A “subject” we all should study more intimately and understand before it is too late*

Before you categorize this post as tl: dr, just read three lines in the footnote (*)

For someone who believes in ghosts, “not seeing is believing.” For the rest of us, it has always been “Seeing is believing.” But what if we remain ignorant of some modern ghosts (rather devils) just because we don’t see them or don’t see their connection with devils?

In this post, I’ll be building my thesis on the “subject” on the premise that “not seeing is believing” and ghosts of another kind that we don’t see as many vested interests don’t want us to see. But before I jump on the subject, let me share some personal anecdotes that lead me to the subject of this post.

When I first moved to the Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, as 16 years old hosteler in 1973 to pursue an honors graduate course in Agriculture, little did I know that one day I would become what I have become today.

As the years progressed, pursuing my honors degree, the prevailing American academic credit system over a trimester academic year offered plenty of flexibility regarding what you can specialize in and how much time you can invest in obtaining a graduate or a postgraduate degree.

This way, one could earn a four-year degree course in three years by taking more credits every trimester or taking higher degree courses – like courses meant for M.Sc. / Ph.D. while still graduating. The system offered plenty of opportunities for everyone to decide and choose the study and work area they wished to pursue later in life. An excellent educational system, in my view.

During my final graduation year, I took 500 and 600 series of advanced Biochemistry and Molecular Biology courses (usually taken by M.Sc. and Ph.D. students). During those times, both these subjects, besides cybernetics, were as cutting edge as AI and Robotics are in present times. Cybernetics, though, was unavailable as a study course at my university at that time.

To cut a long story short, Biochemistry became my first academic love. I decided to pursue a master’s degree in the nascent field of Nutritional biochemistry. Eventually, two years later, I became a postgraduate Hons degree holder in the exciting field of Animal Nutritional Biochemistry.

However, a series of events, including the stormy and turbulent events in the 80s, including the terrorism in Punjab, made me put my first love for Animal Nutrition and milk at NDDB on the back burner. But to be honest, I kept the nutritional biochemistry spark burning through occasional readings from journals like Nature, Scientific American, Economist, and the like. In 1987 I jumped into another exciting field of perishable foods, fruit, and vegetables. I continued building, restructuring, and remodeling the perishable food value chains of the corporates in various geographies across the World until 2009.

The catalyst that got me deep diving into nutritional biochemistry, a subject I once excelled in and loved so much, was a suggestion from Paras, my son, that my wife and I both should get our whole body Dexa scan done.

I knew that the Dexa scan is used to measure bone mass but little did I know that the scan also measures the body fat and soft tissue composition. One of the indices it helps calculate is the number for the fat mass index FMI, which has a distinct advantage over BMI for defining obesity since it is independent of lean mass status.

Being a diabetic, albeit a controlled one, with a spouse on the wrong side of BMI, we initially decided to get a Dexa scan done on myself.

Long story short – despite having a “lean and normal” weight status under the BMI regime, Dexa tagged me as internally obese. I was shocked. Instinctively, being a former nutritionist, I knew that my internal obesity was related to nutrition and the food I eat.

From here started my quest to re-discover, refresh and update my knowledge of Nutritional Biochemistry.

I started scavenging the Internet for reliable, latest, and authoritative sources of information. One lazy Sunday, I stumbled upon a YouTube video lecture titled Sugar – the Bitter Truth by Robert H Lustig, courtesy of the University of California Television (UCTV), in their excellent and enlightening “Mini Medical School for the Public” lecture series. The next day I watched two of Dr. Lustig’s video lectures, Fat Chance: Fructose 2.0. and “Processed Food: An Experiment That Failed.”

Subsequently, I read three of his books, Fat Chance, Metabolical, and The Hacking of the American Mind, which I strongly recommend everyone should read; I sincerely mean everyone.

Though I’m a qualified Nutritional Biochemist and have a fair amount of understanding of the connection between the food we eat and our health and well-being but Dr. Lustig, made a very compelling case that food is the ONLY lever we have to affect biochemical and neurological changes to improve our health, and to affect political change to improve our economy and environment. He insists that if we don’t fix our food and change how and how we eat, we’ll continue to have chronic diseases, bankrupt healthcare, and threaten the planet. His lectures and books offered hope explaining what’s needed to fix all these.

You’ll wonder why I’m so unabashedly promoting Dr. Robert H Lustig. Seven reasons.

