253 / April 14, 2024

Varun Mayya On India Vs America, AI Creators, Job Loss, & YouTube’s Future I The Neon Show

79 Minutes

253 / April 14, 2024

Varun Mayya On India Vs America, AI Creators, Job Loss, & YouTube’s Future I The Neon Show

79 Minutes
Listen on

About the Episode

This week’s episode is in discussion with one of India’s most promising AI content creators who talks about India Vs America, AI Creators, Job Loss, & Life Post Acquisition as we welcome Varun Mayya to the Neon Show!

Why Is The U.S. Culturally Declining?

Why Capitalism Should Be Celebrated In India!

Will India Ever Produce An Apple or Microsoft?

How Much Do You Need To Retire In India? All these juicy topics and more in this CHARISMATIC conversation about why capitalism should be celebrated in India. A dive into the inner workings of the current Indian mentality and what the future of AI will be in India… Tune in NOW!

Watch all other episodes on The Neon Podcast – Neon

Or view it on our YouTube Channel at The Neon Show – YouTube


(0:00 – 0:57)


I think the US is culturally in the decline. My brother got into YC and went to the US. The first thing he saw was some homeless guy walking on the road, throwing something at a car.


And then the second day, he saw somebody get arrested. I thought this was a joke, but it’s apparently true. Plus, there’s a proper attack on capitalism in the US.


Indians now and even the Chinese are extremely hungry. They want to win, right? I can sense the hunger in you.


I can sense the hunger in me. I can also sense it in every 18-year-old who’s like, I want to freelance. I want to make this much money.


And then I want to start a business. The US is not thinking like that. The US is playing cultural politics.


They’ve overdone, right? To the point where every 18-year-old’s life goal is to be an activist. I feel like the new heroes are going to be made on YouTube.


The problem with AI is it makes the people with the resources even more powerful. People love 12th Fail. I thought it was a great film, but I think it’s a net bad film.


India’s obsession with competitive exams. Somebody needs to kill me. The problem is there are too many businesses that make too much money that are incentivized to keep them alive.


Which AI stocks should I invest in? I invested in Nvidia last year.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (0:57 – 0:58)

Wow, you invested last year?


[Varun] (0:58 – 1:02)

Yeah, I’ve beaten every finance influencer in the country by just investing in Nvidia.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:02 – 1:14)

If somebody starting from the college right now in 2024 had to say, I want to replicate what Varun did by 2030, what would that be?

[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:14 -1:20)


You are an entrepreneur, creator, investor, and a big proponent of AI. And people love you on YouTube.


[Varun] (1:20 – 1:21)

Thank you.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:21 – 1:42)


Even after selling your last company, Avalon to Unacademy, you didn’t move to the US thinking that, Hey, I built a SaaS company in India. I want a larger scale.


Let me build it there in the US or build something in the US. You stayed in India because you saw an opportunity here, which is much larger if you had moved to the US and learned a new culture. A Varun of 20 years ago would have definitely moved to the US.

[Varun] (1:42 – 1:55)

I don’t think so. I actually don’t think I would have moved to the US to start a company. I’ll tell you why.


I have a thesis around the US, right? I think the US is culturally in the decline. Like, do you feel that?


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:56 – 2:01)

Why do you say that? I want to explore it. And what are the data points that you have to support that?


[Varun] (2:01 – 3:09)

Yeah, this might not be rooted so much in data. This is more rooted in anecdotes. My brother got into YC and he went to the US.


And he was in the US for the YC thing for like three, four months. And the first thing he saw was some guy walking on the road, some homeless guy walking on the road, throwing something at a car. And then the second day he saw somebody get arrested.


I thought this was a joke. Like I used to see this on Twitter and I’m like, it’s not going to happen all the time. But it’s apparently true, right?


So it’s a… See, when you have ultimate tolerance to everything, okay, if somebody’s breaking a car, it’s fine. The entire reason we have a jail system is so that we remove bad actors so that the good actors learn from the bad actors that that’s something they should not do.


If you forgive everything, then the good actors also say, well, if that’s allowed, then even I’ll do that, right? Like that’s how corruption has become in India where everyone’s like, okay, it’s okay to bribe or this or that. And just becomes normalized.


So the US has become like that where it’s that plus there’s a proper attack on capitalism in the US. People are not happy with Elon Musk. Like somebody like Elon Musk should be celebrated.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (3:09 – 3:10)



[Varun] (3:10 – 3:23)

Somebody like Jeff Bezos should be celebrated, but instead they’re being constantly attacked. And the average person thinks that Elon was stealing from them. So I don’t understand how this works, right?


And they just like increasing the tax rate, which…


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (3:24 – 3:47)

And they’re not thinking of this way that, for example, there’s a right now, for example, the current Karnataka government is spending 62,000 crores on freebies. Similarly, the US government is spending X amount on illegal immigrants, like giving them $10,000 each. So that is not stealing for the common man.


But the capitalism generating revenue by selling electric vehicles is stealing.

[Varun] (3:48 – 4:06)

So that’s what I said, right? Like you cannot protect a civilization from cultural decline. And I think America has…


Anecdotal, because there’s still… And this is not backed by data, because OpenAI and stuff are still from America. But I feel like you can see the frustration on a lot of people like Elon, right?


Like Elon, the Delaware… Do you know what happened in the Delaware case?


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (4:06 – 4:07)


Yes, tell me about it.


[Varun] (4:07 – 6:42)


Yeah. So Elon had spoken to his shareholders and he said, listen, the company’s valued at 60 billion or something at that time. I’ll take it to 600 billion, okay?


And if I take it to 600 billion, it’ll give me a roughly 60 billion pay package on top of everything. At that time, the company went from 60 billion to 600 billion, nobody believed it. So the board said, fine, done.


And the guy worked hard, beat all odds and actually got there. Then he said, okay, we had a deal. Give me my pay package.


And he’s made his shareholders 10 times the money. There was one guy with nine shares of Tesla, just nine shares of Tesla who went and sued Elon. And he said, this pay package is too big.


And then the judges actually came and they said, yeah, the pay package is exorbitant and they cancelled it. So usually what happens in a private company or a public company like Tesla, where the board has agreed to give this pay package on this return. 10 years later or whatever, so many years later, five, six years later, a judge from outside is saying, I’m cancelling this pay package, which is an agreed upon thing between the board and the CEO.


That violates so many principles, no? It looks like an unstable country now. Or if I have an agreement with this thing, the government can or the judges can overrule it later.


And the entire action was initiated by some guy with nine shares, with nine shares. So it just looks like a parody from here. It looks like this is a parody of capitalism at this point, right?


Whereas India has become far more, you know, this thing that, okay, you build businesses, we’ll help you. We’ll enable you to build businesses. You want to, you’re creating jobs.


There’s this thing in India called Skill India. I don’t know if you know this, right? But if you’re creating jobs, then your GST amounts are much lesser.


They’re enabling the growth of the country, right? That’s why UPI came out. That’s why, you know, the entire stacks are coming out because they’re like, we understand that capitalism is a way to get India to the next level, right?


Because we need, see, the math is simple. You just need everyone to have a lot more disposable income. For everyone to have a lot more disposable income, companies need to be far more profitable.


And you need more money in circulation. To do that, you need to enable more people to come out with better goods and services that improve the economy. You also need lots of exports to happen because money is not infinite in the country.


You need money to come from outside. So you need a lot of people exporting services outside the country as well, which is why we have things like LUT, for example, right? Letter of undertaking, where if you’re selling something outside, you don’t pay GST on it.


So we understand the game to some extent. And I’m surprised running a country of like so many billion people for them to be able to plan all this out and actually execute it the way it’s been executed. It’s not perfect, but I think it is done.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (6:42 – 6:43)

It’s progressive.


[Varun] (6:43 – 7:35)

It’s progressive. So I feel like everyone, and it’s not just us. There’s one more country that’s really going after this, which is China.




Because everyone can see, you know, the US is doing some… The US is parodying capitalism at this point.


And they’re making fun of it and what not. And then there are multiple opportunities open. And the UK is like playing the regulation game, right?


Which is, we will be known for regulating. We will not allow AI in the country. What a stupid decision.


Because it’s not like if you don’t allow AI tools in your country or AI software in your country, whatever kind of regulation, right? They keep regulating everything. I don’t know what the current regulation is.


But if you keep regulating everything and pat your back on it, Mark and Reesan had a nice tweet on this, right? Which is they regulate themselves and they pat their back for regulation. Every other country is not going to stop using these tools.


So they are just going to progress. And all your clientele will go sell, you know, will go export.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (7:35 – 7:46)

For example, right now in UAE, let’s say which has become the hub for the rich immigrants. The largest population is India from outside. The second is from the UK.


[Varun] (7:46 – 8:34)

Yeah. Oh, I didn’t know that.

Yeah. But think about it, you know? Like Indians now and even the Chinese are extremely hungry.


They want to win, right? Like I can sense the hunger in you. I can sense the hunger in me.


I can also sense it in every 18-year-old who’s like, I want to freelance and I want to make this much money. And then I want to start a business. The US is not thinking like that.


The US is playing cultural politics and they’re saying, oh, you know, I mean, nothing against like, I truly believe in diversity, inclusivity and all that, but they’ve overdone it, right? To the point where every 18-year-old’s life goal is to be an activist. I don’t think that’s wise for any economy.


And activism doesn’t create new capital, right? And you don’t have disposable income. People’s lives don’t get better.


So they’ve forgotten what made them successful. So I would not go to the US for these reasons. I’m hungry.


I’m still hungry. And I don’t want to go to a place with less hunger.

[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (8:35 – 8:39)

Do you think India is the best place that can serve your hunger?


[Varun] (8:40 – 9:09)

China, India, China. I think India is great. And I’ll tell you one thing, there are companies in India now with lots of disposable income, right?


Like, it’s just, I want to expand. And I think everyone wants to expand. And there was a time where, you know, even the old money in India was complacent, but now the old money also wants to expand.


They’re like, they’re playing the reputation game, which is I need to get bigger. I need to get stronger. And I think we have really, celebrating capitalism is important.


