Just like cricket is about records, runs and Sachin Tendulkar, startups seem to be about valuation, fund raises and Flipkart.
In the midst of mind-boggling numbers and dizzying growth, stand healthcare ventures, poor cousins (except for Practo!), playing a test match when everyone else is playing T20 in the IPL.
In came Pravin Vijay Tambe and changed all that for me and for healthcare ventures. Tambe bowls right arm leg spin, with the same passion at 44 years and 22 days of age as he did as a young 18 year old on the Shivaji Park Gymkhana grounds.
For the first five years of the IPL, he was a liaison manager for teams attending practice at the DY Patil Stadium. Just like healthcare company founders attending Your Story and VCCircle events, Tambe watched the big guys (much younger, of course) get ready to play the IPL, while he mowed the grass and tied the nets each day.
Then suddenly, Rajasthan Royals were a player short for a practice match and asked the burly middle-aged cricketer to play for one of their teams. The rest was history (and hope for healthcare startups). The then 42-year-old got a break to play for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL (not the highest-rated team but considered a shrewd scheming unit with aces up their sleeves). So here goes Lesson No. 1: You may get chances from the lesser stars in the VC firmament, those who value healthcare and 42-year-olds.
Rajasthan Royals bought him for Rs 10 lakh, considered a cheap buy on the IPL auction table. Lesson 2: Healthcare companies may be value investments for VC funds, given that they are burning up the millions getting a Glenn Maxwell or a Yuvraj Singh in their portfolio.
They bought him to deliver four dot balls an over, 25 runs from the four-over spell. He delivered them two wickets a match. Lesson 3: Healthcare companies will help you get your steady average returns with a surprise thrown in.
When Rajasthan Royals bought him in 2013, Pravin Tambe started to work harder on his fitness, trying to extend his career as much as he could, for he was born to play cricket. Lesson 4: Healthcare ventures, get your financial health in order; once you have the money, make it work longer and harder for you. Last heard, Pravin Tambe will be back on the auction block for 2016 at 45 years now that Rajasthan Royals have been dropped from the IPL.
Tambe won five man-of-the-match awards and was the highest wicket-taker in the Champions League 2013. Many asked him to increase his base price for the next auction, ‘maximize your season of fame’, they told him. But Tambe kept his price at Rs 10 lakh and was elated to be bought with a 'right to match' card by Rajasthan Royals.
When asked why he didn’t increase his base price, he said, “I got a chance to play big league cricket after so many years and was afraid of not being picked if my price was too high; all I want to do is play.” Lesson 5: Don’t worry about valuations too much, just play the game, because remember that’s what Pravin Tambe does!
When Tambe was asked what the biggest moment of his career was, he said: “When I got a call to play for the Mumbai Ranji Team in 2014. That’s what I dreamt of when I was young and playing tennis ball cricket. The IPL happened much later.” Lesson 6: Healthcare companies may or may not get VC funded, but you are in the business because you want to deliver innovative good-quality healthcare, not because you want to get VC funded. So keep playing the right game!
Ian Bishop, former West Indian paceman, says, “Tambe plays every game like it’s his last one, hungry to play with the big boys and beat them at it.” Tambe says, “Every kid who doesn’t get picked for the Under 16, 18 or 21 team now says, ‘I will get back, just like Pravin Tambe’.” Lesson 6: If one VC rejects you and your enterprise, keep playing, you will be the next Pravin Tambe.
(Dr Anand Lakshman is a founder and CEO of AddressHealth, which runs a chain of paediatric clinics in Bangalore.)