An impact, more than all other things that life renders for the growth of a man, brings hope with it and forward looking thoughts. Dr. Ritesh Malik experienced the influence of innovation when a simple water ATM helped to resolve the problem of diarrhea in the small town of Theni. Later, as time proceeded, exploring the startup ecosystem in the United States of America, from one to coast to another, helped him to construct his creations. For most entrepreneurs, scaling success means the valuation of their equity. For Ritesh, scaling success is by the measurement of impact.
Highlights of this episode
- Becoming an entrepreneur and serial investor after coming from a background of thirty seven doctors.
- Building the app ALIVE which got 2,50,000 downloads in the first three hours.
- On 95% startups failing within the first two years.
- Inculcating entrepreneurship in educational institutions and building sustainable CIEs.
quotes and takeaways
- When it comes to making an impact, it’s all about scalability.
- We must mix traditional knowledge with new blood entrepreneurial culture.
- India will become the most educated unemployed nation in the world as we are soon going to surpass the population of China.
You were pursuing medicine with certain dreams and ambitions. What made you gravitate towards entrepreneurship?
When I was in my 9th standard, I knew I did not want to become a doctor. I was very clear from my early days that I wanted to become an entrepreneur. The reason is both my parents are in the medical profession for last sixteen years. From what I wanted to acquire from life, the ROI on the time and energy in the medical profession was not enough.
Somehow I feel that even a very influential doctor can see a 100 patients in a days. The moment you become a doctor you have an impact on only those 100 patients a days. If you are an entrepreneur, and if you are building something like Paytm you have an impact on billions of people.
When it came to academics, I was passionate about medical academics and hence I chose it.
How do you aim to make an impact? Do you keep any specific domain in mind while making an impact?
I think in every sphere we can have an impact. Even a freelancer is having an impact in his or her own way. The larger your vision, the larger you can contribute to the nation’s growth. For some, impact is making a beautiful product just for a niche market. For me, impact is at a larger scale. When it comes to impact it is all about scale for me. I think the larger scale you have, the larger the impact.
When I started, we had built an app called ALIVE. That was a very interesting moment for us as we sold the app to TOI in April, 2013. It excited me to think that at least a part of the Indian population was thinking about innovation in India. We were the first ones to get augmented reality to the masses of India.
how did becoming a part of harvard university help you to move forth?
During my education at the Harvard University, I visited Silicon Valley, Boston, various universities, all the CIEs, all the coworking centres, Google, Facebook. As a student, I got to interact with the Harvard faculty and understood how innovation happens.
I realized that in the Indian startup ecosystem, not everyone understands how to invest in startups. Even startups do not know where they are heading towards. People go by the stories published by the media, that this XYZ company has a billion dollar evaluation. When it comes to actual entrepreneurship, 95 % of startups in India fail within the first two years.
Why would you say that 95 % of the startups are failing within the first two years?
People start for the wrong reasons. People start to get money. It has to be your personal mission, it has to be your personal passion.
A startup life is very hard considering the grind you have to go through. Startups are no cakewalk. You cannot have a comfortable lifestyle if you are doing a startup. Because you are trying to puncture the status quo. You are trying to go way beyond the conventional methodologies. You are trying to snatch business from the conventional vendors.
It is driven by the personal passion of the founders. It is run by a lean thought process. It focuses on “KESIN” as the Japanese call it.
How would you predict the startup ecosystem of India within the next 5 years?
Everything will go down. People will be very hesitant to invest in angel investment in India. People generally do not make good amount in angel investment in India. There will be a very linear growth. This is very close to what Silicon Valley looked like in 1973 when Apple was built.
India requires paradigm shift in the mindset to recreate the Valley. How would you say we can build this mindset? How can we drive innovation?
We must educate people about startups and thought leadership. We have about 50 students coming to Innov8 every week. They see a 3D printer, a telescope, a smart service, they see how innovation happens. It is necessary to change the thought process from the foundation years of their lives.
Inculcating entrepreneurship as a subject in the 8th and 10th class is another method. We are also focusing on building various sustainable CIES across the nation.
Another aspect to focus on is building products in Indian and then sell it across the globe. We invested in ThinkPot, founded by Sumit Ranka. The founder believes in the idea of making motivational merchandise which has a worldwide market.
Do not go for Metoo products. Why not create your own market in the space in which you are interested?
Would you not opine that in an age when new innovation is coming up every hour, an idea is more about how it is established than being unique?
An idea is more about an impact than innovation. When it comes to making an impact, it’s all about the scalability.
India needs to focus on agriculture, healthcare and retail. These domains have received less attention from the private equity, government and entrepreneurial standpoint.
We need to have more places where skill, passion and funding meet. For instance, if we are building an accelerator for packaging, it must focus on making smart packaging. We must mix traditional knowledge with new blood entrepreneurial culture.
How can an entrepreneur have a work life balance?
Foremost important thing is health. After that is your family. Your values and your culture must be very strong. I would not want to sit on a billion dollar cushion if my sister is unhappy with me.
How necessary is it for India to have more entrepreneurs to grow?
My goal is to deliver products in most remote villages of India. By 2020, we aim to drive 20% of the students not sit for placement but go for entrepreneurship. India will become the most educated unemployed nation in the world as we are soon going to surpass the population of China. This situation will lead to discrepancies between the rich and poor. It can even lead to a civil war. Entrepreneurship must rise to save the nation from such times ahead of us.