India GameChanger recorded an insightful conversation with Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar, serial entrepreneurs, and Co-founders of HYPD. HYPD allows users to create their own store, curate their favorite products, and turn their content shoppable. 
Some of the topics Ashwarya and Akshay covered: 
  • Ashwarya and Akshay’s passion for travel
  • How their first stay at Zostel changed their lives
  • Why experiences matter
  • The power of having Zostel’s biggest fans become owners
  • How the learnings at Zostel turned into Innov8 Coworking
  • Turning creators into creatorpreneurs
Other titles we considered for this episode:
  1. Creators Are the New Digital Business and Turning Them Into Creatorpreneur
  2. How to Make Mondays Interesting?
  3. The Content Has the Power
  4. If You Don’t Plug in Content to Take Your Business Forward Then You Won’t Be Successful
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 Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar, serial entrepreneurs and co founders of HYPD. Gentlemen, thank you so much for coming to the show. How are you two doing today?

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 0:20
Couldn’t be any more excited, Michael, I think this is something we’ve been looking forward for a long time. And thank you for having us here with you, Michael.

Michael Waitze 0:28
It’s completely my pleasure completed. My pleasure, guys, let’s do this. And why don’t we start with Sharia first, before we get into the main part of our conversation from my audience, can we get a little bit of an introduction from you a little bit of your background? Great. So hi, everyone. This

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 0:42
is actually very Gerg. I’ve been an entrepreneur since 2013. Where was the founding partner at zostel, which was in years one of the first backpacking chain of hostels, the company was backed by Tiger global to the tune of about $150 million, which had a suppose that exit in 2016, to a sovereign back group in 2016. And I started building innovate co working, which was one of India’s first Y Combinator company, we raised investments from marquee investors as well as who the whole of the startup economy then, in about three years of time after scaling, to borrow 5 million square feet portfolio, we were sort of recognised as we work of India, but we exited by selling the company to oil group for about $30 million cash. And now I’m building HYPD with a very singular mission that creators are the new digital businesses, and I want to turn them into greater printers creators

Michael Waitze 1:33
are the new digital businesses. I love this. Ashwarya , do you want to give a little bit of an introduction of yourself as well? You mean, actually, actually, excuse me,

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 1:41
I would love to start by saying hello to all the people who are listening right now. I’m an ex computer science engineer, who in the four years of studies realised that this is not something that I really wanted to got accidentally caught up in the entrepreneurial first wave of Indian startup ecosystem, I absolutely fell in love with the entire process. Since then, I’ve built zostel and innovate with a slider. And the amazing mentors in both the companies. In 2019, after the innovative axis, it became our mission to actually create creators into creative printers.

Michael Waitze 2:18
So can I ask you this, though? So you studied computer science, you said, right. And look, I hear this story a lot. And this is this is actually one of my favourite stories. And I’ll tell you, because somebody told me this when I was in Mumbai for a startup conference, and they said, there are three things that every Indian child can become, okay? An engineer, writer, a computer scientist, a doctor, or a family disappointment. Those are his words, not mine, right? And it made me laugh. And actually, the audience laugh too. But I’m curious about this, like going into computer science. Did you know before you went in that this wasn’t really something that you super wanted to do, but you kind of had to do it as an obligation? Or did you just go do it? Because you thought you might like it?

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 2:58
It’s the former party, right? Like you clearly mentioned, it’s either every Indian household, I think, 10 years back had this mentality, that you have to become an internet, or a doctor or a lawyer, yes, every profession is not going to guarantee an absolutely bright future. And that was the reason why my family and parents, and we’re a very culture driven society, right, we respect the decisions taken by the family for the betterment of few. And in that view, I joined the engineering college. But the first day walking in, I absolutely knew that this is not something that I would love to wait. And in the next four years, the kind of time we spent in college, the kind of time I spent in learning, not inside the classes, but outside the classes to know what I did not have to do. So I think the four years of professional education for me, it taught me what not to do, rather than what to do.

Michael Waitze 3:52
Do you think though, because this is really interesting for me, do you think that there’s a certain type of person that just has these entrepreneurial instincts, right? Because you even said, I found the startup thing by accident. Like, we can argue about whether this was actually an accident or not, right? But I believe that like there’s a kind of person that just wants to like, be outside of what the normal people are doing. And I don’t think you can be like a standard issue person, if you’re gonna go out and be an entrepreneur and be involved in the startup world. What do you what do you think of that?

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 4:20
I think it’s more to do with the kind of ecosystem that you’re brought in. Especially when in your formative years, the kinds of people that you’re hanging out on a daily basis, the kind of people that become your inspiration at that point of time. I think that aspect drives a lot of fashion and a will to do something which is not standing in the crowd and that’s very it I think, nobody is born an entrepreneur, like nobody is born or doctor or nobody is born in internet. Yeah. Likewise, that is a very tough road that you have to follow but as they say, right when you when you pick up something and what keeps you motivated enough to get up every day and do it over and over again. That is the passion that comes from the ecosystem that you have around you. I think your circumstances turns into an intrapreneur more than the skill set.

Michael Waitze 5:08
I could not agree with you more. I could not agree with you more. I want to talk how we get from zostel. Right, which feels like kind of a regular business, but done in a sort of modern technological way to co working which again, it’s kind of a leveraged real estate business with a little bit of a tech involved like it’s a business people understand into HYPD, which I think is a business that you kind of just made up. Do you know what I mean? So I’m curious, like, how you go from one to one to the next,

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 5:33
if you’re able to take this up?

