Making Sense of the UPA vs NDA Economic Growth Debate

A heated political debate has been brewing between two accomplished lawyers, namely the last two finance ministers of India, P Chidambaram and Arun Jaitley. The debate began on the backdrop of the data released by the National Statistical Commission which stated that the GDP growth rate under the UPA was higher than the current GDP growth under the NDA government 
Of the various arguments that have been put forth by different parties of the political spectrum, I  resonate most with the arguments put forth by ET’s Saubhik Chakrabarti in the article “UPA vs NDA: Why higher growth doesn’t matter when followed by policy delinquency“.  
I believe that a lot of economic numbers achieved by UPA were because of the stable platform handed over by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government and the steroid (read: debt) fuelled hyper-growth of the worlds’ economy. The mirage of the strong economic power-house created by the UPA between 2004 and 2010 was blown away by the huff & puff of a crumbling world economy.   
UPA entrusted PM Modi with a country that was in turmoil: banks saddled with massive NPAs, high inflation, policy paralysis, low growth numbers, tax terrorism that was driving away FDI, Government-run SEBs that were out of money, runaway spending on thoughtless welfare schemes and most dangerously a demoralised & disillusioned class of entrepreneurs that had been maltreated by the government. UPA’s policies & constant infighting stifled any hope of supporting growth and innovation.  
I find myself sympathising with the Modi-led government because it braved strong headwinds in the global economy, maintained fiscal prudence and smartly bailed out the banking, power and manufacturing sectors from the brink of collapse, to bring India to the position of the world’s fastest-growing major economy. 
I believe that my contradicting views of the two governments are best represented by the contradicting mindset that I woke up with in these two time periods. When I woke up under the watchful eyes of the UPA government, I constantly felt that the worst was yet to come, however when I woke up today to write this post at 4 am, I was certain that the best our economy has to offer – has just begun!  

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.

Lets start this debate

We are 6 to 15 months away from getting our forefinger inked for having voted for a new Member of Parliament, which will then decide the India’s next Prime Minister. Therefore, there is no better time than now to initiate the debate of what our issues are, the issues of the Lok Sabha and what kind of candidate we need to represent us. There many debates that have defended or destroyed the current government’s handling of our country, its economy and social fabric. However, these polarised debates have not helped in drawing up a resolution, which can be attributed to the style of debating where people are yelling like barbarians at the top of their lungs and embarrassing themselves in front of the entire nation.
I found a fresh new style of questioning and debating in the YouTube video below wherein Kunal Kamra engaged the BJP Youth Wing Vice President, Madhukeshwar Desai in a debate about what he as stands for, what his party stands for and most importantly what they both do not stand for. As a fan of stand-up comedy and Kunal Kamra I found that this video had the perfect balance with a little bit of everything i.e. comedy, diplomacy, maturity, uncomfortable questions and some leg pulling.
I want to engage in a debate to take our country forward and this is how I would love to do it.


Why We Must Become that Asshole Investor (from time to time)

2018 started off with a bang for Artha India Ventures. 4 of our portfolio companies successfully raised new rounds with pre-money valuations of more than $5 million. As a team, we are very happy with the solid multiples that we received on our investments and it validates our thesis of getting in early, building solid value and increasing wealth for all shareholders. These are the times when we look forward to celebrating with our founders for a job well done and to wish them luck on the new journey that has just begun (with the incoming investor).
However, there are a couple of founders that bring forth disturbing issues at the time of signing documents that hold up the entire round of investment. Usually, I can classify the issues that force this reaction into two buckets. The first and most contentious issue is the diktat issued by the incoming investor to disallow any of the previous investors from participating in the new round.
As an investor who invests in multiple stages, we have specific clauses in our investment documentation that allow us to participate in future fundraising rounds of a company. Whatever the logic the new investor can provide (more on this in a later post) we as the early backers of the venture expect the founders to stand up for us and remain loyal to their word and contract, that were negotiated and signed when we initially decided to back them. While many founders ensure that we get to participate in the new round (thank you to them), we do not have sympathy for those who behave this way even without being coerced by another investor.
At the time when these founders needed the money, they eagerly signed the documents with these terms clearly being stated, but when it comes to actually following through for a follow-on round they want to cry foul. To completely sell yourself to the incoming investors and screw over your earliest backers doesn’t bode well for our ecosystem. Firstly, the new investors will only put in stronger clauses to ensure the same doesn’t happen to them in the following round and secondly, the later investors will be way more cautious and hesitant when considering the opportunity to participate because of your past behavior towards investors.
Unfortunately for them, Artha does not respond well to oppression tactics and while we can understand the occasional tough spot a founder finds himself/herself in, the founder cannot always cry wolf.
To be involved in a bitter conflict at a time when we should be celebrating victory is a situation I want to avoid at all costs, but founders need to understand and respect that just like them we too are running a business and to deny us the rights that we mutually agreed before entering the relationship, tinkers with our business model. Just like they would not like to tinker with a business model that is doing well – neither do we!!

6 Lessons for Entrepreneurs from Bahubali 2

I thought of writing this post almost two weeks back when I saw the movie for a second time but it would have given up key twists of the plot that would ruin the experience of those that hadn’t seen the movie.  I (now) believe that most of the moving going population has seen the movie so it is an appropriate time to share this.
Bahubali 2: The Conclusion has become the highest grossing Indian movie of all time. I have watched the movie twice and it is a thorough entertainer. An engrossing story line that goes through several twists and turns before leading to its good prevails over evil conclusion with lavish sets and mouth gaping action scenes. I must concede however, that many portions of the movie were little very farfetched even for someone like me who leaves logic at home when I watch a movie. However much the laws of physics were distorted the end product is a spectacle!
Since the movie revolves around the quest of becoming the king of a mystical and powerful kingdom of Mahishmati so there are several lessons that an entrepreneur can learn and apply to their own quest for the mystical unicorn.

