Good morning Aman, thank you very much for joining us today. We’re very excited to have you here today. First, let’s start by asking you where you’re calling in from.
Amandeep: Hi Jeffrey. Thank you so much for having me here and I’m Aman Srivastava, a serial entrepreneur, and energy investor from India.
Jeffery: Brilliant! We love India. We work with India quite frequently and lots of great entrepreneurs and investors have been springing up over the last five years so we’re very excited to dig in. So, welcome everybody to the Supporters Fund Ask An Angel. I’m your host Jeffery Potvin and let’s welcome our investor today which is Aman Srivastava. The way we like to get started is can you please share a little bit about your background and where you’ve come from. I see that you’re an MBA which is brilliant so you’ve got lots of great backgrounds. I’ll let you start by just sharing a bit of insight about yourself and then one thing about you that nobody would know.
Amandeep: First of all, namaste to all from Indian culture and thank you so much Jeffery for having me here. I’m Aman Srivastava, a serial entrepreneur and engineer investor from India. We have a startup journey from 2016. For 2-3 years, I’ve been an entrepreneur and I’m still an entrepreneur. I consider myself a serial entrepreneur because I have founded more than seven startups and invested in more than seven or eight startups till now and we have a good panel of starter investor teams. We love to invest in those startups that make some social impact. We have started with the vision of healing nature with the help of technology. That is the theme of my first startup. Technology is privately limited. India is considered as the healer of nature with the help of technology. Because we are in the AI and IOT domain, I mostly invest in those startups who have some vision of social impact on the natural resources like water work, groundwater conservation, air quality maintenance and this is all about myself.
Jeffery: Brilliant! And one thing about you nobody would know.
Amandeep: The “nobody would know thing” about myself is I’m quite an introvert. At this time, I’m looking for an extra word but I’m quite an introverted guy. I deal with my problems on my own and this thing of this nature of myself made me a good and successful entrepreneur.
Jeffery: I love it. We carry very similar traits there. so I’m a big fan and I’ve loved all the things you’re doing. It’s pretty interesting and I want to kind of jump into some of that because a lot of the time we get a balance between the investor who is running a business. but you’ve kind of taken this to a whole different level. you’re doing something very extraordinary in the sense that you’re using social impact and building companies inside of this space. What got you started in social impact? and from all the podcasts that I’ve listened to you that you’ve been on and all the interviews I’m just totally impressed by how you’ve taken this approach to solve the world’s problem and helping the world heal and I’d love to learn what got you started in this and why you decided to take this approach.
Amandeep: From the very start when we were in graduation time, we used to have a lot of friends and we used to talk about things like water and air quality. The air quality index is very poor right now. The pollution is very high. People are consuming a lot of groundwater, extracting a lot of groundwater from the ground, and not restoring the same. My first co-founder and I thought that everybody is working for money now. basic 10x evaluation, 100x valuation, and trillions of money but nobody is thinking about this thing. What happens if mother earth will not be there? Will this money be worth it? Then we realized that people, in India or any specific country, have a habit that technology has ruined nature. technology is responsible for ruining nature. they have cut in the trees and all. then we have started with the vision of letting this technology heal nature. With the help of its other segments, we started to work on the first part that we have suffered, which was groundwater. We used to buy water when we were in the final year of our graduation. In the final year of the duration we have a habit to buy water and we have to because there was no source of that. One night, the electricity was cut due to some maintenance problem. The water got stuck and we got water after two days. For those two days, we have paid four or five times more money for the same water and it was a disaster for me. So then we thought that we should do something for this kind of purpose to pursue this kind of vision so that the next generation will remember us for what we have left them in inheritance. In Hindi, there is a word called virasana. the means of inheritance to the next generation. they should remember us for this thing that we have made a world. We have made a good place to live so there will be no need to migrate to the masses.
Jeffery: I agree. I like that. I think when it comes to social impact building and social impact investing, they’re really important and they’re on the forefront of a lot of entrepreneurs, even investors and business people. There’s a lot of talk going around on how we can improve, how we can change the climate and there’s a lot of crises that have been going on in the last little while. In the last couple of years that has been pushed to the forefront and it does take entrepreneurs like yourself to make these changes and get behind them so that others will start to make the same type of impact changes which is again, amazing that you’re doing this. If we go back to some of the first earlier stage companies that you created, did you get a lot of learning from while you’re in school? This type of background that you’re building up did a lot of that go into the first companies that you built and when you were building these companies when did that impact start to flourish? When did you start to look at it and say you know what this makes a big difference, okay I’m making money but maybe we should look at making a difference instead? Was that part of those early-stage companies or is this kind of something more recent?
