India GameChanger recorded an interesting conversation with Arjun Vaidya, Venture Lead at Verlinvest. Verlinvest partners with visionary entrepreneurs who are building impactful, category-defining, global brands.
Some of the topics Arjun discussed:
  • Arjun’s micro moment
  • The family legacy
  • Arjun’s reality check
  • Shutting down his first business and launching Dr. Vaidya
  • Every entrepreneur has his own reason for exiting
Some other titles we considered for this episode:
  1. Let Your Consumers Choose Your Channel
  2. Fail Early and Reflect on What Was Done Wrong
  3. Insecurities Are Part of Every Entrepreneur’s Journey 
This episode was produced by Stephanie Ng.

Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):

Michael Waitze 0:04
Hi, this is Michael Waitze and welcome back to India GameChanger today we are joined by Arjun Vaidya, Ventures Lead at Verlinvest. I tried right, did I even get your first name right? How do i pronounce your first name?

Arjun Vaidya 0:16

Michael Waitze 0:16
I got it. Okay. Thank you so much for coming on the show. How are you? By the way?

Arjun Vaidya 0:20
I’m great, Michael, it’s a pleasure to be on the show with you and excited to have a conversation.

Michael Waitze 0:24
Well, I will say this. I’m glad we changed laptops, because you sound a lot better.

Arjun Vaidya 0:31
That’s an endorsement for Mac laptops. And yeah, I’m not shilling for anybody. But I didn’t notice something which we’ll talk about offline anyway. Yeah, I really appreciate you switching. Before we get to the central part of our conversation. I’d love to get some of your background for some context. Yeah, sure. My name is Arjun Vaidya and Vaidya, my last name means doctor. I come from a legacy of 150 years of I’ll be there. And my family was my grandfather, great grandfather and generations before wall aisle within the legacy of that business was not a business actually, it was a clinic. So my great grandfather set up a clinic in Bombay, my grandfather graduate from college to call the clinic, you know, graduate from medical school, took on the clinic. And in the 80s and 90s, he became one of India’s most successful doctors in the IVR realm. So he saw 350 patients a day had 12,000 patients on a monthly basis trying to buy a post who’s a famous famous doctor, okay, but he didn’t care for business sales, distribution, marketing strategy he cared for so so consultation was actually free in this clinic and you only paid for the medicine, which was our family IP passed down from generation to generation. And was this Um, can I ask you this stuff? Was that medicine like medicine that was traditional that I could buy anywhere? Was this specific, like all your video style medicine? Yeah. So it was proprietary family recipes for natural herbal formulation. Sorry, go ahead. Go ahead. And then, you know, my dad graduated from college, he didn’t study medicine, he wanted to build a business. And so he tried to convince my granddad to make his clinic into a business and sell those products. FMCG and CPG. Okay, it tried to work together for a year my grandfather got convinced into a TV commercial in 1989. I think it was or lost money for the first time. And by the way, 99 TV commercials in India are a big deal. TV just come to India, right. So yeah, so So my granddad lost money for the first time and doctors don’t like I mean, as a professional, you don’t lose money. If you make a little bit more, a little bit less, but you don’t lose money. And so my granddad said, Look, this business thing is not for me. If it’s something you do, you can do it somewhere else. But if you want to work with me, you work in my clinic. So what did your dad do? Because he wants you to be wrong, right? He wasn’t wrong. He wasn’t wrong. So eventually, he learned how to make jewellery and set up jewellery manufacturing business to make jewellery for his mom’s friends then eventually set up a B2B business now run this one of India’s most famous and premium jewellery brands called Rose has been doing that for about 40 years now. And he also runs a watch business. So it’s so my brother, my mom, that they’re all in that business. That’s my family business, actually. Yeah. And, you know, I grew up in juvenile and bronchitis. I grew up with asthma. I grew up with pumps. nebulizers inhaler, steroid. I was not allowed to play cricket and football or as you call it, soccer growing up while all my friends were because there’s too much dust on the field. What was that like for you though? Right. In other words, you’re not a little guy. Right. But you had you said you had asthma, right? bronchial asthma. Were you frustrated by this idea that like I there’s something I really want to do, but there’s something preventing me from doing it and I can’t control it. Does that make sense? Yeah. So So Michael, I was the only guy my age who was playing golf and squash at age seven and golfing squash or not big sports in India. So it was really frustrating for me while all my friends were playing cricket and football. I couldn’t have Coke, Fanta, Limca, Sprite and birthday parties because it was jacked my throat I was allowed to eat ice cream. I went to Baskin Robbins and an ice cream for the first time when I was 13 years old. And I went on a Sunday night we waited till ice cream melted calm. And then I had ice cream soup, because if it was too cold Rujak my throat and would get me to ease and all of those things, right? So it seemed as though asthma prevented me from having a normal childhood. Sure. And I got an Ayurvedic treatment. And very early on, I got on the treatment and by age 15 I was cured completely by my grandfather. I mean, cured. So like, you don’t have any inhalers today no medicine today. i Oh, traditional medicine. Yeah, yeah. So I have allergies still today. Um, so I will have watering eyes and a call and he sort of itchiness when I am in contact with a lot of dust, okay, but I will not have wheezing, I will not have bouts of not being able to breathe choking etc, which is what I grew up with. So did you go back to playing other sports? You know, I did so So the story is that when I was 15 and a half, I joined a new school and national school. We didn’t have a cricket team. I was passionate about cricket. I started playing cricket again. I convinced a history teacher to become our cricket coach. He was a British guy. He became our cricket coach. And we started a small cricket team. We were only 4040 Something guys in the school, only 20 of us wanted to play only about 1012 showed up to every practice showed up to practice at all. And I was the guy who showed up to every practice. And so he made me captain of the team. And for me, that was totally

