The Story Rules Podcast E2: Shrehith Karkera – The Storyteller who simplifies financial news for 400K plus readers (Transcript)

Shrehith Karkera-s
5. General

The Story Rules Podcast E2: Shrehith Karkera – The Storyteller who simplifies financial news for 400K plus readers (Transcript)

This transcript has been created using a combination of AI transcription tools and (some painstaking) human effort. Please excuse any typos, grammatical mistakes, inaccurate time stamps, or other errors. Specifically, the time stamps would not account for the intro portion of the podcast.

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Intro hook:

“I’m guessing you were not the type who would have written before, or in a college magazine, none of that, right?  So, you basically started writing in Finception. Yeah. In fact, I that’s, that is weird as well, you know, because I went from not having written anything to just starting a publication. Right. Like, that’s sort of, you know, very weird…”

Welcome to the Story Rules podcast, with me, Ravishankar Iyer, where we learn from some of the best storytellers in the world, find their story and unearth the secrets of their craft.

Today we speak to Shrehith Karkera, the co-founder – and you could say Chief Storyteller – at FinShots… The Finshots newsletter reaches 400K subscribers daily – a staggering number, considering they write about complex topics on finance and economics. 

What was even more staggering for me was to find that Shrehith, the accomplished writer who writes most of the Finshots stories, is someone who basically never read or wrote anything when he was young. He essentially started reading and writing seriously only in his early 20s. 

In the episode, I speak to Shrehith about his upbringing, what shaped his insatiable curiosity, his eclectic reading choices and his core writing philosophy. 

More than anything, I found Shrehith’s story hugely inspiring.  For anyone who feels they don’t have it in themselves to become good storytellers since they never were into reading or writing, you will change your mind once you listen to this story.

Let’s dive in.

Ravi 00:01:44
Hi Shrehith. Welcome to the story rules podcast. Excited to have you here!

Shrehith 00:01:48
Yeah. I mean, I remember I think one of the things that I was looking forward to is perhaps having a conversation with you because the pitch that you made to me at the time was sort of centred on this idea that you wanted to know more about the storytelling aspect of things. And I think, immediately that sort of piqued my interest. I was like, Yeah, I mean, if I ever do a podcast, I think it should be on one sort of my craft, right? I mean, how I go about telling my story, or how I go about telling stories and Fin shots, etc. So, I was very excited. 

Ravi 00:02:22
Same here Shrehith, thanks. Alright. So, before we get into the stories that you write about, let’s talk a little bit about Finshots and Finception. A lot of folks already know about what you do. But for those who don’t, how would you describe what you do?

 Shrehith 00:02:43
I think, I think the one-line summary is, you know, we just simplify financial news right now. I mean, at least with Finshots, and I think that’s sort of our end goal, for the most part is that we, as a company, we’ve gone above and beyond, you know, the sort of, yeah, the call of duty to be able to simplify financial news. Ultimately, I think Finshots as a brand sort of, always aspires to simplify financial news, I think that sort of summarizes our brand, very succinctly.  

 Ravi 00:03:14
I like the way you guys go about it, by not overloading your audience with too much. Yeah, one story a day. And, you know, when I actually – I know that the Ken also does that – And later, I realize you guys also do it…  I was like, you know, just one a day, it’s so different from a newspaper, which is like stories upon stories upon stories, you know, every day or a website. But it’s counter-intuitively, so much more effective, right? Because for our, you know, information saturated world that we live in, sometimes it’s useful, and somebody says, “Hey, don’t worry, I will just tell you, what is the one most important thing that you must learn about today”. And so, was that a thought that you started off with at the beginning? Or, you know, you came out saying “Okay, this is what we should do”. 

Shrehith 00:04:00
It’s funny, you say that, right? Because the thing about that was that wasn’t you know, how it’s sort of morphed into this unique value proposition for us now. But here’s the funny thing. I mean, I, you know, we joke around, you know, at the office, we say, we call this the Theory of Constraints, it’s that if you really want to know the motives of a start-up, you should probably look at the constraints imposed on them, right?

Ravi 00:04:29

Shrehith 00:04:30
So, the only reason why we sort of started doing this one story wasn’t because we thought it was going to be some sort of, you know, like I said, a unique value proposition that’s going to sell. But, but we couldn’t do more than one story, you know? The reason why it was 600 words was because I could only write 600-700 words. I had, sort of, had some experience writing before so, I knew what I could do and at the time, it seemed like a good idea to limit ourselves to, sort of, 600-700 words. So, it wasn’t because we thought that this was going to be some radical value proposition, right? I mean, it was only because, you know, we thought that this is the only thing that we could do. And eventually, it turned out to be a value proposition, because we realized, yeah, you know what, people aren’t complaining. In fact, there’s sort of, you know, when you look at when you look at it, people are actually facing it. That doesn’t mean it actually does well, for the business, right?  I mean, there are occasions when we’d have been better served by, you know, pushing out more stories. But then again, it’s not been detrimental to our cause, which meant that we had, you know, we had no reason to sort of fall back on this other idea where we said, you know, if we had more resources, maybe we could do more stories. So we never went back on that.

Ravi 00:05:30
And you mentioned that it’s not been detrimental. So, let’s, let’s talk a little bit of numbers. Right. So how many subscribers do you have now?

Shrehith 00:05:36
So right now, I think we have somewhere close to 400,000 odd subscribers. Yeah. And, yeah I mean, you know, it’s very hard sort of growing a, you know, newsletter subscription base, without actually having put out more stories, which is, which is what I told you. I mean, there’s only so many ways you can grow a newsletter. And the funny thing is, you know, perhaps being a financial newsletter, and being one of those that with this sort of very specific focus, your audience base sort of diminishes rather quickly. So, it’s extremely hard to grow, you know, beyond a certain stage, and we were well aware of that. But yeah, even you know, looking back one year ago, if you’d told us we’d be we’d be here, you know, sitting with about 400,000 subscribers,

Ravi 00:06:35
How much were you (number of subscribers) one year ago?

Shrehith 00:06:36
Zero, right? 

Ravi 00:06:37

Shrehith 00:06:38
Yeah. So, we started (one year ago), it’s probably more than one year, right, one year, maybe two odd months. But yeah.

Ravi 00:06:46
I just did some quick research on this Shrehith. I could not get a lot of numbers. But I just looked up a typical, the big financial publications or the pink papers. I looked up Business Standard, would you know, their subscription number? Circulation number, sorry?

Shrehith 00:06:58
I, I have no idea. 

Ravi 00:07:00
189,000.  (Subscribers of Business Standard)

Shrehith 00:07:02

Ravi 00:07:03
So, it’s not a fair comparison. (Between Finshots and Business Standard)

Shrehith 00:07:05
Yeah, yeah. It isn’t. obviously

Ravi 00:07:05
It’s a newspaper, publication whatever. But you guys had double the readers compared to the number two, probably number three financial newspaper in India, which started in 1975.

Shrehith 00:07:16
Yeah, it’s quite incredible (the number of subscribers)

Ravi 00:07:16
It’s mind boggling 

Shrehith 00:07:16
So, when I’m looking at this, I’m just thinking, who are these people listening to financial news every single day. You know, it’s not, it’s not us going, wow, look at us, we’ve done this and that and whatever. It’s just us going, how come people are reading financial news? I mean, I understand finance is supposed to be accessible. But even in our wildest dreams, I didn’t think it’d be this accessible right? So, when you sort of put that into context, I mean, it’s incredible, you know.

Ravi 00:07:42
And the numbers are of course, great. But for me that while the numbers are one great indicator, it’s also useful to see the qualitative feedback that you’re getting there. So just from last week, one week, just from your LinkedIn, you know, posts, I’ve not even looked at Finshots’ LinkedIn or Bhanu’s LinkedIn. Here are some of the you know, lines that I picked up. So, here’s one “I really appreciate the way Finshots simplifies financial news and concepts great work” says Anurag. Kushal says “Imprinted on memory, courtesy  Finshots”.

Ankur writes, “Really liked the way in which Finshots personalizes their stories and articles to add some fun element”.  This was I think, your budget article when you write, “I’m going to explain the budget in five minutes. Okay, six. Okay, eight tops.” And so, he (Ankur) had marked that.

And I love this one. “Addiction. Yes, I am addicted to Finshots.” says Aayush. This feels good, right? 

Shrehith 00:08:38
Yeah, it feels great. I mean, I can’t tell you how, how amazing every day I wake up and it’s my morning routine to sort of go through all the stuff that people say on LinkedIn, etc. People constantly keep, you know, telling us how, what, how great a job that we’re doing with Finshots, etc. So yeah, I couldn’t be more pleased. I think as a team, we’ve been extremely lucky to have cultivated this kind of audience and what can I say?

Ravi 00:09:02
This is great. To me, it just tells that it’s not, while you’re saying, “I did not know so many people love financial (news)”. Financial news has been around for centuries. It’s the storytelling, which is a differentiator. Right. Yeah. That’s the whole you know, value add that is giving you all this reaction. So, which is what, I just wanted to set that context for the audience is that what you have achieved in in a couple of years tops is staggering. And while of course, it’s not …storytelling is… There are many elements that have gone into it but for me, one of the most crucial elements has been the storytelling ethos that you have built.  So, I want to just now get deeper into that. Before we get into that again, the stories, let’s circle back into your life. All right. So where did you grow up? Where are you from?

 Shrehith 00:09:58
Yes, so I’m from Mangalore. “M” (The letter M). So, I grew up in Mangalore, for the first 23 years of my life, I think I spent all my time in Mangalore. My mother was very over protective, which meant that I didn’t get to go out a lot. So, I think, again, one of those things, when you’re confined, for long hours inside your home, you start getting very creative with things, you have imaginary friends, you talk to them. And I think that’s one of the things that I probably want to talk about more, is that I constantly talk to myself, obviously, much to the dismay of my parents, because they thought I was, you know, it seemed awkward. I think, I remember my mom telling me once that I think you have some mental problems, obviously, you know, she was she was joking about it not that she was serious, but she, you know, she meant it, you know, curb the habit, she said, but I think I found great solace in the fact that I can talk to myself and I can keep myself entertained. So, I grew up in Mangalore, I don’t think I had a very good idea of what I really wanted to do in life as, as most people I suppose, you know, so I took up engineering. I did my engineering from this college called NM MIT.

Ravi 00:11:09
So just before we get into that, I want to know a little bit more about the childhood. So, would you read a lot being at home? 

Shrehith 00:11:16
No, I didn’t read I think I think the first book that I ever picked up I mean, I think I did read a couple of Chetan Bhagat books when they were like, you know, all the rage. Three mistakes of my life, I think it was. But no, otherwise, I never read anything. In fact,

 Ravi 00:11:30
But, the whole Famous Five Hardy Boys, you know, Sherlock Holmes? 

 Shrehith 00:11:33
None of those, Yeah, I still don’t I mean, I think I read a bit of Sherlock Holmes much older when I was like, 24 or something. But no, none of those other books

 Ravi 00:11:53
I get the sense that now you’re a you’re an inveterate reader. You read a lot now. 

