Rishi Jaitly, CEO of Times Bridge, is a seasoned professional with a remarkable career spanning Google, YouTube, and Twitter. In 2016, he took on the role of CEO at Times Bridge, the strategic investment arm of the Times Group. His mission: to facilitate international businesses’ seamless entry into the Indian market. In this interview, Rishi shares insights into his approach to impact investing, the evolving digital landscape in India, and the challenges and opportunities of bridging cultures in a diverse and dynamic market. Over the last ten years, Rishi has been instrumental in helping global mission-driven internet platforms adapt to the unique challenges of the Indian market. During this period, he witnessed significant transformations. Two key changes stand out: the surge in mobile usage and the growing prominence of non-English languages in the digital landscape. These shifts have reshaped India’s digital ecosystem and opened up new opportunities.
However, Rishi emphasizes that achieving success in India requires a multifaceted approach beyond just market entry. It involves collaboration with various stakeholders, including government bodies, NGOs, businesses, sports federations, and the entertainment industry. While market entry is relatively straightforward, creating lasting impact and meaningful connections with consumers demand a deeper commitment to the local culture.
The Power of Culture:
For Rishi, culture is the key to winning in India. It’s not merely about introducing products or marketing campaigns but about immersing them in the cultural fabric of the country. This includes understanding and engaging with the diverse languages, traditions, and practices across India. To succeed in this market, businesses must adopt a holistic approach that goes beyond superficial engagement. Times Bridge plays a pivotal role in this cultural integration, drawing on the rich legacy of the Times Group. Founded in 1838, the Times Group has not only thrived as a legacy media business but also successfully transitioned into the digital realm. Its portfolio includes successes like Gaana, Magic Bricks, and Cricbuzz, showcasing a deep understanding of consumer growth, scale, and innovation.
Selecting the Right Partners:
Times Bridge focuses on partnering with later-stage companies that have already proven their business models in their home markets. It looks for businesses that prioritize India as a significant user and revenue market. Rishi believes that aligning with entrepreneurs who are genuinely committed to India is essential. This alignment includes both the leadership’s vision and the company’s mission. Times Bridge has curated a diverse portfolio of companies, spanning various sectors such as transportation, hospitality, music, climate, well-being, enterprise, education, and content. While the portfolio’s current composition reflects market interests and opportunities, Times Bridge remains sector-agnostic and open to future expansions.
One notable absence in the portfolio is fintech. Rishi explains that Times Bridge is open to engaging with businesses across sectors, including fintech, as long as they prioritize digital accessibility and product availability.
Global NGOs and Social Entrepreneurs:
In addition to working with businesses, Times Bridge aims to bring global NGOs and social entrepreneurs to India. Rishi recognizes the significant role that India plays in international development and the potential for partnerships that drive positive social impact. Times Bridge recently made its first investment in China, signalling its intention to extend its impact beyond India. While the Chinese market presents unique challenges, Rishi sees it as an opportunity to collaborate with select Chinese entrepreneurs and build global partnerships.
For Rishi and Times Bridge, impact investing is not solely about financial returns. It’s about creating a lasting legacy of global brands that have embraced and enriched India’s diverse culture. Their commitment extends beyond market entry to meaningful, sustainable engagement with Indian consumers. As India prepares for parliamentary elections, Rishi is confident that India’s open digital landscape will continue to attract global businesses. He believes in engaging with the government and fostering collaboration to drive innovation and growth. Ultimately, the Indian consumer’s enthusiasm for both domestic and global digital innovations remains a driving force, offering endless opportunities on the horizon.
In the coming years, Rishi Jaitly and Times Bridge are poised to leave an indelible mark on the intersection of culture and business in India, fostering connections that transcend borders and transform industries.
Jairaj Bhattacharya, Arnav Pyasi, Shikhar Gupta, and Shashank Pandey The Pioneers of Edtech Common Sense
In the realm of India’s booming edtech industry, where the chase for funds and rapid expansion often takes center stage, a quartet of entrepreneurs has forged their path with a different approach. Jairaj Bhattacharya, Arnav Pyasi, Shikhar Gupta, and Shashank Pandey, the minds behind ConveGenius, have exemplified the power of common sense in navigating the complex world of education technology. Their journey began in 2014 when Jairaj Bhattacharya and Shashank Pandey, both engineering graduates from the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad, ventured into the social enterprise and impact segment of edtech. They embarked on a mission that set them apart from the conventional edtech founders of their time. Their vision was audacious yet clear: to provide high-quality educational content to an astounding 100 million children from middle- and low-income households across India.
