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Hello and welcome to another brand-new episode of the Masters' Spotlight. Today, joining us in the podcast recording studio is Rajat Karol, entrepreneur, co-founder of Vadi health, which is, in his words, the next generation of health, co-founder also of Gain, the next generation in media. Now what does all this mean, we'll find out a little bit more as we continue this wonderful conversation Rajat, welcome.
Thank you so much for having me here. I'm very excited.
Hi Rajat, it's wonderful to have you on the show. We've known each other for quite some time now, and you've always struck me as being super curious, what was it that actually got you into entrepreneurship.
I think I was very straightforward. About a year and a half, almost ago I turned 40, and I bought a nice convertible sports car for myself, but I felt that that was not enough. I had been thinking about leaving the corporate world for quite a while, but I never dared. I mean I spent about 18 years in one company, and I say one company but I had probably 12 roles in 18 years I travelled across the world. So I always felt that I got a lot of variety, a lot of experience in those 18 years. I've also had the opportunity to work in different industries, but I got to a point where I realised that I was at a stage in my life where I could do more. And I felt that the organisation was still on a linear trajectory, they were going towards the goals that made sense for them, made sense for our customers, but there was a time for me to leave that trajectory and find that inflection point and go find my own future. I think that, along with the fact that I got more settled in life. I had a toddler by that time made me feel that this was the time for me to experiment. And I felt like it was a Goldilocks moment. I wasn't too young, I wasn't too old. I had enough experience, but not so much that I didn't have enough runway for the next 20 years to do something, impact for myself and for the society. And I also felt that I wasn't 20 years old living in my parent's garage so financially I wasn't that well off so I think the situation sort of became a perfect storm, where I felt comfortable enough to do something without having to worry too much about losing what I had, I think it's important because I hear a lot of startups today or historically happy, young kids who are, you know, very passionate they come out of college and they have a lot of energy, and they want to do something different. But I also feel that today the world is open to having entrepreneurs with a bit older, of seeing the world, have had some sort of corporate journey. And I wouldn't use the word disillusion, these people are not disillusioned but these are people who feel like, now's the time for them to use everything they have learned and everything they have seen both good and bad, and try to make a big material impact. So, I think that's the reason why I decided it was the right time for me to go do something that would have an exponential impact for myself and for society
Totally love that and Warsha always talks about courage and having the courage to take that step with everything we know about your experience and the learnings and the family and everything. There's a lot that you have to offer. and you know kudos for taking that step. Now, look, I'm also an ex corporate beast, and I have a favourite question what I actually wanted to ask you, and that is what did you have to unlearn or what are you still unlearning from the corporate space.
Yeah, I think a couple of things change in our lives. Number one, what you consider, is fixed, is no longer fixed and vice versa. So, two very straightforward examples of that are, whatever I do in my role, and I'm doing a good job in my role, I know the salary come into my bank account every month. I don't have to think twice. It just comes. Now, big or small comfortable enough or not, there is something always coming so that's sort of something that you are comfortable, on the other side when you want to do things, you always have to think who do I need approval from. I cannot tell you Evan, how much time I spent when I left the corporate role, thinking about wait who do I ask to double check and I realised, wait, there's no one else. Yes, there's my wife for a second opinion. And yes, there are friends, but none of them are, quote unquote, approvals, and it was one side it was very free in a sense you know what, I can make this decision, on the other side I had 18 years of asking for approval and I was a pretty senior leader, but you know like in real life, there's always a boss above you, doesn't matter how big you are, and therefore that was such a big mindset change Evan, because I was so used to say ok let me do a sanity check with this boss, and just completely coming out of that mindset made a huge difference. And I'll be very honest with you, it's not something that switched off immediately in my head, it took me some time. So, conceptually, I got the fact that I need to make my own approvals, but having to reprogram my brain to say you know what, it's just you, you know it's your goal at the end of the day was very interesting. I think the money one, I only say because you just have to be careful about it so that it doesn't become a constraint. I was very careful about how I did it, I had a corpus that allowed me to three, four years of breathing space and I was fortunate enough to do that, but some people may not be fortunate enough to do that or they may be forced into that situation. I am just saying the topic about money and financially, because if you want to do something different. If you start from a place where you're having to worry about basics. You cannot go and make a big impact because you're gonna be stuck, even like a Maslow's theory, you know and Maslow's hierarchy, you're going to be stuck on the equivalent first level, like where's my next you know cash flow coming from. And if you're constantly thinking about that. It's very difficult for you to go do something different. And again, the reason I say this as I said before is, it's very different being an entrepreneur when you're 20 years old, and you have no obligations in life financial or personal versus being an entrepreneur when you're 40 and you have your family, and you know all the other quote unquote habits that you acquire that need sustenance. So, you have to be smart about it. And you don't have to set yourself up for success but at a minimum, make sure that there's enough breathing space to allow you to actually execute what you want to do and not set yourself up for failure.
Oh, fabulous, Rajat I want to take you back to what you said earlier, the two things that you said, and I thought, Wow, I've never actually heard that analogy used in this scenario that Goldilocks moment, and something that you said, it's not disillusionment that people face, Or, by and large, that's not why people leave the corporate world and do something on their own in quite the opposite infact, because suddenly you feel that it's so much more I can offer to this world, and that's the time when you feel. Yeah, now I'm ready. So, could you talk to us a little bit about, first of all that space and that Goldilocks moment, and how has that journey been so far, because you know we like that fun aspect of what we do. So, tell us a little bit about that please.
