Jun 15, 2024

Sai Kopparapu

Sai Kopparapu is an entrepreneur from Bangalore, India. He founded the nonprofit WISE during grade 9, repurposing science experiments to educate underprivileged schools, expanding to serve 20,000+ students with 100+ volunteers across three Indian states. Collaborating with Engineers Without Borders, WISE installed solar power plants in schools lacking electricity. Sai is also the founder of Winpra Inc., which utilizes AI tools to assist real estate developers in identifying land opportunities based on market demand. He is an alum of Columbia University.

One Line Life Lessons from Sai Kopparapu

Episode Highlights

  • 00:00-01:45 – Introduction to Sai Kopparapu, a social entrepreneur from Bangalore, India, sharing his journey in social entrepreneurship.
  • 01:46-03:30 – Founding of the nonprofit WISE during grade 9, focusing on repurposing science experiments for underprivileged schools and expanding to serve 20,000+ students with 100+ volunteers across three Indian states.
  • 03:31-05:20 – Collaboration with Engineers Without Borders to install solar power plants in schools lacking electricity, emphasizing impact through both nonprofit ventures like WISE and for-profit endeavors like Winpra.
  • 05:21-07:10 – Establishment of Indragan International Academy by a former Indian prime minister to educate Sri Lankan refugees through scientific experiments, highlighting innovative education methods.
  • 07:11-09:05 – Introduction to Winpra, a company similar to Wyze, utilizing AI tools to assist real estate developers in identifying land opportunities and building assets based on market demand.
  • 09:06-10:45 – Discussion on the platform Winpra, which analyzes locations, ZIP codes, and counties to match developers with suitable assets, stressing the importance of simulations in decision-making for large-scale projects.
  • 10:46-12:30 – Insights on building a product, pivoting based on customer feedback, targeting large enterprises initially, and planning to cater to all users, with a focus on finding the right customer base before expansion.
  • 12:31-14:15 – Mention of potential opportunities like smart city planning and reflections on perseverance, past failures, successes, and personal experiences of overcoming setbacks.
  • 14:16-16:00 – Transition to the speaker’s culinary interests, exploring diverse cuisines in India and the link between social entrepreneurship and food culture.
  • 16:01-17:45 – Life lessons emphasizing relationship-building in competitive industries like real estate, lending, and insurance, with a metaphor about selling water bottles to secure a seat at a crowded room’s table.

Show Transcript

Transcript - Full Episode

[00:00:02 – 00:00:11] Nitin Bajaj

Hey, everyone. Welcome to the industry show. I’m your host, Nitin Bajaj. And joining me today is Sai Kopparapu. Sai, welcome on the show.

[00:00:11 – 00:00:15] Sai Kopparapu

Thank you, Nitin. Thanks a lot. Thank you for hosting me.

[00:00:16 – 00:00:20] Nitin Bajaj

Hey. My pleasure. Let’s start with who is Sai?

[00:00:21 – 00:00:50] Sai Kopparapu

Who is Sai? Great first question. Sai, Sai is, I would like to call myself an entrepreneur, for past 12 years now, and I’m from Bangalore, India where I Sai was that was my 12 years ago Sai launched a nonprofit and that’s the first, entry to being a social entrepreneur.

[00:00:50 – 00:00:50] Nitin Bajaj

Mhmm.

[00:00:50 – 00:01:48] Sai Kopparapu

And, and currently, I’m working at Sai I I launched a for profit company, which is called as Winpra. And, and both of them, with both my nonprofit, which is called WISE and currently Winpra, the uniqueness about is how do we build organizations, whether it’s nonprofit or profit, that creates value for the community, that creates an impact, both whether it’s social or economic development. So I like building companies or organizations, thinking what kind of value do we create and going backward and creating a product that serves that value or that end user or the customer. So that’s the Sai. That is Sai who is built basically creating products that meets the end goals. Yep.

[00:01:49 – 00:02:00] Nitin Bajaj

Love that. We will talk about Winpra in more detail, but tell us a little bit about why’s. Why did you start it? What what is it? And what’s the kind of impact you’d hope to achieve through it?

