Alum Ventures: Kristal.AI – Asheesh Chanda, PGP 2002

Multiplying money has become smarter thanks to the many choices of investments available in the market. The latest player in the space is Kristal.AI, an AI-enabled investment platform that provides multiple choices and transparency. The cutting edge technology enables customization at a mass level.

Asheesh Chanda founder and CEO of Kristal.AI talks about his entrepreneurial journey, the conception of Kristal, and how it offers a fresh approach to enabling an investor.

Could you tell us something about yourself and your work?

I am a twenty-year-old financial expert, a four-year-old entrepreneur, and the founder and CEO of an AI-enabled investment platform called Kristal.AI. I am passionate about trading and about algorithms (the IIT-D Computer Science Engineering degree comes in handy here). I keep a keen eye on the financial markets and the geopolitical goings-on across the globe.  Post graduating from IIM-B, I have gained experience in financial markets across Mumbai, Hong Kong, and Singapore, including setting up my own boutique hedge fund and managing millions of dollars for investors.

How did Kristal come into being? What was the idea behind its conception?

I wrote a lengthy blog once detailing all the hard work that went into making this company. I think for most entrepreneurs there is always an AHA moment when they realise how they can bring their ideas, experiences, and knowledge to solve a problem that the average person faces. I had my moment when I realized the big gap that exists in the traditional banking industry – offerings and products are designed to facilitate only a certain sector in which the industry has historically considered ‘privileged’. I wanted to break that invisible glass ceiling and create a platform that provides access and opportunity to sans any barriers. We wanted to create a universe where trust, personalization, and care are the most important values and your financial advisor is your best friend. 

What are the services offered by Kristal? Who is your target audience?

We are open to anyone who wants to invest 🙂 But if I had to break it down into audiences, I would say we are built for the mass affluent investors. 

At the core of Kristal.AI is a bionic model of asset curation which I think is very unique to us. The first half of this is our in-house algorithm. The second is what we call our Investment Committee – a panel of our advisory heads, analysts, and financial experts. The algorithm is the heart of all we do at Kristal. And the experts bring their human touch and powers of discrimination to what it recommends; ensuring that we offer only the best for every client who chooses our platform to invest. 

 Investors can opt for either our DIY model which uses the algorithm as the base, or choose to get more curated services where our advisory team has discretionary mandates to make trades in the best options available on behalf of the client. 

How is an AI-based system better than the conventional methods?

In real life, investing isn’t always linear. There are times when you need to stop your SIPs, and times when you have the extra money in your hand which you want to make the best use of. The difference between just an investing platform and a personalized offering is how they each behave during these ‘extra’ moments. 

If investors could have a war cry, I would say ‘trust the algo’ should be it. I firmly believe in the power of an algorithm to provide investors with the best recommendations in every scenario. We use a customized genetic algorithm at Kristal, which by very nature is able to parse through multiple sets of data and find the ideal solution which fits all data sets. We have consistently seen the algo-based recommendations outperform indices and we use it constantly as a sounding board during our portfolio curation process. 

What makes Kristal stand out compared to its competitors?

We are not an either-or platform. You don’t get to only use the algorithm and not get any hands-on support when you need it. Nor is the opposite where you cannot do any hands-on investing if you wanted to, and have to depend on your advisors for every step. Having ‘personalization’ as one of our key offerings means we anticipate what our clients want and give them the flexibility to choose for themselves. We are digital-first because that’s where the world is right now, but when needed we are not averse to picking up the phone and talking to our clients. In fact, during this crisis, we realized that a lot of our clients might need some extra reassurance or have investing queries which couldn’t always be solved digitally. So, we moved from our chatbots and WhatsApps to being available on phone calls and emails and solving issues there. Having a digital model is fine, but when you cannot customize it to fit your client’s needs then you are staring at a real problem. 

The journey of an entrepreneur is very consuming, how did you motivate yourself to keep going?

I often say that entrepreneurship is like chasing cars. What you need to be sure of is that the car you’re chasing is a Rolls Royce and not something else 🙂 For me, having been both an investor and an advisor it was easy to see just how the traditional banking system fails to live up to its promises and the inherent class system that is built into it. Once I decided that I wanted to break it, it was easy to stay motivated and help people. The trust that our investors bestow in us, is enough to keep us going. When I started, it was just me and 4 interns. Today we are 4 years old with 130 million USD in AUM, and over 60 employees in 3 countries. When you see that kind of growth it is hard not to get enthused. 

Who or what inspires you?

The opportunity to create an everlasting change in the fintech world. And reviews like this from our clients:

What memories does the mention of IIMB bring back?

Parties in LSquare for sure! They would start on Friday nights and go on till Saturday mornings. Sadly, they got banned two years after I graduated, but they were a hoot! And all the gyaan and worldly knowledge I gained from our mentors – it’s stood in me good stead so far.

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