Fireside Chat

I must admit I went expecting Nandan Nilekani to be the star of the show. And I was completely wrong. Mr. Nilekani was the experienced hand, asking the right questions, probing and nudging but he took a dignified backseat to apparently the true star of the evening – Chamath Palihapitiya.

A ballroom full of Bangalore’s brightest from the start-up ecosystem were in full attendance. The sponsors of the event, Prime Ventures, introduced Mr. Nilekani and Chamath and then let them do the talking.

crowdIt was old meets new and east meets west. Infosys was a true start-up of the ’80s, bringing to India work, money and respect. Chamath was from the Facebook age, where growth is not brick by brick or employee by employee. It had to be faster, crazier and all pervasive. He brought growth to Facebook using machine learning algorithms and by ‘understanding the psychological decision making of a customer and amplifying it’.

Mr. Nilekani’s vision for Aadhar was insightful. He sees a five stage future for Aadhar:

  • already the first global identification system with online authentication using biometrics
  • as an electronic KYC used for banks, insurance, telecom interactions
  • using Aadhar to digitally sign documents
  • allowing issuer signed certificates like digitising all college certificates so an Aadhar link is all you need
  • and finally a Unified Payment System

Chamath’s advice to the crowd chat– Don’t be the ______ of India. Don’t be the Uber of India or Amazon of India or Paypal of India. Aim for something for which there is no ‘mental model’ in place. And then pitch to the right people.

It was quite an engaging session with two people who spoke from the heart. Thanks to Prime for organising it.

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