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Venture Everywhere Podcast: Hemanshu Jain with Vir Kashyap
Vir Kashyap, LP in Everywhere Ventures and The Fund India, catches up with Hemanshu Jain, Founder and CEO of Khyaal, on Episode 16: Silver Linings.
In episode 16 of Venture Everywhere, Vir Kashyap, LP in Everywhere Ventures and General Partner at The Fund India, sits down with Hemanshu Jain, Founder and CEO of Khyaal, a fintech startup from India that aims to provide digital literacy, community support, and upskilling for seniors. With his previous experience as the founder of Diabeto, a healthcare startup that was acquired by Livongo Health, Hemanshu brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to his work. Through Khyaal, he is spearheading a movement that prioritizes the financial security and inclusivity of senior citizens, revolutionizing the way they manage their finances.
In this episode, you will hear:
The challenges faced by senior citizens including their unique social and financial needs.
Khyaal's solutions for increasing financial security and inclusivity for senior citizens.
Current options available for seniors to access credit and ways to leverage these opportunities for financial empowerment.
How the Khyaal card, a virtual bank account designed for senior citizens, came about and how it provides convenient and secure access to funds.
Practical strategies for tackling fraud targeting senior citizens and protecting them from financial scams and exploitation.
If you liked this episode, please give us a rating wherever you found us. To learn more about our work, visit Everywhere.vc and subscribe to our Founders Everywhere Substack. You can also follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter for regular updates and news.
00:00:00 Jenny Fielding: Hi, and welcome to the Everywhere Podcast. We're a global community of founders and operators who've come together to support the next generation of builders. So the premise of the podcast is just that: founders interviewing other founders about the trials and tribulations of building a company. Hope you enjoy the episode.
00:00:20 Vir: Hey, Hemanshu. How are you?
00:00:22 Hemanshu: Hey, Vir. I'm doing good. How are you doing?
00:00:24 Vir: Yeah, good, good. Great to finally be doing this. And we tried a couple of times with travel and it's finally happening. So I'm excited.
00:00:31 Hemanshu: Yeah. Excited about this. And thank you for inviting me for this podcast.
00:00:35 Vir: Yeah. I thought we could start just to kind of give the audience a little bit of a flavor, I guess. When we first connected, I thought it was a great story. I remember having a nice day in Mumbai. That was the first time we met in person, right? We had a couple chats. I remember that day very clearly. Maker Maxity. And that was right when the new Geocenter had just getting completed there, we were in that area. We were near that school bus, I think. The artist Sudarshan Shetty, right?
00:01:00 Hemanshu: Yeah. BST bus, which is like an artwork which is put up there. Yeah, we took a photo up there.
00:01:06 Vir: So that was a great first time to meet. And then I think after that, that's what you were just raising your first round. And we were excited to be part of that journey and how you got there really resonated with me. So I think that would be a great place to start. You have a very interesting as a serial entrepreneur, an interesting journey, and how you've reached the vision for Khyaal would be super interesting, I think, to share with the community.
00:01:28 Hemanshu: Yeah. Absolutely. And shoutout to Jitesh Lutra, who actually introduced both of us.
00:01:33 Vir: Yeah.
00:01:34 Hemanshu: He was earlier with Bloom Ventures. Now he's with Leo Capital, just for the audience.
00:01:40 Vir: The ultimate community builder, right?
00:01:42 Hemanshu: Yeah. Absolutely. And so he connected us. We met and also part of the reason why we got connected is because both of us have been building for the space of impact. You came from Babajobs and mad respect for what you built back here in India when you were doing it. Back in the days, we had heard great stories about you. So you're like a legend to us for doing what you did. And when he actually connected with you, my first insight was like whether I raise money from you or not, it doesn't matter, but I just wanted to sort of genuinely meet you and get some perspective about what I'm building and whatnot.
00:02:23 Hemanshu: But yeah, coming back to the introduction part for the audience, I'm Hemanshu Jain and I'm the founder of Kyhaal. What Kyhaal basically means is - it's a literal translation to “care” in Hindi, in Persian, and many other languages. And the vision that Kyhaal has is to be able to build a single place for senior citizens to do everything that they can, post their retirement. And we try to help them with their post retirement problems, which is done in a very unique way where we try to engage, educate, and empower seniors by giving them the independence to be able to do things themselves.
