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Punit Soni On What It Takes To Traverse Both The Indian And Silicon Valley Startup Ecosystem

Punit Soni On What It Takes To Traverse Both The Indian And Silicon Valley Startup Ecosystem

Punit Soni Has Recently Dived Into The Healthtech Segment With His AI-Based Solutions, Robin

At the time when the Indian Startup Ecosystem has been bolstering itself with activities in various segments after recording over $13.5 Bn across 885 deals in 2017, the trend continued with Q1, 2018 reaching with the ecosystem registering over 196 deals for $1.17 Bn.

However, the edge in the global startup ecosystem remains with the Silicon Valley continuously. As global companies identify the Indian potential with a commitment of billions of dollars, we tried to address the basic question of difference in the Indian and Silicon Valley Startup Ecosystem.

During a recent Inc42 Facebook Live AMA, we caught up with Punit Soni, ex-Chief Product Officer of Flipkart and the current CEO of healthtech startup Robin, who has traversed with equal ease both the Indian and the Silicon Valley startup ecosystem.

“I think the Indian startup ecosystem is the most exciting startup ecosystem in the world right now because of its people. It’s because of you guys. I think it has the largest concentration of young people in the world trying to build companies on their own.”

He elaborated that even though there’s going to be quite a few years and a lot of failed startups, he believes that one of the greatest companies in the world – in the league of Google is going to come out of India. He also expects that this will happen in the next few years, adding that fundamentally the potential of India is way bigger than almost any place in the world.

However, Soni also emphasised that “What the Valley has is a degree of sophistication around it that is unparalleled. So what the valley does is that it gives you within a radius of 40 square miles the smartest people from every category in the world. And loads of them, not just one or two. That’s something that will take some time to replicate anywhere, let alone India. So, that’s probably the most fundamental difference between India and the Valley.”

He cited his own example of starting Robin. He shared that when he wanted to start a company, he spent six months honing the thesis after which he met the best investors and in a matter of two hikes, they decided how will Robin begin. “And then everything starts falling in place. The lawyers know exactly what they need to do, the go-to-market folks know exactly what they have to do and my engineers are from Google and Salesforce.

He further added that you are able to get the absolute best network of people to start attacking the problem. He cited that he has doctors who are MDs from the best medical universities in the world working in the team. He added that it’s very hard anywhere in the world to put together a team from Google, the best medical universities in the world, even Apple, and the best venture capitalists together to do this.

Earlier in an interview, Soni had said, “The problems I want to solve are easier to find in the US.” So, we bugged him further about this to find out that he meant that it will be easier for him to solve them in the US because most of his network is there and most of the talent that he wants to attract is there.

“There are interesting problems to solve in India too, but making a startup work is hard. And when you are part of a startup, it’s hard enough that you have to find a problem, then you have to attract a team. After that you have to raise money, and then you have to put it all together. You want to do it from a position of strength,” he added.

After a stint in Flipkart, Soni has been exploring healthtech space with his startup Robin, which is building AI solutions for healthcare. Robin intends to reinvent healthcare using cutting-edge machine learning and conversational voice. It is a digital assistant that helps doctors take care of their patients better by offloading most of their administrative work and over time, assisting them on the clinical end.

Also, with Soni’s strong product focus he has attracted Marc Benioff (CEO of Salesforce); Chamath Palihapitiya, founder and chief of Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Social Capital along with some of the leading investors in the US to back it in its testing phase.

With global healthcare IT market anticipated to reach $104.5 Bn by 2020, Robin has a long way to go with Punit Soni leading the charge towards its success.