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SoftBank onboards former Google executive as it banks on India amid tough times

Google India former interim head Vikas Agnihotri will join SoftBank as operating partner.

mage 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

Japanese investment firm SoftBank Investment Advisors Thursday said it has roped in Vikas Agnihotri former Google India interim head, to join its India team as its first operating partner in the country. SoftBank Vision Fund has been looking for operating partners to join its team in Mumbai since July last year.

“To continue its expansion in India and bolster portfolio companies, SBIA has announced the appointment of Vikas Agnihotri as its first operating partner to foster closer connections with the region’s technology ecosystem and the SBIA’s global network,” a statement from SoftBank said.

Agnihotri has been with Google for about a decade in different leadership roles, the last being the interim head for the time the company had found a replacement for Rajan Anandan who left Google last year to join Sequoia Capital India.

SoftBank has had a rough 2019 in which it struggled to raise funds for its second vision fund as its two biggest bets—cab-hailing major Uber and office rental startup WeWork—saw their valuations nosedive, poking a hole in SoftBank’s financial report that has otherwise been stellar. For the first time in the last 14 years, SoftBank posted a quarterly loss of USD 6.5 billion in the July-September period, owing most of it to the failed IPOs of WeWork—which it had to cancel—and the lackluster market response to Uber’s public listing.

SoftBank’s Vision Fund II was in the market to raise USD 108 billion in July last year, but it closed the round with just USD 2 billion to start making investments. However, it continues its effort to raise funds from Apple, Microsoft, Foxconn Technology Group, and the sovereign wealth fund of Kazakhstan.

One of the fastest-growing startup ecosystems globally, India continues to attract the Masayoshi Son-led fund which has placed several high profile bets worth over USD 10 billion in multiple technology companies such as Paytm, Ola, and Oyo, among others. It recently participated in a USD 1 billion funding round in digital payments unicorn Paytm.

The second Vision Fund made its first investment in Chinese online property listing service Beike Zhaofang. Since November 2019, Sumer Juneja, previously with Norwest Venture Partners, has been leading India investments for SoftBank.