00:03:06 Hemanshu: And digital literacy is like a huge, huge part of it. So this is my second impact startup. Prior to this, I built company called Diabeto, which was acquired by Livongo Health in 2017, which later on went and merged with Teladoc in 2020. And I love building in the Impact space and I hope we are able to create more impact for senior citizens, which is a very underserved market, especially here in India, because traditionally people have been building brick and mortar businesses around healthcare and healthcare at home sort of services.
00:03:42 Hemanshu: Mostly services model but nobody was thinking from a technical standpoint. So we thought we'll come and solve all the technical problems of seniors and try to empower them to become much more digitally independent. And yeah, that's a small introduction that I wanted to share with the audience about ourselves.
00:04:01 Vir: Thanks, Hemanshu. I think that's a great segue into figuring out what was that moment when you decided, "Okay, this is what I have to build and Khyaal is what I'm going to spend the next big chunk of my life on."
00:04:14 Hemanshu: Yeah, so the thought of Khyaal actually came to my mind when I was spending time with my father during the time of pandemic. And it was that time period when all the elderly were facing a lot of difficulties at home. And at the same time, my cousins who live abroad were reaching out, saying that, please help our parents. There were friends and other people who reached out to help their parents and elderly folks.
00:04:44 Hemanshu: So that was the time period when I actually realized all the challenges that an elderly faces, especially with the problem of belongingness. What happens with seniors is that especially now, if I'm taking an example of my father, after a certain point, they start feeling that they are being neglected by the society and that's when they start going into a shell and they become less socially interactive. They are not moving out and doing things that they used to do normally. And that's the main reason why the loneliness is such a big issue among this particular segment.
00:05:25 Hemanshu: And when I heard this firsthand from my father about when he lost my mother and it's been a while and it's been a very lonely journey for him from there. And I have been busy doing my last startup, I was very busy with that. I've not been able to spend enough time with him and I was away from home. So it became a huge problem for him because I could not give him enough time.
00:05:54 Hemanshu: So when he openly told me about all these things, that is when I realized that this is a big problem that people of our age don't really understand. But only and only when seniors open up, then we actually come to know what's going on in their life. So the first thing that came to my mind was - let's build some type of a tech product. I wanted to actually go out and build a hardware product because my last company was a hardware company.
00:06:26 Hemanshu: So it was very obvious for me to just go out and build another hardware device for them. But the more I researched, it became very obvious that they wanted us to basically create something which is most primary sort of a problem statement for them, which was digital literacy.
00:06:45 Hemanshu: So we thought, why not start building a community of seniors? And that's what we did. We started putting them into a WhatsApp group, started understanding their problem statements, started solving them for free. And that's when a lot of folks told us that, "Hey, why not you charge us a subscription?" So we started like a subscription model very early on.
00:07:07 Hemanshu: But then the perception of these services was not very positive, especially from the standpoint of a senior citizen, because they demanded for the children's time. They did not want the children to outsource this to someone else. So we said, "Hey, this is not working. This is not the right way to do it. Let's take a step back and go back to the drawing board and try to figure out a new solution." So that's when we actually, again, pivoted.
00:07:38 Hemanshu: It's a very early experiment that we were doing. So experiments generally fail, and then we kept on experimenting a lot of things. I think we started building our first product in 2022, and that's when we started building the app. That also happened because the community became so large, is that it was more than 10,000 seniors on different WhatsApp groups. So it just became very difficult for us to moderate them.
00:08:05 Hemanshu: And that's when we decided that let's create a unified platform where we can get all of them together and also safeguard their identity, because it's very important and at the same time, try to help them in the best possible way. And that's the reason why we created Khyaal as a super app for senior citizens.
00:08:29 Hemanshu: And now we have more than 500,000 seniors on the platform. So it's a big, big achievement, because earlier, people used to think whether seniors would really adopt digital technology or not, whether seniors would actually use an app. But then when we started teaching seniors, we figured out they already know a lot of stuff.
00:08:52 Hemanshu: It's just that we've not been able to spend enough time on them. I mean, look, when we were kids, our parents used to teach us, but at this point of time, when they need our help, we're not there for them. And that's what Khyaal is trying to do, is teach them basic digital literacy. So that's the difference that I think we've been able to make so far in their lives.