Shrehith 00:11:59
 Yes, I do read a lot. But I think I read a very specific set of books. 

Ravi 00:12:04
I mean, it’s it actually it is quite surprising to me, which also tells me that it’s okay. If you don’t have a, you know, quote unquote, reading habit, from childhood. You can always pick it up, right. So, there’s no excuse. Wow.

 Shrehith 00:12:17
Yeah so, I never read until about I think I was maybe 22, I guess. That’s when I sort of started reading it. And that again, was sort of That came about in a very haphazard manner. Yeah, I mean, it’s a different story in itself. But yes, I never read much on that I used to watch a lot of cartoons. But then again, a lot of kids watch cartoons. So, I don’t know, I’m not quite sure. But I was a creative kid, I suppose. I mean, by some standard, I could say that with conviction. 

Ravi 00:13:04
Where would that creativity (come from) would it usually be TV and movies that would, you know, give you the ideas for your creativity?

Shrehith 00:13:11
So, what happened was my mother was a trophy mom, right? I mean, she was she made sure that I participated in every competition that I could I mean, we’re talking about music we’re talking about and so I studied classical music when I was younger. I did, you know, I did dancing. I mean, I did fancy dress, I did flower arrangement, I did Rangoli. I did everything that you could think of when I was younger. So, my mother made sure that she enrolled me in every single competition there was. In fact, I still remember when we had to do elocutions, my mom would write me a speech, obviously, she wasn’t very good at it. But then she’d get somebody else to write me the speech and she’d make sure that I sort of memorized the whole thing and she would do it (the elocution) with me, right? And once we got through with it, so what would happen was, there were there were certain things in the speech, I absolutely had no clue of, I mean, I didn’t know what they meant. So, when I would sort of speak in front of an audience, I would do things where, for instance, you know, let’s suppose there was a very sombre message that I was conveying and then I would, I would act in a very excited manner. But then again, it wasn’t because there was no connection to what I was doing. You know I remember this thing with the I think it was 3 Idiots, where Chatur I guess, so the guy who was playing Chatur (character from the film).  He (the actor) talks about how he had never spoken Hindi. So, he said that in his audition, he would do some things with his hands and then obviously, it had no connection to the things that he was speaking out loud. So, I think that was what I what I did when I was younger, as well. But my mom was very sort of, I think, very diligent, and she made sure that I participate in everything in the drama as well. So I did all of these things. And because of that, sort of, I think, I suppose I, I had some creative bent, obviously, after 10th grade, it sort of plateaued completely because 

Ravi 00:14:30
Engineering was your choice? Or the typical-

 Shrehith 00:14:33
It was my choice, I think I got a, I mean, I’m not sure if it’s the right word to use but I think I got a bit cocky after about 10th grade, because I thought I was sort of, you know, I was getting good grades. I thought, you know what this is, this is time to go to one of those, you know, seven to seven colleges, where, where they get you, where they prep you for JEE etc. And obviously, I quickly realized that I’m not that smart when it comes to logical thinking and problem solving. So, there’s no way I could make it into, you know, one of these top NITs IITs. So, I think that sort of upset me a lot. But I still wanted to they wanted to complete my engineering because I didn’t think there was a different recourse for me. I think that was that was the only reason why I had to sort of you know, go through with engineering, it was my choice. But it was a choice I could have avoided; I could have done other things that I perhaps had a penchant to do. But yeah, I mean, at the time, 

Ravi 00:15:28

What would you do if you could go back now?

Shrehith 00:15:30
I’m not quite sure. I’ve never thought about it. But I think I would do something of this sort, I suppose. I think I would, I would, you know, I would eventually stumble on you know, I mean, this is something that I stumbled on eventually. I mean, it wasn’t something that I started out to do. When we started writing wasn’t even in the picture, right? I mean, we wanted to do something as we want to become stockbrokers. We didn’t want to write. Writing, again, was something that was forced upon us. Because, I mean, what can you do when you’re in an MBA who can’t code right? It means there’s very little things, you know, that you can’t do much. I mean, I did ppts for a while. I think, you know, in the early days, we thought, “Oh, we have to raise a lot of money”. That’s the only thing you think when you’re sort of starting a start-up. But I soon realized that, yeah, you can only do so many presentations, eventually, we’ll have to do much more. And I suppose that’s when I realized maybe I could sort of, you know, try writing my hand in writing. So yeah, you know, engineering was my choice entirely. But it wasn’t a very fruitful choice, because those four years were perhaps the most unproductive years of my life, I suppose. 

Ravi 00:16:41

Did you realize it then? itself or did it came come later? 

Shrehith: 00:16:46

I think it came much later; I suppose. Yeah, I think after four years, so I opted out of placements. Even during engineering. That’s the first thing I did. So, I realized I was going to opt out of placements. I was not quite sure of what I was going to do. I was telling all my classmates that I was going to do my MBA, but I hadn’t taken it seriously inside. I knew for a fact that I could have gone anywhere, right? I mean, there was a time when I was considering applying to the likes of Infosys, Wipro, etc. I mean, even though these companies were the ones recruiting out of colleges as well. When I opted out, my whole thesis was if I go down that route I’m going to be condemned to that life forever. I mean, not to say that there’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, it’s a great company, but I suppose for me, it just didn’t fit my ambition. I mean, again, you know, what I wanted to do was very hazy. it wasn’t very obvious what I really wanted in life. So yeah, at the time, I mean, I opted out of placements. And I was just trying to figure out what I was going to do. MBA wasn’t the automatic choice, by the way.

Ravi 00:17:50
You do you have any role models, mentors, somebody who could guide you? 

Shrehith 00:17:55

No, I don’t think so. I don’t think I had a lot of people who can guide me and you know, it was it was at this time, you know, after four years of being extremely unproductive, I had this immensely productive year, right. I mean, this was the year that completely , I think, fundamentally altered my perception of life and who I eventually became, I mean, after 20-22, I mean, this is perhaps one of the most productive, although, you know, much of that year I spent at home, not doing much, I mean, I was helping around. I was helping my mum do chores.  Thankfully, my mum was extremely supportive. My father was abroad, but my mum was extremely supportive. And I don’t think there was any moment when she even sort of talked to me about you know, I mean, when you’re sitting at home after you’ve completed your engineering, it can be extremely taxing on your family as well, because people make snarky remarks. I remember a lot of my neighbours made some very specific smart, snarky remarks. And that’s also partly due to the fact that my mom had, you know, had a thing for bragging about the kids.

Ravi 00:19:14
All Indian parents do that

Shrehith 00:19:14
All Indian parents do that. But I think there were a lot of snarky remarks being made about how I was sitting at home, after sort of engineering, etc. So, it wasn’t pleasant. But I think, like I said, it was extremely productive for me, because there were two things that happened at the time. The first thing was, was sort of I was I was raised as a very devout kid, you know, those (people) praying two times a day. We pray to all kinds of Gods, we pray to the gods at home, we pray to, you know, other gods and all kinds of gods. So, you know, being a devout kid, I think, I sort of believed that everything in my life would come to a sort of a crescendo when God intends it to happen. So, you know, having this sort of idea ingrained in me when I was younger, meant that I completely believed in it with conviction. Until about I think I came across this speech, I suppose, by Richard Dawkins on YouTube. So, I wouldn’t read a lot but I would sort of watch a lot of YouTube videos. And I remember watching Richard Dawkins for the first time and for those who are perhaps not aware of Richard Dawkins, Richard Dawkins is a very famous biologist. And he also happens to be an atheist. And his speech was about atheism. And I was incensed by the things that he was saying, I was enraged, I was, I was livid by the fact that this man had the gall to talk about the idea of God, obviously, he was he was sort of talking about the Christian God, but it meant that he was attacking all gods, in my opinion, you know. So in a bit to sort of disprove him, I picked up his book. I decided, listen, if I’m going to convince myself that this man has no idea what he’s going to talk about, maybe I should go to the source of his inspiration, the source of his knowledge and all of his knowledge, as you know, you could find it in his books. And so, I started reading his books. I think there was this book that I picked up the first book that I read nonfiction, ‘God Delusion’. Right, obviously, it wasn’t easy reading. But it’s sort of, you know, me trying to pick apart holes in his argument. And, and I think that’s where my habit of reading actually started. Because-

Ravi 00:21:33

Shrehith 00:21:33
Yeah, in an almost counter intuitive fashion, obviously, after you read about a couple chapters, you realize that, you know, what, he’s making a lot of sense. And it’s hard to sort of keep returning to some of your faith. When it gets attacked so viciously by logic, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s incredible, the kinds of things that you can do to you. And I suppose I was very conflicted for about a couple months, but after that, I, I came to peace with the idea of, of having to reconcile, you know, my, my personal view on God, etc, with what I was reading, and I think, I think that’s when I really picked up reading as a habit. It was the same time when I started hitting the gym, etc. Because, you know, I mean, that’s another thing, I suppose that did a whole world of good for me because when you have discipline in your life, all of a sudden, everything sort of, you know, fits well for you. I’d never gone to the gym before that, but I would hit the gym at about eight o’clock in the morning. I’d go to the gym. I’d spend about an hour and then I’d come back and I’d sort of nicked a job at you know, this management training institute, T.I.M.E, right? So, I was a substitute teacher there. So, I started teaching as well. And I suppose all of these things happened at the same time. And I cannot tell you how productive it was for me because I’d go to the gym, I’d go teach math, etc, to kids, you know, in T.I.M.E (Institute) and then I’d come back and then I’d read it all or I mean, I had all this time to myself, all of my friends had left Mangalore. Most of these kids, they were already working Bangalore, Bombay, some of them had gone abroad to study, I was the only one who was perhaps in Mangalore… You know, it’s, it’s not to say that I didn’t have my moments where I felt terrible, because I wasn’t doing much once again, you know, in terms of being productive, I was getting paid probably 2000 or 3000 rupees back at T.I.M.E so it wasn’t a lot of money either. Thankfully, I had my parents supporting me, so I didn’t have to worry about that. So it was, funnily enough, it was supposed to be the most tumultuous year of my life. I mean, but somehow it turned out to be the most productive as well. So yeah, so much of what you see perhaps was shaped in that one year, I guess.

Ravi 00:23:37
Yeah. This is really fascinating to hear ,Shrehith and you know, someone who has not read much. In his younger years, if you would ask me, hey, what he’s going to pick up, pick up his first book at 21? (age)

Shrehit 00:23:51
22, I guess. 21-22. Somewhere around that- 

Ravi 00:23:54
What would that be (the book)? God Delusion would not be in my top 50 books. And it’s, it’s fascinating. And then it spoke so much to you. And I think a lot of this happens, without us even realizing it as you’re writing or saying you’ve been brought up in a certain way. And you’ve been thinking about those things as being inside you. And the book spoke to those parts of you. And it’s fascinating. So, an interesting takeaway for me is that, you know, take every experience and try and get the maximum out of it, – you might be out of work, your friends are all doing some interesting jobs in different cities earning reasonable sums of money. But you can still make that experience count. Yeah, that’s fascinating-

Shrehith 00:24:35

Yeah, you know what I mean? It’s funny you say that, I mean, it wasn’t as if I was intending for these things to happen. It just happened. And looking back, I can make sense of it, you know, I can connect the dots and say, well, you know, it panned out this way so beautifully. But at the time, it was just, it was just a bunch of random things that I was doing, you know, I mean, they didn’t connect at all. I mean, how are you going to connect teaching at T.I.M.E and reading stuff? But looking back, obviously, right? It all sort of fits well together. But at the time, it just seemed so random, to me.