Yeah. Yeah. So I think interestingly, I’ll tell you how not to happen for please action. I have been together since 2010. Right. So it’s been a friendship of over about 14 years, I think, on an average marriages in most developed countries. That path, so I think we will again 2010 And we started college together with the same college right, as like actually said that the first thing that we learned in the college was things that we don’t want to do. So I had a civil engineering background, we shared a computer science background, both of us were like, this is something we don’t want to do. One of the things that always bound us very cliche, but we love travelling right and during the college years, there was a lot of impromptu travelling that we used to do right which is get on your bike so probably take like a state government bus and you know, just get on like take a one way ticket and travel to wherever the bus stops next we’ll get down to see which way to go and stop and you know, unexplored locations. About the third year of the college. We happen to be on such one of the impromptu trips, and when we were in a city called Jaipur, so much Delhi, Agra Jaipur is called you know, like golden triangle where we generally it’s very tourist destination to travel all the three cities side by side. I born and brought up in Agra, Jaipur, Giotto, they put a belt that we wanted to cover it’s all started actually with a Google search affordable places near me are very simple, simple stuff. Simple simple stuff like GPS near me to say raise the call today like like I hardly had about like $100 of pocket money was was enough to laughter throughout a month. Right? That kind of money we were living with right and they popped up radios Daskal with hats are sort of like a bunk bed for about I think five to $7 at that point of time and you’re like Oh, this looks good thing it’s fulfilling and let’s just walk in here right but one thing interesting that was there that like any other college going it having like that one month Europe trip backpacking trip or something that we all did has as imagined like if you if you go in in Indian colleges and ask them about hardcore 100 What do you want to do one big thing in your college that one month you

Michael Waitze 7:51
wrote I still want to do it.

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 7:54
By right we have researched a lot about that trip that one month Euro trip and concept like generators and porch tools which are very community driven concept and how people from different communities come and live together in bunk beds and and you know, just sort of share that travel journey is and you get to live the world through their eyes and all of that was something that was always fascinating to us that how that amazing communities are built without any money being invested just by the passion off to similar thoughts together and sharing Yeah, yeah. And then when we walk into the hostel I mean Oh dude like like that was like a unicorn sort of a carpet is being being being laid in front of us and magical have like because the moment we walked into that facility you will like like the kind of ethnicities of different walks of people right different nationalities and I mean, how we had actually read it on Wikipedia pages how we had actually read it on on blogs and read it on YouTube videos. We could activate it all unfolding in front of our eyes and we were amazed it dude, like just exist in India when we actually know about this right? And that’s where that’s where it was like sort of a love at first sight right and we we stayed that entire the weekend, we actually did not go out. For the next two days, we would jump inside Docker we were in the common area we were just talking to people having food they’re having the best time of our life there. And that’s where we decided to you know, immediately meet the founders of docile and say that he will do we are flabbergasted, we were amazed removed. What are you doing is something phenomenal? Tell us tell us how can we part of this? I mean, that felt like an immediate call it one thing that you are either How do you feel about being an entrepreneur because nobody is a born entrepreneur? I think one of the biggest factor there is your gut call to moment you feel Hey, this is something I’m just so drawn towards. This feels like I would do this. Even if you don’t pay me I would do this with so much passion in my life that you would not even you can’t even imagine about right. That’s like a gut calling gives you that edge that hey, this is something that you need to pursue that what happened was rotten for us. Right. And from that day, we’re graduating out of IIM Calcutta that year. We say that, hey, we would love to partner with you give us anything, like, give us any task, right? And we would love to get on board with something. And we actually tease them even after the weekend and they said, Okay, we’ll, we spoke with them a lot. But they said, Okay, guys, give us some time. We’ll think about it. But I think we kept chasing them for about a week. 10 days, guys. I mean, there is no saying no. Yeah, don’t pay me like, Dude, we’re in college, we don’t need money, our parents are sending us $100 a month, we’re good with that. Don’t pay us money, put to us just put us in something exhausted. Right. And I think they saw some spark in us, right. And that’s where some one thing led to the another. And then both action, I became the founding partner. So there was a sister business which also room which is a classic competitor to or Europe than India, then we also developed under the zostel tragedy. So the part where because you asked something specific and why I’m getting into this detail, because this will play out. So jostle was something which taught us that how you can build one product. And you can create something which everybody wants to own. And that’s what happened with Ross, we set up like two properties out there. We showed the world the kind of culture and what was happening out there, the fight that was developing, and every backpacker out there today was like, Dude, I want to own a roster, forget about travelling to LA, I want to own and run out Boston, right. That’s where we got introduced. And we rented out with a post asset light model approach. So we said that, hey, we’ve built a brand. Now we want people who are passionate about travelling, passionate about talking about destination, travelling, passionate about backpacking, and have some access to the capital or some kind of land, we want to give them the know how of setting up a hostel, but on their own cost, right. And that’s where an asset light business as an approach started, which led to developing this business being huge and local, continues to be running a very, very successful franchise, even today. Now, this is this experience, gave us the know how of both action me how to sort of put together an asset, like how to create a product, and then a culture around it, and people want to own a piece of it. And then how we can leverage upon that opportunity. And second thing, which became a very interesting part about the journey was how to leverage the power content. Right. And, and, and I’ll talk about this more further into the part where I talk about by HYPD was born. But we till date, we’ve spent minimal to negligible on zostel as a marketing guy, right? How did

Michael Waitze 12:26
you get to that, though? It’s also this is the part that’s super interesting for people, right? It’s like you have what feels like a physical business, what feels like, in a way, like a travel business. You look at what I say about media, I think everybody should be their own media company. I believe this deeply. This is the thing that pulls me and awakens me every single day. But what was the spark? What was the thing that clicked thing that got you guys going? Wait a second, content matters more than like advertising. So it all started

