EP 201 – Dr. Ritu Verma – Co Founder, Managing Partner at Ankur Capital Fund – It’s the 2.0 of India to the World

by | May 14, 2022

The Asia Tech Podcast was so happy to be joined by Dr. Ritu Verma, a co-Founder, Managing Partner at Ankur Capital Fund.  The Ankur team believes “great entrepreneurs coupled with the essential business building blocks leads to great companies.”
Some of the topics Dr. Verma covered:
  • Beginning her career as a Physicist
  • The excitement and challenge of moving to Vermont for school
  • The benefits of moving out of your comfort zone at a young age
  • The subtle change in how the world perceives Impact Investing
  • How Impact Investing leads to a better world
  • Seed-stage investing compared to later-stage investing
  • Leaning into her science background to help make better investment decisions
  • Asia as a leader in climate impact investment
  • How the investment landscape has changed in India in the past 10 years
  • Women in technology and STEM
Other titles we considered for this episode:
  1. It Was an Adventure, so That’s What Was Great About It
  2. This Is a Sort of Space That Makes You Dive Deeper
  3. Being Thrown off the Cliff to Think
  4. The Sheer Joy of Seeing Interesting Things Come Up
  5. It’s Exciting Having the Tools for Innovation
  6. I Learnt About Telegram on a Sunflower Seed Field
The episode was expertly produced by Isabelle Goh.

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

Michael Waitze 0:22
Hi, this is Michael Waitze and welcome back to the Asia Tech Podcast. Today we are joined by Dr. Ritu Verma, a co-Founder and Managing Partner at Ankur I tried again, Ankur Capital to the show. Dr. Verma, it’s great to have you here. How are you doing today?

Dr. Ritu Verma 0:40
I’m doing great. Michael, thank you very much for having me on the show and excited to be here.

Michael Waitze 0:44
It is my pleasure. Before we get into the main part of the conversation, I’d love to give our listeners a little bit of your background for some context. Sure, yeah, go ahead.

Dr. Ritu Verma 0:56
You know, as you mentioned, I’m actually part of founding Ankur Capital, and in knee deep or neck deep right now and running Ankur Capital. So that’s what I do for my day and night job at this point. But that’s not how I started out. So I actually started life out as a physicist. So I have a PhD in physics went on to sort of work at a large, multinational, starting out in the r&d parts of the company, but moving towards actually getting stuff out into the market. So one of the things I realized I was super interested in how, you know, new innovations make it to market and that sort of pushed my journey from being an academic into what I would call applied research into actually, the front end of a business and getting things on shelves here. So I did, you know, move across continents with that company, ended up doing an MBA, then going and working a little bit in a more technology oriented company. But ultimately, you’ve just realized that what I was excited about, as I said earlier, getting innovations to market. And venture capital was the place that sort of gives you a ringside view of, you know, seeing great things getting built out. And that’s kind of how I ended up for torturous journey. Setting up on Capitol with my partner,

Michael Waitze 2:30
I love it. I want to get back to that in a second. I want to go a little bit before your PhD, and I’ll tell you why. When I was in college, I studied Japanese. And sort of the most like this big shining light up in Vermont for me was this immersive language program at that at Middlebury. But I couldn’t afford it. So I had to go home and work like two jobs over the summer and stuff like that. And in my mind, Middlebury is like this quintessential northeast America, liberal arts, but also great college and university. Yeah, but you went there for your undergrad. Do you remember like, what was that like for you? Or I presume you’re originally from India? Yeah.

Dr. Ritu Verma 3:09
Yes, I am from India, my first foot into the US was Vermont.

Michael Waitze 3:14
So again, I want to back up even further. My first really overseas trip from Japan, was to Tibet was to China in Tibet. And I met a guy there who wrote the first Tibetan Chinese English dictionary. And I always wondered, like, for him, it was very different, right? I always wondered, like, he went to college, I can’t remember where he went, but somewhere in the Northeast as well. And I wanted to know, like, what it was like for him going from Tibet, and Tibet is very different than India, right? To the US, but what was it like for you? I mean, Vermont is an amazing place, but different in its own right, right.