Ravi 00:25:09
To me at least, as a small counter to that, you showed initiative, right?  You know, it’s very easy at that time to let the slight negative things, you know, (let the) situation bring you down. And, you know, what is the point of going to the gym, what is the point of doing anything? And what is the point of going and teaching something and whatever, right, so you to the end, so I think that’s great. Yeah, let’s move ahead, right? So, this happens for a year. Did IIM-A happen right after this?

  Shrehith 00:25:37

Yeah. So I mean, that was one of those moments when, I’ve always believed that some people, when they’re down and about, I think the only thing that they need is a pat on the shoulder for somebody to say, you know what, bro, you can do something with your life. And I don’t thinkI got that from anybody. And obviously, my mom was extremely supportive. But I don’t think there was anybody, I remember there was this famous speech from Toastmasters, you know, where this guy’s talking about how he ends up in jail. And then he comes out, and he’s, he’s having this chat with his mother. Then he meets this gentleman who decides to give him his first job. And he says, I see something in you. I see something in you. I think that was it’s a very famous speech on YouTube. But I think I never had that moment where somebody said, you know, what, I think something. And I think, I think, to me that kind of motivation would have gone long, long way. I think I would have felt, you know, what, if, if this this man sees something, this lady sees something in me, maybe I could go on to do great things in life. So, I never had that moment. Until that is, I cracked you know, I mean, I got a really good score in CAT. And once again, I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would sort of manage to somehow crack CAT. But because I was teaching as a consequence, I think I just got better at it, right? I was, I was better at math. I was better at verbal, I was better at everything. And eventually, when I did make it into, you know, did sort of get, you know, good score and got and eventually when the sort of when interviews happen, right, so I got calls from all of these interviews, but I was so underprepared for the interview. admit that I didn’t know what to do. So I had calls from IIM Kozhikode. IIM Indore. IIM Bangalore, Calcutta. It was it was perhaps the most horrid time because I was tanking every single interview, right? I remember there was this one interview in Indore they asked me. You know, because I was from Karnataka, they asked me where the river Kaveri originated. And that should have been the most, you know, the easiest thing to answer, I mean come on, right. But I had no idea where the river Kaveri originated. And because I was so nervous, I was a nervous wreck at the time. I said it originated in the Arabian Sea. I mean, imagine that, right? I mean, you’re taught, how do you how do you tell something originates from a sea? And they asked me if I wanted to change my answer. And I said, yes and then I said, Bay of Bengal. I was digging my own grave

Ravi 00:28:00
If it was possible to make that worse!

 Shrehith 00:28:02
Yeah, I somehow managed to make that worse. So, I had this, I think, a horrid string of interviews, until I got to IIM Ahmedabad… for the first time, you know, because until then everybody would ask me why I taught at T.I.M.E, and implicitly tacitly that assume that I’m one of those teachers who’s just trying to get a hang of those interviews, etc. So, they didn’t think I was serious enough to actually appear for the interview, because they didn’t think I was going to do my MBA. So, I think that was a tacit assumption many of those interviewers made about me, and every time they sit in front of me, because they saw I was a teacher, they immediately give me these hard puzzles to solve and I was not really good at problem solving. I told you, I mean, when sort of, you know, there’s a lot of pressure on me, I sort of crumbled and problem solving wasn’t my greatest forte. So, I think I struggled with a string of interviews until I came to IIM Ahemdabad… but I don’t remember who took my interviews, but I suppose that was perhaps the best conversation that I’ve had because it was it was like, you know, the Slumdog Millionaire thing where you just keep getting asked questions that, you know, there is some somehow, they’re not obvious questions, right. But somehow, you know them… that you are intimately familiar with them. So, I think this happened to me where I was asked, you know, there was this one question about Mankading, for instance, you know, they asked me, what’s what I liked. I said football, they said, “Oh, you know, football, so might as well talk about cricket”. And then they asked me what was  Mankading. I mean, who asks-   Mankading was something that most people wouldn’t have heard of, even if they were, you know, cricket fans.
So, I was not a, you know, hardcore cricket fan. I was sort of, you know, I mean, I watched cricket. But then again, it wasn’t one of those. But I knew what  Mankading was, I knew the whole backstory. For some reason. I just, I just did read about it. And so, things like these kept happening. And yeah, it just, it just felt like, you know, this was my moment at that time. I mean, it just felt like nothing could go wrong. So, by the time I was, you know, got to IIM-Ahmedabad I had that “I see you” moment. It didn’t come from a person. It came from this acceptance letter where it said, I see something in you, right. I mean, the moment IIM Ahemdabad had decided to accept me into the institution. I felt like, Listen, I can’t be that bad. I mean, come on you know, I should be able to make something of this. So, I think that was my first moment. And I think I’ve written about this as well, how, you know, again, another moment in my life that sort of gave me so much confidence that I could actually go on to do you know, you know, yeah, amazing things. I didn’t know what amazing things but I thought I could I could do something with my life. So yeah.

Ravi 00:30:45
incredibly inspiring. That happens, then you come to IIM-A . First year, not the easiest of times, that first term. And then you come across all your favourite subjects, accounting, cost accounting and finance. How did that go?

Shrehith 00:31:03

Yeah, I mean, I think I have my scorecard. I mean, so yeah, so, you know, I was at this high, right?  I was riding the high when I sort of got to IIM-Ahmedabad, but you will not believe the amount of sort of… Yeah, I was just thinking about the acceptance letter all the time. And I get to, IIM Ahmedabad. I spent a few days there, I realized that it’s not going to be very easy. But then I quickly realized the people around me, right? These are these extremely smart kids. And they can do things that I can’t even imagine of doing. They’re solving problems before I can even comprehend the question. And I suppose in the first couple of weeks, I had that sort of feeling where I’m thinking, “Oh, you know what, I’ve got to up my game”. And I really did try, I tried with all my heart to up my game, so to speak, and to try and get better at finance, etc. Right? I mean, accounting, you know, it hits you like a, you know, a speeding train, you know, all of a sudden, and I desperately tried to get a hang of things. But I remember the first exam where I put so much time and effort. I think I got a ‘C’ – that was accounting. I’m pretty sure it was FRA, Financial reporting and analysis. And that that pattern sort of followed where I, I tried really, really hard because it was relative grading, just these people were relatively better than me. You know, it was it was, it was a sobering sort of feeling, because here I was thinking, “Oh, I have the world at my palms”, then suddenly, all of it is sort of, you know, crumbling down very quickly. I had a group that again, a lot, you know, all of those people were much, much smarter than me. And I think I started feeling dumber each day, progressively I spent at IIM. I just felt like I was probably not good enough. Thankfully, at that time, I met a couple of people. I met this guy called Sameer, who was my sidey (neighbour) back in the dorm. And he was from Andhra. And you know, they had this small clique of Telugu speaking folks. And obviously, I didn’t speak Telugu. I spoke a bit of Kannada, but I speak Tulu back home. Sameer introduced me to Bhanu. So, in my first year, maybe after about two months, you know, I met Bhanu for the first time, and we were preparing for some exam. And, you know, at the time, I thought if somebody is from IIT, they must be smart. These guys can figure it out. If I can’t figure it out, they can figure it out. So, I thought if we study from an IIT-ian, and so Bhanu was from IIT Rourkee. And obviously, there was a lot of deference to that, you know, that tag. So, I thought, you know, maybe we should sit together and maybe we should study. I was very intimidated by these folks, right? The IIT Delhi, IIT Bombay types. But I think for the first time when I met Bhanu, I didn’t feel as intimidated, because I remember the first conversation we had vaguely, it was it was sort of this guy trying to explain, but obviously, he didn’t know anything, either. I mean, he was he was making things up as he was going. And I figured it out after about 20 minutes. And I was like, “you don’t know anything, do you?  And he’s like “No no, but we’ll figure it out” right? So, I think we became friends in the early days. And I think, you know, Bhanu was perhaps one of the first people to just, he was just like, you know what dude, it doesn’t matter, right? I mean, yeah, I could, I could do a few things, I guess. But, I mean, he just felt like I could relate to him. You know, I couldn’t relate to all the other people. But to Bhanu could relate a lot. Yeah, I mean, I was still scoring poorly. But you know, I had somebody who could sort of still sort of, I guess, give me some confidence in saying that, you know, what, it’s okay, it’s not going to be a problem. So yeah, I think, even though I was I was, I was doing very poorly in my exams. It was, you know, C in finance, C in economics, C in macroeconomics, C in operations? Yeah, it was a lot of C’s, I think my GPA was 2.6, or seven in my- out of 4.33. And you know, how bad that is? That’s probably the that’s probably the bottom 20 out of it, or 300 odd people. So yeah, it wasn’t great. The first year was horrible. And which is precisely why, you know, I mean, I’m assuming we can talk about the second year.

Ravi 00:35:26

So, you know, just before we do that, right, I want to empathize (with you), because I’ve gone through what you’ve gone through in probably the some of the mirror subjects (in another course). So, for me, it was quantitative methods, or operations. And so, I come from the other world, I come from the accounting world, I’m a chartered accountant. Not that that really helped me in accounts. That’s a separate story. One thing that, you know, for and I guess you might have, you know, empathized with this is that, when you come into an institute, like IIM-A, you kind of have this almost mental picture in your mind, you know, so if you kind of put everybody on a normal curve, you’re somewhere on the, on the right side of that curve. What I didn’t realize what I didn’t know, before I came in, is that even within IIMA there’s a very strong normal curve

Shrehith 00:36:20
Yeah, there’s a very strong normal curve.

Ravi 00:36:22
And I was very much on this side of the normal curve. And there were some of the guys who were incredibly on that right side, right. And, you know, just as you’re rightly saying, you know, just watching them do stuff, like, “How did you figure that out?” would be quite humbling. And yeah, so there’s a very wide variance even within IIM-A. At that time, it definitely feels very bad, because your comparison suddenly becomes from saying, “Oh, I was not in IIM-A, now I’m in IIM-A” to “I’m in IIM-A, and I’m lagging behind all these other guys who are better than me” and that that hurts. But yeah, I think what should logically give us solace is that hey, we are still at IIMA.