00:09:16 Vir: Oh, great. Yeah. Because I think, obviously, they didn't grow up with access to with apps. It happened way later in their lives compared to... for example, our kids, right, who kind of had it from day one now. And even us, we got it midway through our lives, or even in the first quarter of our lives, we had access to this, and they had it in the last quarter of their lives they had access.
00:09:38 Vir: So it's a huge thing to learn. I think most digital products are just not designed with this cohort, this user group in mind, right. So I think I often find it very challenging. I often see a lot of senior citizens just struggle with technology in general, because it's really not... very few companies or products have been designed with them in mind, I feel.
00:10:01 Hemanshu: 100%. Yeah. And I think which is what should be taught, maybe in schools or colleges. How do you design an accessible product which is designed in such a way that everybody can use? You know.
00:10:17 Vir: Yeah. Because I think for this segment, a lot of the cohorts you're working with are perfectly, very literate in language, but it's a digital literacy. And I think actually it reminds me a lot of the problems we faced building Babajobs where people just didn't have the same. It was either very new to digital and then also basic. There was also language literacy in various languages and that's what we had to build in a lot of local languages just to give people access, right.
00:10:44 Vir: And so in a similar way, there are different challenges you got to solve for, but in some way, they're all kinds of usability challenges, which a lot of the... I think a lot of the new apps that are built for, let's say, people between 18 and 35 years old. A lot of the new social apps and all, they're built for that cohort. and a lot of this is assumed that people know how to use this. They know what this means, this swipe, this stuff.
00:11:08 Vir: But I think when you're building with cohorts which are new to digital, be it someone who's 20 but just hasn't had exposure, or someone who's 70 and has had exposure, there's some similarities in the techniques here. So how do you bring that... I'd be curious. How do you bring that empathy to the whole team and make everyone... How does everyone feel that on a day to day basis at Khyaal?
00:11:31 Hemanshu: So one of the filters that we have in our selection process is that we hire folks who have genuinely faced this problem, either at home or around them, and who are really passionate in building for the elderly. And each one of our team members have a different story to tell because they've either experienced this or they've seen someone in their family suffer through this particular phase of life.
00:12:08 Hemanshu: So they truly believe that if they can build something which can change the society then it can cause a lot of impact. So building a purpose driven team is very important and driving that culture right from day one is very important. And which is why we are super careful in terms of hiring.
00:12:28 Hemanshu: We obviously like to hire people who are very skilled but at the same time, we try to hire people with the right attitude which is why we spend a lot of time with them before getting them in so that we are very thorough with our hiring. So we have around 25 people in our team including both the founders, but all of them are very passionate.
00:12:57 Vir: Okay, great, that's important I think especially keep that. I think I found as you grow, as you raise more capital and able to pay people closer to market rates, it's tougher to kind of suss that out from people because a lot of people will say the right things and you're talking to them but it's tough to find.
00:13:15 Vir: In the beginning, I find it's a little easier because, anyway, you're taking a big pay cut potentially, and you're working on something impactful, it kind of naturally filters out a lot of those people. But when you get a little bit further down and you can actually hire people from let's say bigger tech companies.
00:13:32 Hemanshu: And I think hiring people with a startup mindset is also very important because unless people have gone through the pains of building a startup, it's kind of difficult for people who enter new into startups to understand how the journey is going to be. And what I generally like to tell people is that do not look at the destination, just try and enjoy the journey because journey is what matters the most, right? So work should be play and that's what is going to keep you excited at all points of time. So, yeah.
00:14:13 Vir: That's a good philosophy to follow. I'd love to also just as you're going through the journey, what are the main things that - what keeps you up at night now? Where you are in the business, what are the main things that kind of constantly lay on your mind?
00:14:29 Hemanshu: So the thing is that we are growing very rapidly. And in order to sustain growth, of course with that people come up with a lot of new problem statements and especially when you're trying to build a super app. What happens is that data sort of becomes very important because only when you are a data centric company you will be able to sort of understand what are the right problem areas to keep building further.
00:15:00 Hemanshu: So right now, we are at a stage where we are consolidating data and trying to figure out what are those most important factors in the product life journey which is going to create the next milestone for us? So of course there are certain milestones that we have already chalked out. But it's very interesting to see new patterns and new data points because there is no repository or no report out there which has this kind of data and it's all new.