Dr. Ritu Verma 3:54
So I grew up in a large metropolis in India. And since you live in Asia, you must know exactly what that’s like. So then, in Vermont, the year I landed in Vermont, there were more cows or it was the first year that there were more people than cows. I love it. You know, but you know, you’re 18 So you this is all in your stride. This is super exciting. It’s an adventure you’re on. So it’s obviously a very different place. I was going to college. You know, I hadn’t really seen snow before everybody around me skied everybody was there. Just study languages. I wasn’t a majority of the people actually walk from the northeast. Yeah, they were there was talking to people from elsewhere. So a million things were different, but it was an adventure. So that was what was great about it. So I love that.

Michael Waitze 4:44
Yeah, so again, I look at it. I grew up in Connecticut and Massachusetts, right. So I went to school in Connecticut as well. It wasn’t much of a shock for me. I do regret sometimes that I didn’t get on a plane and go to California for university. Right? Because there would have just been a day For an experience, and I think I would have had a slightly different life. Do you still think about that? That change of coming from a big metropolis in India to Vermont, which, like you said, had more cows most of the time than people. It’s just small, really small. Right? In other words, do you think about that today, when you’re building some of this stuff that you’re building?

Dr. Ritu Verma 5:22
No, I don’t think about it specifically. But I’ll tell you that it didn’t seem small. Right? Really, perhaps. Because I think it’s an intense phase of your life. Yeah, fair enough, the people around you, and there’s enough to hang out with it. And, you know, opportunities in classes and courses and all of that good stuff. So it actually didn’t seem small, it seemed intense. You know, I’m grateful for that. Because I think it gave you a chance to really bond and really build relationships, with people with professors, all of that, which, perhaps in a much larger environment in a larger setting is different, right? Because you’ve got many things pulling at you, right? And it won’t kind of if I were to draw a parallel to today, I think it’s, you know, when you get into a company, and you’re starting to build a startup, it’s an intense phase, right, and I’ll shut out the noise of, you know, the million other things going on in our lives. So I think it is great. And that’s why people say writers and whatever, you know, flock to these kinds of places, because it gives you that focus, or it gives you that space, to, you know, dive deeper.

Michael Waitze 6:40
Yeah. And actually, this is the point that I really wanted to make them and I went to a small school, there were 1600 Kids, 400 kids in my class in my year. And again, it was super intense. And I think I’ve dragged that intensity with me through the rest of my life. But it also means that I think a lot about how in small teams to try to figure big things out. Anyway, that was the only point that I was trying to make. Yeah,

Dr. Ritu Verma 7:01
I do. You know, I don’t get this wrong. Despite being in Vermont. They were big things happening. Yeah, right. Yeah. I mean, you spoke about languages, there was a lot of languages happening, and your language is connected with all different parts of the world. And, you know, so it wasn’t isolated. No, it just, you know, there is a lot that you can do in a small space.

Michael Waitze 7:23
Yeah. And I want to mention one more thing, and then I want to jump back to the future. You know, when I was a kid, and when I was in college, I got on a plane and went to Japan for the first time. And I studied at dosha University in Kyoto, right? And to be fair, Middlebury was part of the 12 College exchange, and there were kids from that school on my program. But the one thing it taught me was that everything else that I thought I knew, may have then been wrong. And it really added to my ability to adapt. And I really think when you go out at an early age from your comfort zone later, when new things come to you, you’re just like, Sure, I’ve been doing this my whole life kind of thing. Is that fair?

Dr. Ritu Verma 7:59
No, absolutely fair. Right? There’s a lot of adaptation. And you get to like the adaptation, right? You have to be open to ideas open to new people, different ways of doing things. Right. One of the biggest things for me was coming out of India, and I think much of Asia has this Michael aware, it’s a very structured education system, right? Where it’s sort of exam oriented, to, you know, landing at this college, which says, you know, go take your exam, and we’ll take it home with you go to the library, right, configure it out. And, you know, you you realize you’re thrown off the cliff to pink. Yeah, right. And you’ve got to figure out how to do it. I personally believe I’m good. They drive you to sort of rethink things. And, you know, come out of that in a different way.

