EP 292 – Amrita Vir – wagely – Is Financial Wellness More Important Than Financial Inclusion

by | Aug 30, 2023

The Asia Tech Podcast welcomed ⁠Amrita Vir⁠, a co-Founder of ⁠Findicate⁠ and the Head of Strategy and Business Expansion at ⁠wagely⁠. Let's just say that Amrita is s special kind of amazing.

Some of the topics that Amrita covered:

  • Going to Harvard for her MBA and a Masters of Public Policy
  • Moving to Singapore to work for GRAB
  • Financial wellness and the role wagely plays
  • Gender disparities in access to financial services and startup funding
  • The mission and goals of Findicate
  • Amrita’s FinTech Podcast

Some other titles we considered for this episode, but ultimately rejected:

 
  1. How Do People Live Financially Healthy Lives?
  2. Where Is the Bank for Gig Workers?
  3. How Do You Quantify Financial Health?
  4. It’s an Arbitrage Opportunity
Read the best-effort transcript

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

Amrita Vir 0:05
Yeah, that’s good.

Michael Waitze 0:07
Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the Asia Tech Podcast. We have Amrita Vir, a co-founder of Findicate and the Head of Strategy and Business Expansion at wagely. How are you doing today?

Amrita Vir 0:20
I’m great. Michael, thanks so much for having me on the show.

Michael Waitze 0:22
It is my complete pleasure. It’s so rare for me to have somebody on the show that also has their own podcast. So if you feel like taking over at any point in time,

Amrita Vir 0:32
start asking Yeah, I’m gonna start asking you questions, Michael,

Michael Waitze 0:35
no problem. I have answers sometimes sometimes. Anyway, before we get into the main part of this conversation, can we get some of your background for some context as well?

Amrita Vir 0:44
Yeah, absolutely. So let’s see. I’m American, born and raised in the West, grew up in Texas actually started my career in consulting management consulting, very quickly, though, realized that I wanted to be in the tech world, specifically focused on financial inclusion. So went back to grad school, did an MBA and Master’s in Public Policy to kind of focus on all sides of financial inclusion. And then I actually moved to Singapore in 2019, just in time for the pandemic, to join, grab. And now as you said, I’m at Waitze. Lee and co founder of mitigate,

Michael Waitze 1:19
what was it like doing the Masters of Public Policy? You went to Harvard? Yeah. Yeah. What was it? Like? What’s it like going there? And you said, you’re from Texas. So Texas, and Boston may as well be like Venus and Mars, they’re like to tell me I’m wrong, right? They gotta be to complete different places. Have you traveled enough around to be like, ready for the kind of liberalism of Boston from Harvard?

Amrita Vir 1:41
Absolutely not. I think I grew up in Houston, which is like a very liberal city, but still in Texas. Yeah. And Boston is a very liberal city in the middle of a bunch of other liberal cities. Yeah, exactly. And so I think growing up, I grew up with a pretty liberal mindset. My parents were immigrants to the US, and my dad was a small business owner. And so had a lot of those immigrant more liberal, my political views. And then I think moved up to Boston and felt, I guess, I should also say, in Texas, often felt like I had to cover those views. I also started my career in oil and gas, right into some, like very conservative schools, worked in various some conservative environments, and always wanted to kind of just, you know, keep the peace. There’s something it’s like, you never talk about politics at the dinner table. You never talked about politics at work. And that was ruled. And then suddenly, I went to this public policy program in Boston, where you had to talk about very personal politically held beliefs. And it was definitely a lot of culture shock, but I think opened my opened my eyes that there is like a totally other way of living and thinking and communicating in the world and really enjoyed the experience.

Michael Waitze 2:50
What’s the output of the public policy program there? I don’t know that many people that have been through it, but I’m just curious, like, If you’d said you got an MBA, I would kind of understand it. But what is the Master’s in Public Policy? Like?

Amrita Vir 3:00
It was basically, there’s like a core curriculum, same as like my MBA, there was kind of a core curriculum. But instead of it being very focused on like, business fundamentals, there were a lot of pieces that were around, how do you write a policy memo? How do regulators engage? How do you communicate, and I think there’s so many different pieces of public policy, that and that go into being successful in the public policy space, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that you go into public service, it could also be working at an NGO, it could be working in development, it could be working in a private organization, in a policy role. So I think many aspects to it. So you have to almost, you have to have more disciplines that are covered in the curriculum. Whereas I think in business school at HBS, it was very much like, Let’s do marketing, go to finances do accounting. And it’s a little bit more straightforward. I just think it was the way I describe it. Like, the difference is that going to the Kennedy School is like a warm hug. I was surrounded by really people who are like motivated and excited about a particular area of impact. And going to business school is a little bit colder, but also people who are like really motivated to change the world, but in a slightly different way.

