One97 Communications is the parent entity of India’s leading mobile payments and financial services company, Paytm. One97 delivers mobile content and commerce services to millions of mobile consumers, starting as a mobile value-added services (VAS) company. Paytm was launched in 2009 as a digital payment platform to facilitate cashless payments. Through its network of subsidiaries and businesses, the company offers a range of digital payment and financial services to consumers and merchants in India and mobile advertising, marketing, and payments for merchants.
We invested primarily out of immense conviction in Vijay Shekhar Sharma, one of the most mercurial founders we had encountered, in whom we clearly saw the vision to build something significant, something game-changing. Vijay understood the three pillars of finance, mobile, and technology. His journey of pivoting and evolving Paytm from a mobile recharge voucher business into the flagbearer of India’s Fintech revolution is truly remarkable, with Paytm filing its IPO in 2021, then the largest IPO in India’s history.
Today, Paytm is one of India’s most symbolic brands and has been a true socioeconomic equalizer, enabling and empowering all strata of society. We co-led the company’s first institutional round and were privileged to have a front-row seat to one of the most remarkable startup stories of all time, watching the twists and turns of the consumer internet business, the post-demonetization boom of the cashless economy, and the unmistakable phrase in the minds of every Indian shopping online – “Paytm Karo.” After a successful early exit to Alibaba, Saama’s founder Ash Lilani was later invited to join the Board of Directors as an Independent Director prior to the company’s IPO.
Veeba is one of India’s foremost suppliers of sauces, spreads, dressings, dips, dessert toppings, emulsions, etc., to the institutional and retail market segments. In addition to servicing restaurants and fast-food chains such as KFC, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Taco Bell, Domino’s, and Starbucks, Veeba has become an Indian household favorite.
Saama’s investment in the Company resulted from our long-standing relationship with its founder, our faith in his tenacity, and the unique brand of knowledge we had acquired due to our prior F&B investments.
Saama has known Veeba’s founder since his previous role as part of the promoter group of packaged foods firm Fun Foods. In his avatar as CEO, he was instrumental in Fun Foods’ rapid expansion, especially in the retail market, and spearheaded the company’s sale to German multinational Dr. Oetker in 2008. This experience of running a sizeable F&B company has enabled him to lead Veeba through an exponential growth phase into becoming India’s largest and most loved condiments company.
Mokobara is a homegrown, modern direct-to-consumer travel products brand. The product portfolio comprises thoughtfully designed luggage, bags, backpacks, and travel accessories that seamlessly work together for #GoingPlaces, in line with the Company’s mission of “elevating the joy of travel.”
As a digitally native brand, Mokobara enjoys high product visibility across channels and a direct brand connection with its customers in a product category that has seen little to no product or customer experience innovation over several decades.
The Company is well on its way to being the travel brand of choice for the modern consumer for whom travel is a lifestyle choice and a state of mind. Mokobara’s brand philosophy is centered around a strong focus on the millennial and Gen Z consumer with a fresh outlook on travel and discovering new places. With design innovation that lends itself to unique and sharp aesthetics and a seamless, superior customer experience, the Company’s value proposition clearly distinguishes it from incumbent players.
Koparo is focused on creating a premium home cleaning and personal hygiene brand in India. The Company develops and markets a line of plant-derived and toxin-free home cleaners and personal hygiene products – ranging from air fresheners, floor cleaners, and laundry liquids and detergents to dish, hand, and body washes – that are safe for children, pets, and the environment.
The Indian household cleaning market is large and currently dominated by traditional FMCG players who have not innovated in the last two decades. Moreover, accelerated by the pandemic, consumer behavior is shifting towards eco-friendly, green, and natural products.
Koparo is capitalizing on this trend to create an insurgent brand with a “better for you” and “better for the world” value proposition. The Company is intensely product-focused and committed to full ingredient transparency for its consumers. As one of the early players in a new and growing category, we believe the Company has the opportunity to carve out a significant market share in India.