Michael Waitze 8:44
I do too. I want to talk about anchor now, right? Because through this whole journey that you’ve had, it ends up here and I love the way you say my day job and my night job. It’s like a little bit of your own internal Sargassum, like this thing never ends kind of thing, right. But I love it. Do you feel like along with anchor, there is this kind of secular change taking place in the way investments are being made? Do you know what I mean, in that impact investment as a thing is now becoming part of every sort of early stage investment businesses thesis, you were ahead of this, but you feel like the world is moving in that direction now.

Dr. Ritu Verma 9:23
So let me come back to you use the word impact investing, right? And in my journey through encore. One of the things I’ve realized is that this way of impact investing is a very broad word and it means different things to different people. And as a result, you know, there’s a lot of silos where people sit with it. All right. So my apologies. I had this on silent. It doesn’t matter. You don’t have funny thing. is sorry, I know you’ve never press out that, you know, you can turn off the call, but the WhatsApp is someplace else. It’s abroad word, right, the impact investing, you’re sort of. But I do think that there is a subtle change in the world. I think, globally, you know, people are realizing that, look, we need innovations to make this a better world, climate all sorts of issues, right, that we’re all going through? And how do we sort of even think about, you know, using technologies or using New Age businesses, to actually create a better world, you know, and one example I can use is, you know, which is all the heady days today is about talking about web 3.0 And crypto, right. But at the heart of that, what lies there is the democratization and each of us kind of owning our own data and being in control over that, as opposed to it, you know, being in a more centralized kind of fashion, right. So I think that there is an interest globally for investors to think about businesses and businesses that can have lead to a better world.

Michael Waitze 11:10
Do you want to talk about the significance of what I call self sovereign data, right? So you own your own data? This is a very large topic, right? And I love this too. If you just look at the news about web three, and about the metaverse, it’s really just like monkeys and NF T’s. But that’s not it at all. That’s a head fake rat around what’s really happening. I just want to make the point that that’s not what it is, right?

Dr. Ritu Verma 11:31
Yeah. And it’s even more hype of the first set of days. And then, you know, as it comes down, there are a lot of benefits of sort of having this technology or, you know, the crazy hype. As of today, I think the dust will settle for some of the, well, let’s say, the solutions that can have a larger impact of how all of our information I think is being managed, yes, well, not just ours, but for businesses

Michael Waitze 11:56
as well. Absolutely. I mean, we’re kind of at that point in the Gartner Hype Cycle for web three, where, hopefully, we’re just about to fall off that cliff. That’s the favorite part. Because then everything normalizes when you get down to the bottom of what is it called, like the trough of disillusionment, right. So that’s the better part where things start to go. Okay, we’re gonna normalize this now and actually do real things. Yeah. Is that fair?

Dr. Ritu Verma 12:19
Yeah, I think so.

Michael Waitze 12:20
So talk to me about why you invest at the earliest stages where the most risk is or where I think most of the risk is, as opposed to later where I think investing is easier. I’ll put that in quotes, right, in relative terms, because you’re just investing in growth, as opposed to investing in experiments

Dr. Ritu Verma 12:38
is the sheer joy, Michael, of seeing things, you know, imagine come out. Hi. You know, both my partner and I, we started this, I think, as I mentioned to you, I personally was interested in I’ve always been on the sort of getting things into market, the early stages, Ramona, as well had spent a lot of time in her career, it actually companies similar stages and growing them. So I think we came from that backdrop, to some extent, right. And obviously, at some personal level, we enjoyed it. So that’s why, you know, we got into doing this right. Having said that, I think that there’s a lot of opportunity. There’s a lot of new ideas, there’s a lot of new ways that entrepreneurs are thinking about this thing. So there is a large opportunity for value creation at this stage. So, you know, I think from a financial perspective, also, it is an opportunity, yes, it is high risk, I think, as you understand what risks that you sit on. And if you can actually de risk some of that, or assess that in a better way, I think there is an opportunity to also create a lot of value.