Michael Waitze 4:08
I was gonna say surrounded by money or surrounded by a hug. I don’t know, it’s a two feels like two completely different experiences. But

Amrita Vir 4:14
it’s good balance. It’s yin and yang. Yeah, for sure. For sure.

Michael Waitze 4:16
I mean, you need both in the world, right? If there’s no money, there’s no public policy. Right.

Amrita Vir 4:21
It’d be fair. Absolutely.

Michael Waitze 4:22
What brought you to Asia? Yeah. So can I ask you this? I’m always so interested about like, it’s your parents are first generation Americans. Yeah. Yeah. So, you know, look, I know because my parents are second generation Americans, right. And I know what my family had to do to get from Russia and Ukraine, to the United States. Like my grandfather had to get on a boat as a seven year old,alone.And end up in Boston. I know what the struggle is like, right? And then, you know, my family stayed in the US but like you were first generation and then you just get up and leave well, Was that?

Amrita Vir 5:01
Yeah, no, it’s definitely also have like some family history stories that are just like totally wild more on on my dad’s side their stories are on partitioned in Indiana after independence. Yeah, those are some like nutty stories, but maybe that’s for a different podcast. Um, my mom actually was born in Malaysia and moved to the US when she was like, 10 grew up in New York, and is very much like a New Yorker. So, moving to Texas was also a cultural shock for her. Yeah. And then my dad lived in India, but actually into West Africa. For many years, his parents had actually been based in Singapore in Jakarta, as part of the Indian naval attache corps, like many years earlier, like six years ago, my grandparents, okay, this is a longer story than I intended it to be. But my grandparents met each other, they became friends with each other in Singapore, like 60 years ago. And so my parents grew up being like family, friends, but they all had experience like in this part of the world, and my dad, after India, he lived in West Africa, lived in the UK, and then moved to the US, actually, when I was born. So my parents were in West Africa for fears. And so I’ve actually had a lot of this, like international family history, people like hopping around moving all over the world. You know, obviously, my parents had to do to give up a lot. And I think my dad, especially being a small businessman, in the US, has seen a lot of his fair share of challenges. Yeah, but I think when I said, okay, hey, I want to I want to move to Asia, which I think is your first question. They’re like, yeah, go, you know, we wanted to set you up for success. And if you think that success looks like moving across the world, you know, that’s fine. That’s fine with us. They weren’t surprised at all. When I said I was moving. I love it. And answer your first question, Michael, how did I even get here? I’ve been in financial inclusion space. Actually, since college, I started a microfinance nonprofit after being very inspired by the work going on in Bangladesh. With Muhammad Yunus, he actually came to speak in Dallas, where I was going to college and was like, super inspired. I was studying finance, it was like, oh, there’s a way to use finance, to not, you know, be on Wall Street, but like, actually improve people’s lives in a really meaningful way. So I’ve always been interested in emerging market microfinance. So I’ve done some work in that field in like western or eastern Europe, in West Africa, and actually worked in a few different early stage startups that were focused on emerging markets. One of them was actually in the middle of there, when I joined, was in the middle of their expansion from Latin America and Africa, to South Southeast Asia. And so that’s and I was, you know, working a lot on that expansion, and just became fascinated by the markets here. It’s a huge population, growing middle class, growing digital literacy rates, growing financial literacy rates. And I said, this is where I want to be, I think, particularly after after I finished grad school. And so that’s what I did. That’s how I got to where

Michael Waitze 7:57
did you specifically come for the job that grab? And I’m super curious about what it was like to work there as well, right? It’s a massive company. And like, we’ve done a ton of work on the insurance side with the grab insured people, right, talking about micro micro insurance policies and stuff like that. But you were at GFG. Right, which was, I think, grab Financial Group. Yeah. How does microfinance look from grabs perspective? If you can comment on that as well?

Amrita Vir 8:18
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So yeah, the lens, I did move over for the job at grab. And the role was, given all of my interest in microfinance, it was a perfect role, because it was to lead the driver lending business. And yeah, so if you think about your grab drivers, they’re typically their gig workers, their living, they don’t have necessarily steady income, they typically don’t have access to financial services or responsible financial services. And I mean, it looks a little bit different in a market like Singapore. But if you think about Indonesia, or Thailand or Vietnam, the drivers are two wheeler, four wheeled drivers, they’re very much left out of the formal financial system, especially because in those markets, the formal financial sector think big banks, they really touch the top of the pyramid, people who have a lot more income, and are what I call more bankable, because you can cross sell them other more profitable financial services.

