Chaos is a Ladder

Dear Madison Family,

As the world goes through the most unprecedented crisis experienced in generations, this time has allowed some of us, albeit locked down and socially distanced, the opportunity to step back and focus on the basics, get a little perspective.

While we are all in the same storm but definitely not in the same boat, this period has been a good one for me. As I write this newsletter on day 38 of India’s lockdown, I want to take this opportunity to share some of my key takeaways from this period and also use this as an opportunity to share some positivity and optimism:

  • Covd-19 has been the greatest leveler our generation has seen thus far, we are all equal irrespective of culture, religion, race, financial status. Coronavirus does not discriminate
  • The people who run our country are not the billionaires and industrialists but the daily wagers, the front-line workers, the nurses and doctors working tirelessly through this period for little money or personal gain, rather putting their lives at significant risk.
  • Our society has become too materialistic and our needs are not that many. Through our government, we have realized a new definition of “Essentials”
  • Health is wealth, home is the best place in the world and there’s a handful of people we all love, care about and that really matter
  • This is a time of conscious reflection and understanding and hence it can be an end or a new beginning. For me, it’s a new beginning of sorts…

What this means for India

The technology industry in India has finally arrived. At a time when we are not allowed to have our maids, cooks or domestic help come home for work, the government has shared notices across the country to allow Zomato, Swiggy for food delivery, BigBakset, Grofers, MilkBasket to deliver our groceries and essentials and the Prime Minister has gone on tv and radio and asked us to use telemedicine platforms to consult with doctors and ecommerce platforms to deliver our medicines.

The police are using drones to monitor sealed parts of the city and ‘red zones’ worst impacted by Covid-19 and the government has launched the Aarogya Setu mobile app to self-assess, contact-trace and measure Covid-19 infections accurately and effectively. The app by the way went from 0-50mn in downloads in just 3 weeks from launch – fastest to 50mn in India ever!

So as we move through the world’s largest lockdown, as we spend record time in the digital universe, we are starting to see massive opportunities in the sector. Online gaming, education, healthcare, content & media as well as digital collaboration, conferencing and social networking space (Netflix watch party anyone?) are spaces that are skyrocketing, signs of this, we are seeing in our portfolio as well.

Startups vs. COVID-19

In India it has been heartening to see the entire startup and technology ecosystem come together and try to help solve this problem and bind us together. The Venture Capital community along with some reputed founders has come together to launch ActGrants.in a $15mn grant pool to support Covid-19 related initiatives – to scale testing, disease management at home, prevent spreading or even mental wellness in this time. Already funded 27 companies in the first month with many more in the pipeline. In our Madison portfolio, we have seen 3 companies step up to support and do their bit:

In our Madison portfolio, we have seen 3 companies step up to support and do their bit:

  • RayIoT: the world’s first non-invasive breathing tracker and baby monitor has been able to convert their product into a remote ICU for quarantined patients in Bangalore. (YourStory coverage)
  • Buddy4Study: India’s largest online scholarship platform and aggregator, Buddy4Study has used their technology platform for companies like GE to train frontline healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, paramedics) the highest at risk during this pandemic. (LinkedIn Post)
  • Khabri – a vernacular audio platform, has stepped up to launch a helpline for the blind (India’s has the largest number of blind people in the world ~ 20mn) (Times of India coverage)

What I'm Reading

The Matrix for COVID-19

Sequoia capital released it’s Matrix for Covid-19 which is a good exercise for founders.

Navigating your start-up in uncertain times \

This is a great read from an entrepreneur turned VC on learnings from a past recession.

Facebook invests $5.7B in India’s Reliance Jio Platforms

The biggest investment in the technology sector in India Reliance Jio meets Facebook (I will write a separate piece on this in the coming month).

I think Zuckerberg doesn’t know he will have to dance at Mukesh Ambani’s youngest son’s sangeet soon :)

Chqbook Bags $5 Mn Series A To Broaden Fintech Play Beyond Lending

...and in closing, I'm happy to relay that our Madison portfolio company closed their Series A just before things took a turn for the worst.

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