And countries that stop celebrating capitalism, capitalism is a bad word. Like a lot of people look at capitalism.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (9:10 – 9:15)

In the 90s, India was a bad word. Like every businessman was thought to be a mafia.


[Varun] (9:15 – 9:19)

Yeah, like people still look at capitalism as a bad guy, evil.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (9:19 – 9:21)

We have made money through illegal means.


[Varun] (9:21 – 10:25)


Yeah, but it’s not even making money through illegal means. Making money was a sin. But one thing I want to do, and I’m, you know, I’m glad that now on, see on social media, on YouTube, there’s lots of people who are creating content who are very, uh, uh, you know, they were talking about nonsense.


But now I think there’s a new wave of YouTubers like you, for example, right? You will have your growth curve like two, three years later, right? Where you start pulling significant more views, where you are pro capitalism, where you recognize that capitalism is not a bad word.


And it’s so simple, right? If capitalism wins, the person who’s watching this, anyone who’s watching this, I don’t know whether the camera is there yet. The person who’s watching this, your dad makes more money.


You make more money. You’re able to spend on more stuff. And you might say spending is bad, this, that, whatever.


It’s not. It’s like you’ll realize when you make money that there’s a limit to how much you can spend, right? And the more you spend, the more you’re creating in circulation for the next set of people who are part of the manufacturing process of that thing to make money.


Right? So keeping money in circulation is a good thing. And as long as you have enough money to survive, then all of this extra spending that you do is good for the economy.

[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (10:26 – 10:47)

But another fact is that unemployment in India is at 8%. Yeah. Right now.


And though there is this, it’s not going to decrease that. 8% is a huge number from an overall perspective. So do you think there is a narrative where India is great in the media, but there’s still some section where the poor are still poor?


[Varun] (10:47 – 10:49)


Yeah. See, there are two parts, right?


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (10:49 – 10:55)


And I want to add to it.


Finding a job in the current market is still very, very tough.


[Varun] (10:55 – 12:20)


See, I’ll tell you one thing, okay? If you’re hungry and you’re physically able, there are two parts, right? Like a lot of people…


See, I think people make mistakes with privilege. People think privilege is only capital-based privilege. Your parents were rich.


But I think there’s also a health benefit. So I’m only talking about the people who are… Because with a population of so many billion people, there’s lots of people who are sick, who can’t work, right?


So I’m excluding that. I assume that’s a very large number. But I feel like…


Like some… I read some stats, like something like 10% of people in the world have a chronic illness. So 8% unemployment, 10% chronic illness.


It’s like… It kind of makes sense. But there are also a lot of people who are like…


Who are probably drunks, right? Where you would classify that as a chronic illness. But somebody can actually help them come out of it.


But the point is… I think there are two parts. The first part is…


I think if people are hungry and able in the country, you will get employment, okay? Then the second part is about access. Like think about this.


I know a friend right now who’s looking for a driver, right? To drive his car on an everyday basis. He’s unable to find a driver.


Okay? Because there’s lots of people who come and then they have their own… This thing and…


It’s an open call. And I’m very sure there’s at least one unemployed person in the country who can be his driver. Who can make that money?


And just like him, I know lots of other people who need drivers, right? And people have this status thing, drivers are much lower. It doesn’t matter.


It’s all jobs. We are also… Like I also do work for…


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (12:20 – 12:21)

You’re also serving somebody.


[Varun] (12:21 – 12:22)

Yeah. I’m also serving somebody.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (12:22 – 12:24)

You’re driving a business for somebody, right? It’s also a driver.


[Varun] (12:24 – 14:30)

I’m also driving for… You know, for my clients. And if my clients are not happy, actually I have much more to lose than, you know, a regular driver.


So we’re all in service. This is… That’s how the world works, right?


So none of these people actually want to be drivers. And they want to… It’s not that none of these people want to be drivers.


There are lots of people that want to be drivers that can’t find employment with this person because they don’t have access. So it’s actually an access and a connectivity problem or a connection problem. And I think over time that will get better with AI.


Because it’s not like we… Like if I put up a job post, it’s not like I don’t get responses. I don’t get quality responses.


I don’t get the right response. A lot of people who apply are not serious or something like that, right? Or don’t fit the criteria, don’t want to do the job.


So I feel like AI will eventually help bring these people together. We’ll be like, these are the 10 most ideal jobs you should apply for today. And even the application process will be automatic because you’re applying on the merit of you, not on how good your pitch is, right?


So that will be much better. And also on the slightly more senior unemployment end, or not senior, but like let’s say slightly higher on the perceived status curve, software engineers are getting unemployed, AI is coming, this, that. Because there was a, as you know, right?


There was a crazy funding boom three years ago. Lots of companies hired. So many react engineers are hired, for example.


And then suddenly many of them are losing their jobs. That I think is like an identity fixation. Because many of these people have gotten fixated with the identity of, I’m a software engineer that works on this stack, that works on this, you know, language.


And this is who I am. And I’m not willing to wiggle out of it. Dude, my dad has worked in so many different hospitals. He is a doctor.


He’s worked in so many different hospitals because he had to adapt over the years, right? If he, if my dad said, I only want to work in this hospital, in this place, in this, this thing, I don’t think he’d have a career, right? I don’t think he’d even be like an employed doctor right now.


So everyone was flexible, right? And I feel like some of that is on flexibility. Like I’ll give you a specific example.


There is a person that I know who we would hire on the spot for maybe eight lakhs an annum. Good junior talent. But last to last year, the person was paid 20 lakhs and now cannot get it out of their head that they’re worth 20 lakhs.


They are not worth 20 lakhs in my opinion.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (14:30 – 14:32)


False sense of worth.


[Varun] (14:32 – 15:16)


False sense of worth.


I mean, you know what I mean, right? Like we’ve seen a lot of talent like this, where in 2021, it’s like, that was in 2021, my valuation is also, you know, it’s out of the, through the roof, right? So we all took massive haircuts.


So if we all took massive haircuts, then you should be okay with saying, well, the new norm is eight and move on. And a lot of people who have done that mental adjustment have done very well in life. A lot of people who haven’t done that mental adjustment, because I’ve done that mental adjustment.


And so have you, I’m sure with all the valuation, you have so many portfolios. You have seen rents, right? So we’ve all done the mental adjustment to be like, okay, we are far less valuable than we used to be.


But that’s okay because everyone else was, is now far less valuable than they used to be. But we still hear that one story of that one guy in another company who still has his job, who’s still making 30-40 lakhs.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (15:16 – 15:17)

You keep on comparing.


[Varun] (15:18 – 15:59)

You keep on comparing. And you’re like, well, why do I have to take a haircut when he doesn’t have to take a haircut? So you stay unemployed for a while.


And many of those people, I check in with them every six months to see if they’re still interested. They’re still unemployed. So I’m sure they contribute to the statistics as well, right?


In a way where this mental adjustment is not possible. So at both ends of the curve, there’s unemployment. I also do think the chronic health thing can be a driver for unemployment in India.


Because remember, for a long time, we didn’t have access to vaccinations. Like I’m talking about the measles, mums, stuff like that. A lot of people had TB in the country.


We weren’t known as the most hygiene-friendly or the healthiest country in the world. We have a huge case of diabetes. Like diabetes is like a rampant disease.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (15:59 – 16:01)

Obesity and diabetes is rampant in India.


[Varun] (16:02 – 16:06)

So unemployment stats should be double-clicked a little better, I feel.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (16:07 – 16:52)

So one interesting episode, which I just recently recorded and published yesterday, is called Poverty of Aspiration. It is with Sanjeev Sanyal, the economic advisor to PM Modi. And he said that in every society, they first choose their heroes, and then they choose their government.


So what he means is, if your union leaders or even UPSC becomes your heroes, then you will choose Mamata Banerjee or Lalu Prasad, the other, and your state would end up West Bengal or Bihar. Whereas if you make Mukesh Ambani or Dirubhai Ambani your hero, you will become like Mumbai, and you will choose your leaders like that, or Gujarat.


[Varun] (16:53 – 16:55)

It’s a very charisma-driven world we live in, no?


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (16:56 – 16:56)

Yeah, like…


[Varun] (16:58 – 17:06)

Yeah, like, I don’t think that’s fully true because my heroes would have been people like Elon, for example, right? But I’m not in the US right now. And I’m not…


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (17:06 – 17:27)

But you don’t need to be, right? Elon built it in the US because he couldn’t see a future in South Africa. That’s why he migrated.


Got it, yeah.


You are seeing a future in India. You’re thinking that probably you can build a thousand crore revenue company sitting here in India, right?


That’s your first step to creating like Elon Musk and then shifting the gears.


Yeah, yeah.


[Varun] (17:27 – 17:28)



[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (17:28 – 17:30)

And you’re still like, what, 30 years?


[Varun] (17:30 – 17:30)



[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (17:30 – 17:30)



[Varun] (17:31 – 17:31)



[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (17:31 – 17:37)

Elon is at 55 or 60 years old, and he built and sold when he was 32, 33.


[Varun] (17:37 – 18:31)

He’s done it so many times.


Yeah, I agree with you. But I agree with you on charisma, this thing as well, right? And think about the national platform of the country right now.


It is not TV. Nobody gives a shit about TV. In fact, I would say it’s the other way around.


People are using TV to watch YouTube. 25% of my audience watches me on YouTube TV, which is like, I’m sure you can see your podcast stats. It’ll be a pretty high number of people watching on TV.


So I feel like the new heroes are going to be made on YouTube. Twitter, maybe, but slightly less because the audience size of Twitter is lower. And Instagram to some extent, but it’s still short form, so connection is low.


So I think the blessed opportunity that I have is, and that you have as well, is you get to be the role model for the country and your ideals and your goals and your…


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (18:31 – 18:32)

And what you communicate through this medium.


[Varun] (18:32 – 18:39)

Yeah, what you communicate through this medium is now going to be much more important to the people watching, right? Than their old ideals.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (18:40 – 18:50)

And another thing is that the tier two and tier three youth of India, are you still seeing them aspire for UPSC and government exams, or they are graduating up the funnel?