in my life, right? It was turning point because it wasn’t a great team. We played only five games, but I love cricket and asthma prevented me from playing cricket and Irv that got me back to cricket and I became captain of my school credited. Can

Michael Waitze 5:11
you explain to people just like how big a deal cricket is in India? You don’t have to go into the sport itself. But just like, if you’re a young Indian boy, right, Cricket is a thing, right?

Arjun Vaidya 5:21
Yeah, absolutely. So I think cricket is the the sport in India. Yeah, I would say until 510 years ago, it was the only sport. Nobody played or cared for any sports, I think of 1.4 billion people, right, like thinking about are only interested in one sport. And by the way, it’s cross generational as well. Yeah. From 1983 When India won the Cricket World Cup to today, it’s the only sport that India has been thinking about. I love it. And my grandmom my wife, my mom, my brother, everyone, me, everyone loves cricket. Look, it’s different degrees of cricket. Yeah. But if India loses to Pakistan cricket match, you have a billion people who aren’t gonna.

Michael Waitze 6:01
So I my exposure to this and remember the United States where I grew up, I mean, mostly, I left there when I was 24. I’m 57. Right. So it’s been a long time. But I was sitting in the offices of Goldman Sachs, right. And one of the senior traders was from India, and the head of the Office was from Pakistan. And in the five months that I was in the Hong Kong office, the rank didn’t matter. He basically had a managing director and just like a senior guy, so completely different ranks. They were going at it every time India played Pakistan in Korea, it was awesome to watch. Sorry, go ahead.

Arjun Vaidya 6:30
Yeah, we lost two weekends ago. But we won three weekends ago. So it’s okay. But yeah, it’s cricket is a huge deal. In our country. It’s part of the culture part of the fabric. And look, everyone grows up with a cricket bat. So it’s just so important to the identity of the Indian

Michael Waitze 6:49
got it? So did you your father went to college, you said and then didn’t study medicine? What did you study in school? Right? And was there any pressure on you like these 150 year old legacy families, right? You know, if like, here’s a doctor and then the next generations a doctor, and the next generations a doctor, like I know this from my brother, who’s also a neuro who’s a neurosurgeon, right? And his wife is a reconstructive plastic surgeon like there’s pressure on the kids, because her parents were also doctors, was there pressure on you to like, study all this stuff? And like, what did you do for university? Yeah,

