K Ganesh is smitten by entrepreneurship and you can’t really blame him. He tasted success pretty early. In 1990, when he was all of 29, he started his first venture, it&T, which did hardware maintenance. Completely bootstrapped, he began the company with an initial investment of Rs.97,000. A decade later, he sold the business to iGate for $4.6 million.
The phenomenal success prompted the husband-wife duo to found GrowthStory, an entrepreneurship platform that promotes and nurtures start-ups. Today, they operate 14 companies in the consumer-internet space, including online grocery unicorn Bigbasket, online jeweller BlueStone, home healthcare provider Portea Medical and online food ordering platform FreshMenu. “We are promoters in our ventures. So, we invest the initial capital, build the core team and scale up operations before we seek external funding,” explains Ganesh. The platform accounts more than two-third of the couple’s asset allocation and the combined valuation of these start-ups would be more than $2 billion. The biggest bet that has gone right is Bigbasket, which is valued at around $1.2 billion. But Ganesh refuses to play favourites. “Our portfolio companies are at different stages of growth, so it would be unfair to make a comparison,” he says. Realty forms 20% of the couple's overall asset allocation. The balance 10% is entrusted with wealth managers to invest in mutual funds. “We don’t have the time or expertise to manage it,” says Ganesh.It would have sent the rest into retirement in a hammock, but Ganesh chose to co-found three more companies -— CustomerAsset and TutorVista, along with his wife, Meena Ganesh, and Marketics. He exited all of them at terrific valuation; the online education venture, TutorVista, was sold for $213 million to the UK-based Pearson Group in 2011.
The focus now is to scale up GrowthStory, with the aim to make consumers use at least five of the brands in its portfolio. Unlike other investors, the couple is in no hurry to exit. “We don’t operate as a fund, but as promoters,” grins Ganesh.