For today’s post, I had decided to write a book review. But while browsing through espncricinfo.com, I came across a brilliant piece of journalism on Virat Kohli, undoubtedly the most famous man in India. The journalist, Wright Thompson followed Kohli
For today’s post, I had decided to write a book review. But while browsing through espncricinfo.com, I came across a brilliant piece of journalism on Virat Kohli, undoubtedly the most famous man in India. The journalist, Wright Thompson followed Kohli for a day and wrote about how Kohli dealt with his superstardom daily. He brought to light the two different sides of Kohli; the outside persona which is what the public sees and the inner, softer, a more personal side that he keeps concealed. The trials and tribulations of this Indian superstar are a must-read for anyone who dreams of becoming one.
Kohli has been an enigma for me. Although I do not like his batting (since it lacks the poetry I heard in Tendulkar’s stroke play), I love the way he responds to a challenge. Kohli always aims to dominate a challenge and invariably prevails because of his limitless perseverance that always lasts longer than that of the challenger. He never lets the pressure of a situation show on his face or in his body language, consequently helping him find the clarity to make tough decisions.
So, while I might not like watching Virat Kohli bat, I do love to watch him play. And after reading about him in this story, I seek to emulate him, just a little.
Child rape is a heinous crime and shockingly our society has been unable to curb it. In light of the Asifa case, the issue has been politicized so much that we have lost sight of the core issue and failed
Child rape is a heinous crime and shockingly our society has been unable to curb it. In light of the Asifa case, the issue has been politicized so much that we have lost sight of the core issue and failed to take any action against the perpetrators. In the midst of this blame game, I was unable to form an opinion on the right course of action until I watched this video clip that I received from a friend via WhatsApp. In this video, a 28-year-old activist took on the spokespeople of multiple political parties and had them squirming in their seats unable to answer her simple arguments sans the political brouhaha. I wish that Arnab would have shut up and let the woman speak but I think that would be asking for too much
The woman in this video is Trisha Shetty, is the founder of SheSays, an NGO that Forbes describes as “an Indian non-profit that empowers the country’s women to act against sexual violence by providing education, legal, medical as well as psychological support.”
I absolutely commend Trisha for putting forth such a bold and unrestrained argument. In her two-minute monologue, she pointed out what these seasoned politicians have been avoiding for years i.e. removing the people in your party that have been accused or are accused of sheltering & defending those that were accused of a heinous crime like child rape. As many other Indians will, I strongly resonate with her argument. The accused people should be removed from office until proven innocent and be barred from holding positions of power if found sheltering the accused. None of them are above the law and shouldn’t be allowed to act as if they are.
Any elected official that believes that his or her views on this topic are being smothered by the louder & more powerful voices in their party, should have the guts to leave that party. We did not elect our representatives to follow the orders of a few, but to speak up and defend our rights, act on and resolve our complaints and protect our right basic right to have a respectable and secure life for ourselves and our children.
News broke out yesterday that Tala raised $65 million in a round led by Steve Case’s Revolution Fund. Most of the news headlines are stating that Tala raised this money to enter the Indian market making this is one of
News broke out yesterday that Tala raised $65 million in a round led by Steve Case’s Revolution Fund. Most of the news headlines are stating that Tala raised this money to enter the Indian market making this is one of those interesting anomalies because Tala started its business under the name InVenture in India. As a DSA for MFIs, the regulatory environment in 2012 didn’t permit the sustainability of InVenture’s business model.
As a tough entrepreneur, Shivani decided not to quit just yet but move her business to a place where digital money was ingrained in the daily habits of people i.e. Kenya. There, her model transformed from a credit assessment platform to a lending app and now it is out there creating history! She used the capital raised from IVP, Data Collective, Lowercase Capital, Ribbit Capital, and Female Founders Fund (who have all participated in this round) to expand Tala’s reach to the Philippines, Mexico, and Tanzania.
Now she is returning to the nest where it all began, with a war chest and model that has much more relevance in transforming the digital payment space in India. In my opinion, there could not have been a better time for her return.