00:15:37 Hemanshu: So it's just very interesting to sort of see new data points and visualize them and try to figure out what's the next feature that we might launch. That's what keeps me awake. And there are a lot of new stuff that we are working on which we will soon launch. So, yeah, look out for those new features, I would say.
00:16:03 Vir: Okay. Is there any... because one thing that obviously for this cohort that obviously keeps I think that's one of the reasons you started as well - was that the senior citizens are one of the most heavily targeted communities for fraud and scams. And I think that was a lot of the inspiration for you starting off. But then I think as you kind of grow bigger, you'll also become a target for some of those folks. And so how do you guard against that, keeping it a safe community and making sure that you help to minimize the potential for stuff like that to happen?
00:16:39 Hemanshu: Yeah, it's a very great point that you mentioned because frauds are a major, major problem for seniors at this stage in life. In fact, 80% to 85% of the fraud in our country is actually targeted towards senior citizens. And when we actually heard about their problem statements very early on while building our product, we realized that they are afraid of doing online transactions because of this fraud, because their primary bank accounts become vulnerable.
00:17:16 Hemanshu: Generally, whenever there is an instance of fraud, the fraudster will just try to take away money from your single bank account. And then when we spoke to the children, we figured out that the only way they were trying to solve this was to open a secondary bank account. So we said that this is a place where we can definitely innovate.
00:17:40 Hemanshu: And along with this, there was another major problem, which was: discovery of all the offers that senior citizens actually deserve, which are available on certain portals, but it's not put onto a unified platform. So we said, why not try and figure out something along the lines? Because if we are building something on e-commerce, then why not include this as a package?
00:18:06 Hemanshu: And then the third problem statement that we identified was that in our country, in India, credit is not offered to senior citizens normally. It's always offered on collateral basis. That is because seniors don't have typically a source of income because they're not working. So it becomes a major problem for them if they need financial support, which is why credit cards are not being offered to senior citizens.
00:18:35 Hemanshu: So we said, let's club all these three problem statements together and try to figure out a unified solution. And which is why we came up with a Khyaal card as a prepaid Visa powered card for senior citizens, specially created for them, which automatically creates a virtual bank account for them, like a secondary bank account which gets connected to their children. So then they can send them financial assistance and then manage the money together as a family remotely.
00:19:08 Hemanshu: And at the same time, they can also help them with small money mistakes that they make on a regular basis. So you can together work as a family and try to solve it remotely. Because this is a card, creating all the offers and issuing them right at one place becomes very easy. So we got all the senior citizen offers on products and services which are relevant for them. And then the Khyaal card also has a cyber protection plan, so then your money is actually safe.
00:19:41 Hemanshu: The third thing is that you also get your loyalty point in form of Khyaal coins. So seniors generally don't get their loyalty points because they don't have a credit card, which is something that they miss out on. So we created loyalty points which can be redeemed on different rewards, which are created on the app.
00:20:02 Hemanshu: And the fourth thing is that we created an assistance layer just like Amex. Amex has this concierge type of a feature. Similar to that, we've created a concierge, digital concierge, which is now much more acceptable and curated from the perspective of a senior citizen. So things like booking tickets online or helping them book medicines online, or it could be diagnostic tests and things like those.
00:20:34 Vir: Got it. That's great. As you've gone through the journey and worked with this user group, are there any widespread kinds of beliefs about senior citizens that you feel that are totally wrong, that you disagree with?
00:20:49 Hemanshu: Yeah, the first belief was that when I initially started this venture, a lot of people told me, "Hey, we don't think that an app is a solution for seniors." But actually we proved them wrong. Numbers proved them wrong because they could only see what they are seeing at home. But it's actually a very evolving generation. As generation move, we are seeing, I would say, a new generation, which is becoming senior. So if I have to give you stats, every day in India, more than 25,000 seniors, 25,000 people turn 60.
00:21:40 Hemanshu: So it's a huge, huge number. And we are seeing that currently there are 140,000,000 seniors, which is like 10% of the entire population. And very soon this is going to double in another next five years. So even the government of India recognizes this and they are trying to prep in terms of how can we create a support structure around this. And for which the government has actually created a fund, which is called, as I think it is called SAGE Fund, yeah, SAGE Fund which basically helps entrepreneurs to start building in this particular category.
00:22:21 Vir: Okay, I thought it'll be called the Silver Tsunami Fund. Yeah.
00:22:24 Hemanshu: Yeah, Silver Tsunami is a very common word which is being used these days.