One – Dr Lustig is not only an excellent orator but also a superb writer. He uses difficult yet tedious (to many ignorant of human body and mind mechanics) subjects like biochemistry and neuroscience to educate the listeners and readers bout the toxic environment we currently find ourselves in, even more importantly, how we remain there.

Two – He knows what he is talking. Dr. Lustig is a professor emeritus of Paediatrics, Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). He specializes in the field of neuroendocrinology, with an emphasis on the regulation of energy balance by the central nervous system. His research and clinical practice have focused on childhood obesity and diabetes. Dr. Lustig holds a Bachelor’s in Science from MIT and a Doctorate in Medicine from Cornell University. Medical College, and a Master of Law from U.C. Hastings College of the Law.

Before treating obese children, he trained for over sixteen years as a neuroscientist – six years cutting up and studying the brains of rats at the Rockefeller University in New York and ten more years growing neurons in Petri dishes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Tennessee, Memphis. These years in the lab afforded him a unique view of the relationship between hormones and behaviour.

Three – Looking at the World drowning in the sea of metabolic disorders like Obesity, Diabetes, Cardio Vascular Disorders, Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Depression, Gut issues, Infertility and PCOS, Chronic Fatigue, Poor Sleep, Arthritis, and even innocent Pimples (I can continue with the list till proverbial cows come home – also remember you can’t get an insurance cover on any of the metabolic diseases), there need to be some champion;

Four – who could tell us in simple language how and why a band of 30 trillion cells and 30 trillion bacteria musicians within each of us are playing in the direction of a conductor called “What we eat”? The tunes churned by the music makers could be either gorgeous (read health) or very nasty (read any or multiple of above said metabolic disorders).

Five – who could, like Jeffery Wigand (research him on Google if you don’t know him), demonstrate to us poor souls how big corporates, Govts, and modern-day media and marketing are engaged in a covert conspiracy to defraud the public for their interest. “Dil Maange More” suddenly becomes relevant.

Six – The World needs someone who can tell the emperor has no clothes. That someone is Dr. Robert H Lustig. In the current context – Almost 80% of those who say they are fit and fine have a demon lurking inside their bodies.

Seven – Did I mention anywhere that Dr. Lustig In 2013 completed a Master of Studies in Law (MSL) also from UC Hastings College of the Law.

Thanks for reading this long post.

*If you love yourself and wish the best for your near and dear ones, perusing the links mentioned in this post shall change your and their lives forever. That’s the promise.


Start-up stories that VCs and Private Equity players never share with their potential partners – Let me tell one such ugly true story involving two Indian startups. – Episode 2

In retrospect, adding an Epilogue in the previous post was not the right idea. More water still had to flow down the polluted startup river called Buyhatke.

On a bright sunny day of 5 June 2022, I informed a Bitbns employee who was an ex-employee at one of my current advisory firms that I’m sick of his Bitbns’ shenanigans and shall be shortly going live on social media with exposure of hardships its customers face because its unethical and bad business practices.

Once I shared the link of my above-said draft blog post, magic happened. My link called me over the phone in the evening and told me that both Gold and Silver were visible in my portfolio. I could, at last, see both assets but both as unsold as on 5 June 2022, contrary to the fact that both had been sold on 4 May 2022. I was told to sell again these assets, which I dutifully did for an amount of redeemable INR 228011/- plus a withdrawable uninvested INR 437.44.

There was a shortfall of INR 15030/- which my contact told me was because of market fluctuation but promised that he would arrange transfer of that also because dysfunctional Bitbns website or wrong business partners (Oropocket) was none of my faults. I redeemed both the assets for INR 228011 and again stopped all SIPs as advised. I was told that it should take 5-7 days for the money to reflect in my account. I thanked my contact. Initiated a waiting period to see INR 228011 in my linked bank account though I had lost all trust and faith in Bitbns, Bitdroplet, and their parent firm Buyhatke.

I got swamped after 6 June 2022, and I kept my fingers crossed and waited for good things to happen. I had to do a lot of last-minute harsh weather planning for my travel plans to Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway, for an onward Arctic exploratory cruise to almost touching the North Pole from 11 June 2022 onwards.

I returned to India on 24 June 2022 and was delighted to see an entry dated 17 June 2022 proudly announcing a credit of INR 228011 in my bank account. But still no trace of balance INR 15030/-.

A single INR counts when the money at stake is one’s hard-earned money. The day before yesterday, I made a last-ditch effort to remind my BitBns contact of the promise he made on 6 June to transfer all amount due to me.

