Cover Image For Ep47 - Monica Mehta Of The Wadhwani Foundation: From Investment Banking To Nurturing Entrepreneurship In Young Minds
Monica Mehta Of The Wadhwani Foundation

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From Investment Banking To Nurturing Entrepreneurship In Young Minds: Story Of Monica Mehta Of The Wadhwani Foundation

Education is not just about exams and assignments. Education does not only mean knowing Mechanics in Physics or remembering the important dates in History. Rather it’s about developing skills which translate well into the real world.

The Indian Education System

The education system in India is not at all focused on developing character. Rather than actual learning, more focus is been given on marks and assignments. Handing out degrees without actually nurturing skills is the biggest problem with the Indian education system. Also, there is no system in place for career guidance.

Cover Image For Ep47 - Monica Mehta Of The Wadhwani Foundation: From Investment Banking To Nurturing Entrepreneurship In Young Minds

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Career guidance helps individuals make a shift from the general understanding of life and work to a more specific understanding of the realistic and practical career options that are available to them. So, career guidance is an important aspect of education.

Need For A Change!
Need For A Change!

Also the creation of new jobs and opportunities are changing the way individuals make their career choices. With such changes in place, career planning has become more complex and confusing. Moreover formal sources of career guidance are not easily accessible. Thus individuals tend to rely on their family and friends. And so leading to choices where they end up in careers they do not see a successful future in. Thus, nurturing and guiding young minds is an important part of their growth!

Career Guidance: Key Tool For Growth
Career Guidance: Key Tool For Growth

One such individual who wants to change this decade old system is place is Monica Mehta.

You might like this episode: Anupendra Sharma of Startup Leadership Program talks about building leaders and entrepreneurs: Season 1, Episode 50

Most entrepreneurial journeys start with a desire to create an impact and make a difference. Monica’s entrepreneurial journey has been no different. Leaving her job as an investment banker was the beginning of Monica’s entrepreneurial journey.

Monica went to pursue a graduate degree in global management in the US when the massive difference in the education systems in the US and India struck her. She describes the two years on campus as the best years of her life!

So, she wanted to bring back the best practices from the US to India and thus bring about a much-required change in the Indian education system. This lead Monica to start her education venture “The Great Circle“.

Monica Mehta of Wadhwani NEN
Monica Mehta of Wadhwani NEN

Monica sold The Great Circle to her business partner and started another journey of entrepreneurship with her new partners at Kaizen Private Equity. Here they ended up raising $70 Million in funds in the span of two years. In 2015, Monica decided to move to an impact investment firm.

Today, what Monica is doing with the Wadhwani Foundation is enabling young minds to take up entrepreneurship. From Investment banker to Nurturing Entrepreneurship In Young Minds. The story of Monica Mehta Of The Wadhwani Foundation is truly remarkable!

What does this vantage point offer her? How did her own experience of starting up shaped her perspective? Listen to Monica talk about all this and more on this episode of the MoS Podcast.

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Here Are Some Excerpts From The Episode:

I just feel that the only reason they’ve been able to thrive the way they are, is because they’re just so many people around who innovate and problem solve. And I just think that our education system needs to churn out more of those people.

Monica Mehta 26:08

And clearly, we want those students to, you know, work with us on this program that we run, that actually display the attributes of a potentially good entrepreneur, having said that, we do go wrong sometimes. And we know that every student that enters the program is always going to be successful, but we we limit, you know, chances of failure by just bringing in the right people.

Monica Mehta 36:39

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Listen to Another Maharani Of Scale: Rashi Narang Talk About Her Journey From Being A HR Executive to Founder of a Multi Million $ Pet Care Company!

Show Notes

Monica Mehta- The Wadhwani Foundation

Follow Monica On LinkedIn (@monicamehta)

Check out the Word Cloud for the episode below!

Word Cloud For Ep47 - Monica Mehta Of The Wadhwani Foundation: From Investment Banking To Nurturing Entrepreneurship In Young Minds
Word Cloud for the episode

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​Episode Transcript

(Automated Transcript)

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

startups, entrepreneur, ventures, founders, people, students, education, support, foundation, india, business, innovation, college, life, network, learning, country, create, years, education sector

SPEAKERS

Monica Mehta, Krishna Jonnakadla, Tania Jadhav

Krishna Jonnakadla  00:01

mThis is Maharajas of Scale, a podcast where we go behind the scenes and talk to founders who are demolishing the myths around building and scaling a big business in India. These are the stories that have shattered the assumptions around Indian consumers and of changing the game completely. I am Krishna Jonnakadla, serial entrepreneur, co founder of FLIT the fashion located in town and startup mentor, bringing you the stories. Hey everyone this is Krishna from Maharajas of Scale your host. And this is a beautiful Thursday afternoon in Bangalore. I'm hearing rumors of another lockdown, and then I'm cringing. I'm hoping that somebody thinks about the economic activity and starts forcing people to behave because we cannot afford another one. But having said that, today, I have somebody very interesting on the show, Monica Mehta of Wadhwani Foundation, this episode is going to be a little different. And I think it's going to be a great segue into season two, which we will go into shortly. Season One will top up with the 50 entrepreneurs. And we brought you all of their stories. And then along the way, I realized that not a lot was being done about growth and helping entrepreneurs grow in a conscious manner. Everybody thought we could just tell them stories, and then they could grow by themselves. And the Wadhwani Foundation, which is actually founded by Ramesh Wadhwani, who's founded a bunch of technology companies and also incubated a bunch of technology companies in the US. Incidentally, I worked for one his brother in the US and his startup I get so I've known quite a bit about Mr. Ramesh Wadhwani's ventures out in the US and here. So the Wadhwani Foundation is focused on helping students learn entrepreneurship from very early on. And today speaking with us is Monica Mehta. And I must say her background is very, very interesting. Most people who go to the US to get a management degree, decide that this is a fabulous country, we should just stay back here we should work, take a job in investment banking, and then go out on Wall Street, make the millions maybe in a couple of years start looking at buying the Maserati or the next big thing. But Monica did something different. She came back to India, she saw a big need. And she founded what is called as the best circle. And then eventually, she has been working for a bunch of impact funds. So I can tell that having been an entrepreneur herself, entrepreneurs and learning for entrepreneurs is very close to her heart. And Monica, it's so awesome to have you Welcome to the show.

Monica Mehta  02:53

Thanks, Krishna. And it's really great to be on this Thursday afternoon. And I really looking forward to having some conversations with you hoping to maybe you know, just take a couple of things out of my book, and maybe, hopefully there are some entrepreneurs out there who are listening, why can I support help in some way or inspired in some way. And that's really been the backbone of of this journey. So I'm looking forward to this conversation.

Krishna Jonnakadla  03:19

Awesome. I ve made an exception for you, Monica, because of the work that you're doing, and the philosophy that you have. And as I was saying, before we hit the record button, we don't speak to anybody other than founders. Only when somebody is adding extraordinary value to founders, we believe, you know, they should get some face time. There are a lot of unsung heroes out there. We will. We are planning to come up with a segment on unsung heroes, but that's next. But let's get a little more about your own story. You've been an entrepreneur, you've been there done that. And in from my research, I can tell that you're after founding best circle the time that you spent with Kaizen and Omidyar network, you characterize them as maybe 10x learning than what you did, what do you had as an entrepreneur yourself? So go into a little more detail about that, and then talk to us about your entrepreneurial journey and all the peaks and valleys you've seen them.