Yeah, from our corporate world Warsha and Evan, we always used to say the cutting edge cuts, right. So, if you're on the cutting edge, you have to make sure that you're ready for the cuts, and then the Goldilocks moment basically is very straightforward, right, it's about making sure that when you do something, you leave enough room for you for growth in my corporate career I was there for 18 years. I was there because I was extremely happy. I would not be the person I am today if it was not those 18 years of being in that Forge and doing a lot of amazing stuff. So I'm extremely proud of that heritage and I think that disillusionment actually works the other way around because when you leave with a negative state of mind in a disillusioned mind, you are not thinking clearly, number one. Number two, you don't actually know what you want to do, you may just go work for another corporate and maybe you feel that, oh, I don't have a good manager or this or that. And that, again brings you into a situation which is not positive. And I think the biggest thing that I've learned, being in a corporate career which I take forward in the entrepreneurship journey is not being in a victim mode. I see so many people who put themselves in this mode saying, Oh my God, my job is is not paying me enough or my boss is not great. I just go back to the first job I ever did in GE, when I was out of my business school. We were on this accelerated leadership programme, and we were put in this extremely, extremely tough business. And I'm being polite when I say tough it was a horrible business, and we were all elite MBA graduates, all 18 of us in this business. And we struggled, and out of the 18 people, probably 12 quit, I was one of the sixth that stayed, and the people who quit they said, Rajat, why are you staying here. You know we are such from such and elite school, we can go work anywhere. And I said two things. This is a six month assignment. Okay. And number two, I'm happy to have this tough, but horrible assignment as my first assignment because it can only get better from there and it did. And in the amount of things in the way of working that I learned in those six months been amazing. And the simple reason was that I knew that at the end of the six months this rotation would finish. So, as bad as it was, and as many you know silver lining I tried to find important thing was it would end. And the reason I'm saying all of this as related to the Goldilocks moment is that at the end of the day. Life is all about balance, whether we talk about our corporate life or personal life, so it's extremely important to find things that allow you to grow, but always having a base, having something that you can return back to because you can take leaps out in the wild, sure and there are leaps of faith as agile methodology talks about but even when they say take leaps of faith, what they're really talking about is small jumps, because no one says in agile you go take a 2 kilometer long leap, they are all saying take small steps. So everything needs a balance and for me Goldilocks is a nice way to make sure that anytime you try to do something big you make sure that there is a counter balance. If you are trying to do something big in your professional life, make sure you have the right support in your personal life, your financials are sorted, then you can go make that leap. Otherwise, it is not taking a leap it like jumping blindly.
Rajat,now, tell us what has it been for you so far, how has the thrill been and I ask you specifically, let me give you some context, we were talking about this Evan and I, this was a tea time discussion this morning, that many time we hear entrepreneurship being referred to as the roller coaster ride, as usually in people's minds when one steady quote unquote steady so roller coaster ride isn't usually looked at as something good because many people overlook the thrill that roller coaster ride brings, because that's what's a lot of people live for having done something different and having stepped out and done something that you would'nt normally do and that's what people jump out of planes for, and I love that thrill that is entrepreneurship. Tell us what it has been for you so far.
I think that's a great analogy Warsha, if I take that forward and try to apply my last almost 2 years now. It's all my steps I for what life is all about steps and journeys that was that was top of the roller coaster. And I'm looking forward to becoming the roller coaster hasn't started yet, meaning I'm in my garden leave of three months and roller coaster is gonna start. It looks pretty high from up there and im chatting with my friend, everyone's around me. So I think for me that was the first step right like I'm looking down the roller coaster has started and I'm like, God, it's very long I can't even see the end. And it probably took me about six months in that phase where I was very hesitant. I was very indecisive which made me feel very weird because I have an extremely decisive person, but after a very long time. I was in a situation that is quite uncomfortable. And the funny thing was that in my corporate world I used to understand the comfortable rules and I used to do you want this was another level, and a very different type of uncomfortable. So that I think was the first phase. The second phase for me was my roller coaster started actually on a high. So, you know, I, had a co founded a new team, things were looking up, and they look sleep right but we weren't starting up, we were getting contracts things were going well. So easy right. So that only lasted for about three months where, you know me and my co founder realised that it wasn't working out, he still had a corporate role and he was really struggling to find time and he said you know what this is great, but I've just bought my villa huge mortgage in Dubai and everything is so expensive. I have to get I have to go back to my corporate life, and then suddenly my roller coaster started going down again. So whoops, what happens next. And so I had to restructure the company restructure the process, think about what I do next. But the good thing was, because I had done something now I had more confidence so I was more decisive. And even though it was my first drop, so as to speak in the roller coaster I was ready to see what's happening next. And so that meant for a few months I cleaned up stuff I'd like to restart the whole thing. There was a bit of a drop. And then again, you know, I think you guys were shocked, I met a few other folks on the team. And then the roller coaster again showed some highs right so I met and started talking about a few different things and then I continued that journey. And look, long story short, the roller coaster will continue I've had probably a couple of highs to three highs to the lows, and I love the highs, but I love the lows, even more because every low teaches me a couple of things that after the low comes because for a roller coaster to continue. It's only when it goes to the bottom and then starts climbing and then it has to go to the bottom. So that I think was the first thing and then the second thing was I again started becoming comfortable in this new uncomfortable, which was very different from a corporate uncomfortable, of being sent to a new role or whatnot, you sit in the same business, your team still knew you there was still a safety blanket. And now this was this new type of uncomfortable that I'm I think today after a year and a half. I'm probably much more comfortable being uncomfortable in this new context. And I am sure that another six to 10 months. Another type of uncomfortable will show up. And then I will need to figure out, using, you know my own resilience and my support network, how I become comfortable in that outcome. So I love the analogy of the roller coaster. I think it's the highs and the lows that give you the adrenaline rush, but from the Evan, we said before, it's all about learning, because for me the learning leads to more thoughts, and the more dots we connect, you know, the stronger network up right it's exponential, it's not linear.