[Varun] (18:50 – 18:58)

See, every time I see that, then I see a film like 12th Fail. People love Twelfth Fail. I thought it was a great film, but I think it’s net bad for India.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (18:58 – 19:00)


Yeah, I agree.


[Varun] (19:00 – 21:46)


Because it makes you aspire to, you know, do something. See, I’ll tell you the problem.


And you know this, right? With entrance exams, there is a limited number of people that can come out on top. It is a zero-sum game, very clearly zero-sum.


It’s not like in a business, right? Somebody else starts a business, you want to start the same business, you can start it with a twist. And you can gain some of the, you know, customer base.


And there’s lots of other businesses and ideas you can really take on, right? Shops are the best example of this. If your shop doesn’t work here, change the location, start a shop.


Maybe it’ll work there. So I think UPSC or any of the other entrance exams are not like that. There’s a limited number of seats and you have to get in.


And it’s almost like India’s obsession with competitive exams, somebody needs to kill. And the problem is there are too many businesses that make too much money that are incentivized to keep them alive, right? And I’m not just talking about the edtechs, I’m also talking about the old school, like Kota, you know, institutions who are like, okay, let’s keep this alive because so much revenue comes from.


Because the craze, when a kid wants to get into UPSC and enter that because the parents are so driven. I’m very confident that the next generation of fairly wealthy Indians or even tier two Indians will not send their kids to UPSC. Because they’re like, if they went through, they’d be like, this is too hard and it’s unnecessary to go through this.


I’ll tell you why. I got it, so 15 years ago, I never thought my parents would be okay with an arranged marriage. Today, I’m married to a person who’s not from South India, right?


And my parents are okay with it. So this adaptation has happened. And I know if my parents can adapt out of arranged marriage, I know that a lot of other people can adapt around UPS.


A lot of parents can adapt around UPSC. It is the end of the world. If you don’t get into this exam, if you don’t get into IIT, you’re a failure in life. They can adapt around it.


And most of the time parents are, they are loving, right? Like they do care about their kids. And if the kid can’t get into IIT, you might hate him for like three, four days.


And then you’re like, I get why. It’s so competitive. So we should kill the obsession with competitive exams.


And somebody needs to go on a crusade against competitive exams. Be like, this is a scam. It’s not a scam, but the dynamics are such that most people who do it will waste their time.


And they just keep trying again and again and again. Whereas I feel like capitalism is a much better game. You come, there are so many companies in Bangalore that will hire you for some role or the other.


And you can work your way up because ultimately whether you do, I mean UPSC is an exception, but whatever exam you do, eventually the goal is to get a job. So you can skip a few steps and just go get a job starting at the lower rung and then move higher, right? I know lots of people who start at much lower roles and then take initiative and say, okay, can I also do this?


Can I also do this? And then move up the ranks, right?

[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (21:46 – 22:17)


And capitalism values entrepreneurship, capitalism values initiative, initiative equity. For example, I can tell you, Freshworks got made and Freshworks created hundreds of people with $10 million of wealth. And now they’re pumping money back, right?


They’re all my limited partners in the fund. And now they’re circulating the economy. That money is going into new startups.


[Varun] (22:17 – 23:35)

You know, the biggest lie I was told when I was young is that people need a lot of money. Like this guy is doing this because he wants to make more money. Like you’ll see it in some comments, right?


No, he’s just doing it for money. I’ve never found that to be true for anyone. Like there’s some people who I’m afraid of, who I know that this matters, but it’s not for the money reasons.


I’ll give you an example. After, I mean, this is a question to you, right? After like, let’s say 10-15 crores in your bank, you don’t need any more money.


In fact, in India, I would say 5 crores is enough. 4-5 crores, you don’t have to worry about cash. Beyond whatever that, the amount of money you’re making, there’s a little bit more of a safety net.


You have a little more cushion. Let’s say you take till 30 crores, 40 crores. After that, you’re not going to worry how much is in the bank because your interest is making you enough money, right?


What do you do with the rest? Why do you make a single dollar beyond that? It’s simple.


You’re doing it for reputation, right? Or you’re doing it to build something crazy, right? You’re saying, okay, now I’ll take a bet on this or that.


So sometimes I find it funny that people are like, oh, this guy tried this and he failed or this guy tried this and it crashed or whatever because it doesn’t matter because you’re… The person probably already… Like people keep saying Elon Musk went all in on this.


He didn’t go all in. He probably still had 2-3 million dollars in his bank. At that point, he probably had 100 mil and then he went down from 100 mil.


He spent 98 mil to 2 mil.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (23:35 – 23:36)

He always had five companies running.


[Varun] (23:37 – 25:13)

Yeah, and he always had five companies running. So it always went to 100 mil. Even if he spent 98 mil, which looks like you’re going all in, the baseline to live is so low that it’s not really all in.


You’re covered. You don’t have to worry about money. And then the rest, the delta is like, you can spend how much ever you want of it, right?


And there are some people who choose to spend smaller amounts of money. There are some people who are just… They don’t have anything to do.


So they’re willing to spend all their money. So I feel like the myth told to me was that money is evil and you don’t need to keep making… And anyone who’s making more of it is like…


Or rather, you need to be greedy to make more of it or whatever, right? And there’s no need to make money beyond a certain point. But I’ve learned from seeing other people and a little bit of experience as well that it doesn’t matter about a certain amount.


Beyond that, you’re actually doing it to create impact or you’re doing it for reputation. Ideally, a mixture of both, right? Because when you go into the arena and you make…


Like, do you think it matters to me if I make 100 crores? It doesn’t matter, right? But it is like, it’s a reputation thing, right?


It’s like, okay, he’s figured it out. And it’s like, I feel like that is more important to a lot more people than the actual 2, 3, 4 million or whatever, the baseline amount of money they have in their bank. So I feel like India needs to learn that.


And the minute you learn that, you realize that everyone playing beyond that 20 to 100 crore mark, they are sort of playing for these big goals and you can be a beneficiary of those big goals, right? Because they are sending that money back into circulation where I think the truly evil people are the people who have 100 million and don’t spend it. Like, I’m glad that Ambani spent 1000 crores on the wedding.


So much money back in circulation, so many jobs created.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (25:13 – 25:24)

And so much change of view about India from all the billionaires that visited India. Because they are seeing India change very rapidly every second year.


[Varun] (25:24 – 26:49)

You know, I went to an Intel event recently and one of the VPs of Intel was there from abroad. And he’s like, last time I came to India, the roads were so bad. This time I was like, I was so surprised with the airport and this and that.


So India is improving. But more than, you know, India improving, I think this mindset around… You know, there used to be this mindset that if the guy has billions of dollars, he’s so humble, he’s not spending any money.


So good. Like, there are some people, right? Like, some founders who, they’ll have a 1000 crores in their bank, but they’ll, you know, wear the cheapest clothes.


They won’t spend any money. They’ll be misers about 10-20 rupees. I think that is the enemy, right?


We have gotten so used to this idea of, you know, being humble is good. But humble, there are many kinds of humble. Humble is like, okay, I know everything can…


Like, my version of humility is like, tomorrow, everything I have can go to zero because of some change, openAi can launch something and then everything I do is worthless, right? That’s my level of humility, where I can go down to zero. I can be stripped naked.


But a lot of people don’t see that as humility. They see humility as, okay, what you’re wearing, you know, are you spending? Okay, this person not spending on cars or this or that, not buying any…


Like, for example, this. That’s actually bad for the economy. If somebody is very, very rich and they’re just hoarding money, what are they hoarding money for?


Right? That is the villain. And I feel like we should be more mindful towards the fact that after you have enough money for your baseline, you should put that back into the economy.


You should circulate that cash.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (26:50 – 27:07)

And a parallel to that is like, I think serial entrepreneurs are artists, right? Because for example, once they have 20 to 50 crores, they don’t even need to touch 90% of that money. But what are they creating again, right?


They’re doing it because they want to express themselves.


[Varun] (27:07 – 27:07)


Love of the game.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (27:07 – 27:08)


Love of the game, right.


[Varun] (27:08 – 28:03)

Sachin Bansal has a tweet on this, where he’s like, most entrepreneurs who do well will not touch any of that money. Something like that. He’s like, we do it because we love the game and we enjoy what we’re doing.


And it’s just a way to keep score. That’s it. Like, that’s the thing.


No, money’s utility changes after that 10 crore, 20 crore, whatever. You can call it a different market. For some people, it’s 4 crores.


For some people, it’s 10 crores. For some people, it’s 20 crores. Once you reach that mark, money changes.


The value of money changes. It starts becoming more about a way to keep score with other entrepreneurs, other players in the game. It’s sort of like when you play a game, right?


Like a Call of Duty or something, where you’re looking at your score and it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. The first 5, 6, 10 crores, it does matter, right? Because without that, there are severe repercussions to not having that kind of money, right?

And I feel with AI over time, that 5 crores requirement, what’s the average requirement now for a household? For a, let’s say, a person?


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (28:03 – 28:11)

For a person, let’s say, if single, let’s say 4-5 lakhs a year. For married couples with children, 10 to 12 lakhs a year.


[Varun] (28:11 – 28:13)

How much do you need in the bank for that to be a float?


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (28:15 – 28:23)

Every 3 to 4 lakhs, you need to have almost, it used to say, right? You need to have 6 months of…


[Varun] (28:23 – 28:25)


No, no, don’t think that, think retirement cash.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (28:25 – 28:28)


I think retirement, let’s say, 2-3 crores in India is retirement cash.




For an average family.


For my family. For, they can generate 7% interest every year on that, which is 14-15 lakhs. For example, a 36 to 37 year old who has made 2 and 3 crores between that, they can potentially retire with their lifestyle, with a decent lifestyle.


[Varun] (28:47 – 29:27)

Yeah. So let’s say 2-3 crores, right? With AI, that’s only going to reduce.