Amandeep: I’ll start with the first startup that I have co-founded actually. It was black eye technologies private limited and the first product was irrigation alert 2.0. That particular starter in that startup made smart devices for quality irrigation in agriculture. With the help of quality technologies, we are saving about 40 to 42 percent of groundwater per year and that is a lot for a typical kind of crop like paddy rice or wheat. So we were developing the POC and we were at the very initial stage of making the proof of concept and MBP, the best products. All we thought at that time was that we will make the POC and then present them to the investor, and we’ll get the funds. This is a myth. This is still a myth. This was a method at that time too. First, you have to make the POC MBP then you have to deploy it. do the paid trials or unpaid trials for you know all for a very long time of time like three months seven months-one year. For us, it has taken one year because it’s what is in the field of agriculture. They need to test it for one year completely for a complete cycle then you have to generate the reports. the very good thing about our government is now we have a very strong government in India that is being led by honorable prime minister Mr. Narendra Modi and the central government in India has helped us to deploy this technology to each village in India so that we can make a cluster of cloud which has the data of water-efficient irrigation. so now this technology is being implemented in pan India in all six lakhs, eight thousand three hundred twenty-three villages in India. It is a complete hardware cost for three years and coming back to changing the POC and changing the MBP, upgrading the product. building your startup, there is an analysis called canon model analysis. Canva analysis helps you to analyze your customer and take input from the customer. We have taken input from the customer that they generally don’t need the data or the information on irrigation. They need data on soil health. Then we develop some other devices with some other technology in the same device so that soil health can be easily predicted. The basic thing comes from the customer. We believe that this is why the massive dynamic angel network is working. this is the thing that we have learned from that part and there is a lot of learning. entrepreneurship is all about learning. there’s nothing called you can’t. no guide. Everybody has a different journey but you can’t repeat the same mistake that the other entrepreneur has done. Every entrepreneur has his journey.
Jeffery: So in this journey that you’re speaking of and you created this company or co-founded this company, you mentioned that you were listening to your customers, does your customer become the government or does the customer become the farmer? there’s almost a dual-sided marketplace, how do you evaluate what the government’s looking to get accomplished? because I’m sure that they are providing you with funds. and then how are you accommodating that data back to them while facilitating the benefit to the second customer which would be the farmer that is making the irrigation work better, quicker, faster, and smarter.
Amandeep: very wonderful question. First of all, it’s a very wonderful question. Most of the interviewers ask me if my customer is the government or my customer is the farmer. I’ll tell you, our customer is the government through the farm. First, we deployed the devices with the farmers. They have discussed a lot of these technologies with the farmers and with the other farmers. Then they recommended that we go to this particular department, talk to the government officials and they will deploy this technology to other people. because water scarcity is going to be the next biggest problem in the world. Then we went to the government and the government has supported us the same way. So till now, we are selling the same product to the government and the farmers also.
Jeffery: amazing. This does benefit not only your technology but I think it opens up having the strong support by the Indian government that they’re allowing for the government to participate in this product and services that are again, as you mentioned, saving the earth and helping farmers. so now they take a stronghold in position into helping you and pushing this product out, does the government take a different stance as well? Do they invest in early-stage companies? Do they provide bursaries? Do they provide ways to support the ecosystem?
Amandeep: Well, thank you so much for asking this thing. Jefferey, I’ll tell you, there are too many schemes in the Indian government and this particular government is supporting entrepreneurship on a very large scale. They have made clusters of investors. They have made clusters of venture capitalists. They have made clusters of seeds and you know seed grants. for the first startup, black eye technology, we have secured a very big amount of grants. I can’t tell you the exact figure but we have secured a very good amount of grants that can be a series of funding for a startup. We have secured that kind of grant for our first startup and our government under our ministry of agriculture and the ministry of the water department. because there is a different ministry in India specifically for groundwater conservation. There’s a ministry of shakti. There is a ministry of health. There is a ministry of transport. all those departments, all those ministers, and the central cabinet have a different department of state of funding. They give grants starting from 25,000. it can go up to one dollar or one point five. We are also welcoming foreign startups. We have dutch collaborations. We have a collaboration with the Netherlands. We have a collaboration with Brazil. Other collaborations are taking the startup from other countries making it in India and then supplying the objects or the products to that specific country and giving the grants to them also. So this is a very big concept for the Indian government.
