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SoftBank steps up search for India head, engages headhunting firm

SoftBank steps up search for India head, engages headhunting firm
Photo Credit: Reuters

Japanese telecom and Internet conglomerate SoftBank Group Corp is aggressively on the lookout for a suitable candidate to lead its India operations, a media report said.

Citing multiple people privy to the development, The Economic Times reported that the investment giant has given the mandate of finding the right candidate for the top job to global executive search firm Egon Zehnder. Rajeev Misra, chief executive of SoftBank Investment Advisors, is spearheading the scouting process for the company.

Misra is one of three executives who has recently been elevated to the rank of executive vice-president at the Japanese tech investor. The other two are Marcelo Claure and Katsunori Sago.

The headhunting agency has already shortlisted a number of private equity and venture capital professionals and is in the process of setting up a final round of meetings for the candidates with Masayoshi Son, founder and CEO of SoftBank Group Corp. The selected candidate will lead SoftBank’s growing portfolio in India as well as operate as an interface between the Tokyo-headquartered company and policymakers in India, the report said.

Besides Misra, a number of Indian-origin executives occupy top-level positions at SoftBank, including Alok Sama, president and chief financial officer at SoftBank Group International, and Deep Nishar, managing director at SoftBank Group Corp.

The development comes at a time when even Facebook is on the hunt for an India head. A report in The Times of India in May said that the social networking giant had shortlisted Star India managing director Sanjay Gupta, Tata Sky managing director Harit Nagpal, Hotstar chief executive officer Ajit Mohan and former Karnataka IT secretary Srivatsa Krishna for the top job. The company’s global vice-president for global marketing solutions, David Fischer, was in the country at that time conducting the interviews.

Earlier, Kirthiga Reddy and Umang Bedi, both managing directors at Facebook, had led the firm’s operations in the country.

An email query sent to a SoftBank spokesperson for more details on the development did not elicit an immediate response at the time of filing this report.

Earlier, India-born Nikesh Arora had resigned as SoftBank’s president and chief operating officer in 2016 following accusations by a group of anonymous shareholders that he had led SoftBank into making poor investment decisions as well as of conflict of interest.

SoftBank had recently confirmed that it will sell its entire stake in Indian online retailer Flipkart to US-based Walmart Inc., marking the first known exit for SoftBank from its $93 billion Vision Fund, the world's biggest private equity fund. It is also a far quicker exit for a PE fund, which typically stays invested in a portfolio company for five to seven years. The Vision Fund had invested about $2.5 billion in Flipkart in August last year after a failed attempt to orchestrate a merger with rival online retailer Snapdeal. SoftBank had accumulated a more than 20% stake in Flipkart by buying shares from many minority shareholders.

According to media reports, SoftBank Group Corp also plans to invest $60-100 billion in solar power generation in India. SoftBank and the Indian government are expected to reach a formal agreement soon after final arrangements are made.

SoftBank has been growing its investments in India. Besides Flipkart, the Japanese tech investor has previously backed online retailers Snapdeal and Paytm, ride-hailing firm Ola, online insurance selling platform PolicyBazaar.com, online grocer Grofers, hotel room aggregator Oyo, mobile advertising firm InMobi and instant messaging app Hike.

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