Michael Waitze 13:48
Do you feel like you can lean on your scientific knowledge and your scientific background? To understand better what’s happening in this space? Does that make sense?

Dr. Ritu Verma 13:57
Absolutely. Every day, you know, this question I get asked this question all the time, because I, you know, I have a degree in physics and saying, you know, what are you doing here? But I think the one thing that you forget is, you know, people have all these ideas of I don’t know if spaceflights and atoms and God knows what, right when you say that you’re a physicist, but the one thing that people forget is that it is a way of thinking, right? It is an analytical way of thinking. It is a way of sort of analyzing things and sort of, you know, coming up with, with solutions, because at least as a researcher, again, you don’t know what’s going to happen, right? You’ve got to be taking your best guesses as how that could possibly, you know, turn out to be what you want it to be or tell you what he wanted to tell you. Same. Same thing here. So I feel like I use it every day.

Michael Waitze 14:43
Yeah. So no, it’s funny because my question to you as it actually wasn’t, why are you here? It’s just you must have a huge edge. I think about it for myself as well. People asked me, how did you get into the media business and I said to them, Look, I said on the trading desk for 15 years, and my whole job was analyzed. Think like micro pieces of data in micro moments and then having to make decisions and figure out what to do. And that’s what I do. Now I listen to you talk to me. It’s just like data input. And I have to figure out what to do next. Right. So to me, there’s a through line, I think, for everything that we do. And you can’t disconnect them, which is why I like to get people’s backgrounds. Yeah. Can you talk a little bit about how big you think this investment opportunity is? We don’t even have to put numbers on it. But I think it’s more than billions. I think it’s in the trillions, something like two and a half to $3 trillion investment possibility. Yeah,

Dr. Ritu Verma 15:33
yeah. Yeah. So people talk about 30 trillion out there. Right. But I mean, you’re talking about reimagining, you know, many ways on how businesses are done, essentially. So give you one example, right? You know, we invest a lot in agriculture. Agriculture is obviously the trillions across the globe, right? We all eat every single day, right? So it is a business that has been happening for centuries. But that doesn’t mean that there is a new ways to do this business, right. And there are new ways on how technology can make this much better, less climate impact, you know, how we eat. So I think the opportunities are actually very fast. I think it’s a very exciting time. There are a lot of things that are the cusp of actually becoming, you know, part of the world. So I think there’s a lot of stuff happening today.

Michael Waitze 16:29
Do you want to talk a little bit about Captain fresh, and how they’re innovating as well, it has to be impressive. Just sitting in this region investment from Tiger investment from Homosassa Tanaka son at at incubate as well, along with with you and your team, maybe we can learn a little bit more about Captain fresh, so people can get a better sense of exactly what’s happening in this space.

Dr. Ritu Verma 16:52
Yeah, Captain fresh to us, as you know, a classic example of a business that’s been going on forever, but not very well. Right. I mean, in the sense is super inefficient, if you think about a fish being caught, either at open sea or at you know, aquaculture facilities, you know, the pathway of that fish to our plate. In specially around Asia, right, I know that there are markets that are much, much more consolidated, is a torturous path, right? changing hands with multiple people, quality degradation losses, that kind of happen, right? So Captain fresh is an attempt to use, you know, digital technology to actually be able to map this from farm to plate. And you know, they don’t go all the way to plate to sell to us, but they go to the the retailers, etc, that are selling to us, or the hotels, etc, that sell to us. But how can you make those losses? And so Tom likes to say, right, you know, there will be losses, right? Isn’t this is not a zero loss thing. But how can we keep the losses as close to farm as possible? Then the wastage gets fed, right. So it gets recycled, as opposed to thrown in the trash and gets fed back to the fish, right? Is what happens. So how can we make this most optimal? how do consumers get the freshest possible fish? The chain is super efficient. So I think that’s where Captain fresh is coming in. And pulling in technology and using the technology tools that are available today to actually build a predictive, you know, running a business that’s analyzed on you know, where demand is, and you know, getting the fish to the fastest way. That’s possible.