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 12:52
when we had some really amazing people who were travelling across the world. And this simply just started writing a couple of blogs, and the amount of queries that came in the dude, you know what I read about you guys on that blog? I saw that Facebook post out there, right? I mean, somebody wrote about you on TripAdvisor, I’ve been searching then have you been I’m not able to find you on maps, I want to come and visit your friend, you’re like, wait a minute, we really don’t need to do any marketing. Become a media company, because we any which is an asset, right comm company, we’re into tech, we are bringing the knowledge compiled in a suit of software and the know how of putting this piece together, the real estate is coming from people who want to own a piece of this. And all we need to do is have the right content out there, create the home in the market. And then everything out there has been just leveraging the power of social media, right? content on Instagram, on Twitter, on LinkedIn, on Facebook, on Snap on Discord on podcast, on blog, everywhere that we could talk about that, hey, if you’re travelling to India, how you need to be at this best place. If you want to experience the culture of backpacking travellers in India, if you want to see Did you

Michael Waitze 14:05
institutionalise the creation of that content? Or did you allow it to get created by other users who just posted using the logo or links and stuff like that? Or it’s kind of a combination of both? You know what I mean? Did you manage it at all? I think

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 14:17
trying to get into commercialization on institutionalising, it was something that we wanted to stay away from the initial bid, because we want it to be very organic. And we were surprised at the freedom at which we gave people to cover it in the choice and the way that they wanted to do the amount of ethnicity and the organic volume that came in. I mean it and it felt like that if we even try to even change a full crop, it will be tainted by our pot. Okay, that’s

Michael Waitze 14:43
what I want. And we didn’t want to do that. Because look, the commentary from somebody from Poland, which is going to be awesome. It’s going to be very different than the commentary from somebody from Tennessee, even if they’re both positive. So I guess you don’t want to get in the middle of that. Just go talk in the way you would normally talk and speak Think about it the way you normally speak about it. And we’ll let that ride right.

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 15:03
The whole travel is a form of an experience sure that when an individual goes out from his comfort of his house, what he’s coming back after the trip is stories, is experiences. Because there’s so many monuments that you can see. And there’s so many views that can capture in a day. It’s all about that experience that you get to cut off from your regular world, and step into a completely new world. Yeah. Now for us at Zasa. That point of time, it was very critical for us to create those experiences, right? Never in India, at that point of time, you have to imagine when zostel was created, the normal mode of travelling used to be in mid budget hotels. Yeah, no. So this is a very defined space, right? It’s in a room, you’re travelling with your family, you’re only talking to the people that you already are coming with, there is no barrier, which is getting created of talking of outside the board.

Michael Waitze 15:54
If you didn’t a hotel, what you do in a hostel, you’d get thrown out of the hotel. And I don’t mean anything bad. I just mean the social aspect of it for people that have never stayed in a hostel. And I mean, a great one, right? Like the ones you’re describing, where there’s somebody from Turkey, somebody from Australia, somebody from India, somebody from Pakistan, somebody from everyone you walk in, you’re like, we may not sleep tonight, because this conversation could go on forever, never happens in a hotel bar on top. So it’s a complete different experience. But for people that haven’t stayed at a hostel, they think of it in one way. But actually, it’s a very social, very friendly, really kind of amazing place.

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 16:30
Yeah, that was the foundation for our user generated content when we realised that people are taking away that experiences. Our first aim was how do we capitalise on it? And make sure that every person who’s walking into a zostel goes back and talks about that story to the people and near and dear friends of this. Yeah, and that’s how we created a very organically you know for UGC model, which then later on resulted into an institutional communication channel. Yeah.

Okay, so while building the zostel out and having access to this I pitches of power content and and power of asset light model and the power of design, right, I think I don’t want to skip that, right, because that plays such an important role, those little little knick knack notes and those little things plays, though the aesthetics plays such a big role in terms of driving that that thought process. And once we were live that the journey of zostel and showrooms as a as a second product, that’s where in 2016 after the opposite exit, you know, Akshay, and I went to one of our dear friends, Dr. Ritesh Malik, and we were just, you know, casually chit chatting and retrace had the thought, right, that because you know, what, what people have an experience as in travelling, right? Why can’t they enjoy the work inside offices in that manner? Yeah. I mean, travelling is something that you would do probably be what, once a year, twice a year twice. This is something that you’re doing six days a week, right? I mean, if you want to feel happy, why do people have to hate Mondays? Right? Why does it feel like that? Going to the office is not as charming as enjoying out my weekend. Right? Right. Because the culture, the design, the space, the Aztecs, is not that barbering for you. It doesn’t make you feel welcoming, right? What is that difference that people so much boast about being in a Facebook office or Google office that the rest of the world cannot boast about?

Michael Waitze 18:14
I mean, it was just fun and exciting and interesting. And also other stuff. Yeah, yeah.

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 18:17
And that feels like that you’re not in an office that feels like you’re in an institution where there is so much of a personal growth for you, that feels like you’re, you’re in a creative bubble of ideas, where you can pluck something out and immediately start working upon that you get access to so much of emotional quotient, too much of intellectual caution that the salary is becomes like a byproduct. So is that something which you not even not concerned about? That’s a second line of thought, which started that why coming from a social we started thinking about innovate co working as a product, right? And that’s what got us into believing that, hey, you know, what India needs that India is a land to so many engineers. I mean, we have an internal population will be crossing China in 2024. Right? So just just so many people out there, everybody works. Everybody works inside. Everybody works inside an office. And we’re like, like, dude, offices need to change. People need to feel happy here, right? And that central core thought and there are learnings of community and content from lossless is what led us to build in a way that we said, hey, we’ve built something in hospitality, let’s try to replicate that experience into commercial real estate. It’s an uphill task has been done in the US is being done in the US by we work looks difficult, but not impossible. And that’s where we started building upon the Innovate journey, where you said that, hey, we will redesign the offices in a manner where it feels like walking into like a place where your emotional question is more like the order of priorities emotional quotient, happiness quotient, and then your intelligence quotient, right. That’s what we wanted to do. Right? And I think that’s what got us into building that. Again, we set up few campuses, a couple of them ourselves, created a product which created a FOMO and where every real estate was like, hey, nobody wants to come and everybody like like, even if I end up renting out the office space from you, can you build Like how innovate how about you come into my property and build it out and we’ll call use it to the tenants out there which I find that the model we want always wanted to get into right. So, again the entire asset light approach 95% of the entire innovate franchisee was an asset, right? Which means we were just building the tech the design and the know how of the community, right. Which led to I mean, we had talked about the top startups pay teams headquarter was in Bangalore was in tight and innovate. squeegees headquarters in Delhi was inside and innovate all as headquarter of good Gong hula cause headquarters in Google and was an innovator, right? So I mean, it just felt like the new entrepreneurs, people who are young workforce, people who are driven by tech, people who are driven by community and ideas are finding innovate as the second home. That’s what we called it a second home, right?

