Episode 133 / September 6, 2021
Why & How Clarity and Depth outscores storytelling ft Vani Kola, Managing Director, Kalaari Capital
In whichever industry or ecosystem you are, there are some people you just can’t not know about, because they are the ones who have either –
# had a major role in shaping the industry as it is today
# or achieved something at such a massive scale that no one can miss to notice it
The guest of our today’s episode Vani Kola, founder and managing director of Kalaari Capital, is one such person. She was listed as one of the most powerful women in Indian business by Fortune India in 2014.
She started her career in the silicon valley, as a serial entrepreneur and spent close to 22 years. While in silicon valley, she founded an e-procurement company RightWorks, which was later sold for $657 million.
After returning to India in 2006, she founded Indo-US Venture Partners (IUVP) in 2006, which was later rebranded as Kalaari Capital.
Some stats around Kalaari Capital –
# 188+ Investments; popular portfolio companies are Dream11, Myntra, Cure.fit, and Snapdeal
# 23+ Exits; most notable exits include Workday, Milkbasket, and Simplilearn
During the podcast, Vani shares with us how she approaches any new investment, how she suggests the founder to treat any failure, how yoga and meditation have positively impacted her life and more.
02:50 – “What you can’t dream, you can’t achieve.”
10:32 – “What didn’t work can give you an actionable insight.”
18:09 – Assessing a founder’s potential vs pedigree
23:12 – Having a depth of clarity rather than just being a good storyteller
38:54 – Balance to life: Meditation & Yoga
41:05 – CXXO Initiative: $10 million fund for women founders
Read the full transcript here:
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 00:01
Hi, this is Siddhartha Ahluwalia, welcome to the 100x entrepreneur podcast. today, I have with me a guest who needs no introduction, Vani Kola, founder of Kalaari Capital. Vani, welcome to the podcast.
Vani Kola 00:15
Thanks for having me. And congratulations for building this truly fantastic property for the ecosystem and for playing your part and collectively building this wonderful ecosystem in India.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 00:31
Thank you so much, Vani. founders have a hunger to solve problems, and drive to keep moving forward. Also, what founders miss, you know, first time founders and their journey is knowing the mindset of an investor. For many first-time founders, there is a fascination around investment, and what do investors look for at the founder. But your journey has moved on, you know, you were a founder for a long period of time, and now being an investor for more than a decade. And we want to explore the unique mindset that you have experienced both as a founder and an investor in today’s podcast, you are regarded as one of the top venture capitalists in India, you have been awarded the most one of the most powerful women in India by Fortune India in 2014. And you have been the first check in companies like dream11, Myntra, Snapdeal. So, I would like to start the conversation with how did you make your world into startups? And how did it lead to the founding of Kalaari Capital?
Vani Kola 01:49
You know, a lot of things in my life have been accidents, or destiny, whatever you want to call it. I, of course, like many people move to Silicon Valley after my master’s, which I did in Arizona. And then I don’t think I had any understanding or exposure to the world of startups until then. Which is also why, you know, whether it’s this podcast or other things I do, and you do and many of us do, is plays a very important role in the ripples that it can create. And we can touch in future. What I mean by that is, I without being in Silicon Valley, and the many people that provided the inspiration, and that’s the first thing inspiration in your mind, to think that it is possible, what you can’t imagine, or what you don’t dream of, you can never achieve, right? So, for me, I think in the 90s, early 90s, when I moved to Silicon Valley, the world of startups opened up, and the people who were doing startups that grew that became successful, felt approachable, accessible, familiar, you know, which was a very different experience, for me, at least from the very different India of that time that I had left, right. business success was for people who had access and power and capital and all of that, but here was the first time something as egalitarian, as if I have an idea, and I’m willing to work hard. And with some luck of God’s grace, you know, I can make something happen. And that sense of creator, you know, builder, you know, Imagineer, if you will, was very exciting possibility. Okay. And so, places have a impact on our lives, right. And so hence, creating active, vibrant places for startup ecosystem to imagine and thrive is very, very important. So that was sort of my, you know, takeaway was, if you are lucky to be in an environment that allows you to imagine what you can be or what you can do. That’s the first step, you know, to the journey. And, to me, you know, I don’t think of myself as an investor. And I know I say that and, you know, and I know, I’m an investor on that as a conundrum there. But I feel that, you know, coming to India starting a venture capital firm, I feel like I’m as much still today an entrepreneur, which is someone who’s curious to learn, unafraid to experiment. Right, has a strong conviction about their vision and what they want to achieve. And also, you know, has the patience and the perseverance and the tenacity to be consistent about their dreams. Because for all of us in life, though it might not appear that way, when you