Monica Mehta  04:23

Sure. Absolutely. So you know, I started off my career actually, as an investment banker. And it's interesting that you said that other people, and honestly the five years that I spent as an investment banker were not the most exciting years of my life, if I may say that. While Of course, the learning was steep. I personally felt that it every morning that I woke up was not as exciting as I wanted it to be. So I decided that I'm going to take a break I went to the US to get an MBA. I went to pandaboard, which is now part of the Arizona State universe. As the umbrella I was in Phoenix for two years, and I think one of the things that really caught my attention is how much I enjoyed the two years on campus, right? We were a global MBA program, we had 73 countries represented on campus. And those really were the absolute best years of my life. Right. And, you know, during that time, I realized that education can be so exciting can be so much fun, right can be so rewarding. I think my you know, k 12 education in India, as well as my B Carmen emcomm, both of which I did in Mumbai city, will probably not as engaging for me as a young student, I don't think I went to college as much. So when I came back after my MBA, and I decided to come back I, at that time did have a job with Enron. Which, looking back, I'm glad I didn't stick that up anyway. But yeah, but you know, I mean, I decided to come back because I was like, No, I have to make a difference in the space of education, I believe that there are best practices to be brought back, I believe that I can make a change in the education space in India. And only with that thought I returned, right, I didn't know anything else. Neither my education background, no, my family background lends itself to education. So I had no understanding of the space. And that's what led me to, to being a founder of the great circle, right? That was the company that I founded. This was in 2000, late, early 2001, when I returned from the US, and really, without much knowledge, I started dabbling in different spaces, right. So one of the things I felt was a big need, and a big gap, excuse me, was career guidance and career counseling, like students were making choices. With unint. I mean, these were uninformed decisions, perhaps parents were getting their kids, they were believing that, you know, they knew what's best for their child, I mean, they definitely have the best intent, but not always all the knowledge. So you know, career guidance. And career counseling is something that I saw as a big gap, that led me to supporting a lot of young k 12 schools that were wanting to then get into the IB course, which was new at the time, the International Baccalaureate and helped a lot of them to, you know, kind of get accredited with the IB program, moved along to supporting students that are graduating are these IP programs to, you know, harness their dreams and help them with their admissions and applications, overseas universities in the UK, Australia, US, Canada, etc. I therefore got to know a lot of universities and I started a lot of pathway and training programs from Sri Lanka and India to the US, where students could do a part of their education here, and then a part of it back in the US. And then I saw a need in vocational training. And you know, this was in 2006, when retail was just about beginning to take off in the country, there was the west side and the, you know, big bazaars, etc, of the world, beginning to happen, and I and I, you know, for it into these own while you learn that the month programs for retail, real estate, banking, finance, insurance, etc. and at each stage, you know, it was an exciting journey, it was something new, something I'd never tried before, something that I didn't know enough about. But I think that, you know, just discovering where the gap is, and therefore, what kind of problem I want to solve for really understanding the pain point of the customer. And where I am going to step in, and, you know, really try and address that pain point, that entire journey of just figuring that out at each stage. And during the nine odd years that I ran the green circle, were extremely rewarding times. And and I did pretty well, pretty much in all of the segments that I mentioned, I decided to then sell off my stake in the business to my existing partner at the time. And in 2009, I had an opportunity to move over to, you know, the investing side of education. So we were setting up India's first fund. That was an education focused private equity fund. And, you know, I got excited because, you know, the founders that we're trying to start set up this fun, we're talking about an operations driven private equity fund. So, you know, traditional private equity has oftentimes been, you know, money that is oftentimes put into companies where board seats are taken, and oftentimes decisions are just driven through the board seat at the board position that, you know, private equity fund manager has, and we really wanted to go out there and make the difference, right. So I was the education specialist on the team. My other three co founders had investment banking, private equity backgrounds. So the four of us again, it was a startup, in a sense, right? Because you've got a first time team trying to raise a fund. We had nothing but an idea on paper and we went out there and in over the next two and a half, three years. We raised seven million dollars from the World Bank which is the IFC, from Bertelsmann based in Germany, and and, you know, the Swiss investment fund for emerging markets, based in Switzerland. So, you know, and that was that was only half off on the other half, we days in India from 350, high net worth individuals knocking door to door, you know, selling our idea, telling them how education was a space that really needed to, I needed to pivot and and to kind of see innovation. So that was again, I mean, to me, largely, it was like a startup, right? With but with the aim of raising this money to help startup founders, in specifically the space of education. And we deployed that $11 million across 11 investments. Each of those investments were exciting. The founders were people over time that we develop really awesome relationships with some of them, our best friends today, it was great to see what ideas they had, and how we could add value to that idea to that journey. And for many angles, right, in some capital was always there, but in some cases, it was supporting them with bringing in the best quality talent and recruitment because they had gaps. Especially when there are single founders, the journey is oftentimes very lonely. We supported them a lot in trying to, in some cases, pivot their business, right, instead of, for example, if it's a K 12 company, instead of Greenfield projects for schools, which would take years to kind of fill out the school and actually break even, we started getting them into school management and get into Brownfield projects. So you know, business model pivot, oftentimes, we talked to them about, you know, leveraging their companies or not just bringing in only equity. So all sorts of things right. And, and over time, you know, we exited some of those companies and, and it was rewarding to see how we have been able to support the growth of each of these entrepreneurs. Move over to Omidyar network. And one of the biggest reasons is you know, price and private equity was a for profit profit Private Equity Fund, which means that our sole focus and our lens was, you know, for profit, and I feel that education needs to have an impact lens, you know, 40% of our country is private school children, but 60% are still, you know, in public schools, and that society cannot afford to ignore, so moved over to Omidyar network, you know, again, belongs to Pierre Omidyar, who based in the Bay Area, successful tech entrepreneur, who wanted to give back, and I was leading education investments for them in India. And we did both grant funding to, for example, Teach for India, which was one of our grant funded investments, and we did for profit investing. And, you know, for example, we done to his visa is an example of Omidyar networks for profit investment. And I guess what was really different and rewarding for me here is that we work with Far, far more early stage, you know, promoters as opposed to price. And because that ties in our investment size was about $5 million. So by default, the companies were slightly larger. At Omidyar, we went down to as little as one or $2 million for the company sizes was smaller, the founders with at the early stage, excuse me of their careers, and therefore the kind of support they needed, the kind of the kind of hand holding they needed to really become successful at their journey was quite different. And I think that was really enjoyable for me as someone that that deployed investments at Omidyar as well. And, you know, hung up my boots there, because I really wanted to, again, work closely with founders. So for the next one and a half years, after I moved out Omidyar in 2017, and I was supporting about eight edtech companies as an investor and as a mentor, to support them again, in their early stage journey of, you know, impacting the education sector. And again, as a mentor and advisor, I think, you know, I've seen my founders having lots of ups and downs, moments of crisis, moments of highs when they've really achieved their goals and beyond. And at every stage, I've had them in so many different ways, some on the strategic side, someone business development, someone fundraising, in some cases on, you know, again, talent acquisition and recruitment, and are in some cases even technology and and I think each of those moments with all of those founders of the eight founders that I worked closely with were extremely exciting and passionate years, which is what brought me to where I am today. And what about Barney foundation where, you know, we want to do this at school, right as a single person, I could only support eight companies that time. But at Bhavani Foundation, we support 1000s of them globally. You know, because of the team we have and the kind of mentor network we have. Our aim is to turn as much passion that we see on campuses into real life ventures, and support and handhold. All of these passionate entrepreneurs, towards success in nature. So that's really where I'm at. And so a little bit about my journey. I'm going to stop there and see if you had any specific questions.

