Sponsorship Sunday: Savety – The Instant Smart Water Tap


As washing your hands for at least 20 seconds has become an essential duty and on an average a person washes their hands at least 10 times, can you imagine the amount of water lost?  A trillion liters!

As the global community responds to the COVID-19 led pandemic lockdown, there has been an increasing emphasis on public health strategies. WHO promoted several health initiatives like keeping a safe distance from each other, staying home, and most importantly practicing proper hand hygiene by washing your hand with soap for at least 20 seconds.

But can we imagine the amount of water wasted as we leave our taps open? We are busy lathering our hands with soap and scrubbing it with great intent; we are wasting precious freshwater.  While you may think you’re taking the right steps to prevent yourself from COVID-19, even touching a tap can be unhygienic due to cross-contamination between users in social places like hospitals, hotels, schools. Railway stations and other cultural areas where self-hygiene is in dire need.

With an urgency to change this situation, Vishwanandh Fego Maladi, founder of Feel Good Innovations, created a campaign called “Savety – The Instant Smart Water Tap.” Savety is an IoT smart water tap that saves the earth by containing a water crisis while also protecting us from the dreaded COVID-19.

With the help of Savety, we can prevent a water crisis by converting your manual taps into automatic taps in just 30 seconds.  Savety is very user friendly and easy to install, plus you don’t need a plumber or any additional equipment and can be fixed in just “30 seconds”.

The reason I like the idea behind Savety is that:

  • It reduces touch pollution
  • It has a first-class water efficiency energy saving and environmental protection
  • It has a simple design and is adaptable to various home styles
  • It has a one-time charge for 3-4 months that lasts for 6 hours
  • It is water and energy sufficient and will, in turn, reduce your total bill in dwellings

As we crusade against COVID-19, let us also remember to practice having good hygiene first. Let us learn to conserve and protect ourselves and the earth and the same, or we may end up with age-old saying

Water, water everywhere, and all the boards did shrink;

Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

You can contribute to this Savety – The Instant Smart Water Tap hosted on Fuel-a-Dream


Funding Friday – Team Vaayushastra

A group of students from  Fr. Conceicao Rodrigues College of Engineering formed Team Vaayushastra in 2012 to compete in SAE Aero Design East competitions. The students have competed well against teams from Georgia Tech, Michigan Ann-Arbor and Concordia to name a few and ranked 5th in the competition in 2017.
SAE Aero Design East competitions provide undergraduate and graduate engineering students the opportunity to work on real-life problems. Here is how the SAE website describes the competition:
First and foremost, a design competition, students will find themselves performing trade studies and making compromises to arrive at a design solution that will optimally meet the mission requirements while still conforming to the configuration limitations.
I love initiatives that encourage youngsters to innovate and take risks. I am contributing towards this project through Ketto.
Here are video highlights from the 2018 SAE Aero Design East competition:

Funding Friday – India’s Sons

Rape, whether done upon a woman or man, is a heinous crime. There is no doubt that the perpetrators of this ghastly act deserve the wrath of the legal, social, and economic systems. In the same spirit, falsely accusing another individual of a ghastly act such as rape is a crime that is as appalling, if not worse, than the act of rape itself.
Just think about the lives a false accusation destroys besides the credibility of the innocent.
The act destroys the families of the innocent, including women in the accused’s life, like his mother, wife, daughter, and sister. Even after the accused is proved innocent, his family continues to bear the ignominy of a crime that their son, brother, or father did not commit.
What makes the act of falsely accusing a man of rape sinister is that it affects the actual victims of rape when they approach the police and the judiciary. Judges and law enforcement are impartial but are (after all) humans too. When an accused is found playing truant with the law to meet with their malicious intentions, it casts doubts in genuine cases.
Therefore as a bad joke, the actual victim is subject to additional scrutiny due to the disgraceful actions of fake victims – subjecting the victimized to further victimization. This business of falsely accusing someone of settling scores or of extorting money must get highlighted, and the lawmakers get tasked with making provisions so that the false accusers get strictly punished.
I believe that any law should protect the innocent before it prosecutes the guilty; therefore I am backing eye-opening documentary by Deepika Bhardwaj, aptly named – India’s Sons. Deepika highlights the anguish of the victims of false rape accusations this ghastly act and how it is destroying the very fabric of Indian society. India’s Sons, is listed on Milaap.

