Sudhakar Ram

Sudhakar Ram

Chairman & MD, Mastek
New York City

About Me

I received CNBC Asia's ‘India Business Leader of the Year’ award in 2007. Before joining Mastek, I was the CIO of Rediffusion Dentsu Young & Rubicam. I am a silver medallist from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Calcutta. I am also an anchor and lead contributor of The New Constructs.

Investment Strategy

I started angel investing only two years ago, when I joined The Chennai Angels – a group of entrepreneurs and professionals who have come together to mentor and support start-ups in the South. Personally, I invest in companies based on 3 criteria: a) The promoter is energetic and eager, willing to put in his heart and soul into the venture; b) the idea is relevant to India / World and is worth backing;, and, c) I think I can add value to the entrepreneur(s) based on my own experience. These were the factors based on which I made a couple of investments as mentioned below.

Portfolio Companies

My first investment through Chennai Angels was a company called Metroplots – started by a young Carnegie Mellon graduate – Biju Ashokan. Through a combination of online and offline activities, his idea was to professionalize the real estate broking and advisory business. Another investment I made was in a venture incubated by IIT Madras – BtechGuru. The second venture of the entrepreneur – Balaraju Kondaveeti – this entity is trying to make engineering graduates more employable through video-based skill development and assessment programs. In this process, it helps corporate access the brightest campus talent from across India without having to physically visit so many colleges in remote parts of the country.

My Criteria for Investing in Startups
It is primarily the team and then the social and commercial relevance of the idea.
Attributes I Look for in an Entrepreneur
Entrepreneurs come in all sizes and shapes and different ventures need different types of attributes. The common thread I look for is energy, enthusiasm, drive and openness to learn.
Common Mistakes Startups Make
Start-ups sometimes don’t focus on team building and the entrepreneurs end up taking too much of the responsibility. This leaves them stressed, overworked and unable to spend time on creative aspects like strategy.
Most Popular Types of Businesses in India at the Moment
India is bubbling with opportunities. From ecommerce plays to improve efficiencies, to green technologies from washing powder to renewable energy sources, to new models in education and skill building, to hospitality to healthcare – there is no dearth of opportunities in any field. The entrepreneur should select a field that he is passionate about, has unique ideas in and is confident that he can execute effectively. 
Thoughts on First Angel, Follow-on Investments and Offerings to an Angel Investor
We do understand that we may need to fund a couple of rounds before the venture is ready for the next stage. As angels, we ensure that the entrepreneur has enough skin in the game and we also keep an eye on future dilutions when we look at current valuations. Since angels add value beyond money to early stage companies, it is definitely worthwhile for start-ups to get the angels on the Board of Directors or on and Advisory Board.
Message for Entrepreneurs
The future belongs to entrepreneurs. Go ahead and take the plunge. It is the most exciting and enriching experience you can have.