Now it's not linear at all goodness, if there's one thing that an entrepreneur's journey is it's not linear. So yeah, I love it and I love how you expanded that entire roller coaster analogy. Wow, I love it I'm gonna take a couple of minutes to absorb that
Completely, remember there are different kinds of roller coasters. I laugh and I used to work in Dubai parks and resorts and they're you know the kids was more serious serious ones. Yeah. and the good thing is you can choose the roller coaster in a lot of cases. And so long as you're not closing your eyes. That's the thing right, you get to the top of like you, my eyes are wide open and if you go totally another avenue. You've always struck me is like an avid reader in a bookshop and what you're describing is looking at and learning from a lot of different areas. Moving on to that sort of space. You mentioned just in the pre recording when we were talking that you want to be known as a disrupter. So first, what is the disruption mean to you.
Yeah. I think for me, disruption is about having the courage to do something that may be obvious to other people at different levels, ie. To some people it may not be obvious, which doesn't matter, but to some people it may be obvious, but they may not be ready. They may be ready but the timing may not be right. And I want to be a disruptor in the sense that there is just so much room for innovation. And in fact the pandemic has helped people realise that, change is inevitable, and the change is going to come like a tsunami, whether you want it or not. So I think from a disruption perspective, having that mindset, and having the courage is important for me, Evan. The other thing that's extremely important is connecting the dots is extremely important to see what's happening out there that people take for granted. I have a simple example I think I was having this recording last week and I was talking to the producer afterwards and I was telling her, hey, you know, I came for this video recording and you know maybe have a couple of backup shirts, you switch up the air conditioning, I get it while you're doing it, because there is noise from the air conditioning, but there is enough advanced noise cancellation technology now that it is recording you don't need to do that. And she said, I don't think of that. I said, Well, let's have a meta conversation. Maybe you're thinking about it because you're so in the detail of what you do that you take things for granted because you've done this, your entire life so for you it's okay for people to come in a studio and sweat. But for me, it's not okay to come in a studio and sweat and therefore, I would like to have the air conditioners that make less noise and maybe there's innovation there. Be there is innovation around noise cancellation technology and c there is innovation around artificial intelligence which impose processing and take out the standard harm of an air conditioning. And the only reason I can think of that is because, number one, I'm not too close to it. I'm looking at it from a different perspective. Number two, I don't assume and take anything for granted. Nothing is for granted, you can change anything you want. And number three, which I have always thought as being my strength is thinking about technology. If you truly understand technology. The application of that technologies across industries. Absolutely across industries. So something like this noise cancellation maybe made for a very different purpose. It was maybe originally invented so that if you want to fly. You know you can sleep with comfort, that's fine. But there is nothing stopping you from using that in a studio for recording. So that's a good example. A recent example where, you know I think about disruption as challenging the status quo, and asking the why and going until you get an answer. But the most important thing that I've always learned is that just because people said yeah this is how it works. I don't care. I don't get that this is how it works. So whether it's women's health, whether it is media whether it is education, putting 40 kids in a class and asking them to go through a syllabus, whether it's Montessori or English or American and asking them to you know be like goats and learning is not the future. and therefore, I want to change that I want to change how learning works, I want to change how people think about health. People don't know like women don't know that, for example, that when their estrogen goes down their cholesterol rises so women enter into menopause earlier than usual. Have a 50% higher risk of cardiovascular diseases in the lab. So estrogen is not just a hormone about reproduction. So, for me you know, for me Evan, to summarise I don't take things for granted. And the more you learn, the more you connect the dots, the more you can innovate. That's what it's all about. And then finally, For me, technology is an enabler. It's a gun, right, or it can be beautiful flower. But if you use it well, whether it's health, whether it's media whether it's education, and it has think of your life. It's there to help you.
It's so, so powerful. To some degree, like when we have the meetings and Warsha will ask the question, what went well, what can go better. It really is about challenging that status quo, and having the courage to peel away those onion layers again this is what Warsha says all the time peel away those layers. And the great thing that you said there was, if you were to ask that same question to somebody in a different industry, their best practices might be commonplace to them, but it's something you can use in your space and it's it's completely new innovation, totally love it, Warsha?