I have backed Deepika in the past as she consistently highlights the anguish of the “forgotten gender” under India law with hard-hitting and compelling storytelling. Her last documentary, Martyrs of Marriage, went into gut wrenching detail on the misuse of Indian laws created to abolish dowry and prevent domestic violence by unscrupulous women. These women utilized these laws as tools of oppression against the husbands and their families. Martyrs of Marriage is available on Netflix.

Catching Dragons

An LP who had read AVF’s monthly newsletter inquired why we had rejected one of the deals based on the fact that the founders were raising 12 crores. He asked why we didn’t co-invest or take a small chunk of a larger round if the deal was good. This is a common and frequently asked question not only by our LPs but also by founders, their advisors, our advisors, our investment committee and almost every employee. Despite the overwhelming number of times we reject deals based on their valuation or the size of their raise, I continue to stick my neck out on the line for our investment strategy. It has been devised with an important mathematical, strategic and logical reason.

While later stage funds invest at a time when the business has achieved a product market fit, positive unit economics, solid revenue streams, etc. we, as an early stage fund invest when the founder is still contemplating the answers to these questions. Therefore, I stay grounded to reality in expecting that 90% of the early investments we make will fail and return nothing, and the remaining 10% should:

  • Return the total corpus of the fund
  • Deliver a return to the fund’s investors

This is difficult unless there is a clear strategy and discipline while investing.

A fund makes money for its investors by selling its ownership stake in what is called a ‘liquidity event’. This liquidity event can take place in many ways; by selling our ownership to buyout funds, to an acquirer or to the public during an IPO. But how much we make from a liquidity event is decided by two numbers

how much stake we own * how much the company is valued at = size of exit

Considering the small percentage of successes I expect, it is important for each successful investment to have the capacity to return the whole corpus of the fund or be what Kanwal Rekhi calls a “dragon” exit. To figure out at what valuation an investment becomes a dragon for the fund, you can use the same formula

20% X 1000 crore valuation = 200 crores

10% X 2000 crore valuation = 200 crores

5% X 4000 crore valuation = 200 crores

2.5% X 8000 crore valuation = 200 crores

The chances of an early stage fund getting an 8,000-crore exit are slim but if the fund team has picked and worked on such a winner, they should ensure that the exit will have a significant return i.e. multiple times the fund’s corpus and not just the corpus. Therefore, holding a 2.5% stake in such a winner will only return the corpus and I would need 4 such investments to return 4X of my fund – the odds of which are far and wide.

I have modelled our portfolio on an exit ownership between 15-20% with exit scenarios of 1,000 to 2,000 crores over 4-6 years. One such exit will return the fund’s corpus and the rest is just the icing on the cake.

Such a portfolio construct is good for the founders as well. Chasing $1 billion exits promotes behaviour like excessive marketing spends, massive hiring, multiple (and massive) fundraises, lots of founder dilution and an overall impatience to deliver results which cause long term issues. It is simply not sustainable.

Therefore, while I regularly review our investment strategy and thesis, changing the portfolio construct to have lower average ownership just doesn’t make mathematical sense to me. And while numbers can tell a story, they cannot lie.


Entrepreneurial Ego…a Necessary Evil?

Vinod shared an interesting post inspired from a talk he gave at an event in Nagpur, on Sunday:

I read the article shared in that post this morning, and it was quite powerful. Let me state that I am not in agreement with the massive extrapolation of $1 million in 1878 to a $900m in 1930s. There is a gap of more than 50 years in which many things could have happened. Also, let’s not forget the fact that Sam Andrews died in 1904 so he would not have been around to enjoy his gain!

I do agree with Vinod that an entrepreneur must exude certain confidence, spunk and calmness under pressure. But most people are not born with such qualities so a ‘fake it till you make it’ attitude is required in the early stages which could be shrouded in a fake ego. However, an individual can quickly lose awareness of the fake ego and it can be replaced with a real one when success gets into the place it shouldn’t – the head.

But the one quality that has been consistent in successful entrepreneurs in our portfolio is their ability to drown the ego and ask for advice and help from people that can push them to get better in their role as an entrepreneur, manager or networker. They not only remember the advice given but also provide feedback on whether that advice is working for them or not and ask for pivots.

The creation, nurturing and growth of ego takes the entrepreneur away from the exact qualities that made him/her great in the first place. Therefore, I agree with Vinod that a fake ego is required but the entrepreneur should have a person who can act as their totem and remind them if they have gotten lost in the very thing they created.


Predicting 2019

Brad Feld, Fred Wilson and BillGates’ new year blogs inspired me to write this post today.