And especially if you’re willing to live on land that’s slightly far away, that’s probably going to go to 30 lakhs, 40 lakhs. So the truth, and coming back to AI, right? The true value of AI is it reduces your cost of living.


Therefore, it allows you any game you play beyond that. This retirement amount today, it’s 2-3 crores. Obviously, inflation is moving it up, but AI will move it back down.


And it will come to such a low amount where you’re like, I have enough money. Maybe 50-60 lakhs where I don’t need to worry about money. The roof on my head is sorted.


My food is sorted. My thing is, I have an AI assistant in physical, this thing to grow crops if I really need to. All that is going to happen.


And the rest of the money that you make through your craft, you’re doing it for the love of the game.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (29:27 – 29:28)



[Varun] (29:28 – 29:36)

So that is going to be the, you know, future of the country. And I’m glad we’re in a country that respects that versus a country that doesn’t respect.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (29:36 – 29:43)

I think the first thing that I’m seeing is the country respecting capitalism so much.


[Varun] (29:43 – 29:52)

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, see, half the reason people hated capitalism is because of, it’s also jealousy, no?


Somebody’s making a lot of money.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (29:52 – 30:15)

So I think earlier, money was the only tool to create access. Now, for example, the content that you have created and the content that I have created creates access. Yeah.


Right? So money is not the only tool. So earlier to get the people access that I want, I needed to have 100 crores in the bank.


Yeah. To be taken seriously. To be taken seriously.


To get put in the door, to get one meeting with them.


[Varun] (30:15 – 31:25)

Yeah. We have sidestepped the game with content, right? And I feel like, like you get somebody on a podcast, they are gaining something from it, right?


Certain number of views. And you are learning a lot more about them. And they are learning a lot more about you, right?


Because over a podcast, it is impossible not to learn a little bit about the other person. And now that’s a lifelong relationship. You can always call on the relationship later for whatever needs.


And that’s why I said, keep saying this, people are at the start of your career paid for what you know. Towards the end of the career paid for who you know. So I keep telling people that the reason to create content is that access just keeps improving over time.


And you just get, there’s a point where you get to know enough people to move things around. And, you know, there’s no end to that. You can keep going, right?


Like for example, in India, now I’ve become reasonably connected, but in the US, I’m not that connected. So let’s play that game. Let’s, let’s play the step up, slow step up game in the US as well, right?


If I’m creating American content, I mean, if I’m creating content for the world, then it is kind of my responsibility. And I’ll tell you that the most exciting part of what I’m doing is maybe creating content for the globe. I’m also able to tell the US the value of capitalism.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (31:25 – 31:26)



[Varun] (31:26 – 31:41)

Right. If they are the ones also following me, and I can be like, look at India. Being the storyteller of Indian technological progress is a, it’s a, it’s a blessing and responsibility, which I have to take seriously.


And that’s something that I’ve woken up to in the last few months.

[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (31:41 – 31:50)

And you think now at some point AI will replace creators because there are a lot of 3D avatars coming up.


[Varun] (31:50 – 35:59)


And the avatar that we’ve done, right? Certainly it is going to replace the activities of a creator. But see, I keep making this distinction, right?


There is distribution, there’s content and there’s distribution. Content creates distribution, right? If done well.


And think about it, right? Like my last 10 reels have been completely AI generated. Audio is AI generated.


Video is AI generated. Script is AI generated. News is publicly available.


The editing is manual, right? So that is one part of things. You take that and we’ve done like 10, 12, 13 of it, right?


In the last few weeks, we do about one a day. And it’s not affected the views. So I still have, like if I’d made a new channel, it might not have worked.


But because I have an existing channel and I have existing trust, and I’m still not going to, like, I’m not going to use AI and then put out absolute garbage, right? I’m still, it’s still going to follow the process of me. It still writes like me in a way, right?


So I’m not going to screw that up. And as long as I don’t screw that up, people still find the information valuable. In my last AI generated reel, this is a feat for us.


Because in every AI generated reel, people would be like, this is AI generated. Someone would type it. My last AI generated reel, not one person said this is AI generated.


So they still find the information valuable and they’re commenting on the information. So as a creator, you have the opportunity to productize yourself now. But the distribution remains.


I still have half a million followers on Instagram, close to half a million on YouTube. That is not going to go away. And there’s still lots of kinds of content that you can’t replace, like a vlog or whatever, right?


So I feel the people, the problem with AI is, it makes the people with the resources even more powerful, right? Because it automates the process that you used to do on an everyday basis. So if you have some leverage that is not directly related to your time, like if you have lots of capital, your current capital, let’s say we were talking about this, right?


You have 100 crores in the bank. You’re generating whatever, some 8-10 crores a year in interest. That’s not dependent on your time, right?


Now, let’s say an AI can actually come and help you deploy that capital better because it’s not related to your time. Now, if you have, let’s say, like me, right? Distribution.


It’s not the distribution itself, the 500k, like I don’t need to spend time to retain that 500k at the 500k. But to get bigger, I can use AI now and that can leverage my distribution in a way. So I’m giving AI an advantage, which is my distribution, and it is sort of returning some dividends to me, right?


Which is the same thing that a lot of people in many other fields are facing. So if anything, it just widens the gap. But also what is surprising me and what I think is, you know, the reason I say we are really early is because there’s only 200 million people who use ChatGPT.


There’s like 7.1 billion mobile phone users. I don’t see a single other Indian creator. I mean, I haven’t seen them, the ones at scale, doing short form content with AI yet.


Even though it’s there, right? It’s perfectly available. And maybe the, you know, the actual footage you send in for training, you might need to come to us for a second, or just you can call me and I’ll tell you, right?


Like, it’s not like, it’s like that much of a secret. They’re not doing it. The number of creators who are still AI related, but have not used Cloud3, which writes much better than GPT.


It’s surprising, like you can make something with one click, you can make it very simple, but people either because they don’t have the information or they don’t want to, you know, go try it. Cloud3 probably has much less users than ChatGPT. Mid Journey has some 15-20 million users.


Look at the world population, right? So I would say we’re still early. And one of the advantages of us knowing all this automation is happening, like, you know, a lot of people watching this might think, oh Varun, so you’re saying that you’ll build a company now and then you’ll remove all your people later.


That’s actually not our goal. And this company was started post the AI revolution, right? The gen AI revolution.


So every time we hire, we tell people this, right? That we don’t want you being stuck in doing the same task, you know, the most menial task, right? Over time, as technology replaces that particular job, we expect you to move one level up, right?


And when it removes that, you move one level up.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (35:59 – 36:00)

And use better tools.


[Varun] (36:00 – 36:20)

And use better tools, right? We will find the tools for you. We will tell you how to keep moving one level up.


So the entire org is designed in a way where everyone embraces automation in a way, right? Like, I mean, I can’t imagine that 100% of people are excited by it because I know that even, you know, when I see some of these new technologies, I’m like, oh shit, like Sora, for example. It’s like, oh my God, this is really good.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (36:20 – 36:28)

Tell me more about Sora, right? Do you think you’re using various other tools to generate? Can Sora combine everything and just do it?


[Varun] (36:28 – 39:42)

Sora will replace B-roll. Because Sora will not, like this conversation that we’re having, Sora will not be able to generate. Also, what is the prompt you would use to generate this conversation we’re having right now?


Because this is all insight that’s in my head, right? And insight that’s in your head. And this conversation is very fluid in a way, right?


Like I could take this glass and drop it, for example. So it is very dynamic. Whereas what I think Sora will really replace is like B-rolls.


So in video, there’s usually an A-roll and a B-roll. This is A-roll. Let’s say in the clip of this, you’re showing mountains and seas and whatnot.


That would be B-roll, right? So Sora is great at replacing B-roll. And, you know, there is a slightly inferior version of Sora right now.


It’s called stable video diffusion. And we do use some stable video diffusion, especially for motion graphics. There is some evidence that it works.


Right now, you know, you can put an image and then, let’s say you generate an image in Mid Journey and then you put it in stable video diffusion. It’ll add some pan, tilt, movement, something. Some dynamism it’ll add.


So it looks good in B-roll. Otherwise, if you just show an image for three seconds while a person is talking, it looks boring. So you just need to…


It’s almost like it’s adding a little bit of depth and animation to it. So I feel Sora will play that role. Will it generate entire videos end-to-end?


I’m not convinced that it will generate the exact video you want. Like, think about it, right? Like, if I need to tell you…


Like, maybe it will generate a… Like, let’s say if I say, okay, generate a horror movie and you decide the plots and all that. Maybe at some point, videos down the line, it’ll do that.


But it will not generate this. This is too dynamic for Sora, right? And this conversation, even if you don’t know what’s going on.


Next, even I don’t know what’s going to come next. How would you prompt it? So yes, certain kinds of content, yes.


And who I think will win is… I think there’s a bunch of video editing tools that will win on this. Like Premiere Pro, for example, or After Effects.


Where it’ll just be like, okay, you know, prompt the B-roll clip and put it there. Just like Photoshop One and Generative Fill. These tools will win in this space.


You still need A-roll footage. And I do think A-roll footage will also be replaced, right? With HN and a bunch of other tools.


And I think about putting them together… Somebody will still need to sit and put them together. Because there’s still a narrative.


There’s still a story to be told. And it’s very hard for the AI to decide what goes where. Because it’s all very culturally context-dependent, right?


For example, in my videos, I do this thing called check out this video sometimes, right? When I’m reacting to a video. That might be a little bit hard for AI to figure out right now.


Like a Sora to figure out right now that, okay, that’s the area that I put a video in, but I don’t… So there will be a combination of tools. And I feel like there still has to be one person sitting behind saying, okay, these are the set of tools I need to put together.


That’s why I keep saying, right? The video editor role will evolve. Today’s video editors are doing something very different from video editors like four, five years ago.


Like there are tools like Autopod where you’re speaking. And then I show a little bit of your face when you’re speaking. And then when I’m speaking, it recognizes my voice.


So it now pans the camera to my face or switches the camera to my face. I feel like editors are now using these sorts of tools. And your job is to synthesize and put the clip out in as quick a time as possible.