Rajat, thank you for saying what you said earlier, challenging the status quo, always. And that's something I grew up with, as well as always challenge the status quo just because something has been done in a certain way for whatever number of years, doesn't mean it has to continue that way, that was absolutely brilliant. Very, very nicely done. So continuing on from now is staying in that disruption scenario, what are you doing today, in your own way, how are you applying that disruption around you. What are you doing, I asked this question specifically because when you talked about body health or game. It was about that next gen health, which means you're doing something groundbreaking over there, which is going to print out a whole different picture. Yeah, look, I'm
I am happy to talk about both, lets start with Vadi Health. And the interesting thing is its about women's health. But for us, that's just step one or phase one, and we have a very, very, very simple hypothesis around all of the things that we do in health, people don't think about their health until it is too late, which is that what's up normally happens. That's what normally happens when you're 25, you have your whole life ahead of you think being 35 years old. You think being 30 years old. You are invincible. Party hard, play hard, work hard everything hard, right, hard work, what you don't realise is that, actually you're not invincible, and that everything you do there is eventually going to catch up with a very simple and scientific example of this is that people who have poor quality sleep. Sleep for say less than seven hours a day, have less than 20% or 30% of deep sleep. Don't have enough rapid eye movement. These people, men or women or anyone have about twice as much probability of having cardiovascular diseases, twice as much, probability of dying younger. And this is all the sleep that you're missing when you're in your 20s right and I'm saying this because as myself right. I used to be out partying and the nice thing. On Saturday, our personal four hours extra, it's all math right, I lost four hours of sleep on Friday night and Thursday night by the way. And I'm going to sleep two hours extra for each of those days simple math. That's not how real life works. Today people are turning 40 They're running marathons and then dropping dead, literally, physically dropping dead, because we are pushing ourselves too hard. And so what we are going to be focusing on is moving away from the traditional concept of what is health, health, traditionally is very straightforward. It's about let's cure disease,
Great! Curing disease means that you have a disease. If you have a disease, it's already a little bit late for you to be curing it and traditional healthcare systems, particularly Western healthcare systems have been built on cure. Let's screen for cancer for diabetes or heart disease, and then let's go cure Let's cure cancer. Let's say we want to cure cancer. Of course, please. Let's Go cure cancer. But did you know that, for example in the US, one in 30 women die from breast cancer which is probably the most publicly known, cancer, but I don't know how many people know that one in three women actually died from heart disease that times more. But it's not sexy, right. And so there's a big deal. And it's painful. I mean I have people in my family who have gone through it. But that's not the big killer. It's the killer that creates a bigger noise, but there are bigger killers out there they are the silent killers the lifestyle diseases, 78% of the people in the world, die from non communicable diseases. It's called a rich person's disease, people in developing countries, die from diarrhoea, malaria, smaller things that can be prevented or Western countries, people die from rich people's lifestyle diseases obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases. So, in short, right, this is where the world is today and as we continue to evolve. And as I talked about the double edge of technology which makes us more comfortable, more sedentary more lazy everything comes to us you deliver home you eat whatever you want. You in 2000 calories of fat in the shake, you don't even realise, which is more than your entire daily intake prevention becomes much more important, and screening becomes much more important. So, our focus is the following. Move beyond curing, leave that to the healthcare systems and the government's and the Ministries of Health and focus more on prevention. So we came from a background where we were all very highly educated but none of us ever were told, or were taught how to form good habits, how to sleep well, how to eat well, maybe I didn't integrate I was told you know have emotions of fruits and veggies, and you know a few of these nice sounding things right, but no one ever told us what does being healthy means in all our education. Number two, if you ever think, and go back to your time in school, and even in work. People who are rigorous people who are diligent, do better. And one of the very common traits across all these people is that they know how to form good habits get up at six o'clock in the morning. Do all your ablutions, we're going to get ready then spend some time working or reading, and then have more of a fixed routine but a routine, a set of rituals, a set routine. Some people can do it naturally. But most people will not know how to do it. And this is something that anyone and everyone should be able to do. So for us the two premises that are very important is understanding about health, so that you can prevent them. Number two is reprogramming your brain maybe at our age, I guess, understand how to form good habits. So Vadi health is all about prevention and screening of non communicable diseases which are what we call the silent killers. And the way to do this for us is through reprogramming your brain. Resetting your brain. And then forming good habits. We don't want people to turn into boring versions of themselves. That's not what habit formation means what it means is that you understand what are your goals in life, and you find the time, energy, to go and pursue them whether they are professional whether they are personal. So that's what Vadi health is about and we are doing a lot of innovative work around using technology to help bridge the gap because healthcare is all about three things, cost, quality and access. Sure, I can hire an ever movie star if I'm an Instagramer making a personal coach, and he or she can be with me, You know, two, three hours a day, give me coaching about nutrition and about lifestyle, you know, make my smoothies, relatively healthy. I mean, everything else being equal, but people do not have access to that right so there's a cost issue there's an access issue, which by the way the pandemic has accelerated. And then there's a quality issue, the quality issue is very straightforward. The industry we are in the wellness industry, it's a $5.3 trillion dollar industry. Most of it is unregulated, there are no guidelines from FDA from European organisations, or even local organisation on what is wellness. So any Tom, Dick and Harry can come and sell you any solution and call it wellness. There is very little scientific evidence. So if you are a person who's trying to be well, and you go on Google, you can't ask your doctor because by the way, guess what your doctor was also not told about prevention, you know, if you get a few kilos, your doctor will say, what is happening now, Rajat, I know it's the pandemic, but you need to lose five kilos, and it happened to me I have gained four kilos or five kilos during the pandemic and my, I had COVID So I went to my cardiologist and I said to me said, you need to lose five kilos and you will be fine. Otherwise they're all fine. I said okay. So Doctor, how should I do that. So he sent me a link to an NHS website which said oh go to this website, and you tell me that you're the doctor you just told me loose kilos and I was on pulling his leg I was trying to understand I was like, What do you want me to do. You just told me to lose five kilos. We haven't told me how valuable you should eat less, you should be more have emotions and you know, some running or some find something. Okay, you. Nice. You don't need the word you're in debt with the how. How should I reset myself. And I'm not blaming him as a doctor, im saying look he himself does not know. Doctors are one of the worst abusers of drugs and smoking in the world. They have ample access to it. And they feel they're invincible and I say this as the son of two doctors. My father thinks he's invincible because he's a doctor. So long story short, Vadi health is about prevention. Its about screening, early for diseases, but primarily it's about healthy living by reprogramming your brain, and helping you form healthy habits, not just the ones that lose kilos or sleep or whatever but how to do it and help you do it.