[00:02:01 – 00:03:52] Sai Kopparapu

So why is so I was a student, in when I was in grade 9, and I did, go to a good school, based in Bangalore, India. And we had, you know, so many science experiments or assignments that were given to us. And, so after, you know, we, we do those hands on experiments, and we submit it, to the, you know, teachers or the professors there. And once it’s done, we dispose those experiments. But how could we reuse those experiments? Sai, my friends and I, 3 of us, we came together, took those experiments, and started teaching in underprivileged schools, the schools which did not have access to teachers or proper education. And so imagine we as students becoming teachers taking those experiments and going to schools and teaching them. So it started like a 3 member student club, and that grew grew into a nonprofit, which was about sorry. Is that okay. Yeah. So, that grew into a nonprofit and, which led we we had close we grew to close to 100 plus volunteers serving 20,000 plus students across 3 Indian states. And we were supported by, you know, multinational corporations under their corporate social responsibility. And then we collaborated with, Engineers Without Borders, Germany, and installing solar power plants in the underprivileged schools that did not have electricity at all. So that was my first exposure to infrastructure, solar power plants, and, again, both of them try to create an creating an impact. So yep.

[00:03:52 – 00:04:13] Nitin Bajaj

That’s amazing. And you were barely a teenager, so that’s that’s really amazing that you thought about this and you were able to grow it to that scale, bring on enterprise partners, international partners. But the the most amazing thing about that is being able to help those 30,000 children. Huge.

[00:04:13 – 00:05:21] Sai Kopparapu

Exactly. And and the best part is, when when so one of the schools that we were working in, they were, 285, Sri Lankan refugees, and this was when I was in grade 10. And, it’s called Indragan International Academy, the former prime minister of India. She set up that school to accommodate all the Sri Lankan refugees after the during the wars. And, when we first went and showed them those experiments and explaining them how what’s the concept of force, the the pressure, the area using these different scientific experiments. They thought it was like a magic show, and all the students were so curious in asking how is that experiment working without any knowledge. When they were so curious and they posed those questions to us and when we answer to them and when we give the solutions and how things work, that’s when we realized that’s the best form of access to education. It’s not access to education just does not mean giving them the books or teachers or anything. But how do you make them learn? That’s the impact we look to create through the nonprofit. Yep.

[00:05:22 – 00:05:54] Nitin Bajaj

And the biggest joy is watching them those light bulbs go off. Right? That’s That’s the part. That’s the most fascinating part of it. Now tell us about how that passion, that interest, that learning that came from being a social entrepreneur, how did that translate into Winpra? And, you know, give us a sense for what Winpra is doing, what stage and phase of the journey you are in, and what is the vision behind it?

[00:05:56 – 00:06:58] Sai Kopparapu

Winpra, I don’t know if, people agree to this. I personally see Winpra and Wyze to be very, very, very similar, companies. Wyze where we built, like, science experiments. And in Winpra, we are creating, you know, large scale simulations. Again, experiments for real estate developers to identify what kind of asset should they build on a given parcel of land, which is the next market Sai the large real estate developers and asset managers with, AI driven tools where they can run hundreds of simulations or thousands of simulations to find a land opportunity, and build assets that meet the local market demand. And probably there’s a location out there that is amazing for a hotel, or there is a location there where, you know, hospital is very much needed, because there’s no hospital for 30 or 40 miles, from that in that area, right, or maybe a medical office. So Those are the tools we give developers to understand markets, the assets that’s needed in those markets, and what’s the size and type of assets. End to end land identification to asset management is what we run through the platform. So that’s basically Windtra.

[00:07:30 – 00:07:53] Nitin Bajaj

That’s amazing. So if I were to kind of peel that layer and go down one more, you’re essentially joining multiple datasets, running analytics, and then allowing these real estate developers to bring in maybe some more of their proprietary data Sai they can get really specific opportunities that come back at them.