Arjun Vaidya 7:19
so I used to spend a lot of time with my granddad growing up, because he had cured me of asthma. So he would sometimes I’ve introduced me to Ivy League principles, I transcribe the family formulations from scriptures in local regional language to excel sheets. I helped him do that when I was 1516 years old for you. And so there was that sort of thought process or interest in the science. Yeah. And so when I, when I was going to college, he said, I’ll pay for your education. If you study biotechnology, and you come back and take on this legacy. I went to college in the US, I went to a liberal arts college, Brown University. So I went in thinking, I’ll study biotech, I ended up studying economics and international relations, politics. And so after the first year, he realised I wasn’t taking any science classes. So he stopped paying, he paid. He told my dad, it’s your responsibility. Now, this kid’s not studying biotech back, but there was always a thing of back my mind. And my college essays were about this, right about taking on the family legacy about going forward with Iran. So it’s always the back of my mind, what I started this conversation with whether my last name means I’ll be the doctor. That was the first line of my common application essay when I applied to college, the US as well. So it’s been a part of me for a long time. So I went to college, I went to Brown, I studied Economics and International Relations. But I would say my experiences the US shaped the person I became, but also shaped what I eventually ended up doing with business, right. So I came to the US. And my first few weeks, I saw one of my Dutch friends was teaching a yoga class. And then I started looking at that, and I was like Whole Foods, people paying top dollar for natural organic food that didn’t exist in India in 2009, and 10, yoga mats, yoga, gyms, yoga, apparel, Lululemon, all of these things I’ve never seen before, right? And I’m thinking to myself, is a multi billion dollar industry created in the US? Yeah, um, something that’s traditionally Indian. But Indian companies have nothing to do with it at all, really, India gains no value from this mammoth industry of yoga in the US. And so I call my grandad from campus. And I said, By the way, I just want to tell you, this is what’s happening in the US. And we can’t let the same happen, by the way. So I made him a promise.

Michael Waitze 9:20
Because this is like the second generation of his offspring telling him you have to be in business, right? Because your dad did it too, and said, Go on TV, do a commercial and he was like, I’m losing money. I’m not doing that again. And then you come back and say the same thing. What did he say to you?

Arjun Vaidya 9:33
By the time I grew up, he realised that he should have built a consumer brand. So he was always thinking about it. But I think that look, I think his his mentality was a mentality of healing, right? That’s what he was sort of focused on and doing business motivations per business are different. So I think eventually you will always get stuck in this crossroads. And I didn’t blame him for it. So I came back to India after that in 2013. I worked in private equity for two and a half years, called L capital now merger that US based on called keratin, so consumer sector focused Investment Fund and I learned a lot about the Indian consumption story. Actually, when I came back, I learned about the fact that India was now consuming quintessentially Indian products. What that would what I’m trying to say here is I grew up in India, which was obsessed with imported product, because in the India of the 90s, what was imported was considered good and what is Indian or substandard? Yeah, I came back to an India where I was the youngest member of the team. And so they said, Hey, go work on this thing called ecommerce and see what’s happening. And ecommerce was just starting in India in 20 1314. Right. So Amazon had just started in India, that time. What about Flipkart, was that their Flipkart was I think 2009 or 10 is when they started, but they were just starting to scale just starting to scale in India. And so I started working on this thing called E commerce and I started spending time with like businesses like Myntra Jabong pepper fry bluestones. If I made all of these, like vertical marketplaces, and I realised over that time that ecommerce was your estate, right? It was not a fad. It was here in India to stay and the third thing I saw was Irv there was undergoing a renaissance. Right, so 2014, our government changed Ministry of our youth was created, there was a large company called pathology created, which was then doing like a billion dollars in revenue and just started at that time. And so there was lots of interest towards the science, which hadn’t happened in the last 5060 years, right. So all of these things seemed like the macro was coming together. And then the micro happened, every entrepreneur needs that moment. And moment for me was my grandfather’s passing, he passed away. So and we had this rich legacy. We had these formulations. I remember a promise I made when I was in my dad’s 50th birthday party thinking, Can I quit this high paying private equity job to go into the abyss? Do I radar products, which I know very little about, and I’m 24 and a half years old, I give a speech on my dad at his birthday party there was organised by his team in his office. And by this time, my grandfather’s clinic was running as a dispensary only patients who came with his prescription would get the medicine and his nurse of 17 years was at this party for my dad, and she came to me at the end of the party, and she said, you’re talking about your dad, but are you going to let your grandfather’s legacy die. And at that moment, I realised if it skips one more generation, it’s over. It’s over all of this legacy is done. And so I quit my job. And that’s it. I 24 and a half year old,

Michael Waitze 12:06
I want to get back to this idea that I guess I asked you at the beginning. Was there any pressure you went to Brown? You didn’t study biotechnology? You studied economics and international relations. And grandpa said, nevermind, I’m not being like the dude meant when he said this idea. But then when you came back and your grandfather passed, again, there’s this idea of there is a family legacy. Now what do I do? Right?