That's obviously amazing. Funny enough, it made me think a little bit of Warsha and my journey in terms of the health. We fortunately had access to a coach. So when you say to the doctor. Teach me. Sometimes they don't know. And equally, sometimes a doctor and we're very fortunate to have our own GP, more than often than not will say look, just take some khada. Right. You know just old family recipe kind of thing, the traditional kind of treatment, have that you'll be fine with the health, it was definitely a lifestyle change. And there we got a lot of help with portion size and all that sort of stuff so it made a difference for us but like you said, there's a huge disconnect with access. I think the other one that was hearing was awareness is a huge issue in that disruption space, how are you able to address that awareness.
Yeah, look, awareness is very very important, in fact it's the key step to make this happen. But what we've realised is that the people who care about awareness are usually aware. It's the people who are not preaching. Yeah, the people who are aware, they've already googled them they know a little bit I mean they may have some misunderstanding, but you're having to clear. And this is such a big revelation for us in hell, that it's the people who don't want to be aware, are the ones who want to target, because the ones who are aware, are aware, or can be made aware we have enough tools you can Google, and I'm going to tell you something that's not available on any website I mean it's not magic, it's all accessible information. The reason I'm saying this is that what we realised is that logically you would think the first step is education. The second step is prevention. You're whatever right. But what we realise is the reality is actually very different the first step, actually is. Quick Fix solutions. Before you can educate someone because people will not come to you and say, I am 24 years old, I'm in the prime of my health. Tell me how to be healthy, because as I said, they are in there. So for them, for 22 year old girl comes to me she doesn't care about, you know, cardiovascular disease or cancer, she's 22 years old, her whole life is ahead of us. So the way to talk to her, is not to talk about the future. A future that she's not even thinking about a way for us to address her is to actually fix what she has now, so she will come and say, You know I have acne I have weight gain, we have this. So we have a very clear strategy look we're happy to educate you. But if you think we are old people, boring you with our education, let's first fix your problem. One, I have coaches telling me a few days ago we had such a great conversation about this topic and what she said was a lot of people come to us for a symptom, they will come to us to say we have acne or we have weight gain or whatever I know you're unable to speak well. But when we fix their lifestyle, maybe three things. Number one, because we fix their symptom, now we have their trust. So now we can say with a customer was that look we fix this now. Now let us tell you what else you need to think about. And now we have more credibility in their context, number one. Number two, that's very important, around this is the fact that once you fix a symptom, you actually fix other things so a lot of people will come back to us and say, Well you know what I came to you for weight loss but since I've lost weight, my energy level have also gone up. So it's a side effect, it's basically all about more healthy. So you came for a symptom. But when we are fixing your lifestyle, we're not just fixing that symptom we are going deeper, and we are fixing your entire way of living. That's number two in terms of helping them understand that there is a broader element around, and then Evan, the third step comes around awareness and education, and then they feel more in control. And now more confident that I can manage my own health. I'm more in control of my destiny. And so we've sort of armed them right we've given them the tools we've shown them that it works. And from that position of showing them, we are having this conversation. So I know right. I mean, we always thought well let's start with education, let's start with education, it doesn't work, education, maybe work for someone who's gone through it right so a woman who's going through menopause, you can talk to her about education, but a 22 year old. She doesn't need to hear about how wellness works for 42 year old man.
I mean it sounds very much like one of my pet peeves is such as financial literacy. A lot of that is not taught at home either. And I'm just wondering if maybe that's where, where the breakthrough might end up happening, and it drives me Warsha is always very, very careful about what we eat, and she said something in one day and I thought, oh my god that absolutely is it. If you don't recognise what you eat, that your grandparents would not recognise kind of thing. You probably shouldn't be eating it. And I thought, that is a wonderful sort of yardstick to say you know what, if his ingredients don't make sense, don't eat it and it's just, it's held true for us and it's amazing, it's make all the difference. And yet, as you say is that awareness, we already are aware. So it's very interesting, not to be cracking and you will definitely find a way. I know that. So, moving on, a little bit to the choices that you're making. You've always struck me as being very discerning about what you do. And in that disruptive space, what a discerning mean, and where is that taking you on your path?