This morning the Artha India Ventures team and I spoke to Zach, the head of Tala’s Indian expansion team and he shared a laundry list of people that he is looking to hire. Once I have those JD’s, I will share them in a separate post. I can safely vouch for the fact that you will be working for a company and leader (Shivani) that I deeply respect, and one that I believe will make a huge impact in India and in the world.
Best of luck to Shivani and her Tala team. The Artha team is by your side every step of the way!
In January, I found myself at my orthopaedic’s office for the 3rd time in 12 months complaining about unbearable back & neck pain which were not only limiting my movement but also leading to sleepless nights. Obviously, concerned about my
In January, I found myself at my orthopaedic’s office for the 3rd time in 12 months complaining about unbearable back & neck pain which were not only limiting my movement but also leading to sleepless nights. Obviously, concerned about my frequent visits, he did an array of tests that revealed that it was nothing serious. So, he inquired further into my daily habits, activities, time spent on the computer and so on. After giving all the information that I had given him some serious thought, he concluded that the issue could be the mattress and pillow that I was using. He surmised that these items had most likely lost their firmness and suggested that I should change them immediately. Little did I know that this exercise would take me from the outskirts of Bangalore to the ports of Kolkata and open my eyes to a rapidly growing industry and proof that Indian consumers were growing up.
The first company that hit my eye was a company that had (at that time) over 1000 reviews on Amazon, with 95+% of those being a 4-star rating or higher. I assumed that 1 out of 10 people will actually go online and rave about a company (1 out of 3 will do it if it is a negative feedback) which meant that this company had sold close to at least 10,000 mattresses on Amazon alone! The average product price was around Rs. 15,000 so this company should have done 15 crores in sales online (the number is much higher than that) but, the best part of my research was finding out that the company had not raised any external funding. This sleeper hit of a company is Wakefit, founded by Ankit Garg and Chaitanya Ramalingegowda. In a recent interview, they predicted that their 2-year-old startup would exceed $5 million in sales for FY2018. This is an impressive number for a nascent startup with no retail presence at all.
I reached out to Vinod and Dhiral on my team, and with my initial findings and our combined brain power, we were able to identify 5-6 other companies that were selling mattresses online. I decided to visit each one and although it took longer than expected, I got into their warehouses, offices, and factories and had the chance to speak with each founder. While most parts of those conversations are confidential, their stories and experiences confirmed the increasing comfort of Indian e-commerce customers to make large ticket purchases online. Not just that, but they have even become comfortable purchasing goods from brands that they haven’t previously heard of and are willing to pre-pay for the same (these companies do not provide COD).
This entire exercise served as an eye opener for the AVF team and I, concerning the Indian consumer. We realized that the Indian e-commerce buyer is becoming more and more confident to make purchases of over 10,000 rupees (except mobile phones) online. Going forward, we are actively reaching out to product startups with larger ticket sizes since we feel that this could be the next wave of e-commerce purchases and that has already hit us or is about to.
I did end up buying a mattress and pillow set from Wakefit, as a mystery shopper and it has been 2 months since they delivered and installed my new mattress. It is safe to say, that I won’t be visiting my orthopaedic for back or neck pain any longer.
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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with a cc to email@example.com. 25/2018
This past Saturday, I was at a IIT-Kharagpur as a panelist in their 2018 version of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. As an early stage investor on a panel that included 2 entrepreneurs and 1 corporate VC the different viewpoints we
This past Saturday, I was at a IIT-Kharagpur as a panelist in their 2018 version of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. As an early stage investor on a panel that included 2 entrepreneurs and 1 corporate VC the different viewpoints we provided to the same questions was eye-opening. At a point in the discussion the moderator, Flipclass founder, Vineet Dwivedi, asked why Indian VCs prefer founding teams versus single founder start-ups. He shared his own experience of having faced a lot of opposition while raising money. Donning the early stage VC hat, here are some of the reasons I support a team structure versus a single founder.
Indian entrepreneurship ecosystem vs global ecosystem
While the entrepreneurial ecosystem in India is improving by leaps and bounds, it is still difficult to start a business, run a business and even close a business in India. A founding team must manage a lot of core and non-core issues to be able to effectively run their venture. These are challenges that the current Indian educational setup does not prepare them for.
