My Takeaway: Budget Analysis Needs Context (The Seen & The Unseen Ep. 54)


This week’s episode of The Seen Unseen (episode no. 54 for those keeping count) was a quick analysis of the 2018 union budget. Amit Varma served as the host as always and in the guest’s chair were Pavan Srinath and Pranay Kotasthane. Now, as a podcast producer, one has to face the fact that not every episode of a show you produce would be about topics you like and/or are interested in, and the budget has never caught my fancy as I am not much of a number cruncher. Which is why this episode surprised me as Pavan and Pranay broke down the budget into much simpler terminology and simplified it by giving some relatable context. 

Do governments get away for doing things that corporates and individuals would get called out for? Is this budget more about optics and less about governance? Why should India have a “bloated bureaucracy CESS? These are some of the interesting questions answered in the episode and I highly recommend you listen to it.

The second half of the episode deals more with the repercussions of this and previous budgets and maybe what could've been done differently. It's a little less about numbers and figures and a little more about views, opinions and outcomes.

Listen to the episode here:

Abbas Momin (Producer, The Seen & The Unseen)

My Takeaway: Speaking Up Matters (Akancha Against Harassment Ep. 15)


This week, Akancha Srivastava recorded an episode about the power to speak up against cyber abuse and do so, immediately. It takes a critical moment to snap out of the misery of victimhood and understand that reporting the incident well in time can hold a strong case. It is convenient to take a screenshot of the post and forward it to our peers to show, “See, this is what happened to me.” Is that enough to ensure it won’t happen again? Is that enough to reflect on our online activities and conclude that the digital world races faster than 120 km/hr with thousands of  #MeToo posts, just less than an hour of the content upload? 

Speaking up holds true for any unlikely situation and Akancha explains how doing this can switch the power of authority from the abuser to the one facing the abuse.

I look at it this way, speaking up is a way to take care of yourself.

You can listen to the episode here:

In Brief Shunya One Ep.36


On this episode of Shunya One, we are joined by Soaib Grewal, Venture Partner at T-Labs and Times Internet. He is also the Founder of BOLD - a design led investment firm, since 2014.

This conversation focuses on the design approach for building products to understand user-experience better and gauging VC perspectives for new investments.   

Shiladitya enquired whether founders and entrepreneurs in India understand how critical design is for product, today. To which Soaib responded:

First of all I think, are we quite there or do Indian founders understand design better, than when I started helping people out back in 2012-2013? For sure. Back then I think there was a fundamental fight of explaining why design is relevant. Now the fight is sort of changed where it is not about why is it relevant but how indeed can you integrate it in your processes, how do you ensure that it is a cornerstone of you building product. Design itself, especially consumer designer has become quite commoditized. What I mean by that is, it is not too hard for someone to see a UI template for an app or a website that is fairly success and then just copying it off, right? So I think that worked fairly well early on for a lot of companies in India and then overtime what happened was that come say a Series A, you really need to start caring about design. And then you are like, oh shit! I need to actually change things up or I need to hire a designer, I need to hire a firm. And basically what you were doing is, the designer or the firm had to go back and essentially rebuild or recreate an experience out of something that was really built in a very peaceway approach, right. That’s essentially how you build products at early stages. You come up with an MVP and you are constantly iterating upon it. Now if you don’t take a very holistic approach from day 1 to think about the user experience you end up with something that is way too feature-rich where things don’t connect to one another, where things are broken and designers start having a very tough time. So I think the challenge has changed a little bit but Indian founders are definitely a lot more cognisant of it, they are definitely a lot more cognisant, there are lot of people putting in a lot more time into it.

Shiladitya asked about what VCs look at, beyond mapping trends. Soaib responded, saying:

It is a tricky question because you know I wish there was a magic formula or a rule-break or a cheat-key, I could keep going back to. Also, it is a bit tough. Also that I think it is case-by-case. I think that it is easy to say that, oh you know we look at founder, product and then this and that but I think but you are really talking about a couple of different levers that swing in different ways and have different weightages depending on the sector, the space and how much conviction you also have for a certain area; of course the stage in which you are investing. So I think above all though, thinking about or really thinking clearly about whether you think the opportunity could lead to a large outcome for yourself and your stakeholders and the money that you are managing, is the number one filter for any VC. I mean in fact that’s how you identify sectors and spaces in the first place and I think that it is something that entrepreneurs perhaps should be a little bit more cognisant of because companies that do not lead to large outcomes are not necessarily bad companies.