That's a great question Evan, and then on one side it's very easy to be discerning, because for me it comes naturally. So I'm very, very careful and very selective. At the same point of time. When you look at fields like health or education the fields are so wide there is just so much to be done. We have barely scratch the surface that there is always an excitement to do more. And for us, how it translates into discerning, sort of a conversation is very straightforward. We initially thought and focused on wellness and lifestyle, which is a huge area on its own, but then down into where would we make the most impact, because we tried to figure out right like we want to do the thing and we could do it for men. We could do it for older women. We could do it for anyone because wellness is not something restricted to younger women, but there's a very particular reason we chose that because what we realised was that was the segment which was the most underserved and therefore it was the segment to have the most impact social impact. Revenue wise, by the way we probably make more money from older women who are more financially independent and therefore will be able to be able to pay us more. So, financially, we would have gone for older women. Today, most of the femtech start ups focus on reproduction, because that's where the money is often tech startups focus on older women, because older women, by definition, usually more financially stable and more independent and therefore, as I said before, are also more aware. So they would be the perfect places, if you do your standard follow the money. Follow the money to figure out where the money is no rocket science to figure it out. We did our homework, we did all our research. But there is an impact somewhere else. And look, it doesn't mean that eventually you will not go back to older women and men and whatnot, all need health and wellness, but we wanted to start with an area where we could have an impact. I'm gonna make the opposite decision, because we're trying to maximise shareholder value. Stakeholder revenue whatever right all these fancy terms we use right. And mathematically as an ex CFO I would have gone for older women. But , as an entrepreneur, I have the opportunity I have the ability to make a different choice. So, yes, entrepreneurship, roller coaster but entrepreneurship is also about being able to make the decisions that feel better. And a decision that when you wake up in the morning you wake up happy thinking you know why. Sure, I'm gonna make money. I'm going to be happy. But I will also be doing something that fulfils me in some way, either myself or if I fulfil a part of the society which in turn fulfils myself, yes this selfishness, I'm doing to make myself happy. And this is what makes me happy.
Totally true. I love how you gave that very definite spin to what discerning means and how does it play out in a different role from being in a corporate role so in entrepreneurship. I think that is one of the greatest things for me, particularly is, you have the freedom of choice anyway, even in in a corporate world, you can absolutely have your say when in the space of what we do, I think rather than what you clearly highlighted is, you definitely have the right of choice to say what you want to say but over here you have the right to actually to get up and do it. No one's stopping you. There are no boundaries that you're playing within so I love how this entire conversation is flowing. And something else that you said made me think of our next point of conversation is when, you know, I have the flexibility and this is how, what I'm going to do. It takes courage to actually stand by your decision, and do it. Even if we stumble and fall, stand by your decision, get up again started all over. So talk to us a little bit about what does being decisive and standing strong by your decision. And how do you do it, what does that mean to you?
Look it doe not come easily, and by the way I don't think I should be taking any credit for choosing this field even if I was part of the decision, my co founder has herself suffered from PCOS, she's my childhood friend and she is the one who actually introduced this whole world to me. I did not know what PCOS ment, I did not know what woman's health really meant. And I consider my self fairly educated. And I am saying this about decisiveness also because it is important for me to say look before I become discerning and decisive, let me make sure I learn enough about it. Sure I don't have a monthly cycle, that does not mean I cant ask and start learning a bit about it. Not going to make me a expert anytime soon but it is important to go out and do that. And I think for me the reason I am saying this in particular is because eventually decisions are routed in your comfort levels and your understanding and finally your interpretation of a situation. So you cant be decisive if you don't have an opinion. I used to always push my team on this same conversation that look at the facts but I want all of you to have an opinion. I want you all to absorb what you are hearing from me and from our customer and our partners but I want you to put it through your own lens and may be your lens has some bias, has some mud, maybe there is some context, maybe there is some diversity. And then the decision becomes stronger when multiple people take it through their internal lenses which they have shaped over their lifetimes based on everything they have done and then they come to their decision and different people have different levels of comfort, me and my founder partner are on opposite scales.
I am more of 30% 40% data is enough. She is more of a 90% and that works out well, And I appreciate that because it allows us to be fast, where we need to be but also be considerate. And the funny thing is im the ex-CFO, and she is a serial entrepreneur, but she's the one who's very careful, very thoughtful and takes time, and I let her know do that. So I don't think there is a one stop shop or a right or wrong way even to be decisive I think everyone has their own comfort levels. What is important is that, number one, you get comfortable with your own style, but number two, what is their own style. So for example if I know that my style is more comfortable with less data to still make a decision. I always compensate for that because I know this is my natural style. So if this is my natural style. I always ask for more data than I actually need, I may have made the decision, and say four questions ago, I made the decision, but I will not know that he sent me this, I mean stimulants. And it's to give me more comfort that it wasn't just my first opinion, but that will be there has now been validated with more and different, and uncorrelated data points, which just confirmed which I already knew that I was going to do this I was gonna say yes to this, but I'm still gonna ask you five more questions, they don't need to know that that's just what my comfort. So I think this is how I think about decision making that, like anything in life, understanding where you come from, understanding your own style, and therefore making sure that when you are applying that style, you of course get all the positives from it but just watch out for the cons of it, and see how you can compensate them.
Totally. I love it. And another question for you. Again, in that whole transition scenario, how, if it has, what are some of the aspects of your leadership styles that has changed after this transition. I'm very curious to know that we behave differently in different roles.
