Varun of Ketto on harnessing’s Internet to solve people’s problems
Varun of Ketto on harnessing’s Internet to solve people’s problems

The Boy Who Harnessed The Internet to solve people’s problems

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Varun Sheth is the co-founder and CEO of Ketto (@ketto). As a young lad with a finance background, he worked as a swap trader in investment banking. But that was not his calling. While the internet and e-commerce grew exponentially in India, he explored crowdfunding. With Bollywood actor Kunal Kapoor and Zaheer Adenwala as Cofounders, they found success in crowdfunding for healthcare. Listen to Varun of Ketto on harnessing’s Internet to solve people’s problems.

Although finding one’s true calling is challenging for a lot of youngsters, Varun found it with his thought process on how the Internet can be used to raise money. As a young founder, he tells a story of finding co-founders, of finding the right product-market fit, and of the support system that helped him through the pilots and pivots. There is a lot to learn about resilience and network effects from this scale story. Hear it out!

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Here are a few excerpts from the Episode:

4:33

The first three four years went in figuring out right product market fit. Once we realized what was really working, it was just a matter of putting more money, adding more fuel to the fire. And that’s when we saw the multiplier effect coming in play rapidly.

25:10

Once we started seeing more health cases, we saw that the volume of patients that each doctor had, who really could not pay for the treatment. That’s when we realized that if we’re able to get even a small portion of these patients that are unable to pay for the treatment, for us sitting at a doctor’s OPD clinic, the opportunity could be huge.

27:04

Crowdfunding is no guarantee that you will raise money. Some people do, some people don’t.

31:55

Leadership is a mix of co learning from peers and from everyone around you. Leadership is all about listening and interacting with people who are greater, who have much more experience than you have. And its a lot about patience.

35:57

I think, like it’s in hindsight, as it’s easy to say that you can do things differently or change but I think all those mistakes also can get you to where you are right now. So I think it’s, it’s a difficult question, but maybe everything, maybe nothing. It depends on what day you asked me this question, but if today asked me, I would say maybe everything.

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You might like this older episode: From Copywriting to Leading Channel V, Listen to The Journey of Mahesh Murthy: Season 1, Episode 16

Importance of The Journey

36:20

If you are able to create strong relationships with people that you meet in the journey becomes a very strong advantage that you have on your side, which, only can be built over time and money can’t really buy it.

38:05

You’re playing a very, very small role in the larger scheme of things, but it just feels good that they get another new lease of life. And there’s a new opportunity for them to get back to healthy life and potentially live their dreams.

With a strong founding team, Ketto is leapfrogging towards the next phase of growth. With that, we hope more and more people will potentially live their dreams.

Show Notes

Follow Varun (@VarunSheth7)

Checkout some fundraiser and contribute to some Ketto.org

Books discussed during the episode:

This Will Never Work by Mark Randolph

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Trailblazer by Mark Benioff

What It Takes by Stephen A. Schwarzman

Range by David Epstein

Alchemy by Rory Sutherland

Follow Maharajas of Scale on Twitter (@maharajaofscale)

Here is a word cloud with some popular world used in the episode

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Episode Transcript

(Automated Transcript)

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

people, scale, crowdfunding, platform, terms, thought, book, india, healthcare, product, raise, easy, pretty, donors, job, talk, nonprofit, spent, launched, idea

SPEAKERS

Varun Sheth, Krishna Jonnakadla, Nida Sahar

Krishna Jonnakadla  00:01

This is maharajahs 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 are changing the game completely. I am Krishna Jonnakadla, serial entrepreneur, co founder of flip the fashion located in town and startup mentor, bringing you the stories. Hey, listeners, this is Krishna from Maharaja of scale. We have a young, dynamic and very interesting entrepreneur today Varun shed from Cato, who has perhaps done a lot to change the lives of 1000s of people that only some of us can dream about. Varun, welcome to the show.

Varun Sheth  00:45

Thank you so much for having me. You really appreciate it. Awesome.

Krishna Jonnakadla  00:48

So why don't tell us a little more about yourself and what you're working on right now.

Varun Sheth  00:52

Sure. So a bit about myself, born and brought up in Bombay, spent pretty much my whole life in Mumbai, in Mumbai suburbs, and went to school around at a college also around just a few kilometers away from my house spent pretty much of my early childhood, doing what most young people would do for watching all sports playing a lot of PlayStation, not really starting. Yeah, and just spent my teenage years wasting time and filing it away.

Krishna Jonnakadla  01:22

What are you working on right now?

