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Category Archive : Thoughts

Desperation is the Name of the Game

If all things are equal between two candidates that want me to be their mentor, what would be the difference, that would make all the difference? No, it’s not how equity you will give me or how much respect you have for me… The correct answer is – desperation.

I am not referring to the desperation to get time, money or references, but the desperation that burns through the eyes and words of the prospective mentee to succeed. The desperation that cannot be dissuaded by failure, drowned out by rejection or simply because they didn’t get an immediate response from someone they attempted reaching out to for help. I am referring to that desperation that will make a person turn the world upside down to get what they want – yes that desperation.

In a world of unlimited opportunity, this is the kind of desperation I look for, to decide who I should devote my limited time (a precious resource) to. A person must innately want to achieve the skill he is seeking my mentorship for, and not only be attempting to achieve it because he ‘has to’. This distinction leads to a visible difference in the amount of passion and desperation a person exudes.

The lack of this type of desperation and conviction in the importance of achieving that skill doesn’t bode well for my ROTI (Return on Time Invested).

So, if you think I’m being arrogant, standoffish or aloof to your call for help, I am only checking to see if you are as desperate as you are making it out to be.

29/2018

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Magnum Ice-cream Ingredients!

As I pulled open the wrapper for an essential part of my movie-going experience ie the Almond Magnum ice-cream, the whiff of chemicals that went up my nose almost made me vomit. Surprised that my innocuous ice-cream smelt like a chemical lab I investigated the ingredients that made this marvel – they induced a second vomiting episode.  

Ever since I read The Wild Diet by Abel James I have started an inquisition into the foods I regularly consumed. What I have found out is nothing less than startling. The more I read into I regularly eat, the less I have been eating of them. The “empty calories” consumption has been replaced with nutrient-dense foods and has led to remarkable improvement in my energy, metabolism, attention span and (most importantly) my waistline. However, I did not expect the Magnum bar to disappoint me as it just has 

Here is the list of ingredients in an Almond Magnum Bar from their website: 

Screen Shot 2018-03-04 at 5.29.37 PM.png

On first look, many of these ingredients look harmless. However, when I started researching each item I realised how creative writing has made the dangerous look harmless.  

Take for example the “permitted natural colour (beta-carotene)”. WebMD explains that Beta-carotene is one of a group of red, orange, and yellow pigments called carotenoids. Beta-carotene and other carotenoids provide approximately 50% of the vitamin A needed in the American diet. Beta-carotene can be found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It can also be made in a laboratory 

The explanation taken at face value made it appears that beta-carotene was good for health. However, there is a catch. The beta-carotene in this ice-cream bar was used to make the almonds appear redder than they are therefore this beta-carotene was lab produced and did not occur “naturally”. So, what are the side-effects of this lab produced supplement?  

There is growing concern that taking high doses of antioxidant supplements such as beta-carotene might do more harm than good. Some research shows that taking high doses of beta-carotene supplements might increase the chance of death from all causes, increase the risk of certain cancers, and possibly other serious side effects. In addition, there is also concern that taking large amounts of a multivitamin plus a separate beta-carotene supplement increases the chance of developing advanced prostate cancer in men. 

And if you are a smoker you should be reading this:  

In people who smoke, beta-carotene supplements might increase the risk of colon, lung, and prostate cancer. Don’t take beta-carotene supplements if you smoke. 

All this just from the colouring used to make the almonds look better! 

To go through all the other ingredients in detail would take up 3-4 pages so I made this table explaining the ingredients in that single stick of ice-cream. 

Ingredient  What is it made of?  Side effects  Source 
Vanillin  A petrochemical i.e. phenolic aldehyde, which is an organic compound with the molecular formula C8H8O3  Allergic reactions, digestive disorders and migraine headaches  
  1. Melt Organic 
  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine  
E322 – Lecithin  Lecithin is a fat that is essential in the cells of the body. It can be found in many foods, including soybeans and egg yolks  Lecithin is LIKELY SAFE for most people. It can cause some side effects including diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal pain, or fullness. 
  1. WebMD 
  1. CureZone 
E471 – Monoglycerides & Diglycerides   Monoglycerides and diglycerides are food additives commonly used to combine ingredients containing fats with those containing water, two types of ingredients that don’t ordinarily combine well.  They are similar to triglycerides, the predominant fat in food according to the Harvard School of Public Health, except they are classified as emulsifiers rather than lipids 
  1. CureZone 
  1. LiveStrong 
E410 – Locust Bean Gum (Carob Gum)  Locust bean gum is a galactomannan vegetable gum extracted from the seeds of the carob tree, mostly found in the Mediterranean region. 

 

It is a thickening agent and a gelling agent used in food technology 

Carob is LIKELY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth in food amounts or as a medicine. There don’t seem to be any unwanted side effects. 

 

Pregnancy and breastfeeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking carob if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use in greater than food amounts. 

