Following cases of financial anomalies in some new-age firms, a top official of venture capital firm Sequoia Capital on Tuesday said there is a need to focus on corporate governance in Indian startups to build world class companies.
Sequoia Capital and Surge Managing Director Rajan Anandan, during a startup event hosted by Microsoft, said startups can leverage the Indian digital system to create 100 million jobs. “The last thing that has really come to light over the last 3-7 months is corporate governance. The Indian ecosystem is now entering a new phase. To build world class companies, you have to have world class corporate governance.
“We’ve been very focused on helping our founders understand what it takes to put in place the processes, the systems, the discipline, to actually have a company that will evolve into a company that has world class corporate governance,” Anandan said. In the recent past, there have been corporate governance issues in Sequoia-funded startups BharatPe and Zilingo.
The venture capital firm, in a blogpost in April, said it usually stands shoulder to shoulder with startup founders during hard times but it goes through deep pain when it hears about breaches of integrity or ethics in the portfolio companies. Sequoia had expressed disappointment when some of its portfolio founders were being investigated for potential fraudulent practices or poor governance.
Anandan also flagged concerns on changing market growth dynamics with high inflation and interest rates going up, but added it is the time for balanced growth for startups and the Indian digital ecosystem. He said there was an exponential increase in public market technology valuations, which were driven largely by the fact that US Federal Reserve slashed interest rates to zero and the US government pumped in over USD 7 trillion into the US and the global markets.
“Public market valuation always drives private market valuations and as a result gets massive amounts of capital that came into the startup ecosystems around the world — in the US, India and even in China. “Actually, despite all the challenges, last year there was over USD 130 billion worth of startup funding that went into the Chinese ecosystem,” Anandan noted. He further said startup funding in India jumped from about USD 10 billion in 2020 to USD 40 billion in 2021.
“That environment has changed because inflation is at an all-time high, the interest rates are going up. So we expect that the Fed will actually…pull back, the US government will pull back a lot of the USD 7 trillion that went into the economy,” he said. Even under these tough conditions, startups need to grow and firms have become cautious about raising capital and their valuations, he pointed out.