Varun Sheth  01:24

Right now, actually a lot of different things just in our current product, we're launching a few new verticals that we planned out last year, something outside our current domain, but still in the larger category of people who we interact with. So we're pretty excited about 2020, as the company is moving in a new direction. So excited to launch the product out to the people and get their insights and thoughts.

Krishna Jonnakadla  01:55

Can you elaborate a bit? So when you say current product? I'm assuming you're referring to ketto?

Varun Sheth  02:01

Yeah, so the first eight years of existence, we've been very focused around crowdfunding, and seeing that how we can help as many people as possible to raise funds could be for any cause that is possible. But over the last 12 months, we've been really thinking about, you know, what's, what are we as a company, what our goal is, what our mission is? Where do we want to go? Where do we see ourselves in the next, you know, five years? You know, how do we get there? So there's a lot of, you know, been rough, self introspection, across the company, both with senior management and, and, and the founders as well. And we basically have, you know, thought about, what do we want to do next. And on that thought, we've started building a few products. So to give some more context, we started as a crowdfunding company. But we realized that a big focus of our crowdfunding really works at scale was healthcare. And, you know, over the last 12 months, we've moved our mission from being a crowdfunding company to be a healthcare company. And the view has been that how do we solve more problems in the healthcare space and healthcare domain. So the new product that we're launching, is to do something in the healthcare space. It's still only right now to announce it, but we'll be talking about it really soon.

Krishna Jonnakadla  03:39

Interesting. So you achieved a fairly significant degree of scale with your current platform and product, right. Talk to us a little about the kind of scale that you've achieved there.

Varun Sheth  03:51

Sure. So the last three years have been super exciting for us, you know, we've gone from about having about 304,000 donors to about five and a half million donors on our platform. And in just in terms of funds raised, we've gone from about raising, you know, about 50 crores to about, you know, 500 crores in the last three years.

Krishna Jonnakadla  04:19

Interesting. So, from 300,000 to upwards of five and a half million, what, what actually led to that, that kind of scale, it seems like an unprecedented scale, at least within that short window of three years.

Varun Sheth  04:33

I think one was figuring out the right product market fit. I think the first three four years, went in figuring out right product market fit. I think once we realize what was really working, it was just a matter of putting more money, adding more fuel to the fire. And that's we saw the multiplier effect coming in play rapidly. And y'all saw us bump up in terms of our volumes and growth. So yeah, it was a mix of a lot of things coming together. One was just market conditions, people coming online transacting. Second was figuring out what is working on the platform what, what our customers really want. And what to come back for. Third was even the team coming together in terms of some good senior managers that we hired, you know, those things coming in falling in place. So yeah, it was a mix of like three or four things that really got us that Jacob going interesting, if you're, you would have caught the attention of a lot of listeners, and you certainly caught my attention with the mention of product market fit. We'll come back to product market fit in just a minute or two. So I'm now intrigued by, you know, the beginnings.

Krishna Jonnakadla  05:45

How old are you? If I if you don't mind me asking.

Varun Sheth  05:48

I'm 32. Wow, okay,

Krishna Jonnakadla  05:49

you you started this about eight years ago? That's correct. Wow. Okay. In your intro, you said, you spent your time like any youngster wiling away ever playing games and stuff? It seems like, in some sense, an incredulous thing to do, especially, you know, this being a crowdfunding almost a, you know, purpose based charity platform. How did that happen? How did you? How do you what was the spark that God ignited? And somewhere you realize that, hey, this is something that I should be working on? And talk to talk to us about that beginning?

Varun Sheth  06:29

Sure. So I think it came from a mix of my background. So I'd studied finance when I was in college, and it was that there was a strong area of interest for me. And, and thereby, which always thought that if I ever started a company, it would be good to start in order to be great to something in the financial domain. With that thought, and the view that the internet was going to be a very exciting place to do business, coupled with the idea that can how, how you can use internet to raise money for practically everything on anything. How you, you know, eight years back, you could buy everything on the internet, right? Amazon was very popular already globally. So my view was that how can fundraising become as popular as buying? And how can the internet we used to raise money. So it was a mix of three, four things that I was really interested with that I just thought that the internet was a new couldn't be the new exchange to raise money. And that's how the idea of crowdfunding came along.