Michael Waitze 9:14
Can I ask you this, though, because I’m sure you’ve done a lot of work on this as well. Just the infrastructure, the way the infrastructure is set up at a big bank, make it so that it’s not profitable for them to deal with people that don’t have a ton of money, if you know what I mean, isn’t just the cross selling part of it as well, where they can sell the mutual fund products and insurance products and stuff like that? Or is it just the fact that the infrastructure inside the bank the way they’ve hired people, and the way they pay them, that it’s just not profitable to deal with someone who can deposit $2 A month or $3 a month?

Amrita Vir 9:44
Depends like how you’re actually able to reach those people. So at actually able to understand those people. I think, there there’s a level of I think, intellectual laziness when it comes to offering credit services, which is where a lot of fun banks make their money, right? lending products. And you can if someone is has a lot of assets, someone has high steady income, someone has a lot of paperwork that shows like this is, this is who I am, you can make that person more easily you can understand where they’re coming from more easily. And I think that infrastructure is what banks have today. But the population that I worked with it grab and laden with microfinance work, or people that don’t have those assets that don’t have that steady income, they don’t have a lot of proper documentation showing who they are right? And therefore it becomes difficult, yes, from an infrastructure perspective to serve them, not because they’re not profitable, it’s because we haven’t figured out a way to understand those customers and create a product that meets them where they are. I think one of the beautiful things I’m sure you’ve talked about embedded finance on this show, one of the beautiful things about embedded finance is that it meets people where they are it doesn’t require them to necessarily go to a bank branch or download a banking app. For us, our grabbed financial services for drivers were embedded into the driver app. So they just have like a one stop shop where they could go for everything. And I think that building that infrastructure is definitely more challenging for banks. Yeah. So

Michael Waitze 11:11
one of the things that I’ve talked to, and I don’t want to focus on grab per se, but just because you were there, because it’s relevant, right? It’s because one of the biggest companies in Southeast Asia. And particularly because the driver population is emblematic. I think of the whole gig worker force at scale, right. And I think about this a lot. Remember, I come out of a Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs background, right? So I’ve been in the equity markets have been in the fixed income markets, I know this stuff. And I’ve always wondered, and I’ve actually suggested this, if it’s embedded finance, right, and you could take $1, literally $1 from 2 million drivers, or a million drivers every month, at the end of year, you have 12 million bucks, it doesn’t feel like a lot of money. But in five years, you have 60. And now you’re starting to run in and why not just give them access to or exposure to the s&p 500? Or buy some bitcoin for them, or all this kind of stuff? Has anybody done this yet? And if not, why has no one done this yet?

Amrita Vir 12:03
I really think grab is working on it for a while, especially with like the neobanks. No, no one’s really done it in a meaningful way. And I think it’s if you look at the revenue opportunities that exists when it comes to these, like lower income workers, compared to some higher income workers, people are always going to skew in the higher income direction, because just like the total number, the total revenue potential just looks a lot higher.

Michael Waitze 12:29
Again, there’s no AUM game going on, right? All the Neo banks and all the sort of robo advisors or old robo advisors are running this big, you know, assets under management game, they’re just trying to get to a billion dollars or $5 billion, because that’s how they get paid, right? They get paid through assets under management. But if you’re really trying to make a difference, you can start like even when we were at Goldman Sachs, we used to have $5 million hedge funds trade with us, the whole point was, at some point, they’re going to be a $50 million $500 million $5 billion fund. And they would never leave. And I feel like if you could literally take like 10 drivers in every country and have them get them able to like buy an apartment or buy a condo or buy a house in a way that was impossible for them before because they started investing. And most of these drivers are not 70 years old. They’re 20 years old, right? So if you can take 10 years of their life, and give them even $20,000. It’s immensely life changing. No. Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. Sorry. Go ahead. Grab.

