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The Investor Switch: From Real Estate to Artificial Intelligence

The next trillion dollars will be created by companies creating front end innovation. And that’s where this investor, formerly a real estate faithful will be investing in, in the coming decades.

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Photo Credit : dealstreetasia.com,

Aashish Kalra is a pioneering equity investor in infrastructure, real estate, and hospitality in India. Now as the Chairman of Cambridge Technology Enterprises (CTE) which also has its own tech startup fund, Kalra is pivoting resources to capitalize on the sole pasture where growth will be greener than green and exponential: cutting edge IT.

 

1. History shows you like investing in traditional sectors like real estate. Now you’re making a play for AI and Big Data. Why the shift to technology?

One word. Growth. The concept of change and each wave of paradigm shift it ushers into our evolution as increasingly cognizant beings has always fascinated me. Any area that seems to be the largest agent of growth for mankind will draw my investments.

Right now, the only space that is innovative and has growth is Technology. Artificial Intelligence (AI) driven technologies can transform the world and we are in the middle of the single largest transformation the world has even seen since the industrial revolution nearly 250 years ago.

The last generation of trillion dollars was created out of traditional Indian IT businesses that were focused on cutting down on cost and on providing back end support. The next trillion dollars will be created by companies creating front end innovation. So that’s what I’m betting my money on.

2. Cambridge Technology is called “a global technology company transforming organizations into ‘AI-first’ leaders”. Say a FMCG client comes to you – how will you help the client’s business?

AI enabled solutions can drastically improve people and processes for FMCG companies. Let me give you two examples:

AI based training programs can improve the performance of new or underperforming sales people. Trainings programs powered by AI can gather information about employee performance or engagement, and automatically test innovative ways to try and solve the problem on its own, leading to individualized, result-oriented solutions. It’s far more effective than the old report card issued at quarterly reviews.

The second example: FMCG is a data-rich industry and the most important thing to ensure they survive and are sustainable is to predict change or shift in consumer demand. Whether it be that consumers seem to be gravitating towards liquid facial cleansers and not towards soaps or that consumers want more healthy food options and not just instant food, AI solutions can predict these demand changes so accurately that it will result in multifold benefits in terms of managing inventory levels and even leading to proactive manufacturing and supply chain optimization.

3. Cambridge also has an innovation fund – how much of it has been deployed in how many startups?

Cambridge Innovations invests and partners with early and growth-stage businesses that transform industries and are creating the next generation of transformational businesses based on AI and ML (Machine Learning). Cambridge Innovations has a portfolio of approximately $7 million. Some of the companies in the portfolio are Authess, Causemo, Roadzen, Enerallies, Anthill, Ourly.help and EasyKnock.

4. What’s the most interesting technological advancement you have seen in the past month? A flying car?

The recent discovery of a new subatomic particle named, Xi-cc++ (pronounced sigh-see-see-plus-plus), is very exciting. The subatomic particle was discovered by the scientists at CERN and belongs to the family of composite subatomic type particles called, Baryon. This is the first time physicists have been able to confirm the existence of this type of particle. Understanding the strong force that binds it can be a real breakthrough in the field of quantum physics since the existence of this particle can scientifically prove that there are four fundamental forces in nature.

 [CERN is the European Organization for Nuclear Research. It’s the world’s biggest particle physics laboratory and is based in Geneva. CERN is derived from its French long form, Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire.]

5. Which is the best developer of innovative tech – US, China, India or Israel? And Why?

Undoubtedly, the US. The US drives innovation with its ecosystem of approximately 48,000 startups. American startups are so successful because of the well-developed education ecosystem. Top US universities account for almost a third of the top 100 positions in university rankings, with another 30 US universities which include MIT, California Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Stanford and Carnegie Mellon are in the global top 300. The US attracts the best of the minds and the culture ensuing as a result has created a country of undying inspiration, innovation, entrepreneurship and a spirit of healthy competition that is going to last for decades.

6. Which is the biggest market for innovative technology  – US, China, India or Israel?

American companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon, all of them, form the big five technology companies in the world with the largest market capitalization and brand values. As the US is the leading developer of innovative tech, so it has become the largest market and consumer for innovative tech products and services.

7. As an investor what has been your proudest moment that has contributed to India's economy?

Some of my early investments in infrastructure, I believe contributed to the creation of an asset class in India during the 2000s and stands as a major contribution towards the Indian economy. India was low on infrastructure investments but potential was there in the form of market maturity, and demand was there in the form of urban revitalization and commercial development projects. It was a matter of creating a bridge that linked the capital with the opportunity.

8. Where do you see Cambridge Technology in 5 years? How much will it be earning?

We would like to be one of the leaders in deploying AIaaS [artificial intelligence as a service]. Our Vision 2020 is to achieve $50 million in revenues by focusing on AIaaS to transform organizations into AI-first leaders.


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