Krishna Jonnakadla  07:40

Interesting. So we have seen, you know, several other crowdfunding platforms in the country founding fuel.com being one of them. But when we look at what you're doing, it almost feels like it's almost exclusively philanthropy, philanthropy driven, and charity driven, isn't it? That's correct. Okay. So that's interesting. So when, and I love how you putting it, Amazon achieved scaling ecommerce, and you're thinking, you want to drive scale in crowdsourcing and charity as well. That's, that's great. But was there a altruistic or let's do good to the world kind of a streak? Or was it strictly that this seems like an unaddressed area, you know, let's look at it what really drove the philanthropy or the charitable side of things,

Varun Sheth  08:28

I think it was, I would say, my first job, I think, after graduating my, my first job was in the field of finance. And I think, doing that for, for a while, I really thought that, you know, I did not want to do that for the rest of my life, or doing something which did not have meaning or impact didn't really make sense why someone would spend so many hours doing that. So I think, you know, it was definitely my first job, which got me thinking that, you know, how can time be spent to do something more impactful and meaningful, and unless your work really had meaning, you know, you were really, you know, if you're really not creating an impact to your work, which is what you'll end up doing pretty much the whole day, then what are we really doing? So I think that's when the whole idea of and thought of impact really came in play that how do you do something which is impactful, plus online, plus, you know, you know, as a financial service company, or from financial service angle, sort of a mix of all those things. And, yeah, that's, that's what really got me going and still gets me going.

Krishna Jonnakadla  09:45

That's pretty interesting in your 32. Now, you were all of 24. back then. And that's, that's pretty loaded, a very philosophical stance to take at that sort of an age where Everybody's dreaming about maybe cars and, you know, fancy gadgets and maybe traveling the world and maybe beefing up, Instagram wasn't as popular, maybe in some sense making some sort of social media impact. What was the job that you had? Was it in some sort of an investment bank?

Varun Sheth  10:18

Yeah, it was actually, our interest rate swap trader. So it was a financial service company, where my job was to, to track interest rates and see if interest rates would go down or go up, and then recommend banks to basically buy or sell interest rate swaps, to hedge their hedge their interest rate risk.

Krishna Jonnakadla  10:38

I say, sounds exotic in in the financial services world at least,

Varun Sheth  10:43

it only sounds exotic. That's it.

Krishna Jonnakadla  10:47

Okay, so let's talk about that initial jump, then. And how did you get started with Cato? Did you have a co founder? What sort of thought process did you did you go through? And Howard? Howard? Those initial steps?

Varun Sheth  11:00

Sure. Yeah. So we actually, we actually three co founders, three of us. So he canal and me, and we all connected at different points in time to realize that this is the idea that we really want to work on, you know, really commit our time, in terms of the thought process, I think it one was to do with just not enjoying my current job, you know, and not enjoying where it was going. And second was the whole excitement of, you know, things going online, right? I think that's when, you know, Flipkart had just started raising, like larger rounds of financing. You know, they start raising genre financing. And, you know, a lot of people started reporting and covering the tech space in India. So I think that had, of course, got to do a lot with, you know, saying that, you know, this, the whole online commerce space is like, you know, becoming hot in India, and there's very interesting opportunity that should definitely work on. So I think it was a mix of, you know, both one not enjoying, currently, what I was doing is I can just doing something online, when everything was I had started going online.

Krishna Jonnakadla  12:11

Okay. So finance background, and you say the three of you connected at different points in time, what I meant, when about the initial start was, how did you pull the team together? When did you? Was it a website that you launched initially? Was it an app? How did you start? Did you start in? Did you resign? Or did you moonlight for a while, and then eventually jump on when it when it scaled? Talk to us about some of those things?

Varun Sheth  12:39

Sure. So I think the first six months when I was working on this site to get at my current job, only just trying to meet people and figure it out and see if I want to do it, get a lot of feedback. And see if there's, there was an opportunity for something like this to work in a country like India. So I think six months was on the job was when I, you know, really went around asking if this idea would work. And I think if after I got about, you know, 60% of the people who said that it could work, I think that's when I, you know, quit my job and really started working full time. Once we started on once we got down to working on full time, you know, basically I started reaching out and connecting with my current co founders to see if they would be interested to work on opportunity like this. And with that, we basically created like a first beta version of a website, which we put it up after like about eight, nine months of working on it with a little of our own capital. And yeah, once we launched it to the public, yeah, we launched it out. It TRT, it didn't really turn out to be the way we expected. Let's just say that

Krishna Jonnakadla  13:57

I see it usually happens that it very rarely happens that the first version of the product that you launch succeeds, let's dig in a little deeper. What exactly happened there?