Amrita Vir 13:29
No, grab has tried this, I think a bit with going into the other verticals, right. When we think of five like financial services, it also kind of boils down to like how to people live financially healthy lives? Yeah. And that’s yes, there’s like a borrowing element. There’s like, how do you manage your cash flows? There’s like, how do you do you have insurance, which you mentioned? And then how do you save for the future? How do you save for retirement or for like, big expenditures down the line? Those are all different pieces of someone, financial life. And I think people have for the base base of the pyramid, people have served them pieces of this, no one has put it together. And like one consolidated offering I think grab is like started to build out those verticals. I’m ready to grab has lending has insurance has, it has investment, and I think is starting to move in that direction. But no one has yet said here’s the bank for gig workers. And at Waverly my current job, one of the things we’re building is like the bank for blue collar workers. And it’s one of the reasons like I love I love working there. But all of the initiatives like this are still like the very early stages. And I think it’s going to take honestly a lot of a lot of bigger banks and a lot of bigger institutions to say, hey, we actually want to serve this population because we see them as not necessarily being profitable today. But yes, in 10 years and 20 years, that potential is there. And I think that’s missing in our like, you know, high instant gratification financial environment, especially especially in a recession.

Michael Waitze 14:56
And we can argue about being in a recession in a second. Can you back up for me though a little bit. I didn’t ask Listen, I should have. And I don’t ask this a lot, really. But what does financial inclusion mean to you? I mean, I can feel it in your voice. It’s really important in everything you do know, I’m serious. You don’t go get a Master’s in Public Policy, if you’re not really concerned about doing good and doing well, at the same time, you just don’t do it, right. So it kind of inculcated everything you’re doing. But when you sit down to think about financial inclusion, what do I really want it to mean? What is it? What does it mean to you?

Amrita Vir 15:28
So financial inclusion is a, it’s a little bit of a tricky term. Yeah, because it’s been used in the development context for many years, to get to mean, getting people access to financial services. And I think that was an important metric for a long time, as people were, especially digitizing, we’re actually understanding that the base of the pyramid is a is a target demographic that we can serve. Maybe not holistically yet, but at least in some capacity, excuse me. Um, and so I think that definition was all about access for a long time. But now what we’re seeing is that definition has been corrupted, and turned into something, it’s been turned into really good marketing. And you see, there, there are a lot of like peer to peer lenders, predatory lenders that say, Hey, we’re, we’re here to improve financial inclusion. That’s all over their marketing, that’s all over their investor pitches. But really, they’re charging predatory interest rates that when you look at the other, get can get those other verticals of someone’s financial life, we’ve actually negatively impacted those other other verticals. If you’ve got a credit, if you’ve got a predatory loan, you’re probably not saving very much, probably not planning for your retirement, you probably can’t afford insurance. Yeah. And so I think this story around financial inclusion, I say it, I use the phrase because everybody at least is familiar with it. Right? But we’re actually we should be moving into a world that’s more around financial wellness or financial health. I actually wrote my master’s thesis about this. Yeah, I, how do you quantify financial health? How do you put it into these different buckets? And now the story is like, not just can you tackle the access part of it, because a lot of people have access to financial services, most of you have access to a wallet, barring markets where, you know, like Bangladesh, right? You actually work where only like, 50% of people have access to a smartphone. But in most markets, most emerging markets at this point, access to a wallet is available access to a bank account is mobile, is it? Is it that access to a predatory loan is certainly available to anyone?

Michael Waitze 17:39
Why is this interesting? That it’s even a thing? It’s not a question for you? It’s a rhetorical question. So don’t feel like you have to answer it. But it’s like even the fact you can call it predatory, right? 18% per month, you never digging yourself out of that hole. Let’s just say that that’s just my opinion. Anyway, go ahead. You have access to this stuff. But I like this terminology. And maybe I’m gonna start using this from now on financial wellness is more important to me, it really is than financial inclusion. The thing is, with inclusion, right? If I say just the word financial inclusion out loud, everyone knows what room I’m in? At least they think they do. Right? So that’s why people use that term. You right now it’s more of a marketing tool and more of a kind of a BS tool to be fair. Yeah, what I really want to do is I really want to see people working on this thing that, again, that I’ve been talked about earlier, is how to tell somebody that you know, the power of compounding works, even if you just have $1. It just does, right? Because if you do it when you’re 20, when you wake up when you’re 50. And you just did little bits and pieces, you could literally have 100 200 $300,000 in the bank and your kids lives will never be the same. Sorry, I interrupted you.

Amrita Vir 18:46
No, no, but I actually want to throw the question back to you. Go ahead. It sounds like you’re saying people need to be educated that this is the power of compounding This is the power of investing, which is definitely true. But if you’re let’s say you’re a woman, Warren owner in Indonesia, and you have no ID, and your assets are all owned by your husband, how are you even supposed to open like an Interactive Brokers account? How are you supposed to do that?

