What would be the best way to reach you?

When you come across people that you wish to connect or stay in touch with in a professional context, don’t proceed to straightaway ask for their phone number. Ask what would be the best way to reach them instead.

Most people do not prefer to share their mobile numbers and most good professionals do have clear communication preferences as well. Insisting that you have their mobile numbers might come across as unprofessional and intrusive even.

Acknowledging and respecting communication preferences on the other hand will come across as utmost professional and show you in the best light.

Don’t ask for connects

It has become possible and incredibly easy even to be able to discover, locate and connect with people in the 21st century.

You should hence only be seeking guidance on who you should look to be connecting with.

The locating, reaching out and connecting — now that part you can and should be able to do on your own.

Being able to locate and connect with people is a skill. Skills that stand you in good stead in the 21st century. Look to build them.

മാതൃഭൂമി ഉപരിപഠനം article

I was asked to pen an article for the 2018 edition of മാതൃഭൂമി ഉപരിപഠനം. The request came through Soumya, a good friend of mine from school days and Soumya is the one who edited and proofread the writing also for me. Shared below is the draft of the article I had shared with Soumya.

Note

  • This final draft is not really different from the one shared here.
  • Do not have an english version of the article since I had done with the writing directly in Malayalam — was not a case of writing in English and


ഇന്നത്തെ ലോകത്തിന്റെ ഏറ്റവും മികച്ച സവിശേഷത എന്ന് പറയുന്നത് അത് നമുക്ക് തുറന്നു നൽകുന്ന അവസരങ്ങള്‍ൾ ആണ്. സാങ്കേതിക മേഖലയിലെ പുരോഗമനങ്ങൾ മുഖേന ഇന്ന് ഒരു ഡിജിറ്റൽ സന്പദ്വ്യവസ്ഥയിലേക്കാണ് നമ്മുടെ ലോകം നീങ്ങിക്കൊണ്ടിരിക്കുന്നത്. ഇത്തരം അവസരങ്ങളെ പറ്റിയുള്ള വിവരങ്ങളും അതിലേക്കു എത്തിച്ചേരുവാനുള്ള മാർഗ്ഗ നിർദ്ദേശ്ശങ്ങളും നമുക്ക് ലഭിക്കുന്ന ഏറ്റവും നല്ല മാർഗ്ഗം ഇന്റർനെറ്റും.

ഇരുപത്തിയൊന്നാം നൂറ്റാങ്ങിന്റെ ലൈബ്രറി എന്ന് വിശേഷിപ്പിക്കേണ്ട പ്ര്തിഭാസം ആണ് ഇന്റർനെറ്റ്. പരന്പരാഗത ലൈബ്രറികൾ നമ്മുക്ക് വിനോദവും വിജ്ജ്ഞാവാനും നല്കിയിരിക്കുന്നുവോ അതിന്റെയും എത്രയോ പതിന്മടങ്ങാണ് ഇന്ന് ഇന്റർനെറ്റ് മുഖേന സാധ്യമാവുന്നത്. Access to same quality of information.

ഇന്റർനെറ്റ് നമ്മുടെ വ്യക്തി ജീവിതത്തിൽ വരുത്തിയിരിക്കുന്ന മാറ്റങ്ങൾ Whatsapp. Youtube, Facebook എന്നിവയുടെ സ്വാധീനം പരിശോധിച്ചാൽ മനസിലാവും. നമ്മുടെ വ്യക്തി ജീവിതത്തിൽ എന്ന പോലെ നമ്മുടെ സന്പദ്വ്യവസ്ഥയിലും ഇന്റർനെറ്റ് വരുത്തിയിരിക്കുന്ന മാറ്റങ്ങൾ സമാനതകൾ ഇല്ലാത്തതാണ്. ഈ മാറ്റങ്ങളുടെ വ്യാപ്തി തിരിച്ചറിയുക എന്നതാണ് ഈ മാറുന്ന ലോകത്തിൽ അവസരങ്ങൾ എവിടെ എന്ന് മനസിലാക്കുന്നതിനും അന്വേഷിച്ചു കണ്ടെത്തുന്നതിനും അനിവാര്യം.