[00:07:53 – 00:07:58] Sai Kopparapu

Perfect. I mean, hearing you say this, I think I did a good job pitching to you now. Sai

[00:08:00 – 00:08:00] Nitin Bajaj

So so

[00:08:00 – 00:08:46] Sai Kopparapu

Sai, yeah, that’s exactly right. Developers come with their proprietary data and that proprietary data is how they have kind of operated the assets over the past few years and what kind of assets because there are a few developers who specialize in hotels, few in medical offices and hospital, and some of them are mixed use. They do all kinds of assets. That’s the data, which our platform when they ingest all that data, our platform is able to learn them really well. And based on that, it’s able to advise the developers. Again, our product tries to understand different locations, different ZIP codes, different counties, and what’s the demand around it. And it does like a a match between the area and the developer and what kind of assets they are looking at. But, yes, in in short, it’s a real estate simulation platform.

[00:08:47 – 00:09:14] Nitin Bajaj

Sai you talked about a little bit of the you got exposure to this working on a lot of the infrastructure projects that you started for WISE and then, you know, your interest and curiosity in simulations and and what have you. How did this come together and become Winpra? Right? And the the underlying question there is why do this? You could be doing so many different things. And more specifically, why do this now?

[00:09:16 – 00:11:21] Sai Kopparapu

So, that’s again a great question. So why am I doing the simulation part, or maybe like the product that I’m building now? Trust me, I asked myself this question so many times so many times. It was not intentional where I wanna go build a company in real estate. Nothing of that sort. So, why I said when when you asked me about why is it’s the kind of the same companies. When we were installing solar power plants, you know, 14 kilowatt to 20 kilowatt per hour power plants that we used to build, we used to sort of install in these schools. During that installation process, and those power plants used to provide electricity for all 300, 400 students along with hot water systems, and most of those schools haven’t experienced hot water at any point in time. They didn’t even know for, showers, you actually need hot water. So when we’re installing that, we actually involved students, the underprivileged students, during the installation process, which is like a month and a half to 2. And while they were going through that, they were so excited when we were installing those projects. It’s like a simulation for them, being hands on with those projects. That’s the exact same way we are creating for Wind Prana, for these large scale infrastructure projects. You want to simulate first in a digital platform, not just the architecture. It could be a financial model, it could be if you were to build a particular asset in that area, how many jobs are you creating? What kind of impact are you creating for the government, for the locals, not just for today, but 3 years, 5 years down the line? Okay. What if Tesla were to come in and open an office there in that scenario? So when you’re running these simulations, that’s the kind of decision making that you’re doing. Decision making is not about deciding the final choice pick of all the choices. It’s this whole process of doing all these what if scenarios. That’s what I see very, a similarity between my previous and my current journey now. So

[00:11:21 – 00:11:48] Nitin Bajaj

What I find the most interesting is in one case, you’re working and helping probably the bottom 10%. And here, you’re probably working with maybe the top 1% and creating impact at both levels of the pyramid. So that’s that’s really cool. Now as you’re going through all of this, what’s the one big challenge you’re facing?

[00:11:50 – 00:13:50] Sai Kopparapu

So I think, so the challenge, as you said, the bottom 10% and the top 1%. So where we are currently is we launched, the company, Winpra, 3 years ago, May of 2021. And since then, we were building building. Of course, you take so many pivots in terms of, you know, the product, you know, what’s your go to market, what kind of customer should you serve. And, you know, there are so many different requirements coming to you from as you speak with more customers. So we spoke with so while building the product, we never so what we have currently, the product at case, we never built as a team, like, just in house. Let’s go and work in a lab. So we were always out there working with customers and, you know, showing them different features. Is this good? Is this, you know, is this something that you don’t need? So we used to take that feedback on a constant basis. But, as we see the product working throughout the whole supply chain of real estate from small developers who just own one single asset to a large developer who owns, like, 100 and, you know, 10 tens of 1,000,000,000 of dollars worth of portfolio. So what we have seen in last couple of months is the product is working the best for large enterprises, at least, you know, not not in terms of the developer being the recipient of the features of infra, you know, like, the value with that we’re adding. Of course, that’s constant, and it it’s helping across the supply chain. But for us, is it good to start with the big developers first? And then as we train our models and build, then, you know, every person out there, eventually, maybe 3 or 4 years down the line, every person has a mobile app where they can run simulations for any given land parcel and decide what’s the right asset to be built over there. So but to start off, who is the right what’s the right size of the customer? Who’s not the right customer? But the right size of the customer is what we have been facing some turbulence over past few months, I guess.