So no, you know, coming to the second year, right, so I love this piece that you wrote on LinkedIn I am going to quote from this right. So, as you said that, you know, “It was, I, my first year MBA, a grade sheet made for grim reading, C in accounting B in a financial market C in costing, C in macroeconomics, C in microeconomics. It was so bad that in my second year, I refused to pick a single course in finance or other related matters. And yet”, I love this contrast, this is classic storytelling, “and yet, ever since then, I have gone on to write everything at Finception, and most of what’s on Finshots, and somehow managed to build a career, doing the one thing I despised the most”. And then you leave it at ‘So what’s changed?’ and then you talk about that. So now I want to get into that, ‘what’s changed?’ Yeah, what happened?

Shrehith: 00:37:55

 Yeah, I don’t know what happened to me. I wish I could give you a more profound answer but I suppose life happened after that. You know, for me, when I was getting to my second year, I knew that, you know, picking, picking finance was going to be a death knell for the most part because I wasn’t going to get better at it. I mean, obviously, this wasn’t going to work. I can’t do finance in just 20 days of rigorous reading and then expect me to score very high grades, even understand most of the subject. It was not possible for me, I knew that, right? I knew what I couldn’t do, I (had) figured it out. So, I decided I was going to take all the liberal arts subjects, there was this course on Bhagavad Gita and there was a courseon participatory theatre. There was a course on economic history. It’s not economics, but it’s the history of economics. And there were a lot of these courses, communication courses, etc. that I took, that I thought was more in tune with what I was really good at, right? And it just so happened that because I took all of these subjects that I liked and you know I was good at I think you know, second year I was in a much better place. My grade point improved considerably. I wasn’t struggling as much to sort of reconcile with the whole placement process, but by then I’d come to a place where I’d, where I was fairly certain That I’m going to dread going through the placement process once again, because this is something that I wouldn’t want to do, right? I wouldn’t want to compete with these people at a time when I don’t have the best GPA. At a time, when I’m particularly not suited for some of these roles, because you know when it comes to, I mean even marketing roles you have to have lot of rigorous problem-solving skills etc. That was the only avenue that was available I thought in my head. But I realized these people (other students) are so far ahead of me and not just that but even then, I didn’t feel that really want to do it, I’d already done a Marketing internship at Discovery Yeah, I mean that was again, it was a complete wreck. I mean, I didn’t think I did well. I think there was one thing that I had to do and I screwed that up as well I think there was this one. I mean they were putting together a show for, for the launch of a new channel and so you during the show- Believe it or not, at the time, Karan Bajaj the (now) head of White hat Jr, was the CEO at the Discovery. So, he was supposed to give a talk then I think they were supposed to have a fireside chat with the Balakrishna Acharya of Patanjali Ayurveda. So, my job was throughout that entire Internship perhaps could be sort of I mean you could pinpoint to that one thing I had to do. And that one thing was to ask some people in the back stage to put a sofa at the precise moment when they were supposed to have a chat, right? Because the stage had nothing, it was just an empty stage. There was something going on the background and once he finished his keynote address, I was supposed to get these people put a sofa there so they can have that fireside chat, that was it. And I screwed that up, I screwed that up. I’d forgotten what the order of things were, so I sent the sofa on to the stage at a time when a video was supposed to be played. And so, the sofa went on stage and then there’s a video being played, I think there’s a mother, you know sitting in the video, and you can’t see the mother because the sofa is blocking the whole thing. So, I screwed that up as well. So, I think that was a wreck.

Ravi: 00:41:35

And it ruled out the conversion to Discovery, the PPO- 

Shrehith 00:41:35

Of course, I mean there was no PPO. Nobody was even going to consider me for the PPO. I mean, I was dreading that whole process once again. But I realized listen most of my skill set, I didn’t know again once again, I was not very well aware of what my skill set were. I knew I was very creative I could do a lot of presentations I even back at you know back in college. I think I sort of carved a reputation for myself. For being this guy who could, give crazy presentations. So I’d always go on stage and I’d do the most crazy things that you know, you could imagine so yes I’d sort of built a reputation for that, but I knew I could do all of those things. I really didn’t know if they’d be well suited in my corporate environment. I don’t think you need a clown for that. So, you know, yeah in many ways I was I was dreading most of these things, I was dreading finance etc. So

Ravi 00:42:29
And Consulting was not an option?

Shrehith 00:42:31
I would never- Ravi, I would never have gotten into consulting because my grades were a shambles you know? I mean nobody would even have considered me for consulting and I don’t think I’d have become a good consultant either, right? Because, because they expect you- you have to have a very rigorous um you know, mind for that.  I suppose you have to be very good problem solving, very good at logical thinking and I didn’t think I was particularly good at any of these things

Ravi 00:42:44
I would probably kind of contradict you that I think you’ll be great because you know, storytelling is a very critical skill in consulting. And as a part of the storytelling, the research you’re doing, you’re actually solving the problem of what’s happening here. So, starting up with Bhanu was not so much a thing for the love of start-ups, but for the hate- you didn’t want to be a part of the placement process.

Shrehith 00:43:06

Exactly, exactly. I didn’t think I really wanted to go through the other process. So, I opted out of placements. And I think I was very good at opting out of placements, because it’s sort of, you know, I had an experience before where I opt out of placements before, and then I decide what to do. It seemed like a very good place to be at, because when you have already opted out of placements, suddenly, you sort of narrowed down your choices. So, you’ve compelled yourself to do something, you know, I think I’ve always liked that bit. You promise something and then you can’t get out of it and then you somehow managed to do that thing. So, I think, in some ways, I enjoyed that bit, particularly. So, I opted out of placements. Back then it was not exactly Bhanu (enthusiastic about the start-up). Bhanu was very skeptical of joining the startup, by the way, but Pavan was gung ho about it, so Pavan is one of the other co-founders of Finshots  as well. So Pavan was extremely gung ho because he had this idea of revolutionising the stock market. So I think everybody wants to revolutionize something. So I think he wanted to, because there was no alternative to Zerodha. Zerodha is India’s largest stock broker. So there was there was no real alternative, there’s Upstox, but they were up and coming as well. So, he said you know what somehow, we should marry education and training together and sort of bridge that gap and may be sort of build a stock, build a trading platform that is more intuitive, you know, (like) Robin Hood, something of that sort of the time. So, he said, you know, he wanted to do something of that sort and he wanted somebody- 

 Ravi 00:44:50

That’s pretty visionary, yeah? For what, a 22-year-old kid (that) Pavan would have been. That’s amazing

Shrehith 00:44:55

Well, yeah, yeah. At the time and he was sort of, you know, convinced that he could do something he was trading a lot. Now I obviously came from a you know, non-finance background. I didn’t know what he was talking about. Pawan approached me. He wanted a co-founder. He wanted a tech co-founder so he wanted somebody who could pass off as a co-founder, let me be precise.  I had a degree in computer science. So, I said yeah, I can do that when in fact, I can’t code to save my life. Yeah sure, why not? So, we went to the VP at CIIE at the time, this guy called Tapish.  And we made a pitch, “we’re going to do a start-up” and he wasn’t convinced, obviously he’s like, you know, you guys have no clue. Go ahead and sort of, you know, make a presentation or something that sort of and tell me exactly what you’re going to do. And so obviously, this is my forte, right? So, I made the most beautiful presentation that you can and sort of you know, we pitched to him and at the time, you know Bhanu was sort of flirting with the idea of joining a start-up but then he had a PPO, unlike me and Pawan. Both of us didn’t have PPOs.

Ravi 00:46:00
Opportunity cost (costs and benefit of each choice) right?

Shrehith 00:46:02
Opportunity Cost (agrees) He had a PPO and I think, you know, he was more the responsible kind and he was sort of looking at settling down perhaps and, you know, living a comfy life. So, I think he was thinking about that. But, you know, the idea of a start-up can be very alluring. You know, I mean, when you sell dreams, when you’re sort of almost living in a bubble, it’s almost like a cult. You know,we talk about this what’s the idea called, you know the madness of mobs. So delusion can spread very quickly. So, mass delusions exactly it’s sort of you know- it was very tempting for him I suppose but at some point, in time we decided that you know, me- me and Pawan were going to go through the fellowship, we’re going to do the start-up and Bhanu was going to fund us from all that Amazon money you know, so he was going to Amazon. So, we said “You know what, you fund us with the Amazon money, and we’ll all be equal partners. But then you know, we’ll do the start-up. But at some time, I think we realized that we didn’t need as much the Amazon money as somebody to just work on the start-up. So yeah, Bhanu eventually decided so that he was going to join in as well and all three of us opted out. We made a pitch to Tapish once again. We got into the CIIE Maverick fellowship and before we knew it, I think, you know, we were trying to figure out how to how to revolutionize stock markets once again. But yeah, the journey that, you know, that led us- I mean, the next four months were perhaps some of the fun craziest times I’ve seen. I mean, you know, there are productive times and then there are crazy times, I think this was one of those crazy times out of that. Because yeah, what what happened after, again- it’s a classic case of mass delusion. Yeah, I mean, there is no other way to put it,

Ravi 00:47:47

What were some of the most memorable moments during this time?