Michael Waitze 20:49
But it’s interesting, if you think about a workspace in the same context that you think about zostel. And hostels, it almost like flips it on its head, right. It’s a place where you’re going to learn to grow to meet people that are different than you are, and potentially to meet people from different companies. I mean, the greatest thing for me, when I used to work in a co working space was just being able to get up from my desk and walk over and talk to people that were doing interesting stuff different from what I was doing, it absolutely changed my life. And

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 21:13
that and that draws such a parallel correlation to a travelling writer that you want to talk to interesting people and say that hey, you from Turkey, here from Australia. Tell me more about it. Right? What’s the best time to visit your country? Like what is happening in your country right now? Tell me tell me what are the good places to be? Right. And that’s what you would do in a co working space, you will go up to you know, founders, you will go up to, you know, the people out there and say that, hey, what’s the idea that you’re working upon? That sounded interesting? How do you go about it? Okay. What did it call in for? Oh, that tight? Just looks so cool, right? Why didn’t I think about it in this manner? Right? So you,

Michael Waitze 21:44
as you imagine it like a real office? Could you imagine in a real office behaving like that? Like, I’ve always wanted to get up from my desk and go to the other side of the floor and go, What are you guys working on? But if I did that, it would just be like, Okay, someone called the police because this dude’s insane. Just somebody get them fast. But when you travel, everybody does that you talk to random people, no age group doesn’t matter. Yes. And if you can build a workspace, that’s kind of cool.

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 22:09
I think there’s one more thing I would love to add, right? One more us that in a way it was built upon, was this cultural aspect of the intermingling of different personalities together in a workspace is also very, very exciting. But at the end of the day, it is an office space, right? People are coming here to work. And the main problem statement here, because every company has a large workforce, and retention and keeping the workforce happy is one of the major challenges that every company faces, initially, in the initial days, how do we make sure that the employee is coming on time, they’re staying in late they’re doing what they’re supposed to do. So we had another ethos that sort of executed in a very beautiful manner was how to make Monday’s exciting because all over the world, right, Mondays are looked down upon as that blue, dark grey day that you have to get up after a two day weekend. And you just have to go and sit in the office and it’s a dull phase, then you get the energy back on a Tuesday or Wednesday, and then it phases out on a Friday again. So we made Monday’s exciting at Innovate. Mondays used to be people used to look forward, I have to go to office on Monday, and then the rest of the week just fell into place. Right. So small, small things that adds to a very, very productive workforce at

the end of the day. That was a thought that Tom was talking about that Monday. TGIM Yeah.

Michael Waitze 23:26
But I like it. I like it. Because again, you can change everybody’s Mindset by just doing these small, nuanced, subtle things where they’re not even thinking someone’s trying to change their mindset. They’re just like, I wonder what’s gonna happen on Monday? I need to get up a little bit earlier. Yeah,

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 23:37
I would say that we’ve been in both action, I feel we’ve been fortunate and blessed to have people around us who have helped us in the last few years to have a DNA, which is very driven by the power of great design, and great content sharing, right? I mean, we could have been at any other places we could have been in any other FinTech company, we could have been na doing something else as well. Right. But I mean, our stars were aligned to be consistently around people who had the knack of great design and prioritising content as the first priority in terms of taking a product ahead.

Michael Waitze 24:12
Right. So now let me see if I can let me see if I can try to answer my own question. Yes, yes. Okay. Because I don’t think anything at scale. Yeah, in entrepreneurship, or in life is accidental. I don’t believe in coincidence or these types of accidents. So you have two guys that are super interested in travel. They’re like, super pad, they’re crazy. They want to travel, they go to a place and they feel like their mind is blown by this experience that they have. And they say we want to be involved. We need to be involved in this business. This falls into a category of something that I call I don’t It’s not that I want to do this. I have to do this. Absolutely correct. And this is what people talk about when they’re talking about the passion of an entrepreneur. They’re not talking about like, Oh, I love crocheting. They’re like this business model has to be done and I have to do it. Yeah, right. Anyway, and then you realise along the way that this word of mouth user generated content thing is now starting to kind of grow and you’re thinking, Wait a second, we don’t have to spend any money on marketing. So that drops to our bottom line, our margins are much higher, our experience is still better. But if we can just get everybody to talk about it, we win. But also everybody wins. And then if we can asset like this thing, right, we can get everybody to want to own it. So then we don’t have to spend all the money on building each one of these things, we just let our let our community do this. And then you use the same model there that you use in the next business you’d like let’s just make this kind of the same as that with obviously some changes, but using the same content strategy that worked, and then you’re like, wait a second, maybe the business here is upside down. Maybe now we have to do a content business that then we can feed into everything else. Now that we understand that and then we just need to build some tech around that and make sure we understand how that works from a platform perspective. And then start plugging people into it. And let’s call that HYPD. I mean, do I have this right? Yeah,

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 25:57
absolutely. Bang on point, I

don’t think we would have been able to put this in a better perspective, Michael.