Arjun Vaidya 12:26
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So look, I think there was there was no pressure because by this time my grandfather had passed. Yeah. And so while everyone was excited, I was doing something with it. And it meant a lot to my grandma. It was pretty much done right? It was there was nothing there any longer except IP and formulations and a name as such. So while I felt pressure internally, nobody else put pressure on me, because my grandfather was a big deal. Right? So I felt that pressure of living up to his name, but nobody else put any pressure on me. I think I had a good opportunity. Also, while it was sad, my grandfather couldn’t see what I built. I also inherited an organisation which I could mould from scratch. Yeah, lots of people think it was a family business. It wasn’t a family business. It was a family legacy that I repackaged and rebranded. Right, yeah. So I give you an example. My Tommy, the first part I launched was a hangover product. I took a level protector I repackaged to appeal to modern consumers and launched a product called limit. I’ve had my grandfather been alive. I don’t think that’s the first product that allowed me to launch.

Michael Waitze 13:22
Probably not and how did that go? And this is in Mumbai, like which part of India is the sin by the way?

Arjun Vaidya 13:27
Yeah, I’m, I’m based in Mumbai. And so we launched this product and a product called herbal fit, which is ironic multivitamin. So it took an Ayurvedic based culture and encapsulated so you didn’t have to wake up every morning and have a Blackberry sticky paste, yeah, started these two products with offline retail in Dubai and signed up at a big launch event and a five star hotel signed up six distributors and then put 10 lakh rupees, which is about $12,000 worth of stock into the market. Okay. And I thought this amazing like, this is great. And then I finance geek in me is making an Excel sheet $10,000 $20,000 $50,000 $100,000 and in like one year has become a million dollar a month business. Right? That was that was the Excel sheet that I had put together. Three months later reality hit, I realised the best fiction stories are written on Excel. And I got 90% of this. I got 90% of this product back, did you then I realised that actually, I built two distributors, they had to build to retailers, retailers had to build to consumers like Michael only and Michael bought my product, I get paid. And by the way, Michael didn’t buy my product. And so I had always talk about the Excel sheet, which started becoming in my mind, reality was actually completely false. And that was the biggest failure. I had life because I was a good student. I went to a good college, and a good job after college and then I failed miserably with this business. Right? And unfortunately for me, I got time to fail early and reflect on what I did wrong, right. So I was young. Yeah, I didn’t know offline distribution, had no right to it and no money to advertise. And so nobody bought my product. You have a watch right? Why was

Michael Waitze 14:58
nobody buying it? In other words, if If tonnes of people were coming to your grandfather’s clinic and to the dispensary why when you repackaged it into kind of like a more modern format, weren’t people buying it? Were you surprised? And was it just because there was so many people in the middle? Or was it just a marketing deal?