 Shrehith 00:47:51

So, you know at the time, like I said, three MBAs’ who have no coding experience can only do so much. You can’t build a product without tech expertise. So, none of us were coders so we were trying to figure out what we could do but we realised if you want to be a broker like Zerodha we needed a lot of capital upfront. Something of the order of 2-3 crores. Now who’s going to give you 2-3 crores? So, we you know one of my uncles decided that he had a contact who is who is sort of very willing to invest in you know, these IIM IIT start-ups. And that’s the sort of part of privilege that we are offered in many cases. You know, many people forget that- I think we were very acutely aware of the privilege that was accorded to us just because we were from IIM. He decided to meet us in Bombay and he had made his fortune in this scaffolding industry. So, we were sort of looking forward to this conversation because we said you know what if we had the money to sort of build this brokerage platform that we’re intending to build, we could the whole face of stock market investing. Completely naive, that assessment, mainly because we knew absolutely nothing about brokerage industry. We didn’t know who were the cash cows, we didn’t know how the retail industry worked in India. We didn’t know anything. The only thing that we knew we sort of had to make- we had to get some money so that we could build the things we wanted to, we could hire tech etc. So, we met this gentleman in some, you know, he decided he was going to you know fly us out to Bombay and it felt amazing right so at the time it felt like we are already in the in high-flying start-up business now. So, we met him in Bombay in one of these posh restaurants and he decided to put us in very nice place as well or at least we thought he was paying for it, but that’s where things get interesting. So, we met this guy and we pitched to him we still have those pictures; you know sort of to remind ourselves of how delusional we got and where it all started. I remember you know, all of us looking very intently at this guy hoping that he would fund us. He had this great conversation. He said he’d meet us the next day, because we were we were still due. You know, we planned to stay in Bombay for another day and then we decided to fly back to Ahemdabad and we met him. We were hoping to meet him the next day and he was no show, right? He didn’t show up. So, I spoke to my uncle, he said “yeah, yeah he’s busy with something and he’ll meet you”. I was like “Okay fine”. So, we decided to pay for our tickets back and we flew back to Ahemdabad and we thought, you know, we could have another conversation and then we got the call from the hotel. The hotel said the bills weren’t cleared.
And I said “oh wow, that’s funny”. So, we were thinking that we were going to raise all this money from the start up- being a start-up and sort of and we will have this crazy valuation with just a PowerPoint presentation. Obviously, the gentleman from the scaffolding industry decided that it was not worth his time and had decided to dump us there. So, we had to pay for the hotel. It was sort of this fall from grace I suppose that completely changed our perception of how we were going go to about the things because that’s when we truly realized that this is not how start-ups work. You don’t raise money right of the bat, doesn’t matter where you are from. The fact that you are from IIM Ahmedabad would give you an audience, perhaps, but that’s about it. You’re are not going to- you can’t extend that privilege and ask people to fund you based on the single premise that you are from, you know, IIM. So yeah, the next one year was just us trying to figure out what we could do based on the resources we had. Listen, we were living with 40,000 a month, okay? We had a loan on obviously now I- my loan burden was obviously, you know, a fair bit of it was taken care of by my father but it wasn’t the same case for Bhanu and Pavan and about three or four months in, Bhanu’s brother, Lokesh also joined, you know decided to join us and Lokesh, you know he is he’s a graduate from IIT Delhi. He’d been working in Samsung, you know research in Korea, he was making a lot of money. And he decided to give all that up to come work with us. For nothing. For peanuts, zero basically. So yeah, it was a really tough time but I suppose that’s when we realized that listen, maybe we can’t get into the brokerage industry, but what we can do is- can we solve for that education part which we were thinking of? Because we realized that retail participation was low in India. Perhaps, what we could do is even if people don’t trade, maybe we could have a bunch of audience who could be primed (trained) to trade, who could know more about stocks- who would probably be well versed with the idea of not just the technical aspects of trading but the actual stocks themselves. Like if you if you want to you know- I’d read, you know, like I said, I went from sort of not being intimately familiar with finance to being really, really good at finance, mainly because I spent those, you know, after that meeting, I think, like I said, I don’t take criticism well. It’s almost like as a chip on my shoulder all the time, so I decided that no matter what happens I don’t know who the other two but I’m personally, I want to do everything in my power to sort of prove this guy wrong. And so, I picked a bunch of books in finance. And that’s when I started reading the likes of, you know, a Peter Lynch, you know, Benjamin Graham, all of the investing books. I read so many books at that time. I couldn’t tell you I mean, the kind of books even the remote archives, there was just one moment where I was reading this coffee table book on SEBI from IIM’s library. I mean, that’s the only place perhaps you will find it. Maybe they’re like 50 copies of that. And so, I was reading that, right? So, I read everything voraciously and look, some of it didn’t make sense, some of it did make sense. But what I did realize through all of this was, if you want to get people interested in stocks, you’ve got to talk about things that are relatable to them. There’s no point in me talking about a Minda industries, nobody knows what Minda industries is, but everybody knows what’s Nestle. Everybody knows what’s Jockey and Page industries, everybody knows what is Eicher Motors, right?  So it’s not just my thesis, I think as a group, we came together and said, perhaps, if we want to get more people into the ecosystem, the best way to do it, is by talking about things that are relatable. And we started writing about Eicher and Page and whatnot. And, and we did that, wrote these long form article, very elaborate storytelling. I think that’s when I sort of had an opportunity to cultivate my writing skills, this was the first I had the full freedom to tell any story, you know, any way which I wanted. Just to give you an example, the second story that we wrote was on Page industries- Jockey And the first part of that story about how to sell underwear. It was nothing about Jockey. It’s just about talking about, you know, how underwear works in this country. Who’s the- who are the change agents that help you make the switch from a VIP Frenchie to a Jockey. Okay, it’s sort of this fun idea of approaching, you know, Page industries in a very unique way, you know- in talking about why Jockey was able to build, I mean- funnily enough, again, you know, coincidence or not, I wrote that maybe 2018. We just covered Page Industries yesterday in Finshots, right? And I had to pick a lot of that stuff from two years back, because I had read that and I had forgotten most of it. When I read it, I was like, bro, this is good stuff. You know, this is I looked at it said, you know, what, I should probably think about these things- maybe maybe, you know, incorporate some of this stuff. And, and yes, that’s when I had an entire week to myself to think about how I was going to write this story in a very compelling manner so I think it was sort of the training me, you know when we got to Finshots eventually. I think I think those you know, 15-20 odd stories. I had an opportunity to thoroughly sort of, you know, put my head into how I was going to tell these stories in the most accessible manner. And each story is unique, each story was, was sort of had a different hook to it, right? When I was talking about this one company called Balkrishna Tyres. The story began with Malthusian prophecy. I mean, the Malthusian prophecy was this. If, I mean back in the 1800s, the proposition was that if population growth increased exponentially, and if food growth increased, production of food increased linearly, there would be a point in time where we would reach the Malthusian catastrophe in that population growth would far outstrip food production, and we would have famines and, and you know, food shortages, etc. And, but that didn’t happen, obviously, you know, we, we still have plenty to go around. And the reason was because the industrial revolution- farm mechanization paved the way for increasing farm output, right? So, mechanization was one of those things that ultimately helped us avoid the Malthusian catastrophe. Now, how do you connect that to Balkrishna Tyres, a company that makes you know, off-road tyres. But for me the connection was implicit. The whole thesis around Balkrishna tires at the time was that they were making agricultural equipment and most of these off highway tires were agricultural, you know, for tractors, etc. And so, I was like, the whole thesis is that mechanization is going to be a big play for the next 20-30 years as well. A farm. Mechanization is going to increase. People are going to need more tractors people are going to need more, more tires and people are going to need more of Balkrishna tyres. So, I sort of made that connection. I think almost immediately and I was like listen to the story has to begin with the Malthusians prophecy I think you know that’s been, you know, I managed to sort of spend a lot of time in how I want to craft these stories and put a lot of thought into it as well. So, it was training for me.  

Ravi 57:42

i want to really pick up out of a lot of things, right? A lot of things to mull over, in fact cycle back to your reading, your writing style and then this specifically I’ll come back to a little later where you make these connects right and that’s a very critical storytelling skill. Number one, you come back from this meeting. I think that that’s a that’s a yeah You know, a great inciting moment in your story, right? This guy who kind of you know, ignored you basically and ..

Shrehith 00:58:15

I mean, he didn’t pay for our (hotel)… and that felt really bad because he wasn’t actually responding to us (after the pitch) 

Ravi 00:58:20

That incites you to pick up books that you probably would have had as reading material in the In the last couple of years at IIMA. Technically you have more incentive then because you know you have an exam to pass and GPA but That was not intensive for you, and that was great

Shrehith 00:58:38
That was never an incentive for me

Ravi 00:58:39
Now you’re picking these up and these are not page turners, none of these books are page turners. Okay you don’t understand some parts but I would assume after some point you were like, what is a point of this “why am I studying this? I could be Reading Isaac Asimov” or whatever, right?  Is that motivation- Was it so strong for you (the motivation) to actually know power through these books.

Shrehith   00:59:05

Yeah, I think you know what there is a lot of free time for us at the time. We’re talking about (the time) between January 2018 and maybe April/May 2018. We still hadn’t begun working on the product so I had about five months of free time. So, I was reading the likes of Asimov and Carl Sagan as well. In fact, at the time, one of the books that I read was ‘The Demon Haunted World’. There’s this amazing quote in there, I don’t know if you I managed to read it but it’s “‘Do not trust what is intuitively obvious that the Earth was flat was once obvious that blood-sucking leeches cure most maladies was once obvious” and he goes I want to say you know that “the truth can be deeply puzzling. Sometimes it can be It can contradict you deeply held beliefs” and I was reading all of this stuff as well but you know, finance for me like I said these weren’t page turners but the more you get into it, the more questions you have. I think I never settled for the most obvious answers. So, I have this tendency to not accept the first answer that I get, I’m like, “No, that can’t be”. That sounds too simplistic and I’m like there must be something beyond this. So, every time somebody tells me” Yeah, well this is how it works”. I’m like “okay, but really?

Ravi 01:00:36
Can you give an example?

Shrehith 01:00:22
For instance, let’s suppose when you’re talking about something regarding stocks, right? And somebody says “Yeah, well you know, Page Industries has done exceedingly well, because of the Indian consumption story, right? We more young Indian millennials will move from the sort of this lower middle class to the upper middle class. And when they reach this so-called Promised Land, they will want better underwear. I mean, that’s, that’s the thesis. So, I’m like, “Okay, but will it actually happen though?”, like, how sure are you that, you know, the, this automatic connection is, in fact automatic in that when these people rise, they will actually buy? Or will they rise in first place? Will that happen? So, I remember there was this one story I did on the Indian consumption story, just based on this one question, how solid is the India consumption story? So is it possible that it might not pan out the way that in fact, researchers had shown conclusively that there’s nothing automatic about a demographic change, and you know, economic prosperity, for instance, it does not automatically mean that as a young up and coming population, you know, emerge within the within the, you know, Indian hinterlands, Indian urban lands anywhere, it doesn’t automatically mean that will translate to economic prosperity. The same thing happened Mexico, we presume that it would happen, it didn’t happen. And research showed that very conclusively. So, I was like, well it could happen. I mean, that’s what they’re saying, like it could happen. But for it to happen, we need a robust education, you know, infrastructure, we need effective policies that help these people, you know you know, create new jobs participate in the labour system, we need more women in the labour force. I mean, we need all of these things to happen together. For the demographic change to- 

Ravi 01:02:11
And these (developments) are not a given,

Shrehith 01:02:13
It is not a given, right? So I don’t accept the first answer. It’s like, well, maybe it will happen. And then I found out, you know, what, the pace of demographic change, right? This young up and coming population in India, they’re going to take the world by storm, it’s not going to happen uniformly across all states, either, like Kerala’s population is already coming of age, but somewhere in UP, it’s probably going to take another 20 more years. So, all of these complicated things sort of play into this one equation. So, I don’t accept the immediate answer, simply because I know for a fact that even if this is, in fact, the answer, it’s still a productive avenue to pursue, because you’ve probably learned more in the process. I think I continue to do this, which is why when I read something from Peter Lynch, for instance, I’m like, “Oh, he says, all you have to do is pick stocks that you consume on a daily basis”. For instance, if you’re eating Maggie buy Nestle, if you are flying Indigo buy indigo, right. So, I mean, it makes some sense, right, these consumption stocks, obviously, are recession proof. They do they do a few things, right. And fair enough. But that doesn’t explain everything. So, I’m like, okay, but what does explain? So, I wanted to pick every single book that I could, Peter Lynch said, you could actually beat Wall Street, right. But then you look at another book by Burt Malkiel, which is one of the best books that I’ve read a Random Walk Down Wall Street, he says, the movement of a stock price resembles the walk of a drunkard, the walk of a drunkard if you close pay attention to it, you probably see that there’s some pattern emerging, right when he walks. But that doesn’t mean you can predict what is going to do next. So, it’s sort of this idea that the stock markets will forever remain outside your grasp, we’ll never be able to master them. So, this one guy saying, “Oh, you can beat Wall Street, and you can master the stock market”. And the other guy saying “it’s all random. You can’t You can’t do it”. And then the third guy comes around and says, “Well, you can explain it. But then you have to look at behavioural biases”, right? You have the likes of Richard Thaler, you have the likes of Daniel Kahneman, right. Tversky all of these guys saying this very different things about how behaviour plays into it. So, it’s a confluence of things that sort of pushed me into saying, you know, what, I’m not happy with this answer, maybe I’ll go with that answer. And at the same time, the Indian market ecosystem was very different from all of this. And because we had manipulators, even, I mean, we still have manipulators, you know, if when you look at these, you know, small cap stocks, I mean, most there are some shady things going on there. Even in some mid-level enterprises as well. So, I think, you know, reading the Indian ecosystem, reading about behavioural issues, reading about the random walk all of these things, you know, it seemed like it was the next logical step for me. I didn’t feel bored at the time, and I felt I had too many questions and not enough answers.