  1. Under promise overdeliver

A common theme of the movie is the massive promises the characters keep making, at the spur of the moment, to each other with no prior planning on how those promises will be completed.
Sivagami promises Bhallala Deva that he will marry Devasena without consulting Devasena about her wishes. Devasens refuses to marry Bhallala Deva which puts Sivagami in a tough spot and she makes a series of mistakes heal her ego that ultimately culminates in Bahubali abdicating the throne and the evil Bhallala Deva becoming king.
Overpromising entrepreneurs consistently disappoint their team members, cofounders, investors – even their customers. So, it is important that entrepreneurs err of the side of conservatism and overdeliver on their promises – not the other way around.

  1. Praise publicly criticize privately

Devasena calls out Sivagami on public platforms on multiple occasions, even going to the point of calling her a person with limited brain capacity. That forces Sivagami to respond to her public humiliation by pushing away Devasena and Devasena’s husband (Bahubali) from herself and the throne and it ultimately ends up with Devasena & Bahubali being banished from the kingdom and later to the widowing of Devasena.
Public platforms should not be used to air out as events can escalate quickly to devastating and undesirable outcomes. Entrepreneurs could utilise private spaces for criticism so that even if the events escalate the outcomes can be controlled and both sides can rectify their mistakes when hot heads cool down.
A public platform is best utilised for praising each other and showing unity.

  1. Overcommunicate

Bahubali follows his stepmother’s (Sivagami) advice by standing up for dharma even if that meant he had to make her promise to Bhallala Deva of getting Devasena married to him… Shockingly Bahubali does not remind Sivagami that he is following lessons that were taught by Sivagami when she was training him for the throne. Not communicating the logic behind his decision, Bahubali leaves the door open for Sivagami to make up her own assumptions and she flies into a rage asking Bahubali to give up his throne triggering off a domino effect that ends in ruin for the Mahishmati kingdom.
Many entrepreneurs (and people too) have a habit of delivering partial messages expecting the other side to understand what has not been said. This gaps in communication leads to decisions made with limited understanding therefore results can wildly different than anticipated.
An entrepreneur should communicate to the point over overcommunication so that all the members of the team are on the same wavelength as the entrepreneur’s train of thought.

  1. Get rid of cancer on the team quickly & aggressively

Kattappa knows that Bhallala Deva and Bijjaladeva (Bhallala Deva’s father) are plotting to kill Sivagami and even though Kattappa knows that information he does not divulge that to Sivagami letting the negativity foster around the palace. The father-son duo join hands in spreading their tentacles to execute their plans by recruiting key personnel and distorting reality for Sivagami, ultimately leading to decades long tyrannical rule that ruins the kingdom.
When white blood corpuscles do not attack cancerous cells, they will lead to formation of tumours which ultimately overwhelm the defences of the body and kill the body. Similarly, members of the venture who are making the lives of other team members difficult through the spread of discouraging messaging, undisciplined work styles or questionable ethics should be cut out from the team quickly and effectively.
Letting them fester around the venture will turn even the good & productive team members cancerous.

  1. Don’t boast about your plans before they are completed

Bhallala Deva succeeds in hoodwinking Sivagami to the point that she orders Kattappa to kill Bahubali. Bhallala Deva watches Kattappa kill Bahubali and desecrates Bahubali’s dead body whilst boasting about how he outsmarted everyone to get to the throne and get Bahubali killed. Kattappa narrates what he hears to Sivagami who gets on a mission to protect Bahubali’s son in fact she sacrifices her own life to save the newly born child. The child (Bahubali II) avenges his father’s death by first killing Bhallala Deva’s son and then Bhallala Deva himself.
Don’t count your chickens before they hatch is a phrase taught to all of us in school but many times entrepreneurs that taste initial success let that excitement ride up their medulla oblongata into their brains. They boast about their success in the media, throw massive success parties and start drinking their own koolaid.
All the attention leads to them taking their eyes are off the ball before they realise it the competition has caught up with serious momentum. The competition eventually eats up the space that the entrepreneur should have dominated but all that remains are the remnants of what could have been a great venture.
Keep your plans under wrap until they are completed is a key lesson that all entrepreneurs will be well advised to follow.

  1. Don’t make decisions under duress

The movie has many scenes where the characters make decisions under stress and at the spur of the moment.
Sivagami orders Bahubali to give up the throne for Bhallal Deva because she feels offended when Bahubali scolds her for making a promise that she cannot deliver on. She makes an emotional decision on the spur of the moment that is against the wishes of the kingdom that she rules on and against her own earlier decision that was well thoughtout. Sivagami’s impulsive decisions leads to the assassination of Bahubali, her own death, ruins the flourishing Mahishmati kingdom as it falls in the hands of a soulless tyrant.
There are many occasions in the entrepreneurial journey that the entrepreneur may feel pressured to decide on a matter and to make it immediately but I have found that that is rarely ever true. Infact the decisions made under duress ultimately come back to bite the entrepreneur in the butt and years of regret. So, it is important that all the facets & tenets of a decision be thought of before making move because a move once made cannot be taken back!