In Brief Shunya One Ep.35


On this episode of Shunya One, Shiladitya and Amit are joined by Ankush Sachdeva, Co-founder and CEO at ShareChat. This conversation covers the impact of content sharing through social networks in regional languages.

Ankush spoke about his observations from the first version of ShareChat. He said:

What we saw was that the basic level problem of giving content is not solved and there are companies running after building chatbots solving these kind of complicated things. And we were like it is too early for this market. The data clearly showed that you have to give content. These guys are hungry for content. Then we changed our model, we removed English altogether. That was a given move, like given that half of the people are picking English and you decide upon removing it; a very contrarian move. But we could sense that there is a inner psychological thing which is making them select English even though it is not an optimal choice for them. So, we made the change, removed English and moved to a simple feed. You see the content feed in your tags and you can just share it to Whatsapp in one click, and that’s ShareChat.

Shiladitya enquired about the core behaviour of users at ShareChat. To which Ankush responded:

There are two major usedcases of our user-base, like how people used the app: one is they come here for the freshest trending news. So when the Virat-Anushka marriage happened, the minute that video got out it was on ShareChat, trending. And you will just autoplay on our video player, you will see everything around Virat-Anushka on that feed. That is one usedcase. The other is, a lot of people come here and just make collections. A lot of women come here and make mehendi design collections, so they will put hundreds of images of mehendi design on ShareChat and make a profile out of it. So that’s the other behaviour. That’s more a Pinterest behaviour. So we actually don’t have a western counterpart analogy to us. We are just building what people are liking. So we are following, we are constantly in touch with our user-base; what they are linking, what they are not liking, getting new features that can help them use the app better and we just never think about analogies because this market is so different. A lot of copy-pastings have failed in India. And that’s the learning we have here. It is just better you go to your user-base ask them what they want, try to find their problems and come up with their solutions.

In Brief Shunya One Ep.34


On this episode of Shunya One, hosts Shiladitya Mukhopadhyaya and Amit Doshi discuss some of India's biggest tech stories in 2017.

Shiladitya spoke about how smartphone devices are increasingly going bezel-less. He said:

Bezels are going away, that’s sort of changed the way we experience our phones right? I mean whether it’s bezels, whether it is AR, all these new tech, sort of technologies which have come into mobile have also sort of shape the way we use our phones.

Amit mentioned how data consumption has taken a huge leap in the country. He said:

I read something a couple of days ago or maybe a week ago that India has now overtaken both the U.S and China as the place where most data is being used in the world. That’s amazing, I love that. Considering where we came from and how fast this stuff has grown.

Shiladitya discussed how the government extensively pushed for the Aadhaar in 2017. He said:

Coming to another off-tech topic but again has its roots in tech, is Aadhaar and IndiaStack, and UPI and everything that the government is doing pro-tech. I think we spoke about this a number of times, that the government has been a very good tech-partner to a bunch of things in India this year.

Amit gave his perspective about electric cars and hybrid vehicles in India’s context. He said:

So electric is always interesting. The Indian government was not more supportive of hybrids but they’ve jumped hybrids and going straight to electric. I think that might be a mistake I think hybrids maybe a better solution. We don’t have the power generation capabilities to support electric vehicles on mass basis.

In Brief Shunya One Ep.33


On this episode of Shunya One, we are joined by Zainab Bawa, CEO, HasGeek. Zainab helps us understand the impact of technology conferences and networking platforms on the startup community.