Ravi 1:05:06

I think the theme that I’m really seeing here Shrehith is this, you know, insatiable curiosity that has like, almost as, like an undying fire that has been lit in your mind. Yeah. Was it just that conversation with that investor? I don’t think it was. Obviously not What was it? What lit that fire?  (Motivation to seek knowledge)

Shrehith 01:05:28

I don’t think it was just that conversation. I think, (it’s a) bunch of things like I said, I’d already gotten into reading obviously at IIM (Ahmedabad) I couldn’t do much of it. But then I got back when I sort of had this, you know, had this opportunity. You know, this five months’ time when, you know, we didn’t have a lot of things to do. So, I had the opportunity to go back and read some more and I did that. I did that for a while. And so, it just I think it’s a bunch of those things (that motivated me) right? It’s the chip on my shoulder. I obviously felt like I could do more. Yeah, I had some confidence because you know, when you graduated from IIM like you said, Yeah, fair enough, you probably might not be the be at the right end of the curve, within the institution but outside of it and come out of an institution, suddenly, you’re still this big shot. So, I think in many ways I’m still confident of the fact that I had, something in me it’s just about finding that avenue. So, I got into reading once again. So, I was curious once again, I think a lot of these things, I was curious from a very young age, it’s just like, I went through this engineering phase. When I went through this whole thing (engineering and IIM), maybe, I lost my way a bit. But it was the right time for me, you know, because a lot of spare time, so might as well, I think,

Ravi 01:07:07
So one is that curiosity, which drives your, you know the knowledge acquisition part. But then now let’s come to the knowledge spreading part. The Writing part, right? I’m guessing you were not the type who would have written before in a college magazine none of that, right? So, you basically started writing in Finception.

Shrehith 01:07:22
Yeah. In fact, I that’s, that’s Yeah, that is weird as well, you know, because I went from not having written anything to just starting a publication. Right. Like, that’s, that’s, that’s sort of, you know, very weird.
But like I said, I think the journey wasn’t sort of immediate. It just didn’t culminate (into something overnight). We started writing about SME stocks, even before that, we had written a couple of research reports that I thought could be done much, much better. So, we had written about couple of shady stocks and where we said you know something shady going on here something wrong etc and yeah, we pushed those reports out so I think I wrote a couple of reports and then may be wrote four or a few, more than four or five, but about SME IPOs. So those were small 100 200 words articles. Not extensive but some practice for me and then Finception starts, right? Where we write about Eicher motors. On that day, we got about 1000 hits on the website. Now we pushed it on a small WhatsApp group, we had for SME IPOs, etc. 1000 hits at the time, we’d never seen that, we’d seen 60 hit tops but looking at 1000 hits on the website seems like such a small number. I mean, looking back looking back right now, but at the time, it meant so much to us. So, I spent around 14 days writing that that article, and I’d read this book called Good to Great by Jim Collins. And Jim Collins makes the proposition that, you know, there is a certain recipe for success when it comes to pushing these good companies. Nothing wrong with the pretty good companies, but to sort of pursue greatness, you have to do these things. And he starts with this sort of with this with this sort of beautiful prologue, he says, you know, a good is the enemy of great. We don’t have great institutions, because we have good institutions, we don’t have great, great schools, because we have good schools. You know, it’s sort of this this passionate plea to say that, well, you know, good, what’s keeping you from sort of achieving greatness. And when I looked at Eicher motors, I realized that this was a company that underperformed for about 30 odd years or something of that sort. They certainly right this this young Siddhartha Lal comes into the picture and changes the whole equation within the company, right? You go from making classic motorcycles, but very dingy back in the time they were they were known to be very unreliable back in the 90s. And then 2000s, everything changes late 2000s. He comes along, and he launches a slew of motorcycles (Royal Enfield) and they became a cult in India, right? So, I’m like how did this company go from just being okay, wasn’t bad, but it’s a good company to achieving greatness. So that was a great pitch for a story. And I sort of you know, this was the segue from me talking to me to sort of start talking about Eicher and some of the financial metrics.

Ravi 01:10:09
You mean Enfield, right?

Shrehith 01:10:15
Enfield, Royal Enfield. Ya, sorry I should have mentioned that right.

Ravi 1:10:18

So I want to talk about your writing now in two parts. And one part is in simplifying the simplicity piece, but let’s start with the second part, which is what you alluded to twice now, the Malthusian example and Good to Great, right. So, (making) connections, analogies. Making stuff relatable is a very important element in storytelling and yeah, that. And some of the best storytellers always do that. Two questions on that right? One is to be able to make non intuitive connections, you need to have a very wide reading field. You should know about Malthus and   about this one (Good to Great by John Collins). So, I want to pick up one example. You know, you are writing a story about last year, the stock market after the dip in COVID in March (2021), it went up in zoomed up again, some 40-47 odd percent, right? So, you are writing a story about you know, how’s the market going up again, and you don’t start with “Hey, the market was so much in March now in August, it’s so much”. You start with the challenger space shuttle story about, you know, how the space shuttle crashed. And then there are these five or six companies which are supplying parts to NASA. And the market singled out one company for punishment. Basically, that the analogy of- The market knows. The wisdom of the crowd. The market knows. Now again two things, one how did you even read about that? How do you how you’re reading diet about to talk about because it’s obviously very wide. And two the to making that connection, do you sleep over it? Does it come when you do a jog, or how do you get that connection?

Shrehith 01:12:24

This one is very interesting, because now it suddenly comes to me like why I wrote about that, the wisdom of crowds. This is an example that I picked from a book I read, I can’t tell you which book, exactly. But one of these finance books which I read where the gentlemen sort of uses this as an example to talk about the wisdom of crowds … I think it’s ‘Adaptive Markets’ but I could be wrong. But basically, the book says, you know, there’s, there’s this idea that that you know, markets do know, markets have all the information available to them and they will make sure that they adjust for this information, by either bidding up the stock price or bidding, bidding the stock price lower than what you see in front of you. And eventually the markets will normalize, the prices will normalize, and they’ll reflect the true value. So this is an example I read from a book, right? So, the connection, somebody else made that connection, it wasn’t me. And this this connection I did not make I read it from a book, but it sort of brings me to a very critical point. You know, people ask me this question, often times when they say, “Where do you get your insights?” Well, the answer is very simple. insights don’t emerge from the void, right? You inspired by certain people to think a certain way. For instance, I fell in love with that anthropology when I sort of read ‘Sapiens’ for the first time, I read Sapiens and then I wasn’t, I wasn’t happy with just sapiens. I wanted more. So, I read this book called Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. It’s an extraordinary book. I mean, the way he sort of connects (the dots), he starts this exposition from 100-1000 years ago, and connects the dots so beautifully, so elegantly. So, I believe that, you know, most of my examples are probably borrowed from someplace in some things that I have read somewhere and sort of used that example to make my point. And not all of them is direct I am not just saying that it is just copy paste but many, many times, probably read about it somewhere. “That’s a very interesting thing to talk about right here (in my articles)”.

Ravi 01:14:27

In storytelling, there’s a nice line which goes that, to engage the audience, you must make the familiar, novel (new and interesting) and the novel, familiar (known to us). If there’s something which is the same old boring, you have to make it new and improved RIN (washing powder advertising example). But if it’s novel, and most financial news ends up being very novel. Hey, what’s happening here, what kind of an animal is this? And so, a good storyteller has to feel “Okay, what is this animal?” Is it like this or like this, like this? And then make that right, connect, right? And what I’m interested to know is the process of making that connect (making things familiar) there are two broad ways, right? What works for you one is it
(1) introspection, where you’re just thinking reflection or whatever, or,
(2) discussion, you know. 

What works better for you? 

Shrehith 01:15:06

Yeah, look, I discuss a lot obviously. I’ve been talking about how I write but then again, you don’t see my name in most of these stories mainly because I’ve always believed that this is a collaborative effort from all of us together. I have my doubts everybody, chips in you know, they we discuss internally we discuss all the time, Me, Bhanu, Lokesh, Pawan. Right now with Finshots I have this guy called Siddesh who’s helping me a lot he writes many stories and obviously I might edit it, or sometimes I might add my own inputs, but we’ve got to a point where I’m not writing, you know, many stories, so to speak. I’m writing a few but not all stories, right? I mean, there was a point in time when I was writing all the stories, even back then, I had help from other people. I mean, without them, I don’t think I’d be able to do half a good job (as we are doing now).

Ravi 01:16:02

But do you have a process there, Shrehith (to discuss while writing)? 

Shrehith 01:16:08
Yeah. So I think I think the process, you know, it’s fairly simple. I think I have a few things that I keep in mind. One is to assume absolute ignorance from the reader. I mean, no matter, you know, it can get repetitive sometimes, because I’m talking about the same things, and I’m offering the same explanations. But, I still believe that, you know, if it’s a cost benefit analysis, what I’m looking at two stories one outcome is that it gets repetitive. The other is nobody understands. I’d much rather go with the repetitive, one, right?  Fair enough. It’s probably going to sound more repetitive, but that’s okay. That’s the compromise I’m willing to make. And obviously, sometimes I try to sort of spice that up a bit as well. But the first thing is assuming absolute ignorance. So any story that I begin writing nobody knows about it. Now there are some stories where if you assume absolute ignorance, people think it’s the easiest thing to do, but it’s not. In fact, I remember a quote where they say ‘easy reading is hard writing’ or something of that sort,

Ravi 01:17:16
So, once you pick a topic, how do you approach building the story narrative?