  1. WebMD 
E407 – Carrageenan   Carrageenan is a common food additive that is extracted from a red seaweed, Chondrus crispus, which is popularly known as Irish moss. 
  1. Research has shown that exposure to carrageenan causes inflammation and that when we consume processed foods containing it, we ingest enough to cause inflammation in our bodies 
  1. Drug investigators used carrageenan to cause inflammation in tissues to test the anti-inflammatory properties of new drugs 
  1. CureZone 
  1. Dr Weil 

 

E412 – Guar Gum  Guar gum comes from the seeds of the guar or cluster bean plant. About 20 percent to 40 percent of the guar seed consists of galactomannan gum, which forms a thick gel when mixed with water  Guar gum is LIKELY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth with at least 8 ounces of liquid. The water is important because it reduces the chance of choking or developing a blockage in the intestine. 

 

Side effects include increased gas production, diarrhoea, and loose stools. These side effects usually decrease or disappear after several days of use. High doses of guar gum or not drinking enough fluid with the dose of guar gum can cause blockage of the oesophagus and the intestines. 

  1. CureZone 
  1. LiveStrong 
  1. WebMD 

 In a nutshell, my ice-cream included petrochemicals, thickening agents, seaweed extracts and so many things that I shouldn’t be in an ice-cream. I couldn’t bring it upon myself to put that chemical experiment in my mouth, so I threw it away. I suggest you do too.  

28/2018 

The One Thing I Couldn’t Relate to in Padman!

I finally saw Padman on Thursday night and I’ve got to confess, I absolutely loved it! I identify with the struggles and humiliation that Laxmikant Chauhan, the protagonist, goes through as he attempts to improve female hygiene practices ie convince the females in his home and village to use sanitary pads instead of a rag during periods. Even though his wife, mother, sisters and entire community abandon him, forcing him to leave his village, the fire within him continues to burn, driving him to achieve the improbable. Down and out on luck, Laxmikant encounters a lady who resurrects him and joins his fight. Her help transforms Laxmikant from a failed entrepreneur about to be beaten to pulp by his creditors, to one that receives international acclaim and success.  To thank her for all the help and support, he named his product after her. Then, when things were looking up for him his entire community, family, and even his wife wanted him back and he left the hand that took him to the peak to go back to the people who were fairweather friends. This is betrayal or to put it more crassly, spit in the face of those that stand by you and support you when you’re down.

This made me think about how in my own journey, I have encountered several such fairweather friends and colleagues. These people who I thought were my near & dear friends, didn’t take a moment to think before throwing me down the well when I was struggling, but when I seemed to be doing well, these same people touted that “they always knew I’d make it large.” I keep these fairweather friends at a very safe distance because their next attempt to bury me is awaiting the next trough in the long journey of success.

I keep close and regard those friends, family members and even colleagues who stood with me when I was struggling the most. People like Laxmikant Biyani who let me use his office rent-free when I didn’t have the capital to pay rent (and he has refused to take rent even now), my Chacha, Ramesh Damani who provided endless moral support over and above his investments in/with me and finally my team that started Artha when it was just a dream and stuck around when that dream struggled to breakthrough. Whenever I write my memoirs (and I will), they will feature prominently in it.

So, that was my peeve with Padman, why leave those that support you at your worst and go back to those that will be with you only when you are doing well? What lesson does the movie impart to the other Laxmikant Chauhan’s have been vilified by their own support system for doing things that are out of the box but continue the fight? What is the lesson to those people that have the heart & courage to support someone else in their fight?

I loved the movie until this plot twist occurred… the writers should have had the courage to script a new ending instead of opting for a Suraj Barjatiya type of impossible, unrealistic happy ending.

I wouldn’t go back, in the movie and in real life.

27/2018

Venture Idea: Putting the Custom in Customer Service

One of my favorite entrepreneurial movies is Rocket Singh Salesman of the Year. The movie has a dialogue that goes, “customer ke toh naam mein hi mer likha hai” (the word customer has mer (pronounced “marr” is the Hindi word for ‘to die’) embedded in it). This single dialogue aptly defines the treatment meted out to the billion Indian consumer customers every single day.

All one has to do is go through the Facebook page of any Indian brand and it will not be hard to find the abundant record of horrific complaints and the apathy awarded by these brands to their customers. Although I have been on a crusade against JetAirways for the ad hoc changes to its Frequent Flyer experience, I have seen very little progress in brands making an effort to improve how they treat their customers. Despite the government’s attempt to provide adequate protection to the consumer by allocating a separate consumer court to resolve consumer grievances and penalize erring brands… the problems are only continuing to mount.