Michael Waitze 18:42
Yeah, it’s really interesting, because when people think about logistics and supply chain, they’re generally thinking about cotton into T shirts into Paris fashion shows. But there’s, as you said, we eat three times a day or two times a day, and everybody does it rich, poor or anywhere in the middle, right. And the the impact on society, for lack of a better term, and no pun intended is just huge. I’d love to have you Tom on the Social Innovation podcast as well to have a longer conversation and learn more about that, because I think it would just be super

Dr. Ritu Verma 19:13
No, absolutely. I think it is a good day. And I think you know, you you We haven’t thought about this. But if you look a little deeper, and then I think sorry, I mean, the world is starting to think about the cycle. You know, that, you know, we’ve always had these sort of non perishable foods and you know, grains that sort of a moving, and perhaps we were all used to sort of all the perishables kind of being in the vicinity, right. So you weren’t really worrying about it so much, right. But that’s not true any longer, you know, I mean, we’re eating kiwis and all sorts of stuff, which we never ate in India before. Right? They’re coming from far afield. And how do you manage perishable supply chains? Right, right. It’s a different beast. Yeah. And so fundamentally, technology has a large role to play in that as we go along. And, you know, we see happening pressures one of the time companies in that space,

Michael Waitze 20:01
if you can take the technology to create the efficiencies in the supply chain, and like you said, if that fish or that Kiwi doesn’t get on the boat, or doesn’t get on the truck, when you know it’s going to fail, then it becomes it adds to this sustainability. Again, this term has been co opted in so many different ways, right? But because you can then take that QE and feed it to somebody on the farm or take that fish and make sure that it’s fed back into the ecosystem, as opposed to just rotting on a truck somewhere. It’s better for the environment, it’s better for the world, but it’s also better economically for people like everything works together, right?

Dr. Ritu Verma 20:37
It is it is it is right. So so much of the cost when you look at especially in Asia, right where, you know, I know in the west and much more consolidated farms, and they’re managed differently. In Asia, they’re small farms. And that’s the reality of the ground. And you know, you’re trying to connect, it’s Sorry, I’m going to be a physicist, Michael. So it’s a multibody problem, where you have lots of small farms and lots of other small consumers, and you’re trying to actually make that connection as much as efficiently as you possibly can. And that’s just something that’s super important.

Michael Waitze 21:08
So this is another really interesting thing to me. In the United States, you know, farms have been consolidated through Archer Daniels Midland and other companies like this, right? So you have mechanized farming. Now, that hasn’t happened to the same extent here in Asia for multiple reasons, not the least of which is just that the land is not configured in a way where there are large swaths of land that can be farmed, particularly in Japan, you have these tiny rice farms, the same thing happens everywhere here. But for you, since what you’re building is a global investment business. And again, this gets back to the Middlebury thing, because now you know, how to talk to people outside of your realm. Right? When you talk to them? Are they surprised by the difference in the structure of the agricultural system? And does it make it easier, harder, more interesting for them to invest in those businesses? Because they don’t see the same thing? In their day to day environment? Does that make sense?

Dr. Ritu Verma 22:01
No, that two sets of people, Michael, it makes sense, what you’re asking, there are people who don’t know, and then they’re like, Oh, this is really out there. I can’t deal with it. Right. Right. And then there are people who know, right, and they understand the value of what you could possibly do here. Yeah, fair enough. You know, I think that’s normal and everything. But you do need to dig a bit deeper. Right? Because, you know, we’ve also and again, back specifically to agriculture, you know, it is a, it is something that the food security issue, right, so governments are involved in this whole place, right? Essentially, there’s a whole, you know, we we have all this talk about how, you know, people are beneficiaries, or farmers or beneficiaries, right, but, you know, they’re actually running a business a very risky business to feed us, right, to sort of what they’re doing. So, you know, there’s, there’s a whole bunch of baggage around the sector. So I think, you know, but the people who kind of understand the sector know very well as to what the opportunities here that

Michael Waitze 22:58
they do, but at some level, right, the way funds are structured, you have the LPs and the GPS, right? And the GPS make the decisions on where the funds get invested. But they have to explain it to their LPs. And sometimes the limited partners are university administrators who may not have the same global view that the GPs have in the funds, I’ll just find those conversations really interesting.