Krishna Jonnakadla  15:31

The Great Circle. Apologies, I called it the best circle earlier, as I was doing research, I constantly kept getting best and great, mixed up, I looked it up a few times. But nine years, that's a very long time. Nobody usually sticks out for that long, especially those days might it must have been much, much more tougher, because these days, it's while the tools are all there, I still think it takes almost the same amount of time to get the word out and get people to believe in what you're actually doing. But you stuck it out for nine years. And no. And so talk about a couple of things. One is the time duration, what made you go on for that long. And the second one is, there's usually a founder market fit and a founder problem fit that practically every investor talks about every VC talks about because the feeling is that they've been in that space, they understand that space, as a result of which they have developed a unique piece of insight. But if we see spectacularly successful companies, if you take Pierre Omidyar himself, which he succeeded with eBay, it was no unique piece of insight. He hadn't dabbled in auction sites for like a couple of decades. And then when he decided, oh, we should put this on the internet. And then he succeeded. But still, it looks like the founder market fit was not relevant. And you still scale. So talk about if did that ever affect you? Because you said you were not in that education? Your family did not have that background? Did that bother you? And 99 years? That's a very long time.

Monica Mehta  17:23

Yeah, that's a really interesting question Krishna, or no, and that it never bothered me. For me, I mean, as especially because a lot of the A lot of my years have been spent in the space of education. I just enjoy learning, right? I enjoy learning. And in fact, whenever any position that I'm in gets me to a place of monotony, where I feel like I've reached a plateau where I just am not learning anymore, and there's nothing new. That's when that's when fatigue sets in for me. So personally, for me, and even when I was a founder, learning was the most exciting thing that could have happened every day for me. And so so for me, I mean, I never looked back from the moment I decided that education is the space I wanted to be in. I spend every day just researching, right? Just finding out more at that time. Of course, there were a lot many more offline players. So just going and meeting everybody I could lay my hands on through my networks, asking them about their journey, what made things work for them? or What did they what worked well, what didn't work? Well, what I could have learned from their journeys, just a lot of research, just spend the first six months to a year, even though I set up my company, after I came back from Thunderbird, it was all just about learning. And I think that you know, even though, even like you mentioned appear before, I think for a lot of founders that I've seen, once they decide to go down a certain path, it's just about sticking with the path and just going the whole hog learning as much as you can about the space. You know, I know serial founders, right? I mean, serial entrepreneurs who sell off one company and then move into something completely different, right? You know, somebody who could have been in the housing sector and then moves to education, but but it's all about just applying the same principles, right? The basic principles of business, don't change the basic principles of how you run a company, what makes founders successful does not change as long as you identify the problem you want to solve for as long as you've identified that there is a, you know, market opportunity and, you know, product market fit, then it's all about just trying to really understand your customer and understand the market and, and make sure that your idea is going to achieve what the problem that you're trying to solve for. Right. And that, for me was the most important thing, just learning everyday and I made mistakes along the way. And I think as long as you're willing to learn from those mistakes and stick it out and say, You know what, I made this mistake, but let me not think about it as a failure as much as what can I learn from this and apply this to my tomorrow and tomorrow's another day and you know, you just start again.

Krishna Jonnakadla  19:57

interesting The fact that you spoke about education, innovation in education. Let's talk about the impact side of it in a different way. Most people think impact means enhancing the social quality of life, we see two ends of the spectrum, a completely for profit, you know, let's run after the billions, the last man standing kind of businesses are At the other extreme, where we are thinking of social impact. But we do not necessarily somewhere in the Middle East, this whole notion that what we need to change, India is wealth creation, and wealth creation in a really sustainable manner. And for that, we do not need one unicorn, we need 1000 unicorns in this country, and in a sustainable manner. You know, I made no bones about this before, we cannot all of not all of those businesses can be based on Last Man Standing kind of businesses, there's enough and more in every sector, that needs to be done either from an agency in the education sector, or even retail tech retail, for example, where you earlier focused on 11 month course, even today, we still don't have really well trained retail staff. Even after switching jobs from one brand or one store to another spending three or four months, retail staff still don't have training, either they don't apply training from their own experience that okay, this is how I greet a customer. This is how I can help them complete a purchase. You there again, you have either the other end, which is make everybody commission based, so they're so desperate to make the commission sale. So there is the customer is very rarely in that equation. So if we look at opportunities for wealth creation, we have so many the power sector, where there are transmission and distribution losses. So many of them compared to maybe 15-20 years ago, are connected to the internet, power supplies connected to the internet, what supplies connected to the internet. FinTech is connected to the internet. But we still don't see meaningful articulation of a vision whereby we're saying, Okay, what does it take, and it is not just money, right? I, for one, believe money taken too early on will not be an aphrodisiac more often than not it will be a drug, it will just kill innovation. Because when it forces you to think in scarcity, that's when some of the best ideas come up. So what is that? Have you seen our vision whereby because we are a nation at one point in time, maybe not as British India, but as Bharat had 54% of global GDP. And until 1976, the Middle East used to have the Indian rupee as the, you know, reserve currency. And we don't have to look that far away back for innovation. But I don't see. Because when I see my own personal experience, four years ago, when when we had to hire for interns, and from a very reputed Chennai based software engineering college, for interns, that college has 800 seats in software engineering per year. And out of that college, 200 odd people applied for our internship, we had to go through 600 resumes to just find four interns that did a decent job of coding. So we seem to have education, but we seem to be missing ability. Education seems to be good. So and we see that get repeated in Sector after sector where we are possibly taking a lot of vanity metrics. But we are not making innovation happen. You're not making wealth creation happen. We are not making ability, how good our ability come out. So where do we bridge all of this gap?

