By Matein Khalid
Every time I noticed a Garuda flight in Jakarta airport, visited the ancient Thai capital of Ayodhya or saw the Ramayana frescos in the royal palace complex in Bangkok or bantered with the Sikh ladies in Singapore’s Changi airport, I was reminded about India’s ancient civilizational links with Southeast Asia. In fact, Vietnamese slang still calls Indians “Klinga”, after the ancient Kalinga kingdom in Orissa that was invaded and conquered by the third Mauryan Emperor Ashoka 2282 years ago. Ashoka’s subsequent conversion to Buddhism was a seminal event in world history, as attested by the temples of Angkor Wat and the temples of Rangoon. So my pulse naturally races when I hear the next two billion human beings who will go digital will hail from India and Southeast Asia.
The internet’s winner takes all model and network effects mean a handful of stocks will go up 20, 50 or even 100 times in the next decade while hundreds of me too losers will be Zombies/dead money for investors. It is thus mission critical to choose only the crème de la crème of digital transformation stocks in India/ASEAN to back over the long run in both the public/pre-IPO markets.
Godzilla taught me that size matters and the exponential money making opportunities in FAANG+MSFT+NVDA+TSLA in the past five years only reinforced this conviction. Will Silicon Valley/Nasdaq history repeat itself in Southeast Asia? Of course not but it will surely rhyme. I am certain about one thing, for every one fairytale winner, there will be a long tail of 20 nightmare losers, where investor losses could be as high as 100%. Moral of the story, throwing money at doggy deals is a bad idea and my mantra for tech investing in South Asia remains no bow wow, Oyo!
Do I like Byju’s at 27X revenue? As the Texans say, I was born at night, only not last night. Something is dangerously wrong in a world where the Byju’s post IPO market cap could be one third the GDP of God’s own country, the Indian state of Kerala. My favourite business model though I have not done a deep dive strategy/valuation analysis yet? PharmEasy. Any business that disrupts the incestuous, you scratch my back/I scratch your back, lucrative, opaque ties between the doctors and pharmacies in South Asia is good for the human race.
I thought only real estate/insurance brokers scam/churn their clients and I am genuinely shocked that some doctors do the same to their own patients. Shame shame puppy shame.
Also published on Medium.