Women are gradually taking over the entrepreneurial landscape as more and more women start their ventures and companies. Born in 1963, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, Vani Kola is an Indian venture capitalist. Managing Director and Founder of Kalaari Capital, an Indian early-stage venture capital firm, she was listed as one of the most powerful women in Indian business by Fortune India in 2014. Kola mainly focuses on technology and is an early-stage investor. She works with entrepreneurs across the country to build global companies with investments in e-commerce, mobile services, education and healthcare. She has optimized India’s growth potential and helped established several enterprises including Dream11, Urban Ladder, Snapdeal, and Myntra. Kola married Srinivas Kola and is a mother to two daughters.
Vani Kola’s Background
Vani studied Electrical Engineering at Osmania University in Hyderabad, where was one of the only six girls among 400 engineering students. Being a female in a crowd full of males was daunting back then when she was pursuing her graduation. But she finished her Bachelor of Engineering and left to pursue her Master of Engineering from Arizona State University in the United States.
Post her masters, Kola pursued a 22-year long career in the famous Silicon Valley. Being a woman, her journey of becoming an entrepreneur was not without struggles, especially since she was an Indian woman in an otherwise patriarchal entrepreneurship hub. Kola is an inspiration for several women entrepreneurs across the globe as she has founded and managed more than one venture. A serial entrepreneur, she founded and worked as the CEO of the e-procurement company RightWorks which she later sold to Internet Capital Group Inc. after four years for $657 million. She also founded and became the CEO of Certus Software.
Post Silicon Valley
After a successful entrepreneurial career in Silicon Valley, Kola returned to India in 2006. She aimed to begin her own venture capital firm in India as the options in India showed immense potential for growth in the venture capital industry. Along with Vinod Dham, she co-founded Indo-US Venture Partners (IUVP) in 2006 which was later rebranded as Kalaari Capital. This was a partnership with New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and was her initial undertaking into venture capital in India. They began operations as a US$150 million fund in September 2012. Under Kola’s leadership, the firm has prospered with US$650 million in assets under management in 2017. Kola also spearheaded ACT Grants, a not for profit initiative coalition of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, set up in April 2020. With a corpus of ₹100 crores, they have supported 50 different ventures to survive and revive post the COVID-19 Pandemic.
What can you learn from Vani Kola?
It is a daunting step to start your venture, especially when you are a women entrepreneur in a landscape led by males. Kola started from scratch and rose to the top, and it is all because of sheer passion and determination. She was recognised as one of the most powerful women in Indian business by Forbes in 2014, 2018 and 2019. She was also awarded the TiE Delhi-NCR 5th Edition of Women Entrepreneurship Summit Award in 2018. She was awarded the Midas Touch award by the first-ever startup awards started by The Economics Times for the best investor in 2015. Being a woman and fitting into the entrepreneurial space is difficult. But don’t let your gender be a factor that stops you from venturing into businesses. Kola managed her personal and professional life and ended up founding and investing in more than one venture. Most of her ventures have been successful and have grown immensely over the years under her leadership and guidance. Remember, nothing is impossible. All you need is passion, knowledge and determination and nothing and no one can stop you.