I believe that the next ten years will be the golden age of Indian consumerism. With this thesis in mind, I strongly believe that there is going to be the need for a service that goes beyond allowing a customer to air their grievances but actively taking control to resolve these complaints. For a small fee, this service provider can engage with brands to resolve customer’s problems. If that route doesn’t work they should also be able to prepare the legal documentation required to take the brand to consumer court. They can even go a step further to provide the contact details for competent lawyers who can file & fight these cases. As India marches to 1,000,000,000 online via mobile – the market potential will be massive!

I have been on the wrong side of several bad consumer experiences in India and there used to be a company called myakosha.com that was solving my problem. They played the role of a service provider who resolved these issues directly with Idea, Jet, AMEX and other companies that I was facing issues with. I simply loved their service and the way they made these brands come running to me to solve their errors was an experience worth living through. However, for reasons best known to the MyAkosha team they pivoted to another business model leaving a gaping hole in the ecosystem. Now, I am personally motivated to be that agent of change for the way Indian brands treat their customers. I have a design team ready to develop the front end, know a law firm who can provide the infrastructure & know-how for this service and am willing to fund this project out of AVF.

I am seeking individuals who have a strong background in social media marketing, customer complaint management, and a strong tech background. I am also looking for a person with a strong background in data analytics to build out this venture.

Do you know someone or a team that fits this bill?

Email prospects@artha.vc with a cc to karishma@artha.vc.

25/2018

Fluff Metrics

An interesting phenomenon has been noticed in startup presentations over the past few weeks. Founders have come up with innovative ways of showing large numbers that have nothing to do with what counts as revenues to the startup.

Let me share a few examples with the explanations as provided.

  1. Gross Transactional Value: this the value of the transaction that is taking place because of the service provided by delivering the service. Therefore, a simple example would be that if a truck delivers 5 MT of steel the GTV is the value of the 5 MT of steel which has no correlation to the revenues of the trucking company since that is dependent on the route or no of kms
  2. AUM (Assets Under Management): the value of the videos that have been uploaded to sell to customers. This has no correlation to the revenues as they are made on a pay per click model. How the videos are being valued and by whom – I have honestly no idea
  3. MRP Sold: the sticker prices of the items that were sold. These were very different from actual revenues as there were coupons and discounts that were given. So, if I stick the price tag of a Mercedes on a Maruti the MRP sold would be ginormous but the actual number would be a fraction. These MRP’s are set by me so MRP sold is also in my hands. Do you feel fooled just yet?

Do founders really want to attract investors that are awed by such numbers? Of what use will those investors be who themselves don’t understand that these numbers are useless?

My sincere request to founders is to have the courage to tell me the real numbers. They may not be as awesome as the fluff metrics, but I’ll respect you for your honesty and I’ll work with you until your actual metrics look like the fluff metrics that your peers are showing me.

Just remember this immortal quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln:

359048-Abraham-Lincoln-Quote-You-can-fool-some-of-the-people-all-of-the

24/2018

Farming as a Service

At a personally & professionally challenging time in the 2nd quarter of 2016, I went out and stayed at Damodar Farms in Vapi for a short while. The serene setting of a farm, farm-fresh vegetables, raw milk and Mahatma Gandhi’s The Story of My Experiments with Truth allowed me to cleanse my soul and reset internally.

In addition, the farm stay made me realize that what I eat, and drink plays an important role in determining how I feel. That awesome feeling got me hooked on an idea. Those who experience the joy of eating high-quality nutritious food will not want to go back consuming the “dumb” calories provided by chemically sprayed, industrially produced or genetically modified food.

Months after returning from the farm, I continued to eat only farm fresh produce. I was so motivated to get the freshest produce that I embarked on a quest to buy farmland, rear cows for milk, grow vegetables and supply the produce to my family, possibly making this my side business. I scoured the internet and my WhatsApp groups to seek advice on where I should buy land and what the infrastructure and setup costs to run a dairy & fresh produce farm would be. The deeper I got into this play, the more I realized that this couldn’t be managed remotely, at least not by me.

What I required was a group of individuals who had farming experience, strong motivation, excellent organizational skills, marketing, and branding experience to educate the audience about the benefits of buying fresh produce. My part would involve investing the capital to buy land and equipment, aid marketing & sales strategies and put together a solid team who would run and scale the business.

However, there was a major glitch in my utopian plan. The growth of the team was directly proportional to the amount of money that I could invest every year and therefore made it necessary to weigh in the team’s aspirations. Since putting a lid on expectations wouldn’t work, I started looking for startups who do farming as a service. The business offering is simple – the venture will identify the land, provide an in-depth ROI analysis and facilitate the investment. The abundance of liquidity in the market coupled with the idea of purchasing profitable real estate would bring onboard many HNI’s with both money to spend and willingness to pay a service fee based on returns.

Nikunj Thakkar from our team is in charge of finding me a startup who does farming as a service startup to invest in. If you know someone that is pursuing this (or you are the one) email us on prospects@artha.vc attn: Nikunj Thakkar.

20/2018