MyMuse is India’s first intimate wellness and lifestyle brand that markets high-quality gender-neutral sexual wellness products designed to bring a luxe customer experience to the bedroom.
Frustrated by the lack of material product innovations in the sexual wellness industry despite the growing recognition of sexual well-being as a salient facet of overall health and wellness, the founding team started MyMuse during the Covid-19 pandemic – to develop products designed to help the modern Indian both celebrate and nourish their sexual journey with a sense of unapologetic ownership.
With products ranging from sleek, full-body personal massagers and mood-setting luxury soy wax candles to water-based lubricants and all-natural massage oils, MyMuse is building a new-age, homegrown, sex-positive brand. Operating in a culturally sensitive category, the company aims to enhance the sexual wellness journey of modern Indians through its easily accessible pleasure-wellness products and highly informative yet quirky educational content.
The core of our investment thesis is anchored in our faith in the founding team’s ability to build a category-leading business in India’s nascent yet rapidly evolving sexual wellness (white-) space.
SuperBottoms is building a modern-day consumer brand that provides sustainable cloth diapering, bottom wear, and other apparel targeting newborn babies and young children. The Company’s core product philosophy is anchored in designing gentle, chemical-free, reusable baby care products – from cloth diapers and nappies to padded and cloth underwear – available at an affordable price.
The Indian diaper market has been dominated by unorganized conventional cloth nappies, which account for ~96% of the total market. While these are available in mom-and-pop stores and flea markets, there is no go-to brand for cloth nappies in India.
Started by a mother looking for a solution for her own son, the brand is driven by a mission to increase the adoption of reusable cloth diapers. It has emerged as the most innovative and prominent brand in this nascent category. Young Indian parents proactively seeking eco-friendly and sustainable products for their babies have become loyal customers and highly engaged brand ambassadors.
Solethreads is building a youth-centric, open footwear brand that retails a line of innovative, comfortable, affordable, and trendy flip-flops. The Company wants to build a brand for young & free-spirited individuals who seek and enjoy relaxed moments and a comfortable lifestyle.
Traditionally, the open footwear category has been dominated by offline-first incumbents (catering to the mass segment) who have failed to innovate and are quickly losing relevance among India’s young, aspirational consumers OR premium brands that are aspirational but too expensive for the mass premium consumer. As such, Solethreads is capitalizing on this opportunity to build an insurgent brand that offers innovative products at competitive prices via an omnichannel retailing strategy.
As a result of the founding team’s expertise in the footwear manufacturing domain, the Company has focused on using technology to create functionally superior products. The Company has proprietary formulas, registered and patented technologies, and a zero-waste recycling process, making its products a case study in groundbreaking manufacturing innovation.
SleepyCat is India’s leading holistic sleep wellness solutions brand. It seeks to improve the lives of Indians through how they sleep, starting with their mattresses and extending into bedroom furniture, bedding, and other sleep accessories.
Disrupting a largely stagnant ‘sleep products’ market, the Company offers a premium, digital-first customer experience through high-performance, well-priced products, express shipping, seamless returns, and superior customer service. Championing innovation-driven growth in the sleep lifestyle market, SleepyCat became one of India’s first players to offer doorstep delivery of ‘mattress-in-a-box’ leveraging vacuum pressing technology.
As a consumer-first brand, SleepyCat breaks the clutter of India’s disorganized offline offerings sold by brick-and-mortar retailers to market a line of purpose-driven products enhancing the activity of sleep and in-bedroom relaxation.
Nourish is an early-stage startup developing and selling high-quality, all-natural ingredients-based healthy snacking products for health-conscious individuals across demographics. Catering to the evolving Indian consumer, who is increasingly conscious about the nutritional value of the food she consumes, the Company markets a range of high-quality product variants within the following categories: Cookies, Breakfast Cereals, Savory Snacks, Health Bars, Nuts and Seeds mixes. Nourish aims to provide its customers with a range of healthy snacking alternatives made from wholesome ingredients, primarily grown organically, and free from harmful chemicals/pesticides.