see the storybook ending, and you read the last chapter, okay? And but there is a lot in between, there is a up and a down in the challenge and a setback and a vulnerability and a doubt. And somehow, you know, we don’t imagine those as necessary to reach that sort of potential of your idea of your dream and your personal self, you know, so for me, I think I everyday think, from an entrepreneurial mindset, I know I’m not an entrepreneur, building a multibillion-dollar company that will go public, I get that, but you know, it’s a mindset, right? So, there is a certain mindset to an entrepreneur. And that’s what I love about this ecosystem. That’s what I love about my job. And I feel really, really privileged to be part of the journey of an entrepreneur. Because I think it’s really special to see something that starts with that passion and idea. And you see two things happen, you know, it becomes an enduring enterprise that has created value and it has created impact. And you also see the person who starts out with the tentativeness of the potential but then they become, you know, giant leaders, right? So that for me is a everyday exciting part of what I do and I really feel I’m very lucky that you know, I’m in this time and place where I can be part of so many entrepreneurs journeys,
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 06:55
you have backed stellar founders, like Kunal Bahl from Snapdeal, Mukesh Bansal from Cure fit and Myntra, and Harsh Jain from dream 11 when nobody could spot them, what are the things that you were able to spot in these entrepreneurs over two or three conversations that made you cut the first check of belief in them?
Vani Kola 07:23
Sometimes, by the way, it’s more than two or three conversations. And it’s not. Because in or rather it is because this is a very long-term relationship. And it’s the has to be a very deep relationship. But that has to be the going in expectation, right? I remember meeting Kunal and Rohit. And I think the story is consistent. But I’ll start with that. I think they had a deep clarity of some insights, which have nothing to do with the pivots of the business model, but clarity about sort of the opportunity of the Indian ecosystem and the Indian consumer. Okay. mindset, right. They also had no fear of experimentation, they could cannibalize themselves, right? If you tried this idea, and it didn’t work out, you have to get to that self-realization very quickly and say, well, that didn’t work. That’s fine. But what didn’t work led you to a different insight, right. So that’s what we call pivots. And what didn’t work out, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Because if you aren’t experimenting and quickly learning, and, you know, especially in fast moving markets, and Kunal was really exceptional at that, you know, his ability to sort of look at the broader picture. And if something didn’t work, then to be able to quickly make that pivot. And you know, and then they have to have the temperament to build really leaders with them along with them, right? Because more often than not as a company scale, you’re probably younger than anybody else in your management team. You bring in both from experience. And, you know, knowledge. Now, what is it that you bring them as a founder, right? Certainly, you can’t bring the insecurity of what you don’t know. Right? What you can bring is really the inspiration to your leaders that you hire, to your team that you hire, to be able to go on and help you realize your vision. Right. So, there is a certain temperament of a person that allows them to be that kind of a leader who allows other leaders to flourish with them. Right? No company can be successful. If you are the only firefighter if you are the only problem solver if you’re the smartest in the room, right? The realization that it’s okay for me to not be the smartest in the room, but I can get a group of really smart people to come together to problem solve with me, right? These are some of the traits along with the ability to understand purpose of capital, which I think is one of the most costly, same misunderstood assets. Often, because we get emotional about money in the startup ecosystem, neither is money that important nor is money that unimportant, right to your success, you know. And so, the relationship around capital raising and hence, shareholders, how to create the deep relationship with your board and your shareholders and value for them. Right. Understanding of that, is I think, very important, these are some of the things you know, I was very convinced when I first met Kunal about him, or whether it’s Mukesh or Harsh or you know, many other founders journey that we are part of, right? To me, those are some of the also traits that are important in being able to have a connection, I need to feel a connection with a founder, because, you know, the only thing any of us have is asset of our time, and how we utilize it, right. And I want my time and my relationships as much as possible to be constructive, positive, and, you know, encouraging for both right? Now, life is life and reality may sometimes we not that, but we can hope and aspire and try for that every time. Right? So, for me, the connect with the founder becomes very important. That’s why meeting them, getting to know them, you know, sort of opening the door for them to get to know me get to know us as a firm is important because life is too short for us to be in a place where we are not right for each other.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 12:20
And so, the business comes secondary for you what they’re building. But these human traits, which you mentioned, able to build a team which is better than themselves.