And I do feel like it is a much better role than sitting the entire time figuring out, okay, Siddhartha spoke here, I’ll clip this. Varun spoke here, I’ll clip this. Bullshit job, right?


So now it makes the job more entertaining, more fun, more creative.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (39:42 – 40:03)

Yeah. But this is just one domain, right? What are the other domains like a common man where you think AI will impact their life?


For example, a small grocery shop owner or a student appearing for the board exams. Are their lives getting impacted or is just the top 200 million of the world using chat GPT that is affected by AI?


[Varun] (40:03 – 40:04)

What’s the timeline?


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (40:04 – 40:07)

10 years. Okay. Or five years, more or less.


[Varun] (40:07 – 41:59)

Let’s take different timelines, right? Because everyone has a different viewpoint on what the AI timelines are. Let’s take a two-year timeline, which I think lots of stuff will happen, but it won’t be like world shattering stuff.


I think many of these people will have AI in their homes. Because it makes absolute sense for Apple with Siri, which I know Kirana store users are not using. And Google, like your Android phones, where on the home screen itself, right now you have that Google.


You used to have a Google app where you could search with your voice. That’s going to be AI driven. And I think we’re also going to have AI wearables.


So the first step is we’re going to have these AI wearables where you’re wearing it and you’re looking at a banana. And see, till now, a lot of money is made in information asymmetry. If you’re like the example, I give it to a used car salesman.


Suppose you’re a used car salesman and I come to you and you’re showing me a new, I don’t know, Ferrari. Sorry, a used Ferrari. And you’re saying, sir, this is an amazing Ferrari, sir, everything works, sir, gears work, brakes work.


I’m an uneducated customer. I just have money. I’ve heard Ferrari is good.


And I don’t have money to buy a new one. I’m coming to you because it’s a used one. But there is an information asymmetry between us.


You know more about the car than I do. If the brakes are faulty, you know it. If the gears do not work, whatever.


I don’t know enough about cars, but whatever. If you say that it works, I’ll have to take you at face value. So I’m starting, and this happens a lot in real estate.


Evaluating a property, but you don’t know if the guy, the broker selling it to you or the person selling it to you is lying or not. And you know that they know more than you, but you don’t know if they’re trustworthy or not. So you’re making secondary judgments.


So you’re addressing how, you’re checking how the person’s dress is. You’re checking the name of the company. Is this a legitimate company?


You’re checking if the person’s speaking to you well, if he’s lying in any other thing that you can catch, you know, see if he’s lying about the car. So the world works on information asymmetry. I think AI is destroying information asymmetry.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (41:59 – 42:00)

Give me examples on that.


[Varun] (42:00 – 42:41)

Right, right. So if I’m going to a grocery store and I have this, and I don’t know too much about, for example, mangoes, but an AI will be able to look at the mango with computer vision and tell me that, Varun, this mango is spoiled. And then it’s like the kirana store owner on the other end is like, no, it’s not spoiled.


And I can be like, no, my AI is telling me. Almost like, if I go to see a car and I can sit inside the car and I can be like, okay, AI, help me run diagnostics. And the AI says, well, first check the brakes, do this, do this step, then this step, then this step to see if it’s working.


Fine, gearbox is fine. Good enough. We’ve got a decent viewpoint on it.


Okay, check the brakes, check this, check the fuselage or whatever.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (42:41 – 42:47)

Many now cars are coming with the AI first dashboard, at least which is giving the overall health of the car inside the car.


[Varun] (42:47 – 43:22)

Correct. And that will be even like, in fact, if anything, that will be even more useful, right? So not only will you have a, like a very smart, it’s like me having an expert in everything.


What we used to do with interiors, like I’m getting interiors done for the new office, right? I don’t know what the cost of interiors are. I’m not an interior expert.


And it’s a waste of my time to go figure it out. And in the past, I’d actually go figure it out. I’d be like, this is something new.


I’ll go figure it out. But now it’s like with AI, I’m carrying an extremely intelligent, like with interiors, we didn’t do this. We hired an interior designer on our side.


We said, I’m carrying one smart person from my side, if you scam me, this person will know. So AI is like a counter scam, sort of, you know, agent.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (43:22 – 43:28)

For example, let’s say I’m buying mangoes from a grocery store and I’m wearing the Google AI lens.


[Varun] (43:28 – 43:29)

Yeah. The Meta Ray-Bans.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (43:29 – 43:37)

The Meta Ray-Bans. It’ll tell me, right? If it’s an Alphonso mango, which variety is the mango, what’s the cost across all the big baskets?


[Varun] (43:37 – 43:38)




[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (43:38 – 43:42)


Right. All, all the stores where they need to even buy it from the grocery store or should order it on Zepto?


[Varun] (43:42 – 44:00)

That’s what I said, right? It destroys information asymmetry.


I went to SP Road recently, where you get computer parts and we were building a few computers for the team. And I love assembling computers. So I went to SP Road myself.


I could have ordered it from Amazon. And I, every product that the guy gave me. I was like, see Amazon pay a price.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (44:00 – 44:01)



[Varun] (44:01 – 44:10)

Actually, Amazon inflates prices. There are other websites for computer parts that don’t inflate prices. I’m like, look, this is cheaper on Amazon.


Why are you charging?


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (44:10 – 44:11)



[Varun] (44:11 – 44:29)

And then at the end of it, he got exhausted because we bought a lot of parts. And then he just stopped. And he’s like, this Amazon will shut our business.


Or something like that. Where he said that it’s going to shut down our business. I was like, why?


Because this entire business ran on me telling you a price and you believing it.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (44:29 – 44:39)

And I had an advantage, right? Of having a physical space, being the person. You can’t catch the reseller on Amazon, but you can catch me if I sell you a faulty thing.


[Varun] (44:39 – 44:44)

Yeah. No, it’s not even that. Like on Amazon, you know, you’re getting refunds, you know, without asking.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (44:44 – 44:47)

Within 30 days, but overall, he’ll say, I’ll give you a six months guarantee or.


[Varun] (44:47 – 44:48)



[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (44:48 – 44:49)

It was a personal promise.


[Varun] (44:49 – 45:41)



Personal promises. But I’ll tell you one thing, personal promises versus you billing me slightly higher, where I have complete information parity, right? So now imagine if I had glasses and he said 1900, but AI will just tell you, and this is possible today.


Somebody just has to build it, right? I wouldn’t get into the game because Meta would crush me and Google would crush me.


Even if they’ll be one year late to the party or like Apple, they’ll be one or two years late, but they’ll crush us.


But they would come and the AI thing on your, on board would say, hey, Varun, the guy’s lying about this, right? This is what the price should be. So it, it, it makes a world that is far more truthful.


One change I’ve noticed in myself, right? And this is by virtue of being in the public eye. In the last seven, eight months, once I’ve gotten to scale, I started becoming extremely truth seeking.


And as honest as I possibly can, assuming that every single conversation I ever have in life is being recorded.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (45:41 – 45:42)



[Varun] (45:42 – 46:16)

Because it kind of is, right? Everyone has a phone around. You don’t know who’s recording.


You have a large team. I’m just, I live my life like a priest now, from now on, right? And with AI, you know, I think everyone’s going to have to do that.


Because there are, it’s going to be a world where you cannot hustle somebody else easily, right? And a lot of people hustled other people because they had information advantage. I think those information advantages are gone.


AI will know. So is it going to impact Kirana store owners in two years, Kirana store owners? Absolutely.


Because it’s going to remove these small advantages. These are, this is, could be margin, right? We call it margin.


Faulty defective pieces.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (46:16 – 46:18)

They would have sold faulty lemons.


[Varun] (46:18 – 46:19)



[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (46:19 – 46:20)

Just to get them off the shelf.


[Varun] (46:20 – 46:27)

Get them off the shelf to some unsuspecting customers. So now more inventory sits in the Kirana store owners. So it’s not good for sellers.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (46:27 – 46:28)



[Varun] (46:28 – 46:46)

Right. It is much better for buyers, right? So this is the, you know, two year, three year advantage in the offline world.


In five years, we’ll have physical robots. Like I’m fairly certain we’ll have robots helping us with tasks, helping us, you know, even if like I used to say, well, there’s no job for me online. I’ll probably end up farming, right?


I think AI will do farming also.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (46:46 – 46:53)

Yeah. No, I think we are seeing more and more robotic use cases in the US. At least warehousing is going towards automation.


[Varun] (46:53 – 47:14)

But you know, that was the previous form of automation. New forms of automation will be full, like limbs moving around. And a lot of people ask, you know, why, why are we building it in the shape of human beings?


Right. But I think we are building it in the shape of human beings because the world is designed for humans, right? Like hospitals, for example, they’re designed for wheelchairs also, right?


Similarly, the world, like all your shelves, the way shelves are kept, the way tables are kept, it’s all human.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (47:14 – 47:18)

I think nature has perfected over millions of years. So why to reinvent at least the human form?


[Varun] (47:18 – 47:22)

Yeah, that two plus everything we have built is all only designed for us. It’s not designed for cats.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (47:22 – 47:23)



[Varun] (47:23 – 47:59)

Like when a cat jumps on a table, it’s like, it’s, it’s not natural for the cat to be on a table. But for human beings, you know, it’s perfect height, perfect for my hands to be here, whatever. So if you see figure 01, 1X, Optimus, which is Tesla’s Optimus, robotics is getting better.


And I don’t fully understand hardware as much as I’ve learned over the years, because it’s important for me to pick it up. But I can foresee robots, just like a store owner, just deploying the robot. Like I said, right?


The store owner has leverage. He’s bought that small property. He owns that shop.


He has some connections within the offline world from where he gets lemons and all that. You just keep a robot selling that.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (47:59 – 48:30)

But don’t you think India will, if you have a service advantage, right? You have a foot in the door, you have distribution, you know how to use AI. India is going to be back in where it was used when the era of Infosys and TCS, where India is a leader in services.


Will India produce anything like Apple, Microsoft or OpenAI even? Is that even possible when the best of Indian entrepreneurs believe that services are how you make money?