Shrehith: 01:17:24

There’s one thing where when I almost always ask, can I build the story in such a way that, at the end of it, you know  every story begins with the headline, and then they sort of go into the details, etc and I am like that terrible thing to do with financial news. I can give you an example. For instance, story that we did on Biocon, I think and the headline was something like this. US FDA approves bio cons, biologic insulin glargine after completing phase three trials. People have well versed with Phase three trials now. (After vaccination news). But if I told you this headline will, maybe one year ago, (people wont’ know) what it means, right? And that was literal headline that, I read on a I think it’s a Times of India article. And I said that just doesn’t make any sense. I mean knew Biosimilars because I covered Biocon before. And I knew exactly what they were talking about. I knew this insulin glargine drug. But for some newbie looking at the story, it absolutely doesn’t make any sense. I thought, a better way to write this story is to set the context and it should done in such a way that ultimately my story leads to the headline. So, for instance, I set all the context, I’ll explain difference between simple molecules and complex molecules, I’ll explain how biologics come into play, I’ll explain bio similars, I’ll explain insulin, I’ll explain insulin glargine, I’ll explain what Biocon is trying to do with these things I’ll explain how the phase two, phase three trials have progressed. And then I’ll get to the headline that’s the only thing that will add value here. Because what will I do with the information? If I know about insulin glargine? I have the information, thank you but the readers that are going, you know going to Finshots have no idea about anything any of these things. So, I think presuming ignorance is easy, that’s the easiest thing to do. But figuring out a way to bridge this gap and say, “Okay, how am I going to tell this story assuming that they that the individual is completely ignorant?”. Well, that that takes a fair bit of skill. So, I’ve done this (with) multiple stories where I’ve said, I’m going to this story. This story is going to culminate in the headline. It’s not going to start with headline, it’s going to finish with headlines, I think I found that part be very meaningful, because from, user point of view as well, people appreciate the storytelling because now they have the context. 

Ravi 01:19:53

I love that Shrehith – don’t start with the headline, build towards it. It sort of goes against the ‘Bottom-Line, Upfront’ kind of approach that works when you have to just inform your audience about your findings.especially senior (older) audiences. But it works in your situation, because
(a) you keep things short, and
(b) it makes the reader curious and engaged till the end.  What other engagement elements do you add to your stories?

Shrehith 01:20:24

You know, maybe I have to find the hook, maybe I have to find a nice little perspective where I can engage a reader in better way for instance, there was this article on the disappearance of 2000 rupee note that we did, which I think began with history of paper money so I am like “That’s a nice segue”. Okay let’s start with that because the moment I talked about how there was a general, I think, it was in the French army, I am not sure who was using playing cards as placeholders to replace the silver coins that he should have received, he didn’t receive so he has to sort of use playing cards as place holders just so that people didn’t rebel, his army didn’t rebel revolt and they accepted it. And eventually when the gold arrived or silver, they traded for this paper card and that’s when the paper money took off in a massive way. So, James de Gaulle or something I don’t remember his name. But yeah. So that’s I thought that was very interesting and that’s how sort of I broke into the story so that’s another thing that I obviously know, where we make the connect sometime it’s obvious sometimes it’s not

Ravi 01:21:42

You really specifically look for the hook, right and that’s a nice word you use, the hook is important to get the attention of the audience and you really put extra effort in that .

Shrehith 01:21:50

Sometimes I think a lot. I research a lot. And sometimes I might have read about something that I say “oh you know I should probably talk about that here”. But other times, I’m just, yeah, I’m just I’m just looking on the internet, right? Just googling. I mean, Google is, you know, my best friend. I just have to keep researching all the time just trying to figure out, and it doesn’t take a lot of time, either. I mean, you know, when you know about money, you’re like, “Okay, what’s one interesting thing about paper money that I could find?”. And I remember that process is well, I remember for this particular story, I found that paper money had actually started much earlier in China, but then it fell out of favour. And then it caught on. So, I’m like, “oh, did it? Why?”. So that’s when I sort of, you know, found this whole piece about, you know, the general etc. Yeah.

Ravi 01:22:44

How do you manage then in these situations to avoid getting into multiple rabbit holes and saying “Okay, now, I need to stop my research and start writing”. 

Shrehith 01:22:52

Yeah, I think I love rabbit holes, because, like you said, it’s easy to get lost in them. And sometimes I do, but I think I’ve got to a point where that’s no longer a concern. Because, you know, once I have the story, I think it takes about two hours maximum, for me to actually write the article. So it’s not very intensive, the whole process of translating what’s on my mind and sort of putting it on paper. So that that bit is easy. It’s just, it’s just finding a good topic can be extremely hard sometimes. Yeah, I think that’s the hardest bit, I would say that finding the right topic can be extremely hard. And that’s not just for me, right. People that have worked at Finshots, well, the interns, the the people that have written for Finshots all of these people will attest to the fact that finding topic is perhaps the hardest bit once you found a topic. Now all these bits, I think, much easier to do. I mean, personally, I felt that it’s much easier to do that I haven’t spent three four hours looking for a topic, and I’ve not found anything, which is why I hate that bit. You know, I hate it. I mean, usually, I follow the news cycle, you know, When there is a news topic then it’s okay but then there are certain news items, where you can’t add a lot of value beyond what’s been created. So, our whole objective at Finshots, you know, for Bhanu, Lokesh, or, anybody who asks these people, and they’ll tell you, we have to be able to add some value to the reader. So yeah, so picking a topic can be extremely hard if it’s not in the news cycle, if the item that we’re covering is not in the new cycle. But otherwise, the storytelling bit is perhaps the easier part, out of the two

Ravi 01:23:58

But at some will do are trying to mentally tell a story when you’re evaluating topics, right? 

Shrehith 01:24:06

Yes, yes. Yes, you’re right. It’s a it’s a part of it as well. Yeah. 

Ravi 01:24:12

And, yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s, I can imagine the stress because you don’t want to pick a topic, get into it two three hours into it and (realize) “Oh, I don’t think this has got enough juice in it” (enough material to write).

Shrehith 01:24:20

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So, I think that process happens simultaneously, right? I’m already thinking about if there’s enough meat in the topic if there’s enough substance in the topic. 

Ravi: 01:24:31

So yeah, that’s sort of important for you to have some sort of a hypothesis or a point of view on the topic, or do you actually prefer going blank? 

Shrehith: 01:24:40

Sometimes, yes. I mean, like I said, varied topics (require different approaches). There are topics where I go into topics that have Iabsolutely no clue about laser topics where for instance, we did a couple of stories on the farm laws. I mean, every single day, we get at least two or three article two or three emails asking us to cover farm laws. But my point, you know, we’ve already covered two bits or pieces that we wanted to cover back in May, when nobody was talking about farm laws. We were some of the only people that were explaining what ECA was where this idea came from, because everybody had forgotten that the ECA didn’t happen, you know, what it is called, the Essential Commodities Act didn’t happen overnight, the government didn’t decide that they were going to impose, sorry, they were going to stop impose stocking limits on warehouses and traders. Overnight, they had already extended talked about it in the Economic Survey, which I read by the way. So, I’d read the Economic Survey, and I had taken some of the examples from there. For instance, last year, when we had, I think you remember when we had this whole surge in onion price last year, the year before 2019 with surging near prices, all of a sudden, and the government decided the best way to sort of deal with this was by imposing stocking limits, to say that no trader can hold more than 100 odd kgs of onions. But what happened was the next month, the prices really went up further it went till 200 odd rupees so, it never had the intended effect. And, the Economic Survey goes to some lengths to explain how some of these interventions can be counterproductive, it’s a well-known thing in economic circles that government interventions more often than not, don’t help. But in this case that there’s adequate evidence to show that because the government imposed stocking limits, whatever little produce some of these traders had held, which could have helped in alleviating the shortage in the next month, they had to dump immediately. So then, by the month by the month of October, we had no onions left, which is one of the reasons why the prices rallied so that established all of that and because I had read it right, we covered both these elements farm laws and sort of myth But after that we were not adequate experts in that subject but I remember having this extensive conversation with FABM graduate from IIM I am extremely thankful to her, because we spend at least, you know, two or three hours just talking about who are the best farm economists right, what are they saying about these things? What do they think about these laws, etc. So, we wrote two pieces on it.
One was, obviously the essential commodities act how storage infrastructure should need a boost if India plans to reduce volatility in food prices, the change in food prices. And the end, the first story was about the first piece of legislation where, you know, farmers now had more avenues to sort of sell their produce elsewhere. And once we did that, we knew there was nothing more we could add, because our expertise, and we had explained two bits, you know, if you want us to offer our own opinions on it, I know for a fact that I don’t know enough to go above and beyond what I’m good at. So, many people have asked for those stories. But I we know for a fact; this is very what expertise to I’m never I’m not a farmer. I mean, I’ve never, you know, I get it, there are things from talking about stocks for instance, I could say I am familiar with the subject because I spent every single day of my life for the past three years only reading the subject. But that’s not same with farming. Right. So yeah, it can be sort of there are times when I know the fact that I don’t know a lot.

Ravi 01:29:00

In fact, that segues well into the next question I remember Adam Grant mentioning it in a recent podcast he keeps a folder on his desktop about all the things that he doesn’t know Right.  he kind of said something about our knowledge grows by how much we realise we don’t know. And sometimes that’s the big challenge. What we don’t know, we don’t know, how do you even realize that, “Hey, I’m covering this topic, and I’m writing this”, but probably there is a whole aspect that you don’t even know you’re not aware of. Do you get emails from (readers with feedback)

Shrehith 01:29:37

Yeah, a lot of times, so people write to us and like I said, most of them are very respectful. And they tell us that there are things you could have covered, there are these things that you could have talked about. And some of it helps me improve as well. There are many times when I’m listening to feedback, and I’ve gone, “You know what, that’s a fair point”. Like I said, you know, what, there was this one time when we started Finception. Finception was these long form articles, they were 2000 words and yeah, so, it’s funny, because remember, we were supposed to talk about the video and I forgot to talk about the video areas. So, it’s sort of these long form articles, and people would look at it and say, yeah, you know, in your website you when you say cutting the bullshit, and getting to the point, but then, you know, you shouldn’t take 2000 words to get to the point. That was good feedback, right? I mean, fair enough. We should probably not take, you know, 2000 words, which is one of the reasons why we broaching this idea of bringing Finshots. Even back in 2019, because we thought, yeah, we should probably you know, should probably think about that. This this whole thing won’t work well for long. So Finshots came out of that idea. You know, so we we knew for a fact that we have readers, very smart, very intelligent, who have a lot a lot of things to say. And many times, they do give meaningful inputs and we take it so yeah, so I know for a fact that I don’t know a lot of things I don’t keep a folder as such, but I’m pretty well versed with that idea, because even now, when I have discussions with Bhanu or Lokesh  about a random topic, you know, even though I’ve written so much, etc, I still fall short on many occasions, because when because they, probably have a point of view that is simply logically consistent than my opinion, So, thankfully, because I have a group that’s much smarter than me many ways it always keeps me grounded because you know, ego can get the better of you very quickly. If you think you know, too much, you tend to risk sounding arrogant in your storytelling as well, you might, you might have strong opinions, where there’s not enough doubt in your own sort of story, we doubt is crucial for you to learn more, if you think you know, everything is nothing else to do. Right. So, I mean, stock market and education in the stock market in that respect was very helpful as well, because the funny thing is, when you learn trigonometry, you know, for two years, you get better at trigonometry, you get better at it, you learn calculus, the same thing happens, you learn about physics, the same things happen. You learn more about stock markets, after three years, eventually, you know, for certain that the only thing that you know for certain is that you know nothing. So, it’s sort of this counter intuitive thing, where the more you learn about stock markets, the more you realize, the less you will know about how the markets behave. So ya, I think an education in market help for me to It helps me sort of stay grounded, 

Ravi 01:32:34

What are one or two, I’m just kind of, you know, this has been fascinating (your process of writing), Shrehith. In terms of your inspirations in terms of books, podcasts, channels, subscriptions, etc. What are some of the things that have been the most influential?