Vani Kola 12:30
the business plan is secondary, not the business itself, the business to me is really their vision and their insight. Right. So, the business plan, you know, we are going to be this five years from now, you know, $100 billion market in which I’m going to be a leader Okay, fine, you know, we get there when we get there. So, the business plan is less important. The business insight is very important. Most companies are built on a deep, sometimes fairly, what are appear simple insight, right. And, you know, in Harsh’s case, it was that, you know, sports engagement, he was first and foremost, a sports enthusiast himself deeply, passionately, right, all kinds of sports. And then he had a strong desire need for himself for continuous sports engagement, and he saw the world needed that right, and that there was a gap right now, how do you what exactly is the feature? What is the solution? You know, what should the technology be those all matter? But the insight that he had was truly, and what kind of sports engagement is going to create stickiness, he had a very strong sense of vision, purpose, passion for that. So that is the business, right? sports engagement is the business.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 13:57
Similarly, these kinds of insights you look for in every founder that you are backing, but how important is storytelling ability, because we see a common pattern among these three entrepreneurs, Kunal, Mukesh, and Harsh. fantastic storytellers.
Vani Kola 14:17
When you pick their names, we can look at many entrepreneurs that I think are, you know, in our portfolio, not to necessarily I’m just since I hadn’t thought about this question before. So, it’s not to exclude anybody. You know, I look at Saurabh at vernacular, who started out as a student and hence still hadn’t built up his sort of exposure experience. He’s building vernacular.ai. Again, it’s not going to be a consumer name, because it’s not a consumer product. You and I were talking about, you know, b2b products or SAAS products that don’t get as well known in the market, but he’s building a fantastic you know, business and you know, more recently, we are back day, you know, a EdTech firm, you know, creative galileo, focused on young children and creating is changing their learning framework through online solutions. But I can go on, on several founders. I don’t think at least this is my personal view. we confuse storytelling with polish. It’s not that right. And I really, I don’t I don’t look at in fact, the wrong thing to do, in presentations to me is spend 15 minutes talking about the team background. And sometimes it starts with I went to kendriya Vidyalaya. Okay. So, era, okay. While it’s good to know, that is not that important at all, in the scheme of things to me, right. So, the pedigree, the so-called pedigree, is not as important to me as the potential. So, I’m assessing for the potential, not your past is a small indicator of your future, especially for an entrepreneur, especially if you’re a first-time entrepreneur, most successful entrepreneurs do not come from saying I was SVP at Google or something like that. Right. Not that there’s anything wrong with being SVP at Google. But, you know, but it comes from something where you have a certain quirkiness a certain vacuum as to see the world from sort of a different data point from a different vision, and that is your biggest asset. But what is that vision? Take me on that journey? Right? It’s not you your language skills doesn’t matter. To me, your background and pedigree doesn’t matter. But if I’m able to see through your rights, and I can be a fairly patient listener, but what I would tell you is people confuse storytelling to clarity of thought, okay, now you’re going to go all over the place when it is not clear for you that simple clarity of thought of insight, whatever that is, that creates great companies, right? You can say whatever Airbnb, you know, or slack to take a SAAS, you know, just to contrast that right, you know, the need for collaboration. slack reimagined did differently. Right. And Airbnb said, you know, unlikely as it might be that insight, that if they could build a