Bollywood actor Suniel Shetty has invested in another startup – this time, in a men's jewellery brand called MetaMan.
MetaMan has also secured funding from Zerodha's Nikhil Kamath, Accel partners' Prashanth Prakash and cricketer KL Rahul, totalling $1 million.
Shetty, who started his film journey in 1992 and has acted in around 120 films, has a longer stint as an entrepreneur, which spans over 40 years.
In conversation with Moneycontrol, the actor-turned-investor shared what he looks for in startups while investing, the current funding scenario and which categories he would like to put his money in.
"My entrepreneurial journey started when I saw that the entertainment industry is not necessarily secure (financially). Coming from a business family, I have always believed that one should have security. So, I got into business and started investments in real estate, hospitality and now in growing startups in India,” said Shetty.
Shetty has invested in over half a dozen startups, including NFT marketplace Colexion, health-tech startup Vieroots, wellness nutrition brand BodyFirst and fitness brand Aquatein, among others.
He said he looks at founders who are traditional when it comes to management and progressive when it comes to products.
"I look for that balance. It is the quality of the founder that interests me now. I want to invest in unique products and founders who are passionate about what they do. Also, I look at startups traditionally and cash flow is key for me. It is my gut feeling, market research and the founders that I rely on when I invest," he said.
On his startup investments, he said it has been "so far so good."
He said it is not about great returns and it is more about the growth he sees in a lot of brands like BodyFirst and Aquatein. "There are quite some interesting products I have invested in and I am looking forward to some startups like those dealing with tech apps and edtech startups, etc."
Shetty said his focus will be on education and health as he is good in these spaces.
"I am comfortable with fashion and media, and I would like to understand it further. I keep getting a lot of opportunities. While my investments will not be very big, it will be in the areas of my interest and where I see growth," he said.
While the actor looks to back more startups, he said that 2023 will be a year of caution. "Raising money is difficult and startups have realised it. It is going to be a long and cautious (funding) winter. Startups offer a great space but I am also worried about cash burn and the mindset of founders. It is going to be a tough period. Those who have their cash flow and business plan in order will survive and others might find it difficult, if they don't stop cash burn and focus on valuations and not products."
Shetty had recently posted on LinkedIn about edtech firm Byju's layoffs. He had said that startups should "think long term. Think sprint vs marathon. Think Rahul Dravid. Stable and slow are just as great," he said after Byju's laid off 2,500 employees. He had also shared tips about how to make companies survive the economic downturn.
The actor who thinks that jewellery for men is a big fashion statement invested in MetaMan as he believes men's jewellery hasn't evolved in India.
MetaMan, launched on November 19, 2022, is founded by Anil Shetty, a startup investment banker who has raised money for companies like Licious. He is not related to Suniel Shetty.
The brand will see its first physical store launch in another 10 months, said Anil.
The MetaMan founder said that it was the actor who convinced him to start this brand. Starting with brass and silver jewellery, the brand will later offer gold, platinum and lab-grown diamond jewellery.
"The products are available on our website but a lot of purchases are happening through Instagram. The price ranges from Rs 1,900-Rs 10,000. We will go to different e-commerce platforms including Myntra and Nykaa as we keep building our SKUs (stock-keeping units which refers to a single item of inventory). We have launched with 20 designs, and, in the coming months, we will have 25 more. By the end of March next year, we should have 150 designs," Anil Shetty said.
He said that the target is to touch Rs 1 crore revenue per month in 10 months’ time and in that time the company will break even. Anil added that there is funding winter, so the next one year will be tough.
Along with MetaMan, Suniel Shetty said that he is also building on the IP (intellectual property) called Horses Stable, a reality funding show of which he was a host.
Now, the actor will be starting Horses Stable Junior for young aspirants under the guidance of Niti Aayog. "This (Horses Stable Junior) gives me an opportunity to look at a lot of startups that come for the show and gives me a sense of talent in tier II, III and IV markets."
The actor who made his streaming debut with Dharavi Bank said that he has got another web series and reality show, which is based on the search for top MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighters and franchise films. "Exciting period in terms of media but I make sure I keep that balance between acting and entrepreneurship," he said.