Jeffery: It’s amazing and I think you share that reason. I think it kind of changes the landscape. you’re also opening up opportunities for startups that are in India to go to the government and figure out which area they fit in and to see what types of grants are there. Especially if it’s around social impact, there’s a big chance that the Indian government’s looking to help these startups get off the ground.
Jeffery: That’s pretty amazing to hear. And through that how are the universities and technical colleges supporting the ecosystem?
Amandeep: I’ll explain this part. Most of the incubation centers in India are run by government universities. That’s the biggest part. I’m not talking about the accelerators, not talking about the venture capitalist. I’m talking about the incubators – the people who are helping the young or the kind of people who develop a proper technology to validate the technology and do the paid pilots or unpaid pilots. The very big thing is that the incubation centers are only being opened at very high kinds of colleges or universities or being handled by the government universities. but till now we have had a collaboration of nearly 27 universities with us on different projects for different startups. they start from your POC. they sign the non-disclosure agreement. After that, they start working with you on your POC. The university heads, professors, or retired federal agents work a lot now for the starters.
Jeffery: That’s amazing. so it’s very circular. It has everybody working with each other and then as that knowledge is gained and passed, you’re seeing the government moving into that space because there are opportunities and growth. I think that’s very well supported and I think that brings a lot of value back to the ecosystem. very exciting. so it seems that you’re well-positioned. you’re working into this space of social impact. Now let’s dive into a little bit more. It sounds like you have a very good understanding of how the government’s functioning and working. There are tech stars in India. there’s a lot of big groups that have come in that are also trying to help support. So now coming in from the investor lens, what types of things are you seeing? the government supporting the investor side, are they providing tax incentives? What are they doing to help support you as an investor? also as an entrepreneur but as an investor, what things are they doing to support that side so they can keep building up the economy of scale in the entrepreneurial world?
Amandeep: I’ll start from the beginning. I’ll start from the investor perspective first. First of all, for the young investors like us, for the NGO investors, for the young venture capitalist firms, for the young incubation centers, the government has opened a portal from startup India. They have opened a portal to open their incubation center. We have also established our incubation center and we have secured a grant to build a good incubation center for some startups. The Indian government is an investor. The Indian government is looking for that kind of incubator who is looking for social impact, who is looking for innovation. not that you’re making biscuits and it can’t be innovative things. it must be an innovative product to invest in to get investment from the government. Now coming to the startup, the government is investing in any kind of startup. You just need to have the will to make an impact on society. it doesn’t matter if the innovation is social or not social. but if you are making an impact generating employment, then you are ready for the grant. These two factors are looking for the investors and these two factors for the startups.
Jeffery: That’s awesome. That’s great. This is what I find interesting about this. In most countries, the government takes a side role. they’re there but they’re not making much of an impact. It sounds like India’s government, being late to the game in the startup world in entrepreneurship, has stepped up in the last couple of years to push innovation and push social impact. It sounds like they’re very supportive and doing everything they possibly can to create jobs, create new wealth and be able to support the whole ecosystem from the investors through to universities and government.
Amandeep: I’d like to include this thing in this interview. It was not that easy in India. The government is quite continuous in this perspective and we got slow due to COVID. Also, COVID has impacted us a lot. I must say that the government has successfully implemented a complete ecosystem for the investor and the startup. I can secure a grant of ten thousand dollars easily by sitting in this room with the help of this laptop if I have the vision to crack it. Now coming back to some FDI’s. If I talk about the FDI, the government has made a policy that makes the foreign investors very close to work with the Indian startups and the Indian investors. Now coming back to some taxation parts, we have some tax redemptions. The startup in India who is registered with the government of startup India program. about till now, we have more than 55 000 startups in India. At startup India platform who has an income tax redemption for the next seven years.
Jeffery: wow. That’s amazing access to that portal.