DaMensch is an early-stage venture building a premium men’s fashion essentials brand in India. The Company manufactures products ranging from innerwear to casual clothing and activewear, targeted toward urban style-conscious millennials who inhabit a digital-first world, are comfortable making apparel purchases online, and are conscious of the brands they associate with.
With a strong focus on R&D and delivering a fashion quotient that is in tune with evolving youth trends and value that sits at the intersection of ‘premium’ and ‘affordable’, DaMensch offers best-in-class quality and functionality. Lab-tested for color fading and certified as ‘shrinkage-resilient’, DaMensch’s leading collection of briefs and trunks is made of micro-modal fabrics and comes with an industry-first warranty of 500 days!
Saama invested in DaMensch just six months after they started operations due to deep conviction in the innerwear market and its potential depth in the growing digital e-commerce space. With extensive digital product and e-commerce experience at companies like Nykaa and Snapdeal, the founders were the ideal team to build a digital-first brand for millennial India.
The Moms Co. is one of India’s leading brands marketing a line of ‘better-for-you’ personal care products targeted at expecting mothers and newborn babies and infants. The Company develops and sells an extensive range of products catering to various use cases, such as baby care, pregnancy, breastfeeding, face, skin, and hair care.
Born out of the parental need to provide their kids with ‘natural’, ‘safe’, and ‘toxin-free’ products, The Moms Co. was started by Malika and Mohit to address a significant gap in the personal care market for expecting mothers and pre/post-natal care for infants and babies. This narrative of authentic founders solving a personal problem resonated well with Saama and formed the crux of our early investment in the Company.
Having carved a niche for itself as an iconic, new-age, homegrown maternity and baby care product company with immense brand loyalty, The Moms Co. was acquired by the Good Glamm Group (South Asia’s largest content-to-commerce group) in 2021 in India’s largest D2C transaction (at the time) in the beauty and personal care segment.
Bluestone is India’s leading brand of high-quality, design-driven, fine jewelry and accessories with strikingly exquisite designs. In an industry-first move, the Company was the first to leverage an omnichannel strategy for selling jewelry by marrying the convenience of shopping online with the visceral trust of an in-store shopping experience.
At the time of our investment, while the fine jewelry industry in India was booming, it suffered from a distinct lack of a superior customer service experience. Cognizant of this gap in the market, Saama invested in BlueStone’s vision of disrupting the jewelry buying experience through a tech-enabled business model. As a maverick of the D2C approach, the Company started as an internet-first brand and later reimagined the traditional jewelry store to offer an immersive and contemporary offline buying experience.
Saama’s early conviction in Bluestone was rooted in the solid entrepreneurial mix of the founding team – with one of the co-founders being a successful serial technology entrepreneur and the other being a 5th-generation jeweler from the CKC Jewellers group (a 150+-year-old leading jewelry brand in South India). We have realized a partial exit, and the company plans an IPO over the next 12-18 months.
Chai Point is India’s largest organized beverage chain, with a vast network of retail outlets and a large installed capacity of brewing systems catering to corporates. The Company seeks to serve India’s large workforce with a delectable selection of beverages and associated food items via a network of consumer-facing outlets, dispensers for corporate enterprises, and on-demand delivery.
The Company has established a robust pan-India footprint with industry-first innovations such as a specially developed use-and-throw heat retaining chai flask and a fully automated chai dispensing machine. In addition, the Company has developed an extensive range of packaged food products that can be served with beverages and are distributed through offline and online channels.
The Saama team had tracked the founder since our first meeting at a food and agriculture investment summit in 2011. The founder’s simple yet powerful realization that “India runs on chai” (now espoused in the Company’s official slogan) and that the market lacks a beverage product delivered consistently with high quality and hygiene resonated well with the Saama team. This, along with a delightful and extensive diligence process of trying several cups of tea at various early Chai Point stores, gave us the confidence to be the first institutional investor in the Company.