Nikesh Arora, who helped back Indian startups with over $1 billion in SoftBank capital in less than a year, believes that “great businesses” are some way off and the way to get there is for founders to be focussed on execution.
The outgoing president of the Japanese conglomerate told ET by email that he will continue to support the startups that he was involved in funding, observing that he has made friends with the founders.
“Indian startups are going through a phase of consolidation both of their sectors as well as their positions,” Arora wrote in response to questions from ET. “It will be a long road from here to great large businesses,” he added.
Arora, 48, a former chief business officer at Google, announced his surprise resignation from SoftBank on Tuesday after the Japanese group’s founder Masayoshi Son said he planned to continue as the chief executive officer for years more. Arora had been tipped to succeed Son in 2017, when the Korean-origin businessman turned 60.
“We had an honest conversation if he was ready to give up. Upon reflection he felt his work was not done, which of course is a founder’s prerogative. I didn’t feel I wanted to wait for 5-10 years, hence my transition to adviser,” Arora said.
The companies that Arora backed in India include online retailer Snapdeal, ride-hailing app Ola, on-demand grocery retailer Grofers, budget hotel aggregator Oyo and realty portal Housing.
While emphasising the value of execution, Arora, who takes on an advisory role at SoftBank from July 1, said there is no doubt of the potential of India as a market.
“The market is there, the consumer trends are there too it is a matter of sustained, disciplined execution with an eye to satisfying the customer with a product that delights,” he said. Just a day before he resigned, Arora was exonerated by an internal committee of the Soft-Bank board probing allegations of conflict of interest and financial mismanagement against him by anonymous shareholders. Arora said his integrity is unimpeachable.
“I had no doubts about what the special committee was going to report. Integrity and doing the right thing has been ingrained into my family by my father who served in the Indian Air Force,” he said.
As for the future, he said he had not thought about what to do next, deflecting questions about interest in politics or working in the government in India. “I haven’t spent time thinking about what next. I intend to continue supporting the smart people I have helped SoftBank hire and also the investee companies of SoftBank,” he said.
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