[Varun] (48:30 – 51:40)

Yeah. I don’t believe services are the best way to make money. Like I’m doing it because I need to bankroll the next set of projects, right?


And I don’t want to raise money. And the reason I don’t want to raise money is because it’s always hard when you raise money and then you’re pivoting and then, you know, when the business dies, it’s like, I don’t like the obligation that money brings. It actually constrains me because I’m a rabbit, I think I’ll do five things at once.


And, you know, it looks very distracted and whatnot. So I don’t want to answer those questions. Right.


But I think, and I think when I have enough cash in the bank, it’ll probably take me two, three years to take a big bet, right? Then I will build something interesting, right? We are already trying some small hardware experiments and also that we understand and we stay above the curve.


We’ll probably do some pre-sales or pre-order or something for that. The reason other entrepreneurs don’t do it is twofold, right? Most of your good technical talent is going abroad.


Yeah. That’s number one. Number two, in India, there’s no market to buy.


You build robotics, let’s say. You know, the early market for this, you’ve seen that crossing the chasm, the curve, right? The early market for this is outside of India.


So there’s no strategic advantage in you sitting in India and building some futuristic tech. Like I worked on VR many years ago, right? Nobody, like, I don’t even think people knew what I was doing.


India is still, like the average Indian is still very far behind. Right. And I think that is changing though, because there’s now a new league of young, really young hackers on the internet who want to build cool stuff.


But the problem is, and something that’s happened to me over the last 10 years, and I hope it doesn’t happen to them, even though it is important for them to know this, is that in the last 10 years, a lot of that has been knocked out of me. Because I’ve also understood the ground reality of the market that is India. You build VR in India, nobody cares.


There’s no headset, like not enough people in India have the headsets. Like I keep giving the example of a multiplayer game, right? One of my goals or dreams in life is to build a multiplayer game, like something like World of Warcraft.


At some point, I’ll do that, right? You can’t build it in India, because not enough people in India have desktops. They’re all mostly on mobile phones right now, right?


And their laptops are too shitty to support, you know, playing the kind of game that I want to create, right? With Unreal Engine 5 and all that. They just don’t have the infra to support it.


So if you build a game like that, you would build it abroad. You would build it for a global audience. So when you start building it for a global audience, you realize India is a weakness, again, because you don’t have any of the game dev talent here.


They’ve all, the good ones have moved abroad for the same reasons, right? The audience is there. So you need the consumers in India to have more disposable income.


I’m just taking it all the way back. You need consumers in India to have more disposable income for them, for their parents to be like, I’m going to go buy a computer, for their kids to be able to have a computer, and the next generation to grow up with computers and say, this is awesome. And then get used to having enough disposable income to make spends on things like video games.


You need all that to happen. You need India to become a richer country for us to say, I will start now constructing or manufacturing or working on big problems like Apple in India so that you can sell to India and gain all the advantage of it.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (51:40 – 51:46)

But I think you’re wearing an ultra human ring that is made in India. It’s a product.


[Varun] (51:46 – 52:36)

Yeah. Ultra human is a good example of a company that is from India, which solved this problem for the globe. So it’s not like this is not possible, but we need a lot more disposable income.


I’ll tell you. This is 21, 22K. I still make, like I still put some thought on whether I should buy this one, right?


And you need enough people with that 21, 22K of disposable income every month or whatever, or to be able to make 10 such discretionary spends over the year. So you need a much richer country. And you need a richer country where the baseline cost of living is lower.


The amount of money you’re making is reasonably high. The Delta is good. And you’re taking that Delta and you’re saying, I’ll spend, you know, I used to complain about corporate tax for a very long time, right?


I think every business, I’m sure you speak to your founders and they keep talking about corporate tax. I’m going to say something very stupid, which I think is a good thing. You know why?


Because it forces the company to spend.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (52:36 – 52:37)



[Varun] (52:37 – 54:01)

Right. It forces the company to spend on recurring costs, R&D and everything. R&D, whatever, right?


Like you are basically saying, don’t hold that money, put it back into the economy and make things happen. And that’s why a lot of people complain, right? Like why are these companies not profitable?


This, that, but there’s several companies that are not profitable because they suck. But there’s also a bunch of companies that are not profitable because they choose to play on the edge because they’re like, let me spend instead of just, you know, spending on corporate tax at the end of the year. So, I feel the more discretionary spend, the more, you know, we start, you know, just becoming more profitable companies.


I think we will become a much better nation. So this is not very, very far away, but I also feel like this is the two-year, five-year horizon. In 10 years, my belief could be a wrong belief.


I always caveat this saying, I’m an idiot. Don’t listen to me. And I do this on purpose before people complain.


But I think at some point, AI is going to take over everything, right? We’re going to have artificial general intelligence, both in the physical realm, as well as in the digital realm. There’ll be very few jobs.


And it’s very hard to predict at this point, what jobs those will be and what jobs those won’t be that actually remain. Right. And this is something with my leadership team.


We talk about it every day. Like this is a 10-year horizon. This is a 10-year game, probably a five-year game.


I don’t know, a five to 10-year game. Let’s play the best possible game we can. And after that, no, see the advantage of having an AI that solves everything, that does everything in the world, is all the cost of everything goes to zero.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (54:01 – 54:02)



[Varun] (54:02 – 54:50)

Right. So you probably won’t need to work as long as somebody figures out a roof over your head. And I feel even that, you know, we will have figured out something where you’re able to find some land in the middle of nowhere, because land is not a problem in India.


Like you can find land, but you want land in Indiranagar. But there is some corner of India with no connection, no water piping, nothing, where it’s just empty land. You can go to the outskirts of Bangalore, there’s so much land unused, right?


So, we will find a way to be able to construct civilization on the fly. And AI will help us with all of that, right? Like you want the heavy lifting done, you want the construction done, the manual labor done, AI will do it.


And at that point, we will have nothing to do except to have fun. And I think that’s why I want to build a multiplayer game at some point, right? Because I think then we will spend a lot of our time inside of games, inside of bounded rules, like AI is not allowed here.

[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (54:50 – 55:06)

I think almost 60% of a podcast, right? We kept AI as the center and everything converged to it, right? I think some of the questions which my audience is going to ask me after seeing this podcast, which AI stocks should I invest in.


[Varun] (55:06 – 55:10)


I mean, I invested in Nvidia last year.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (55:10 – 55:12)

Wow, you invested last year?


[Varun] (55:12 – 55:13)



[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (55:13 – 55:15)

Back when it was like $100?


[Varun] (55:15 – 56:06)

Yeah, I invested at a very low rate. I’ve probably made, I don’t know the return, but it’s significant, right? I’ve beaten every finance influencer in the country by just investing in Nvidia.


I went to the Nikhil Kamath podcast, I don’t know if people remember, and I said, buy Nvidia. And Nikhil’s opinion was that it’s already priced in. But I was like, everything in AI is going to require Nvidia.


And AMD is not, AMD is good, but it’s not like it can’t compete with CUDA. It’s good for consumer devices, right? But somebody building the next LLM, you’re locked into Nvidia for the time being, right?


Even Intel is really trying with their Gaudi series, but it’s still, there’s a, there’s a gap. And I invested, I invested in Meta also, because I thought Meta was undervalued. That’s it.


I invested a little bit in Google as well. Okay. Google has been, some money has been made, but it’s not crazy.


But Nvidia has been like a flagship investment for me.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (56:06 – 56:09)

And you would right now take money out of Nvidia, or you think still?


[Varun] (56:09 – 56:15)

Like, I don’t need the money. Yeah. And it’s also not, the initial investment is not that much.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (56:15 – 56:16)



[Varun] (56:16 – 56:57)

So it’s like, I’ll just leave it. But see, that’s the problem, no? I do believe in the Warren Buffet thing.


I believe that when everyone is fearful, be greedy, when everyone is greedy, be fearful. I do believe it’s sort of, now that the hype around Nvidia is so high.




Now I’m like, maybe it’s not a good time. Because at that time nobody believed, people, people believed, but they didn’t believe AI would be all encompassing. I was pretty sure it’d be all encompassing.


Now everyone believes that, and I’m like, okay, maybe I’m making a mistake, because everyone thinks that Nvidia is like, really good. And it’s going to go, keep going up. So I’m being careful.


That’s all I’ll say. That’s why I won’t take out what I have, but I won’t invest anymore.

[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (56:57 – 57:25)

But traditional retail investors, they’re also seeing what is happening to Google with Gemini, like unreliability to AI. And Google had to apologize to Narendra Modi, our prime minister for Gemini, what it did, right? It suggested that our prime minister is a fascist.


The same query, you know, came out for the Ukraine president as well as for Donald Trump.




So I don’t know whether people, the retail investor would trust in AI stocks or…


[Varun] (57:25 – 57:32)

Google is not an AI stock.

Alphabet is YouTube. Like me, Alphabet’s biggest bet is two things. Three things.


Android, YouTube, Chrome.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (57:32 – 57:33)



[Varun] (57:33 – 58:20)

I’ll tell you why. YouTube, because it is the world’s information, right? And YouTube is going to be massive, it’s already a massive platform.


It’s just going to be all encompassing. It is, you know, the way to brainwash the masses 50 years ago was TV, right? You send anything propaganda on TV, propaganda, you can spread it.


Today, the way to do it is very disparate because in so many different places, YouTube is the next big way and Google has access to that. So whatever they want to say, they can say through Google and through YouTube. And more importantly, YouTube is really, it can elevate nations.


It can bring attention to issues that really need to be, you know, tended to. So I think YouTube is their crown jewel. Two other crown jewels are Android and Chrome.


I’ll tell you why. It doesn’t matter how good your LLM is.




If you are putting it on the browser, most people are using the browser, Chrome.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (58:20 – 58:21)



[Varun] (58:21 – 58:32)

Okay. If you are using a mobile phone, it’s either using the Apple phones or you’re using the Android phones. Android outnumbers Apple.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (58:32 – 58:34)

So it’s continuing to.