Monica Mehta  24:07

Wow, that's a loaded question. That's so many questions all in one. So I'm going to take a crack at it from two or three different angles, right? First, from an education and a scaling angles, because that's closest to my heart. And I think even for startups, right, to sustain themselves. And you know, not all of them have to be unicorns, but like you rightly mentioned, even if some of them have sustainable growth, that is still important for the country, right? I mean, our small and medium sized businesses is what's the backbone of the growth of this country. And shortage of good quality talent is something that's, that's been that's been in existence for the longest time. I personally think that innovation is a mindset, right? I mean, it is not it's not a course that you teach in college. It's not It's not like you say, okay, today's innovation one on one and we're going to teach you how innovation happens. I see It's it's a mindset that needs to be developed at a very, very early stage. Because my work in education, I've traveled across the world to just understand education systems, and what it takes to bring about systemic change in the education sector. And you know, without going into the depth of countries, etc, I can just say that we need to do a lot to change our primary and secondary school system. In terms of how we get children to think out of the box, we still today are largely a rote memorization based academic culture, right? We don't think out of the box, we don't push our kids, we don't support them and being able to do things that are out of the ordinary, a bulk of our parents today still have the mindset where they want their children to fit in a certain box. So when a large percentage of your population are what I call problem complainers are not problem solvers. Innovation is hard to see, right? I've spent a lot of my time in the Bay Area, because of the fact that I worked for Bay Area companies or Gandhi foundation is based they open their network was based, I just feel that the only reason they've been able to thrive the way they are, is because they're just so many people around who innovate and problem solve. And I just think that our education system needs to churn out more of those people. And for that, we need to bring about a systemic change in how the entire system is, is developed. Right. And to that extent, I must say the new education policy, in my mind, definitely has brought about a framework that can bring about the change, we want to see whether that translates into action on the ground remains to be seen. But I think as a framework, it definitely can lead us to where we need to be just in terms of bringing the right talent into the startup ecosystem. Coming back to you know, where I, you know, where I see the gaps and how we can become more sustainable. I think one of the things we've been thinking about about Bonnie foundation is, look, we have the IITs and the ions, right? They all have the T cells, incubation centers, pretty much they already have been thriving, in terms of the startup ecosystem for a little while, right? It's really a tier two colleges are tier two and tier three towns in the country that really need to bring, you know, entrepreneurship, and startups. And I don't believe that I do believe that, of course, technology is a great enabler for scale today. But not every large, good, sustainable and impactful startup needs to be a tech enabled startup, right? We see a lot of our young kids coming out of college that have very unique ideas. They may come from, like a small town in Tamil Nadu, or Tamil Nadu, they could come from a small town in Rajasthan, and they're solving for problems of the local community. Right. And those are equally important problems to solve for. So I don't think that I mean, we definitely need the unicorns, or we definitely need the, you know, the middle of the run startups that are probably Metro cities that, you know, you know, to one and two colleges, but we also need the other startup ecosystem to be developed, where, you know, we're looking at smaller community problems and young, young, the youth, the student population that wants to give back to the community by solving problems for them, and I think this entire space has been ignored, right? How do you support them in small businesses that might just support their community to be them wanting to ensure that handicrafts from a small community in a particular region of India. See scale and, you know, it's brought out there to the front, it could be, you know, local produce, I've seen them, I've seen kids coming up with business ideas on, you know, fisheries, and you know, and fishing businesses, I mean, all sorts of things, right, which they see as issues in their local community. And I think that's where we need to put in some more capital, or human capital, as well as, you know, financial capital, so that those ideas come to the front as well. And then you go on around. The other thing I do want to mention that I think now is seeing a lot of conversation over the past couple of years, is women entrepreneurs, right? Again, they are a very, very integral part of tier two, tier three, tier four towns and communities. And I think supporting them with capacity building, ensuring that women have a sense of belief that they can take up entrepreneurial ventures that not necessarily always solve problems, problems for women in the country, but it could just be problems for the community and or for the country at large. And handhold them and you know, give, empower them with the knowledge that's required. I think we can then see 360 degree groves right? So you you have the tech enabled unicorns. And then you have the medium sized businesses that are tech enabled. And then the smaller businesses that are supporting local community issues and then you have women in India that can contribute to this, you know, startup startup sustainability and growth that we want.

Krishna Jonnakadla  30:19

I have a slightly different take on what ails us. And I think it's more cultural, as opposed to being a systemic problem. I, a friend of mine used to be friends with Sabir Bhatia, who started Hotmail. And he used to tell me, before, Sabir actually got his hotmail exit, because he started it in the valley. So we always used to think, jeez, I'm in this country. And in this country, I have both opportunity. If I don't make use of the opportunity, I'll, I'll just be dust. Because the economic system in the United States is so unforgiving. For for a lot of us Indians, I've worked more than a decade there. For those of us who've seen the white collar side of America only, we do not understand. You know, the other side of it. The average American citizen or an average american does not have stable families, like an average Indian does. America is a very individual driven society, as opposed to a family driven society. And the nature of the economic system creates a great degree of, I would say, insecurity, if you will. And if you add on things like student debt, and college debt, and healthcare being so expensive, like to use a metaphor, an average person could just start their race in life with their shoelaces tied, right? So it endangers in genders, and creates an environment where you have to the only way to rise above all of that is to just break through the shackles, which creates that mindset saying that, gosh, if I need to win, I need to hustle. I need to build something. And if you see time after time, beyond the big names, if you go into it, a lot of founders embody that mindset of the hustle. Yes, the ecosystem helps. And the ecosystem in some sense has has gotten mature, the fact that the US ecosystem continues to have protection for capital and uniform application of law and order, which are, which look very simple on the surface, but are very, very radical concepts that they can that can change the manner in which wealth itself is created in the nation. So when you combine the unforgiving nature of the economic system, so you see that it is more cultural in nature, kids go out and start flipping burgers. I mean, just to use a metaphor at 13 or 14, they're not waiting for their parents to find brides for them. They are not waiting for the government to dole out, and, and even their degree, possibly only opens the first door. Beyond that it's every man and woman for himself or herself. But we still are a nation. I still remember when D monetization happened and the economy was in a slump, a lot of IIT grads, offer letters were retracted. And I remember so many parents, you know, petitioning government saying the government should take over and regulate the startups and I was like cringing inside saying, you went to perhaps amongst the top 100 best schools in the world, your children may have worked hard, they already have an unfair advantage. And you are not able to stick out with this economic uncertainty. So sometimes if you use a agriculture metaphor, too much water actually can kill the plant. And I'm just wondering, how do we where do we start a cultural shift, where we start pushing scarcity, which is a mother of innovation at one point in time, and start having a dialogue also saying that, okay, maybe it is about an environment about making some of these other things. If we boil the US economy itself is more than 200 years old, where those tenets have remained. If we look to Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew did two things. He said protection for capital and equitable application of law. Two things changed. And then obviously you add in the cultural element as well. So I know this is this goes beyond the scope of what you're working at wadhwani Foundation, but somewhere along the way, we need to pick people, entrepreneurs who embody this culture and say, Okay, I believe scarcity is a matter of innovation. I do need some things, but I will prove that I'm a hustler. And how do you how do you create that?