Varun Sheth  14:06

Firstly, the product did not work. Of course, as we expected, it would the user experience was pretty crappy a lot of the elements that we thought, you know, we would want in our version one, because there was a massive product delay, we just launched it without it, because we were getting really anxious about when this is going to happen. So we just went with what we had. Third was that a lot of people that we had met before launching where it said, you know, we will definitely sign up, we will participate, we'll help you with X, Y, or a lot of those things just turned out to be talk and dematerialize when we actually had a product. I think those things and of course, because we put on very little capital of our own, we wanted to further invest in the product, but we just didn't have that money to take it from Save version one to version 1.1. So then we had to just go out and sell what we had built. and get customers on it and get their feedback and get them to use the product. So yeah, it was a difficult time in terms of just getting people to use it.

Krishna Jonnakadla  15:09

Interesting. So how do you know canal? Easy related?

Varun Sheth  15:13

No, we're not related. Actually, we met through someone we known common. He was he was actually working on a similar idea. He was just meeting people. And you know, having conversations around this idea when someone that we know in common just connected us and say, hey, you know, you put you guys are trying to do something similar. So why don't you want to connect and see if y'all want to, you know, work on it on this project together?

Krishna Jonnakadla  15:37

I see. So when you wanted to go from version one to 1.1, like you mentioned, having somebody like canal, at least an outsider would presume that you're going to get certain certain visibility, some maybe connections here and there was that tough in spite of having, you know, Kunal is one of the co founders,

Varun Sheth  15:56

it was easy in terms of just like, getting celebrities and actors. But in terms of customers, it was tough. I was interning at easy.

Krishna Jonnakadla  16:05

I see. Interesting. What about the fundraise side of things?

Varun Sheth  16:09

Yeah, I didn't get easy. We we actually, both of us must have at least gone to like about 9095 investors who rejected the idea in terms of investing. But yeah, we then we finally were able to close around through this network in Calcutta called Calcutta angels, which was just starting up like Angel Network, who basically agreed and like, invested a small, you know, seed round in the company, which basically helped us to go from, you know, version one to like, version 1.1 1.2. Onwards.

Krishna Jonnakadla  16:44

Interesting. Great. So how big was that round?

Varun Sheth  16:47

We did about at that time about 100k? US, but 6065 lakhs,

Krishna Jonnakadla  16:53

okay. Okay, that's pretty decent. It's a good sees a seed size investment? That's correct. Okay. And when by this time you had quit your job, you were full time in it. Were you aware any of the usual worries of ease is going to go anywhere? Do I have to go back to a job? creep into your mind?

Varun Sheth  17:10

Yeah, always still do. Okay. Okay.

Krishna Jonnakadla  17:14

So let's begin on the customer user and the product side of things we touched upon product market fit, what was the initial hypothesis, the current hypothesis, at least to me looks like, for instance, a lot of us, you know, get requests on WhatsApp and occasionally get direct phone calls as well from charitable organizations saying, okay, this person is sick, or that person needs surgery or so and so can you contribute? Well, a lot of us do mean, well, the biggest problem that we encounter is, we have no clue who is genuine, who is really in need, we have, even if it is a genuine need, we have no idea how the funds are being used. So it looks like in the current scheme of things, that's at least the hypothesis, helping in scenarios like that is where you're largely focused on was that where you started, and what were some issues with the platform, and issues around product market fit back then.

Varun Sheth  18:10

So we basically started initially, the idea was that we should be a platform for everything where anybody can come and raise funds. So any any kind of project, initially, there was a we were excited about, like there could be innovative projects, or like social entrepreneurs trying to build products, we can potentially help them out to raise money. We really tried that for the first few years to see how to get small businesses, social entrepreneurs, even small charities, nonprofits, to use the user network, to use the platform, and to start raising money. But I think the first few years, we realized that, that was not really going to scale, we just didn't see it scaling. We just didn't see people coming back and like making transactions 12345 times, we just found it difficult on both sides, both to generate the demand and supply on the platform. And, you know, we realized that, for any marketplace to work, we need to at least one side should be available, right? Either the demand side or supply side. And you put in a lot of effort to get the other side going. So one side has to be the easy one, which was not really happening. In our case, we have to generate both demand and supply. So So yeah, we started start thinking in terms of, okay, this is not going to work, what do we do next? And do we pivot and become a different business in itself? Or do we, you know, spend more time running this and try some new categories out. So yeah, this makes a lot of discussions and brainstorming that he said, Okay, let's pile it out the healthcare aspect of crowdfunding and see how well that works. And see how we can we don't potentially generate both the demand and supplies idea. So after like, a year, year and a half of piloting, that we started seeing that, yes, there was, you know, a constant demand for people who need money for healthcare treatment to use this platform. And we saw that number growing on a month on month basis. And in terms of giving money, we saw people like giving for healthcare, they came back again, and give multiple times, because it was very easy for them to one, self verify, and checks if this was genuine, even off the platform by just going in directly contacting the hospital, meeting the patient, or talking to family or seeing medical reports or talking to doctors. And of course, the impact also was the update or the impact was quickly received. So it didn't have to wait for like months to get a update. You know, the impact was impact could be seen in a very short period of time. So that's what they really enjoyed, to see. And that's what we started seeing that that's why this aspect of crowdfunding is working very well. And this is what we should be focusing on.