trust, you know, people want to actually stay in a home like setting, then a more. Or in certain situations, certain people want to stay in a home like setting than they do on a hotel setting, right? My business trips, I always stay in a hotel, my vacations, I like to stay in a home, right? You may say that’s nothing, but it is actually a very, very big insight. You know, and then in order to achieve that, you have to build a platform that keeps trust at the core of it. So that insight, what is your insight, that’s what I’m looking for, right? And so, if you have deep clarity on that, it’s not then it comes through, it just comes through, right. But whereas people get trapped into the form, versus the substance, the form is a beautiful presentation, your ability to present something I can unequivocally tell you Siddharth having me, I see whatever, 500 pictures a year. So, there’s only so much you can polish can go right. And so, I look for that genuine authenticity. So, you don’t have to be a great storyteller, but you need to have a deep understanding of what is it that you want to do. And ability to ability to really be convinced about it yourself. First and foremost, do you fall apart? I mean, the odd thing that is surprising to me is because I always grew up in environments where challenging was norm. Right. And, you know, and challenging whether it’s in a debating club or challenging in a classroom setting or challenging in a work culture was somehow the norm of what my both upbringings, you know, school work environments were like, even dining table conversations in our home was always, you know, a lot of emotion. Right? It was allowed, without it getting, you know, personalized or disrespectful, right. So, sometimes with entrepreneurs, I like to challenge the thinking, you know, and I think when you’re challenged your conviction, either growth deeper or You know, he realized that actually, you were not necessarily in solid ground. Right? So the reaction at times, so I experience, whether it’s in a board meeting or when they’re doing a pitches, they take challenge as a as a as a defensive response, right? Even when the challenge is offered, of course, in a professional, respectful environment, right. But I think the first thing for me is, is the entrepreneur open to challenging being challenged on his thinking. Right. And it serves only one purpose, it either deepens your conviction, great, or it raises questions in your head, which is also great. So, there’s no bad outcome out of it, right? The notion that you need to be 100%, right is the bad outcome, you’re never going to be 100% right. So, start with that, right. So, the storytelling to me is really if you’re challenged, you know, which is a process of my learning, right? It’s not a process of questioning your vision, or your dream, or the validity or your authenticity or your integrity, right? questioning is challenging my learning of whatever you are so deeply seeped in, that is in your bones in your blood in your breath. Right, but it isn’t in mine. Right? So, through asking you challenging you is how I’m going to learn to see it from your eyes, which is what I’m attempting to do, right? Now, if you can do that, to me, and or you can only do that, not because of superior storytelling ability, but because you have depth of clarity. So, I’m looking for that depth of clarity. And that is the business ultimately, that may not be the business plan that may not yet tell us what exactly is the revenue model? What will be your two numbers, what will be the core features for this? We may not yet know all that, right? Which is okay. Because that will evolve that will pivot that will change that will all go through. But you know this purpose? I mean, that’s the alignment I’m looking for. You don’t have to be a great storyteller for it,
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 22:26
For the depth of clarity. What is the most efficient process you have found in yourself? Because you challenged yourself, right? You grew up in an environment and in the entrepreneurs that you have back? What is the process to achieve that clarity? Is it talking to a lot of users testing their hypothesis?