Digital goods and services

ഒരു ഡിജിറ്റൽ സന്പദ്വ്യവസ്ഥയിൽ ഏറ്റവും സാധ്യതകൾ ഉള്ളത് digital products and digital സേവനങ്ങൾക്കാണ്. ക്രിപ്റ്റോ കറൻസികളും, PayTM wallet കളും, UPI മുഖേനയുള്ള whatsapp payment കളും, നാണയങ്ങളിലും നോട്ടുകളിലും ആശ്രിതമായ നമ്മുടെ പണമിടപാടുൾ വരെ ഡിജിറ്റൽ ആക്കിക്കൊണ്ടിരിക്കുന്നത് നമുക്ക് ഇന്ന് ദൃശ്യമാണ്.

ഉല്പാദന വിതരണ പ്രക്രിയ പാടേ മാറ്റിമറിക്കപ്പെട്ടിരിക്കുകയാണിന്ന്. ഇതിന്റെ ഫലം എന്ന് പറയുന്നത് ഏതൊരു വ്യക്തിക്കും ബൗദ്ധിക ശക്തിയിൽ മാത്രം ആശ്രയിച്ചു സേവനങ്ങൾ രൂപപ്പെടുത്താവുന്നതും, അങ്ങനെ രൂപപ്പെടുത്തിയ സേവനങ്ങൾ ലോകത്തിൽ എവിടെയും ഉള്ള ഉപഭോക്താക്കളിൽ എത്തിക്കുവാനും സാധിക്കുന്നു എന്നുള്ളതാണ്. കഴിഞ്ഞ കാലത്തെ അപേക്ഷിച്ചു ഇത് സാധ്യമാക്കാൻ മൂലധനം ആവശ്യമില്ല അല്ലേൽ നിസ്സാരം എന്നത് ശ്രദ്ധിക്കുക.

Fourth industrial revolution

വരാനിരിക്കുന്നത് നാലാം വ്യവ്യസായ വിപ്ലവമാണ്. കംപ്യൂട്ടറുകളും വിവര സാങ്കേതിക വിദ്യകളും ആണ് മൂന്നാം വ്യവ്യസായ വിപ്ലവം (digital revolution) സാധ്യമാക്കിയതെങ്കിൽ, മറ്റു പല സാങ്കേതിക വിദ്യകളും പ്രതിഭാസങ്ങളുടേയും മിശ്രണമാണ് നാലാം വ്യവ്യസായ വിപ്ലവത്തിന് വഴിയൊരുക്കുന്നത്. അവയിൽ പ്രധാനപ്പെട്ടവ ഇവിടെ പ്രതിപാദിക്കുന്നു

  1. Internet of things
  2. Virtual reality
  3. 3D printing
  4. Robotics
  5. Artificial intelligence
  6. Autonomous vehicles
  7. Nanotechnology
  8. Quantum computing
  9. Blockchain
  10. Biotechnology

മേൽപ്പറഞ്ഞ സാങ്കേതിക വിദ്യകൾ നമ്മുടെ ജീവിതത്തിന്റെ എല്ലാ മേഖലകളെയും പാടേ മാറ്റിമറിക്കാൻ കെൽപ്പുള്ളവയാണ്. സാങ്കേതിക മുന്നേറ്റങ്ങളുടെ വേഗത ത്വരിതപ്പെടുന്നു എന്നതാണ് നാലാം വ്യവ്യസായ വിപ്ലവത്തിന്റെ മുഖമുദ്ര തന്നെ. ഡിജിറ്റൽ ഉപകരണങ്ങളും രീതികളും ഇന്നത്തെ smartphone കൾ പോലെ നമ്മുടെ ജീവിതത്തിന്റെ അനിവാര്യമായി തീരുന്നു എന്നതിൽ നിന്നും മാറി, നമ്മുടെ ജീവിതത്തിൽ ഇഴുകി ചേരുന്നു എന്നതായിരിക്കും പ്രകടമായ മാറ്റം. അതിൽ ആദ്യ പടി wearable technology കളിലേക്കുള്ള മാറ്റമായിരിക്കും.

എങ്ങനെ സമീപിക്കാം?