Arjun Vaidya 15:13
So I think people came to my grandfather’s clinic to meet a doctor, that doctor was gone. And so Bran had to be built from scratch. Lots of people went to my grandfather’s clinic, but these people didn’t know my grandfather’s and FMCG brand. Right? Right, took the brand outside the clinic had to build a brand. And I was building a brand in a very competitive space where there were large companies dobber Amalia reginox, undo Patanjali Chara all of these brands under like 100 million dollars plus in revenue. And here’s this 24 and a half year old 25 year old kid who rocks up and says Have my hangover product without any budget to market. Obviously, it didn’t work out, right? And so I got time to reflect and I said, Look, this offline thing is not working for me. And I rationally decided that that’s not where I’m going. And so I shut down that business. How long did that take? Three months 90% of product back two weeks later, I said, this is not working for me. I took the tough decision of letting go of my entire sales team of 22 people said we’re going to we’re going to redo this business completely. Because it’s not working out, right. And then my wife who was my girlfriend at the time, she was in the early team and Nika. Nika is India’s largest personal care and cosmetics marketplace we just listed last year. And she was one of the only team there. And she then moved on from there to do impact investing. She was also at Goldman, by the way, Michael in London after college, and she said, look, you’ve seen this ecommerce thing play out in your time as an investor. I’ve seen it play out to my time Annika, why don’t you do it the online nobody’s doing it online. Yeah. And by this time, I was already very stressed that things haven’t worked out running a consumer products. Business is complex right there. It’s very, you have sales, distribution, marketing, strategy, procurement, supply chain, regulatory, legal HR IT admin, I was 25 years old, had never had a business before. So I said, Look, I’m drowning in this work. I need a co founder, you know, online, will you come on board, I convinced her to join. We got engaged. She joined the business. And that’s when we launched Dr. Vaidya in its new avatar, the online business and then the rest is history. What year was that? So November 2017, we launched our website, we did one order every three days on our website. Fast forward three, three years later, we were doing 5000 orders a day in launch ad products.

Michael Waitze 17:15
Were you nervous at the beginning when the online business didn’t, you know grow like super fast? Like one order a day is nice, but it’s not going to like break the bank.

Arjun Vaidya 17:23
Every three days is worse than water. Three days. Yeah, sorry. Yeah,

Michael Waitze 17:26
you got to be like, a little nervous. You convinced your wife to quit her job, you left your high paying job, you’d already failed once like, what was the feeling

Arjun Vaidya 17:33
their insecurity? I’ll tell you Michael is part of every entrepreneurs life and journey. People think that when you become big, when you raise money, you don’t feel insecure, the insecurities are different. My insecurity at that time was hey, can I get to 10 orders a day and at least make it worth my while. But they don’t have a 10 I want to be a 21 I’m pretty good at 5050 I wanna be 101 100 I want to be the biggest company, right? So every day are faced with different insecurities. I think some of that insecurity is actually good because it makes you fight and be ambitious and work harder. And every entrepreneur has Yeah, I was nervous all through. I was nervous even before I sold the company. I think someone asked me the other day now an investor? What’s the biggest difference? So the biggest difference? I can sleep at night and wake up next morning without my heart in my mouth? Because as an entrepreneur, your heart is always in your mouth.

Michael Waitze 18:16
Yeah. I mean, do you get the sense that that fear when you’re building something from scratch and never kind of goes away? Right? You never said it. Like, if you have 10 you want 20 If you have 2140? Like I think about this too, when I’m building a business that I wake up some days, and I’m like, I nailed it completely nailed it. And by the time that day is over, I’m like, I’m going bankrupt. Do you know what I mean? Yeah, like, yeah,

Arjun Vaidya 18:35
it’s natural. It’s normal, or an entrepreneur. And it happens all the time. So I think that’s one thing that that I felt all through. Just want to get better all the time. And entrepreneurs are fundamentally ambitious people.

Michael Waitze 18:45
Yeah, for sure. So you sold your business after operating it for how long? For how many years? About four and a half years? And what was the impetus to sell? I mean, I get the idea that you can like monetize it and take the money away. But there’s this there’s this feeling I have when I’m building something that I don’t ever want to give it away. Right, particularly if it’s growing, and it’s fun to do. Like, what’s the idea behind selling?

Arjun Vaidya 19:06
Yeah, I think my good it’s a good question. I’ve answered a lot of times now because a lot of people asked me this question. Yeah, yeah. Look, I’ll tell you we raise money from a strategic investor call RP Sanjiv, going calm. It’s a multi billion dollar conglomerate. And then there was always that conversation that they wanted to acquire the business that was always at the back of everyone’s mind. They wanted to Yeah, and then, you know, COVID was absolutely crazy for us, right, because we were already market leaders online in March 2020. And there was a huge spike in demand for IVs and immunity boosters. And so our businesses grew exponentially and so it just seemed like the right time for them to acquire the business they made an offer. It’s always fair value. And I think for an entrepreneur when you’re selling your business or when you make the decision to leave nobody other than you knows what the right times and half my friends say you sold earlier half references for the perfect time. Only you know at that time or the right time is for you and for my wife and I seem like the right time.