Dr. Ritu Verma 23:21
No, they are. And you know, Michael, we started this journey at about, you know, 2013, where I think everybody looked at us as we were a bit crazy, we were gonna put in small check into agriculture, and go look, you know, what you want, but just don’t go there. I think it’s a different beast today, basically. So it’s a completely different beast today. And, you know, you actually have global interest. And I think people realize that, you know, I mean, it’s significant economy globally, for sure. And if you want to put your dollars to work, you’ve got to kind of understand that there is something to invest in here. And I think the second leg that has obviously grown over the last seven, eight years, is the climate impact of all effects. Right. And I think both of those actually go to drive much, much higher both LP and GP interest in this area.

Michael Waitze 24:13
Do you feel like Asia is or should be leading the way in investing in climate impact, particularly, I mean, dude, some do whatever math you want, but particularly with a third of the world’s carbon sinks being in Asia and Southeast Asia. And this idea that we have to maintain them or make them more effective, not just from their existence, but how we invest in things that impact them as well.

Dr. Ritu Verma 24:38
No, I totally believe that, Michael, but you know, I think he you know, the consumer not acceptance is not the right word. What should I say? The push for asking for sustainability, right? is limited in Asia, right? So I think that doesn’t help but you No, I don’t see how you’re going to address any of the issues globally without addressing Asia. Right. So I think, perhaps it starts and, you know, the way we’ve seen it play out in India is that, you know, of course, Asia is part of export markets. So, you know, people in Europe, etc, are asking for much, much more sustainability in supply chains as to how things are being done. So as an exporter, you need to comply with a lot of that. And then that starts trickling down to create a market in the country and people pushing for it in the country. Right. So I have no doubt that this is table stakes. Right, going forward, right? I think the question just comes into and you know, as one guy told me, I mean, no one’s gonna pay premium for this. This, you know, the solutions had to sort of come in and actually be able to do things, you know, in cost structures, that will work. Right. But there’s, you can’t say you can’t eat, because that thing was not sustainably grown, right? That’s not going to fly. Right. But how do we get the innovations out there that allow us to sort of meet the price points that are necessary for everybody to have a nutritious meal, at the same time, reduce the climate impact? And Asia, I think will be the leader on that.

Michael Waitze 26:12
So do we feel like there’s so many things to unpack here, right. So the development of the economy in Asia, and it’s very, very varied, right? I mean, even in Southeast Asia alone, Indonesia is not Vietnam, Vietnam is not the Philippines, the Philippines is in Thailand. And we know all of this and India itself, right. There are different pockets of, of development for the economy everywhere. But at scale, it’s still early on in the development of the economy. It’s very early, right. But this is why if you go back to the early 1900s, in the United States for the late 1800s, you know, the, the what’s the word, the focus on the pollution, or sustainability was zero. It’s like I’m building a big steel mill, I don’t care if it runs off into the river in Pittsburgh, or all three of the Rivers in Pittsburgh, we’re making steel here kind of thing. So the fact that that’s happening in Asia today, shouldn’t be shocking to anybody. But it also means that there’s a much larger investment opportunity. Great, because today, we’re lucky because information travels around faster.

Dr. Ritu Verma 27:07
Yes, yes. I was gonna say that..

Michael Waitze 27:09
Yeah. So I think that the investment,

Dr. Ritu Verma 27:11
you know, it is no surprise, as economies emerge, they want to invest and get the best for their people. And they’re not really worried about clean, or sustainability and all of that good stuff. Right. I mean, the immediate stuff is the well, you know, GDP, I want to sort of put it that way. But I think this is not the time that industrialization happened in the West, I think there’s a much larger awareness absolute right. And I think there are many other tools that we have today. Right, that didn’t exist back then. Right, that can, you know, let the development happen, but let the development happen in a more sustainable manner. I mean, let me let me take a switch gears a little bit. And let’s talk about sort of electric vehicles, essentially, right. And, you know, you’ve seen China take a huge leap in being able to sort of do that, right. I mean, it’s the Perry manufacturer of the world today, in many ways. So. So, you know, in India, you know, where the mobility needs are so very different, right? Where we’re talking about two wheelers, three wheelers, you know, I mean, you know, what, we’re talking about Tesla’s in everybody’s hand, that’s normally not what sort of going to happen, right? I think the innovations, the solutions that need to come up to address the particular needs, and we have the tools today present a different opportunity. And I think that’s what’s really exciting in Asia, because it’s a different market. It’s about you know, there are different markets, there are different solutions. There are some things that cross borders, others that don’t, but there is this richness to do that.