Isaac in that, Isaac. Yeah, I didn’t hear that, that. Doing this. Also realising empathising with the fact that all the people who have built that content, they helped drive that business, we might or might not have able to give them back the fair share of profits, that was always due to them, right. And that’s why we like no, this business is actually like, like an ad where you started, every company has to be a media business at some point of time. And like media, the content is owned by creators. And if the creator is going to be putting content, they might as well make profits out of everything that they drive in the economy. There doesn’t exist a tech which helps them does that. Let us give him that we’ve done that over the seven, eight years, we understand how this functionality is. Now let us flip the model. Let us be in the hands of creators and say that, hey, you bring in hospitality, you bring in b2c, you bring in commercial real estate, you bring in FinTech, you bring in Miami, poco, pants, whatever, I can do anything for you from kids.

Michael Waitze 27:12
Otherwise, memory doesn’t even mean you have no like no one knows, except you and me now.

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 27:18
Essentially, Michael, what you said, there’s this one core element that I think we did not touch upon in that entire journey of zostel. And in a way both was that what we realised was that the content, which was going out, had an impact of changing a consumer or a person’s mindset. In terms of a content piece, a spoken word, visual picture of video, can drive your impulse to make a purchase decision. Yeah, like it can drive your actual thought process, you might be going for an XYZ model of a phone. But you see, my best friend holding another phone, and I just might slip. Right? So the content has that power to influence somebody’s decision. And that was very cold. And the problem was, there was no attribution model to it. Nobody could measure whether the content has actually changed your perspective, or change your decision or not. That was missing. And it was very surprising that that was missing, because in the last 10 years, content has driven almost 90% of the people’s influence, whether it be politics, whether it be staycations, I think Bali, and Hawaii’s 90% of the tourist business have come from Instagram, where people have gone and posted pictures. And

so I think we’re actually gonna say that thing that we’ve clearly realised over, over the last few years has been that I mean, as an individual, you are a sum product of the content that you watch, I mean, I want to put that on a t shirt and wear it right, you are on some product of the content that you weren’t. But

Michael Waitze 28:55
it used to be like you are the sum content of the five people you hang out with the most. And I think what you’re saying is two things really is that people are not hanging out in person as much first of all, but second of all, they’re watching and consuming so much content and where they didn’t before that by some definition that has to be part of who they are.

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 29:10
I mean, anything, the food habits, your political opinions, the places that you want to visit, like the clothes the kind of you want to wear. I mean, I can just see like I can I can actually tell you look at your Instagram stream for the past one week and tell you what will be the five top conversation you wouldn’t be having with your government or already had. But yeah, I think I think that’s why we like like you put it right like, like, while we were a sum product of the five people that we used to hang out with our content was a sub product that we would actually flip that model now that we are some product of the content that we watch, and we just get integrated with those people only.

Michael Waitze 29:45
Yeah, got it. I’m curious about how this whole process works. I was looking at HYPD but it’s now there’s a weightless being created. How does it work? For people that create content? I think they have an audience and in my mind, to be fair, like I don’t think the audience needs to be 500,000 people it seems to be an intentional like 10,000 people think you win. But But go ahead like, can you just walk me through how this would work?

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 30:08
Actually, when you take that up? Yeah,

absolutely. So Michael, when we started this, we saw a very, very beautiful phenomenon, right, we were spending five or six hours on social media platforms, we already discussed, right, we are a sum total of the five people’s content that we’re consuming on a daily basis. And that actually resulted into a purchase decision. So when we literally saw these creators in an individual aspect as not as a community as a whole, what we realised was that these are the guys who actually have a distribution ingrained into them. They already have those 10,000 people, 5000 people, 500,000 people or 5 million people looking and consuming their content. And the relationship between the creator and the follower was very, very innate in terms of right, everybody was falling each and every word to them. Right? And in that process, what started as the initial foundation of influencer marketing, right, which is a worldwide phenomenon right now. And we’ve seen so many digital creators, being multimillionaires now, was based on this, the brands realise this phenomena and decide up Hey, wait, guys, if I have to build 100 million distribution by myself, I will need to invest five years and multi million dollars to create 100 million distribution. There’s this individual who’s on a monthly basis generating the same distribution. Let me pay him an XYZ amount of money, and let him talk to his own people about my brand or my services. Right.

Michael Waitze 31:36
Right. We have that’s not that’s not so new today that’s been going on for a while, right? Absolutely correct. But

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 31:41
entire process, what used to happen was because the distribution is owned by the Creator, and like we discussed, why not create an attribution system where a reward functionality exists? When I’m talking to somebody that I’ve curated for the past five years in terms of my fans or follower? What if I have a destination of my own? What is what I am endorsing of what I’m talking about is available for people to directly transact with me, doesn’t go into a second party or a third party. Yeah. That served as the foundation of building the height as a tech platform. Right, as far as would you want to take forward from how the tech platform converted into a consumer behaviour?