Unlike American universities that offer (don’t play the name game) undergraduate programs in entrepreneurship, preparing young talent for the challenges an entrepreneur may run into – the Indian education system does not have that luxury.
The current Indian education system only prepares talent to enter a specific department (finance, technology, etc) in an organization. It does not provide them with entrepreneurial qualities that are needed to run multiple departments in a single business or even manage delegated HOD’s.
Therefore I get better sleep at night, knowing that I am investing in a team that has the diversity to secure and grow the different facets of a business versus betting on a single founder that isn’t equipped to deal with all the issues and may be overwhelmed by trying to juggle too many things at the same time.
2. Flexibility required for pivoting
Many of the early ideas lack market validation and are therefore prone to pivot drastically. Therefore, I would rather back a team that has the bandwidth that would permit this quick pivot in case the initial thesis isn’t validated by real data from entering the market.
3. Lack of quality talent
It took me almost two years to find the right CTO for Artha Energy Resources, so I understand the trouble that a startup goes through to find and retain the right kind of talent. As soon as raw talent gains experience and matures, there is dime a dozen established and well-funded companies that are willing to offer tons of money and perks to swindle (I used this word because sometimes the benefits of being with the smaller firm are much larger than a bigger paycheck) it.
I have witnessed co-founders leaving their startup for better opportunities from a competitor after having delivered a fantastic product. So, betting on a single founder increases the risk of my investment. I would rather diversify that risk by investing in a team.
4. Equity hoarding by Founders
It is a unique trait of the Indian entrepreneur to want to hoard all the equity. This alienates key talent that is needed but will not work for anything below the general market salaries that are being offered. The only way to attract this much-needed talent would be to give them generous amounts of equity in the company.
I cannot invest copious amounts of money in the early stages for founders to be able to pay market rate salaries for experienced talent that is required, without accounting for it in larger equity positions (read: Investor math). Instead, I choose to put together a team of people with enough talent to reach the set targets and prevent them from jumping ship by providing an amount of adequate equity while keeping the salary bill affordable.
If a single founder showed maturity in farming out equity to deserving talent, I would prefer working with a single founder with a strong team, rich experience and the incentive to perform.
In a startup ecosystem that is gradually maturing, I am certain that my preference of a founding team over a single founder will be challenged and may even pivot with time. I look forward to facing my theory being stretched, smashed and even replaced. 14/2018
While attending the Web Summit in Lisbon I met Pranjal Sharma, the author of Kranti Nation: India and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, for breakfast. As passionate students of economics, innovation & start-ups we immediately got engaged in deep conversation about
While attending the Web Summit in Lisbon I met Pranjal Sharma, the author of Kranti Nation: India and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, for breakfast. As passionate students of economics, innovation & start-ups we immediately got engaged in deep conversation about Indian consumer’s behavioural shift and how that was significantly changing the start-up ecosystem in India. As we were getting ready to leave for the summit, he handed me a personally signed copy of his book. Interestingly enough (at the time), I was reading The Fourth Industrial Revolution by Klaus Schwab. Prof Schwab has also written the preface for Kranti Nation. What I like about this book:
Indians tend to underestimate the tenacity of the Indian entrepreneur – new and old. Kranti Nation provides ample examples of Indian entrepreneurs who have not only kept pace, but also led evolution during the fourth industrial revolution. The stories about age-old businesses, like the Kirloskar Brothers, Mahindra, Marico, Reliance, Honeywell, etc which I would imagine as having outdated, out of sync management systems pleasantly surprised me. The stories of Kirloskar Brothers implementing 3D printing, Marico’s utilisation of IOT and especially the one about Renault Kwid were exciting to read.