Michael Waitze 28:54
Yeah, I mean, I like to say that there’s never been a better time to be growing up in Asia than it is today, just because the opportunities are so large, but also because the access to those opportunities is also so diverse. No,

Dr. Ritu Verma 29:15
no, they’re absolutely diverse. You know, so when we started our journey around code, you know, this is this is all sounds really stupid now. Yeah. Like the mobile phone wasn’t a ubiquitous thing. Yeah. Yeah. So I told you we started with you know, sort of investing in agriculture and I remember being out on some farms in Maharashtra and you know, maybe you had one of those old Nokia, you know, non smart phones

Michael Waitze 29:40
still in my home.

Dr. Ritu Verma 29:44
You know, and you know, we worried about whether people would have this or, you know, all of those kinds of things, you know, how would they communicate with the farmer all these good things, right. This is such a, you know, I mean conversation you would never have today? No. Right? Because it is so ubiquitous happened in the space of a year, year and a half. Right, right. And we’re not talking about, you know, non smartphones, we’re talking about data. Right? I learned about telegram in a corn or No, I think it was a sunflower seed oil field. Yeah. Where we were all on WhatsApp. And the guy’s like, dude, this doesn’t work. There’s a limit to the number of people use Telegram, right? So, you know, it is ubiquitous. So you see the pace of that change? You know, and I think there’s many more things to sort of come.

Michael Waitze 30:42
Don’t you find this kind of work fun? Sorry, I can hear it in your voice. Do you know what I mean? Like just the stories of like, being in the corn seed field? And talking about what’s happened? Tell it like, it’s so much fun. It’s hard work for sure. Don’t get me wrong. We already talked about the day and night thing.

Dr. Ritu Verma 30:58
But I already talked about a joy to battle. Yeah, no, I

Michael Waitze 31:01
know that. I know that. But it’s so fun. No,

Dr. Ritu Verma 31:03
it is it is. And you know, you see those changes, you see the entrepreneurs making those changes who see the fight, right, you see the companies, you know, the Felix is rising out of the ashes, you’ve sort of written them out. And all of that is just, you know, just reaffirms the fact that there is so much that can be done, and there’s so much that is being done. And, you know, I think lucky to be at the ringside view of some of that,

Michael Waitze 31:30
definitely, it’s so joyful, you remind me of a conversation that I had a week or so ago with this woman, Enos, she, she’s building a company in Europe called Gaia family. And what they do is they build insurance and financial products around helping people with fertility and infertility. And, you know, the success for them, it’s multi layered, right. But one of the successes for them is a full term pregnancy to birth. It’s hard not to be joyful for them as well, when it works. Right. So but I can hear that in your voice, too. When you birth these companies, and they actually grow and sustain.

Dr. Ritu Verma 32:02
Yeah, yeah, that’s awesome. And they, you know, you’ll see them sort of this to contend with love it, you know, pushed against the status quo, right. So as to how things have been done.

