Sramana Mitra: To net it out, you are agnostic to B2B or B2C. You are really interested in learning about something new. That’s your primary motivator.
Aniruddha Malpani: I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I’m good at what I do. This is what I call the T-shaped model of living a life. I have a lot of vertical expertise in my particular domain. I would now like to go across other fields. The only way I can learn in these other fields is by investing in other startups.
Sramana Mitra: You’re a very curious man.
Aniruddha Malpani: There is so much I don’t know about the world. The world changes so much so quickly. That’s really what makes it exciting. You want to get up in the morning and find out what’s new and what else we can do about it. I don’t know whether you know this.
It’s no longer very easy to be a doctor in today’s world. That’s especially true in the US where lots of doctors have become clerical pen-pushers. Lots of older doctors talk about the good old days. Therefore, they tend to be a little pessimistic about how patients don’t respect them. The great thing about hanging out with young entrepreneurs is they’re very optimistic. That keeps me young and excited.
Sramana Mitra: There’s no point thinking about the good old days when technology is going to keep moving. It’s changing in many different ways. I have a whole field of interest that has to do with artificial intelligence. That impacts medicine. There is going to be a tremendous amount of impact of AI on the field of medicine that is going to change things fundamentally.
There’s no point resisting these changes. Changes are going to come. The question is, how are you going to interface with those? Are you going to be a curious excited participant or are you going to be nostalgically thinking about what used to be the good old days. Those good old days are not coming back.
Aniruddha Malpani: I love the word you used in your book called cross-domain innovation. That’s exactly the advantage of being a doctor, and then you’re at this cutting-edge of two different fields. You have a certain perspective. Then you can actually see what’s happening in other fields and how you can apply some of that learning into yours. That’s where the healthcare piece comes in.
I have a soft corner for social impact investment. There’s just so much potential in this country. The great advantage of being an investor in India is that your competition, in one sense, is much less. Silicon Valley is flushed with funds and there is so much money, whereas in India there isn’t that much money but there are clever entrepreneurs who are willing to work hard at solving these problems.
Quite frankly, the bang you get for your buck is far more than it would be in other parts of the world. That’s exciting. It allows me to play to my advantages. This is my country. It’s my ecosystem. I understand it.
Sramana Mitra: Does that necessarily say that you are investing in companies that are Indian market focused companies or are you also investing in companies that are focused on global markets out of India?
Aniruddha Malpani: You basically fall in love with the entrepreneur whatever the idea may be. I think there’s more than enough scope for entrepreneurs to just do India market well and make tons of money. One of the startups I’ve recently invested in is called Multi-bhashi which is an app to help blue-collar workers learn English. There’s such a huge need for it.
Imagine the amount of value you’re adding to these people’s lives, whether it’s a sales person sitting at a retail store or someone who’s driving Uber. No international company is going to be interested in doing this stuff. That gives us some degree of a competitive advantage straight away.
Quite frankly, as these companies grow, if you can succeed in India given how difficult it is to get money from customers, the ability to succeed anywhere in the world is just a matter of time. A lot of the entrepreneurs I’ve funded will have global ambitions. To take a great example, Ajit Narayanan who runs FreeSpeech. Their app is now being monetized to teach children in China how to speak in English. It’s such a huge market.