Episode 17 | Avi Patchava on India’s Future with Artificial Intelligence

I stumbled upon Avi Patchava because of his recent post, “The 5 unexpected reasons why Indians make it as CEOs of global companies,” and I was surprised that it was so sincerely reasoned. Avi graciously agreed to jam with me  and we talked about his journey from London/McKinsey to InMobi, the tech scene in India (the last podcast I’ve had on that topic was with Azeem here), as well as tech-talent and the failure of Indian pedagogy as practiced in India today.

He is bullish on India as thriving as an AI-exporter:

A big backbone is people that can build these systems… India has an excess supply of people who are trained in those fields – engineering, mathematics, analytics, and increasingly in data science, but the applications in India are limited… so India is become an export market in this field.

The export market notwithstanding, Indian companies are preparing to move from low-skilled to high-skilled technology work:

India is trying to find a pivot in how it engages with the technology world. And I see that on two fronts – India itself is going through a digital revolution – partly from a push from the government to digitize government services… but also more naturally in the consumer tech revolution… Wipro and Infosys have explicit strategies to move into [AI].

But it’s hard to imagine that this is scalable, given India’s education system.

The education system is moving incredibly slowly – much slower than technology and needs of industry demands… and it’s a common frustration across the board in India. You get a workforce in engineering in the millions that’s being produced, and as a whole, cohorts that are coming through have not had a good setup that engenders creative thinking, how to pose inquisitive questions that push of their science and discipline. But… it’s still a numbers game so you still do produce, by sheer luck or the genetic lottery, innovators.

We didn’t get to spend much time on this but we touched on Avi’s writing on the reasons he is bullish on Indian society being able to cope with AI much better than most Western democracies (it’s worth a read: here).

If we are going to see this mass description in jobs and on the economies, how will societies will put up with it? Because… that wave has political ramifications.

Episode 14 | Srishti Handa, on being a solopreneur woman in India

This week I jam with Srishti Handa on her journey as a solopreneur woman in India, and talking about her experience in starting, and then closing, The Temperamental Chef, a frozen food business in India.

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Episode 11 | Azeem Zainulbhai explains the Indian tech scene

My guest this week is fellow UChicago alumnus Azeem Zainulbhai, who quit being an international financier to be a tech entrepreneur in India. I spoke with him about his journey and stories, from co-founding Restaurant Week India (successful exit) to Housing.com (there’s lots on the internet about that story) to ShopX, his current professional home. We talk about tech, India, professional growth, and learning in a conversation I would have been happy to keep on having for hours.

Being in tech in India feels exciting and daunting. The sheer scale and potential of it all is noteworthy, but add to it the complexities of working on Indian infrastructure (both physical and social) and the dynamics with raising capital for a tech company in India, I’m left awestruck at the whole enterprise. You’ve got to have a gut of steel to want to do it, and I’m thankful that there are people who not only do it, but, like Azeem, are willing to explain it to the rest of us.

There was so much career advice mixed in this conversation that I’d encourage any young professional to listen to the whole thing, but one set of life lessons I thought particularly worth highlighting:

  1. Always be learning

2. Tame your ego

3. Have a reason above salary

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. As always, I’d love to hear your feedback. Thank you!