The race to succeed: co-creator of Kristal.AI shares insights from his entrepreneurial journey
Established in 2016 by Asheesh Chanda and Vineeth Narasimham, Kristal.AI stands as a private wealth management platform that pioneers a novel approach to wealth management. Chanda aptly terms it a "Wealth Operating System," drawing a contrast with the archaic systems prevalent in the industry. While Kristal.AI's annual revenue now boasts impressive figures, Chanda's account unveils that the journey to this triumph was anything but a walk in the park.
Prioritise people - funding will follow
Chanda emphasises on prioritising people and clients over funding - a pattern many new ventures tend to follow is to hold funds as more valuable at the start. “I think getting people on board, having the right team, and the right talent is more important than funding”, Chanda adds, “You might need money to hire people - but the people that join you without the money, those that believe in your vision, are the most important asset you can have. In fact, at this stage in my career, I have come to realise that the people that make your organisation should be placed above everything else.” This philosophy is reflected in the way Kristal AI’s first employees got on board.
Chanda describes that even then and at a senior level even now, hiring is very person driven. “I tell Gaurav (Rustagi) even now, don’t hire people, just go and meet them.” he says, “Get to know them as a person, see who’s a good fit, who’s resonating with you - at the end of the day, working with someone should be fun. It’s going to be tough, a struggle even, but if you can’t have fun with your co-workers you can’t make it through the day. That’s the best way to go about hiring - meet them, see if you can gel with them and take them on the journey. Otherwise, the journey is going to be a very rough one.”
Gaurav Rustagi, Chief Growth Officer at Kristal.AI, confirms that Chanda does in fact take his own advice as proven by the one week-long interview he had unknowingly gone through. As Rustagi had experience in a different line of work entirely, it was a surprising turn of events for him to have ended up working with Chanda. “I was subject to a very middle class upbringing that made me understand the value of money very well,” Rustagi narrates. “In 2021, when he (Chanda) ventured into the MENA region, he sought profiles for his team. So I said I would refer people to him if and when I came across a suitable profile. After this, last year in February, he came to Dubai and stayed with me at my place. As we were talking about business - we were talking about the dos and don'ts, discussing decisions that should and shouldn’t be made when he popped the question - Why don’t you decide for us then? Only later upon conversation with my ex-boss on this venture, did I realise that he came to my house, and stayed with me for an entire week, not just to stay with me socially but also to interview me for a position at Kristal.”
The work-life balance
Sleeping in the pm has always been a myth for new entrepreneurs, however, Chanda is not a big believer in the lack of sleep. When asked if it was a regular occurrence for him as a person in his position, he responds “It used to be a regular occurrence, then I had my youngest, but now I'm in bed by 10 pm. The difference between a 24 year old entrepreneur and a 40-year-old one will always be that I would be considered blessed if I receive 7-8 hours of sleep.”
Chanda attributes his successful work-life harmony to having a dependable support system, primarily his spouse. He acknowledges, "My partner's unwavering support has been pivotal." Reflecting on the challenges of bridging the gap between familial expectations and his entrepreneurial pursuit, he affirms, "During the transition from my role in derivative sales to launching my startup, I faced doubts from my parents. My support system—particularly my spouse—acted as a buffer, fostering a balance between my personal and professional spheres."
There is always an element of accidental success in every success story - luck has a part to play in a lot of opportunities. However, it is those that take advantage of these opportunities to the fullest extent that achieve their goals. “If you ask - did we get lucky? I’d say yes we got lucky - but I think luck always comes with hard work,” Chanda comments, “I always say that fortune favors the brave - and it would be unfair of me to take away the credit from my team by saying they got lucky.”
The idea of success itself was a constantly evolving one for Kristal. Rustagi adds, “I remember when I and Asheesh were talking about the company and his ideas for Kristal, the only thing that has remained unchanged from then to now is the vision for the company - the idea was always to break down barriers and bring a greater sense of inclusion in the industry.”
Chanda advises against setting determined goals for the success of a new venture and encourages having a vision instead. “Think of it as partaking in a race,” he says, “once you finish the race, you will have to start another one - so instead, don’t look for a finish line or set a final end - just run and hope to win while knowing you are a little ahead of where you were yesterday.” He describes money as a byproduct of success but not success itself. “Rather than setting goals, set up milestones for yourself - hitting the first fifty, a target revenue, etc and consider them as indicators of how far you’ve come. However, one final goal limits your ability to perform beyond it.”
Perpetual Evolution: Beyond Conventional Metrics
While Kristal.AI's criteria for success have evolved across seven years, Chanda accentuates the enduring spirit of growth. With a poignant touch, he asserts, "Kristal's narrative is one of perpetual evolution, transcending traditional notions of success."