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.

Setting Outcomes for 2020

On our last working day of the decade, i.e., the 27th of December 2019, I asked the Artha team to congregate in our conference room. At 5 pm, 24 Artha team members stuffed themselves into a space built for 8, and another 6 joined in from Ahmedabad on Zoom.
First, I enquired how many attendees had written down their resolution for 2020 – it was less than 10%. From that sliver, I picked on the newest hire, to share her resolution for 2020. Along expected lines, the newbie said, “I want to be fit.”
Thanking her for sharing their personal goal, and I also made a solemn promise that unless she changed how she worded her resolution, she was going to fail. She was shocked, but my reasoning was straightforward.
Her resolution was so generic that even a 100g drop in her body weight would mean that she had achieved her goal. Instead of pointing the finger at their colleague, I asked the team to utilize her example and replace their resolution setting or list of “to-dos” with plans to deliver outcomes that they wanted to achieve.
To help them understand the outcome setting concept, I showed a Tony Robbins video on the Rapid Planning Method (RPM).

As Tony says in the video, it takes a bit of effort to retrain oneself so that we make plans for outcomes, not activities. The good news is that the brain adapts quickly to the new system and starts to deliver fantastic results! I utilize the RPM method for planning and for my weekly reviews with team members that directly report to me. It takes some effort at the start, but I am amazed at the tremendous ability of the mind to find new ways and energy to deliver an outcome. It should not be a surprise that I am a big proponent of this planning method.
I even had a clear outcome for conducting this training. I wanted my team to internalize the message and put the outcome planning into action. Therefore I tasked each team member to share 3 outcomes that they wanted to achieve in 2020. The had to find 3 outcomes for the personal, professional, and social/charitable spheres of their lives in the next 4 days and share it on the company-wide group on Microsoft Teams.

Why share the outcomes publicly?
If writing the outcomes is half the battle, publicly committing to those outcomes is the other half – the winning half!

Because my team (obviously) includes me I, too, wrote down my 2020 outcomes. But in addition to sharing it with my teammates, I am sharing them publicly, today. I had done a similar but unfocussed exercise in 2018. Overall, it delivered fantastic results because of the pressure it put on me. Why then, I thought to myself, should I change something that is working!
So without further ado, here is my list of outcomes.
Professional

  1. Increase Artha’s assets under management to over Rs. 300 crores+ ($40 million+)
  2. Invest in 25+ new start-ups
    1. When I achieve this goal, I will complete a century of start-up investments!
  3. Pay-out bonuses of 60 lakhs+ ($85k) to deserving team members

Personal

  1. Go to Tony Robbin’s Unleash the Power Within with a family member and an Artha team member
    1. Besides, go for Tony’s Date with Destiny and Business Mastery workshops
  2. Author a book
  3. Complete 50 scuba dives

Social/Charitable

  1. Support a crowdfunding project every week (#FundingFriday)
  2. Set aside 2 hours a week to mentor a child (@mentormeindia)
  3. Build or Upgrade ONE school along with the Artha team

That’s the list for you to track and me to deliver, let’s roll…
I wish you a happy new year full of achieving outcomes!
1/2020

How to deliver bad news to investors

Hey founders, today I’m going to address a crucial topic: When to update your investors with bad news. If you’re an entrepreneur and running a business, you will have to give bad news at some point.

There are many ways to give bad news. One of them is not to give any news at all, let everything go down, and then explain why you have only ruins and not a building on fire. This method isn’t recommended, but some people choose it – I don’t.

There are minor issues or bad news that can be managed in your monthly and quarterly updates. Like missing your quarterly numbers by 3-4%, or if you’re having a tough time recruiting people, or if a particular distributor who was contributing a large part of the business dropped you for reasons unknown or customer complaints. These are the kinds of things you can manage in your monthly and quarterly updates.

However, certain kinds of news shouldn’t be neglected. These should be communicated to the investors immediately. If a co-founder has left, or one of the co-founders has been diagnosed with severe disease and will not be available for the next 6-8 months, or your fundraising efforts are falling through, or a significant client that contributes a substantial chunk of the profit has left. These are the kinds of situations that need to be communicated to the investors immediately, preferably not on e-mail.

What I recommend is organizing a conference call or an in-person meeting. Explain what is going on to the investors face to face, in a way that is direct with no sugar coating. Be humble about the fact that things have gone wrong. Don’t try to play up things to avoid the investors being angry at you. If the situation is terrible, investors have a right to be irritated and will point out things that could have gone better. You should take criticism in your stride as you’re expected to execute successfully. Take responsibility, be direct, and you’ll find that investors will probably come back with solutions for you to manage the mess.

