The power of local people – India
Inflexion has a dedicated international team covering Asia, the Middle East, North and South America from their on-the-ground presence in Bangalore, Shanghai, Sao Paolo and Boston. For over ten years, our in-country experts have helped our portfolio to operate in 160 countries. Now their local expertise is crucial in helping businesses mitigate the impact of coronavirus and create a plan back to growth.
Rohit Hegde, Inflexion’s in-country expert in Bangalore, has been supporting Inflexion-backed companies in India to secure new clients and address some coronavirus-induced issues, whilst preparing them for growth post-lockdown.
Having a local presence can help support portfolio companies in myriad ways, from basic but time-consuming administrative tasks through to strategic support for M&A or client introductions, business development and acquisitions.
Most recently, the Inflexion team in India, which has recently come out of an extended period of restrictions, has helped Inflexion businesses to adjust to working through lockdown. Comparison Technologies, a multi-channel price comparison enabler which Inflexion invested in several years ago with a base in Bangalore, was not set up to work from home due to the speed of the lockdown in India and a lack of laptops. “I researched around 40 businesses before narrowing it down to two which could offer short-term rentals. I got quotations from them, negotiated and sent over to Comparison Technologies’ CEO and CFO, who took it from there. Now the company’s India team are able to work remotely.”
Prior to the Covid-19 crisis, Inflexion’s in-country experts have been supportive both pre- and post-deal. Take the case of Pharmaspectra, for example. The global provider of medical affairs data to the pharma and biotech industry partnered with Inflexion in October 2019, with Rohit getting involved at the diligence stage preceding the buyout. He spent a day with the Inflexion deal team in the business’s Chennai office, and became involved after the investment itself with a number of administrative tasks which are simpler to navigate if au fait with the local processes, such as changing the company name, serving on the Board and opening a bank account.
From a more strategic point of view, it is about considering prospects for the business as the lockdown is eased. “I am developing the thoughts on growing Pharmaspectra once we are able to do so, as the pandemic has hindered some action we may have taken.” Part of this is assisting with enhancing the team: the firm is looking to bring on board an additional 30-40 staff. Rohit connected the leadership team with a personnel agency to assist with this, which remains ongoing.
Some international support can have a transformational impact on businesses.
The firm has revolutionised the industry in India by making telecommunications more affordable, including handsets. Today, partly as a result of this firm’s affordable offering, there are around 500 million users of smartphones in the country, making the client a very large consumer of transceivers.
Rohit’s connections succeeded in arranging a meeting on the Friday before India’s lockdown. Rohit and Halo’s locally based business development manager flew to Mumbai to meet the firm’s representatives. They presented Halo’s capabilities, and when they said they would send quotations he said ‘No, I would like them right now’. So Halo had to provide this over the table. Less than one month later, they placed an order worth over $70,000. “We have continued to follow up and now, two months later, we have orders for $600,000, with the prospect that this will increase substantially over the coming months, after it is field tested.”
Rohit is hopeful and confident the telco will prove to be a valuable client. “If they are happy, they will return to us with a lot more orders. We need to do it right; the quality must be excellent and the delivery and pricing needs to work for them. There are a lot of different angles to work with to get this deal.” It is now up to Halo to show they can work hard to get it to the next level, and management intends to fly from the UK to Mumbai once restrictions are lifted sufficiently, to enable this. “India is a very big market,” he says, alluding to Tata Teleservices and Vodafone, in addition to the telco they are already working with.
“Even now with this pandemic situation we are still able to help portfolio companies,” he says, preparing to speak with another Inflexion portfolio company in 20 minutes. “We bring a lot of the Inflexion portfolio companies to India and arrange meetings. We are now trying to substitute that with a lot of calls to keep it active. We have not come to a standstill, but are still engaging and making proposals for our portfolio companies, in spite of the travel ban.”
Chambers, a global publisher of professional rankings for the legal sector which partnered with Inflexion in 2018, held a small event in India at the beginning of 2019. “We did not get very involved at this early stage, but later that year I visited London and met with management and offered to support them through my legal connections in India.” Through Rohit’s support, nearly 1,000 firms were marketed to, with an impressive conversion rate seeing 250 registered to attend the February 2020 event. The impact of the pandemic saw many drop out owing to travel restrictions, but it still attracted more than double the number of the previous year and they expect the next event to be their biggest yet.