Shrehith 01:32:54

So, I read all kind of books, mostly nonfiction, I read very little fiction. Like I am used to this aspect (of) making these imaginary scenarios in my head, okay. I mean, I talk to myself all the time, I am sorry I am going back to same topic again about how it helps somebody write better. I think talking to yourself helps you immensely. I mean, I know it sounds crazy, because, I mean, ideally, when you’re discussing with yourself, I think it helps unravel some of your arguments in front of you. And they expose the loopholes in these arguments. And you can see for yourself very clearly how unsure you are about this topic. When you speak about it yourself. You become a better orator and obviously, you become better writer as well. I truly believe that. And so, for me, personally, I think that that has helped a lot. But you know, going back to your question some sort of the books, I don’t watch a lot of movies. I watch a lot of YouTube, which is the funny thing. I don’t subscribe to channels, which I believe in many ways, what I think is if you subscribe to our YouTube channel, keep everything that’s up more, I will constantly keep seeing new stuff. And I know even if I don’t subscribe to it, you will probably still make the recommendation based on my history. Yeah. But it’s still better than me subscribing to those videos, because I would never venture beyond what I see. Which is one of the reasons why I probably am. I’m vaguely familiar with so many things. It’s it’s I’m not sort of, you know, intimately familiar with it. But I’m really familiar with, like I said, American football, for instance, I came across that documentary, and I’m like, I should I should read more. And then I watched another documentary. It’s about snooker as well. I can tell you so much about this, this guy called Ronnie Solomon. He’s one of the best snooker players. I watch a lot of chess videos I mean, I can’t play chess like I said, I’m very bad with problem solving. But I spend a lot of time watching chess video, right? I could I will tell you more about the chess players than the game itself in terms of opening strategies, etc. So I do that as well I tried to keep my YouTube feed as random as possible because it helps me know more things. I watch random documentaries. You know it could be anything. I keep my Youtube feed as open as possible YouTube. And sometimes the YouTube recommendations gives me some amazing recommendations as well. On books, a lot of nonfiction, but I can talk about a few of those things that have left a big impact

Ravi 01:35:50

What would be your top three recommendations (of books)

Shrehith 01:35:52

Top three. So that’s very hard,

Ravi 01:35:55
Top five?

Shrehith 01:35:57
Yeah. Top Five, maybe?
1) Yeah. So ‘Guns Germs and Steel’ by Jared Diamond. Definitely. It’s one of those books that had (an impact), it left a lasting impact on me, undoubtedly.

2) Perhaps another book that had (an impact) on a young impressionable mind was Ambedkar’s ‘Annihilation of Caste’. It’s one of those things where I see the exchange between (historical figures). It’s funny because you look at historical figures, and you feel like, I mean, it happened so long ago, maybe there’s nothing about them that’s sort of significant. And yet, when you see those letters, you see that that’s their words. I mean, that’s them writing, not someone else writing. It’s them arguing with each other. So, when I read the debate between Ambedkar and Gandhi,  I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Some of the things that this were so smart Ambedkar was much smarter, but still, it was just for me to sort of, you know, to read Dr. Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi, it’s just amazing I mean, I just love that stuff. So that’s probably my second recommendation.

3) My third recommendation would be a finance book, because It’d be a shame if I didn’t recommend something a finance is ‘A random walk down Wall Street’. It’s perhaps one that is sort of shaped my thesis on how markets work. And yeah, I have not strayed too far away from what Burton Malkiel presents in his book, in that the random walk is just that, it’s a random walk with stock prices.

4) And perhaps the fourth recommendation is, one of two books, you know, both are amazing, ‘ ‘ ‘Nudge’ and ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’. I mean, both are great books. (They talk about) Behavioural (aspect) again, you know, the behavioural aspect of things. Speaking of a behaviour I’m reading this book called ‘Behave’ by Robert Sapolsky, who’s got a series of lectures on Stanford’s YouTube channel, about behaviour, etc. So, I thought it because it’s a bit heavy reading, but then some amazing things on there as well, to maybe

5) Final recommendation, outside of behaviours, ‘Rational Optimist’. You know, it’s by this guy called Matt Ridley, he tells stories in such a beautiful way. There are two books I’ve read (written by Matt Ridley). One is ‘How innovation Works’. I think that’s Matt Ridley as well. Both the Rational Optimist, and so this book (How Innovation Works).

Ravi 01:38:20
I’ve heard of this, not read it

Shrehith 01:38:24
Yeah. It’s just fascinating how he builds these narratives. It’s beautiful.

Ravi: 01:38:36

… listening to what what you’ve said one book that if you have not read, you must read is ‘Range’ by David Epstein, 

Shrehith 01:38:42

I think I came across I’m not sure if I picked it, but there was. Yeah, maybe not. I don’t I don’t think I’ve read 

Ravi 01:38:50

Because I think you could be a great case study for that book. He essentially talks about busting this myth of the young overachiever. You know, they talk about Tiger Woods. See, he was three years old. Yeah. And he contrasts that with Roger Federer who, for the longest time he even didn’t pick up tennis as, as a sport, you know, he would he would play football, he would play whatever else they played in Switzerland. And tennis was just one of the other sports, right? And so, he you said the Tiger Woods model is offered as the model and for example the other one was chess Polgar sisters. Their dad just made them learn chess from young age. He’s saying it’s actually counterproductive, because you’re just forcing somebody to pick something that they may not want to do for the rest of your life. And just exposing to a wide variety of things, being curious about them and then figuring out where that goes is much better strategy. And then he sites example of an example of you know, guys who have done well, based on that example. So I think your story, I think it’s fits well in that narrative pretty cool.

Finally, I’d be doing our listeners a disservice if I didnt ask you to share that ‘Jet Airways’ graph story…

Shrehith: 01:40:15

Probably in 2019, April, we were in a very rough patch, he was perhaps, you know, we were talking about whether it is worth it (The start-up). Finception was great, you know, from an enthusiast’s point of view. You know, if it was a hobby of mine, it would have been great We had a few thousand subscribers. It was good but there was no business there and was trying to figure out if we could, if we could still keep doing Finception and still keep making money somehow. And at the time, you know, Lokesh was building these complicated trading models so that we could sell it to prospective traders. We were doing a bunch of things that we  wouldn’t have done only in the hopes of keeping Finception alive. And there were a couple of occasions when I think I felt like I’d made the wrong choice with this whole, you know, start-up thing, because it just didn’t seem worth the effort. Because we were spending all our money in keeping our interns in sort of, in pushing this company paying for our expenses, looking at the loan burden, but imagine paying 20-20000, every month, and living on 40,000. It was very, very difficult for us. And I think, that evening, Bhanu and Lokesh had left, they had gone back home because they were dealing with something at home. And it was just me and Pawan. And I think, Pavan had left for the gym and he leaves he’s very disciplined guy. And it’s just me and this intern Urvashi, who used to do a lot of our graphic work. And I was very desolate at that time. I was thinking about the story we were going to write but I suppose, in my mind (it) was clouded by sort of this uncertainty. Because (normally) I loved uncertainty, I thought uncertainty was going to help me keep my existential crisis at bay. That the existential dread that almost always follows once you graduate, I thought this would keep it (the dread) away – this whole startup thing (a welcome distraction). But uncertainty can get overbearing sometimes and I think I felt that at that moment. And when I was having this chat with Urvashi. Jet Airways was obviously, unfortunately had trouble staying afloat because everything (gone wrong)-  it was big news then and he were thinking of how to show this graphically, and we had this idea of making, I mean she suggested, we should make something like a pie chart, you know, showing market share in 1995, 2005, 2015, 2020 (over the years) If this whole market share thing was like, you know, like a nice motion, it was in motion, you know, you could show and that’s when I started to remember all those, you know, those bar chart thingies for like, you know, they were all the rage, you know, everybody was talking about it. So, you know, when I would make a market share thing, he but it showed how many people were visiting and I called Pawan immediately and I was like bro come right now we will tabulate all the data back. Because we had to push it the next day. So, we tried to do it work till about four o’clock that night? Urvashi (the graphics intern) I remember, she slept at four. And that’s the thing, right? I mean, Finshots, if is what it is today. So these people who work for us, champions, I mean, they they put in so much effort. So we were pay some 10,000 or something, you know, I mean, this girl had no reason to put that much work in so she sat that evening. And she made it compiled all the data, take it from the website, the DGCA website, we put everything together, put it and she had to sort of change the graphics, etc. We had to change the text, we did it in one day and we pushed it on the next day hoping that we would get some hits get a few 1000 views. Luckily enough for us, okay, the video blew up so much that one video, that one bar chart that somehow it fell to the laps of I think Nitin Kamath saw that video, maybe somebody but they came across Finception  because of that. And eventually they decided to fund us and the idea. And often times in your most desperate times, I’m not saying it will happen always I have seen stories that didn’t end well. But I suppose hope is what sort of, you know, keeps us alive for the most part. So, I think, for me personally, that moment sort of exemplifies our journey, which would have been if it weren’t for all the amazing people that work until, and obviously after that as well but it wouldn’t have been alive if it weren’t for that extra bit of chance either. If we hadn’t decided if that thought didn’t emerge at that exact moment. And if you decided to just that infographic as it is, without actually having made that video, none of this would have happened. I wouldn’t be talking to you. So, I think I think you know, that sort of summarizes our journey, it’s been it’s been a journey of exploration. It’s been a journey of finding out what you can do and what you can’t do and with a bit of luck. I think a lot of things that you can do, you know, as opposed to things that you can’t 

Ravi 1:45:09

And the fortune does favour the brave read because it’s it was a tribute to the years of effort you’ve been putting before that and eventually could have come if not with this with something else. that’s my reading. So yeah, you’ve deserved that. Little bit of luck. And now, that effort is now showing. Hey, this has been awesome Shrehith. Very useful. I think people who are seeing the magic at the email that comes to see kind of you know, what, what is the behind-the-scenes story that leads to this magic. So thanks for sharing that Super stuff, thank you so much for having this conversation today.

Shrehith 01:45:53

It was it was nice because, you know, it was nice because, we talked about the stuff we do at Finshots usually it’s just about the numbers. It’s about how you guys came together. It’s about, you know, what makes a start-up etc. But this was about storytelling as a key feature. I mean, that’s what makes us stand out. And yeah, I think this was perhaps one of the best conversations that I’ve had with any sort of podcasts that I’ve done so far. They’re not many. But yeah, I mean, I think this is this has been a very, very nice conversation to have. So I’m glad we had this.


Man- I’ve been blown away by how vulnerable and open Shrehith was in that conversation… and there are some really useful takeaways for those who want to tell better stories from his ideas.

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Until next time, may the force of good stories be with you

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