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Exclusive: Smile Group to invest up to $1M each in 10 startups

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Gurgaon-based Smile Group, which owns and operates various properties in the online and digital media space, plans to invest in up to 10 consumer internet startups over the next one year.

Smile is willing to spend between $10,000 and $1 million per transaction with a ‘bias towards B2C startups.’

Speaking to Techcircle, serial entrepreneur and group founder Harish Bahl said that the investment would be made in his personal capacity with participation from partners and Smile’s vertical heads.

“We will be looking at domestic and international technology startups in the consumer internet space. We are fonder of consumer-focused stuff,” Bahl said.

However, the company does not intend to form an institutional fund to support startups. “It should be seen more as a family office than a VC fund,” he said.

Smile’s executives have also been invested in different consumer internet startups. The recent one was a Rs 1.8 crore co-funding (jointly with Anupam Mittal, CEO of People Group and Manish Vij, founder and CEO of Smile Vun Group) in Gurgaon-based Thumbspot Inc., the firm behind online services marketplace Near.in.

They have also invested in firms such as ScoopWoop, LittleEyeLabs, HackerEarthh, We Are Holidays among others.

The group is currently running three businesses in the consumer internet space — Fashion&You, Freecultr and Juvalia&You. In the digital media space it has positions in SVG, Quasar and Prodigi.

Fashionandyou, arguably the biggest e-commerce venture of the Smile Group, is raising $50 million in a new round from existing as well as the new investors. Techcircle had reported on this last year.

Fashionandyou has already secured $20 million as the initial tranche. Its existing investors are Sequoia Capital, Norwest Venture Partners, Nokia Growth Partners and Intel Capital. Last year, it had raised $10 million in a Series D round of funding.

As reported first by Techcircle.in, the firm had also roped in an investment arm of NYSE-listed Chinese discount retail specialist VIPshop. It is also known to have participated in the fresh funding. The company however declined to comment on this development.

This is Smile’s second innings in India’s fast-growing ecommerce sector. It is trying to make a comeback in the lucrative lifestyle apparel and accessories e-commerce space after losing the early mover advantage when the market consolidated around the top two players—Myntra and Jabong.

In August 2012, Fashion&You acquired fashion e-tailor Urbantouch.com for an undisclosed amount. Post the acquisition, the company shut the Urbantouch website and tried to merge it with Fashionandyou’s website. The merger did not work out as both entities operated on different business models. Deals and You and Bestylish.com were two of its other portfolio companies that did not perform as expected.

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