Inside Ranjan Pai’s plan for his family office; the state of Silicon Valley amid AI frenzy

Manipal Group’s Ranjan Pai, who has been in the news for investing in startups such as Byju’s and PharmEasy is putting together a team to sharpen his startup bets. This and more in today’s ETtech Morning Dispatch.

Also in this letter:
■ Data centres to get new digital public infra
■ Infosys staff to get 80% variable pay
■ Dark clouds ahead for Indian IT majors

Ranjan Pai has a Powar plan for family office Claypond Capital

Ranjan Pai

Manipal Education and Medical Group chairman Ranjan Pai

Ranjan Pai, chairman of Manipal Group, is close to hiring a veteran banker to head his family office, sources told us. And there’s more to it. Let’s dive right in:

Pai and accompaniments: Pai, an active new-economy investor and a white knight for troubled startups such as edtech firm Byju’s and online pharmacy PharmEasy, is building a professional team to capitalise on attractive valuations, and back promising startups amid a funding crunch in the startup ecosystem. And to do that, he is close to roping in Shaym Powar to head Claypond Capital — Pai’s family office, sources told us. Powar is likely to join Pai next month.

Who is Powar? Powar founded Allegro in 2002 along with Kunal Kashyap. Powar has been the head of corporate financing at the firm offering a bouquet of financial advisory services including M&A, fundraising. While he is in the process of joining Claypond, Powar has been advising Pai on his investment deals for some time now. Pai has accelerated his investments after partially cashing out of Manipal Hospitals in a sale to Singapore government-owned Temasek in April this year. The Pai family office still holds 30% in the hospital chain.

Also read | The Pai-and-Kamath way to startup investing

Acceleration plan: People aware of Pai’s investment plans said he has been investing in the current cycle as startup valuations have undergone a reset due to the funding winter. Also, several startups are showing interest in raising capital through primary and secondary share sales at flat or slightly higher valuations instead of a massive premium as seen previously. Added to that, some of the biggest and well-funded startups have seen significant course correction in their businesses.

Quote unquote: “Many of these bets he (Pai) has taken–they have gone through their own up and down cycle over the past few years not linked to the funding winter. Now, these assets are available at attractive price points and founders behind them are likely to have learnt from previous cycles,” a person aware of Pai’s investments said. “There are still good companies that have executed well and are not fussed about valuation, which is what makes them investable,” the person added.

Also read | Ranjan Pai cuts Rs 1,400 crore cheque for Davidson Kempner debt, books Aakash seats

Full Stack: Amid AI frenzy, the ‘doom loop’ defines current state of Silicon Valley

SF office2.

An empty office building in SoMa (South of Market) which was the buzziest office centre for startups pre-Covid19

Hi there, it’s Samidha. I’m back with a new edition of Full Stack, just in case you missed this column, I’ll be more regular:)

What’s the agenda? There’s so much noise around San Francisco’s sudden clean-up in the backdrop of APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Week 2023, that I decided to write a quick piece on my latest visit to the city. This time was different as it was the first after Covid-19 and a stark reminder of how tech’s Mecca was still reeling under the aftermath of the pandemic which exacerbated the problems it always faced.

What’s changed? Is SF still the world’s tech hub, I wondered, as I went about the city. For over a decade, spending a few weeks each year in Silicon Valley provided me with a front-row view of the technological advances and a connect with the influential Indian tech community.

But last month, while I met founders, investors, and ecosystem participants in the Bay Area, the mood seemed pretty sombre despite the disproportionate amount of focus on AI which makes the outside world feel it’s all exuberance in the Valley. The level of energy I was used to seeing here was visibly missing as I visited empty offices.

Read the full column here.

Please keep the bouquets, brickbats, and suggestions coming. You can reach me at and follow me on Elon Musk’s Twitter (sorry X) @samidhas.

