It is not often that you see unicorn founders speaking up to a tune that may not be favored by their lrger investors. But then, with Softbank, things haven’t really been the usual self off late, and we now have yet another example of the same.
As Softbank continues to become a shadow of its earlier glory day by day, more and more of its investments are coming up with their sob stories. The founder of Policy Bazaar, a brand that has become quite synonymous with digital insurance in India, has recently admitted that the capital raising exercise that it undertook via Softbank, was a ‘Mistake’.
The revelation came up during a video interview with Financial Times, where CEO Yashish Dahiya said, “There wasn’t . . . rational thinking about it. We had a lot of capital, a lot of capital, and there was a lot of push from our investors.”
The Indian insurance aggregator was launched in 2008, by Yashish Dahiya, Alok Bansal and Avaneesh Nirjar, and gave users a chance to compare financial services from major insurance companies. The Trivago of insurance schemes, Policy Bazaar turned profitable in 2017, after being in business for almost a decade. However, that is when things went awry, and the company descended into a mad fury of expensive marketing that did not convert into customers.
In 2018, the company registered INR 9.42 Cr in losses, just one year after it turned profitable. One might dismiss this as a fluke, given how the losses weren’t substantial and the company had just poured a lot of money into advertisements. However, when the financial year 2019 saw losses ballooning up to INR 213.12 Cr, the company realised that something had went wrong. After that, Policy Bazaar decided to cut down on marketing expenses, and hopes to return to profitability by 2021.
Dahiha notes that when a company does not “make a profit after 10 years in operation, something is wrong”.
The statements made by the CEO may seem a little hypocritical, seeing how Policy Bazaar’s parent EtechAces Marketing and Consulting just raised $130 million from Softbank at a $1.5 Bn valuatio days back, but they are not completely baseless.
Softbank has off late, left all its invested companies with a sour taste, as the company continues to grapple with the consequences of its own bad investments. Softbank’s downfall in the startup investment scene, though predicted by many, became a reality when WeWork failed to IPO and opened a pandora’s box of gross irregularities And miscompliances within the company.
It’s unclear what the future of Policy Bazaar would look like. The company hopes to achieve profitability by the end of 2021, and has an IPO in the cards when it does. However, it is unclear if that goal is achievable, especially with the latest investment from Softbank. When a large investor like Softbank pours big money into companies, they tend to expect multifold growth, often at the expense of business fundamentals and profitability. And with Softbank, this has become quite apparent, considering most of its big ticket unicorns are grossly underperforming.
One can only wait to see what happens to PolicyBazaar, but one can hope that at least the company can continue to work strongly on its core business fundamentals.