Krishna Jonnakadla  21:11

Interesting. So you are then solving that verifiability problem of an illness or a disease whereby whoever is on it, we know for sure is indeed in need of that particular donation or help. That's correct. Interesting. Okay. So looks like you had a pretty interesting and a testing. First three, four years, you are a for profit platform, aren't you?

Varun Sheth  21:38

That's correct.

Krishna Jonnakadla  21:38

Okay. That's great. I'm glad. You know, you positioned it that way. Because if you if you make it nonprofit, possibly, you know, somewhere along the way, you know, substandard service possibly goes out, maybe you can't support it with the right kind of resources. Was that the reason why you went for profit? Or do you already you always intended it to be a business of sorts?

Varun Sheth  22:03

I think it's all about the people, right? So we knew that if we wanted to attract the best talent, and you know, and retain them for long periods of time, we had to look at it from a for profit perspective, where everybody in the value chain was incentivized to work really hard to rescale. This. So there was another biggest use of it would be for property, because nonprofit size, we knew that, to retain, to get to talent is, you know, is fine, but to retain talent over long period of time, in the nonprofit space become extremely difficult. So yeah, and we basically knew that we wanted to be self sustainable. We didn't want to keep going to donors and raising grants for a long period of time. So yeah, even in terms of the Indian system, it's just easier to be for profit and nonprofit.

Krishna Jonnakadla  23:00

So digging into the model just a bit. You what sort of role do you play, you play financial assistance and monitoring of the implementation role and closing the feedback loop with a donor? Does that need? Is that what you do? Or do you do something more?

Varun Sheth  23:20

So it will multiple things right? We one is educate our campaigners how best to use the client when we provide them the platform the technology. Second is we give them assistance in terms of how they can best use the platform and raise maximum funds possible. Third, is that we help them with the content in terms of what is the kind of content that really works? How should we return rewrite at times how to best present that content. Fourth is, we basically guide them in terms of how they can invest, use their own social media platforms, to get as many people to convert to be donors as possible. We also basically reach out to our own networks, we built our own large enough network on social media, which keeps giving on a repeat basis. So yeah, so how do we basically get our universe of donors also to start giving to unknown people? And basically, next last is in our do we provide a easy financial system where they can review view at any given point of time, get contributions from anywhere in the world, be able to be delivered right into their accounts. So yeah, it was it's a bunch of all the things

Krishna Jonnakadla  24:38

I say. So along this way, the scale journey, or you talked about the key shifts that you made. One is from enabling MSME and smaller onto social entrepreneurs to raise funds to maybe moving into the, you know, health problem, social funding space on the operation. side. And on the journey side, what were some inflection points that sort of convinced you that you were really on to something?

Varun Sheth  25:07

I think one was working. One was the hospitals, right? Actually, one was doctors more, I think working with doctors made us realize that, that, you know, once we started seeing more health cases, we just saw that the volume of patients that each doctor had, who really could not pay for the treatment. And that's when he saw we realized that if we're able to get even a small portion of these patients that are unable to pay for the treatment for are sitting at a doctor's OPD clinic, and the opportunity could be huge. I think that was definitely one huge inflection point that we saw that we had really focused and work closely with doctors, educated them about how this platform could help patients. It could be huge opportunity. So that was like one big one. And a second, I think was even payments. Right. I think, since digital payments like UPI has come I think that's that's been a big the big inflection point for us as well in terms of people coming and transacting online.

Krishna Jonnakadla  26:12

I see. So somewhere along the way, when you discover people that are not able to afford health care, do you see a subset of people that are perhaps not aware of, let's say, health insurance plans and other sort of sorts of assistance that are provided either by government or some other assistance plans and do enable them at all, because that would look like that would be another plausible way so that they don't keep coming back to the platform while there is, in some sense, a conflict of interest there, because you're all about enabling gait, but maybe in terms of avoiding something of that sort. And for them not to go through this harrowing experience of wondering, you know, will, will they get funded or not? Have you already extended to that or thinking or do you don't see yourself going there?