In adverse situations, you should have a turnaround plan. I would recommend having one if you’re going to have a face to face meeting. If you don’t have one, let the investors know and get back to them in a few days or a few weeks. There may be some questions the investors have, for which you may not have the answers. I would recommend not making up turnaround plans on the spot. If you don’t have the answers, tell them. Mention that you’re going to get back to them in 5, 7 or 10 days (or whatever number of days you believe you need) but ensure that you keep those promises.

Delivering bad news should not be difficult. It’s only tricky when you don’t want to give bad news, and you feel hiding is the best way forward. But it doesn’t solve anything. In fact, it only leads to the problem of getting bigger. If hypothetically, the company shuts down, and investors find out that you knew in advance, you could find yourself in a hot legal soup.

I’ll leave you with that, and I would love to know how some of you guys have shared bad news in the past. Also, if you have tips for other entrepreneurs, do share them in the comments.

Video Of The Week: Vishal Krishna Interviews Confirmtkt Founders

A few days ago, I saw a Facebook live interview of Confirmtkt’s founders, Dinesh & Sripad. Early on, I had led a round of investment into Confirmtkt and also sat on their board for a few years along with Pravin Agarwalla.

Back then, we both went through a very tough phase with the founders (and the venture), which the founders recount as something that gave them “sleepless nights” in this interview. While I quit the board last year, my eyes were full while watching the two of them. I’d credit the interviewer, Vishal Krishna for bringing out this story so well.

Vishal’s interviewing style is awesome. He is extremely well read and well-prepared with questions for the people whose venture he is interviewing. This thorough preparation helps him delve into the deeper delicate, intricate details with the interviewee that would otherwise have been missed out. I can vouch for this because he has interviewed me before and dug out some details that even I had long forgotten.

The video focuses on Dinesh and Sripad’s journey of becoming responsible and established leaders who grew Confirmtkt into a category leader and a sustainable enterprise. This is what makes it my video of the week as well as the inspiration for my blog post tomorrow.

24/2019

Video Of The Week: Fyre- The Greatest Party that Never Happened

This week’s video was recommended by Karishma so a big thank you to her!

Fyre is the ultimate tool for entrepreneurs to learn that scaling before having a miniaturized working model is akin to gambling with the business. It should open the eyes of investors, entrepreneurs, managers and employees that scaling is the easiest part of building a venture. The billion-dollar question that needs to be answered is – can your business deliver consistently and profitability at scale?

Fyre also answers the question of how doing too many things can eventually lead to doing nothing or (in this case) land you and your business in legal hot water. I believe that Fyre’s founder, William “Billy” McFarland may not have intended to defraud his customers (unlike his investors, who he definitely did). It seemed as though he wanted to do everything that his marketing campaigns had promised but just could not control the monster that he built. Eventually, he went against the advice of his key team members and kept up a charade that transformed him from a boy genius to Mr. Evil.

This brilliant, moving and shocking documentary is available on Netflix.

21/2019

Video Of The Week: Who has earned the right to advise an Entrepreneur?

I am enamoured by video content, so I have decided to restart the “Video of the Week” section which highlights the video that made the most impact on me in that week.

This video was uploaded by Y Combinator on the 9th of January, but it popped up yesterday in my twitter feed.

There is a lot to learn from this video for budding entrepreneurs that are at various points in their entrepreneurial journey. Khosla’s observation that a venture’s journey is not linear but zig & zag and his analogy comparing it to climbing Mount Everest was very impactful.

Another important point was at the end when Khosla says, the investor is like an “employee that you cannot fire” therefore founders should choose their investors wisely.

The point that was most hard-hitting, however, was when he talked about whether the entrepreneur is building a “zero-million” or a “zero-billion” dollar company and the clearly visible difference in each one’s approach towards building their venture.

14/2019

Gir's Sons have India Roaring, on the Cricket Pitch… and Off it Too!

Investment advisors have been selling the potential of 100 crore Indian consumers to investors across the globe for the past 20 years with excellent success – for the advisor. But, investing in that potential has always led to investor gloom and doom. The potential was always there but somehow India always found a way to overpromise and underdeliver, just like the Indian cricket teams that left with tremendous promise for Australian tours, but those expectations almost always came crashing down like a house of cards.

However, today’s India is writing a new script, in cricket and as an economic powerhouse. The potential of 100 crore wallets that was entangled in the web of black money, oppressive taxation, poor infrastructure and expensive logistics in finally unlocked. Demonetisation, Digital Payments, GST and Tax Compliance reignited the hope that this was finally India’s moment but building out rural consumption points was expensive, and it took years if not decades. Unlike the previous failures, this time the economy and the cricket team had those two pieces that have alluded an Indian victory. Interestingly both of those pieces, whether it is the economy or the cricket team, find their roots in Gujarat.