Michael Waitze 19:11
It’s such a, such a, it’s such a great question. So you’re, you’re tackling two issues there. One is what is your husband on all of your assets? This is a big problem. And I don’t want to go into another room that pick a term I don’t even know what to call it right. female empowerment. I hate all these terms. Right? It’s like the world should be fit. But But I take this stuff really seriously. Right? Because I don’t want people to live in poverty, because they don’t have to. So how do you handle that? I don’t know. I mean, I could say to you, you went to the public policies go you figure it out. But But I do think there’s a way to use technology, use the mobile phone and use mobile wallets to be able to say to people, you run a war room in Indonesia, you have income. I am going to take some of that income, right as a benevolent dictator. Well, that’s what Singapore is. It’s a benevolent dictator. No sugar does. That’s what a Singapore CPF is exactly. It’s a benevolent dictatorship. And it works. And we can argue about whether it works just because there’s 6 million people there, or if there are 600 million people there. But the bottom line is that if you literally take a time, or $1, from everybody every month, and instead of them and they may suffer for the first few years, right, because that dollar is important, I’m not minimizing the value of that dollar. But 20 years and 30 years later, they don’t even know. And someone just drops 100 grand on them, that their whole life is different. And it’ll teach their kids how to save as well. I don’t think it’s that hard to do. And you write access to the products isn’t the problem, right? It’s access to the right products, and actually just forcing people to have a better life. I don’t think anybody’s going to complain about that type of benign dictatorship. What do you think?

Amrita Vir 20:51
I don’t know, because and this is this is going back to earlier point around why the predatory loans exist. That’s because people, especially at the base of the pyramid, yes, you can make this whole argument around like, okay, you can invest this dollar real compound interest, and in 20 years, you’ll be able to afford all these amazing things. But if you are living paycheck to paycheck, if you are living below the poverty line, and you just need to think about how you put food on the table, how do you like make it to next week, can we make it to next month? That’s not really an option? That’s why predatory loans exist is because it’s a short term option, the Yeah, you pay for in a really painful way. But it’s better than, you know, not having anything at all. It’s better than not being able to, like survive.

Michael Waitze 21:34
I guess. I don’t.

Amrita Vir 21:37
Well, and this is why I think Michael, it’s such a challenging problem. And by the way, is intertwined with all with like, women’s empowerment problems, right, like women are way more in poverty than men are.

Michael Waitze 21:47
Right, but it’s not even. It’s not even, it’s not even close. I mean, the whole point of and look, I’m probably twice your age, right. But the whole The whole reason why the divorce laws changed the United States was because divorce actually just dropped women immediately into abject poverty. Yeah. Right. And so think about what that’s like in a developing country. Right? There’s a reason why. And again, I’m not making a value judgment or moral judgment about it, right. But there’s a reason why all the assets are owned by one person in a particular relationship. It not just in this region, but pretty much all over the world. Right. It’s to disempower people say it again.

Amrita Vir 22:20
Yeah. It’s connected, I think, I think there’s a huge connection between financial inclusion, financial, health, and gender, I think I mean, it drives a lot of the work I do. So I definitely have to say that, but I do think it’s all connected.

Michael Waitze 22:36
I do too. And I’ve thought this my whole life. Do you want to talk a little bit about a syndicate as well, because I think this kind of dovetails nicely into what that’s trying to accomplish, right. And there are other like, epic angels is doing a similar thing. I think I’ve spoken to the founders of this company, too. There’s a really strong movement. And we don’t have to go through all the statistics, right, but it’s closer to zero than it is to one for the amount of money that like that women actually control in the venture capital world. You can say 2.3%, you can say whatever you want, but it’s really zero. At scale.

Amrita Vir 23:06
It’s really, it’s really sad. It’s really sad. Yeah. So I think the work with Syndicate is, is really born out of like, some personal impact, or angel investing, like I started angel investing a few years ago, as like independently also, like join some syndicates, and found that there was the same problem that I think a few others have identified, which is that like women, startups, women led startups only get what less than 2% 3% of VC funding, but in fact, deliver higher returns. So to me, one, from a financial inclusion perspective, this is hugely problematic the work I do in my day job at wage lead, getting people access to an access to responsible financial services. I’m just seeing it in like for like a different demographic. Right for women, women startups, it’s the same thing. They’re not getting access to the capital, they need to be successful. And yet we see the women led startups deliver higher returns than male led startups.

Michael Waitze 24:07
Can I ask you why you think that’s true?