Zainab explained the idea behind setting up a platform like HasGeek for program developers, startup founders and those passionate about technology. She said:

The sort of the value addition we brought about in the space was helping people to learn from each other’s knowledge and to reduce the cost of evaluating this technology for your organization. So instead of saying I will run this experiment in my organization for six months to decide whether ABC works for us or not, here we were trying to create these platforms where you could come and listen to others, their stories, their organizational war stories and make that choice for yourself based on what somebody else was talking about from real practice. I think that’s been one clear intervention. The other is the ability to bring in a neutral perspective while we ourselves have programmers at HasGeek and we adopt and we work with certain technologies. We ourselves don’t necessarily sit and advocate those technologies at our conferences. For us the idea is that these events are the platforms for people to come and talk about approaches and that you could be using any kind of approach. At the end of the day what matters is how did you understand the problem and what approach did you use. And I guess being able to kind of take that neutral position has put us in a great situation today where people come and say hey, listen we value your perspective because we know you will not be biased or we value the fact that you bring in all these people who have their own perspectives but you don’t necessarily say that this is good or this is bad. And I think that is a very unique and very good situation to be in. The question is now how do we now continue to be in that situation and how do we not pick winners and losers but just continue to be those facilitators.

In Brief Shunya One Ep.32


On this episode of Shunya One, we are joined by Anuj Tandon, CEO at Yoozoo Games India. This conversation covers the Indian gaming market, its business model and the path ahead for the gaming sector in the country.

Anuj gave some insights about the consumer behaviour for gaming in India. He said:

The No.2 country globally in terms of downloads of games is India on mobile devices. So people are looking for games to play, naturally itself. Now whether it happens as a byproduct say for watching a Hrithik Roshan video or maybe he tweets about our game and people start downloading, that is frankly for something when you are doing an IP based game, you really don’t care about. Wherever you get it, you get your numbers, right? I’d still think India is a huge market for gaming right now, in terms of downloads as well and the revenues are also increasing, crazily.

Anuj discussed the difference in the business model of the gaming industry, back in the day and now. He said:

The recent development is making money through google play and Apple, in-app purchases and ads that you run on them. The old school in India always was making money through telecom partnerships. When you partner with say an Idea or Vodafone and use their billing, their recharge amount as their billing amount and you get money from these users.

Shiladitya enquired about the new technologies used to back gaming platforms. To which Anuj responded:

So in the last two years, synchronous multiplayer games have been the challenge that most gaming companies are trying to solve on mobile. And they have been very successful in doing that. So genres on mobile like a lot of people play games, you make teams of five people who battle against each other and that happens live and that is happening on mobile and making that all possible, synchronizing across all various data connections, and stuff like that is some of the key innovations happening in the gaming world right now apart from AR and VR.

In Brief Shunya One Ep.31


On this episode of Shunya One, we are joined by Mahesh Narayanan, Managing Director as Saavn. This conversation focuses on music streaming, digital platforms and the scope of data driven music identification, globally.

Mahesh gave his perspective about Saavn’s users outside of India. He said:

There is a significant diaspora population, there is the Indian diaspora around the love who loves their favourite content whether it is music, audio, video and the opportunity there is pretty significant as well. Streaming players like us have the opportunity to connect great storytellers or great musicians and make sure that we distribute their content to their relevant fans across the globe. Keeping that in mind, in fact, we are available actually now in a hundred and ninety six countries around the world. We have users from a hundred and ninety six countries around the world. We have a paid model outside India where users pay 5 bucks a month to subscribe for Saavn and they have access to a library of close to forty million tracks which is all their favourite tracks that they want to listen to. They have access to Saavn original shows, which all the audio shows and podcasts including Shunya One now here, they also get access to all the original music we are putting out in the form of Artist Originals, that we’ve now started. So that becomes very interesting from the Global-Indian point of view. That has actually been an interesting change in the past twelve months, even from our perspective.

Mahesh spoke about the kind of platform Saavn intends to be for its content creators and users. He said:

There is a lot of hunger for content as well, that’s the other big piece I think. We are the platform for independent music, and independent musicians and content creators that’s what we are trying to be and we continue to focus on.

In Brief Shunya One Ep.30


On this episode of Shunya One, we are joined by Nameet Potnis, Co-founder and CEO at Apptuse This conversation selling through Facebook and the rise of the e-commerce and subscription commerce market in the country.