Varun Sheth  26:59

So we do a bit of that, where we do ask them if they've availed any of the government schemes. And most of the times, we've seen people who come to us, they only tap these things outright? Because crowdfunding is no guarantee that you raise money. Some people do, some people don't, right. So we've seen that generally, people come to crowdfunding once they've tried all these, all these sources have been tried. So we don't take them to any government scheme. But we are aware that they they are aware of government schemes before they come to us.

Krishna Jonnakadla  27:30

So it's mostly a last resort option for them.

Varun Sheth  27:33

That's correct.

Krishna Jonnakadla  27:34

Okay. How How long was it before you had your first donation? Or? And how was that first 100? Or first 500? Transactions? How long? And how was that journey?

Varun Sheth  27:47

The first I would say 1000 was probably took us like a year to get the first 1000 transactions, okay. It was a very slow, grueling process, where it was just where, literally, we were just trying to force everybody we knew to donate. That's about it. This shows our friends and their buzz, and push them to use a platform make a contribution, you know, but yeah, we saw a few sparks with a few other campaigns that perform really well. Some we just got lucky. So one was around around the Winter Olympics, where an athlete just stumbled upon a platform. And he put up his cause is a pretty popular athlete. His name is Shiva, Keisha one. So he used the platform to race to coat for the Winter Olympics. And because he was really popular athlete in his domain, we did see a lot of people who knew him personally indirectly, not only from India, but even in his, in his sport, from different parts of the country, which come forward and support him and, and contribute contribute towards the campaign. So that basically really moved the needle for us. That one campaign, and then the idea was that how do we replicate this?

Krishna Jonnakadla  29:08

I see. So when you scale up scaling up, startup means scaling up multiple things, right? In some sense, it's like all those, you know, balls in the air that a juggler is juggling, having been an entrepreneur myself, many times it feels that way that you are possibly wearing eight or 10 hats, and you're forced to possibly leverage all the expertise that you have in all of those subjects. What What was the personal journey, like you had just been a trader on the financial side? What was your personal journey? Like?

Varun Sheth  29:44

I think from a personal journey perspective, is one advantage I would say I had was, I was not paying rent, right. So I was living at my parents house, which was basically put the pressure off where I didn't have to make a monthly income to pay rent or pay any my, I didn't have any debt or loan. So there was that middle easy in terms of, you know, no responsibilities. So that was really helpful, at least for some time being not having any responsibility to failure. And that's, I think, all these advantages of starting young, where we don't have responsibilities, that's the best time to learn, fail, make mistakes, and learn try out entrepreneurship as well. That was definitely one I think, second, from a personal perspective, personal side. I to be honest, I think my parents were very supportive. So I did not really have anything that was no pressure from them. That why are you doing this or, you know, when you want to make money or, like we put your job, I think they're pretty supportive in terms of do whatever you feel like. So I think that again, helped a lot in terms of even when it was not really working out. For the first few years, there was no regularly pressure to like Chop, chop, and like, find a job next year. So yeah, I think I'd prefer perspective, I think it wasn't that difficult

Krishna Jonnakadla  31:20

from a ability perspective, personally, none of us are really born leaders, right? While a lot of people tend to believe that leaders are born, but it's the it's the context around which we are grown. We've grown, where it's the people that we've interacted with. So sometimes it is thrust upon us, sometimes we inherited, what was the leadership and the growth, you know, angle around that, as far as your professional personal journey was concerned?

Varun Sheth  31:49

Yeah, I think, to be honest, I think from a very young age, I had not shown any, I don't know anything, which basically showed leadership, like I was not like a captain, or like a sports captain or I was to my class, and that I think leadership is a mix of, you know, co learning from peers, and from everyone around you. Leadership is not about listening and, you know, interacting with people who are greater who have much more experience than you have. And it's also not about patience. I think patience is very important, over a long period of time. And I think even the idea of persistence becomes very important when you talk about leadership.

Krishna Jonnakadla  32:40

Awesome. So let's go into decisions. And, again, you know, the decision, the context around which a decision is made, can change. So the decision could be a look like a wrong decision today it eventually, in hindsight, sometimes it looks like the right decision. Have you what have been some decisions that have worked out? And that you thought that wouldn't? And what have been some decisions that you thought would work out? But actually didn't?