Michael Waitze 19:57
Can I make a point though, I love this kind of Have half your friends who like you sold too early? I’m guessing that a majority of them maybe had not built a business from scratch and just understood like how hard that was. And the other half had said, you didn’t sell and you don’t I mean, like, everybody has an opinion, but nobody’s involved and they don’t in a way they don’t have a right to tell you when the right time is regardless of how close yeah, yeah. And

Arjun Vaidya 20:19
then, you know, they’ve never know, right? Because if no, time, no, but but I would say even in general, it’s not a totally black and white decision. Agreed. I believe it’s what’s the right time for you? Correct? For me, it seemed like the right

Michael Waitze 20:33
Yeah, correct. And it doesn’t like that’s why I said like, they have no right like nobody’s opinion, in a way kind of matters. Because they’re not in there. They’re not in the trenches everyday doing it. And even if they agreed with it, it was just like, yeah, I get it. But you’re not inside my head every day. You don’t know what that up and down is like you don’t understand, like the idea that someone could say you did it too early. I don’t know. I was listening to a show today where a guy did this movie called single. And when the movie was over, he made 18 million bucks, it cost $9 million to make. And when it was over, the big production company came to him and said, Hey, look, we want to turn this into a TV show. And he was like, Yeah, I’m not interested in doing that TV show. And they were like, No, we really want to do a TV show based on this movie that you’ve made. He was like, Yeah, I’m just not interested in doing it. And then when the production company tried to do it on their own, he sued them to stop them from doing this. That show turned out to be friends. And he was not involved. Yeah, this is a true story. He was not involved. And his mother said to him, I think you’ve left like $700 million on the table. But he said the same thing you did. He was like, I’m comfortable with the decisions that I’ve made. And I think that’s fair now.

Arjun Vaidya 21:34
Yeah, I agree. But But friends are That’s crazy. That’s

Michael Waitze 21:39
you, you’re like, maybe. But you understand the feeling, right? That idea of like, It’s me to decide.

Arjun Vaidya 21:46
Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Michael Waitze 21:48
Anyway, so when did the sale take place? You said much to anyone. Okay, so about a year and a half ago, right? Correct. So now you built a business from scratch, you have that sense of like failure and fear. And that like you said, like the heart, this heart in my mouth every morning when I wake up, and when I go to bed? What do you do now? Do you know what I mean?

Arjun Vaidya 22:06
Yeah, so look, I think after we sold our business, my wife and I had no clue what we wanted to do. And it was a second wave of the pandemic, so we couldn’t even travel. The first thing on our mind, let’s go to Europe for six months and figure out what we want to do in life. We couldn’t and so we spend time just outside of Bombay, in our beach home. And we started sort of thinking about what we want to do next. And I think both of us are very passionate about enabling the next set of entrepreneurs right, so we started helping founders pro bono from that we started investing a little bit of our personal money angel investing, we wrote a playbook which we developed into a course we now teach India’s largest cohort based course on consumer brands DTC I have a podcast like you micro all direct to a billion consumers specifically talking about the consumer brand landscape in India and through all of this I got to meet the good folks at Ball invest of all invest is a single LP evergreen fund structure based out of Belgium that invests in consumer and across the globe has been in India now for 10 years, as invested in some of India’s most iconic brands including Sula, Aviva epic amiah Purple wait fed by Jews hands up retail, so some of India’s most iconic brands, but given the sort of size of the Aum the fund became a growth equity Series B and are focused on investing 1500 million dollars and so what invest wanted to do early stage investing them so we we’ve now created a separate structure, global structure, India, US and Europe needs structure. There’s a separate venture vehicle run by an ex founder who’s built and sold the consumer business got it. And so I now run this early stage investing strategy for wall invest in India. And it allows will invest to participate earlier in the consumer growth story of businesses so we invest across the consumer landscape brands, platforms, enablers, and technology. Do

Michael Waitze 23:42
you feel like there’s never been a better time to start a brand in India from scratch? Yeah, there’s never been a better time like never right? In other words, like all these all these market forces are coming together, all this technology is coming together, maybe you can give a high level view about why you think that’s actually the case. Like I don’t disagree with you at all, actually. And I was the one who said it. But can you tell me why what you see and why it’s the best time ever to start a brand in India?