Nammet explained how his experience with SellMojo helped him come up with a model for Apptuse. He said:

So we started doing Sellmojo which was full fledged ecommerce and it was on somebody else’s platform. And saw the signs on the wall and we knew that we needed to do something about it, in a very polite way. So we kind of decided to transition from there and it was still 2013 and I said let’s try and figure out what the next wave of devices will be or where will people essentially shop. And people were suspending an incredible amount of time on Facebook, Twitter was still early but basically on their phones. And we said great, let’s start off and let’s figure what is the simplest or low hanging fruit to get started with. And we said there are websites that sell stuff online, these are decently sized, they already have orders coming in from the web, but they have no presence on mobile whatsoever. So we said let’s figure out if we can take a shot at this opportunity but keeping in mind our vision which was, let’s try and make it in a way where there is absolutely no technical knowledge required. Which meant essentially that if somebody can use facebook or whatsapp you should be able to do an extremely complex app but without any knowledge. That’s where essentially we started from and we spent some time building that platform we did that because we wanted it to be in a way where the end merchant wouldn’t essentially have to do anything

In Brief Shunya One Ep.29


On this episode of Shunya One, we are joined by Aseem Khare, CEO at Adonis Electronics. He was formerly the CEO/Founder at Taskbob. The episode discusses the rise and fall of the Powai startup ecosystem, the home services sector in India and the critical process of shutting down startups.

Aseem spoke about Adonis Electronics and its operations. He said:

Adonis Electronics, is a service provider company and it used to be a subsidiary of Onida and it used to manage the service requests, the installation requests for Onida a few years back. And then Onida carved Adonis out of the company and now Adonis is a multi-brand service provider. So requests from Amazon, Vijay Sales, Onida etc. are handled at the backend by Adonis. So how it works is, let’s say you by a TV from Amazon and then Amazon will say don’t worry we will your installation. It is actually not Amazon who is actually doing the installation. So Amazon will give it to Adonis and Adonis will get the services done and in return Amazon will pay Adonis to do the service for you.

Aseem compared the business model at Taskbob and Adonis. He said:

The service industry, if you go deeper into it right, we were doing a B2C kind of business (with Taskbob), this is a B2B kind of a business. And I think the business model in Adonis is much stronger and I will again come back to the challenges we faced at Taskbob. It was into locking the customer and getting the number of repeats from the same customer versus the cost we were spending in acquiring the customer. In Adonis, it is pretty much sorted and they are dependent on Amazon giving me a continue flow of revenue. So the business model is very different and stronger and it serves the service industry.

#PodsWeLike Syfy 25: Origin Stories


As a die-hard science fiction and fantasy fan, there’s nothing more enlightening for me than listening to how the creators of some of my favourite fictional worlds come upon their ideas and what were the philosophies and experiences behind their work.

SYFY 25: Origin Stories is a podcast that gives me just that. Hosted by Adam Savage (of Mythbusters fame) the show features conversations with legends of the genre - Frank Oz, Kevin Kelly, D.C Fontana -contemporary stars - Neil Gaiman, Nnedi Okorafor, Sana Amanat - as well as uber-fans who’ve built an empire out of fan culture like Chris Hardwick and Kevin Smith.

Even if you are someone who isn’t familiar with the works of some of the guests there’s still much to absorb and revel in by hearing these extraordinary creators and visionaries talk with passion about their work and keeping the spirit of the genre alive.

You can listen to all the episodes here:  

- Abbas Momin

In Brief: Shunya One Ep. 28


On this episode of Shunya One, Shiladitya and Amit are joined by Ankita Tandon, COO at CouponDunia. The conversation covers the trend with subscription models for deals and discounts, the online to offline commerce space in the country and the work culture for women in organizations. They also discuss the challenges they face as startup founders with fundraising.

Ankita gave some insights about the perception shoppers have about behind deals and discounts.

What we found was that a very interesting insight that we had was that people’s buying decisions are very divergent from their online buying decisions. So behind a computer screen, people are very comfortable searching for a discount and they want a discount. The second you throw in friends and family around the person or when the person is in an offline setting, the person does not want a discount. He wants to be made to feel special, he wants to be treated like a valued customer rather than a discount. So what we found was that people prefer to be a called valued customer rather than getting deals or discounts. So we realized that that model of giving deals doesn’t translate directly like the way people pick up deals in an online space.