Monica Mehta  35:18

No, I think what you're bringing up Krishna, I'm in agreement. Actually, I don't know if my previous answers didn't seem seem to reflect that. But the course that we run at Wadhwani Foundation and entrepreneurship, it completely embodies what you're saying. To begin with, you know, I have brought in what we're calling a social quotient test, and a filter test. We actually show them a video which, which says, why you should not be an entrepreneur, right? I mean, what are the pitfalls of being an entrepreneur? like? What does the life of an entrepreneur look like, and why some of them may not be apt to be an entrepreneur, we actually, you know, discourage them from being an entrepreneur, if they feel that life of hustle exactly like you said, a life where, you know, they will have to constantly innovate, pivot, or think out of the box, invest quit scarcity will be the name of the game, is something they will have to learn to deal with and live with for at least several years before that startup becomes maybe not all unicorns, but at least a sustainable, solid business. Right. So that is something we do from day one. And clearly, we want those students to, you know, work with us on this program that we run, that actually display the attributes of a potentially good entrepreneur, having said that, we do go wrong sometimes. And we know that every student that enters the program is always going to be successful, but we we limit, you know, chances of failure by just bringing in the right people. And I think throughout the course, onset of the the academic piece, and the fact that they all start with their ventures, we constantly call in entrepreneurs to talk to them more about their failures and their successes, because they need to know that, you know, failing, and then, you know, kind of just being the warrior, right? Getting up the next day and thinking again, about Okay, so how do I make this work? How do I make this happen? And out of scarcity, and out of you know, porosity is what comes out as innovation. And therefore, we make that known to them through all of these master classes and export interventions that we have, that this is going to be part of your life. Or we also and I'm a firm believer of that, and you've mentioned this a couple of times already, that when there is excess capital, you know, there is the problem of plenty and and I've seen so many entrepreneurs in raising more capital than required the eight or eight tech startups that I was advising a one thing that they will constantly tell me right knowing that they that I come from a Kaizen private equity, Omidyar network kind of background, their belief was, oh, you have access to capital, why can't you just raise capital for us? And I said, well, having too much of capital just means that you're going to sell off your equity for really, really cheap, right. And that makes no sense because you need to have a certain outlay and need for that money. And oftentimes, you feel like you need maybe a million dollars or, you know, five crores to do something, which actually you can do for one and a half or 2%, you don't actually need the kind of money you think you need. And this is something we brought in to our own programs as well. We're constantly telling our students that we will get you funding, if you are a good sustainable business model. And we will take you to different funds that we already associated with to see if they would like to invest in a potentially good business. But you know, very often bootstrapping is the best way to to innovate. And you know, to actually run your business for the first couple of years. So I'm absolutely in in tandem with your thinking. And and this is something we bring into our courses every day through different means and channels. But But I believe that that's the way to actually get entrepreneurs to think now when you talk about it from an ecosystem perspective beyond what we're doing with our 100 colleges in India. Advani Foundation, of course, we are globally in about 16 countries. So I think that, you know, this is not something only startups can be taught, right? I mean, startup world is an ecosystem. You have mentors, you have investors, you have startups, and they all need to work in tandem for this to happen. If an investor throws too much money at a startup and give unreal, an unrealistic and unreasonable valuations. That messes up the ecosystem, too. If mentors and advisors who startups young start founders are looking up to for advice, or not giving the right kind of advice and pushing them to raise money early on, instead of really thinking about their product or their service and really focusing on bootstrapping and getting that to a certain level. They're also not doing the right service for those founders, right. And then the startup startups themselves, depending on what kind of some of them are in an incubator program, some of them might be, you know, in colleges, some of them might be part of, you know, seed programs across the country. And they need to be given the same kind of input, right? I mean, so it's an ecosystem, I don't think it can be, it can just work one without the other. So everyone needs to work simultaneously for that, that to happen.

Krishna Jonnakadla  40:45

Let's talk about a different kind of support. And this is fantastic. The support for growth? Most support for entrepreneurs usually falls into either incubators or accelerators, the usual suspect topics, get your pitch, right, get your business model, right. Let's go after product market fit. And also, let's do business planning. Let's get your culture right. Let's get your team right. Yes, yes, yes, all of them are important. But I see very few of them. Really focus on what is called as growth, growth, enabling growth, getting visibility, getting the entrepreneur story out into more places itself. So for instance, today, we have a we have, you may have heard of BMI. It's a networking organization. So essentially, the way BMI works is people come and pitch. And they're usually chapters across the city. These are mostly offline businesses, either insurance agents or catering companies, those companies that essentially are limited to a geography in a part of a city, so therefore, they need customers. So their whole point is, let's form a close Business Network ourselves. And then let's pitch and all I'm doing is I'm asking for intro with someone else, because I may not be following those six degrees, you know, concept, you may be two degrees away from someone I actually might want an intro to. So what that creates is it's it creates an ecosystem of growth. But when it comes to startups, the VCs investment firms, advisors, are really hubs, if you will, right. So they're really networks, they're connected with so many startups, they're connected with so much so much talent. Many times an entrepreneur thinks he or she needs investment, to get all of these things to get word of mouth to recruit better talent. But if, if they become part of, if they get the network support, they could actually get there. And I don't see a lot of focus on enabling growth per se, that still means they need to be part of the incubation program or early stage program. And off late, I've seen another trend, even the so called early stage ones want proof of the proof that it will be a billion dollar business before they even touch it. It's sort of an oxymoron to say, if it's so early stage, if you're willing to engage with an entrepreneur or even before he's put his slide deck together, he's put his team together, how do you know that it is going to be a billion dollar business? That's the whole reason he's even coming into the program anyway, because he hasn't developed his idea fully. So we seem to have everybody that's involved in the program saying no, no, no, I'll touch you only if I think you're going to be a very, very large business. So let alone helping that entrepreneur in the growth journey. When? How are you doing that differently at Wadhwani? And how do you think that can be bridged?

Monica Mehta  44:07

Yeah, so I'm going to give an example of how we are doing this Wadhwani Foundation. And then I'm going to give an example of something that we're doing interestingly in the region that I live in, in Mumbai. So I'm going to give both examples at Wadwani Foundation, we have a very, very strong mentor Connect network, right? What we do with this mentor Connect network is two or three fold. We actually have an app where young startups that are currently part of our cohorts can actually, you know, connect with what we call mentors, but the mentors are two or three fold. Right? So one of them one of the whole piece of the network are Young Alumni who've graduated from our programs have had the kind of support and hand holding that they would have liked to see. And they are actually guides and mentors to the next cohort. And often times, you know, it's interesting to see How they're very similar ideas that, you know, alumni that have passed sort of our programs were continuing with their ventures. And that entrepreneurial journey happened to be in a space where, you know, young startups also coming up with similar ideas or similar kind of space. And they are the ones who support them. They're the ones who open them to networks, get them to see things that can actually enable them to to do things in an innovative way that that doesn't really require a huge amount of outlay of capital, but can just open doors for them. And then there is, of course, the more mature professional mentor network that we have, which, again, some of them are alumni, because we've been running this course for 15 years. So some of them are alumni from several years ago. Some of them are people from our professional networks, all of our team members be brought on board. And all of these people put together are really the ones that are opening doors for us startups. And for different reasons, right. In some cases, it could just be to bring on a co founder or team member. In some cases, it could be for opening networks for potential partnerships for the kind of product or service they have. In some cases, that could be technology, partnerships. I mean, all sorts of things, right. So So we actually use the mentor network for the, for the rules. And that's the primary reason why we have the mentor network to support them through that journey, the early months and years. And it's really worked well for us. I mean, most most startups, when we, when we do our survey, at the end of the course tell us that that along with a math class was perhaps the most engaging piece of the course and perhaps what has done the most in getting to that show. On another note, you know, I live in Mumbai, I live in the western suburbs of Mumbai. And for those that are not familiar, it's in the north part of Mumbai, and I live in our area for Santa Cruz West. We have a group here, right? It's a group of all sorts of young startup founders in Santa Cruz West region, there were two or three young you know, boys and girls, probably in the age group of between 22 and 28, that put this group together. Today, it's a strong group of almost part of 85-90 member group. And there are all sorts of companies, right? tech enable non tech enabled. And it's, I mean, there are there are homemakers that are turned entrepreneurs, there are all sorts of entrepreneurial ventures on there. And everyone is only engaged there in doing one of two things, either people are buying from each other, which is the smaller part, or they're helping them by opening networks to somebody else. And I mean, this started off right at the time the lockdown happened. And between that time and now, which is a you're odd. I have seen some of these startups grow tremendously, and completely bootstrapped. These are all, you know, startups that were started from the comfort of people's homes, and they've really grown. So I actually think that, you know, smaller networks can be very, very supportive and helpful in actually promoting the cause of each other. It doesn't have to be an incubator or an accelerator or something as common as that.