Amandeep: Now coming to the investor path, we have an income tax reduction for the next three years. We have a complete ecosystem in India now.
Jeffery: Wow, that’s fantastic. So how does it work from the investor standpoint when investing in a startup? Do you get over those three years? Do they cover all of your initial dollars that you put in through the tax side of things or is it provided matching what type of things they do to benefit you and the startup?
Amandeep: It depends on Jeffery. It depends on what kind of startup I’m investing in. If I’m investing in a woman-led startup, then the first two years, there is no tax. For an investor, if she’s paying you ROI or not, there’s no tax for me. And if I’m working with some young startups in India whose no owners are students, I have some redemptions. It works by segments. There are 18-19 segments for investing rules from the startup India portal. if I’m investing through a venture capital firm, then there is a very strict law for taxes and all that part is there already.
Jeffery: Awesome! Well, I think there’s going to be a lot of interested people when they listen to this to learn that they can go after some dollars, that there’s a lot of government support if they don’t already know and it sounds like startup India is the place to be. With all of the number of startups that are in the program, I think that’s brilliant and you know it’s interesting. I’ve traveled around the world to see startup scenes and the government that gets behind the entrepreneur and gets behind the and gets part of that scene makes a big impact and changes the landscape and you know anywhere from chile to chihuahua Mexico now India Israel I find that these areas all have such a dynamic way of helping investors and helping startups build up. When I believe, they realize that anywhere from 90 to 95 percent and even sometimes bigger than their environment is made up of entrepreneurs and startups. that is so impactful to make these progressive changes. they can see this benefiting the economies of scale in the next three to five to ten years. It’s amazing what India is doing and I’m glad that you were able to share that. So now let’s jump more into not so much what you’re doing on the startup side but on the investing side. you’ve made some great investments and just before we get into our rapid-fire questions, I want to learn a little bit more about the types of things that interest you when you’re making investments. this is just high levels. So just a few things, are all of your investments structured around social impact because they are making a big difference for you? And for the economies, what types of things do you look for in an entrepreneur when you are going into an investment?
Amandeep: First, this is a very relevant question to my field. I have a vision of making a cluster of startups, not a cluster of investors. I have a vision of making a cluster of startups that can help me fulfill my vision of healing nature with the help of technology. I have successfully implemented my technology to save groundwater. Now I am working on improving the air quality index. In poverty situations, people are dying because of this in Delhi, in Ludhiana, in the big city of Mumbai, in Chennai, and in the West. These are the big metro cities and states of India and their air quality index was very poor before lockdown. After lockdown, it is quite okay, but it’s not that satisfactory. so I’ve started working on this part. We look for an investor for a startup. First, we look for the team. Second, we look for the idea. If the idea is making that social impact, that suits our vision. First of all, they can’t be congruent but similar to fulfill our vision. Then we onboard that startup. The third thing we look for is a person like me who has the vision to complete that thing. as simple as that. and the rest of the thing, the business planning and all, as I said earlier, that I don’t only invest in the startups, I and my team help them to grow better. we don’t put our dollars in the startup and then after three to four months, we are calling them to check what’s going on when we will get our other one. It’s not like we monitor the continuous process. We help them with where this money is going. it’s totally up to them how they are using our money. We don’t control that, but we suggest making sure they are making good impacts.
Jeffery: I love it. So, if I was to share how this works, I think that you’re going in a direction of social impact. you’ve started your own companies and what you’re doing is you’re layering in companies or technologies that will aid, embed, and grow within your ecosystem of social impact that is fixated around your initial idea and you’re just tethering those in by making investments into that technology that will continue to support and grow so that you’re growing your business plus all of the companies around you that are supporting that initial drive. The reason why I love that is that in the direction that you’re going as you mentioned, you’re fixing and working on the water and trying to clean it up and make changes to that. As you’re working with the government and working with incubators & accelerators, as you’re working forward in this space and you’re bringing in new startups, you’re building contracts. you’re getting the government to support your initiative and that’s growing. you’re layering in new tech to keep supporting the mothership of the product you’re building and those other innovations are growing so you’re almost like an included business. I don’t know. Maybe, it’s an accelerator style but I just like the idea that to make your impact bigger, you need to bring in more innovators and invest in them to keep making your impact more grandiose. That’s a great initiative. Can you share how many companies are now part of this moving ship if you will be starting from your first company? How many of you started to tether all together now?