Shiladitya enquired about Ankita’s experience as a woman startup founder and the challenges she has faced with finding investors, in the past. To which she responded:

To give an example when we fundraising we got a lot of polite turndowns because it is a pretty small community and you are connected. The feedback that we got through the back-channels was that it is a female founding team, baccha paida kar lengi and it is not going to happen. So, there was all that outrage. I felt outraged. I’ve been asked point-blank by women investors that, when are you getting married. We were positively outraged. These were the questions we were asked. Having said that, I have seen in the last six years a lot of women founders who have raised money give up their roles and walking away from their businesses, which I think is unfair. It’s not unfair that you are choosing a child, it’s not. I am pro-choice. It is fine, it’s totally cool, that you’ve chosen to have a family. But I think, we live in a capitalistic society right, someone has given you their money, not because of the milk of kindness of their heart but because they want you to grow that money for them or they want you to find an opportunity or build a business. So, I think it is a tad bit unfair to do that. And you are doing a disservice to all women around you because that investor or those investors will not fund women entrepreneurs. And I’ve seen that happen a lot.

In Brief Shunya One Ep.27


On this episode of Shunya One, Shiladitya and Amit are joined by Jonathan Bill, Co-founder, and CEO at CreditMate. CreditMate is a fin-tech company focused on the used motorcycle market in India since 2016. Jonathan helps give an insight into the consumer behavior patterns for used bikes in the country and the scale of the secured-lending system.

Jonathan spoke about the credit and lending system at CreditMate.

What we really do is we say look is there a match between this particular demographic, this particular bike, so obviously because we are also assessing the asset in our case. So there is the individual and then there is the bike itself. So what is this bike going to be worth in three years time after the end of the loan? If we go and recover the bike, have we got margin left in the bike? In terms of credit assessing customers, you are looking at stuff like demographics, age, gender, location, geography, occupation. So to give you a sense, 60% of our customers have no credit history.

Amit enquired if CreditMate would expand further to other verticles or markets. To which, Jonathan responded:

We are and we might, but I am a sort of a subscriber to the Peter Thiel theory that vaguely says to focus on a particular vertical and then get good at that. If anything, we might expand our activity inside that vertical beyond just finance. As opposed to necessarily adding new categories. The other thing you have to play around is with when you are lending is your raw material is capital, unlike a product company or a social network, for example, the raw material is people, in our case raw material is capital. So you’re sort of constantly looking for a relationship with other lenders that have large balance sheets that can lend in the asset that you are in. Never say never, used vehicles is definitely interesting. We like secured-lending, that works for us. Anything that you can secure in our case that would mean cars, bikes, possibly tractors, and three-wheelers.

Jonathan gave an insight on the scale of the used bike sector in the country.

India sells 20 million new bikes every year, and that stock has to go somewhere. And plus you have quite a sort of virtuous upgrade cycle so people are often buying new vehicles but will renew every two years. They will use that older bike as a trade-in and that then flows into the system as a used bike. So that’s pretty much how our market works.

Shiladitya wondered about what Jonathan thought of the UI (User Interface) sensibilities in the Indian market. Jonathan then explained:  

The trend towards Americanized minimalistic UI is a bit of a mistake, in my opinion in India. India is just not minimalistic or toned down, at a mass level. You walk down the street it is full of colour and noise and chaos. Most of those designs, I think are over-engineered and in fact, off-putting, intimidating to potentially to users. There is another parallel with China if you look at Chinese apps they are jangling. They are red and they are unabashedly Chinese. To us, they may look a bit cluttered. But it is right for China, it is right for the mass market. So, I think you have to be very careful with UI, it can’t be intimidating, off-putting and it can’t reek of richness and elitism when that isn’t the reality of your customer base.

Catch the episode here:

In Brief Shunya One Ep.26


On this episode of Shunya One, Shiladitya and Amit are joined by Japan Vyas, Co-founder and Managing Partner at Sixth Sense Ventures Advisors LLP. Japan shares his experience as a venture capitalist, seed investor and mentor to ensure a sustainable ecosystem for new businesses.