Arjun Vaidya 24:04
Yeah, look, I think from the macro lens, right? We have a very large middle class or even 600 million people and growing we have one of the world’s youngest population, that average age is below 30 years old. Okay. All of these people are aspirational. We’re a free economy. In India. Google is Google. Facebook is facebook. Apple is Apple and Walmart is Walmart. Right? So free economy. So just builds a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful consumption story. Right on I think the other beautiful thing that’s happening in India now is that online has allowed insurgent brands like us to actually without building nationwide distribution build nationwide distribution. What do I mean by that? I mean, Dr. Vaidya in four and a half years with 16 and a half 1000 zip codes in India, but 60% of India from one way or right consumers are aspirational, but if there is a brand selling caffeinated cosmetics and there’s a brand selling caffeine based cosmetics, then we have 10,000 addressable consumers in Bombay. If I wasn’t in Delhi 30,000 and Bangalore, maybe offering detail to start may not be the right go to Saudi for them, but an online can actually aggregate the demand of all of these consumers across this country and build a large business right. And India is India is ready for aspirational brands India is ready for new brands India is ready for its own brands. And so 2017 onwards all of us started creating these things. And then consumers just got captured by the imagination, we captivated consumers imagination, and today I hear about new brands opening up every time. And I think that the wave that happened in the west of brands being created 1520 years ago, that’s coming to India now. And so there’s no better time.

Michael Waitze 25:34
So you talked earlier about ecommerce and vertical marketplaces, right? I do another show called ecommerce undercover. And the whole premise of that show is that marketplaces are not the be all like these vertical marketplaces that are not the be all or these big marketplaces, excuse me, not the be all and end all for E commerce, right? And it’s not solved yet. And that big companies like Amazon are not the end of the E commerce evolution, right. So if you see this is one of the other reasons why I think that it’s the best time not just in India, but globally to start a brand because people like discovery is this gigantic problem, right? Now, you just want to use Amazon as a proxy. But if I go to Amazon and I search for something, I get a bunch of noise that I don’t want to see. And there are offline equivalencies to this that we can run through, but I don’t want to waste your time with that. But this idea of like, I just want this thing. And if I search for that thing, I just want to go to the place that has that thing. And don’t tell me about everything else that’s around it and don’t recommend other things to me. Like what is it like? What do you see this look like? Yeah, look,

Arjun Vaidya 26:25
I think exciting time because consumers have choice. Yeah, I love choice, right? Yeah. But choice can get, as you said, intimidating, and it can be too much noise. And so I think so when instinct plays in Indiana, my dad is now ready to consume online, it never placed an order online, the pandemic hit, he was the father of an E commerce entrepreneur, he places first on Amazon, April 20s, plays 60 orders on Amazon, since he now goes on his Instagram feed clicks on an ad goes to a DTC brand website buys from their website. And if they don’t deliver in time, he calls that customer Ken says he doesn’t take three days for an ordering from Bombay. So I think consumers are evolving. But my view always is that don’t choose a channel, let your consumer choose your channel source. What does that mean? What does that mean? That means that some brands say, Hey, should I be just only on our website? Should I be only on Amazon? Should I be only on Flipkart? No, the good part about digital businesses, that data tells you what the consumer is trying to tell you. Right? So if you’re on your website, and on Amazon and Amazon’s actually giving you two weeks, the orders are half the cost the customers telling you hate your product, I wouldn’t buy on Amazon, not on your website to double down on that. So that’s why I tell folks who reach out to me folks part of our cohort as well, that your customer to the channel, they want to consume your product, your response needs to be available on that channel.

Michael Waitze 27:36
But what’s the data that tells you what that channel is? Right, particularly for early stage brands? And there’s a bigger part of this question to me, if every early stage startup and tell me where I’m wrong here is an experiment, then every early stage brand is also an experiment, right? How do they know at the earliest stages what that channel should be? Or should they just test all of them? And then let the data help them decide what those channels should be? You know what I mean?