Yeah, absolutely. But just to just to before that, just to add into sort of, quote, as a lay man down this right, right beside area, look at any other business out there on the internet exists in the world, right? I mean, FinTech, you literally start with basic right? Home Living, right, you want to rent out a new nice new apartment in Manhattan, or probably in India and in the capital in New Delhi. And what do you do you go out and meet a few brokers, you meet a few property consultants, they tell you, Hey, this is nice. This is nice. This has this new lush green lawn, this has a parking space, this does not have any owner, you know, interference, etc, check, right? All of that is content to your yours, right? You that content for you to make a decision, right? And then you said, Okay, out of the three, four choices that you’ve showed me and talked about, Hey, I like this one. And he said, Hey, thank you helped me get this close. Right? And, and then, as a part of them, educating you about the product, you give them a success fee, right? Thank you for assisting me in doing a FinTech call to a bank. There’s a guy out there who says that, hey, you know what, I’ve got some extra liquid cash in my savings account, I want to keep it in my savings account. You know, what can you tell us about our plans, I want to, I don’t want to make just 4% on my savings account, I want to at least look at it making about eight 9%. Right? So that is the bank, there’s a guy who tells you that Sir, we’ve got these three, four plans. Once a direct plan, you have less risk, you can withdraw anytime in two days period, which gives you 7%, there’s something more which we’ve got an equity fund, which would have marginal risk, we invest in large cap here, generally, the last three years returns have been over a 12 to 18%. And you can expect to make about 10 11%, on average, etc, etc, yada, but with all that information, whatever place you choose to invest, right, that guy was assisted you had the success fee associated with that. Right? We like it when we are living in a world where somebody educating us about a decision has been normalised to receive a success fee for it both from the institution and from the consumer. Right. Why is it why is it that on the internet creators are being treated as virtual billboards? I mean, look at what they’re doing. I mean, currently, they are giving you an they’re doing the storytelling part. They’re doing the education part, they’re doing the conviction part, they’re doing the impulse creation part. They tell you how you would wear this t shirt and look good, they make you feel confident, they make you feel good about yourself. They make you feel that hey, wearing this, you can feel like an amazing personality, and you have the competence to go out and talk to people right? They’re really helping you shape the entirety of you right? And if that’s happening, right, why is it why is it that this into Our economy is not being given us a trophy for it. Right? Why is it that this is being kept like as a virtual billboard? Right that hey, you know what?

Michael Waitze 35:09
That’s because you have to pay for billboards. But yeah, yeah.

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 35:13
Right. So that’s that’s what God is thinking right that will to businesses that this entire vertical I can I can shamelessly say that this entire vertical has been the biggest trends biggest, biggest marketing pull for us. This is the vertical, which has actually built our valuations before the kind of brand building and the revenue that they brought in. Right. And we’ve done nothing but actually what got us thinking right that you know what simple the way it has been not democratised. And the way it has been simply put down is the fact that we have only prioritised the technology. And we have said that he did not attack, you don’t get anything, right. But what we fail to believe, is, in the era of today, the democratisation of technology has to happen, the ownership of the distribution has to put the way the person who owns the distribution has to be the winner, not the person who owns the technology, right? This technology can be built, you have people out there we are living in India, where we have got for every one average profession, we would have got about 10 engineers out there. Right. So So yeah, I mean, technology is not a moat anymore, right? You can build technologies, right? I mean, there are 10s of payment gateway, there are 10s, of 10s, of aggregator website, there are 10s of cab hailing apps out there, what what matters is your distribution. If you own the distribution, then you’re the winner. Right? But on the internet for the creators, they were completely sideline. And that’s what he wanted that, hey, we want to be those big brothers, that you say that guys, we’ve got you all covered.

Michael Waitze 36:56
In other words, so I don’t disagree with you, a lot of people that do content creation, somehow haven’t figured out how to monetize it, they don’t know how to make money for it. And that’s what I said before, if you if we back up a little bit, that you’re flipping the other businesses on their head, and you’re removing the bottom part, not because you didn’t like it, you loved it, but because you figured if we could build this, and then connect a whole bunch of other people to it, any business out there. Right then then you accomplish a few things besides of course, increasing your valuation, but you do the technology, democratisation that you’ve just spoken about, because you’ve built the platform. And you’ve also done this, because most people that know how to create content don’t know how to create a business around that content, they just simply don’t understand. And they could literally have either millions of followers or like we said 10,000 followers, and all of that has value, but building a tech around it to get the communication with your potential clients or with your followers. And just being able to source and do all the ERP and warehouse management and payment stuff. You can’t do that yourself. And then the whole business that goes around combining and here’s where I’m super interested in the tech side. What is the intersection of media? Any kind of media? Because it’s not just content creation, which I think disparages? Exactly the work that’s getting done, you’re talking about building a media business big or small. And corpse what’s the relationship because before it used to be, I’m a company I want to pay you the TV to tell others to come buy my product. But what’s happening is kind of the TV’s getting disintermediated and the company is being its own television and just going directly to its potential clients. Yeah, yeah.

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 38:38
So Michael, you just reminded me of my first investor conversation who actually gave a pass on us right and this was good. And exactly asking this guy is a your content company or an or are you a commerce company? I’m like guys, that’s the problem. You don’t realise the board for exit now. You cannot be either a content company or a commerce company you have to be poor because you wouldn’t be here

Michael Waitze 39:05
this ocean you have just gotten up and just said exactly and just like walked out because there was no way to explain

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 39:11
that that that that investor conversation that that call lasted only 15 Min because the 14 minute after and after 30 minutes explain the model 14 community as opposed to two guys and your content company or a commerce company as a dude exactly. You cannot be separate you have to be both that’s what I just to explain. But as I said, I don’t think this is a this is a product that you will have to back so let’s let’s say we have time thank you very much. Thank you very much so that right so yeah, again like to talk about how the tech we will like what’s happening right now is right. Up until now, though. They were they the social media. Who’s whose game is who Priority is just to make you watch more content. Their platform is not been designed to enable a transaction. No, there is an advertisement environment whose priority is just to redirect you. They don’t, they don’t want to look at any other. And there is a commerce there, there is a common platform, who’s whose priority is to enable a seamless payment. Right? They’re not they’re not worried about anything. They like, like, I want to make sure my warehouse is integrated, your payment goes through in three seconds. There is no lag in anything. Right. But the problem was that so what we realised that a consumer had to jump from an advertisement to a content or content to a commerce platform and doing this, which is we’re losing 95% of the traffic. Right? Yeah, it’s

Michael Waitze 40:45
a bad experience. Right?