Japan gave his perspective on his investment choices across various sectors.

“My investment thesis is very simple - people matter. I invest ahead of trends. So the first fund I invested where - PayTM where no one knew much about it. That fund itself did infrastructure financing and outperformed the market significantly when people were losing money in infrastructure. Out of the second fund in 2012, I was an early investor in RBL Bank, IndusInd Bank, National Stock Exchange. So each of those investments are 4-5X  up from their cost price, much ahead of their cost prices before financial services became a hot topic. I prefer investing where others are not investing because I find value there. My belief is that there is a lot can be done on the social impact side and you can create great consumer brands over there. When you talk about doing social impact investing, people think of it as doing charity, or kuch hoga nahin, I don’t believe in that. If you have patience over there, if you build the business well, you can create great consumer brands. Because people want to buy such stories, given an opportunity.”

He spoke about the Indian startup ecosystem for the investors and founders.  

“I think the Indian ecosystem is still young, and it’s shallow both on the investment opportunities available for the investors and the founders, right. We all learning. You will see a lot of people doing things for the wrong reasons, so investing as you said, for making a 3X in a few months, etc. But we will learn along the way. And it is still very very early days in the Indian startup ecosystem, we are what, maybe 10-15-year-old ecosystem. I think it will deepen, it will strengthen and hopefully going forward we will see lesser and lesser investments happening for the wrong reasons.”

Shiladitya enquired about the involvement expected by an angel investor from the founders of the company. To which Japan responded:

“So most of the times I don’t think they are required to be involved unless there is a lead angel, and he or she has brought in for a specific purpose to add value to the company. Off late, I’ve been doing a lot of seed investing where I come in early, or I am expected to play a lot more active role. So my investee company some of them say, give us more time, come with us, meet our customers, meet our vendors. We want to share those relationships with you that you know it is a way of managing a key-man risk, saying that if something happens to us, at least you have those relationships. So different kind of founders will have a different set of expectations from you.”

Catch the episode here:

In Brief: Shunya One Ep.25


On this episode of Shunya One, we are joined by Zishaan Hayath, Co-founder, to talk about the early days of the startup ecosystem in Powai, what technology can do to the education sector and his journey of building the learning app.

Shiladitya enquired how he set the building blocks for To which Zishaan responded:

For the first one and a half years, it was just four of us building the platform from my apartment. And to keep the costs low and to give us a long runway we kept it very lean, very low-cost but kept writing very high-quality code for a very long time. So four people, one and half years; because of the minimum viable product, in this case, was not small or flimsy it was a large MVP. Because students will not commit to a product unless it is completely meaningful to them and comprehensive to them. They just can’t pick up something which is very half baked or a very thin used-case and commit to using it. They will be like I either use this or I’ll go with a book or I’ll go to a coaching class. They need that commitment to subscribe before.

Zishaan explained about the functionality of the learning app.

I think our core word is personalization, so we want to build an adaptive path for each child as they navigate through the course. So at the start of the course, they set what they want to learn right, so you are a 9th std student, you can say IX std CBSE, these are my subjects additionally I want to prepare for Olympiad or NTSE or whatever. So you set your course and we create one course in the app. These are a bunch of courses most of it is overlapping, so we create one overlapping course that covers everything. Then we set you out on a path and after that, we take control and then we create a path that is best suited for you.

He also spoke about the opportunity for advanced learning applications in the existing education system.

In India, there is a lot of demand and we are still scratching the surface of demand because our skilling is very low. Even in our grad colleges, our undergrad colleges we learn very little. We spend years, come out we can’t even write code. We finish 12 years of school from an English-medium school and we can’t write a page in English. Our skilling, while we are going through these years, is very very low. So we essentially we come to our job and then spend two years you know learning on the job and somebody is actually exploiting you because of that. So I think there is a lot of self-learning opportunity available, upscaling opportunity available. So supplementary education till XII std, definitely yes; even beyond XII std there is a lot of upscaling and learning opportunity outside of the classroom.

Listen to the full episode here:

In Brief: Shunya One Ep 24


On this episode of Shunya One, we are joined by Bala Menon, an independent product strategist from Mumbai. Their conversation covers the process and various stages of building technology-based products, research on augmentatives systems and the different aspects to a product related profile in organisations and startups today.

