Sony’s new VC to roll the dice on Indian startups

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Tokyo-based Sony Corp. is setting up an India-focused venture capital arm that will act as a co-investor in startups alongside celebrities such as movie stars and sports figures and seek to participate in the financing boom that gave birth to several unicorns. in the past 12 months, people familiar with the development told ET.

The $ 81 billion global media conglomerate, with businesses as diverse as games, movies and music production and electronics manufacturing, will commit $ 200 million to the VC branch to begin with, the sources said.

He hired Vijay Singh, former CEO of Fox Star Studios, to lead the new company. In his previous posting, Singh spent 13 years with Fox Star and helped build the film studio in the country.

In 2016, Sony launched a global innovation fund. However, the new VC branch is a one-of-a-kind initiative within the conglomerate that will aim to leverage Sony’s celebrity networks in India to create an India-specific investment pool that may have ‘strategic value’. long term for the group, sources said.

A request sent by mail to Sony Corp. went unanswered. Separately, Singh did not respond to ET calls and email queries.

The successful investments of cricketer Virat Kohli and movie star Deepika Padukone would serve as a model for Sony’s upcoming VC bets, the sources said.

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Kolhi has generated multiple returns on its investment in online general insurance startup Digit Insurance, which was this year’s first unicorn and received two rounds of funding since January with a valuation reaching $ 3.5 billion after the venture capitalist Sequoia Capital invested in its last round of July. Kohli and his wife, Bollywood actor Anushka Sharma, had invested Rs 5 crore in the company in February 2020.

Padukone has invested in the startup FMCG Drums Food, which owns the Epigamia brand of natural food products. French dairy giant Danone is also an investor in the company.

This is not Singh’s first visit to Sony. In the past (1996-2002) he was associated with Sony Music India as Managing Director, where he helped set up the company’s music label business in the country.

He left Fox Star Studios in April of last year, after the Disney buyout of Star India was finalized.

At the time, market talks were that Singh would join a global media technology company to lead its launch in India.

Under Singh’s leadership, Star India entered Bollywood with the cast of “Kismat Konnection” and “Jannat” in 2008. Over the years, the studio has had a mixed performance history.

Singh has close ties to Karan Johar’s Dharma Production, with whom the company has co-produced and distributed several films, including “Kalank”, “Student of The Year 2” and the upcoming “Brahmastra”.

The company has also distributed films by Sajid Nadiadwala, Vishesh Films and Ajay Devgn FFilms.