Krishna Jonnakadla  48:26

They hustle. I said True, true to their nature, they hustle, I guess through the lockdown.

Monica Mehta  48:30

Yeah, yes.

Krishna Jonnakadla  48:32

So, let me touch upon one aspect, I will call it the concept of notional value. And more often than not entrepreneurs. The reason nobody actually understands them, or very few people understand them in the beginning is because of what I call is the concept of latent value or notional value. And we see this phenomena play out everywhere in real life. When when it is a stock market. Most people get excited only after the stock market has started hitting some highs, the media has started taking notice. Because still then, like what Daniel Kahneman talks about, it's the availability bias, it hasn't yet entered their field of perception. So they don't even know that something like that should be talked about two good examples that have exceptionally succeeded. And if we did not go, if people don't go into their origins, they will actually think that they were possibly the exception. One was Uber. Uber is a poster child for innovation. And, you know, the greatest hack perhaps in the last century that people talk about. But when Uber actually started Uber x, which was actually the black car rentals lots of the practically everybody turned down. Funding for Uber At that point in time, and the way the people that were actually looking at funding Uber, the way they rationalized that was that there are way too many yellow taxis in the US, yellow or orange taxis. And there are very few elite cab rentals. Right? So the black cat is the Uber, Uber black sorry, not Uber x, Uber black. So that's such a small while all the VCs and investment advisors would say, go after a niche, go after the niche niche. And then a startup comes forward and says, I'm actually going after me. And then they turn around and say no, no, this niche niche is too small. I don't think this is going to scale. But then the thing is, once you solve for that niche, then the question is, you've acquired all the all the capital advantage to actually scale it for the larger ones. So if you look at what Uber did with the Uber black, all of their r&d eventually, for Uber x, and all the other products actually came out of the profits that they were making, yes, there is there is funding as well. And the other example is Sirius XM. And Sirius XM Satellite Radio, at one point in time, you know, got turned on by everybody, because people said, Who's going to listen to satellite radio. And this, this got this latent value, because the entrepreneur is so deep in the weeds, and he's seeing it, maybe three or four levels down. And there is a passion play as well there as a result of which what he's able to see. And what the other person is able to see is vastly different for time. And again, we see that this because of this ability, inability of the other person to see the notional value and the entrepreneur himself. His story is still there, all right, because he's still working in the trenches. Unless and until it takes some shape. He can't articulate articulate beyond, I know, I feel it in my bones that it will be big. So and a lot of ideas actually get surpassed or bypass sorry, bypass just because this latent value is vastly ignored. And there are enough number of I think there are 100 more stories that can prove the value of latent value, as opposed to the value of emergent value, sorry, the concept of emergent value or visible value. How can entrepreneurs overcome that? I'm not quite sure it can be overcome, but there should be something that they should be able to do. And is that something that you work on as well?

Monica Mehta  52:35

So, you know, Krishna, I think that articulation is something that's really important, since you brought up Cooper. You know, I happened to be in the Bay Area when they were doing their initial rounds of requesting funding. And I have to say that, although a lot of investors that they went to early on might not have seen the latent value that you were talking about. And the ones that did, obviously luck, I mean, you know, really lucked out. They were very, very good with what they had articulated. I mean, when I saw the deck, there were three top things there, right. You will never need to own a car, you will never need to own a wallet, you will never need directions to where you have to go. I mean, they were very clear about what they were solving for. And...

Krishna Jonnakadla  53:29

But Monica, that came much later, the concept of not owning the car came much later, once the likes of SoftBank started backing because this was part of the larger narrative of, okay, don't own a home, don't own a car. don't actually think about paying for an insurance for a whole year because I'm going to give a give you everything. This is the new subscription economy. A lot of people don't know Travis Kalanick, did not even have a co founder, he co o actually was someone who responded to his tweet. And, and he had put out a tweet saying that I'm looking for some peeps who are great at operations. And that fellow says that is that one tweet that he responded to was worth a billion dollars, because he became a co founder. So but that came much later. I'm actually talking about this event even more early, early stage when and the only reason I picked Uber was because it's such an easy conversation to example to pick and most people won't even believe that they got turned down by practically everybody, in spite of the...

Monica Mehta  54:36

Yeah, but you know what, Krishna, I think we should confuse articulation with investors not being able to see through it right. I mean, the investors inability to see the latent value is different from an entrepreneur being able to articulate the potential value of the business or the problem that he solved the business that he's building or she's been They are the problem that he or she solving for. So what I'm saying is even during our course, our first entire two weeks is spent with our students on campus or even our incubators and incubators, just figuring out what is the problem that you're solving for, let's articulate what is this idea about? And of course, it can pivot all the time. But it's, I think, I think there is no alternative to being really solid and show and being able to articulate Well, what is it that you're trying to do? Because it's, it's, you know, I, I've been an entrepreneur, and I've been an investor. And I know that when you're passionate about something, you just know, I mean, it's a gut feel more than anything, it's an intuition, you know, it's going to work, you can see that it's going to work. But when you're sitting in the chair of an investor, I mean, you know, conviction plays some role. But you still need to be able to articulate to me, what is it that you're trying to get after? And so I think that learning to articulate what you want to do in whatever language it might be, even if it's a regional language, I mean, we teach some of our kids in, in some of the back of the beyond of places in India, in in regional languages, oftentimes, where English is not well understood. And that's okay. But in whatever language it is, I think it's important to be able to spend time in being able to articulate what is it that you're trying to solve for? And what is that latent value of the business that someone is unable to see.

