recommenced in 2013 when I launched a startup focused on hair extensions. In 2016, I initiated my foray into the financial services sector by establishing Kansaltancy Ventures. Since then, we’ve provided support to over 5,000 startups worldwide, and today, Kansaltancy Ventures stands as a leading brand in the realm of venture capital.”

Tushar currently serves as a Venture Advisor at Loyal VC, the INSEAD-led Canadian VC Fund, which boasts a portfolio of over 300 investments across 15 sectors in more than 60 countries.

We maintain a sector-agnostic approach and boast a network of more than 450 institutional investors from India, Singapore, Dubai, the United States, and the United Kingdom. My journey has been immensely rewarding, and I eagerly anticipate making an even greater contribution to the global venture capital ecosystem in the future,” adds Tushar, who acts as a mentor and speaker at the entrepreneurship cells of prestigious institutions such as IITs, IIMs, and globally renowned establishments.

Tushar specializes in financial and business advisory. His expert insights are frequently featured by prominent business news channels and publications, including CNN-News18, VCTV (Venture Capital TV), Business World, Business & Economy, Qrius, and Digital Market Asia. He aims to assist change-makers through venture capital and strategic services, utilizing his extensive network of over 450 investors and VC fund connections to engage in sector-agnostic global deals. The typical deal size ranges from USD 1-100 million.

Schooling Businesses How to Succeed

Sharing his approach to providing financial and business advisory to startups, Tushar says that each sector demands years of dedicated observation, analyzing its intricacies, and comprehending how the market dynamics evolve. Over time, a profound understanding of how these markets will likely unfold is acquired. “At Kansaltancy Ventures, we possess in-house expertise and expert teams proficient in various sectors, including FinTech, HealthTech, EdTech, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Logistics, and more.”

The guidance for each sector begins to take shape as Tushar and his team engage in discussions with the founders while developing the company’s business plan. As the business plan matures and takes a more concrete form, their advice becomes increasingly precise for the founders. However, it’s important to acknowledge that, in many cases, business plans are subject to evolution and change over time. Therefore, founders must stay current and provide investors with an understanding of the reasons behind any pivot or alterations to the business plan.

Explaining it through a complex deal, Tushar says, “One notably intricate transaction I undertook involved a structured deal with the participation of several banks, including Deutsche Bank, Raiffeisen Bank, and ING Vysya.” During his tenure as the head of Treasury and Corporate Finance at MTS, the Russian Telecom Company, there arose a financial need that required raising a substantial sum of INR 1,240 crore, equivalent to approximately USD 200 million. Acquiring this funding from Indian banks posed challenges due to the 2G scandal, in which the Indian entity had been implicated.

To address this, we opted for a complex cross-border arrangement spanning four countries: Austria, Russia, India, and Singapore.” This deal had the potential to earn accolades as it was executed under exceptionally adverse international circumstances and the shadow of a government investigation and a significant court case involving the Indian entity. “However, due to the already prevailing negative media coverage, we chose not to disclose the specific details of this remarkable transaction,” mentions Tushar.

Turning Challenges into Success Lessons

Kansaltancy Ventures has emerged as a highly reputable boutique investment bank in the venture capital and other domains. “Since 2016, we have extended our support through equity, debt, and M&A transactions, solidifying our position in the industry.”

Tushar possesses experience spanning various sectors, from Venture Capital (Brand Cap) and Big 4 consulting (Deloitte & Touche) to his role as CFO of MTS India, the LSE-listed Sistema’s India unit, and the USD 200 billion Guggenheim Partners-owned company (DLI). He successfully executed numerous venture capital deals during his tenure at Deloitte and Brand Cap, and he raised USD 2.5 billion for MTS India.

With his diverse experience in various sectors, there were many challenges over the years that Tushar had to overcome. Sharing a specific challenge he faced while supporting startups in non-tech sectors, and how he tackled it, Tushar says many believe that a business without a technology component may struggle. However, the reality is nuanced, considering variations in economic conditions and means of production across different countries. For instance, European nations, characterized by smaller and ageing populations, must innovate to sustain their economies. This often involves increasing the use of robots in factories and integrating technology on the consumer front to avoid economic decline. In contrast, countries like India, with substantial populations, have a different focus.

Hence, we observe a significant emphasis on industrial and consumer robotics development in the United States, Europe, and Japan, while this is less prevalent in Asian countries with sizable populations.

The challenge lies in the fact that the internet has made the delivery of products and services more accessible to all. Thus, an Indian company operating predominantly in India may compete with U.S. companies that leverage technology extensively. To illustrate, when Amazon entered the Indian market, it implemented cutting-edge warehouses with industrial robots. In response, Indian companies like Flipkart had to adopt similar technologies to compete with Amazon. Amazon’s approach differs between the U.S. and India; it employs ground-level warehouses in the U.S. and Western countries due to cheaper and readily available land outside urban areas but higher labour costs. In India, Amazon uses multi-level warehouses because land prices continually rise, driven by the vast population, while labour costs do not increase proportionately for the same reason and hence more labour can be kept for operating on multiple floors.

An Oceanic Wisdom through the Droplet

In India, startups in non-tech sectors thrive if they are of substantial size and can secure private equity relatively easily. This stands in contrast to early-stage startups in non-tech sectors. Consider the example of an Indian company that manufactured furniture using robots. Despite substantial government support, the company faced challenges due to the difficulty of replacing inexpensive labour in the Indian furniture sector. Chinese investors even suggested relocating to China, where rapid growth had led to a more favourable ecosystem for these robots, driven by a more than tenfold increase in labour costs over the past three decades.

Discussing his role as a mentor and judge in startup pitch events, Tushar reveals some common mistakes he’s seen startups make during their pitches. In his advice to them to improve, Tushar says that one of the most common mistakes made by startup founders is the belief that fundraising hinges on the product/ app/ website rather than the business itself. The pitch deck serves as a presentation of the business plan, but ultimately, the business’s success must shine through. The founder’s conviction and the opportunity presented must be evident. Another common error is the assumption that a large market presence automatically guarantees unicorn status for a startup. Markets like India are highly intricate, characterized by price sensitivity, service expectations, and a demand for quality. While attracting a large customer base is feasible, converting them into paying customers is a challenging task. “Founders may also err by placing excessive trust in media portrayals of billion-dollar companies, but my advice is to remain realistic. Focus on the fundamentals, cultivate high-quality teams, derive satisfaction from the journey rather than obsessing over the outcome, and you’ll likely build a successful company.”

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