Original article can be found here.

CHENNAI, INDIA–( JANUARY 19,2015)–  Angel investing is set to get a leg up with the Keiretsu Forum, a leading global investor network, starting its India operations. Its Chennai chapter, the forum’s 34th globally and first in the country, will be formally launched on February 6.

“The fact that there is a mushrooming of angel investor groups is a leading indicator that there is both start-up activity as well as investor interest in it. There is also growing sophistication among the angels,” says Rajan Srikanth, Co-President, Keiretsu Forum Chennai & Singapore. Keiretsu Forum was founded in 2000 [by Randy Williams] in the Bay Area, US.

Angel investors are wealthy individuals who invest in and mentor start-ups from an early stage. India has a few organised angel groups such as Indian Angel Network, Mumbai Angels and Chennai Angels.

Keiretsu is a Japanese term describing a group of affiliated corporations with broad power and reach. The forum globally has 1,400 members in three continents.

“With its India entry, says Srikanth, Keiretsu believes it can take angel investing activity to the next level.”

Membership to the Keiretsu Forum is by invitation and the Chennai chapter has signed up 10 investors since a soft launch in December, including Chand Das, Chief Executive – ITC Education and Stationery; Biji Kurien, former CEO, Berger Paints; and S Gopal, former Managing Director, Chemplast Sanmar.

Academic angle

The forum also has members from academic institutions and those who provide affiliated services to the entrepreneurship ecosystem, such as lawyers, merchant bankers, accounting and HR professionals. According to Srikanth, IIT-Madras and Anna University have agreed to join the Chennai chapter.

The advantage for them is they can send students to the chapter meetings of the forum, where investment proposals are discussed and vetted, so that the students can learn what it takes to be an entrepreneur and how to make a presentation for raising funds.

Faculty members too are allowed to attend these meetings. By allowing lecturers and professors to attend chapter meetings, the forum hopes they will bring more of the cutting edge research that happens in the institutions into commercial use.

Why Chennai? “One, because I am from Chennai,” says Srikanth, an alumnus of IIT-Madras, who went on to do a Ph D in the US and worked there for nearly two decades before returning home. Two, Srikanth says he was involved in conducting TiE Chennai’s Pitch Fest – where entrepreneurs pitch their ventures to investors –for nearly six years, and found that there was enormous activity going on in the city.

The belief was that there was not much of risk-taking in Chennai. “We wanted to change that (with the Pitch Fest),” he says.

From the Pitch Fest, he realised there was a pent up demand from investors for businesses to invest in. “I am not starting (the Chennai chapter) on a losing ticket. I am starting with a horse which I think is actually the dark horse,” he adds.

(This article was published on January 19, 2015)