ഇത്രയും മാറ്റങ്ങൾ സംഭവിക്കുന്പോൾ, അത്ര തന്നെ അവസരങ്ങളും സൃഷ്ഠിക്കപ്പെടുന്നു എന്ന് വേണം മനസിലാക്കാൻ. ഒന്നുകിൽ മേൽപ്പറഞ്ഞ മേഖലകൾ, അല്ലെങ്കിൽ അവ മൂലം മറ്റു മേഖലകളിൽ വരുവാൻ സാധ്യതയുള്ള മാറ്റങ്ങൾ, അവയെക്കുറിച്ചു അറിയുവാനും പഠിക്കുവാവും ശ്രമിക്കുക. നിങ്ങൾ തിരഞ്ഞെടുക്കുന്ന മേഖല ഏതു തന്നെ ആയാലും അതിൽ പ്രാവീണ്യം നേടാൻ മാത്രം ശ്രദ്ധിച്ചാൽ മതി. മേഖല തിരഞ്ഞെടുക്കുന്നതിലും കൂടുതൽ ഊന്നൽ നൽകേണ്ടത് അതിനാണ്.

ഈ ലോകത്തിന് ആവശ്യമായ കഴിവുകൾ വികസിപ്പിച്ചടുക്ക എന്നതാണ് ഉപരിപഠനത്തിന്റെ ലക്‌ഷ്യം. കലായല ജീവിതം അതിന് വേദിയൊരുക്കുന്ന പല ഘടകങ്ങളിൽ ഒന്ന് മാത്രം. ഉപരിപഠനത്തിന്റെ പരിധി സർവകലാശാല നിഷ്കർത്തിച്ചിട്ടുള്ള വിഷയങ്ങളും നൈപുണ്യങ്ങളും ആയി ഒതുക്കി നിർത്താതിരിക്കാൻ ശ്രദ്ധിക്കുക. അടിസ്ഥാനപരമായ മൂന്ന് വൈദഗ്ധ്യങ്ങൾ നേടുക എന്നതായിരിക്കണം ആദ്യ ലക്‌ഷ്യം.

  1. Search

വിവരങ്ങളും വിജ്ഞാനവും സുലഭമായ ഒരു വ്യവ്യസ്ഥിയിൽ, നമുക്ക് ആവശ്യമായ അറിവുകൾ ക്ഷണ നേരത്തെ കണ്ടെത്തുവാനുള്ള കഴിവാണ് ആദ്യം വേണ്ടത്. ഇതിന് നമ്മെ സഹായിക്കുന്നത് മറ്റൊന്നുമല്ല, internet search ആണ്. നമ്മൾ എങ്ങനെ കണക്ക് പഠിച്ചോ, അതേ അച്ചടക്കത്തോടും കാര്യഗൗരവത്തോടും സമീപിക്കേണ്ട ഒന്നാണ് search skills. നമുക്ക് കണ്ടെത്താൻ സാധിക്കുന്ന അറിവിന്റെയും ആ അറിവിന്റെ ഗുണ നിലവാരത്തിലും നിക്ഷിപ്തം ആയിരിക്കും നമ്മുടെ പ്രയത്‌നങ്ങളുടെ പരിണിതഫലം.

2. Learning how to learn

Search ചെയ്തു കണ്ടെത്തുന്ന വിവരങ്ങളും അറിവും ഉപയോഗപ്പെടുത്തി ഒരു വിഷയത്തിൽ സ്യയം പരീശിലിച്ചു ഗ്രാഹ്യവും പ്രാവീണ്യവും നേടിയെടുക്കാനുള്ള കഴിവാണ് ഇനി വേണ്ടത്. നിങ്ങൾ ഏതൊരു college അല്ലേൽ കോഴ്‌സ് എടുത്താലും, ഈ ഒരു കഴിവിനെ വളർത്തുന്നതിലും പരിപോഷിപ്പിക്കുന്നതിലും ആയിരിക്കണം കലാലയ ജീവിതത്തിൽ ഏറ്റവും ശ്രദ്ധിക്കേണ്ടത്. ഒരു തുടക്കം എന്ന രീതിയിൽ മേൽപ്പറഞ്ഞ internet search skills, YouTube videos മുഖാന്തരം എങ്ങനെ പഠിച്ചെടുക്കാം എന്ന് പരീക്ഷിച്ചു നോക്കാവുന്നതാണ്.

