Behind Damera Ventures, a plan to invest in sports, rural employment


BENGALURU : When Ashwin Damera returned to India in 2005 from the US, he had declined a lucrative job offer from management consulting firm McKinsey, despite knowing that he had to repay 1 crore in student debt. Instead, he took a leap of faith and founded Travelguru, an online travel startup.

Within seven years, Damera sold Travelguru to travel portal and headed to his second venture Eruditus, which was last valued at $3.2 billion in 2021.

Now, he wants to give back to the ecosystem, through Damera Ventures, the family office set up with his wife Bhagyashree Damera.

Entrepreneurship, sports and wellness, education and rural employment form the central theme of investments for the firm.

“These are the areas we are passionate about,” Bhagyashree said, who manages most of the firm’s operations.

Bhagyashree, who also holds a masters in food and nutrition, was earlier a national-level athlete. Ashwin, too, comes from a sports family. “I come from a family of sports. I used to play cricket for my city Chennai long time back. My mother was a part of national women’s team that was selected for the Asian Games (1982), my father held positions in the national rifle association of India,” he said.

“I have always been geared towards sports and yet, if you look at infra of sports, you know what it is (inadequate),” he said. Sports is related to wellbeing and happiness, he added.

The firm is keen to support startups solving problems in the sports segment and its investment last month in sportstech platform KheloMore falls in line with this thesis. So far, Damera Ventures has made five investments worth $40 million across startups, funds, and non-profits.

The portfolio includes venture debt firm InnoVen Capital, in which it invested about $32 million in April 2022. The firm has also invested in startups like music education platform Rhapsody. It has given grants to institutions, which include Head Held High Foundation, a Bengaluru-based collective to help rural people fight poverty.

Over the years, Ashwin has made a few angel investments that include Ping Digital Network, Voxpop, Amelio, Spunk Mobile and Ruban Bridge.

The route of family office, however, allows him to be thematic, choose sectors which have social impact, and go beyond investments to support non-profits too.

“Sometimes, for these entrepreneurs, especially first-time entrepreneurs, having a sounding board is very helpful,” he said noting the start of his entrepreneurial journey with Travelguru when he realized the need and value of support, mentoring and network.

He said he wants to provide support to startup founders, who have to face various challenges. Most of the investments the firm makes are based on opportunities that they come across through their network. But over time, they plan to grow Damera Ventures and hire professional management.

In the next year or two, the firm expects to deploy an additional $40 million. The couple expect Damera Ventures to hold about half of their wealth eventually.

“I believe very strongly in giving back. This would be my primary vehicle of giving back,” said Ashwin.

“When you grow up in a country like India, I feel there are oceans of poverty and small islands of prosperity. Thanks to my entrepreneurial journey, I may be in the island-of-prosperity bucket. But, it is our duty to help more people come on from the oceans of poverty,” he said.

Catch all the Corporate news and Updates on Live Mint.
Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates & Live Business News.



Source link