Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Investing at the NASSCOM shark tank event

I was invited to be an investor at the NASSCOM Shark Tank event held recently in Mumbai. I feel the older generation has a responsibility to encourage youngsters and I am happy to put my money where my mouth is. I enjoyed myself thoroughly - interacting with young clever people who are passionate about what they do
( which is true of most entrepreneurs) can be a lot of fun ! The entrepreneurial ecosystem in India is gradually evolving and there's lots of scope for both entrepreneurs and investors to participate.

So why is it called a Shark Tank ? Is it because investors are thought of as being hungry sharks, who prey on entrepreneurs ?  Or that investors go into a feeding frenzy when they come across a clever startup which they think will make them rich ? While this maybe the first thought which comes to mind, I am much more kindly disposed towards sharks, thanks to the comic strip, Sherman's Lagoon !  I feel sharks are misunderstood and don't deserve the bad press they get. They are actually great role models for ambitious humans, and I feel a kinder explanation would be that entrepreneurs need to behave like sharks - they need to keep on moving and hunting for opportunities, otherwise they will die. Also, let's not forget that sharks are survivors - and entrepreneurs need to be hungry and thick-skinned !

The master of ceremonies , Mukund Mohan, of Microsoft Ventures, did a great job with engaging with the audience; and there were some great presentations by Rahul Sood ( Microsoft Ventures, USA ); Ashish Hemrajani (Founder-CEO, Book My Show), and Anupam Mittal (Founder-CEO, People Group), who described their entrepreneurial journey. RehanYar Khan (Investor, Orius Ventures) and Ravi Gururaj (Chair, NASSCOM Product Council) emphasised the differences between the Indian scenario and what's happening in other parts of the world.

I learned a lot at the event - from the entrepreneurs; from the other investors; and from the audience. There was a lot of positive energy in the room and this can be contagious ! Congrats to NASSCOM for doing such a good job. I did invest in 4 startups -I look forward to learning from them.

However, I was disappointed that there wasn't a single woman in any of the presenting teams. What's wrong with the young women in India ? This is a growing country and there are going to be millions of opportunities to exploit. Why aren't women coming forward to take advantage of these ?

Also, there wasn't a single healthcare startup in the event.  The Indian healthcare system is sick, and we need clever young doctors to come up with disruptive innovations to fix the rot ! I found the absence of doctors disheartening. Aren't doctors supposed to be smart and driven ? Healthcare is a huge opportunity in India today - and doctors are healthcare experts , because they have to deal with the challenges of treating patients on a daily basis. Could it be that the grind of the Indian medical educational system saps them of all creativity and drive ?

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