Arjun Vaidya 27:56
Yeah, look, I think data right is very simple. If you think about what what will tell you what works, right? So it’s the sale velocity, right? The amount of sell through, you’re getting on the platform, the cost of acquiring the customer on that platform, and your return on aggregate. And these are the these are the

Michael Waitze 28:12
Got it. Got it. Got it. So tell me what’s what’s the name of your podcast again,

Arjun Vaidya 28:16
called direct to a billion consumers right to a,

Michael Waitze 28:19
that’s a very big name. And what’s the M? What are you trying to accomplish with this? Right? Every podcast has a reason. What’s the reason for this? And what do you do on it?

Arjun Vaidya 28:27
Yes, I reason I started the podcast was, there’s lots of people who are starting DTC brands, lots of people talking about it, yeah, New Age, consumer brands, and they have nowhere to go for information. Right. And so I had nowhere to go when I started. And that’s what I wanted to create. So I started this podcast about a year ago, I’ve had like, 35 episodes now almost. And the idea is, if you’re starting a new brand in India, here are 30 Plus stories of entrepreneurs and their journeys that you can think about before you start right and I get in the, in the brand space. So I get DTC brands, retailers, investors, enablers, subdues, the kind of people I get on the on the podcast, and it should serve as a repository of information as you’re starting off. Yeah,

Michael Waitze 29:10
I mean, look, it’s the same reason why I do it. I think there’s a tonne of information out there that people can learn from listening to the conversations that people have, right. That’s why I do this as well. And I think that in a way, it’s one of the best ways to learn, right. And we look, we talked about this, when we prepped, I don’t want to interview I just want to talk to you because I want to learn stuff from you. And if you do the right thing on your show, the 35 episodes should be like an encyclopaedia of learnings for people.

Arjun Vaidya 29:33
Yeah, yeah. And the best feedback I get is when people messaged me saying, Hey, man, I heard this before I started this gave me this or helped me with this. Yeah. So So I think that’s the reason I do

Michael Waitze 29:44
it. Does it also help you from an investment standpoint? Yeah,

Arjun Vaidya 29:47
yeah, I think it does. Obviously, to get your get your word out there as someone who cares for the ecosystem and wants to build the ecosystem. I think it helps. But the underlying reason behind it was if I were starting today, yeah. Would this help me? Yes.

Michael Waitze 30:00
cuz. Yeah, if the 24 and a half or 25 year old could have listened to your content, all

Arjun Vaidya 30:05
of this, yeah. They get a tonne of loadings which I didn’t have when I started.

Michael Waitze 30:09
I want to ask you one more thing and then I want to let you go maybe the average temperature in India is in Mumbai is in the 30s. Right? The average temperature in Providence, Rhode Island can sometimes be like zero. Yeah, what was the Justin like for you being in Providence, your score

Arjun Vaidya 30:23
is really, really cool. But I’ll tell you honestly, like lots of people from Bombay, they’re excited by snow. And by cold though I am so happy. I am so happy that I can wear this every day of the year in Bombay, no seasons, I can wear a half sleeve polo t shirt or a t shirt or a shirt or never wear a jacket ever. I only have a jacket here behind me because the AC is too cold in the office and other people like to be cold. So I like the weather in Bombay. It’s beautiful, because there’s no seasons. Yeah. And it’s it’s between 20 to 30 degrees Celsius, pretty much 90% of the 20 to 25 degrees Celsius, something like and by the way, I like the heat. I love to wake up later on. If I wake up later Sunday, I will go at 11am for my run.

Michael Waitze 31:09
And same here. Same here. I actually liked that feeling of sweating when I’m running. I went for a run today. I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything unless I’ve sweat a lot. Yeah. And I asked the question because look, I’ve chosen to live in a hot place right? I love it. If I never see snow again. It’ll be too soon. And I grew up in Boston and Connecticut, right? So I know like in that area. It snowed when I was a kid like crazy. And if I never see snow again, I don’t care. Anyway, I just want to ask. Okay, this was awesome. Arjun Vaidya, Ventures Lead at Verlinvest and just a super interesting dude, I really appreciate you doing this today. I cannot thank you enough.

Arjun Vaidya 31:41
Thank you. Thank you, Michael. It’s been a pleasure.

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