Amandeep: The first startup is Black Eye Technologies Private Limited. That was my own first company, my child. and second, we have started with Green Earth Private Limited. Third, we have done the Fast Lab where we made the agriculture supply chain very healthy. Fourth is Massive Dynamic Private Limited who’s working on census calls with the ECG cardiology and all in healthcare. Also, we have done Gourmet Greens. Sixth is Delicious Bites who were making good snacks for diabetic and high blood pressure patients. Seventh is Maptik. These are my founder startups and six founder startups are coming to the investment. Now, we have invested in seven companies. The first company that I have invested in is Morons. It is a private limited company working on electric vehicles. The second company that I’m very proud of, and these two students are working very hard to fulfill this vision, is working to make water from oxygen present in the atmosphere. There are no open oxygen technologies. Last, there are Hydrocopters. We have invested a lot of money in Hydrocopters. They are making good defense drones for the defense ministry. They are working very closely with them. We have made that network and till now we have the segment. if I go by segment for the groundwater, we are there for the sanitation purpose of water. There is one company for air quality maintenance. There is one company for food and diets. We have onboarded near about 16 startups and 17th meetings have been there most probably will take him on board also. He is in the idea stage and he has a very good idea of making some wonderful technology for moving things. It’s a logistic business so we are doing that too. These are some startups that we are working with very closely and in our network.
Jeffery: amazing. Well, that all sounds fantastic. So thank you for sharing that. Before we move into our rapid-fire questions, I have one question for you. if you were to go through the background and all the startups that you’ve worked with the companies you’ve invested in and looked at it and said you know this story shares what it is and what it takes to be an entrepreneur, do you have a story that kind of resonates with you that it just blew you under the water? What this founder had to do to survive, to be able to become big or even just starting to become a real notable startup, is there anything that kind of sticks out in your mind?
Amandeep: we’re always looking for that fantastic story that just shows the audience what it takes to be an entrepreneur. People ask me about these things because I’m the person who was driving an electric bike at that time when I was in my struggle. Now, I drive big cars. They are amazed by this thing. that from me these two three four years you have made a lot you know what uh I don’t judge people I’m not that kind of person I never judge any kind of entrepreneur but I just make one thing very clear in my mind. he must make me very comfortable with his pitch so that I can believe that he’s not a fraud, as simple as that. he should not misuse my money or anybody else money or the other investor in my cluster. Only two things are important to be a successful entrepreneur: patience and planning. The third most important thing is execution. These three things if I can see in some entrepreneurs, I believe them that they will one day be a unicorn. the particular story you want from my side, for Indians who would listen to this podcast, I’ll tell how we started our journey and people have started meeting us. Every entrepreneur has a story. Every entrepreneur has his struggle and that struggle is your PR. make your PR good then your success will be good. your investment will be good and planning will be good and the execution is the best part.
Jeffery: I like that. I’ve never heard that before but I do like that because people can make an emotional connection to you because you share where you’ve come from and the hardships you’ve had to go through. people can relate and feel comfortable to connect further with you on that. note taken. I love it. Thank you very much for sharing that. Okay, we’re going to jump right into these rapid-fire questions. What is your favorite part of investing?
Amandeep: My favorite part of investing is to fulfill my vision to make a cluster of startups that can heal naturally with the help of technology.
Jeffery: how many companies do you invest in per year?
Amandeep: near about seven to eight.
Jeffery: Any verticals that you like to focus on?
Amandeep: The social impact is going to be a big one. I have cleared that already. their social impact is completing my vision. That is one of them.
Jeffery: Okay. Any sort of requirements that you need to invest in? due diligence requirements that you mentioned earlier? is there any paperwork? is there anything that stands out that you need to have to invest in?
Amandeep: Will Power and Dedication. Documentation will be done by our team.
Jeffery: Do you like to lead rounds?
Amandeep: We are looking to lead rounds from September.
Jeffery: Do you follow investments? on what basis will you reinvest in a company after you’ve made the first investment? Will you reinvest in the same company?
Jeffery: Okay, do you take board seats?
Amandeep: Vtg shares.
Jeffery: Okay so no you don’t go after any potential board seats, board of advisors, director roles, anything like that inside the company?