Michael Waitze 32:14
So I want to go back to this to through my InsurTech podcast, right. And I’m sure you’re very familiar with insurance and InsurTech, particularly in India, I have had so many conversations with Indian entrepreneurs, either in India or outside of India, but from India, there’s so much innovation happening in that space. But I think that what’s happening in India is filtering out to the rest of the world. And I’m curious when you travel now, again, different from when you started this almost 10 years ago, is the feeling and knowledge about what’s happening in the innovation space in India different than it was 10 years ago? Is it filtering out to the rest of the world so that they know, are they just looking at the Indian leaders in the United States and thinking they’re all coming here? No, absolutely

Dr. Ritu Verma 32:58
not. That is not true anymore. Right, basically. I mean, obviously, we’ve exported people for a while. Yeah, right. The startups in India have come of age, right? If you’ve looked at the last few years, there’s been a frenzy of unicorns being born and the race of unicorns being born in India. So I think, you know, I don’t think India is an odd destination for an investor anymore. Right. There is a lot of that sort of is happening. I would say that, Johnny and I think there’s I like to think of this as a journey. 2.0 I think there was a journey 1.0 In which India was actually kind of, you know, sort of the back office kind of solutions for a lot of companies in the West. Yeah, we it was a labor arbitrage. It’ll say that it’s because they are thinking as a price arbitrage destination anymore. So we keep talking internally about where is the price? I’m not in there anymore, especially in tech. Right? Where you know that there’s a dearth of tech talent. These are these the local needs with the tech talent. But I think that I will go back to something that I said, I think that what you’re seeing now is solutions that are very contextual, right? These are happening in software, these are happening in actual hardware products that are contextual to the Indian ecosystem, right? Entrepreneurs, we have a large enough domestic markets, entrepreneurs are starting to address that. But I think they also realize along the way that there’s a much larger part of the globe that they can address with their solutions. So you are seeing some of that, you know, going out, it’s already started, the journey has started to look at companies and they’re across multi different geographies, taking their solutions to that. And I am optimistic that we will see a lot more of that. So it’s the 2.0 of India to the world.

Michael Waitze 34:54
Yeah. And again, like you said, I’m so happy to be to have my own ringside. seats on what’s happening? Yeah, I’m not investing like you are. But again, I’ve done 1000 conversations like this in the last few years. And I feel like I feel involved. Yeah, it’s kind of neat. I want to end on. Go ahead. Sorry.

Dr. Ritu Verma 35:14
No, I’m just saying that, you know, we, we’ve seen our companies, you know, I mean, we were talking about agriculture earlier, I think it’s a very local thing, right as to how it sort of works. One of the first companies invested is in 56 countries across the globe. Right. And obviously, you know, their technology works with small farms, and, you know, small farms supply chains. Obviously, there’s a need for that right across the globe. So that those are the kinds of things that we see sort of happening. I love

Michael Waitze 35:41
it. I want to talk about women in technology, I want to talk about stem a little bit. And I want to talk about a woman I spoke to a woman in Singapore literally a couple of days ago, and encouraged her actually to do a little bit more, but the FinTech association of Singapore FinTech association of Asia, maybe you can talk a little bit about that in the context of some of the founders in which you’ve invested, particularly as it relates to stem.

Dr. Ritu Verma 36:07
Yeah, you know, we have two women stem founders and companies that are doing absolutely amazingly well. One has a, you know, AI solution, looking at breast cancer and just actually got an FDA approval for that rollout. We have another woman, she has a synthetic biology company, right, that is producing feed food. Every impulse needed one of the most cutting edge things that is out there. You know, I think there’s a lot you know, women have no ceilings.

Michael Waitze 36:41
No, definitely not. And there was no intention to say that women had seen so this is near Mayan string bio. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 36:47
Yeah, exactly. niraamaya and string bio, both of which are headed by women. Women scientists, I should add, I love it right. And who’ve taken these companies from you know, I mean, Geeta, from niraamaya, came to us, she left Xerox as a researcher with this thing that she’d been playing with at Xerox to say, look, I really want to build something out of it. And, you know, three, four years later, she’s FDA approved. She see approved, she’s got about 20 500,000 Women who have gone through screenings with a new modality. Right? That is, you know, it’s an amazing journey as to what what is sort of getting built.

Michael Waitze 37:23
The great thing is there’s so much more growth available in both of those places. Okay, I don’t want to take up any more of your time. I really want to thank you for doing this Dr. Ritu Verma, a co-Founder Managing Partner at Ankur Capital. Thank you so much for doing this today.

Dr. Ritu Verma 37:39
Thank you, Michael really enjoyed it. Good to be chatting on the show.


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