So, one of my best friends who is a big HR leader now used to be my HR business partner many many many years. He always told me that leadership is about rage, and what he means by that is, he said, look, you can be passionate on certain days you can required on certain things you can be angry. It's okay to be angry. You have a range of emotions, and you need to have a range as a leader. The second thing he said is leadership is about your natural style, the more natural you are, the better it is or the easier it is because what happens is that under stress, you end up regressed to your natural style. So if you have a weak adaptive style of leadership. The first time a big crisis hits you, you will regress, and when you regress, people see a different version of you. And it may be a better version, it may be a worse version but the biggest issue is that when they see a different version of you, they freak out like this is not the Rajat we know either he's become soft but he's become aggressive but this is not how it used to be. And I'm saying this to you Warsha, because I have taken a lot of leadership lessons, and I became a leader fairly early in my corporate career. And I learned from great leaders, I learned even more from not great leaders, I always chose roles based on leadership. And yet, when I come into the entrepreneurship environment. There are certain things that I carry that helped me and my team, they like my structure. They like the clarity of thought, and they like the bias to action. I have a huge bias to action. I'm happy to think all day but eventually, I have a bias to action. Having said all of this, one of the biggest elements that I have had to unlearn and I'm still on learning is the concept of carrot and stick in a corporate world you are as a leader, when things get tough, you're meeting, you're always threatening in some way like not shouting or whatever but if this doesn't happen all hell will break loose. This doesn't happen this will happen, or if this doesn't happen this happened to you or to me or to the company but like something will happen. And there's always this underlying thread. That seems to happen at least in the culture of the organisation that I was with, a very traditional, one of the oldest companies in the world. My founder told me one day she said, Rajat, I don't respond to sticks and this team does not responds to sticks and I know sometimes you mean it well, and I know why you do it and how you do it but it just doesn't work. It took some time. Of course and distributed, some time to process and figure out what do I need to do differently. And how do I unlearn what I have learnt which is a very bad habit. And the funny thing is, it was being done for me and I like that this is okay this is normal. And it took me a long time to unlearn it, I promise is six months. And what I did was very straightforward I used to ask my co founder to say look, you have two options. Either you call me out in our corner, or in a meeting with a team, if I'm doing this stuff.
I'm comfortable with it, and I'm comfortable to apologise and I'm comfortable, fixing and all you give me feedback. So, the interesting thing was in the beginning she was giving me offline feedback like hey Rajat you're getting better but that being said this, and then as she saw me getting better she started giving me more direct feedback on the calls. And it's like a bad habit that I was trying to unlearn like, I was like look I have a bad habit and I am trying to unlearn it. So, the leadership style, Warsha, I don't know if it's any different. I think the biggest difference if anything is the size of the team, im used to have a team of, you know 20 direct reports, you know 2000-3000 here and there and whatnot. And now I have like 10 people, so you know we I love it. I love it because I'm able to spend much more time with the team as a leader. And also as someone who learns from them. The relationships are more intimate, at least for now I hope we can keep them as we scale and grow. But in particular, it offers me an insight that I was not able to have before. Because in a corporate environment, leadership and management was the same. So, anything I've said in particular cultures, particularly Middle East or Asian cultures was the Word of God. In an entrepreneurial set up where by nature the set up is more flat, people are more comfortable giving feedback, people are much more comfortable in pushing back. I have all these doctors in health which have worked for me. Firstly, they're, they're more experienced and educated in what they do in the field that we are in by the way, which I'm very comfortable with, gives them a position of comfort and parallel hierarchy where they're very comfortable pushing back, saying Rajat you have no idea what you are talking about, let me tell you and Im like yeah sure.
And this happens every second day, I mean I'm learning and I'm not just happy that they do and I'm happy that, as a leader, I'm able to give them that opportunity and environment because I struggle with it so as a corporate leader. Let's say I would go to South Africa, and South Africa to visit my team. So I would say let's have a roundtable these 12 people come and sit with me. Ask me anything about the business what's going on. Two squeaky questions would come up which would be absolutely fake and I know they would be planted by some one and I am trying to push now ask me a tough question. Hey Rajat, what happened last quarter, what's happening here and when we buy this business why are we selling and what happens discussion. Very few people would have the courage to do that. And it was very, very difficult for me, to get a pulse of the team. So most of the time I had spies I had spies that would give me the inside information to know what's going on. And in the entrepreneurship world it probably TMI. Too much information that we have is very happy to share all sorts of information, professional and personal and I love it. And I love it I love it for me. In the beginning I was like wow, but now I'm very happy with that. So I think for me, Warsha you asked this question about leadership, I wouldn't say it's changed me as a leader, but I think it's completely changed the context in which I'm practising leadership, and therefore allowed me to explore different avenues versus what I was used to in a corporate structure
Totally loved that, what's resonating with me and is also something I had to unlearn coming from that corporate space it is less about me and covering your back side. In the entrepreneurial space it's very much about checking your ego at the door and make open to that feedback and some new ideas, like I say something I've learned from Warsha who insist on that in the other businesses. So tell me, when you're not busy, right come five o'clock, you know, something below the yard, all that sort of thing. What does Rajat like to do?
What I like to do or what I want to are to different things.
It's up to you. Okay, one you can tell us.
I will tell you a new thing that I've picked up in the last few months, I think me and Warsha were talking about it recently, is massively multiplayer online real-time strategy, or it's a board game, it's 24 Seven. There is no despite you with a bubble or someone will burn you to death. You will build your keep, you build your military. I love this game because of various reasons, but two reasons in particular, for me it's like accelerated simulation of business world slash your life, meaning we have people and these are real people right so it's only there are no non playing characters.
