US techies form SPAC to access Indian start-ups

A Cayman Island-based blank cheque company backed by a bunch of US-based techies is eyeing the SPAC route through a Nasdaq-IPO for investing in Indian tech start-ups

US techies form SPAC to access Indian start-ups
Think Elevation Capital Growth Opportunities was founded in 2021 and plans to list on the Nasdaq under the symbol TEGAU. Morgan Stanley is the sole bookrunner on the deal. Photo: Reuters.

(ATF) Riding on the boom in SPAC listings on Wall Street, a bunch of Indian unicorn founders have come together to form a first-of-its-kind blank cheque company to focus on Indian technology companies looking to list in the US.

Called Think Elevation Capital Growth Opportunities (TEGAU), the new venture that filed with the SEC last week to raise up to $225 million in an initial public offering in Nasdaq, is backed by the founders local tech unicorns like Paytm and Dream11, as well as US-based Think Investments and Elevation Capital.

Think Investment’s portfolio in India includes about $1 billion in investments in various companies, including early-stage investments in Dream11, PharmEasy and Chaayos, among others.

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Elevation Capital has invested more than $1.5 billion in capital in over 125 companies as of December, such as Paytm, Makemytrip, Swiggy, Justdial, FirstCry, Meesho, ShareChat, NoBroker, Unacademy and Urban Company.

Although formed and registered in the Cayman Island, TEGAU is headquartered in San Francisco, which at the proposed deal size, is slated to command a market value of $281 million.

The company is led by Co-CEO and Director Ravi Adusumalli, who founded Elevation Capital in 2002 and serves as Managing Partner, and Co-CEO and Director Shashin Shah, who has been a Portfolio Manager and Managing Partner at Think Investments since 2013.

The business strategy of TEGAU will be to identify and acquire a company with ties to Indian technology ecosystem, a strategy that complements the experience of the sponsor, management team and directors and can benefit from such experience and expertise, say the founders.

TRACK RECORD

According to them, both Think Investments and Elevation Capital have a strong and proven track record in India, with combined private investments of $1.3 billion across 104 companies.

Of these companies, nine have grown through the private and public markets to achieve a value of $1 billion or more (unicorns).

Think Investments and Elevation Capital have also built a robust network and strong and deep relationships in the Indian technology ecosystem with founders and like-minded investors, the founders said.

The selection process will leverage the management team’s and sponsor’s deep relationship network, unique India and industry experiences, and proven deal sourcing capabilities to access a broad spectrum of differentiated opportunities.

UNTAPPED POTENTIAL

According to TEGAU’s backers, while Indian technology companies have attracted more than $65 billion in private investments by private equity and venture capital firms from 2017 through 2020, the technology start-up space is still under-penetrated.

For instance, the public capital markets for Indian technology companies have lagged the private capital markets, as the Indian technology sector (excluding technology services) represents a mere 1.4% of the aggregate market capitalisation of India’s publicly traded companies versus 25.5% for the United States and 17.9% for China, as of March 12, 2021, according to Bloomberg Finance data.

Yet, there has not been any IPO from an Indian technology company in the decade. Consequently, the opportunity for global investors to invest in Indian technology sector, is huge say the founders.

Besides, expressing confidence in the economy, the founders add that with a GDP of approximately $2.59 trillion in 2020, India is the sixth largest economy today according to the International Monetary Fund, which also predicts the country’s GDP growth rate at 7.8% a year in real terms (versus 6.2% for China and 2.4% for USA) during 2021-2025.

'SMOOTH TRANSITION'

“We are confident that our strong experience and expertise and relationships with private and institutional investors will help us ensure a smooth transition into the public capital markets for a target company,” the founders said.

Consistent with its business strategy, TEGAU has already identified targets that take advantage of India’s continued digitisation; have proven resilient business models; and those with entrepreneurial, experienced and ambitious founders and management teams, say the founders.

Although the first to be floated by a group of Indian techies, TEGAU joins a growing number of Indian start-ups considering the SPAC route to public markets as it involves less regulatory scrutiny and gives companies more certainty over the valuation that will be attained and the funds that will be raised.

India’s largest renewable energy firm ReNew Power struck a deal with a blank-check company last month to go public in the United States, while SoftBank-backed online grocery start-up Grofers has also held talks with SPACs.

DOZEN MORE

At least a dozen more Indian tech and internet start-ups are expected to choose that route to the public markets over the next 6 to 12 months, investment banking sources said.

These include Flipkart, which competes with Amazon.com’s local unit and India’s Reliance Industries, and has already started talks with investment banks for its listing plans, reports said.

Bengaluru-based Flipkart started preparatory work last September for an initial public offering overseas as early as 2021, which could value the firm at as much as $50 billion.

Flipkart could seek a valuation of at least $35 billion in a SPAC transaction, the reports say.

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