Vani Kola 22:53
you know, opening yourself to very diverse views, and opening yourself to being questioned and challenged and willing to have intrinsic listening. Right? Most of the time, we are listening for affirmation. Okay. And that’s very human nature. Of course, I want that to say Vani. You’re so right. Right? And would that be great? You know, but actually, it’s not really great if that’s all you ever hear from everybody, right? Because either you have the wrong people that you are listening to, or you’re actually tuning out everything else, and you’re only listening what you want to listen to right? Practice active listening, which is, you know, for a moment willingness to listen from the other person, what is it that they are not able to relate to? So, be going to customer surveys, wanting affirmation for them to say your product is great, right? Don’t spend time with people who tell you everything is great. Spend time with people, you learn more from people who disagree with you. Right? Not because you agree with them. But through the disagreement, you can do, like I said, one of two things you can figure out what your convictions are, or, you know, where they may have something to offer to you. So be that active listener, you know, say that my first company, I was probably rejected by 100 investors, combination of angels and VCs and all of that. And I think for, like close to 18 months, I bootstrap for myself, and you know, hard to get any investors. But I think those were the greatest months for me to grow and learn this storytelling as you’re calling, right? Because I realized that to begin with, you know, I hadn’t thought through the depth and clarity of my own vision and conviction. In each conversation. I saw where my gaps were right. With each conversation. I went back to my reflection, what am I not? And what am I? Right? And, you know, over time, then I think there was a body of opinion, philosophy, decisions that formulated what I was going to do, right? They come from they came from people saying no to me and me listening, not the No, because they’re not rejecting me as a human being. Okay? We take it that way, but don’t take it that way. They’re saying no, because they didn’t understand something, I couldn’t make them understand something. Right? And that’s why they’re saying no, right? I have to figure out if they couldn’t understand it, because it doesn’t exist, which sometimes, or most of the time is the case. But I didn’t know that that was my blind sight. Right? What are they saying no to? That is my blind sight. or their blind sight? Sometimes it could be their blind sight. Right. But I have to be an active listener to see that. And I realized in the first 18 months that I had a lot of blind sites that what people were saying no to I had no context, I had no, you know, no framework to have thought through those questions. Now, it was a big favor that they had done to me, to help me think about all those aspects that I hadn’t actually thought about.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 26:30
before the current fund of Kalaari, which happened, and your partial exit of Kalaari, from dream 11, many team members and partners left Kalaari, was that a dark period for you? And what helped you to emerge like winner from that?
Vani Kola 26:48
This is an odd question for me, Siddhartha, that I get thrown these questions from even media, whatever, sometimes with media, I don’t even get asked the question. They just write what they think, must be like, you know, I’m actually 57 years old. And I say that only from the context of I’ve gone through four different you know, it’s not exactly you can’t say recession. But you know, for different industry financial meltdowns, setbacks, blah, blah, blah, significant ones, right, which affects the entire markets right now just doesn’t affect you. So, there may be individual crisis you go through. But you know, there is global crisis, you go through for at least four different global crises, I’ve gone through two startups that I have, you know, founded sold, five different funds that I’ve raised right. Now, you know, what I would tell you is, over the years, both from a personality as well as my tools, I mean, there’s no dark period, there’s no light period in order. It’s just life to be lived by the moment. Right. And your valleys are as important as your summits. You know, so you come out stronger from your valleys, if you realize that understand that. How can you ever reach any summit, a new summit without actually walking the valley? Right, you can sit at that summit and never move. Okay. And you can be done. And that’s the summit you have reached. But if you want to get to the next summit, right, you have to walk inevitably a valley. Now, it may be a deep valley, maybe a shallow Valley, but the shallower the valley, if you just think from nature, it’s not higher the summit. Okay. So, it’s just processing life. That’s important, right? And you can do that when you have clarity of purpose. And, you