People+ai readies blueprint for digital public infrastructure for open compute


People+ai, an initiative by EkStep Foundation (cofounded by Nandan Nilekani), will discuss a concept paper on ‘Digital Public Infrastructure for Open Compute’ next month in New Delhi. This could well be the beginning of a digital public infrastructure (DPI) to create a network of interoperable data centres in the country

What’s the aim? The idea is to build a network of micro-data centres with interoperable standards so that small businesses and startups can plug and play it as per requirement. Further, the DPI aims to address the lack of compute capacity in India, especially with the advent of generative AI.

Quote, unquote: “The government buying graphic processing units (GPUs) is necessary, but not sufficient,” Tanuj Bhojwani, head of People+ai, told ET. “We believe there’s a more sophisticated solution, which is, we need to create the conditions for the Indian ecosystem to be able to invest in compute.”

Interoperable open standards: If a customer adopts an AWS stack, one is locked in into it. It takes a lot of engineering effort to move to another cloud. “If you have an interoperable default set of standards, it becomes easier to switch from cloud service providers they don’t like,” said Santashil Palchaudhuri, former MD of Cloud Platforms at JP Morgan Chase & Co, and now a volunteer at People+ai.

Infosys to give 80% variable pay to employees for September quarter

Top Reductions: Infosys

India’s second-largest IT services company, Infosys, will roll out its second quarter performance bonus to select employees at 80% payout this month, the company said in an email. The final bonus payout number will be informed to eligible employees this week and paid by the end of this month.

Variable pay details: Employees at band level 6 (PL6-manager) and below, meaning those below the manager category barring entry level, will receive an average payout at 80% of their variable pay at an organisational level. However, the individual payout will differ based on one’s performance and contribution for the quarter, read the email from the engineering team HR head at Infosys.

Also read | Infosys to start next appraisal cycle as pending hikes drag on

Comparing numbers: The 80% payout is similar to what it paid in Q1 but higher than the previous quarters in FY22, where the payout range was around 60-70%. In the year-ago March quarter, Infosys paid out 60% as variable pay. The latest performance bonus payout comes at a time when Infosys and other top-tier IT majors have reported muted revenue growth in the second quarter of FY24.

Return to office: ET reported on November 1 that Infosys has started calling back some of its select employees at the entry to mid-level positions to the office for a minimum of ten days in a month. Other companies such as TCS, Wipro, and LTIMindtree have also started calling some of their employees back to the office.

Indian IT firms stare at bleak holiday quarter on grim outlook

IT expects a growth slowdown_losses_THUMB IMAGE_ETTECH_1

The holiday quarter might not bring much celebration for Indian IT majors. Hyperscalers such as Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon, Meta, Apple, and Tesla have indicated a weakening demand environment that could last at least two quarters, signalling that turbulent times are likely to continue for the IT sector.

Dark clouds: Migration to cloud has been at the vanguard of growth for the past three years, but its pace has slowed considerably and is unlikely to return to the level it was post-Covid-19. While Indian pure plays don’t directly get much revenue from the cloud hyperscalers, they are an important channel to market, and much of the new scope of work resides on their platform.

IT story gfx

Expert take: “Q1 and Q2 of FY25 also look extremely difficult for the Indian IT services firms due to revenue and growth slowdown from hyperscaler and the SaaS ecosystem across US and Europe markets,” said Gaurav Vasu, founder of technology research firm UnearthInsight.

Other Top Stories By Our Reporters

Ashneer Grover, his wife Madhuri Jain_BharatPe_2

BharatPe vs Ashneer Grover saga | The story so far: Earlier this week, the Economic Offences Wing of the Delhi Police, in a status report to the Delhi High Court, said there were discrepancies in BharatPe’s vendor invoices, putting the focus back on the long-drawn-out saga between the Grovers and the fintech, which started in January 2022.

Read the full timeline of the events here

Gig workers’ earnings rose 48% this festive season: PickMyWork | India’s gig workers have seen an increase in earnings this festive season, driven by strong demand for services such as home cleaning, food delivery, and ride sharing, according to platforms that connect such workers with consumers.

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