Amrita Vir 24:10
I think well, why I think it’s true. The data says so.

Michael Waitze 24:14
No, no, I know it’s true. The data definitely supports it. But let me give you my perspective. And it’s not the only reason why so don’t take this the wrong way. But here’s what I think. I think, a few things philosophically, one, too many startups get funded because most people don’t know how to invest in them. So this is why 95% of them failed, because 95% of them probably never should have actually raised money in the first place. Inside that 95% cohort is mostly guys. Yeah. And they’re all going to fail. Right? And for a woman to actually raise money. It has to be like, you know, it’s so hard to do anyway, that their likelihood of success is so much higher. Yeah, do you see what I’m saying? Yeah, there

Amrita Vir 24:55
are a few reasons there are fears. I think one. One is the implicit bias that I think everyone Janay they’re just not enough in the room writing checks. Yeah, that’s what a lot of the there are a lot of funds are focused or like women founded funds that are trying to solve this problem of getting more women investors in the room to actually write those checks. Because we also know that like, people tend to invest in people that look like them. Yeah. And so if I’m a woman investor, it might actually mean I’m more likely to invest in a woman. And so I got one part of the problem. I also think that it’s true the status true that like the women who do end up fundraising, like the women, founders that do end up fundraising, their founders that have to be exceptional. Yeah, they just say exceptional, they have to be exceptional. And that means that like, they’re going to run their business in an exceptional way that’s going to live up to deliver higher returns. Exactly. I think it’s also it’s also true, though, that like, women tend to be realistic, in their in their assessments of like, revenue potential, right. And so if you’ve got like the same business idea, and there’s a woman, founder and a male founder, it is more likely that like, the male founder will say, We’re gonna deliver like 10x revenue than the male, the female founder. And that number, whether it’s rooted in reality or not, is going to be much sexier to investors, male or female? Yes. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Michael, come on. Now we

Michael Waitze 26:28
can spend hours talking about why the why the why that type of VC market is broken. But that’s a that’s a discussion for a different time. You’re right, they look at it. And if a female founder says, I think we’re going to make $100 million in revenue every year that like, maybe not enough, but the guy’s gonna say we’ll make 10 billion a year. And everyone’s like, yeah, here’s my money. None of it’s possible. And everybody knows when they’re making that investment, that it’s not true. And the female founder or the, or the minority founders off to the side somewhere going, just slowly grinding it out, grinding it out, and maybe getting to 50 to 100 million bucks, in five years. And the other guys just like lost all the money. Right? The other guys like Adam Newman, I just don’t understand.

Amrita Vir 27:07
I’m not ever gonna get into that one. But actually, Michael, you said you mentioned it quickly. But it’s not just women that face this problem. I think women are probably the biggest demographic half of the world’s population that face this problem. But there are a lot of minority minorities that face this problem. Yeah.

Michael Waitze 27:22
I said that on purpose. I mean, women is easy, because it’s just so obvious, right? But like, identifying all the other minority population is just so much harder. So that’s why I use it as a proxy. I shouldn’t do it, per se. But you’re right. It’s not just for ladies. Yeah. Yeah. Sorry, I interrupted you. I feel like,

Amrita Vir 27:39
I don’t know. I’ve maybe lost my train of thought. Let me finish it. Yeah. Yeah. So syndicate. Our goal is to, is to play our small role in in getting more women, more women founders access to capital, that’s the problem that we’re trying to solve is not necessarily about the women investor side is more about the women’s startups, getting them access to capital, financial inclusion for women led startups, if you will. That means our thesis is basically we invest in women led startups, I think we’ve tweaked it a little bit that like, if a startup is serving women customers, okay, well, like also entertain that, even if it’s not led by a woman. But really, our core thesis is that like we should invest in women led startups. And it’s not just like a social, you know, a fluffy social thing. As I said before women led startups deliver outsized returns, and therefore it’s an arbitrage opportunity that many people are not taking advantage of. Why do you feel like you have to

Michael Waitze 28:37
justify, particularly to someone like I am like, there’s no reason to justify this. There’s no reason to say like, it’s not just some fluffy idea. You’re when you invest money, you’re trying to make money? Yeah. That’s, that’s obvious.