know, and conviction, and this is essential for living life to full potential, right. It’s only a fool who thinks that we can get through life without, you know, learning from setbacks, not failures, I mean, the best quote, on the road less traveled is there is no ultimate success. Hence, one summit after another summit after another summit, there is no ultimate failure, which is also when people say you are successful or powerful manner whether that was the past, right, what is the future, right? You have to be focused on what is the future, you know, for yourself, not through somebody else’s eyes. And today, more, so. Then ever, I feel that we live our life through the eyes of others, just because, you know, we are surrounded by, you know, so much of that getting bombarded. You only have to live your life through your eyes, what do you want, that makes you happy, that makes you fulfilled that makes you like you give back what you were, you know, born for or the responsibility of the privileges that you received and how you really completed that pay back karma, if you will, you know, and so I think people who know me know that, you know, I’m sort of surround myself in nature, most of my time, and I meditate every day. I’m a yoga enthusiast, all of these are my tools to live the life I want to live. So, to me, I don’t think in these terms of success and dark period, and you know, all of that, right, I just look at what do I want to achieve? Sometimes you have to walk an extra mile to achieve that sometimes it comes faster, that’s all does it matter? Right? I remember when my daughter was in kindergarten, her teacher called me. I mean, like, as if it was a crisis and said, she’s really bad behind in subtraction, can you get a tutoring, I was like, why, you know, no kid is going to get to 10th grade without knowing subtraction and to instill in someone that in kindergarten, you’re bad in subtraction, bad, you know, I mean, so this is so wrong, right? So, so the, our learning systems, which sort of don’t allow you to grow at your pace, also is a problem, right? Because you’re, you can really show and that can continue through life. So, I was I was and am very lucky to always believe that I can march to my beat, and compartmentalize that to take out the noise. Right. So now about people leaving or not leaving, for example, our first fund, I returned 2.7x, our second fund, we are returning close to 4x, we have already returned to 2x. And so, I know, I, we are in the highest performance category in the top 25, if not the top 10% of fund returns that we have generated from India, and I’m very proud of that, because that’s what I wanted to do come to India and prove that, you know, entrepreneurship is possible here. And that we can create valuable returns to investors, and we can create an industry here, right? Now, I, you know, I’m my own competition, meaning how can I be better today than yesterday, not competition from the negativity of it from the positivity of that every day, you have to live a better life, or be a better person than you did yesterday, you know, it’s a continuous improvement, and you never stop to you died, die. It doesn’t have to be always about commercial or work. But you were a holistic person, you know, everything that we do, right? You have to everyday strive, at least to say I’m going to do something better, right? Now, when you think about it from that perspective. For me, I want India and hence played my part in that to show that we are at the global best, right? Nothing needs to be handed to us. Either to me as a gender oh she is a woman and whatever. Nothing has ever been handed. nothing I’ve ever expected. handed, I know that everything I have to earn, no one is going to do me a favor, right? And it was going to happen because I’m going to work to be my best, you know. So, India, also, my dream is that, you know, it’s great moment this year, we see there’s a moto IPO there was always like, oh, Indian companies don’t return money. Can Indian companies go public? Can Indian entrepreneurs build to scale and you know, all these things, Harsh has 100 million users and, you know, cure fit is really making such a fundamental difference to health, for wellness to many people and to you, it’s I’m motivated by impact, right. And I want Indian entrepreneurs to be in the global best category, from returns we generate from the products we create, from the impact we create. I’m not saying you need to be a global company, but you need to be in that global. You need to be a global company, but you need to be in the global company of comparison, right? global 500 if you will, right. So, we are getting closer to that dream. But you know, we still have so much to do to get there. So, I like to much like an entrepreneur, which is how I associate myself you know, continue to focus on building a high-performance team. So just like you have a company that goes from zero to one, one to 10, 10 to 100, you know, you look at that, and you say, there is an evolution to it, right? It’s