Some of these stories completely negate the story line that the industrial IOT or 3D printing start-ups put out in their pitchbooks. What I didn’t like about this book:
The book is written as a collection of essays of 10 different sectors, and in many places, there are overlaps of the same technology influencing different industries. I felt that it would have been a tighter read if the author had focused on how each new technology was changing the dynamics of multiple different sectors and structured the longer essays around the technology instead of the industries. The chapters towards the end reflected the fatigue of trying to cover too many points in too little space. There are outdated facts with companies like Educomp being profiled as leaders of the education sector tryst with revolution, even though Educomp has been in a downward spiral for the past 7 years. Some company profiles read like sales brochures with too many unnecessary details & histories that are not relevant to the objective of the book. In some ways I think the second half of the book disappointed the promise that the first half held. Who should read it? This book is relevant for all readers especially those investors or entrepreneurs who are seeking to enter the B2B space. India is changing, and this book provides an ample number of examples of it. 2/2018
Co-edited by Dhiral & Karishma Why we want to invest in travel?
Indians love to travel. Whether it was the protagonists in epics like Mahabharata/Ramayana travelling far and wide to fulfil their duties or Mahatma Gandhi travelling across the country to identify and abolish the evils of British rule; India and Indians have travel embedded in their culture.
Post-independence, governments pursued socialist policies to cut spending on expensive leisure travel. Red tape & licensing was extensively used to clamp the airline industry to prevent the outflow of precious foreign exchange to purchase fuel and planes. The hospitality and railway industries weren’t treated much differently. It wasn’t until the liberalisation in the 1990s and infrastructure boom in the late 2000s that the presence of airports, airlines, buses and hotels skyrocketed. Thereafter, the state & central governments actively invested in such projects to make life easier for travellers.
As per the data available from the Ministry of Tourism the number of trips taken by resident Indians for business or leisure (not employment) touched 1.6 billion in 2016 more than doubling from the 748 million trips taken in 2010. The impressive CAGR of 13.6% is more than twice the pace of growth in the overall economy! The ever-increasing internet penetration only made discovering and booking trips worldwide more accessible to consumers and in turn catalysed the growth of this sector. As per an IAMAI report travel makes up 56% of all online transactions in 2016 at Rs.95,200 crores ($14.9 billion) and is estimated to grow almost 50% to $22.5 billion in 2017. The TREND is clear – The fraction of wealth from the Indian wallet allocated to travel has clearly increased and will continue to do so.
Source: CEIC Data
Furthermore, the UDAN scheme that subsidizes air travel in tier 2 & 3 cities will increase the number of mango people that are able to afford flights, therefore increasing airline traffic. This would also allow the impressive CAGR of domestic passenger traffic – 11.8% (2010-2017) to continue on an upward trend. What are the problems worth solving?
According to the Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India, 59.2% of all hotel bookings are made for business purposes. As any executive or their assistant (who actually books their travel) will tell you, there is no sole platform that understands and resolves every requirement of a business traveller. OTA’s today are solely competing on the basis of who can provide the steepest discount and burning holes in their own pockets in that process.
Corporate travellers however, are more concerned with the efficiency and convenience of platforms that would save even a minute of their precious time. Any EA/PA out there would tell you that booking travel for their bosses is a royal pain in the *** and that they would unquestionably spend the extra $$ to get it done without the headache of having to deal with it themselves. A top executive at Google went to the extent of saying that the main reason his EA/PA’s were quitting was due to the stress of organizing his hectic travel schedule.
I suggest that a set of smart founders sit down with EA/PA’s to study the pain points in the process and design a platform that incrementally solves the problems. This platform would not only be responsible for finding the best route or price, but also do it keeping in mind each individuals preferences, loyalty program memberships and the discounts offered by their credit/debit card companies. The founders can work closely with flight operators, OTAs, hotels, taxi operators, etc to amalgamate the process of organizing travel by making it a stress free procedure.
Initially the platform could promote itself as a free tool for EA/PAs and monetize affiliate commissions. However once it is up and running full swing with additional features like restaurant suggestions & bookings, expense reimbursements, etc. it could switch over to a monthly subscription model. I have no doubt that EA/PAs would convince their bosses to pay the minor fee in exchange for avoiding the million hassles. (read: EA/PAs have a lot of power). I do have other ancillary benefits in mind including revenue streams from data mining, AI and even credit schemes but I’d like to meet a team capable of making this a reality before disclosing more elaborate plans.
