The bootcamp sessions, as part of the Leap To Unicorn initiative by IDFC FIRST Bank, in association with Moneycontrol and CNBC-TV18, have been enlightening and transformative for hundreds of startup founders, who have had the privilege to learn from visionary founders, veteran investors and thought leaders. Among the eminent guest speakers roped in for the bootcamp sessions was Nikhil Kamath, who is held in high regard by India’s startup community for co-founding and piloting the growth of Zerodha, an online broking firm that has become one of India’s most profitable unicorns since its inception in 2010. He participated in a session called ‘Journey Beyond Unicorn’, with Chandra R Srikanth, Editor – Technology, Startups & New Economy, Moneycontrol, during which he held forth on his own startup journey and the evolution of the Indian startup ecosystem.
True to its name, the session combined abstract wisdom with practical insights, to reveal a set of principles that can help entrepreneurs crystallize their core purpose and retain a larger perspective on life. Nikhil Kamath demonstrates it in his own professional approach, focussing on his core competency without ascribing grand visions to his success. “My main job is trading”, he stated matter-of-factly, while musing on how the growth of Zerodha was influenced by favourable external conditions. Therein lay his essential tip for entrepreneurs. “It’s the circumstances that drive some ideas to succeed”, he said, prescribing the ancient ideal of amor fati (‘love of fate’) as the basis for selfless work and peace of mind.
Though Nikhil Kamath champions acceptance, it hasn’t stopped him from trying to change the world for the better. Recounting the investments he’s made as part of Gruhas, an investment vehicle founded in collaboration with fellow-entrepreneur, Abhijeet Pai, it showcases his vision for the future. It includes prop tech, clean tech and a ‘more democratized and fragmented’ media and entertainment landscape. Nikhil Kamath is especially concerned about the advance of climate change. Apart from capital investments, he also donates money to environmental causes through the Rainmatter Foundation, an offshoot of a custom-built fintech investment arm of Zerodha.
When it was time to answer questions from bootcamp participants, Nikhil Kamath was as forthcoming. Some questions attempted to prize out tangible insights that led to the creation of a successful startup like Zerodha. Nikhil Kamath’s response was more humane than strategic. “When you are starting something, find people you would like to hang out with. If you do that, the odds of things working out are higher”, he said. Many were also curious about Zerodha’s completely bootstrapped beginnings, which Nikhil Kamath was quick to emphasize might not be an ideal strategy for all startups. He advised founders to “figure out which business you’re in, what category you’re in, and raise capital based on that.”
To support his sometimes-metaphysical views on life and business, Nikhil Kamath also dished out insights on Greek philosophy and history, providing listeners with an invaluable glimpse into the mind of one of India’s great new age entrepreneurs. He was clear that startup success was not a one-size-fits-all ideal, drawing attention instead to doing little things well. And that was a hugely empowering message for all the diverse startups and their founders in attendance. The pages slugged ‘Brand Connect’ are equivalent to advertisements and are not written and produced by Forbes India journalists.