Krishna Jonnakadla  56:31

Yes, you mentioned that course, a few times. Now, let's talk about that course, go into a little more detail about where you're working, what sort of results you're seeing, and what sort of results you've already delivered. And maybe if you could go into the student side of it, the number of students started there. And based on what I've read, you're working in the product side of things. The tier two tier three tier tier for about a couple of decades ago, a friend of mine was working, had put together a venture called renovations, it was called rural innovations. I invested about practically everything I had back then, because I've always been a believer in real wealth being created there. Only when massive wealth is created, in part will, we see massive change here. So one of the innovations that they backed was this rain gun, it was a modified version of a sprinkler, where the normal Western design sprinklers used to consume X amount of water, this farmer in near Coimbatore, in Tamil Nadu had modified that sprinkler, which would have the same result, but consume 60% less water. So for a water deficient country, it was an innovation. And there were a variety of such innovation. So I realized, let me put some money down here. And we check both innovation and then impact at the same time I lost the money the fund went under, that's a different matter. But talk about what you're doing and how you're enabling and about the course a little bit.

Monica Mehta  58:16

Sure. So we have two courses, the foundation course in entrepreneurship and the advanced course in entrepreneurship. Traditionally, we've always used colleges as our channel partners, because they have ready, cooler students. So we run this in the later part of the college life of our students. So if it's a four year degree, it's a third and fourth year. It's a three year college, it's a second and third year of college. And we train the faculty from the colleges. So we like a train the trainer program, we have capacity building programs, we train the faculty, we have our own LMS, where both these foundational advanced courses are housed. And the faculty that is trained by us, goes back to their colleges starts batches of students in entrepreneurship, and they actually run our courses to our LMS in their colleges. These are all credit bearing courses, so students get credits for it as part of their curriculum. What is unique to our courses, though, Krishna is that even the foundation course you start from day one with a practice venture. So it's important that you form a team. We form teams of three people, we believe in the hacker, hustler, visionary kind of model. And you kind of form teams of three people. And you start with what you call a practice venture. So you ideate you kind of name the venture, you decide what is it that you're going to solve. So in terms of a problem that you're solving for, or it could be, you know, an idea that you might have already and you start off there and the entire three and a half months of the semester, you're actually running the practice venture. When you finish your foundation course it ends with what we call, you know, a minimum viable product. When you enter the advanced course you enter with the minimum viable product and you come out with what we call Do venture. So that's really how these courses are run through colleges. We also have a lot of 360 degree initiatives I've talked about earlier the masterclasses, that we do entrepreneurial interventions where we call entrepreneurs that have had successes and failures to talk about their journeys to our students. We have a lot of booster clinics to talk to them about various different products to be financial planning or business models, etc. And we have the whole mentor Connect piece that I've already talked about. So I won't repeat myself there. So we do all of this for our students, we see a 60% conversion rate, from the time a student starts up program to the time that they finish their course, in in wanting to continue that journey, so so there are 40% of them dropped out, and 60% of them continue the journey. Some of them even beyond college continue with these ventures, some of them decide to shelve them, and then, you know, probably become job seekers as opposed to job creators, and probably come back to entrepreneurship a little later. Sometimes it could just be, you know, financial constraints. But all in all, from every 100 students that start a foundation pause, eventually, about 15 to 20% of them continue the journey even beyond college,

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:01:27

What sort of ventures have come out of it?

Monica Mehta  1:01:34

Post COVID, we've seen a lot of them that are in the health and hygiene field. But the top four or five that we've seen are agri education, health care, health and hygiene, I mentioned that a little while ago, we've seen a lot of food and food product related ventures as well. And not much in the manufacturing domain. But yeah, environmental later, a lot of a lot of our student ventures, our environmental data, clean tech or environment.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:02:10

What sort of outcomes have you seen in terms of job creation and wealth creation?

Monica Mehta  1:02:15

Job creation? You know, these are very, very early stage ventures. So typically, we track them about three years out from our programs. And I would say on an average for every venture that continues for three years, we see about five to seven jobs created, which is a small number. But you know, given that we today, across the globe, we have about 10,000 ventures that come out of our programs every year, you know, the multiplier value over time will be pretty high. And then the ones that actually come out of our incubation programs, it's higher. So we after about three to four years of a sustainable venture, we see about 10 to 12 jobs being created. In terms of wealth creation, that is not something we track in terms of impact for ourselves. But we have seen over the past two to three years, about seven to 10 crores of of funds being raised by young campus ventures, across ventures globally.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:03:15

So I guess, for a culture that takes its certificate seriously, the only place where we did not get a certificate is in life because in in school, every year, you get a certificate saying you passed. And as soon as we leave the safe confines of, of that education system, there is nobody to that is going to tell you you've arrived or you've succeeded. Congratulations, today, you're an engineer or you're a doctor. But I suppose in the cultural milieu that we do have maybe using that as a metaphor and telling people Hey, this is how you build a venture. And if you've done this, then that means you know how to build an MVP. Now if you've done this, and that means you know how to create a business model. We will teach you all the things that can create ability, but there is still an ingredient that you need to bring to the table, which is a trial. So it's beyond the scope of the widening foundation to create that tribe. We can give you the tools to build and also equip you with all of that, but the drive is still something and the hustle you need to break. Right?

Monica Mehta  1:04:24

No, I said that's a critical ingredient. I mean, if you're not a hustler, like I said, you know, when we spend we think about teams, we tell our teams, you need to have a hub of hacker hustle and visionary, right? I mean, those are critical ingredients as part of the founding team, to really, you know, take your idea to fruition.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:04:44

Interesting, what has been your most rewarding or maybe talk about two or three most rewarding moments in your own personal journey, and even the others being part of Kaizen and Ombiora and The Wadhwani Foundation?

Monica Mehta  1:05:03

So personally, as an entrepreneur, I think, you know, just given the fact that I was dabbling in the space of education, I've had a lot of moments during my time at The Great Circle, when I would just have a student come to me immediately after we have supported them with a program or even three years later writing me a letter. I mean, it was not the internet time. So sometimes I would just really get a letter by post even just telling me how strong and how deep of an impact I've had on their lives. And that cannot be anything more rewarding than that, right? Because you just have somebody for the rest of their lives with their careers or in some way they've, they've been, they've benefited from the career counseling or for the, from the applications we help them with for a foreign University, or we support them with a retail or real estate program that we have. And that you just cannot replace that with anything else. And those were some of the best moments, I still have those letters, I still, there are times when you know, I feel like have I even had these 29 years been worth it. And those letters when you know, once in a while when I'm spring cleaning, and I come across them and I read them. They're just what every moment of the time I've spent in the education sector. I'm at Omidyar network, I think it was really seeing the public school system side of things. Honestly, speaking up until the time I started my work at Omidyar, which was in 2015, which was many years after I started working in the education sector, I had really, to be very honest, not enter a public school in the country. And having seen them, I mean, I went to the breadth and length of the country to see public school systems everywhere to see how we could help and support what we could do to change skilling in the back in the Beyonds of places. And you know, investing gallier, Sundarbans etc. I think the most rewarding moments were, you know, when you had these little kids come and say, you know, thank you so much. You've changed not only my life, but this will change the life for my community. And again, those are moments I cannot take away. Those were extremely great moments, but also moments of despair, when I used to see the state of some of the public schools in the country, in what conditions the kids were learning how grades two to five, were learning under one roof with one single teacher, although there is a huge disparity in you know, the learning level of a grade two and a learning level of a grade five child. Just those moments that have made me feel hot, feel grateful about what what some of us have. And it's sad that, you know, I think education can be the biggest equalizer, and we still are unable to really provide it to everyone in the country today. So those I think, are those moments that I can take away. And then most recently, from Advani Foundation, just every time you see, you know, so these ventures that we work with, right every time they have a small win, it could just be a five lakh rupee contract, they've got to something that they're working on, or, you know, they they're working on some kind of product, like somebody who's working on this wheelchair, you know, and it comes to life. And they kind of send us pictures or videos saying, Oh my God, we did this. Thank you so much Wadhwani Foundation team. Again, you know, those are rewarding moments. I mean, we don't know if we'll be in touch with them 10 years later, when all of these people are running their ventures, but it's rewarding to see that. And then once in a way we get somebody coming back to us and say, You know what, 10 years ago, we did this program with our Barney foundation and see where we are today. And yeah, I think those those to me are the most rewarding moments.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:08:42