Amrita Vir 28:49
It should be obvious it should be and I don’t I don’t think I have to justify myself to you. But there, it’s possible that you have listeners who think that they’re anytime they hear like women empowerment women, anything they just like, you know, just zone out. Yeah. Because they’re like, Oh, this is some like ESG thing that, you know, people do to feel good, but not necessarily deliver outsized returns to actually deliver higher returns. And I challenged I try to challenge that every day, because I fundamentally do believe like, the numbers show it that if you invest in diverse leadership teams, if you invest in diverse founders, if you invest in ideas that like, are like improve the world, as opposed to only revenue only returns, then you’re actually like, you’re going to make more money in the long run.

Michael Waitze 29:39
The Masters makes sense. If If only 50% of the people have access to the money to build a company, they’re going to focus to build a company on the serving the people that they know, which is the wrong 50% or the existing 50%. So if you give money to market Yeah, it’s like you’re losing half the market. And to be fair, most guys, if they’ve ever been married. They know once they get married, they’re not running the finances in their house no matter what they think, no, you’re laughing, but because it’s true in my house. And I think most guys are comfy with this. They’re just like, You know what, I don’t want to think about it. You’re better at this than I am, which is something I’ve heard said 1000 times, these are guys that make a ton of money. It’s you have guys that go out and make like a million $2 million a year and go home and go, can you figure out what to do with this? Yeah, because I’m not smart enough to know, kind of thing. Right? So having that as the basis for this conversation that half of the market needs to get served. It should be a gigantic financial opportunity. Yeah,

Amrita Vir 30:36
it absolutely is. And it’s funny you say that I was remembering a phrase that Laurie, our Indonesian team told me, and they said, because we. So I’ll share a little bit about why usually, our customer base is like actually pretty 5050 men and women, but we see more men using the product. And we are actively putting in efforts to engage more women users, because we recognize them as a very important customer demographic. But it was funny, I was getting some like feedback from our endo team. And they said that there’s like an Indonesian phrase that when people when men get their paycheck, they immediately give it to their wives, because they don’t trust themselves to actually spend it appropriately. Yeah. Like some phrase, I can’t remember what it is. But it’s, it’s it is a it’s a cultural norm. And the fact that we haven’t as like an industry picked up on that and are actually serving those customers in a meaningful way is just like mind blowing.

Michael Waitze 31:27
I will, I will share a story with you as well, because I think it’s not just cultural. But I think it’s also cross generational. It’s not just cross cultural cross generational. My grandfather, stuttered. And in the 19 teens, that was just unacceptable. They thought he was retarded, he demonstrably was not. And he built a really good business. But he couldn’t do his own math. Because he never never pass up a second grade. Like they literally like chased him out of school. My grandmother was a mathematical genius. So all the money that my grandfather made me made a lot of it. He just gave to grandma. And she figured out what to do with it. And this is what I mean, when I say like, I don’t think it’s just one generation. I think it’s cross generational. So same thing. How do you get female guests on your podcast? And is it harder for you to get female guests and is to get male guests?

Amrita Vir 32:26
But do you ask that for female guests, I just I just reach out to a lot of people. I think at this point, I know a lot of folks in the industry might see my podcast focuses on FinTech founders. I know, at this point, having the angel syndicate being like in the startup ecosystem, like I do, actually, I know, personally, a lot of like, the female founders that I want to talk to. But it’s funny because the women founders, I have to reach out to them. And then I have to give them a lot of information about what the podcast is going to be like, what’s the agenda going to be? What are the questions, I’m gonna ask what you know, what are like, what’s it going to feel like? And can they edit things out at the end? They they want to have that more information to actually say, yes. Whereas I have, I’ve had many male founders reach out to me directly and say, Hey, can I be on your podcast? And sometimes they’re, you know, sometimes people you don’t? I mean, it’s not always people you want on the podcast?

Michael Waitze 33:21
I mean, not not everyone’s that appropriate guests. Let’s just say that,

Amrita Vir 33:23
right? Yeah. Yeah, that’s kind of like saying, Oh, my God. And so as a fan of as well, you know, but and I wonder, I wonder if you face anything similar, because this also mirrors what I see in the investing space, we have a lot of women as part of our syndicate. And we also include men like men are also invited to join as as allies, and invest because again, the problem we’re solving is getting the cash flow, getting the cash flow to women led startups, right. But women tend to have a much higher risk awareness, not risk aversion, but much, much higher risk awareness, they want to have a lot more information before they make a decision, being on a podcast decision, be it a financial decision, whatever, or even want to have more information. And so it means that from a syndicate perspective, to actually get to a certain check size, and actually get a certain level of investment, it’s a lot more due diligence, a lot more education. And I think I feel very confident about the decisions we’ve made. But I think as far as getting people to actually commit, again to being on the podcast or raising capital, it’s much easier to get a man to say yes,

Michael Waitze 34:32
yeah, I don’t disagree with you. I don’t at all, I find it really hard to get female guests on the show. And I’m constantly trying to do it because I want to have that, again, we talked about the numbers, it’s 50% of the population. So I want to have the that 50% of the insight, the ideas, the thought processes, all that kind of stuff, right? Because I do think it’s different. And I reach out all the time. And I do get the thing that you’re talking about. It’s like, why would I be on the show? What would I want to do? What are we going to talk about? What’s the benefit to me kind of thing? Was if I asked you a guy, he’ll just be like, I’m ready next Thursday.

