Vani Kola's decision to back Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal, founders of Snapdeal, when they were unknown and had been turned down by a host of other investors, is the stuff of Indian start-up legend. Time and again, she has shown her uncanny knack of spotting opportunity early. While merely visiting India in 2006, she noted incipient signs of the start-up boom that was to follow and decided to return to India and invest in start-ups.
Raising over $200 million in six months, she set up her venture capital firm IndoUS Advisors, in partnership with New Enterprise Associates, which later morphed into Kalaari Capital, the name inspired by Kerala's ancient martial art form Kalaripayattu, since she felt she too had entered a combat arena. Kalaari Capital, now one of the country's biggest VC firms, is invested in around 60 start-ups, including Myntra, Urban Ladder, Zivame and Bluestone.
Growing up in Hyderabad, Kola studied Electrical Engineering at Osmania University, before going on to the University of Arizona for her post graduation. Even in the US, disdaining a job, she set up RightWorks Corp, to help businesses set up buying and selling software systems. Selling it off - and making a pile in the process - she started Certus Software, which too she sold before returning to India for good.