I got the following revert on WhatsApp.

“We are trying our best to get some solution around that discrepancy amount between the amount redeemed and the amount credited due to market price change of asset.

At the moment, oro pocket is not taking any accountability of this differential amount and not taking responsibility of non working API for weeks.”

The chase to recover INR 15 k goes on……

A disclosure on why I publicly posted this personal story and named names.

Well, I’m resourceful and rich enough to write off an amount of INR 4 Lakh but think of thousands of small investors who had invested many small amounts out of their hard-earned salaries on this website to invest in safe assets like Gold and Silver or volatile cryptos for that matter.

I had no intention of disclosing all personal details, but the shock, dismay, and mental agony I had to face and the pain of visualizing the plight of small investors compelled me to come out of my cocoon and share this true story. All names, figures and conversations are correct to my knowledge, and records are available.

Do we need more Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes?

Gentlemen and ladies – Make a comment on what you think of this dirty story and what advice you would give to founders and managers of new-age Indian start-ups.

Wingify Earth – MakeYourMark

On the occasion of World environment day yesterday, The Better India, in partnership with Wingify Earth, a social initiative of Wingify Foundation, the CSR arm of Wingify, launched #MakeYourMark, a social media campaign that encourages citizen action concerning climate change and pollution.

#MakeYourMark focuses on air pollution, primarily from commuting, construction, industries, and biomass burning from three-pronged angles – Awareness, Adaption, and Mitigation.

Through #MakeYourMark, Wingify Earth aims to shift people’s mindsets and behavioral actions in the national capital, for even a single small positive action like taking a metro, carpooling, cycling, walking, switching ignition at traffic lights, using electric buses/bikes/cars and thousands of such small actions and nudges, could be a milestone towards curbing pollution.

Start-up stories that VCs and Private Equity players never share with their potential partners – One such ugly true story – Episode 1

It all started in July 2021. One of my investment advisors introduced me to a website and android application called #Bitdroplet #Bitbbns if I wished to systematically invest in crypto and commodities like gold and silver. My advisor also told me that the applications are from a Bangalore-based Buyhatke Internet Private Limited, a startup founded by @Gauravdahake (Gaurav Mahukar Dahake) @atiprashant Prashant Kumar Singh and @sriksm19 Srikanth Sethumadhavan in 2015. (@ are their respective public Twitter handles).

I did some research. Bitdroplet offered a Systematic Purchase Plan (SPP) platform for Bitcoin, Ethereum, Gold, and Silver. One can invest even a small amount of Rs 100 daily, weekly, or monthly in any of these four or all assets.

I also noticed that Directors of the company have released many online advertisements over social media platforms and given interviews in prestigious publications, including @LiveMint promising better returns at lesser risks due to dollar-cost averaging and was even a news sponsor on @NDTV. The idea of experimenting with this platform appealed to me.

It was very clear from the beginning that;

  • Potential investors can choose an asset or assets and decide the investment amount and frequency of investments (daily, weekly or monthly)
  • Investors transfer money from their bank accounts to the Buyhatke bank account.
  • Bitdroplet shall purchase the asset at prices prevailing in the market on the day as per the frequency configured by the investor.
  • Based on market volatility, returns from money invested in these assets could go up and down.
  • And those returns and the remaining balance from the total money transferred by the investor in the buyhatke account shall remain safe and be reflected in an Investor’s ledger.
  • Finally, investors can stop investment and withdraw accrued returns, plus or minus, from their Bitdroplet account.

I was impressed with the concept of systematic investments with small amounts and decided to give it a spin to cut the story short.

I opened an account at Bitdroplet on 27 July 2021 to initiate a Rs 500/- daily investment in all four listed assets: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Gold, and Silver.

Rather than expecting astronomical returns from these small-ticket investments, my main interest was to treat this investment to get first-hand information and analytics on the price movement of these four assets during the present uncertain market scenario.

My daily investments of Rs 500/- in all four assets continued largely uninterrupted until April 2022.

On 3 May 2022, I noticed that on my total investment of Rs 4.42 Lakh so far, cumulative returns had a profit of 0.17%, which is just Rs 750/-. Let’s call it a breakeven point.

That day I decided that it was about time I ended this experiment. I immediately sold both Bitcoin and Ethereum, showing a severe loss. Lucky for me gold and silver were my absolute savior. It was clear that if I sold gold and silver, I’d be breaking even – no profit – no loss other than my time investment in this experiment.