Amrita Vir 35:08
Yeah, amazing. Amazing. Okay. Same experience then. But I applaud you, Michael, for wanting to have more more women on the show. I think they’re, they’re the voices that were missing. I think particularly in this tech ecosystem. Every tech happy hour, I go to just a boys club. Yeah. And

Michael Waitze 35:24
it’s annoying.

Amrita Vir 35:26
Yeah. And I think it’s also it’s hard for, I think about like younger women who are like just out of college and are thinking about should I start something, they don’t have a lot of role models to look up to. And I think that also needs to change that’s like the heart of Ecosystm. That I don’t know how we really solve like, it’s kind of like a pipeline issue. But to get more women in leadership positions that’s like successful founders, to have, like, you know, like little girls I want to look up to I think, is also hugely important. One of the reasons I love being grabbed is because one of the co founders, like I could see, I could, you know, see myself she’s right over there. She’s right over there. She’ll she went to Harvard, like she’s, you know, she’s living here. She’s focused on financial inclusion, and maybe a different sort of slightly different look,

Michael Waitze 36:08
she’s I’m 10 years later, in a way, right. And it’s all paths.

Amrita Vir 36:12
And I think having like, more role models, like laying, or wailing, is actually really, really important for the ecosystem.

Michael Waitze 36:20
So here’s something I struggle with, if I didn’t know you, right, and remember, I reached out to you blindly, right? So I didn’t know you, actually. But if it was in person, let’s say we were at one of those meetings that you talked about, it’s a startup meeting. Ivan podcast, I heard you having some interesting conversation. And I’m like, I have to get this lady on my show. But if I walk over to you there, you’re just going to think who is this weird dude talking to me? No, no, but that’s what it feels like. Right? And you’re right. I want to do this so much, because I do it. Well, I sit in a co working space like two days a week, right sometimes, and I can walk over to any guy that’s doing their job. What are you working on? Right? Now? I’m normally old enough to be there, dad, which is fine with me. But I’m just what are you working on? I’m working on this. I’m photographer. I’m a content creator, whatever it is, I can’t go do the same thing to you. Cannot?

Amrita Vir 37:11
I guess not? No, but no,

Michael Waitze 37:12
because you just be like, What are you doing?

Amrita Vir 37:16
So here’s the here’s the thing. And that, that I see, it’s it’s again about meeting your customers, again, air quotes, meeting your customers where they are. Yeah, and I see this in our product development, we do see that women don’t want to use our product. Because if we’ve got a bunch of male agent out there trying to talk to them, they’re like, don’t talk to me. Yeah, especially in more conservative societies, where men and women talking outside of outside of a marriage is like very much frowned upon. It’s taboo. It’s taboo, right. And so we’ve had to change our model and say, Hey, we’re gonna actually employ more women agents to actually go out and talk to our women customers, because they’re gonna be so much more comfortable word of mouth is so much more powerful when it comes to women. And they’re actually they’re actually organizations that do focus on this. I was at a conference in May put on by women’s world banking, and they’ve got a whole, like methodology around, not human centered design, women’s centered design. And it’s how you reach your woman customers in a way that’s like, approachable and again, meets them on their level. And I think maybe you can apply that as you as you try to get more guests on your podcast, Michael,

Michael Waitze 38:27
I just wrote it down women’s centered design, I’m gonna have to think about it. I feel like we could go on and on. I’m gonna let you go. This has been really amazing. You have to come back on the show and just do this more often. Anytime you want to talk about something, just call me up and let me know. We’ll we’ll publish it. I’m not kidding. Amrita Vir co-founder of Findicate and the Head of Strategy and Business Expansion at wagely. Maybe next time we get you on just to talk about wagely itself. That would be great. But I really appreciate you doing this today. Absolutely.

Amrita Vir 38:50
Michael, thank you so much. It’s been a lot of fun.

 

 

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