What made their approach unique was the decision to offer this education for free. It was a decision rooted in common sense. They recognized that their target audience lacked the financial means to pay for educational resources. Drawing inspiration from tech giants like Google and Facebook, who offered their products for free to achieve massive scale, Bhattacharya and Pandey saw the potential for impact through a similar strategy. In the fast-growing edtech landscape of 2014, where venture capital was pouring into the sector, Bhattacharya and Pandey remained focused on their mission. They were not driven by the fear of missing out (FOMO) on funding rounds but by a genuine sense of purpose. They possessed an unwavering belief in the importance of what they were doing and never felt pressured to conform to industry norms.
In a market where edtech startups were raising substantial sums, ConveGenius managed to secure just one angel investor in 2015, who contributed a modest sum of Rs 25 lakh. Undeterred, they persisted, and in 2016, they raised a seed round of $1 million. Throughout this period, they remained acutely aware that investors were not queuing up to back their socially impactful edtech model. This awareness became one of their key strengths. While many startups were chasing vanity metrics like user engagement, Bhattacharya and his team focused on the fundamentals of building a sustainable edtech business. They understood that having thousands or millions of users did not automatically translate into significant revenue. Their emphasis on user retention and stickiness set them apart from others in the industry.
One striking example of their approach is ShareChat, a social media platform backed by Google. ShareChat had a massive user base of 400 million monthly active users by December 2022, with a valuation exceeding $5 billion. However, over 60 percent of its revenue in FY23 came from advertising services rather than direct user payments. Bhattacharya understood that having a large user base did not guarantee proportional revenue growth.
ConveGenius’s journey has been characterized by steady, sustainable growth rather than meteoric rises and dramatic falls. Their revenue from operations increased from Rs 13.5 crore in FY21 to Rs 46.7 crore in FY23, with losses growing modestly from Rs 6.87 crore to Rs 7.8 crore during the same period. This performance stands out, especially when compared to some of their peers in the edtech industry. For instance, FrontRow, an edtech platform for non-academic skills, raised significant funding but ultimately shut down in July. In contrast, ConveGenius, with its lean approach, managed to make a meaningful impact with fewer funds raised.
Amidst the challenges of 2022, when edtech venture funding declined, Bhattacharya faced pressure from various quarters to diversify beyond edtech. However, he viewed the market downturn as an opportunity to be more aggressive, emphasizing the importance of doing less and achieving more. His common-sense approach, combined with a lean team and a lack of heavy operational and administrative machinery, allowed ConveGenius to stay on its unique path. In reflecting on his journey as a social impact edtech founder, Bhattacharya remains humble. He does not consider himself a genius, noting that he possesses an average IQ. However, his journey and the success of ConveGenius exemplify that genius lies not in extraordinary intellect but in the thoughtful application of common sense.
The story of Jairaj Bhattacharya, Arnav Pyasi, Shikhar Gupta, and Shashank Pandey serves as an inspiring example of how entrepreneurs can make a lasting impact by staying true to their mission and relying on common sense to navigate the complexities of the business world. In an industry often dominated by hype and excessive spending, ConveGenius stands as a beacon of thoughtful, sustainable growth.
Kaushal Shetty Transforming Lives with Nostos Homes
In a world where innovation is often synonymous with profit, Kaushal Shetty stands out as a beacon of hope. At the age of 27, he is not only a Senior Product Manager at Mastercard but also the Co-founder and CEO of Nostos Homes, a non-profit organization with a noble mission – to provide shelter, dignity, and safety to displaced persons. The story of Nostos Homes is deeply personal for Kaushal Shetty. Hailing from a village plagued by annual floods, he intimately understood the plight of those who were forced to leave their homes due to natural disasters. His own journey from his flood-ravaged village to the bustling metropolis of Mumbai shaped his perspective and fueled his determination to make a difference.
Modular, Lightweight, and Transportable Shelters
Nostos Homes took shape as a solution to a pressing global problem – the plight of displaced persons. The organization designs and builds modular, lightweight, and easily transportable shelters. These shelters serve as a robust and safe alternative to the conventional tent, providing not just a roof over one’s head but also a semblance of privacy, dignity, and safety during times of crisis. One of the remarkable aspects of Nostos Homes’ shelters is their cost-effectiveness. These shelters come at a price point comparable to traditional tents, making them accessible to those who need them the most. For displaced individuals and families, Nostos Homes’ shelters represent more than just a physical structure; they symbolize hope and the promise of a better tomorrow.
