Q&A with Priyanka Chopra, head of finance, Prosus Ventures

Larry Illg, CEO of Prosus Food & EdTech, and formerly CEO of Prosus Ventures, the corporate venturing arm of Netherlands-based Prosus, a global consumer internet group and one of the largest technology investors in the world, said of Priyanka Chopra, head of finance for the unit: “Priyanka is an asset to Prosus Ventures and her impact is evident across all our portfolio companies around the world.

“She is responsible for financial diligence on all new investments, manages FP&A (financial planning and analysis), accounting and tax for the group, and serves as a close financial and operational advisor to our portfolio companies to help them achieve scale and profitability.

“Over her more than four years with us, she has contributed immensely to our success and is a true partner to the Prosus Ventures investment team.”

Prosus Ventures added: “She runs finance diligence for all of our potential investments and also works with every company on their finance functions. She is very strategic to the group.”

 

1. First, just give us a quick overview of who you work for, what you do, and how long you have been doing it?

I have been with Prosus Ventures for more than four years, and I oversee the global finance function for our unit. I have a multi-faceted role that encompasses the key elements of CVC – the investment side, the corporate side, and the portfolio support side.

On the transaction side, it is my responsibility to sign off on the valuation for new investments and to lead finance, accounting and tax due diligence. Almost always, my review on the finance side overlaps with the commercial review of the transaction, and as a result, I work closely with the deal lead.

On the corporate side, I lead internal reporting and budgeting for the portfolio and new transactions, so that the internal and external stakeholders for Prosus and Naspers have visibility into our plan and results.

On the portfolio support side, I work with management teams to understand their pain points and figure out how to leverage the extensive resources and experience of the broader Naspers Group to help make our companies successful.

2. What attracted you to CVC?

My background encompasses deal-making and startup finance, and so CVC was a natural fit for me.

I spent a decade across investment banking and private equity, and then some years in operational and corporate finance roles for high growth tech companies, before joining Prosus Ventures. As a result, I am able to understand deal dynamics, and also see things from the point of view of the management teams that run our young companies. Post-close, I can help their finance team look around corners and think through best practices to help the business scale, and of course, this engagement also helps Prosus invest confidently in follow-on rounds to support future growth. It is wonderful to see how the pieces fit together to make a transaction successful over the long term.

3. What have been your greatest successes at your unit?

I joined Prosus Ventures at the very beginning of this unit’s journey, and so have had a chance to work with every one of our portfolio companies. After a lot of hard work on investments in iFood, Delivery Hero, and Swiggy, it was gratifying to see Food Delivery become its own reporting segment for Prosus. As well, since our team’s mandate is to invest in companies that serve major societal needs, it has been wonderful to see our companies in India like Byju’s and Meesho help tens of millions of people live better. Since I grew up in India, the team’s success there is also a bit personally special for me.

4. What have been your biggest challenges?

We have a truly global team, spanning different cultures and time zones. At the same time, it is a very small team where everyone needs to be in close sync to execute at the speed and scale that we do. So the biggest challenge has been ensuring that people are on the same page, in real-time. That has meant a lot of one or two-day international trips over the past few years, and many, many late-night and early-morning calls. In addition, we invest globally and across so many sectors and geographies, which is quite different from most of our CVC peers. It requires a continuous process of prioritizing the best sectors or the best investments to pursue. On the finance side, it also means being agile and always ready to learn about new markets and sectors, as well as the relevant accounting and tax regulations.

I have to say, however, that one of my favourite things about Prosus is the diversity of perspectives and projects that we get to experience here, and so despite the challenges, I cherish this aspect of our setup.

5. What is your main professional ambition for the future?

My goal is to be a CFO with a strategic mandate, and I will definitely stay in or around the technology industry. Likely to stay in the CVC space, but never say never, there are a lot of interesting tech companies that need a strategic finance voice at the table.

6. What do you think all CVCs could do better to make it a stronger industry?

The biggest differentiator between CVC and VC is the ability to bring real-world operational experience to young companies, and help accelerate their journey. Keeping a focus on what CVC investors can do for portfolio companies, rather than only on what returns CVC can generate from portfolio companies, should lead to stronger long term outcomes for the entire ecosystem.

7. What are some of your corporate parent’s technology needs and corporate strategy amid the pandemic, as well as your CVC unit’s pain points?

Prosus Ventures has fared well through the pandemic, and it is largely because we invest in companies that address big societal needs, which typically do not go away during a pandemic – food and education, for example.

We invest worldwide with a very lean team, and typically we travel to meet management teams before a potential investment. So in terms of pain points due to the pandemic, that travel clearly is not happening now. That said, we have managed to adapt and continue to have a full pipeline. There have been many, many video calls and a lot more coordination with colleagues on the ground in local geographies, but overall our strategy has stayed the same.

8. And, finally, for colour, what did you do prior to CVC or in your spare time?

My undergraduate degree was in finance and accounting, and my MBA was in finance and management. I spent a decade in deal-making across investment banking and private equity, and then some years in operational and corporate finance roles in high growth tech companies. In my free time, I enjoy reading and travelling to meet friends and family worldwide.