What has been the steepest learning curve of your career so far?
During the two severe down-cycles in the last 15 years – the dot com bust in 2000 and the GFC of 2008, I learnt lessons about how to navigate incredibly tough times that arrive somewhat suddenly. In 2000 I was in Hong Kong and in 2008 I was in India and in both cases it was clear how connected global markets have become; contagion spreads very quickly. These periods have the ability to surface companies that can endure.
How do you think the ventures landscape in India has changed in the past 10 years?
It is perhaps the best time to be an entrepreneur in India. For the first time, there is a great willingness among managerial talent to leave their secure jobs in big organisations and come and work with start-ups. There’s also capital available throughout the lifecycle of an investment - a decade ago there was no sort of angel or seed stage investment in India, and bootstrapping added years to your growth trajectory. That stifled many potential entrepreneurs from taking the plunge. Another transformation has been information flow across the globe. An entrepreneur in India can learn global best practices at the click of a button and that’s important because unlike 10 years ago, many Indian entrepreneurs today have global aspirations.
What technology/investment theme inspires you today?
Mobile technology has the power to create leapfrog innovation. As more and more people come online and use more services, it has the potential to transform several industries profoundly, and for the better. Equally, I am excited about the healthcare opportunities in emerging markets. Companies that innovate products and business models to serve the next four billion people that are underserved have tremendous opportunities.
If you could give one piece of your advice to your 20-year old self what would it be?
Work in a start-up when you are young. I think the lessons from founding a company or being an early team member teaches you valuable lessons along multiple dimensions, including working with limited resources, adapting business models in dynamic markets, hiring right, financing adequately etc. These are invaluable skills and would have accelerated my learning to become a good investor early in my career.