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


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 film stars and sports personalities and look to participate in the funding boom that has given rise to several unicorns over the past 12 months, people aware of the development told ET.

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

It has roped in former Fox Star Studios chief executive officer Vijay Singh to lead the new venture. In his previous assignment, Singh spent 13 years with Fox Star and helped build the film studio in the country.

In 2016, Sony started an innovation fund with a global focus. However, the new VC arm is a first-of-its kind initiative within the conglomerate that will aim to leverage Sony’s celebrity networks in India to create an India-specific pool of investments that could have long term ‘strategic value’ for the group, sources said.

A mailed query to Sony Corp. remained unanswered. Separately, Singh did not respond to ET’s calls and emailed queries.

Successful investments of cricketer Virat Kohli and film star Deepika Padukone would serve as a template for Sony’s upcoming VC bets, the sources said.



Kolhi has generated multifold returns from his investment in online general insurance startup Digit Insurance, which was the first unicorn of this year and has received two rounds of funding since January with its valuation touching $3.5 billion after VC investor Sequoia Capital invested in its latest round in July. Kohli and his wife, Bollywood actor Anushka Sharma, had
invested Rs 5 crore in the company in February 2020.

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

This is not the first stint for Singh at Sony. In the past (1996-2002), he has been associated with Sony Music in India as managing director, where he helped set up the firm’s music label business in the country.

He quit Fox Star Studios in April last year, after the completion of Disney’s takeover of Star India.

Back then, market talk was that Singh will join a global media technology company to spearhead its India launch.

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

Singh has strong ties with Karan Johar’s Dharma Production, with which the company co-produced and distributed several films, including ‘Kalank’, ‘Student of The Year 2’, and the upcoming ‘Brahmastra’.

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



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