[00:13:50 – 00:14:33] Nitin Bajaj

But now we are coming to that. Yeah. So Well, you’re helping your customers make informed decisions just as your customers are helping you make informed decisions about who’s your ideal persona that you need to work with as of right now. That’s a that’s a good problem to have. That’s a in in the startup world, we call it growing pains. Right? So you don’t wanna boil the ocean. You wanna find who your ideal customer is and then be everything to them. And then, of course, from those, the use cases come up, and then you, go and become the tool for the masses. That’s awesome. Now on the flip side of challenges come opportunities, what’s the one that you’re most excited about?

[00:14:35 – 00:15:19] Sai Kopparapu

So the one that I’m most excited about is, we are looking at the projects. I mean, just wanna clarify. We are not doing them yet. We are looking at those high level macro projects where the whole smart city can be built using a product within a day. Coming I mean, not not the construction, but at least the whole planning. You know? What kind of, hotel should be built in that area based on the demographics? You know, the roads, the bridges, the theme parks, the movie theaters, the whole city can be planned out within a day. Is that’s like the smart city development that I envision using the product that you can build it out. So that’s the project

[00:15:19 – 00:15:22] Nitin Bajaj

I’m excited about. And and when is that coming?

[00:15:23 – 00:15:43] Sai Kopparapu

When is that coming? I would love to do it starting today, but it’s  all up to the developers that we are speaking with. Maybe maybe in next, year or so, we will be doing those large scale economic development corridor infrastructure projects, that I’m super excited about.

[00:15:43 – 00:15:48] Nitin Bajaj

Well, the future is here as they say. That’s awesome. Exactly. Yeah. And when you’re

[00:15:48 – 00:16:10] Sai Kopparapu

a when you when you’re building a start up, you always need to think 3 years, 5 years down the line. Right? That’s how the world is gonna look like. Or maybe even 10 years. And then you start building again backwards from there. What kind of impact you’re creating then? And you take small steps, baby steps now. So to reach there. So true. You get to define the cutting edge. That’s the most amazing part. That’s the best part.

[00:16:11 – 00:16:43] Nitin Bajaj

Yep. Now as we talk about the future, I wanna take a pause, reflect in, a little bit of the history. And I would love for you to share 2 moments in your life, personal, career. Take your pick. 1, where things did not work out as you had expected, and that experience became or led to a failure and then some lessons. And then on the other end, something that blew your own expectations and became a success beyond what you would have imagined.

[00:16:47 – 00:18:03] Sai Kopparapu

So failures and setbacks, you know, it’s always there. It’s the part of the journey, and sometimes it’s intense. And in in the initial phases, it’s like in 1,000, and that’s always there. Sai, what I believe is, you know, one of those ports that you come across, is to win a war, you’ll have to lose many battles, and it’s like thousands of battles. So as long as, you know, you train your mind in a way that it could be 10,000, a 1000000 battles you have to lose to win the war. You know, that’s the perfect way, to think about it. But, again, in in real world, you know, there were times where previously, whether it’s during the nonprofit times or during college, you know, I experienced some sort of a setback, and I used to quit. And that’s when I realized maybe once you quit from that, couple of weeks or months down the line, you start thinking, Maybe if I was there long enough, I could have by now, it would have been successful. Or maybe I would be still facing the setbacks, but you do regret them. Right? So I think I’ve sort of I’m still practicing in a way is not to exit or quit, when there are setbacks. So that’s kind of, this one, but that’s the part and parcel of the game. Yep. True.