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 40:47
It’s a very bad experience. There’s just too many lags and too many clicks to go forward. Right? Right. That’s where we had to build a tag. So we had to write do we build a layer of content when the commerce is happening? Or do we build a layer of commerce where the content is happening? You want me to repeat that?

Michael Waitze 41:06
Because I’m trying to think about how would you evaluate what that what that actually should be? Because the words are all the same, right? But it’s the perspective that’s different. So

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 41:12
you do that you do that by realising how further ahead, or how further first, you want to be in the food chain? Right? Yeah. Where do you want to catch your customer at the youngest part of their journey?

Michael Waitze 41:28
Right at the right part of their journey? Yeah, before they get to any other store, you want to make sure

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 41:32
we get to anything? Yeah. So we realise that that happening in the content part, right, that where the content is there, the earlier part of the interaction is an exact right. And we said, Okay, we have our answer. This is where the earliest interaction is that we have to exist here. And hence, we chose to build commerce over content, rather than building content over commerce. Right. Right. Yeah. And so what we did was, we said that, hey, now there’s a social media, where everybody, by the virtue of themselves are already owning a lot of content and this journey, right? So what we need to simply enable is how to we quickly get this? And then these are the words in our head, right? How do we get this journey? Which is create like it by it? How can I get that done in a snap? Like in just three seconds? How can I match these words into human click to get like it by it? Right? And I said, okay, that that was literally my first product pitch to my team, right? That guys, we have to replicate this experience, see it like it, buy it? Right, right? Start thinking about a product here, right? And that’s where the idea was that hey, how can we go from people who are watching a content on social media? And let’s I’m watching an Instagram read? How do I make you within from that we’ll have three clicks done by the product and come back to watching the content without making you leave the native Instagram environment itself, right. Yeah. And while that is happening, how do I make sure that I have rightly attribute it and proven to the world, so I will draw a small victory Knology here and I think while we were building tanks to the world, we were hearing a lot of web three, web three. And and and we took a couple of pages from that book, because everybody was talking about hey, decentralisation, and proof of work, decentralisation or proof of work. And we said, hey, exactly, we want to do a decentralisation of technology, where we say that anyone was a distribution can now open have their own micro website, and they don’t need to do anything. They don’t need to worry about warehousing payment, brand integrations, fulfilment, customer support, nothing, everything is made. Like if I had to imagine and very put down a product and a layman terms. Imagine we have built an Amazon. But rather than selling ourselves, we are an Amazon as a service to creators. Now you can build your own mini mini mini Amazon’s by just one big Amazon which exists, right, which will exist on your private URL. Did

Michael Waitze 43:53
you build the technology that then built that or did you white label somebody else’s sort of store building tech? No, no,

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 44:00
no, we build the technology ground up got it the entire OMS integration payment integrations, entire entire cataloguing entire consumer journey of how the product will be seen on that page, how will they tap out? They build ground up right? Because we realise bunting was very important, which was the second part of the story, which was proof of work, right? Now, if we did not if we relied on sharing this data with someone else or not having this data completely to ourselves, is where we will lose the game. So we to go back to a brand and say that you know what? Because I saw this mike in Michaels. podcast is why I bought it. And the brand says Hey, show me a proof. If I’m not able to show him a proof, the brand was a you just just just messing around, right. So I needed to show him a proof and say that to hear the proof. This is the transaction This is how the consumer came. This is how we bought it. This is how we this is how we completed that transaction. This was the moment when he wasn’t Michael’s podcast. This is when he saw it. This is We clicked it, this is a user journey. Now you got to pay Michael for that for the transaction. That’s what we enable brands. So we own this entire tech. Hence, we own the entire transaction. Hence, we own the entire data. And hence we add the entire proof of transaction, which enable brand to say that, hey, fair point. Now I’m going to pay every creator who has a proof of enabling this transaction,

Michael Waitze 45:22
does that mean you have technology on both sides of this market, in other words, that the brand also has to have some kind of technology, some kind of view on some kind of window onto all the data that you’re sharing with them. And on the other side? Obviously, you’re and I don’t know if it’s a marketplace or not, but I want to talk about that again in a second. But for every creator that has their own kind of microsite and micro store where they put products, they are sit on the other side of that pipe, right. So as the information goes back and forth, they both understand what data they have. But who won’t you own that data. You’re saying,

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 45:51
Michael, in a nutshell, that’s the commerce business, there’s a b2c brand, which invariably has two buckets to sell in right now. Right? One is a marketplace model, where already a marketplace exists, like Amazon, or Flipkart, or Myntra, or any other website. And the other channel is their own DPC channel, where they bring the traffic directly to themselves and directly sell to the consumer. Right, we realised in that both the buckets, the actual impulse, and the maximum traffic which is getting generated is coming from content websites. Yeah, it’s coming from social media platforms. But there’s no no no easy way of linking this together. Right. On the Creator side, the traffic is getting generated, but there’s no way of attributing the traffic to the conversion.

Michael Waitze 46:32
Yeah. And there’s no way that that creator can build that technology, him or herself. It’s just not possible.

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 46:37
It’s very difficult. And then you have

I mean, as as a creator, you want to focus your energy on building the content, right? That’s what matters to you last, right. But at somewhere in the mindset, you like that, hey, if I’m going to do this full time, I need to know how to earn a living out of it. Right? For which if I don’t, I’m not married to technology, how will a conversion ever happen? Right? So you’ve got two choices, right? You invest in build a team, which a couple of traders have done like, like, if you look at what Mr. Beast has done, right? I mean, either then you invest in that larger team and build that larger organisation, which is working for you. Right? And then you create the entire technology behind you, right, or that’s 0.0001% of the created thank

Michael Waitze 47:17
you because Mr. V says 134 million subscribers and even Jake, Paul and Logan Paul, it’s an it’s a kind of a different league, where you’re trying to do is different. There’s a level below here level in between, it’s about every place in between there, you’re trying to say, you know, you could make $10,000 a month. Yes, just based on the content you’re creating, or you can make $10 million a month. But to be fair, for the people that could generate $10 million in revenue. They have their own team, they build out their own tech, they don’t they don’t need this what you’re doing, you talked about it already is democratising this for everybody. So that literally like somebody who’s doing a cooking channel at home, and they’ve got like 1000 people that watch every month, but religiously love them, well, then they’ll buy the knives and whatever, and they should make some money from that.