Bala expanded on the designation and job profile related to programming and building products.

A lot of generalists now prefer calling themselves as product people, because they don’t need to have specialties beyond a point. I mean you could say, look I am a programmer but I get to decide where this product is headed, or what I need this product to do. And I have a little bit of an interjection to make here when you think about founders who are technical, so let’s say you want to write a program you really have to understand what is the problem you are trying to solve. Because you have to logically define it and really go to the depths of what you are trying to solve and that’s how you kind of create the program. The good thing about that and that’s also how a lot of founders used to think. And Microsoft had product management programs where it was a purely technical role, unlike what you are seeing now which is an offshoot of marketing and other things.

Shiladitya inquired about the challenges faced by non-tech founders while building or launching a product. Bala explained:  

A lot of non-tech founders are not reading the kind of stuff that tech founders are. A lot of tech people read very nuanced versions of how to launch a product. Right from setting up a server to kind of getting your first 100 users, and how to set up your analytics; non-tech founders are not essentially reading that. I am not saying everybody isn’t, but most of them aren’t. It is a challenge to them because most of them are getting these toned down, watered down versions of it in different forms and ways and it is also confusing the heck out of them.

Listen to the full episode here:

In Brief: Shunya One Ep 23


On this episode of Shunya One, we are joined by Vahishta Mistry, a former journalist and media professional who has moved on to building tech products from remote places. He speaks about his journey as a digital nomad, its challenges and the opportunities it brings to the table.

Vahishta discussed how critical it is for team-mates to take ownership and foresee a problem before a certain situation arises. He said:

Ownership for an employer; to provide that ownership to someone who is working remotely is a. - a huge responsibility and you are putting yourself in a very vulnerable position at that point. Which means you need to invest that trust essentially you need to know that person a little better. That brings me to the point where it is ideal if you actually work with that person. Even if you need to pay for that person to come for a little bit, work with you for a month. Kick the tires, make sure they are okay and then send them off.

Shiladitya inquired about the difference between Silicon Valley and India, in terms of the work culture be it work ethics or transparency. To which Vahishta responded:  

I hesitate to generalize on that basis but I will tell you one thing and it’s not a Valley thing, it is universal and I have seen this between two companies within India. It is the amount of faff in the office, to be honest. Teams that faff a lot don’t get s*** done and that’s the fundamental difference. I think one of the benefits to working in other cultures, again and I am not saying the U.S in particular but anywhere else is a team that can get their head down and start at a given time, get through a single process and then get done at the end of the day even if it is 5’O clock. You don’t need to work late, it is not about how many hours you put in, it is about how efficient you are in those hours that you do put in. Such teams will do better.

Shiladitya wondered how one jumps right into a work culture like this. Vahishta explained:

It is hard, I would spend the time and invest the time to build up a good network. I would start slow. I think if you really want to do a step-by-step progression up to this, you would need to start small. You would need to start by making profiles on sites like Elance, and Fiverr, so on and so forth. Try and build a body of work there. First of all, that would be a learning experience to even see whether that lifestyle suits you even without traveling. Just be home and do one project on that side. Don’t give up your day job. Do one project on the side, see how that feels. A lot of people don’t like it, it can be very nerve-racking for you to not have anything to do, or having to do something without too much instruction.

Catch the episode here:

In Brief: Shunya One Ep. 22


On this episode of Shunya One, we are joined by Naiyya Saggi, Founder of BabyChakra, a parenting platform. This conversation covers how technology can help make better decisions about childcare, parenting and healthcare with a focus on building a strong community equipped with insights and technology.  