To the cosmos this is just another day but to humans this is that time of the year where they expend a tremendous amount of energy in planning, changing and predicting how the next 365 days are going to be. I did not see the value of this futile exercise until last year when I put my goals down on paper and then announced them on my blog and all my social media handles. I know for a fact that I have missed out on achieving several goals that I had set out for, but the ones I did achieve had a different sense of achievement.

While I introspect on the reasons behind the misses, one of the serious flaws in my goal setting was the lack of thought in predicting the status of the economy and events in 2018 and how they would affect my goals. For example, if I would have predicted that there would be a slowdown in venture funding due to the collapse of the angel investment ecosystem, I would have known that achieving 10 new investments for AVF would amount to nothing but a pipedream. Not foreseeing that set me off by 80% on that goal. Therefore, this year it made better sense to put down my predictions first and then plan my goals with those predictions in mind. So here goes:

I believe that 2019 will be a fantastic year for India, (that is) if India continues to enjoy a single party majority after the May 2019 assembly polls. I would prefer a strong leader like Narendra Modi to continue to lead the country instead of a council of ministers with their own agendas clouding the judgement of the prime minister.

The chances of Modi’s return are high as there are strong signals that the economy has gained momentum and is continuing to grow much better than what was expected post-GST implementation. Banks have seen better recovery from NPAs than what was predicted and with stronger balance sheets they will be out lending once again. There is also a good chance that the RBI will reduce interest rates due to lower than expected inflation on the collapse of crude prices. These events could flood the market with liquidity which is an ideal scenario for the incumbent party before an election because it improves the views about the incumbent in a short-lived public memory. With all this in mind, I believe that Indian GDP should grow at 8% in 2019.

The uncertainty over global trade wars have reduced significantly, and a buoyant Indian economy would lead to a record year for the stock market indices. I believe that this would percolate to the start-up ecosystem through an increase in M&A activity and many Indian corporates would setup CVCs to keep up with innovation and justify their high valuations. I believe that the government will bring in clarity to the use of Aadhar verification which will help to revive Fintech activity and implement guidelines for bringing cryptos back to India. The guidelines may not be along the lines that crypto purists would appreciate, but it will be a significant step ahead in comparison to the current situation. This is also going be a pivotal year for the start-ups raising money as we will see a rise in the number of active funds looking for deals and that will quickly fill the vacuum created by the angel networks. The better-informed entrepreneurs will avoid the “large” & distributed format angel investment networks and instead choose to have closer relationships with their funding partners. Entrepreneurs will seek funding partners like professional investors like VC funds, super-angels and family offices and we should see in rounds that have a smaller number of “professional” investors but with a larger investment per investor, and this trend will continue. The loss of good investment opportunities to professional investors will drive out the marginal angel investors that make up the bulk of India’s angel networks. These marginal angels will also experience their first round of write-offs which many of them aren’t prepared for, so they’re going to leave in droves.

The serious angel investors will demand much better deal flow and portfolio services to continue to invest their capital, something that will be difficult for marginal angel networks to achieve since they have not built these capacities. I believe that the angel networks will start to shut down – marginal ones at first and the larger ones becoming marginal, eventually ceasing to exist in following years.

When it comes to the overall Artha portfolio I believe that LenDenClub, Coutloot, ChaiBreak, Fynd, Karza Technologies, BabyChakra and X-Prime to have a headline sort of a year which will firmly put them in “pole” positions in their respective spaces. If they do not convert this year of opportunity into something substantial, then I believe a golden opportunity would be lost, forever.

In terms of where I would like AVF to invest, I am excited about the prospects of e-Sports and its growing popularity across the globe and in India. I think it would be interesting to evaluate an esports company for investment as I believe that this format can generate massive scale in a country where the average age group will be below 30 for the next 10 years. 

Statistic: India: Average age of the population from 1950 to 2050 (median age in years) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

I would also like to see founders developing sustainable business models from the opportunities that the Ayushman Bharat health insurance scheme provides for rural healthcare. Healthcare has been a very small portion of Artha’s portfolio and this year could be a good time to increase our exposure in the space.

So, here are my predictions for 2019.

I wish you and your loved ones a very happy 2019!