not good or bad, there’s a natural evolution to things. And if you, you know, only make things, if you don’t evolve things, you get obsolete, right. And so, evolution is part of life, experimentation is part of life. setbacks are part of life success comes as a result of all of those, right? So, I like to continue to aim for the next. And, you know, sometimes that requires you to continue to also evolve as a team, right? The most important thing in that is to do so in a way that is also professional, and respectful, you know, without compromising your integrity, and without confusing emotion and reason. You know, the reason has to be clear, but the emotion has to always ensure the highest degree of professionalism and human respect for each other. And without violating trust, you know, so I think those are the principles by which I have lived my life. Right? So, I don’t know if I answered your question or not exactly. But, you know, there is like a box we put people into, because we think they should feel this way. Or they should be this. And, you know, sorry, but I can’t fit that box. Right. You know, look at myself in a different box. So, it’s how it is
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 36:35
No, no, you explained that it beautifully. And one thing which I see is that, you know, your meditation plays a big role you also share about meditation, on your social media, how has that evolved you, as a leader, and your own learning, you read a lot for learning in the last two decades, I would say, like,
Vani Kola 37:03
everything I, I would be nothing without those two tools, I see nothing. You know, I think when I started my first company, in 95-96, my daughter was very young, to two and a half years old. And I had a startup and you know, family, and all of that. And I just felt that, you know, I will get unhinged with the level of pressure, stress expectations, responsibilities, if I didn’t find ways to center myself, right, we can all do a lot. But our energy goes into so many different directions, right? our energy is not channeled to our priorities and our purpose. And we are actually more robotic about that we are not even like the CPU that knows actually where its cycles are getting consumed, we have no such program, that program is your meditation that allows you to understand what is your priority, and are my cycles going there. And you know, if you see some rogue application, taking away your CPU, you’re going to kill that, right. But in our own life, 90% of the time, the rogue apps are taking over time and energy space, which we actually don’t recognize, right. So, you know, to achieve anything, you know, you need to kind of align yourself to your purpose, and like I said, cancel the noise, and you need to find whatever those tools are for you, you know, and for me, it’s a combination of things. It’s meditation, reading, nature, you know, running, I don’t run as much now, but you know, now it’s more and more replaced with yoga. But now, whatever those are, you need to have a whole perspective to life and balance to life. Balance may mean different things to different people, but find your equilibrium. And don’t apologize for it. Right? I remember, one entrepreneur wanted to talk to me at 11. And most of my entrepreneurs know that I am highly accessible to them. But that comes with a certain discretion, right? You use discretion to my time, and I refuse to take his call at 11pm. And he said, well, you know, blah, blah, blah, I said, Look, my family matters. This is not an emergency, it could it can wait, if it was an emergency. I will 100% take your call at 2am, 11pm whatever it is, but this is not an emergency. So just because you work at 11pm, I’m not going to take your call at 11pm. You know, and I’m not going to apologize for it. You know, I have a life, a life that I like to live. And I have never been apologetic about giving time to my family, even as a young entrepreneur. And as a woman. I said, well, those are all my parts of me. I can’t have one part not exist. And some other part. Be very high. It’s like only training one muscle in your body. You don’t just train your biceps, right and then you look ugly, you know, so to train every part of your body, it’s the same way every part of my life has to be able to coexist for me to succeed, you know. So finding the equilibrium is very, very important. And for me, my meditation is a big part of allowing me to a be focused on what I want being very clear inside. And also, you know, being able to pursue the life I want, without looking for approbation, you know, from somebody else, right? And that’s the worst thing, we always want someone to validate our life, you know, you don’t need it. And those are all the tools you need to develop
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 40:47
And my last question is, you recently launched a CXO initiative, which is set aside $10 million from the Kalaari to invest in women founders. Can you tell us more about it? Is it an integral part of Kalaari?