3. Digital communication

നമ്മുടെ പദ്ധതികൽ മറ്റുള്ളവരോട് പങ്കു വെക്കുന്നതിനും, പ്രതികരണം ആരാഞ്ഞു അവയെ മെച്ചപ്പെടുത്തുന്നതിനും, അത് പോലെ തന്നെ മറ്റുള്ളവരിൽ നിന്ന് കാര്യങ്ങൾ ചോദിച്ചു മനസിലാക്കുന്നതിലും ആശയവിനിമയ പ്രാപ്തി അനിവാര്യമാണ്. ജീവിതവിജയം നേടാൻ ആഗ്രഹിക്കുന്നുവെങ്കിൽ ആശയവിനിമയത്തിൽ മികവുണ്ടായിരിക്കണം എന്ന് എല്ലാ കാലങ്ങളിലും നിലനിന്നിരുന്ന അനുശാസനം ആണ്. ഇത് അത് പോലെ തന്നെ ഡിജിറ്റൽ യുഗത്തിലും നിലനിൽക്കുന്നു.

വ്യതാസം ഇത്ര മാത്രം — ഇമെയിൽ, twitter, online discussion boards എന്നിവ ആയിരിക്കും പ്രധാന ആശയവിനിമയ മാർഗ്ഗങ്ങൽ. പ്രാഥമിക വിദ്യാഭ്യാസത്തിൽ നല്ല കത്തുകൾ എഴുതുവാൻ പരിശീലിച്ച പോലെ, നല്ല ഇമെയിലുകൾ എഴുതുവാൻ പരിശീലിക്കേണ്ടതുണ്ട് ഇപ്പോൾ എന്ന് സാരം. HackerNews, Reddit, Quora, Stack Overflow പോലുള്ള discussion board കൽ നല്ല online ചർച്ചകിൽ പങ്കെടുക്കുന്നതെങ്ങനെ എന്നും പഠിക്കുകയും പരിശീലിക്കുകയും ചെയ്യേണ്ടി ഇരിക്കുന്നു. ഡിജിറ്റൽ ലോകത്തിലെ നമ്മുടെ മേൽവിലാസം എന്ന് പറയുന്നത് നമ്മുടെ ഇമെയിൽ ആണ്. മേല്പറഞ്ഞ സേവങ്ങളിൽ sign up ചെയ്തു ഉപയോഗിക്കുന്നതിനു വേണ്ടതും ഇമെയിൽ തന്നെ.

MOOCs

ഈ മൂന്ന് വൈദഗ്ധ്യങ്ങൾ ആയാൽ ഏതൊരു വിഷയവും കീഴ്‌പ്പെടുത്താനുള്ള ആയുധങ്ങൾ ആയിക്കഴിഞ്ഞു. Coursera, Udacity മുതലായ മൂസ website കൾ നൽകുന്ന പാഠ്യക്രമങ്ങൾ, അവർ നിർദ്ദേശിക്കുന്ന രീതിയിൽ പൂർത്തിയാക്കുവാൻ കൂടെ സാധിച്ചാൽ course certificate കളും ലഭിക്കുന്നതാണ്. സൗജന്യമായി അല്ലെങ്കിൽ മിതമായ വിലക്ക്, അതും ലോകത്തിലെ മികച്ച സർവകലാശാലകളിൽ നിന്നും.

Projects

കഴിവുകൾ വളർത്തിയെടുക്കാൻ പഠിച്ച കാര്യങ്ങൾ പ്രയോജനപ്പെടുത്തുന്ന പ്രൊജക്റ്റ്കൾ ചെയ്യുന്നതാണ് ഏറ്റവും നല്ലത്. Instructables, DIYHacking മുതലായ website കൾ project ആശയങ്ങളുടെ കലവറകൾ തന്നെ ആണ്. ഇതിൽ ഉള്ള ഏതെങ്കിലും project പരീക്ഷിച്ചു തുടങ്ങാവുന്നതാണ്. പലപ്പോഴും എങ്ങനെ ചെയ്യണം എന്നുള്ള മാർഗ നിർദേശങ്ങളും അതിൽ തന്നെ അടങ്ങിയിട്ടുണ്ടാവും. UpWork പോലുള്ള website കൾ വഴി project കൾ ചെയ്തു കൊടുക്കാൻ സാധിച്ചാൽ കഴിവുകൾ വളർത്തുന്നതിനോടൊപ്പം pocket money സന്പാദിക്കാനുള്ള അവസരവും ആയി.