3 Things to Learn About Investing from a Founder that Sold his Company for $465 Million in 2013

On Friday, AIMWI  invited me to be a panellist for their 6th annual Family Office Summit India 2018. One of the perks of being a panellist is the opportunity to listen to the speakers scheduled before my session. I can point out many instances where the nuggets of wisdom imparted by speakers have led to impactful changes in my entrepreneurial, investing and even personal strategy and/or views. Today was one of those occasions.
I had the privilege of listening to Hexaware Technologies’ founder, Mr Atul Nishar, who shared the wisdom of putting to work, the wealth he gained after selling his stake to Barings PE in 2013. There were 3 key points that will remain etched in my memory:

  1. Putting money into fixed deposits is the riskiest investment one can make
  2. A part of one’s investment portfolio should be earmarked for investing in start-ups
  3. People that believe that 99% of start-ups fail are misinformed


Forgiveness Breaks the Fever from Verbal Venom

Last night I was out for dinner with some friends and we ran into a common friend. This person (let’s call him Person X) has been a family friend for over 30 years and in fact, his father is a very close friend of my father and my uncles. After the usual chit-chat, my friends and I got into a car and proceeded towards home. Kindly enough, one of my friends had taken on the onus of dropping everyone home, and since she lives close to my parents home, I was going to be dropped off last. My friend (that was dropping me off) received a message from Person X to call him immediately. Assuming that he was calling her about something important, she called him while I was still in the car and let the call connect through her car’s Bluetooth (she was driving).
Over the next 5 minutes, Person X proceeded to spew out all the venom about my family and me, that he had been keeping in his system for a very long time. It is pointless for me to delve into the details of the vilification spewed by Person X because it only points toward the obviously troubled state of his mental health. However, it was clear by the end of the call that this family friendship was over, at least for me.
As you can imagine, the disbelief of hearing what was said by a near & dear one, turned into seething anger by the time I reached my parent’s house and his venom had spread throughout my system by the time I reached my bed. I could not believe the things that this person had said, and I was trying to decipher the inspiration for spewing out the ridiculous B.S., accusations, and lies… and every time those words played back in my head they would only get louder.
I felt the urgent need to defend my family’s honour as well as my own reputation and initially, I thought that required me going to Person X’s house and forcing him to drink back his own venom with the added course of venom that I had prepared for him. However, better sense prevailed and somehow I got a few hours of fitful sleep. The break helped my mind relax but once the mind got whirring again the words from the previous night started to cloud my thoughts once again.
It was at this point that I remembered watching a video about a Holocaust survivor, Eva Kor who lost her parents and siblings within 30 minutes of arriving at Auschwitz. Fortunately for her, having a twin sister saved both their lives because they were needed for the experiments conducted by the dreaded “Angel of Death”, Dr Josef Mengele. Eva and her sister were physically liberated in 1945. The side effects of the experiments led to cancer and a painful death for her sister. Even though she had suffered so much pain and loss, at such a young age and for no fault of her own, she eventually forgives Dr Mengele and becomes an advocate for forgiving the past and moving on with life.

I made the correct decision to watch this video once again and it finally broke the fever from the verbal venom that was coursing through my veins. I realized that if Eva could forgive someone that had directly and physically altered the course of her life then forgiving someone for spreading meaningless gossip about my family and me was not an issue. In fact, I was smiling at the end of the video because my anger was all gone and it had become so easy to forgive Person X for his immaturity. My forgiveness has nothing to do with me forgetting what Person X did and he will forever be banished from both my personal & professional circles, but this exercise definitely helped me take back control and choose to move through this episode instead of getting further sucked into it. Let the past go and focus on the present.
It is going to be a great day now… that is for sure! 🙂

