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Lenskart becomes 25th Indian unicorn with fresh investment from SoftBank

This is SoftBank Vision Fund II’s maiden investment in India.

Image source: Tuchong FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2014 file photo, SoftBank founder and Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son speaks during a news conference in Tokyo. Japanese Internet company SoftBank Group Corp., which is struggling to turn around Sprint in the U.S., is reporting a 27 percent drop in profit for the fiscal year ended March 31, compared to the previous year. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File). Image source: Tuchong

In what could be this year’s last mega-deal in an Indian technology startup, online-to-offline (O2O) eyewear retailer Lenskart has raised USD 275 million from Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, bringing this nine-year-old company in the much-coveted unicorn club with the valuation of USD 1.5 billion.

The negotiations that have been going on for the last six months have ended in SoftBank Group founder and CEO Masayoshi Son making the first investment from his Vision Fund-II in India, and second, globally, local media Economic Times (ET) reported.

The ET report said Lenskart passed a board resolution on December 12, approving the allotment of 22.9 million Series G compulsorily convertible cumulative preference shares to an entity called SVF II (Cayman Islands) Lightbulb. SoftBank paid USD 10.04 (INR 714) per share. The investment in Lenskart was led by Sumer Juneja, partner and head of India at SoftBank Investment Advisors who joined the company last year in November.

Founded in 2010 by Peyush Bansal, Amit Chaudhary, and Sumeet Kapahi, Lenskart opened its 500th shop in May this year. Over the last two years, the company has significantly reduced its losses. In the financial year ended March 2019, the company reported a loss of USD 3.9 million (INR 27.89 crore), compared to a net loss of about USD 16.6 million (INR 118 crore) a year ago. Its revenue rose 56.3% to USD 68.3 million (INR 486.2 crore) in the same time period.

The sequel to USD 100-billion SoftBank Vision Fund, Vision Fund-II was seeking to raise USD 108-billion in July this year. However, after the failed initial public offering of its office rental firm WeWork and poor public market performance of other major investments such as ride-hailing giant Uber and instant messaging platform Slack, Son struggled to raise money for the second fund. In November this year, SoftBank Group quietly completed the initial fundraise with USD 2 billion, a far cry from its ambitious target of USD 108 billion. The fund made its first investment in Chinese online property listing service Beike Zhaofang.

Vision Fund-II is now raising money from Apple, Microsoft, Foxconn Technology Group, and the sovereign wealth fund of Kazakhstan, according to a Bloomberg report.

Apart from Lenskart, SoftBank’s other top deals in India this year include USD 250 million investment in Ola Electric Mobility and USD 400 million in FirstCry, an online platform that sells baby care products. It was also one of the lead investors in USD 1 billion round in payment services company Paytm, USD 220 million funding in grocery startup Grofers, and USD 412 million investment in a logistics company Delhivery.