സ്വന്തമായിട്ടുള്ള project കളും ആവാം. ഇത് പ്രോത്സാഹിപ്പിക്കുന്നതിനായി ഇന്ന് സംസ്ഥാന സർക്കാർ Idea Grant എന്ന പേരിൽ ഒരു പദ്ധതിയും രൂപപ്പെടുത്തിയിരിക്കുന്നു. പ്രോട്ടോടൈപ്പ് ഉണ്ടാക്കുവാൻ പരിശ്രമിക്കുന്നവർക്ക് രണ്ടു ലക്ഷം രൂപ വരെയും അവ വിപണിയിൽ എത്തിക്കുന്നതിന് വേണ്ടി പത്തു ലക്ഷം വരെയും ധന സഹായം grant ആയി ലഭിക്കുന്നു ഈ പദ്ധതിയുടെ ഭാഗമായി. ആശയങ്ങൾക്ക് പ്രചോദനമാകാൻ Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Wishberry എന്നീ website കൾ പരിശോധിക്കാവുന്നതാണ്. നമ്മുടെ project കൽ പ്രദർശിപ്പിക്കുന്നതിനും അതുവഴി വരുമാനം ഉണ്ടാക്കാൻ സാധിക്കുകയും ചെയ്യുന്ന മാർഗങ്ങളും online platform കളും അനവധി.

ഇങ്ങനെ സ്യമേധയാ ഇത്തരം course കളും project കളും ചെയ്യുന്നവർക്കും, online platform കൾ അല്ലെങ്കിൽ online discussion board കളിൽ പങ്കെടുത്തു നല്ല reputation score നേടുന്നവർക്കും ഇന്ന് ജോലി നേടുന്നതിൽ മുൻഗണനയും ലഭിക്കുന്നു.





WEQ 2018 Advocacy

WEQ or Women Entrepreneurship Quest is a program property of AnitaB.org India. Every year, 10 women founders from the country are taken on an all expense paid trip to Silicon Valley as part of the program. The program is supported by Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India and Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF).


WEQ 2016 winners in Silicon Valley

WEQ 2018 is the 7th edition and I have been associated with the program since the 2016 edition as a consultant. The program over the years has attracted some of the brightest tech founders in the country and today can boast of having a very strong alumni network. The list of previous winners can be viewed from the Rethink Wiki page of WEQ.

Applications to WEQ 2018 are being invited now. The deadline for submission of Stage 1 application is 30th of September 2018. Stage 1 application is what is open now — it essentially is an interest / qualifying form and would take only 2 minutes to submit. Participants who qualify to Stage 2 will then be required to provide more information. Shortlisted participants may have a video interview and the 25 finalists will be invited to Bangalore to present. More information on the program available on the WEQ 2018 official website. Link to application is bit.ly/WEQ2018.

I had also done a brief advocacy Live covering the brief aspects of the program. The video is available in the AnitaB.org FB page and is also embedded below for ease of reference.

WEQ 2018 Advocacy Live

As part of advocacy initiatives, every year since the 2015 edition, we have had previous winners come on FB Live and share their WEQ experience. The Lives are a part of WEQ advocacy and happen during the last week of the application phase. It is happening this year as well and we have have 3 Lives done so far — Meghna Saraogi of StyleDotMe, Supriya Rathi Bagri of RoboVR and Madhulika of Survaider. Between today and Sunday we have another 4 more of our WEQ founder doing their Lives — Kausambi Manjita of Kubric, Pallavi Bishnoi of RealTimeRenewables, Monika Shukla of LetsEndorse and Bhavjot Kaur of Clinikk. All Lives happen on the AnitaB.org India FB Page at 4pm — bit.ly/weqlives


FB Live Schedule — 28th Sep to 30th Sep

The Lives are a great resource for anyone who wishes to understand more about WEQ and also for those who wish to learn from some of the best women founders in the country on how they went about building their startups into strong dynamic organisations. All Lives, including the ones from previous years, have been organised as playlists and can be located from the videos section.

Student team from Startup Village rocks Innoz Hackathon at Bangalore

Note: This article was originally published on July 15, 2012

I have always believed in the potential of the young students in Kerala. Today was one of the days when I was vindicated. We had arranged a bus for some 20 odd talented students to travel to Bangalore on behalf of Startup Village and participate in the recently concluded Hackathon organized by Innoz. I had always held that exposure was the only key ingredient missing in our students from realizing their true potential. The amazing feat by the Startup Village mavericks at the Hackathon stands testimony to this fact and also left almost everyone dazzled.

The students that represented the Startup Village team @ Hackathon bagged the top honours for the first, second and the most popular app. It was one of those days in which the young boys from Kerala mesmerized the IT capital of India. Congratulations! All credit to you guys!