[Varun] (58:34 – 1:00:00)


It’s going to continue to outnumber Apple, right? And the thing is, there was a time where Apple had some secret sauce with phones. That time is over.


And every new phone manufacturer, like Nothing, right. It’s still basing itself on Android. So if Google has access to Android and Google dictates what base apps come in, YouTube comes in on almost every Android phone.


One of the apps is Google, Google Now or something it was called, which is going to be an AI app. It is eventually going to drive that LLM and Google’s, the pixel phones are putting the TPUs, which allow local processing of many of these AI models. So I’m fairly certain because of Android and Chrome gating, even though Google doesn’t have an operating system, the browser is enough of a gateway.


They own the means of distribution. They own YouTube, they own Android, they own the browser, they own distribution. So no matter who builds the LLM, like I said, LLMs are going to be commoditized.


They are going to win the game. Will they win the chips game? No, right.


So Google will still depend on Nvidia for some of this stuff. And I feel like those are the two important bets to make. Now, everyone’s going to get AI wrong in the short term, like this, they made a black Abraham Lincoln or whatever, that is going to happen in the short term as part of the learning process of this thing.


Even OpenAI has made some of those mistakes, maybe not as extreme. But OpenAI at that time was a much smaller company. So nobody liked the anger wasn’t that much.


Google’s anger is very high because it’s Google, right? It’s the empire. And whenever the empire makes a mistake, it’s a public parody.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:00:00 – 1:00:05)

So it can cost you his job. It can cost you the job.


[Varun] (1:00:05 – 1:00:58)

The only reason I’m not as bullish on YouTube, on Google as I can be, see today’s CEOs, especially for public companies, and even private companies are very different from the CEO 20 years ago, 20 years ago, you’re only interacting with the media today, your head is on the line for everything. But you still need to make the hard decisions. Like an Elon, despite the fact that everyone was shouting at him, went and fired half of Twitter, probably more of that, right?


Would Sundar Pichai do the same thing? Unlikely, because your reputation is on the line, right? What the public thinks of you.


And I think founder CEOs have that advantage over hired CEOs, which is what a founder CEO will be like, I built this. I don’t care if I get fired. This is my company, I’m going to do this.


And Google has lost that. That’s why Sergey and Larry coming back or Sergey coming back is a good thing. Because they have a founder CEO, sorry, founder who can come in and actually make changes.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:00:58 – 1:01:04)

And that’s why people still want to bet on Meta because Mark Zuckerberg is running the show and he might continue to run for the longest period of time..


[Varun] (1:01:04 – 1:01:38)


So Google, Meta, and Nvidia are the only three companies I invested in last year. I also invested in Unity, which didn’t do so well. So I’m not an oracle by any means.


But I mean, Unity I invested in because I bet very hard on the Metaverse.




And I know Epic and Apple have been in a battle with the Metaverse, right?


And I know the VR, the Vision Pro has come out and stuff. So I do think that Unity will take its time to shine, but then they screwed people with some new licensing, right? So that’s why they’re whatnot.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:01:38 – 1:01:39)

And what do you think about Apple?


[Varun] (1:01:39- 1:02:17)

I think Apple’s good, but they’re too slow to the areas, but that’s been Apple’s game for a long time, right? We’ll be slow. We’ll come out a few years later with the best, whatever.


I don’t think that works. And I don’t think they’re taking AI as seriously as Google for Google, it was code red. Even for Mark Zuckerberg, they’re a lot of open source AI stuff, right?


For Apple, it feels like complacency, but then I’m sitting here in India, giving you a podcast judgment on a company I know very little about. I know very, very little about it. So everything should be taken with a grain of salt.

[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:02:17 – 1:02:32)

And what do you think about, right? They got a lawsuit in the US justice department on monopolizing the smartphone market and abusing the iPhone app store for lock-in.




Do you think these kinds of things will continue?


[Varun] (1:02:32- 1:04:16)

See, it was, I’m very surprised it took so long because I’ll tell you what happened to the Facebook fiasco, right? Apple said Facebook is a villain. Facebook is stealing your data, blah, blah, blah, blah.


And now you have to opt into apps, including Facebook, Instagram, et cetera, right? You have to opt in to be tracked and without tracking, Facebook can’t sell ads, send you ads. So they’re sending all sorts of rubbish ads and Facebook, like they really made Facebook the villain then.


And their pitch was privacy, this, that, but then next few weeks later, this launched the Apple ads thing, right? Which is now on maps and a bunch of other places. So they are building their own ad network.


So they just eliminated a competitor using some other thing. And then Apple’s very clever at messaging like that. So it was about time they got this slapped on the face, but I don’t think this will affect them.


They have so much money. And the thing is, when you have that kind of extreme of money, you can buy out enough influence in a way to not really be affected by it. Some of these fines are also just public for sure.


Right? So I don’t know exactly what’s going on there. And even the Google thing, the Google fiasco that happened in India, right?


The 30% companies, I mean, there’s always part of Google’s rule set. Google said, Hey, this is, I’m waving it off for you, but this is, you know, my criteria for you, for you using the app store, the play store. So people still get angry when you take something away from people, they always get angry.


So I feel like, um, I don’t know if Apple will win. I don’t know if Google will win. I mean, I do, I do have my bets on Google, but I don’t know who’s going to win the AI race at the end of it, especially in five, 10 years, it’s all up for grabs, but it will be one, some big company.


It’ll be a company we already know.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:04:16 – 1:04:21)

It will not be somebody who came like OpenAI and surprised everyone.


[Varun] (1:04:21 – 1:05:07)

Even OpenAI had to take Microsoft’s help. Like I would, somebody asked me the other day, why did OpenAI go with Microsoft? Why couldn’t they do it by themselves?


One is that the computer is expensive. Also think about this, right? Like suppose you found the cure to cancer tomorrow, like the full cure, what is the first thing you do?


Would you commercialize it by yourself? Because if you commercialized it by yourself or patented it by yourself, five other guys will copy it, right? And they will crush you and beat you.


They don’t even want to give you royalty. You would go to the largest company, you know, and you’d be like, I need cover because I found something really valuable. I’ll split the value with you.


Okay, we found gold. It’s a gold rush. I split the value with me, just don’t screw me.


And that’s the deal they essentially went and made with Microsoft, right? They found something really, really revolutionary. And they like to protect this, we need a large org.


And that’s what they essentially did with Microsoft.

[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:05:07 – 1:05:41)


Got it.

I recently went to the Montgomery Summit in LA in the US. This is a summit where all Los Angeles billionaires come in tech, right? There, on every slide, there was India.


But also what happened is India currently is represented on the startup ecosystem level by Byju’s, because it was the largest company from India that collapsed. And now everybody’s saying that, at least you can’t have a $20 billion company from India, India’s only space for a billion dollars.


[Varun] (1:05:41 – 1:05:45)


We have some fairly large companies.




[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:05:45 – 1:05:53)


But that’s a services company. We’re talking about hardcore startup and Infosys took 40 years to reach there. But Byju’s shortened that path to less.


[Varun] (1:05:53- 1:06:12)

But Infosys took 40 years to reach there because they didn’t have the internet at that time. I mean, they had a very slow internet at that time, access was lower. And every deal you had to travel meet people face to face.


Byju’s was also born in the era where there was some face to face, but there’s also a transition to Zoom and calls and the phone call infrastructure in Infosys’ time was much worse.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:06:12- 1:06:18)

And now everybody at least had the comment that edtech for India is dead.


[Varun] (1:06:18- 1:06:25)

Yeah. I think the fundamental innovation with edtech is not technology.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:06:25- 1:06:27)

Then what’s it?


[Varun] (1:06:27 – 1:06:33)

It is CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost). It is the destruction of CAC. I’ll explain what I mean.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:06:33 – 1:06:36)

And you are operating a few edtech businesses where you are teaching how to video edit.


[Varun] (1:06:37-1:08:25)

Yeah, we have like my wife runs the video editing thing. And then we have a one for engineering as well, right? With 100x engineers.


These are both kinds of investments for the AOS company. But we think the fundamental innovation in edtech is one of CAC because it seems like we built live streaming technology, right? So it doesn’t move the needle that much because there’s already Zoom and Zoom will always be the cheapest solution because they’re at economies of scale, blah, blah, blah.


So there’s no tech and you could say, well, my technology gamifies this process. We’ve realized that that’s really scammy. Like it’s not real, right?


The gamification.. because ultimately people need to be pushed to complete a course or to complete things, right? Now you could say the innovation is in the placements because of the network that I can agree with you to a certain extent, right? But it’s not like a technological innovation.


Me knowing you and 500 other people and helping, you know, talent get hired is not like a, like a, like a revolutionary thing. So I think the fundamental innovation is how do you get users without spending on CAC, without spending money, right? Because most of these companies you can see and the path is very clear, right?


Go run ads, start any course on crazy amounts of ads, you spend five rupees, you make 10 rupees back. And I think you can be profitable for a while, but that CAC keeps going up. And one day you wake up and your CAC is much higher than your, you know, than how much you’re making off.


And at that point, it’s like, what have you done over the last three years? You should have built a brand so that it’s able to do it by yourself. So you kept the business alive for three years.


You built a brand in three years. But what I’ve seen is when you run ads at that scale, it only destroys your brand.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:08:25 – 1:08:27)

Got it.

And there is no other way to build a large education business.


[Varun] (1:08:27 – 1:09:06)

Of course, there is .. YouTube.


Like you have to get to the scale on YouTube. We are not at that scale, but you need to get to like much much higher levels. Physics Wala has done it very well.


Where your brand and your reputation are so high that you are seen as an elite school and you go in or you increase the price of your course so much. I think the Master’s Union has done it. You increase the price of your course to the level where it’s like you need very few students.


So even though you have the same number of, same amount of distribution, your, or less amount of distribution, your course prices are so high that it doesn’t matter, right? That it’s negated. I feel these are, these are the only two things.