So you get to interact with people and things happen on an accelerated pace so today we were having a discussion in the morning on Discord from you sitting in Dubai half the folks in US, some people in Australia. So we the second biggest alliance on the server. And we are very unhappy with the top alliance because they have stolen some of our best players. They become too big, and they are basically dictating that terms which philosophically we don't agree with, we were the second biggest Alliance and then they were talking to the third and fourth on how do we, you know come together, how do we beat the big Alliance, how do we get them to work with us or not work with us. It was like the real life simulation but accelerated or what I might do in a business world on a personal. So I'm loving it because it's great for me to practice leadership so I'm the leader of my small Alliance so it's great for leadership. It's great to see How do you work with people with different incentives there are people who are casual players and there are people who are serious players like in any organisation. And there are people who are very polite and then there are people who are not. We have fantastic gender diversity, lots of women playing with us, and it's a great way for me to practice things in my leadership style. It's a great way for me to practice strategy. When you attack when you defend. So every two weeks, there is a war of server versus server. So, we have an opportunity of all the alliances on our server to either unite and fight against the other server, or become a spy, and give the details of the other Alliance and lose the war because we are pissed off in someone else. And it is such a reflection of your life. And the funny thing is, my wife always asked me so what happened today and Im like you know what
Marsh did this and then Mira was doing this, and this guy's doing this and you want to do this this strategy and it's just amazing. And I've never done this in my life, I was not, you know, real time or whatever game player I used to always be like racing you know go race in a fixed line, whatever, right, but I feel now, maybe at this stage of my life or maybe my entrepreneurial journey that this sort of a simulation is a great way for me to let my hair down, but at the same point of time like have a meta meta sort of a journey around what am I trying to do, and I absolutely love it
Totally loving this is particularly when there's interaction at homes and offline as well. Absolutely incredible.
By the way, there are players who play with their loved ones like in our server. There is a brother and a sister who played together in the same Alliance, then there is a husband and wife who play in competing alliances, and they fight with each other. I hope not in real life and no but they definitely fight on the server. So there are relationships makes this also and some people disclose that there is a relationship so like I know that this woman and my brother are both in the same Alliance, but there are some people who don't disclose. So there are nuances and you know, I don't know if you have ever read Dune right. So in Dune the side there are wheels within wheels within wheels within wheels. So there are strategies happening within strategies that someone is doing something we think is for a particular reason. So for example, the reason I only reason I know this is because she said that she was very unhappy with a brother because he had lent her his dog for the weekend. And then he took the dog away when inoculation service dogs I wanted to go over his escape. Why are you so angry at him, he said, This is why she's angry I'm like okay, so something happened in real life and now it's been translated into an action in the game that most of us have no context. So, great learning, but also a fantastic accelerated simulation of real life.
Love it and particularly every decision has consequences, where they come from different interesting, really interesting. So last question for me. What can we look forward to from you over the next couple of years?
A couple of things, hopefully I settle down with one of the nice books to your analogy, by the fire place and I read the book at least for a few years before the book finishes and then I go find a new book. And then the other thing I want to do for myself and I've always thought about this and I think I will make a big social impact, which is why the field chosen very carefully chosen, healthcare, media, education are fields that affect us as a society, but also have an opportunity to do something for good but also where they can be misused, and therefore I feel like it's my personal mission to figure out how to use disruption, technology, joining the dots across industries, things that helped people. That helps me sleep better, and wake up in the morning feeling that I have accomplished something. But I would also like to say that there is just so much to be done, that we are just scratching the surface. So I know that what ever I do and we do with my co-founders and the businesses we are in fact there's a lot more to be done, but even if we can encourage 10 other people to start doing start doing something similar. I think that would be a bigger victory versus what we personally achieve or our organisations personally achieve in the companies we are working on.
You know from Women's Health is about normalisation of the conversation, it's about making the conversation mainstream. My wife and I have a conversation about where she is on the cycle what's going on. And I hope that people normalise these conversations with their wives and daughters with their sisters is important. So for me that's the sought victory I want that morning yes make money and all the great work, but that is the sort of victory that means that we made it.
Nice. Very, very nice, which actually leads us so beautifully into one thing that we love to hear from our guests, is what is your I Dare to statement. What would you say yours is, Rajat?
We dare, for Vadi Health, we dare to make conversations about women's hormonal health mainstream and normalised, and so boring that it is just casual.
Absolutely love it. Rajat, one of my ex coaches when you would do a whole day seminar. One of the phrases that was always used was, oh my god, this is like drinking from a firehose, there is so much to take in and you may be blown away. I think this has to be one of our drinking from the firehose is kind of episodes, this has been phenomenal. We loved everything about this episode. Thank you for bringing out the different aspects of entrepreneurship, of the transition, what you're doing in at Vadi Health. So, it was brilliant and it was about time somebody, took this up and we are so glad that you did.
Rajat, thank you very much for your time today. This has been a brilliant episode; we are very very happy that you agreed to come as our guest.
Thank you so much. I'm excited, I'm excited to hear how it comes out, and how it plays out in real life, this is my passion project and if I make money on it that's great, its what going to keep me happy. Im trying to make money on other projects so I can keep working on this and doing what I really believe in.
So Rajat it has been absolutely wonderful having you on the show. Rajat, where can people find you?
People can find me on social media, so I'm on LinkedIn, Im fairly active, more as a listener rather that voting and what not, so I will share my profile. For the organisations that I'm mostly involved in, you can find us on vadihealth.com and you can also find us on our holding company website which is dhc.ai which is the digital human company.ai. So both of these places are where you can get more information about what I do and what we do and would be happy to hear more.
Brilliant. We wish us so much luck and believe me, not just Evan me the entire community and our listeners are going to be watching what happens with Vadi Health, the world needs more people like you Rajat Karol, thank you very much again, it has been a brilliant hour that we have spent, what a great start to our day and a brilliant start to our week.
Thank you so much both. Take care.
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