[00:18:04 – 00:18:30] Nitin Bajaj

You know, as as you’re speaking and as I’m going, well, this guy is he’s got it. Right? You’re in your twenties, and there’s a lot of wisdom there. And now I see the link between your first start up, the social entrepreneurship called WISE. This is called Winpra. So there is some connection there with wisdom, WISE, I I see where that comes from. Okay.

[00:18:31 – 00:18:33] Sai Kopparapu

Yeah. That’s a good connecting of dots, you know.

[00:18:36 – 00:18:38] Nitin Bajaj

Sai, what do you do for fun? What do

[00:18:38 – 00:20:00] Sai Kopparapu

I do for fun? So I love cooking, and, I wouldn’t call myself foodie, but I really like trying all the cuisine, you know, not just so I come from India and there are, you know, 27 languages or maybe 50 languages. There are each state has different culture, different kind of food. And, I don’t know if everyone, you know, watching this show know that in India, you just, you know, just cross borders from one state to the other. The signboards, the language is different, the people are different, the food is completely different. Everything, whether it’s in South India or not, you need not go all the way south to north to experience that. But you can just change borders and get a complete different perspective, as a place it is. So, I think I I used to travel a lot in India for the nonprofit. And wherever I used to go, I used to try the new food there. And, over here so what I do is I like cooking, you know, different I love cooking. I love trying new food. And whenever I’m, like, kind of stressed or anxious, I just go to the kitchen and get few things and, you know, start cooking and try try new recipes. So that’s what I’m super, you know, like, I love doing that. So yeah.

[00:20:01 – 00:20:06] Nitin Bajaj

Now we know what you’re gonna do when you’re in Southern California. We’re gonna have you cook.

[00:20:06 – 00:20:14] Sai Kopparapu

Yep. Absolutely. I would be excited. But, again, caution. I’m a vegetarian, so it’s only vegetarian delicacies that you’ll, have it when I cook.

[00:20:15 – 00:20:37] Nitin Bajaj

Works for me because so am I. Oh, partly. Sai we as we talk about these things, I wanna move us into my favorite part of the show, which is the one line life lessons. I’d love for you to share a few of your life lessons with us.

[00:20:39 – 00:21:44] Sai Kopparapu

So one of the best life lessons is, you know, when you are trying to build something or launch, you know, any kind of thing. Right? When it’s when something is new, right, where you’re whether a large incumbents, like, it could be people or companies or whatever, and you’re trying to enter that space, you’re not gonna find, a seat in the room. Right? So that time you go and sell water bottles there, and that’s how you get into the room. Right? That’s my favorite. It’s always been, the case, and that’s what I’ve been doing, you know, especially building, relationships. And and the most important that matters the most than, whether it’s than product or, you know, your degrees or anything is the relationships, especially, in the industry, that I’m working in, real estate, lending, or insurance. These spaces, these are legacy based industries. There are large incumbents there. So relationships is truly matters when you’re trying to build something. So I think these two lives and live lessons, life lessons have been, really impactful. Yep.

[00:21:45 – 00:21:47] Nitin Bajaj

That’s awesome. Do you have more that you would like to share?

[00:21:48 – 00:21:58] Sai Kopparapu

More? I’d like to share. I think these 2 would be good for now. Maybe as, you know, life progresses, I’ll learn more. So

[00:21:58 – 00:22:21] Nitin Bajaj

That’s a good approach to take. Sai, thank you so much for being on the show, for sharing your story and journey. And many congratulations for all the successes so far. And I know there is many more coming, so would love to bring you back on at a future date and talk about many more of your successes and life experiences and, of course, some life lessons.

[00:22:22 – 00:22:32] Sai Kopparapu

Thanks a lot, Nick, and thanks a lot for hosting me here and hope, I was able to give some, you know, some unique perspectives. So yeah. Thanks a lot.

[00:22:32 – 00:22:36] Nitin Bajaj

Yep. Awesome. Thank you, Sai. Thank you. Bye.

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