You can only play with price on education and you can only play with the cost of acquisition.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:09:06 – 1:09:17)

And you are right, right? Physicswala just destroyed the CAC. Alex’s brand and the Physicswala’s brand and the distribution they created in the last 7-8 years on YouTube.


[Varun] (1:09:17 – 1:10:27)

Yeah, because I mean, I have, I know a lot of people who are running ads and basically running an ed-tech, running an education company, right? And while I respect the fact that they’ve got a lot of revenue, I don’t know what the long-term game is, like 5-10 years down the line, because the entire point of business is 5-10 years. See, for us, the cohorts have a very different purpose.


It is to feed talent in the agencies, right? The cohorts are very small compared to any other businesses, like even an early stage company will have higher revenues, right? But our cohorts are small.


But they feed into the agencies and the agencies make a lot of money, right? So it is just talent production for us. But a company that is serious about monetizing at that level is different, right?


I feel like then you really have to think about CAC and student outcomes. And I don’t think it is possible to give placement like it is possible for me to place like 100 people a quarter, 200 people, 300 people a quarter. I don’t think it’s possible for me to place 2000 people a quarter.


I don’t even have that kind of network. And I don’t know if there are enough companies in India that can have that network. Most of these people have a much smaller network and they’re playing this game.


So I don’t know what innovation is.

[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:10:27 – 1:10:32)

And what has worked for you in the last, let’s say, you graduated from college, like 10 years ago?


[Varun] (1:10:32- 1:10:35)


So I’m 15.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:10:35- 1:10:36)


9 years


[Varun] (1:10:36- 1:10:37)


9 years.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:10:37- 1:10:54)


What has worked for you that has landed you here? You’ve done multiple ventures, pretty successful, pretty large brand name in the market. If somebody starting from the college right now in 2024, had to say, I want to replicate what Varun did by 2030, what would that be?


[Varun] (1:10:54 – 1:12:07)

I don’t think my path is a good path.

Because I’ll tell you, there’s a lot of truth seeking that I’ve done, right, especially with AI coming, I told you, I’ve just become very honest with myself. And also things have really worked this year. That’s what allowed me to be so brutally honest with myself.


I think I used to be a very distracted CEO. And I also think I used to get timing very wrong. Like I’d always work on technology five years before it was ready for primetime.


Like I worked on VR, like I said, for five years ago, right? Worthless. But I didn’t see it at the time, because I thought I was inspired by Elon Musk and a bunch of others where I said, technology is the game.


I learned a lot about India in those last 10 years, right? Where I’m like, okay, actually, India doesn’t value this as much technology is important, but it has to be behind the scenes. It is not front and center as most engineers would think it is.


Even a Zomato today, their moat is not their app. Their moat is the logistics network that they’ve built, right? And the relationships are like countless restaurants.


But a 20 year old me would think it is the app and the design of the app. And it’s how the UI UX is all stupid. But that is the narrative, you know, five years ago, six years ago.


So I had to get out of it in the first place. So


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:12:07 – 1:12:09)

How much time did it take you to get out of it?


[Varun] (1:12:11 – 1:12:39)

A long time. A long time. Because VCs were also believing in this, no?


This is the problem. Like today, I made a VC like somebody like you and I explained the services and then the product is back and you get what I’m saying. But five years ago, people were like services don’t do it.


Stupid. Make a product, Better your UI UX. Because they were investing in companies and those companies were hyperscaling.


They were seeing that in the US as well. And they were like, we want that. That drove IRR for the VCs.


So I would say I was misled a little bit. It’s also my fault, because I shouldn’t have listened.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:12:39 – 1:12:44)

But let’s say you can go back to your teacher and student analogy.


[Varun] (1:12:44 – 1:12:44)



[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:12:44- 1:12:47)


If you’re a student, you’ll always believe what the teacher is saying.


[Varun] (1:12:47 – 1:14:01)

Yeah. But I thought VCs are so successful, they would know better. But what I didn’t realize is many of the companies that invested were not making money.


They were just growing really fast. And still unclear whether they’d make money and the VC wanted to see another company which grew really fast and then they’d figure out how to make money. Which is also kind of true because our YouTube is that right?


YouTube doesn’t make so much money. But when something grows really fast, then you can use that as leverage to sell other things. But it was a lot of unlearning being I’m still an engineer, I still love breaking things together and putting it apart and putting it together, right?


But unlearning this thing that technology is everything, especially in a country like India, required time. And I also feel like the world adapted to who I am, in a way, right? Because now we are valuing things like AI and all 10 years ago, if AI had come out, I don’t think India would have been ready to like, absorb it as quickly, we don’t have to be shocked into it.


Even now mobile phones seem odd, right? For a country like India and mobile phones to coexist, because India is a very culturally rich country. And then mobile phones, how does technology, you know, fit in these two?


And you see, like, we heard this thing, like, they’re now e-pooja apps. I don’t know if you’ve seen it.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:14:01 – 1:14:02)

Yeah, I saw so many of them.


[Varun] (1:14:02- 1:15:06)

So the thing is, it’s a very, I didn’t understand just how valuable the culture and the selling and the people and the decision making, like, I used to think, I still think this, that most finance people are like, they don’t produce anything of value. They’re speculating on things of value. But I didn’t realize how valuable it is to speculate on things of value, because you need to know what becomes popular six years in the six months in the future, 10 years in the future.


That’s what you do, right? You’re not predicting where one of your portfolio companies is today, you’re trying to chart a map for where it goes 10 years later, and all the failure cases. I was always looking at today, right at any given point of time, like the technology is ripe today, let’s build it today, the tech is here today, I wasn’t thinking about whether users will use it six months later.


So what has really happened, and this is because of YouTube, again, I credit YouTube and content for this, I really started listening to other people, because the comments don’t lie. There’s a difference when a VC tells me, Varun, this is how it is. And today, every day, like 10,000 comments telling me what it is.


Who do you believe? Because I’m building not for the VC, I’m building for this user.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:15:06 – 1:15:07)

These are your ultimate consumers.


[Varun] (1:15:07 – 1:15:08)

These are my ultimate consumers.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:15:08 – 1:15:09)

They’re going to pay in some way.


[Varun] (1:15:09 – 1:17:55)


So the 10,000 people telling me what to do is a much better thing than the VCs telling me what to do. I also need to know what to ignore here.


But this has been a source of great wisdom. If you ask me what has really worked in the last one year, because before that, I would say we were not that successful. Even in previous companies, outcomes were small.


Right? Last eight months, one year has been good. So in the last eight months, one year, what has really worked is my just saying, okay, now we’re getting 200 comments, let’s stretch that to 10,000, let’s get really big.


And then just averaging out what they want. It’s very easy to tell what they want, they will tell you in the comments, right? What products, what services, what they think, what they don’t like, what they like, what is very, very valuable, what is not valuable, what their fears, anxieties are.


It’s like you’ve seen that Superman, when he was young, in the Man of Steel movie, he’s just sitting and he’s hearing everyone’s voices, and he doesn’t know what to let and what not to let him. So over time, you also develop what to let and what not to let him because a lot of hate comments. And so we go through everything, right?


So you learn to listen, and you pick out what is valuable. And then you can solve those problems. And we have only been successful in the last eight months, because we have just picked out those problems.


And we have solved them for an audience we already have. That’s all we’ve done. And some of our audience, believe it or not, is B2B.


Right? So sometimes they reach out in the like, hey, Varun can you do this YouTube? I said, I mean, even four or five years ago, a lot of people reached out to me and said, Can you do YouTube for us?


Can you help us YouTube? I’ll be like, no, that’s stupid. But then I’m like, it must be like, why wasn’t I listening to that?


We’re good at it. Why wasn’t I listening to it? And then I was like, No, I had this ambition to build a product and get it to scale and be the next Mark Zuckerberg.


The next Mark Zuckerberg won’t look like or be like a Mark Zuckerberg. Right? So I had to become old enough to gain the wisdom to chart my own path.


And 10 years is just unlearning everything anyone has ever said to me to be at a point where I can stand up and just say, this is what I think. And it doesn’t mean I don’t listen, like I’ve listened to everything you say, but I will decide what I agree with and not by testing it with the audience. And that has been the only thing that has really worked for us.


And yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s been my journey of wisdom, truth seeking. A lot of this was also not truth seeking. It was also when I was 22, 23.


It’s like, oh, you build this cool app. It looks so good. It’s status, right?


Because of all your engineering, I went to college and learned computer science. So all my friends were like engineers. Apps are good. But that doesn’t solve your customer’s needs.


So a lot of truth seeking wisdom is unlearning that. And it took me a long time to do it. And I’m honest about it, because I know a lot of people are in the same boat, and they don’t see it.


Like on Twitter, you see this, right? A lot of people are saying, oh, it’s about this technology. It’s like, that doesn’t matter as much as if your goal is to make money.


If your goal is to play with technology and be a tech person, maybe that’s, that’s the right part.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:17:55 – 1:17:58)

Simple building technology won’t take you anything unless you make money.


[Varun] (1:17:58 – 1:17:59)



[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:17:59 – 1:18:02)

We respect Elon Musk because Tesla makes billions of dollars a year.


[Varun] (1:18:02 – 1:18:03)





[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:18:03 – 1:18:08)

There were only a few Teslas sold, everybody would have thought a crazy person like Nikola, right?


[Varun] (1:18:08 – 1:18:44)

Like Nikola, right. Nikola was a scam, but there’s a bunch of others where a bunch of others where they did stuff, but too small to care.




And you know, that’s what I’m saying, right? I wish I had YouTube growing up. Like 10 years ago, this was not the debate on YouTube.


Nobody would come on YouTube and say all these things 10 years ago. I wish I had YouTube growing up and I’m glad I have it to be able to give the next generation to teach the next generation, not the truth or false. I don’t know if this is true or false, right?


I don’t know if this is the right thing for them or the wrong thing for them to listen to, but they can hear my story and they can decide what they want to do out of my story.


[Siddhartha Ahluwalia] (1:18:44 – 1:18:48)

Thank you so much Varun. So good to have you on the show.


[Varun] (1:18:48 – 1:18:49)



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