Do you read?

Monica Mehta  1:08:44

Work is really hectic, I probably work 12 to 14 hour days every day. So yes, when I get the jobs, I can't. I'm an avid reader. But yes, when I get the h

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:08:54

what was the last impactful? Something that left a mark?

Monica Mehta  1:08:58

Oh, it was a book that Elon Musk has written about his life. And, you know, what, what it took away from me is, of course, I mean, it was all about his hustle. And you know, how he went through life in South Africa and and all of that. But I think one of the things that that was very evident is because again, I'm you know, I've spent a lot of time in the education sector is how he believes that, you know, why you might have studied in the best of institutions, he doesn't believe that. That is really the recipe for success for those founders who, you know, believe that that's the only recipe. I mean, he really believes that hustle is the way you know, and that was the last thing I read about. Yeah, I remember Ashley Vance, who wrote his biography. And at one point in time, it could have come only from a first gen entrepreneur. What I said some time ago about this cultural change, and this unforgiving economy. So he he he has I think five kids from his first Right. And because of his just nodded larger than life persona, at the meetings that he is most of the time having he is with people like Larry Page. All these who's who of the celebrities, the you Bano of YouTube, and why he's right, while Ashley is interviewing him, and she's writing the biography, he asks her, Ashley, I'm struggling with this thing. My kids think this life that they're having is actually not. And it is a result of where I am and what I've done. How do I create artificial adversity for them, so that they actually understand and learn to get the tribe or hustle? And actually doesn't have an answer, if I remember correctly in that book. And then I eventually realized that that's exactly what Olympic athletes actually go through on when they actually prepare for the Olympics, right? They go through artificial adversity, artificially induced adversity for a very long time, the regimen, that discipline that they go through is literally artificial adversity, because compared to most people, they're not eating the things that they're supposed to be eating. They're not thinking about things that they're, they're normally thinking. So somewhere, this notion of artificial adversity, and I was actually surprised that a person of his success thought about it. Because that's he wanted success so badly for a skips? No, I'm saying I agree with you. In the book, he does mention that, I want that for them also, because that's why I got to where I got to write. I mean, he's had adversity in childhood when you read about it. So So I mean, he, he reflects on it and realizes that he he came out of there, but he's unable to provide that for his kids, because he's already got to the point that he's got. So this has been a great conversation. But I'll I want to end with this. Three myths if you could bust them. Because you've seen a lot of startups, you even put, you're now heading the course, where you're seeing hundreds of people get into those programs and early stage. Gosh, 10,000 startups startups across the globe is is a huge number. What What if you could bust three myths, urban myths about startups? What would they be? Yeah. So the first myth, I think, in the time and age we live in today is that I don't believe that every successful startup has to be tech enabled. You know, I feel that as long as you're solving for an important problem for your community, even if it's local, I think that that's great, can still be a good sustainable business. The other thing, I feel that that's a huge myth, and we've already discussed it, but I think it would be worthwhile mentioning is that I don't really think that every founder needs a lot of money to be successful. Sometimes bootstrap startups have been the best startups because the best ideas have come out of, you know, we keep talking about diversity and hustle. So I think that's really important to keep in mind. Because there's so much money chasing startups today that, you know, it's very easy to get sucked into that. And the third, I feel is, you know, this, this whole myth that at least investors have that, you know, you can find the best startups only in the best adopt campuses. We do work with it than I have. But we do work with a lot of tier two, tier three tier four colleges. And I can assure you that maybe with not as good English, some of them have fantastic ideas, even coming out of the smaller colleges or the smaller towns in Harlem.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:13:48

Yeah, I think more investors need to watch Moneyball by Billy Beane. I took all the things that believe in data and did it in my previous startup, my UX designer, was actually a designer who could not speak sentence in English without using any local words. And the only reason he was not taken on by any of the other bigger startups was because he could speak only in Canada, which is the language in Karnataka. And for me, it was fantastic because I can speak six languages and I couldn't care less. It did create a burden on me though, like, what believe in goes through, he actually is the captain because there are so many misfits in the in the team, he has to be the view. It does create a little more burden on the entrepreneur, but it does help you get gems and then you know, amazing people, if you're willing to look beyond thinking that only spit and polish means people are good at their craft.

Monica Mehta  1:14:48

Absolutely. And no, we need to do that Krishna because you know, as I was just parting statements, because I feel that you look across the globe, you go to France and the staff speak French, right? Nobody expects them to speak English. mean whatever, whichever country I go to Indonesia because we have courses running there and they speak in Bahasa I mean, if you've translated our courses in Bahasa, but in India, we have our courses only in English. And I've really been pushing the team to say, you know, well, if we have a lot of students and Tamil Nadu converted into Tamil, if you have a lot of students in, you know, Kerala converted into majalah make it easier for them, right. I mean, at the end of the day, it's about creating a sustainable and successful startup. It's not about speaking in English. Right. So, I absolutely think so. We need to, we need to think of Bharat as opposed to India.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:15:37

Monica awesome. This has been a freewheeling conversation. I think like a river meandering through the wilderness, we've touched upon a variety of topics. Along the way, we've touched upon what impact you're having with your course, I think I'm thrilled by what you're doing with a course. I think it's amazing that you're touching so many students. It is going to have a ripple effect. And it is going to create wealth at some point in time, there's no doubt about it. I was touched by on my spark in life was when I heard CK Prahlada and Gary Hamel come to India and talk about their first book. Funnily I was still in London, at that point in time, and for some strange reason. I'm like, gee, why do you have to write a book about that I can understand core competence in an instant. And then I fell in love with the world of business. So I'm sure a lot of students that are exposed to the world of business and concepts will go on to do awesome things. And with your own sense of groundedness I can see how grounded you are your own experience that you're bringing to bear. I think this program is going to go places, I'm sure you're going to have impact. It's been a pleasure having you and we wish you the very best.

Monica Mehta  1:16:54

Thank you so much, Krishna, it was wonderful. I really enjoyed this conversation.

Tania Jadhav  1:17:04

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