Varun Sheth  33:10

I think, in hindsight, I think maybe we'll put this in itself, in terms of the category that we should focus on was not the right one, I think we spend far more time than we should have focusing on that category. Even after we had enough data, that it was not really working. I think there was definitely a wrong decision on my part, where we would have where we knew where to maybe just try much faster, and focus on what was working. Too much time was spent on things that were not working. So that was one definitely. And in terms of things that I thought, not work and work. I think a lot of them are not able to think of a specific sample. But I think a lot of that I think my idea has been that you have to try to understand and see if it works or doesn't work, and everything has to be tested. So I think there are all things that I thought, but I thought I still think that won't work. But I feel like if people have enough conviction, and I think there's a strong consensus internally, it may work, then it's something that is worth trying. For sure.

Krishna Jonnakadla  34:20

I see. Great, what were some skills that you had to acquire in order to grow the grow this lead this and continue to lead this?

Varun Sheth  34:30

I think all of them right? So I had no skills in management. I think I have no skills in hiring or in in valuable skills in finance. I think I think my biggest skills that I really like to continue focus on and build upon the thing on the hiring part. I think that's a very important skill to have skill, which has raw value also. I think hiring is definitely one skill that you Do you want to invest more and improve? Further? If you

Krishna Jonnakadla  35:03

had to start over and do this all over again, what would you change?

Varun Sheth  35:07

I definitely would change line of business probably start like a food ordering app or like, online gambling company. I think those have scaled like probably 1000 times more than what we've been able to in the same time. But yeah, jokes aside, I think, I think so many different things. I think the if you to go back in time is do all over the all over again, I think there's so many small mistakes that you make features eat up some some time or the other, you are there, which could have been avoided, right. So I think, like, it's in hindsight, as it's easy to say that you can do things differently or change. But I think all those mistakes also get get you to where you are right now. So I think it's yeah, it's a difficult question. But maybe everything maybe nothing. You know, it depends on what do you ask me this question. But today, you asked me, I would say maybe everything.

Krishna Jonnakadla  36:04

That's pretty candid. In all of this. What have you found particularly helpful, or advantageous?

Varun Sheth  36:12

I think, I think creating strong connections is something that I've found very helpful. I think, you know, barely say, talk about networking or meeting people. You know, there's one thing where you just meet somebody once and, you know, you and that's about it, I think if you are able to create strong relationships with people that you meet in the journey, I think that becomes a very strong advantage that you have on your side, which, you know, which only can be built over time, and money can't really buy it,

Krishna Jonnakadla  36:48

right. And you the amount of impact that you have delivered, certainly must warm your heart, right. So this is sort of an emotional space to be in, especially on the health side. It could be it extracts a emotional toll on the people, because they're actually coming to the platform platform for maybe not life saving all the time, but at least life making, because if that didn't get out of their way, they possibly wouldn't be able to lead a normal life, what have been some stories that have truly touched you.

Varun Sheth  37:26

I think all of them, I think each story has so much, so much depth and so much emotion to it in terms of their journey, where they're coming from, you know, how they got there. Nobody wants to be in that situation, right. But unfortunately, they are, you know, life has got them. So I feel like Each story has such a strong emotional background to it. And just be happy that you can play a small role. I think, you know, we were playing a very, very small role in the larger scheme of things, prodigious feels good that, you know, they get another new lease of life. And there's a new opportunity to get back to healthy life and, you know, potentially live their dreams,

Krishna Jonnakadla  38:17

any any stories in particular that jumped out. Recently, we

Varun Sheth  38:21

just had, I think even the most recent one we had, there was this patient who she was single, single mother, and her son required a liver transplant. And the story interesting three years back, and they were successfully able to raise about, I think 2024 lakh rupees. And, you know, her annual salary, she told me was about two lakh rupees, and she's like, we could never afford this treatment. And her son was suffering from liver cirrhosis, all all all all childhood, then eventually they knew that they had to get a liver transplant, but because they didn't have the money, they were just, you know, letting, letting time pass. And then through crowdfunding once to able to raise the money, get the treatment done. She actually bought her child to our office a few months back on his birthday. And she said all my all what my son wanted to do is do a cutters birthday cake with everybody in your team and wanted to share that joy and celebration because he was able to make it on his birthday. He would make it he will he was able to make it till you're only because of the support that scatto and crowdfunding gotten and being able to complete his treatment. So yeah, that was pretty emotional. That was somebody that we help came down to our office to cut his birthday cake with our team. Awesome.

Krishna Jonnakadla  39:56

What's your advice to the listeners of marriages? Scale entrepreneurs that are starting out, or maybe even considering something in social entrepreneurship.

