'Focus on your goal and success will come along': Kanika Agarrwal, Co-founder, Upside AI

The Proust Questionnaire is a questionnaire about one’s personality. It has its origins in a parlour game popularised by Marcel Proust, the French essayist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature.
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Kanika Agarrwal is the Co-founder and CIO of Upside AI, a fintech startup that aims to revolutionise the investment space with the help of machine learning.

As a rank holder Chartered Accountant and a CFA, she has over 11 years of experience in finance and investing, having worked with companies including Mayfield India, Credit Suisse, and EY.

Kanika has always envisioned a future in finance and known that she will be an entrepreneur. Inspired by Benjamin Graham’s ‘The Intelligent Investor’, at 29, both these dreams came together for the ideation and launch of Upside AI.

As the Chief Investment Officer, Kanika is responsible for everything - from sales to the day-to-day operations. With passion and sheer will-power, Kanika along with her two co-founders has been able to scale up the business 5X in the last two years.

An extreme board game enthusiast, Kanika and her team spend over eight hours every weekend playing high risk, strategy games like Terra Mystica, Pandemic Legacy, Brass: Birmingham and Power Grid. Additionally, being a certified scuba diver, she grabs any opportunity she gets to go on a diving trip.

Here are her responses to our Proust questionnaire…


What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I think the idea of happiness constantly evolves with time and stage of life. Today, for me, it is a good meal with my husband at the end of a good day at work.

What is your greatest fear?

Feeling trapped, mentally or physically.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Impatience – it is definitely a work in progress.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Incompetence – when people are deliberately mediocre at their job.

Which living person do you most admire?

Bill Gates – he built one of the world’s most valuable companies and then switched careers to make the world a better place. We should all aspire to use our powers for good.

What is your greatest extravagance?

I love to travel well. Most countries I go to, I do enjoy spending money on experiences like scuba diving, skydiving, skiing, etc.

What is your current state of mind?

Currently, my mind is running a mile a minute as with all early-stage founders. I am trying to stay centred and zoom out a bit.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Our generation’s perpetual need to prove how “busy” they are.

On what occasion do you lie?

White lies to spare feelings.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

I don’t “dislike” anything, but I am constantly vigilant about staying healthy and fit.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

Confidence – the ability to laugh at himself and keep his ego in check.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Same as men, confidence – and to claim her place in the world.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“Correct, but” – I have been told. 

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My husband – we had a whirlwind romance and have been married for eight happy years.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I wish I were a better writer. I love to read, and books transport you into someone else’s imagination – it’s a beautiful quality.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I would love if I could suddenly have the ability to meditate every day and become calmer and less hyperactive.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I was ranked 18th in India in my Chartered Accountancy exams – less than 3 percent of my batch passed that year.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

Hopefully in my lifetime, we are going to cure ageing and/ or become one with machines. We’ll all live as Human 2.0. 

Where would you most like to live?

Near a beach where I can go diving every day.

What is your most treasured possession?

My sense of humour.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Waking up, dreading the day ahead, on a daily basis.

What is your favourite occupation?

All that I am doing right now. 

What is your most marked characteristic?

I am very comfortable in my own skin.

What do you most value in your friends?

Honesty – no “positioning” or “sparing your feelings.”

Who are your favourite writers?

George RR Martin in fiction and Yuval Noah Harari in non-fiction. Both have an uncanny ability to write lucid, clear, and simple prose.

Who is your hero of fiction?

Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series. She was smart, resourceful, and let’s be honest, Harry would have died in book 1 without her.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

I don’t know if I identify with anyone, but I would have loved to meet Douglas Adams (who wrote the unparalleled Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy).

Who are your heroes in real life?

My immediate family and friends. The only people you can learn from are those whose journey and struggles you are intimately part of.

What is your favourite name?

Atanuu.

What is it that you most dislike?

Mansplaining.

What is your greatest regret?

I don’t have any.

How would you like to die?

Suddenly and unexpectedly.

What is your favourite journey?

My trip to Italy a few years ago and all the Carbs, Castles, and Chianti.

What is your motto?

Draco Dormens Nuntaqt Titliandus. ('Never tickle a sleeping dragon'). On a serious note, 'Focus on your goal and success will come along'. 

Edited by Megha Reddy

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