Vani Kola 41:04
You know, Siddhartha, I get asked over and over again in the last two decades to say, why are there so few women at the top? Why are there so few women in VC, where there’s fewer women getting funded? You know, and it recently an entrepreneur, women entrepreneur asked me, that is there we all talk about this, but what can we do about it? Right? We all talk about it. But talking is all easy. I’m a person of fewer words, who values actions over words, because words are actually easy, you know, you can make a commitment. But can you live the commitment? The hard part is not making the commitment. The hard part is actually to anything living the commitment. digressing here. But sometimes founders say, oh, you know, we need a term sheet in a week. I said, no, I can’t give that right. I mean, saying, oh, I’m going to be deeply committed to you. I mean, I can’t get there. Can I give you a term sheet in 24 hours? Yeah, I can. But if my conviction is not there, then I want to make a commitment to you that I may not be able to keep, that’s my value system, it may work for you may not work for you. That’s great, right? We can coexist. But, you know, I don’t want to commit to things that I can’t deliver to the best of my ability. Right? So that’s so you know, so I said, I mean, we talk, but what are any of us doing and I want to value actions over these words, right. And we started working on it. And then I just, we all know this, but you know, literally, only have all the funding that has happened in India, 1.5% has gone to women who are founders, they may have been co-founder in some capacity, then the number goes up by a little bit, even then it’s not that much, but women CEO is 1.5%. Right? Now, someday, we have to agree that that’s a problem, right? And we have to then truly reflect and say, what are the biases, right? That’s number has to tell you that there is a bias somewhere, right? So, it may be unconscious, it may not be deliberate. But it exists, right. So, I’m more importantly, the 10 million fund was to call the call out the elephant in the room, okay, and make it a point that needs to be part of the ecosystem discussion. And also, to do something about it, because when you do something about it, more people do something about it. The idea here is not just that Kalaari is the best at funding women entrepreneurs, I want every fund to be great at funding women entrepreneurs, right? So, but somebody has to say, I’m going to do X, okay. So that’s really the reason. And also, more importantly, having been a founder myself. Going through the age where you are going to be the founder, by and large, also happens to be the age where you have many other obligations and responsibilities to fulfill, right. So, it becomes doubly hard, you know, for women, more so than men. And that’s a fact. You know, we agree to that fact, there may be exceptions and outliers, that’s different. But if we agree to the averages, then we have to say, no, is there anything we can do to make that less friction less, less difficult, you know, less than more enabling, more coaching, more supportive, what can we do about that? Right? And I think I have a sense for that other woman who are in that position, have a sense for that. And if we are not the architects of that solution, then who will be right. So that was a thought process to see if you know, we have come far in the last decade as India, in the startup ecosystem in the next decade, can we really see more women who are CEOs of these great high impact startups that we are building? And do we need that we need a necessity for that not just to do good for good sake, but for the economic impetus for the world to be inclusive for, you know, really the right value reasons, not just, this cannot be like affirmative action, this is not a charity, you know, it’s not about women being more less qualified. That’s not what it is. They are equally qualified. But the opportunity and the support, small things could probably make a very big difference to the outcomes we can see. Right? At least that’s the thought process that let’s say, those are, again, words. You know, let’s see whether we can deliver the goods, right, which ultimately, is not the funding itself, funding is a means to an end. Funding is never the end itself, which is another pet peeve of mine, we talk so much about funding, why can’t we talk about how wonderful the product is, or you know, the value or the benefit or whatever, but so much of our noise, because it is noise goes into funding. But funding is only a means to an end and be always clear, what is the end that you’re trying to achieve? Right? So, my funding to this cause is just the, you know, grease or the fuel. And but the car was going to a certain destination, right? So, I would love to see over the next decade, which is probably like my active working life, right? for seeing more women at the helm of these great companies.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 46:53
Thank you so much. I would have loved to continue our conversation. But have to limited because of time, I would love to see a part 2 to our conversation and some time, but it’s been very insightful. Tremendous learning for me, all your actions and words, I can see come from deep reflection with a founder’s mindset. So, thank you for sharing that mindset with us today.
Vani Kola 47:19
Thank you. So that’s and I’m really admirer of the actions you’re doing for your part to grow our ecosystem and, you know, respect what you’re doing. So, the best wishes for that also and of course every founder but yeah. Take care.