290: Renu Bhatia on SuperCharger, FinTech, and Blockchain

290: Renu Bhatia on SuperCharger, FinTech, and Blockchain


 

Podcast highlights:

  • [00:45] Tell us a little bit about SuperCharger, FinTech, blockchain, and what it is you do. -- Blockchain is very much in vogue at the moment. It's been a huge money-maker for some. From my perspective, see it as a nascent technology with the potential to be very transformative. In Hong Kong, there is a wide variety of uses particularly in healthcare, supply-side logistics, etc. If we could use blockchain to overcome inefficiencies, we could really create more growth in our economies. Or in the developing world, if we could find a way to put land titles into the blockchain, suddenly many people are in the economy and able to participate. This is a massive boost to social inclusion.
  • [27:30] Turning now to blockchain, do you find yourself able here to keep from being overwhelmed? -- When you go and see a doctor, maybe they say you have a chest infection, or maybe they say it's pneumonia. The reaction you have will be different depending on how you understand these two things. It's the same with FinTech in the sense we're dealing with a new language for things that have been around for a long time. Of course there are differences; but what one needs to do is get away from the buzzwords. The fancy words people use obscure the underlying meanings.
  • [35:50] Is there a particular sector or use for blockchain you focus your attention on? -- Not necessarily. Certainly medical records, land titles, but also in the art market where you can use blockchain to establish provenience. Or using it to solve the problem of blood diamonds, or the origin and safety of pharmaceutical drugs. All of these applications will require public-private partnerships to get around the real issues with data privacy, the basic infrastructure to make it all work, etc. Blockchain has the potential to help countries leapfrog in their development.

Podcast notes:

  • [00:05] Welcome Renu Bhatia, founding partner at SuperCharger Ltd, a FinTech accelerator, to ATP Stories with host Graham D Brown.
  • [00:45] Tell us a little bit about SuperCharger, FinTech, blockchain, and what it is you do. -- Blockchain is very much in vogue at the moment. It's been a huge money-maker for some. From my perspective, see it as a nascent technology with the potential to be very transformative. In Hong Kong, there is a wide variety of uses particularly in healthcare, supply-side logistics, etc. If we could use blockchain to overcome inefficiencies, we could really create more growth in our economies. Or in the developing world, if we could find a way to put land titles into the blockchain, suddenly many people are in the economy and able to participate. This is a massive boost to social inclusion.
  • [05:35] You're coming to blockchain with a background as a physician. Can you tell us a little about that? -- Trained in the UK for the National Health Service (NHS) there. Trained mostly in primary care and emergency medicine. Afterwards, pursued an MBA in investment banking and worked in New York City. The motivation for the change was to understand decisions being made in the Indian state-run healthcare sector. Many changes were pursued for what seemed like economic motivation; wanted to understand this better. Found a like for investment banking and decided to continue in this manner.
  • [11:37] When you look back, do you think you were always entrepreneurial? Did you always have that motivation? -- It was a much later development. Given line of work, the decision to live in Hong Kong, and having two young daughters, it became a necessity to do something on my own in order to manage having a family while also having flexibility. Afterwards, didn't have a desire to go back to work in medicine. Have learned in life that if you can live with failure, you can take leaps or make major changes.
  • [16:50] In another big move, you went and tried your hand at building real estate in Japan. How did this come about? -- Back in 2003 during the SARS outbreak, became stuck with my daughters in Canada where we happened to go on holiday. Learned to ski while there and had a friend who knew a good spot in Japan to ski. This was in Niseko on Hokkaido. After visiting, decided Niseko also seemed like a good spot to develop land. It was very satisfying seeing something come to life right in front of you. Things were going great; but then there was the Asian Financial Crisis, there was Fukushima, and the Japanese Yen appreciated a lot in value. Suddenly no one was looking to buy property in Niseko.
  • [22:50] Does the sort of lifestyle where you've lived in many places like you have make going into a new place easier? -- Working in many different environments does give you a level of comfort in new places. One thing we used to our advantage was the fact we were outsiders. We could do things slightly out of the norm and it was okay. It's not about being rude or disrespectful, rather you are able to not become overwhelmed by how things are normally done in a place.
  • [27:30] Turning now to blockchain, do you find yourself able here to keep from being overwhelmed? -- When you go and see a doctor, maybe they say you have a chest infection, or maybe they say it's pneumonia. The reaction you have will be different depending on how you understand these two things. It's the same with FinTech in the sense we're dealing with a new language for things that have been around for a long time. Of course there are differences; but what one needs to do is get away from the buzzwords. The fancy words people use obscure the underlying meanings.
  • [32:00] How do you manage to work in FinTech and work with blockchain while avoiding the jargon so many people seem to use? -- It depends on the setting. Ultimately you're always just trying to make yourself understood. Technology is just one part of a company. It's also about what is the product? What is the market? Do you understand to whom you're selling? It's not about age or the ability to use jargon, it's about understanding the business and the market.
  • [35:50] Is there a particular sector or use for blockchain you focus your attention on? -- Not necessarily. Certainly medical records, land titles, but also in the art market where you can use blockchain to establish provenience. Or using it to solve the problem of blood diamonds, or the origin and safety of pharmaceutical drugs. All of these applications will require public-private partnerships to get around the real issues with data privacy, the basic infrastructure to make it all work, etc. Blockchain has the potential to help countries leapfrog in their development.
  • [44:40] To talk about India for a moment, do you have any thoughts on the push to make India a cashless system? -- The idea of removing bank notes from circulation was interesting. It's had issues; but to a large extent it's been mostly successful. If you look back, there haven't been major demonstrations against the effort suggesting people recognize it needed to happen. Because they are such different places, you won't see a company emerging in India like Alibaba did in China.