Bala is fascinated by the history of technology and entrepreneur-led innovation that creates new market spaces. He has been involved with young technology companies for over 20 years. Bala was part of management teams at two successful analytics startups (in the US and India) where he ran the sales, marketing and product management functions. His last firm, Amba Research, was acquired by Moody’s (a global financial analytics and ratings corporation) in 2013.
Bala spent the first part of his career as an equity analyst in Silicon Valley, covering the software space during the first dot com boom and burst. Bala has a Master’s degree in Physics and Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from BITS Pilani, as well as an MBA in Finance from the University of Toledo.
What makes the job exciting
In this job, one gets a ringside view of the best and brightest ideas and a chance to work with brilliant entrepreneurs reimagining almost every market space in India.
There have been eras when technology-driven change was discontinuous and reshaped markets for decades to come. I feel we are at such a stage in India where low-cost mobile and cloud technologies offer the opportunity for large-scale innovation across a whole swath of industries from financial services to agriculture. It’s a very interesting time to be a technology investor in India.
At some level, truly disruptive ideas also sound a bit crazy and offbeat. Visionary entrepreneurs often set aside conventional wisdom and existing data points. As an investor, one has to imagine and understand the extent to which an industry can change and build an independent thesis. This is both a daunting and an exciting challenge.
Thoughts on startup success
There are multiple ingredients that contribute to the success of an idea and a startup — the market space, scope of the problem being solved, the team you build, execution and, often, luck in terms of market timing.
Having deep knowledge about a market and the problem you’re trying to solve is critical — often more essential than being first to market. Successful teams triangulate on high impact solutions with some unique insights that others haven’t identified.
Even when most essential factors are in place, there’s no guarantee you’ll succeed. In most cases, it takes several iterations to hone in on the winning solution. This demands perseverance, rapid learning and smart pivots that the best entrepreneurs seem to make instinctively.
Views on entrepreneurship
Make sure you have the highest level of conviction in your venture. It’s a long and hard slog and not worth it unless you are a passionate believer.
For every idea you can think of, others out there may be working on something similar. It is important to have your radar up and a good sense for existing solutions, startup competitors and your own differentiation. Make sure you can answer the question: What is unique about your idea? Is it the technology itself or a business model that can overcome competition and reshape the market space?
Think hard about the founding team and complementary skill sets that you’ll need. For example, selling is a fundamental skill that will be needed with your customers, investors and partners. If this isn’t your core strength, then find a co-founder who not only has the same passion for the market and business problem but also brings the sales skills you need to win.
What I like about Kalaari
I love the diversity of thinking and intellectual honesty at Kalaari. My colleagues bring different perspectives based on their experiences and their understanding of specific markets. The access to collective insights is something I value and appreciate.