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 47:59
Absolutely. Michael, there’s one thing that no creator started from 100 million subscribers. Exactly. Look at Mr. Beast turn it started from zero. Yeah, exactly what three years, there was hardly 100 views on any channel, and then suddenly broke. Yeah, but the journey he incorporated after breaking that he took time to understand what we’re building here is the generalisation model for all the creators out there, we know the maximum number of conversion and transaction is happening in the lifestyle, fashion, beauty business. And the creators are absolutely amazing that and every creator has a micro community of their own. But not every creative will be able to invest into a team and build a tech of their own. Exactly, it takes away the entire purpose. Let’s create a deck which suffices all these creator needs in one place. And when we decided to build this, we said, like, as far as I mentioned, let the Creator create content. Nobody in the world can tell a creator what piece of content you should make and what will work and what will not work. Because that’s your journey, what we can do is we can do the heavy lifting for you, we can make sure the brands that you need in your content is readily available, the products that you’re actually using, that your followers love can be available on your store, we can make sure that when somebody is purchasing from you, we can reward you for the transaction, we can make sure that the delivery is on time, right. So you make the content you excite the audience, let the audience buy from you. And we will come as Big Brothers for others elder brothers, and we will support the entire back channel for you. I want

Michael Waitze 49:24
to make a point for all the entrepreneurs that are listening out there. And even for some of the venture capitalists. What’s happening here is that isn’t as as being abstracted, every little piece of the value chain or ecosystem and every business at scale is getting abstracted. And what you’ve done is you’ve abstracted this connectivity layer between revenue product and the content that is gets created either promote that product or is ancillary to that product but still helps promote it and still help sell it. But you’re also democratising it too, because in the old days, if you weren’t Beyonce, you couldn’t reach your potential partners because you couldn’t afford to But now you don’t have to be that that whole umbrella that was created underneath that level is now gonna get served. Like in a way this business had to be created because somebody needs to pay all these content creators that aren’t getting paid. And they can’t build a tech themselves. And they’re on this wheel where they’re just like chasing their tail to make enough money to keep going to do stuff. And now you’re saying yet just you can run the same speed. But while you’re running, you’re also selling and that selling is not going to help you build a bigger business. Is that fair? Yeah, yeah. Okay, you got to come back. Or you got to give me access to one person that uses the system as well, so that I can run through with them, what they were doing beforehand, why they decided to try this, what the impact was on them and how it’s changed the way they create content and get value from that. Is that fair? Or Absolutely?

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 50:42
Absolutely. I think I think we learned that very, very soon. Okay, boy,

Michael, there’s one thing while while you’re talking about what we are building, right. And this has happened in the last six months, right? When we started building it out, nobody understood what we were building, there will be an anecdote in the cards. Sorry, go ahead. People don’t understand, right. And in the past six to nine months, wherever we’ve gone, whether it be on the brand side, or on the theatre side, or even on the tech side, in a 15 minute conversation, every person who’s heard us talking or playing the product to them in a very, very broad structural way, then become brand advocates themselves, then, obviously, this has to be built. Obviously, this makes sense. Obviously, why didn’t anybody else think of it before because this makes complete sense. And logic, so we’re not reinventing any wheels. We’re not creating a new product in the market or a new technology. We’re just converting human behaviour into a tech.

Michael Waitze 51:36
Yeah, what I would say is you’re taking all of the disparate connective tissue and figuring out a way to systematically connected for people in a way that was impossibly for look, this analogy gets used a lot. And I’ll let you guys go after this. But in the same way that Amazon through AWS just made the building of tech stacks unnecessary for even tech companies, what you’re saying is the building of the business stack for content creators into entrepreneurship is no longer necessary, because it’s the same business. You plug in here, we provide all the services that give you revenue, you give us back some of that, and fees and services to us or whatever. And then you get bigger and bigger. There’s so many other businesses, you can build on the back of that, that we can talk about the next time we have you on? Yeah, yeah, because there’s a gigantic FinTech businesses get that gets built on the other side of this, that is also a transformational, we can talk about the next time we record, I just want to have that statement.

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 52:31
No matter what you build, if you don’t log it with content, to take it forward, then you’ll not be successful. No, any business, any business out there. And I can take a bet on any business out there. You tell me one business who does not have a piece of content and feel that without plugging in content, I can scale their business, right? So if if something as fundamental, like content has become as fundamental as water to your body, right, if something is as fundamental to your business, I mean, I’m just helping you get a better attribution performance, a better return a well, data driven approach to manage it.

Michael Waitze 53:09
Perfect. Okay, guys, I’m gonna let you go. Ashwarya Garg, Akshay Bhatnagar, thank you so much for doing this. I really appreciate it.

Ashwarya Garg and Akshay Bhatnagar 53:16
I thank you. Thank you for being a creator, friend, you’re out there. Thank you for ringing all the voices of the entrepreneurs. And I think one other thing which we would definitely want to put on a t shirt is that every entrepreneur wants to be a creator, and every creator wants to be an entrepreneur. And I think that’s where that’s where thank you for putting all the entrepreneurs out there as a creator, to your channel and I wish you all the luck and I think what you’re doing is simply amazing. Kudos to all the viewers out there who we are a people were able to get some value out to them on what we just said. Thank you very much.

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