Making a Case for Automation to Shyamu Chacha

I stepped into the kitchen last night to find Shyamu Chacha, our house help for over 2 decades, loading ingredients into the old kneading bowl to make bottle gourd parathas (lauki parathas). Just before he was going to add the water and go to town kneading the mixture, I inquired as to why he wasn’t using the food processor over his bare hands? The ensuing interaction opened my eyes into why most automation products fail.
The first objection that Shyamu chacha had was that he would have to clean the food processor’s bowl after kneading was done. I responded to his question with a question asking if the manual kneading bowl would clean itself after he was done with it? The look on his face told me that I had won round 1 of this interaction and out came the food processor from the cupboard where it was safely being preserved like my mother’s favourite china. I had won the battle, but the war was far from won.
Shyamu chacha started to load all the ingredients into the food processor bowl, complaining under his breath that he could knead the gourd faster than the bowl. I retorted by explaining that the point wasn’t to make the dough faster, but to do other things while the dough was being prepared by the machine. The second objection, cleared.
With the ingredients in the bowl and the processor plugged in, it took a flick of the switch to bring the processor whirring into life. All the house help and I were standing next to the machine looking at the dough being kneaded automatically. Although it was a fantastic sight for the technology nerd in me, for the head of the house help it was an absolute disaster. All the work in the house was now being held up to make dough! Coming to my senses, I dismissed all the staff standing in the kitchen watching, to go back to their work and instructed Shyamu chacha to move on to the next set of steps instead of watching the machine do its work.
This time before Shyamu chacha could have a disgruntled conversation with himself under his breath, I explained how the machine though slower than him (it isn’t) was still effective, as not only did it free up his time for other things, but it’s unlikely to make mistakes like a human might. Therefore, he can get more things done in a lesser amount of time with better consistency than before. It all made sense to him but there was still hesitation. I delved deeper and inquired further into this hesitation. Then came the truth. His real concern was that that the machine would replace his effort and he wouldn’t be considered as valuable anymore. I did not have an answer ready for him and therefore I drank a glass of water and went off to play with my lab, Max. All the while, I was deep in thought about his concern and how best to give him an answer that would relieve him of the thought that the machine was here to replace him.
After composing my thoughts, I approached Shyamu chacha once again. By now, the first parathas had been prepared and the aroma of freshly prepared parathas enveloped the kitchen. I picked up one of the parathas as exhibit 1 to put forth my argument. The point of the paratha making process whether manual, automated or as in this case, semi-automated, was that the parathas were prepared by him – not how they were prepared. Just because the process reduced the amount of manual effort required from him, it did not change the result and the fact that he still needed to be there for the parathas to be made. Therefore, instead of competing with the technology he should look at it as an enabler for him to increase his own productivity.
With the finely knead dough, the parathas were coming out well, and Shyamu chacha looked content with the result, therefore, offering very little resistance to my final argument. However, just like a tiny drop of water, falling on the same spot of a stone, makes a minor yet invisible dent in just one day but a significant indent over a year or decade, I too will have to keep making the argument how important it is to direct our focus on results & productivity instead of efforts and sweat. This isn’t a one-time lesson but a patient and focused effort into a behavioural shift which takes time, money and effort. Despite their best effort, due to a scarce supply of time and money, innovative technologies created by early stage product companies are not easily adopted.
If only, they all had their own Shyamu chachas to understand, why.

How Did You Die

Siri tells me that it took 1,347 days from my first blog post, Dropping Out Of The Rat Race… to my 100th blog post. Thereby, on an average taking 13.5 days to write each blog post. If I remove the 31 blog posts written in 66 days of this year, the average will shoot up to 18.5 days per post, therefore making it evident that things are already looking up for my blog.
In the journey to 100 blog posts, I have had many interesting & challenging moments. There was a post defending an investee company against a much larger competitor that made it to the Economic Times (without my knowledge). The reaction to this was a screwball approach from their legal advisor who tried to pose as though they were trying to make us their client. That whole experience that was blown out of proportion led to a writer’s block, that made me stop writing for almost 2 months. There have also been times where I wasn’t confident if what I was writing was meaningful enough for people to read. While reading the Bhagavad Gita over the course of the last 2 years, however, I have come to the realization that it isn’t worth stressing over whether people like what I write or not. All I am responsible for is writing and expressing my thoughts and the way it is perceived isn’t under my control. That lesson (albeit difficult) is something I am starting to imbibe as a motto for all the things that I do in life and hopefully inspire the people around me to pick it up too.
Which is why I think this poem from Edmund Vance Cooke is the best way to express what I have learnt from the journey to the 100th blog post, a target that I did not believe I could achieve when I started (my goal was 50).
Now my goal is to just write every weekday (my goal is 260 blogs for the year) with no particular number of blogs in mind. The only goal is to write and to keep on writing, come what may cause in the end it is the journey that counts.

How Did you Die

by Edmund Vance Cooke

Did you tackle that trouble that came your way

With a resolute heart and cheerful?

Or hide your face from the light of day

With a craven soul and fearful?

Oh, a trouble’s a ton, or a trouble’s an ounce,

Or a trouble is what you make it,

And it isn’t the fact that you’re hurt that counts,

But only how did you take it? You are beaten to earth?

Well, well, what’s that!

Come up with a smiling face.

It’s nothing against you to fall down flat,

But to lie there–that’s a disgrace.

The harder you’re thrown, why the higher you bounce

Be proud of your blackened eye!

It isn’t the fact that you’re licked that counts;

It’s how did you fight–and why?

And though you be done to the death, what then?

If you battled the best you could,

If you played your part in the world of men,

Why, the Critic will call it good.

Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,

And whether he’s slow or spry,

It isn’t the fact that you’re dead that counts,

But only how did you die?