The ability to battle ahead on the trickiest of pitches, facing the most abrasive oppositions and weathering the relentless media attack requires grit & determination. That role has been perfectly essayed by Cheteshwar Pujara who not only blunted the opposition but took the fight to the opposition while the others built around him. Prime Minister Narendra Modi did the same for the economy. The PM’s economic policies improved throughput of government subsidies to the neediest through the smart utilisation of Aadhar. He filled the government’s empty coffers by increasing tax revenues through higher compliance and bringing in the fear of evasion. He also took the fight to the opposition by calling out their “Accidental PrimeMinister” and allowing his team to build better infrastructure, bail out the near bankrupt banking sector and amicably improving or destroying the relationships with our neighbours.

All this gunpower required a spark to explode from someone who would have the planning, intelligence and the pace to bamboozle the opposition. Jasprit Bumrah did that to the Australian batsman, while Mukesh Ambani’s Jio did that to the telecom sector, forcing into submission. Jio’s introductory offers were like Bumrah’s deadly bouncers, Jio’s fast and extensive network like Bumrah’s yorkers and their strategy to hook a user to their content ecosystem was like Bumrah’s slow yorker to Shaun Marsh, it bamboozled them.

The results that India and the world has been waiting for are finally here. The cricket team is 2 wickets away from winning their first Boxing Day match in history. It is a moment that 560 million Indians can watch tomorrow on their Internet-connected devices, a first too. This maturing of India’s potential has driven a record amount of FDI into the country, almost $40 billion flowing in 2018, a whopping $7 billion more than China, a first again, in 2 decades.

The results have taken time and we have endured pain, but the victory is near and will be comprehensive.

103/2018

Video of the Week: AIWMI Family Summit 2018

Yesterday, Aditya Ghadge sent me a link to a recording of the panel I had participated on with Siddharth Ladsariya, Abhijeet Pai, Aniket Bharadia and Sandeep Jethwani (he played moderator) on Inside Perspectives from the Next Generation Business Leaders at the AIWMI’s Family Office 2018 Summit. I thoroughly enjoyed this interaction because each panelist came from a different vantage point. Sandeep investigated each person’s viewpoint deeply as is expected from the Head of IIFL’s Wealth Advisory Group. I really enjoyed this view and I hope you do too!    

Since I missed out on the video of the week last Saturday I am also sharing the interview of Atul Nishar that took place right before the panel above. It was an awesome opportunity for me to hear a successful entrepreneur like Mr Nishar candidly take me through his journey, the ups and downs, the exits and how the entrepreneur in him is kept alive by backing start-ups. This interaction is pure gold!  

93/2018

Video of the Week: The Crash

Today, exactly 10 years ago a 157-year-old institution, Lehman Brothers, went bankrupt. The reasons behind the Lehman fiasco are well known but this DW documentary focuses its lens on the ripple effects that the unbridled enthusiasm & greed of a few people on Wall Street had on 10,000+ Singaporean small investors.
This documentary is an important reminder that optimism is good but unchecked optimism is a sure-shot recipe for disaster.

There is a historic irony with the 15th September as in 1940 a severely handicapped British RAF turned the tide in the Battle for Britain halting Hitler’s plan for European domination. On that momentous occasion, British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill had famously said, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”
Unfortunately, Winston Churchill could not have imagined that just over half-a-century later so few would owe so much to so many.
90/2018

Video of the Week: The Undisputed King of Bollywood

I must be honest that I was not a big fan of Akshay Kumar through most of my teens. His movies centred around his martial arts abilities and he had typecast himself into a brand of cinema which I did not identify with. Then something happened 10 years ago that altered the actor’s career and this transformation & success formula should be a case study at the top management & entrepreneurial schools in India as it pole-vaulted him to highest paid Bollywood actor (7th highest in the world).
Akshay has been a vocal critic of movie schedules that can take 300-400 days and he adopted a simple success formula which I found is on the lines of the lean start-up mentality.

  1. Akshay completes his movie schedules in 60 days (Housefull 3 was done in 38 days!) which significantly reduces the carrying cost of the movie i.e. the path to profitability is significantly reduced.
  2. He releases 4 movies a year, therefore, increasing the number of shots he has at delivering a hit. Compare that to the competition that does 1-2 movies a year, therefore, has to maintain a near perfect record.
  3. The more releases per year also means that Akshay gets to read the audiences’ pulse regularly and he can adjust/alter/update his next product iteration thereby catering to his customer’s (read: audience) preferences much faster.
  4. The success of this simple success formula can be gauged by the fact that Akshay has delivered 100+ crores in box office collections every single year since 2007

The inspiration to do this research came from two videos wherein the actor provide an insight into his journey, both are must watch videos!
The first one is in Hindi

The second one in English

84/2018