But was I lucky? Read on to know how the story unfolds.

On 4 May 2022, I redeemed both Gold and Silver investments for Rs INR 242670. The Bitdroplet website faithfully reported “successfully redeemed, and the amount will be reflected in your INR account” for both of these assets. The redeemed amount was not reflected in my INR wallet. I waited for a few more days. But nothing was still there in my INR account that I could transfer back to my bank account.

I promptly raised a ticket at Bitdroplet / Bitbns website, attaching the screenshots for successful redemption on both assets and exchanging emails with the company’s support team. Nothing came out. In fact, from 14 May 2022 onwards, the support department completely went silent and stopped responding.

Meanwhile, the Bitdroplet website continued to show Rs INR 242670 as my invested amount. This invested amount grew to INR 243270 on 23 May 2022 because of the favorable price movement in Gold and Silver. But more bad stuff was still waiting to happen.


To my utter shock and surprise 24 May 2022 onwards, nothing on my gold and silver investments or redemption history remained visible on the Bitdroplet application. INR 242670 vanished in cyberspace.

Was it a fraud or a rip-off? Or another “Zillingo” waiting to be exposed. I decided to investigate further.

I contacted one of the Bitbns Directors, @Gaurav Dahake, over LinkedIn on 23 May 2022. Once I replied to Gaurav expressing my shock at his firm’s inability to resolve customers’ redemption issues, he also stopped responding. Gaurav did respond promptly, but to my utter shock and dismay, he put all the blame for the mess on another startup called # Oropocket.

After more than a month of this incident, I have not heard from the founder or his support team that my invested money will be returned to me by a particular date. The story doesn’t end here.

I finally reached out to Oropocket cofounders @TheMohitMadan and @TarushaM over Twitter to hear their side of this messy story. I shared Gaurav’s LinkedIn conversation with them over Twitter. In that conversation, the Bitdroplet founder blamed Oropocket for my issue. Both Orpocket founders never responded after that.

Epilogue.

Rather than remaining in contented ignorance with the “blue pill,” like Neo from the movie “The Matrix,” I am choosing to swallow the “red pill” to undergo a potentially unsettling life-changing mission to expose such startups. These companies don’t have robust systems, processes, and technologies to resolve their customers’ issues quickly. And are managed by people who seem to rate pretty low on customer relations, governance, and compliance. Such startups and their managers can only give the Indian startup story a bad name.

I have decided now to become a vigilante and fight through all possible legal and quasi-legal means to recover my money and educate unsuspecting people like me who fall for investing through or in such startups.

Please comment on what you would have done if you also had your “skin in the game” (Rs 4.5 Lakh) in this game called #Bitdroplet #Bitbns.

You are about to make a terrible mistake…

Here’s a 2-Minute Summary: To help the book lovers from Wingify recall, recap, and explain the big picture of Olivier Sibony’s You’re About to Make a Terrible Mistake!

All decision-makers, be politicians, judges, policemen, parents, teachers, or corporate leaders, are subject to their emotions and biases. They could be personally connected to stakeholders, have personal interests, overconfidence, could be influenced by a deceptive presentation of the facts, etc. There is a long list of biases, their explanation, and insightful examples presented in this book.

Where do these biases, like those caused by excessive confidence and optimism, come from? How they survived the process of evolution? If the systematic mistakes made by cognitive biases were terrible for survival, natural selection would have eliminated the biased individuals, making biases rarer. Yet biases are universal. This suggests that these biases, or rather the heuristics, weren’t actually handicaps but assets for our distant ancestors.

The moral of the story – regardless of personal qualities, people are human, all too human, and many factors can lead them to make unjust decisions. This risk can never be eliminated entirely, but systems and processes can be evolved to reduce these risks. This observation does not question the skill and integrity of people. Of course, some individuals are better than others at keeping their biases and emotions at bay. They are clear-sighted and virtuous enough to resist the different types of biases and emotions. But let’s be honest and objective – we cannot expect all our leaders to embody all these virtues and overcome their biases in all their decisions.

In a corporate environment, just like in courts, police stations, schools, and even in a country’s parliament, it’s not enough for a final decision maker (usually a leader at the top) to be virtuous. That individual must also be able to collaborate with others; decisions can’t be made alone. And wisdom must arise from process, not from individual virtues.

Collaboration and process are the principles on which sound decisions are based. Period.