Shashank Udupa may only be 28, but his list of achievements is long.
Co-founder of Avalon Meta, an online education platform that teaches skills relevant to the present-day world (think game design, blockchain, coding, and more), Udupa is a TEDx speaker, financial educator, and influencer with close to 100K followers on Instagram and a YouTube channel that is chock-full with videos simplifying stocks, mutual funds, personal finance, entrepreneurial finance, and startup topics. Owing to his experience, Avalon Meta raised $420,000 even before its official launch, and today has built a community of a whopping 2 lakh people called ‘The Avalon Army’, who act as multi-disciplinary experts and mentors for it.
We got Shashank Udupa to share his words of wisdom on finance, funding, and the millennial approach to investment.
As a finance wizard, what are your guidelines to first-time/new investors, and what the new budget has to offer them?
Post COVID-19, the market has seen a lot of first-time investors entering the market, especially millennial investors. But young millennial investors are not fully aware of how the market works from the inside. Most of them are trying to earn a quick buck in the market as the market is on a bull rally. I would strongly advise people who are investing for the first time to always do their own research and pick stocks that have strong fundamentals for the long term.
The budget has given a clear indication for a few industries that will significantly grow in India for the next few years. Since construction is the key focus, all construction stocks, cement stocks seem like good bets for the near future. Even the auto sector has been gaining traction due to the vehicle scrappage policy introduced by the government. It is important for young investors to do in-depth industry analysis before investing their money in the market.
You like to spread awareness about the basic workings of finance. What are the awareness levels and saving-spending habits you see?
It’s very hard for the young generation to start saving at a very early age. In fact, personal finance is extremely important for each individual to learn and understand, which sadly isn’t taught to us in our college years. The younger generation is not made aware of the benefits of compounding interest and how investing early can lead to immense wealth-creation by the time you are 60. A lot of people in the finance industry teach millennials how to make money in the stock market whereas it is important for them to first understand how the stock market works. A lot of startups and companies are upskilling the younger generation in the importance of personal finance.
Ed-tech is scaling new heights, even amidst a pandemic. What does Avalon Meta offer that’s different?
Avalon Meta was created and born during the pandemic. Meta is India’s first digital university with the vision of upskilling people with digital skills that are relevant in today’s time. At Meta, we have live cohort-based classes taught by Mentors who are also millennials working in FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Alphabet) companies.
We have three aspects to our offering that make us a complete digital university. Firstly, we have an Android and iOS app called Avalon Meta where we have uploaded a lot of prerecorded courses that replicate the library of a college. Next, we have the campus — Avalon Meta has around 40,000+ students on our discord server where we have the smartest minds interacting with each other. Lastly, we replicate the live classrooms with our live cohort-based classes. We are India’s first community-first digital university where the emphasis is on building India’s smartest learning community and creating entrepreneurs on the way.
Where do finance, technology, and education converge for you?
All the three mentioned above are important to build anything for the future. Without proper knowledge of finance or technology, it becomes very difficult to build your own product or even run your own business. Nowadays, it’s crucial for one to understand technology as it’s constantly changing, and with cut-throat competition, innovation is key to survival. Whether you are a self-starter, are running your own business or your family business, or are a freelancer, all three skills will be important for you to become successful.
One piece of advice I would give the younger generation is that don’t be satisfied with basic education, always try to upskill yourself. Knowledge is up for grabs these days so make the most of it at a younger age. Investing in yourself early will reap long-term benefits.
Budget 2021 — major takeaways and letdowns
The Budget 2021 was extremely good from a macroeconomic perspective. Every year, the government tries to make a “people’s budget” whereas this year, there was a strong focus on macro-economic recovery. It was a good call to focus on infrastructure and health. The only questionable thing from the budget would be the inception of a Bad Bank and its benefits to the current banking system. The bad bank which is created will not fully solve the problem of non-performing assets (NPAs) but in fact, give the banks a way to offload the NPAs to a different entity and keep their books clean. It would be interesting to see how the concept of bad banks plays out in India.
Being a startup co-founder & CFO, could you throw some light on how funding for startups work and if Budget 2021 has something for them?
We witnessed that a lot of startups, especially in the ed-tech space, got funding during the pandemic. Venture capital firms are always open to investing in startups that have a good founding team and have a sound business model. Some startup founders think that raising money is quite easy. But the important thing to remember is that in today’s startup environment, there is a lot of competition, which means differentiating yourself from competitors is key. Many young founders focus on building their business model to make it VC-friendly so that they can raise money and then grow quickly. That’s not always the case. It is important to first build a solid business with a constant revenue stream. Achieving product-market fit is key. Most startups fail to reach this stage.
The Modi government in the budget has been vocal about creating new jobs in the market to boost the economy. They have also announced a 1000 cr Startup India Seed Fund to boost New Age Indian startups. The Startup environment in India is currently booming with innovation across sectors. Startups of today will responsible for Digital India’s growth tomorrow.
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