I’m tingling with excitement as I tally up the numbers in one of my “rough” notebooks at the end of a long and warm Madras day. My team – my family and friends – and I had just made about 10,000 rupees selling Pokémon cards and custom-made T-shirts at my school’s carnival. And that isn’t the best part: I had just gotten to be the owner and CEO of my own little shop, even if only for two days. Of course, the highs of making a “big-ticket” sale were only round the corner from my stupidity in not liquidating inventory toward the end of the second day but the thrill of my first “venture” never ceases to get my heart racing.
That two-day event set in motion a remarkable chain of events in my life. Back in 2004, those 10,000 rupees were my “buy-in” into the stock market before I even graduated high school. By the end of 2007, a phenomenal bull run had convinced my naïve self that I was the next Warren Buffett. As luck would have it, exactly a year later, both my portfolio and my delusions were slaughtered by Mr. Market. This was only the beginning of the roller coaster ride, moving in parallel with my otherwise conventional journey as a young Chartered Accountant in training. Fast forward to 2012: a team of amazing humans at L&T placed a big bet on me, inducting me into the world of investing and private equity. By the fall of 2018, I found myself in New York City and in a university (for the first time!), where I would spend two special years and meet many of my investing heroes. I feel many emotions right now, but they are all overridden by one – gratitude.
Investing has been a gift and it always will be. It has trained me to think deeply about businesses, about people, and about life. One of my favorite parts of the craft has been learning from the failures and successes of founders and their teams building fascinating businesses. I’ve been lucky to be a part of some – delivering internet access to families in Varanasi, listening to angry customers fume over poor service at a call center, and walking through tunnels that transport cash from under a highway toll booth. Whether it was contributing to these businesses on the ground, or living vicariously through the journey of many others, I have absolutely loved being a part of each one of them.
So much so that over the years, I have found myself drawn back to the excitement of that school carnival again and again. Every time, I have been able to sell myself a story of why it was not the right time or the right opportunity, or… you get the drift! And then, 2020 happened – I turned 30, married the love of my life, graduated from Columbia, returned to India, and blindsiding all of us, COVID hit! As 2021 began, it felt like I was beginning a fresh chapter in my life. New game, new playground, new players. (Mostly) Blank slate.
The next big bet
The entire journey so far (and specifically, investing) has built patience and demanded humility. I’ve been asked, again and again, to think in terms of probabilities and place bets. The timing feels right to place the next bet: on a mission, on a team, and on myself.
This brings me to insurance – a problem worth solving and one that I care about deeply. It has, somehow, always found a way into my life. My mother has sold insurance for the past 15-odd years, I’ve invested in some of India’s leading insurance majors as part of my job pre-business school at Temasek, and more recently, I have (unfortunately) had to utilize my family’s health insurance.
It is a sad reality that 80%+ of private health expenditure is out-of-pocket, with 9 out of 10 Indians not having any form of private health insurance, let alone the inadequacy of that insurance. COVID has made it painfully clear that where we stand with regard to healthcare and insurance is not sustainable, and certainly not a reality we should choose to live in. There has never been a more “right” time to tackle this head-on.
Enter two thoughtful founders – Abhishek and Saurabh – who have been building Plum to solve this problem. At Plum, I see an opportunity to learn, unlearn, and contribute to a team that is driven by a simple and impactful mission: By accelerating the adoption of health insurance, we want to build a future where everyone has access to quality healthcare at an affordable price.
Joining the team to lead business development is both a great responsibility and a great opportunity. By accelerating insurance penetration, we hope to lay a strong foundation on which healthcare and wellness infrastructure will be built. We’re in it for the long haul, we’re crazy enough to believe that we will succeed, and if we truly do, we believe it will be as a member of a thriving ecosystem around us.
This will be hard – very hard – but as Amol Deshpande of Farmer’s Business Network told me on a sunny morning in San Carlos, California: “If it’s not hard, it’s probably not worthwhile building it.”
If this is a future you believe in, I invite you to join us on this mission – as a partner, as a team member, as a customer, or even as a friend! We need the best people on deck to make this moonshot happen. I can’t tell you for sure what the journey will look like – especially after the year has gone by – but I firmly believe that amazing things are just waiting to happen.
What are you waiting for? Let’s build.