Leader Speak

It’s time for the West to be amazed by India’s homegrown entrepreneurial spirit: Yashish Dahiya

Reportedly, the year 2021 has been a landmark year for startups across the globe. With 33 Indian startups crossing the 1 Billion mark and being tagged unicorns, India has had quite a central role to play in making 2021 the year of startups. While many attribute this success to the covid pandemic-induced digitization, Yashish Dahiya - Chairman and CEO at PB Fintech, has a different view. According to him, the stars have finally lined up for India’s homegrown  entrepreneurs to lead by example, while the rest of the world follows in awe. 

Dahiya recently attended a webinar hosted by the UK’s Fair Observer magazine, on the topic Making Sense of Indian Unicorns. Other speakers at the webinar included Asha Jadeja, Silicon Valley Investor and philanthropist, and Amit Singh, Partner, Head of South and Southeast Asia Capital Markets, Linklaters.  The event was moderated by journalist Claire Price. 

Talking about the “hockey stick growth” of startups witnessed by India in the past year, Dahiya said, “India’s time has come. (These are) signs of a maturing ecosystem. The funding capabilities are becoming clearer…every country gets their chance. I believe that India is getting its time in the sun in the next few years.”
Explaining why it would be wrong to attribute this growth solely to the pandemic, he added, “When you look at the data, it hasn’t changed that dramatically. Yes, it’s (Covid) helped, but it hasn’t been a dramatic shift. A dramatic shift would be if it  becomes 10x; that’s not happened. The user numbers are perhaps one and a half times what they were at the beginning of Covid…”

For Dahiya, India’s entrepreneurial growth story has more to do with Indian entrepreneurs charting their own way to warrant their time in the sun. He explained, “The strength of the Indian ecosystem (particularly) in the last 4-5 years is that it is homegrown. Nothing like UPI has happened anywhere in the world, nothing like Aadhar has happened anywhere in the world..now India is building the National Digital Health Mission.” 

Taking the example of his own success story, he said, “Yes, it’s my company, but there is nothing like Policybazaar anywhere in the world. The money supermarket of the UK, which you could say is an initial inspiration of Policybazaar, is a very very meek comparison to policybazaar. It's a very basic operation compared to what is happening here.”  

Dahiya argued that India is a “heterogeneous market” with its own problems and strengths. Now that Indian entrepreneurs have gained the confidence to solve those unique problems in unique ways, “I genuinely believe that the time has passed when India would say, “Okay, let's look to the West for examples of what's worked and take it back to india. Now, it’s time for the West to look at India once more after the Vedic period and say, “Ok, so what exactly is going on in India and how can we replicate this.” 

Taking pride in the grit of homegrown Indian entrepreneurs, he added, “ There is something unique happening in India and that confidence is there in the  entrepreneurs today that “Look, here’s what we are building for ourselves and maybe the world can also learn from us.”

While the tag “unicorn” has gained tremendous popularity in the startup world, Dahiya, again presenting a unique view, added, “Valuations don’t excite me. Let’s not get carried away by valuations. It is more important to build a robust business. Valuations can disappear in a moment. Valuations drop by 10x in no time.”

Instead, he presented his unique mantra of success and said, “To be a lasting organization in India, you have to be a mix of financial and missionary. And the mission (for Policybazaar) was that there is a huge middle class…as people in India get older, who pays for their illness? There’s this saying that a lot of middle class people in India spend 80% of their total wealth in the last 80 days of their lives. The reality of the numbers I am not sure about but this is a pretty stark reality.” This is a problem unique to India which Policybazaar has made its mission to solve. As long as the mission is clear, Dahiya believes, “We’ll find a way to make money also.” 

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