It is essential that we create a platform that amalgamates the process of organizing travel from start to finish, from initial planning all the way through the effortlessly executing every logistic along the way to ensure an enjoyable and pleasant experience to every traveller. Pre-travel approval/gathering travel information, poor booking experience and travel debrief with travel departments are amongst the top 5 challenges faced by Asian travellers as per the latest Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) survey conducted in 2017.
Imagine a rome2rio platform that not only allows a user to conduct a meta search amongst all travel options (airlines, buses, trains, taxis, etc) to get a person from point A to point B but also manages the entire process ; from booking the taxi that would take you to/from bus or train station all the way to checking you in according into your seat preferences 24 hours before your flight.
Such a venture would act as the layer on top of all the current players entirely avoiding any form of competition with them as it would be foolhardy to compete with the incumbents OTAs’ business model where they spend more on promotions than the revenues they make from them. Why should a founding team in the travel space choose Artha?
A large portion of my previous portfolio at Artha India Ventures was invested in travel. We took early positions in companies like Maximojo, OYO rooms, Repup, Confirmtkt, Roadhouse Hostels and have been a part of their struggles and growth from close quarters. Therefore, our strategies & advice have been refined over time from real experience in the sector. My family also has a vast network in the hospitality industry which would facilitate the opportunity for start-ups to reach out to relevant people and give them the opportunity to test their ideas immediately.
I am convinced that travel as a sector will continue to outperform the economy and I have made a personal commitment to invest in this sector. If you or someone you know wants us to review their business proposal, then ask them to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
It has been over 12 months since the we have received a payment from our energy consumer, Ajmer DISCOM – owned by BJP led Rajasthan government. The outstanding payments (now) add up to 20% of what we paid for the
It has been over 12 months since the we have received a payment from our energy consumer, Ajmer DISCOM – owned by BJP led Rajasthan government. The outstanding payments (now) add up to 20% of what we paid for the asset!Luckily my investors paid in full for the asset so there weren’t any loans to repay but not every renewable energy generator was as lucky as me, many took loans, have run from pillar to post to get paid and after exhausting all available options they have finally been forced into looking at other avenues to repay the loans. The gut wrenching stories range from mortgaging familial properties, dipping into their savings or in worst cases selling property to keep the loans current – this is the state of renewable energy investors in India, a population that is dying under the weight of the outstanding dues.
I used to assure my investors that the invoices are with a government entity that has to pay penalty interest of 15% on the past due amounts which is as good as keeping the money in a high yielding bond. My faith was vindicated last year when, under the direct order of the Rajasthan High Court the DISCOMs immediately paid the delayed interest amounts and I (like many others) did get the money!
This year however, the DISCOM is extracting more than it’s pound of the generators flesh by
Withholding payments to generators even though it has received funds from the Central Government under the UDAY restructuring scheme
Asking renewable energy generators to back down their substations when they are in the middle of producing their maximum energy
The investors have been living with these issues for years now and most of those risks have been priced into the financial models for these projects. The blow that broke the camels back is the DISCOM newest filthy proposal: sign an undertaking giving the DISCOM a 50% interest discount otherwise wait indefinitely to get paid.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you have read it right – the debtor is offering the creditor an amnesty scheme!
The 50% discount would mean that
The interest paid to the bank (around 10-12%) is higher than the interest received from the DISCOM
It ss less than the yield of 12 month fixed deposit at a nationalised bank
This leads to a negative IRR situation for the investor!
Does the Narendra Modi government intend on building its 100 GW plan on the carcasses of renewable energy investors? The banks don’t want to lend to this sector, the investors don’t want to invest new capital in this sector and it is easier for me to find people who want to sell their renewable power projects than those that want to buy them.
The PMO and the Ministry of Power is fully aware of what is going on because just last week we received a letter from the Maharashtra DISCOMs offering the Rajasthan amnesty scheme to its creditors… the model is here to stay and will be replicated till all renewable energy investors have been gassed into oblivion.
The sun is setting quickly on renewable energy investors in India