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Vani Kola, an early investor in India's VC history

posted onOctober 6, 2017

With an entrepreneurial journey across multiple companies Vani Kola, is one of the most powerful women in Indian business. She is the founder and Managing Director of Kalaari Capital, one of India’s leading early stage venture capital firms.

Kola, 53, was born and educated in Hyderabad, India. She went to engineering school at 16 and headed to the US for a master’s degree when she was 20. She received a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Osmania University and a Master of Science from Arizona State University.

While in the U.S. Kola founded Certus Software, a leader in the financial compliance market.and RightWorks, a successful e-procurement company that was acquired by ICG and subsequently by i2 Technologies. After a 22-year successful career in Silicon Valley it took her 60 days to decide to move back to Bangalore, India in 2006, when the Indian startup ecosystem was virtually non-existent.

Her initial venture into venture capital in India, in partnership with New Enterprise Associates (NEA), was IndoUS Advisors (IUVP) which in 2012 was re-branded as Kalaari Capital without the participation of NEA. Kalaari Capital invests in the unknown Indian entrepreneur who is poised to become tomorrow’s global leader and holds stakes in more than 60 start-ups, including Flipkart Online Services Pvt. and Jasper Infotech Pvt’s Snapdeal.The firm began operations as a USD 150 million fund in September 2012 and under Vani’s leadership, has grown to have USD 650 million assets under management.

Kola, is known as a visionary for identifying emerging markets and has successfully led investments in e-commerce, mobile services, education and healthcare. Some of her notable venture capital successes include: Urban Ladder, Zivame, VIA, Appsdaily, Holachef, Dream11, Bluestone, Power2SME, Crowdfire, YourStory, Popxo, CureFit, RKSV, HolaChef and StalkBuyLove.

Talking about what makes her job exciting, she says:

“In this job, there is a lot of creative ideating and I like that I get to work and engage with really smart people. Creating something that makes a difference is energizing and seeing Indian growth up close is a privilege. Above all, being a part of people’s dreams and aspirations and sharing their success and frustrations keeps me passionately engaged. Knowing that I can never know what I might have to deal with tomorrow keeps me on my toes.”

Kola, is a mother of two girls and says her inspiration comes from her daughters. She is a yoga enthusiast and meditation is what allows her to be in a profession of high intensity. She Climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and competed in multiple marathons. She received the 2015 Economic Times Midas Touch award for her record in spotting entrepreneurs and disruptive ideas that scale to become large and successful businesses.