Nostos Homes’ reach extends far beyond the borders of India. While the organization has provided its innovative shelter solutions in Assam and Nagaland, its impact has also been felt in Africa. The modular shelters have not only improved living conditions but have also instilled a sense of security among displaced communities. Kaushal Shetty’s vision for Nostos Homes goes beyond providing shelter to a few. He envisions a world where his organization’s solutions can make a significant impact on a global scale. To turn this vision into reality, Nostos Homes is actively engaging with governments and agencies, exploring partnerships that can help scale up their operations.
Kaushal Shetty’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of social entrepreneurship. With a strong sense of purpose and a commitment to making a difference, he has harnessed his skills as a product manager to create real-world solutions that address one of humanity’s most pressing challenges – displacement.
Kaushal Shetty’s dual role as a Senior Product Manager at Mastercard and the CEO of Nostos Homes exemplifies the fusion of technology, compassion, and innovation. Through Nostos Homes, he has demonstrated that profit is not the only driving force behind innovation. Sometimes, it’s the desire to alleviate human suffering, to provide shelter and security to the vulnerable, and to restore dignity and hope to those who have lost everything. Kaushal Shetty’s journey is an inspiration to all, a reminder that each of us has the power to make a positive impact on the world, regardless of our age or circumstances.
Genrobotics Revolutionizing Cleaning and Rehabilitation with Robotics
In the heart of India’s bustling tech landscape, where innovation thrives and new frontiers are explored, a group of visionary individuals came together to create Genrobotics. Arun George, Nikhil NP, Rashid K, and Vimal Govind MK, all in their late twenties, are the co-founders of this ground-breaking venture that has set out to revolutionize several industries through the power of robotics.
Founded in 2017, Genrobotics embarked on its journey with a singular mission – to eradicate the perilous and inhumane practice of manual scavenging in India. Manual scavenging, a practice that had claimed far too many lives, was about to meet its match in the form of a revolutionary robot scavenger.
Robots to the Rescue:
Genrobotics’ flagship creation, the robot scavenger, is designed to perform tasks that were previously done by manual scavengers. These robots not only ensure efficiency and precision but, more importantly, they eliminate the life-threatening risks associated with manual scavenging. It’s a giant leap towards safeguarding the dignity and lives of those who were once forced into this. The impact of Genrobotics was not confined to ending manual scavenging alone. The company’s visionary founders set their sights on broader horizons, seeking innovative solutions for the healthcare, sanitation, oil, and gas sectors. With an unwavering commitment to enhancing human lives through automation, they ventured into creating robots catering to various cleaning requirements.
Genrobotics’ influence spread like wildfire. The company’s solutions found favor with 85 urban local bodies across 17 states and three union territories in India. Its robot scavengers and other cleaning robots became integral to maintaining cleanliness and hygiene in numerous areas. One of Genrobotics’ most commendable initiatives is its rehabilitation program. While automation was improving sanitation and safety, it also had the potential to displace manual scavengers from their livelihoods. To address this, the company introduced a comprehensive rehabilitation program. The rehabilitation program initiated by Genrobotics has transformed the lives of thousands of former manual scavengers. With a focus on imparting skills that are directly aligned with operating and maintaining the robots, the program ensures that these individuals don’t lose their source of income due to automation.
To date, Genrobotics’ rehabilitation program has benefitted over 3,000 people. This remarkable feat showcases the company’s commitment not only to technological innovation but also to the welfare and upliftment of those who were once marginalized. As Genrobotics continues to push the boundaries of what’s possible with robotics, the co-founders, Arun George, Nikhil NP, Rashid K, and Vimal Govind MK, remain steadfast in their commitment to creating solutions that enhance the human experience. Their journey, which began with the noble goal of ending manual scavenging, has expanded to encompass multiple industries and sectors, with a focus on improving lives and preserving human dignity.
In a world where technology often takes centre stage, Genrobotics stands out as a beacon of innovation with a heart. The co-founders’ dedication to tackling societal issues with cutting-edge technology while simultaneously empowering individuals through rehabilitation is a testament to the positive impact that tech-driven social entrepreneurship can have on our world. As they continue to pioneer advancements in the field of robotics, Genrobotics serves as an inspiring example of what can be achieved when visionary minds come together with a shared purpose.
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