00:22:32 Vir: Because I think most people don't think about it, at least the global context. They think about India's demographic, average age, I think it's still 27, 28 years old, right? So when people think of India today, they don't think about this part of the population. But as you said, it's a fast growing part of the population, and it's going to be the size almost 300 million people. It's the size of the US today will be the size of the senior community in India in not too distant future.
00:23:04 Vir: So it's something that's a huge, untapped kind of opportunity from an entrepreneurial perspective and then also as a society, from a government, these transitions always require a lot of partnership between public sector, private sector to be able to kind of successfully kind of deal with those transitions.
00:23:25 Hemanshu: Yeah, absolutely.
00:23:28 Vir: Yeah. And then one question I had was also - I was curious of when we joined The Fund community. We always ask people, what is your superpower, right? What do people come to you for? I wanted to ask you, when someone thinks of Hemanshu, what's your superpower?
00:23:45 Hemanshu: I think problem solving is one of my superpowers. Right from my childhood, I just loved solving problems. In fact, I think I should give the credit to my dad. I was very bad at math when I was a kid, and my dad actually kind of changed my opinion about math. And he said it's like playing a game and you just need to solve.
00:24:14 Hemanshu: And it's a game, which it's like a puzzle. Why not just keep solving? I just kept solving for fun. And then it just became like every time somebody throws a problem at me, I like to solve for it. So my team often comes to me with a lot of problems that this happened, that happened, and how do we figure this out?
00:24:36 Hemanshu: And this is something I feel that everybody should try and imbibe in their teams as well, that problem solving is an art, and I think people should often find pleasure in solving problems rather than running away from it. So I feel rather than piling problems, we should just keep solving. And you'll be happy.
00:25:03 Vir: I guess that's your role as a founder and CEO is the problem solver in chief, right?
00:25:09 Hemanshu: Yes.
00:25:10 Vir: Typically, you need to be able to - whether it's an HR problem or it's any type of problem, you have to be well equipped to solve anything from your toolkit, right?
00:25:20 Hemanshu: We currently don't have an HR, so I also act as an HR right now. So, yeah.
00:25:24 Vir: Right. Yeah. As we kind of wrap up, I just wanted to see if there's anything on your mind - what's something super interesting you've read recently or podcast or anything that kind of comes to top of mind there that you want to share with the listeners?
00:25:42 Hemanshu: Yeah. So, I mean, I'm reading a book, which is very interesting. Again, it's on the same topic that I am actually talking about. It's called Stage (Not Age) and it's by Susan Wilner Golden and it's about how to understand and serve people over 60. And this is a very interesting book for me, again, because this is a subject that I'm studying on. So for me also, it's a constant learning.
00:26:15 Hemanshu: And the other book that I am reading currently, it's called Algorithms To Live By. So it's like you are like a walking AI machine and then you're trying to recognize patterns and trying to understand how things work in your life and how can you predict the future.
00:26:37 Vir: Great. Well that's super interesting. Just someone just gifted me that book, the new Mustafa Suleyman's book, the Coming Wave about AI. The founder of DeepMind, I eagerly kind of started digging into that. But that's fantastic. But it's been great to hear your perspective and we're so happy to have you as part of The Fund community and looking forward to Khyaal keep reaching greater and greater heights and being there to support you through it.
00:27:14 Hemanshu: Thank you. And thank you for being so supportive. I should definitely thank everyone, Scott, Jenny and Joy, everyone from the Everywhere community. I think you've been a constant support for us throughout the journey and I would definitely recommend, I always recommend Everywhere to everyone. So Everywhere to everyone!
00:27:44 Vir: Well, thank you very much. Obviously we can always keep getting better, but we're happy that you're happy and that's the end of the day, that's the job, right? I call it venture assistance, right? You're here to help any way we can.
00:28:00 Hemanshu: Absolutely.
00:28:01 Vir: Yeah.
00:20:41 Scott Hartley: Thanks for joining us and hope you enjoyed today's episode. For those of you listening, you might also be interested to learn more about Everywhere. We're a first-check pre-seed fund that does exactly that, invest everywhere. We're a community of 500 founders and operators and we've invested in over 250 companies around the globe. Find us at our website, everywhere.vc on LinkedIn and through our regular founder spotlights on Substack. Be sure to subscribe and we'll catch you on the next episode.