Amandeep: We look for guys who can fulfill the requirements of POC and MBP. After that, we do the business analysis. what kind of else they required for sales and other marketing development than maintenance.
Jeffery: Okay last question, do you have preferred terms that you like to invest in? Is it prep shares? Is it equity? Is it safe, or you’ll invest in all of them?
Amandeep: We invest in two ways. First, we can take the profit share some of the time. Second, we can take some royalty for the IPs. we can take the IP shape. and lastly, we go for equity.
Jeffery: Well those are all good ways to roll and I think that’s it for the rapid-fire questions. Alright, we’re gonna work our way into the more personal side of questions. So the first question, what is your favorite sports team?
Amandeep: Actually, I am not much into sports. but sometimes I like watching cricket. So I support Indian teams a lot.
Jeffery: What is your favorite movie and what character would you play in the movie?
Amandeep: My favorite movie is inception. I like the movie the most. I like to play the lead part. In Inception, the lead role was the blonde-haired guy. What’s his name? Is it Matthew McConaughey? I haven’t seen movies for the last two or three years so I don’t remember the name exactly. Yes, Leonardo DiCaprio, that’s the guy I was thinking of.
Jeffery: Yeah, that’s a great movie. I’ve seen that thing a thousand times. it was a very good movie, I agreed.
Amandeep: I would like to mention one more thing, The Theory of Everything. It is also very good.
Jeffery: Oh yes. I agree. I think I did see that when it came out as a great movie as well. Alright, last question. What is your superpower?
Amandeep: My superpower is being very consistent and very confident. Alright, I never lose hope. I just considered that part that’s not being done today, will run by tomorrow but it will be done. it has to be.
Jeffery: I like that it’s consistent but I think I would also add on. if it’s consistent, it would also mean that you’re very patient. So you have strong patience and you must be a planner because you mentioned these are the things you look for. so I’m going to say that based on all of our conversations, the consistency would also follow with patience. So I’m going to say, Aman, it was a pleasure speaking with you today. I want to thank you very much for all of your time. We like to end the show with the last word, which is anything you want to share with investors or startups, any words of advice or wisdom. I think we’ve all learned a tremendous amount. We love the vision of where you’re going. We like the fact that you’re huge on the social impact and you’re building a cluster that’s going to benefit the world. We thank you for that and again thank you for joining us and we turn it over to you for the last word.
Amandeep: thank you so much Jeffery for having me on this wonderful show and I have two lines one for the investor, one for the startup. For the investors, I request all other investors and other venture capitals, anybody who’s investing in any kind of startup, just don’t only invest for the money, invest for the vision the startup has. invest for the impact they will make in the future. and invest in their dreams too. They have some dreams to complete. They also want to buy big houses, big cars and invest in them too. In our investment panel, we have a policy that the total investment of 2.5 can be easily used by the startups and we will not question that and how you are using that. you can do whatever you want from that 2.5. And for the startups, I have cleared you guys with my 2PE formulAmandeep: patience, planning, and execution. These three are the fundamentals to lead a startup and the most difficult one will be patience. have the patience with your technology and have faith in that. we haven’t covered the IP part. always complete the thing in your mind that you must have some good copyright on your development technology. These are my final words and thank you so much Jeffery for having me on the show.
Jeffery: Well that was a fantastic interview with Aman. It was great to hear how supportive the Indian government has been in helping investors and entrepreneurs. Again, not every country has embraced this and India’s turned the corner on this in the last few years which is very exciting. and from some of the things that he pointed out, I enjoyed the part about patience, planning, and execution. I think those three do align nicely with the mantra for an entrepreneur that does bring a lot of success. and then the other things that he talked about from supporting the team and that the business is doing well or doing good things for the earth and the planet. I like that social impact investing is huge these days but also just entrepreneurs being able to look at their business and decide how they can make a social impact and how they can change the way the business is run to be able to give back to the world. I think that that’s a great thing. willpower and dedication are some other points that he brought up that show again the strength of an entrepreneur and an investor. So again, thank you very much today for everybody joining us. If you enjoyed this conversation, please subscribe to our YouTube channel or follow us on Spotify, Apple Podcast, or in Stitcher. You can also check us out at supportersfund.com or for startup events visit opn.ninja. Thank you. like us, share a comment. Looking forward to seeing you at the next talk. Have a great day.