Varun Sheth  40:06

I think it's a great time to be in social entrepreneurship. I feel like the whole impact investing space as has grown tremendously in India, I think there's a lot of liquidity. people out there who don't support social entrepreneurs, and the work that entrepreneurs are currently doing in India, in terms of advice, I think, because advice would be that when you start, you know, it's not a very bad idea to have a mentor, somebody that, you know, can be a strong sounding board, to you and your business outside your family, somebody who can give you some honest advice on the work that you're doing. So yeah, I would say that to whatever you're trying to do, maybe a good advisor, Cumbria, good sounding board would be very helpful in the long term.

Krishna Jonnakadla  40:57

So on that count, do you did you cultivate a mentor or a support system in the beginning, or did you put one together later?

Varun Sheth  41:06

Actually, I made a mistake by putting one real data, but I would definitely advise to do it, you know, as as early as possible.

Krishna Jonnakadla  41:16

Okay. Are you a reader?

Varun Sheth  41:18

Yes, I

Krishna Jonnakadla  41:18

am. Okay. Oh, what are you reading right now? And what have been some recent books that have caught your attention? Currently, I'm

Varun Sheth  41:25

reading this book called this will never work. It's by Mark Randolph. He was the first CEO of Netflix. So it's about Netflix, his journey, and how he started Netflix in how the current CEO came on board. It's a pretty fast book, definitely recommend read it. I generally tend to read more about entrepreneurship and just about how people set up large companies and how they seal it up. So yeah, a bunch of them. People can pick up, you know, the Shoe Dog, Phil Knight, then this. This other one I speaking for Schwarzman, the Blackstone guy. The book on the partiers? Yeah, this is Mark Byrne, of new Salesforce book trail blazers. So like, yeah, a bunch of tons of books out there. So yeah, I tend to read more stuff in this category. Enjoy eating. So there are these are some

Krishna Jonnakadla  42:28

awesome. So a couple of books I want to mention, I read a lot of entrepreneurial books as well, there is a book called range. It's about challenging the notion that you have to specialize and only being a specialist when and there's another book called The Alchemy, Alchemy, the magic of ideas that don't make sense. It's by a guy called Rory Sutherland, especially for a lot of us who are stuck, you know, maybe somewhere on a startup journey. Sometimes it can be a little frustrating. And, you know, these two books were pretty refreshing, refreshing. So for example, you know, the whole 10,000 hours concept that we've heard, you know, repeated ad nauseum. Malcolm Gladwell popularized it through outliers. In fact, in the book range, he debunks that theory completely. And Roger Federer who is one of you know, tennis greats, never went through that kind of training. It is it and that book is full of examples like that. And in alchemy, there are a lot of interesting ideas. If you've read Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow, he talks about how he wants sounds illogical. So for example, this does not work. You know, the book you're reading right now, you could take that statement and expand on it. Pretty fascinating read, I personally was very, very intrigued, because he's an ad man. He's comes from the creative industry, but the perspectives that he offered, you know, were pretty fascinating. So why don't it's been fantastic chatting with you for close to an hour. You're doing something amazing here. What's the dream scenario for? You know, Cato? Next,

Varun Sheth  44:18

I think it definitely would be that we help each and every patient in this country current short of funds and cannot pay for the medical treatment India as a largest out of pocket expense, healthcare market, maximum people in India go bankrupt because of the medical expenses. And we definitely want to be the frontier solution to anybody and everybody who needs financing and funding for their healthcare treatments. You know, magazine, people commit suicide, go bankrupt, sell their assets, because of medical expenses in India. And we want to basically clear as bigger hole as possible because Module Four So good for these people across the country.

Krishna Jonnakadla  45:03

Awesome. Looks like you're well on the way star health insurance which started as a standalone health insurance company is worth, you know, 1000s of crores today they've scaled incredibly well looks like you know, somewhere in there is a product, a financial product that you could you know create because for copay or out of pocket, which comes out of, you know, people, nobody ensures it, nobody covers it. Perhaps there is a there is a product to be created. I don't know, I'm sure you have a better handle on that. So on that count, looks like you have things covered your bases covered your philosophy and your foundations. Great. So we wish you the very best. And you know, when you hit your next vantage point, if that is global presence, Mr. Rogers of scale will be there. You know, to talk to you about that new vantage point.

Varun Sheth  45:59

Thank you so much. I hope so.

Krishna Jonnakadla  46:02

Thank you. You have a wonderful day. What

Nida Sahar  46:03 do you do? The hope you enjoy the story. If this story made a difference to you Tell us by leaving a comment on the website or our social media channels help us spread the love by subscribing liking and sharing our show. We welcome speaker suggestions and collaborations write to me at heythere@maharajasofscale.com