Shiladitya inquired about the the kind of insights that Naiyya found to understand the market for BabyChakra. To which she responded:

Just think about how we all make decisions today. Essentially there are two massive trends that we are riding on: I think now is the perfect time to be creating something like BabyChakra. the first big trend is of data democracy. So you look at how Jio has come in and completely changed, how we consume and how much we consume online, right? And how online consumption is now becoming a part of how we operate, day in and day out. And the second big sort of trend, if you will is: look at the smartphone prices. And if you look at how India has completely leapfrogged. We didn’t even go through the “desktop or the laptop revolution” we pretty much leapfrogged into the smartphone ecosystem. And what that means essentially is that there are more women who for the first time in history have access to the internet. And what are these women looking for? And honestly, they are not even on Facebook groups. Why? Because they feel Facebook is not safe, it is not a trusted platform for them to be a part of. So where do they come to? And what do they access or what are they even allowed to access online? It is stuff around parenting, family, healthcare. It is stuff about what is good for themselves and their kids.

Naiyya also spoke about how technology comes into play:

Think about what you want your consumer and user to experience. And what adds value to his/her life and then build accordingly. And some these things are some very very simple feature sets and some of them are much more complex in terms of the algorithms you build out or sort of how you undertake to create a certain experience. Just to give you two very quick examples. I love the fact that both of you used the word community because fundamentally that’s what we want to feel like. And actually what we are is a very very smart and a very personal companion. So every mother has a unique BabyChakra experience and that is powered by machine learning and that is powered by proprietary algorithms that take more than 150 data points from every interaction that she has with BabyChakra. So that is pretty much what we are building at BabyChakra in terms of the overall experience.

Listen to the full episode here: 

In Brief: Shunya One Ep. 21


On this week’s episode of Shunya One, host Shiladitya and Amit are joined by Revant Bhate, Entrepreneur in Residence, Head of New Business at Faasos. They talk about startup careers, offbeat job titles, food technology and business in India. 

Revant explained how the hiring system was put in place at Faasos and what is the best way of defining job roles at a workplace.

I think for us it was very clear from Day 1, that we were broadly firstly, or let’s say the second line after the founder. I think that culture got ingrained in us as well. Though we didn’t create an FER program below when we were looking to hire our second line. We realized that we had to look for the same thing which is ownership and leadership. And how do you measure ownership and leadership? It is broad: can you assign a P&L responsibility to a person who you are hiring? Because if you are not going to assign a hard number target, what are you measuring in your quarterly KRA? How do you know whether your day has gone well or not? No one wakes up in the morning and says I am going to have a crappy day. And in some sense having a P&L responsibility, having an objective target is something that is very very clearly helping not only businesses grow but individuals feel that they’ve performed well or not.

He also spoke about his biggest lessons from his experience of building and creating food brands.  

The biggest learning was that if you can tell a particular thing, first it has to be the truth as close to it as possible. And you have to really talk about it repeatedly from the heart, and actually reach a very small sliver of the audience, that set of the audience will create the brand for you.

Listen to the full episode here: 

In Brief: Shunya One Ep. 20


This week we are joined by Aditya Mishra, Founder and CEO at SwitchMe. The conversation covers entrepreneur-networking groups, the challenges in the banking and finance sector with technology and innovation and what led him to his venture in the home-loans space.

Aditya explained the misuse of the buzzword "disruption" that is often used when corporates invest in startups: 

I think disruption is a word that gets thrown around a lot and it means different things to different people and different people react differently to it. I think it’s exciting for a bunch of people who are entrepreneurs and say, hey we are out to disrupt. That gets them excited that gets them going. And its hugely motivating. I think that’s good. For a bunch of corporates who’ve not been looking at it they react with fear, that my business is going away. And a) it either forces them to work with such startups or do something of their own. I think that’s also good. Then there are a bunch of people I think the smarter kind, they think: that in the end what difference does it make to my customer?

He also spoke about the challenges faced by the banking sector with technology and innovation:

I was selling to banks and I could see that banks couldn’t innovate even if their life depended on it. Why’s that? They would essentially look at the business leaders coming up with the new ideas or they will say okay let the tech guys come up with the new ideas. First of all most bank tech people are not deep tech people. They actually turn to a TCS or an Infosys for help on that. Second is that the tech is not out there is not looking at what the customer is doing, it’s the branch which is doing that. Between the tech and branch there is a central processing centre then you’ve got your operations leadership and then comes the tech. So tech essentially treats the operations leadership as its customer, or the business function leaders as its leaders. Now these guys are not in the market. If you are not studying your customer, if you are not trying to understand the needs how are you going to innovate?