News link to the story

A personal request on entrepreneurship day!

Note: This article was originally published on September 12, 2013

Dear Startup Village well wishers,

A personal request on Entrepreneurship Day!

I believe you would have known about the Government’s decision to allocate 1% of the Government budget towards supporting youth entrepreneurship. The CM made this information public during his Hangout speech today. This has been influenced by the entrepreneurial momentum that was visible on the ground over the last one year and more particularly on the 28th of July at Startup Village. The Government has also come out with a revised Government Order simplifying the process by which our students can avail the attendance and grace marks as per the Student Entrepreneurship policy. Details are available on the CM’s website: http://www.keralacm.gov.in/sep/

I request you to all to spread the message to people in your fellow community as well by sharing the campaign video on your FB wall. The link to the post that contains our video is provided below. It would be great if you could also add your message or thoughts as well when you share the video. Do remind to include the hashtag #startupday

Startup Day: Building a better tomorrow together

Posted by SV.CO on Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Your shares will go a long way in ensuring that we provide sufficient feedback and support to the Government in their decision to support the startup journey of the youth of Kerala.

Regards, Sijo

I once travelled to Singapore on a 1 dollar ticket

Note: This article was originally published on April 15, 2014


I really like Singapore as a place. It’s a really well thought out city. And one of the things I really love about the place is its amazing library culture. But this piece of writing is not about Singapore. Rather it talks about how I ended up traveling to Singapore and how I ended up getting a taste of really cheap air travel while doing that.

My first trip to Singapore happened during my MBA days at Great Lakes. There was an international study tour that we could opt for and we ended up spending a week in Singapore and a week in Malaysia in that trip. It was a really good trip and I guess I got done with all my touristy things in that trip itself. Case in point being that it was the only time I visited Sentosa islands in Singapore

My next visit happened in 2011. I had put in my papers and was serving my notice period at Deloitte. In one of those days when I randomly browsing through various websites in my bid to while away time, I came across this banner ad of Tiger airlines on some website that mentioned a 1 dollar ticket. And I'm not hiding which site it was that I came across the ad. I really don’t recall. (I was in office, so I'm pretty sure it wasn’t porn).

The result of having being sensitised to all those ads which tried to lure you in to click on them with “Earn $$$’s online” “You just won” and all is that you tend to completely dismiss all those ‘sounds too good to be true’ information that you come across; even when they are true. And if I recall well, this ad was had some animation also in it, reminding you of the typical ads that you come across on torrent sites.

Fortunately I ended up checking out the link which took me to the website of Tiger airlines and after doing some browsing I really did discover that there were 1 dollar tickets available for some of the days mentioned in their travel period during which the offer was live. And fortunately for me, the travel period coincided with the completion of my notice period as well. I realised (or rationalised rather) that it would be a good vacation soon after my notice period and a good start to my sabbatical. I did ponder over it for a couple of days and then ended up buying the ticket and traveling to Singapore on a 1 dollar ticket. The fact that I actually got the ticket sort of made me a convert. Until that point, my experience in most similar situation would be something like this: You reach the site and it informs you that the tickets in that offer category are sold out. Then they end up nudging you to buy the regular higher priced one.

For the benefit of understanding this 1 dollar ticket fully, the 1 dollar fare was available for 1 way only. And there would be applicable taxes on top of it. The other fare worked out to be 128 USD or something and this was when USD was around the 45 INR mark. So all in all, I travelled round trip including visa fees for about 10k.

I signed up for the Tiger airlines newsletter post this experience and I have been exposed to some amazing offers subsequent to that. I couldn’t take advantage of almost all of them but some of them were really neat and tempting. Notable ones being buy 1 get 1 free, round trip to Australia for 7k (or was it one way?) and 24 hour flash sales that has tickets for 16–85 SGD. One of the other neat offers that I have come across in the past was an Air Asia round trip to Malaysia for 6k. And most recently, I received newsletters from Indigo, Spicejet & Emirates. Indigo is offering sub 5k tickets to travel to Dubai, SpiceJet is offering sub 5k tickets to Singapore and Emirates is offering 40k & 60k (round trip in the case of Emirates) to London & New York respectively.

At this stage it’s interesting to note that domestic travel within in India is comparable and in some instances expensive that international travel. This is without even factoring in that the service standards and overall flying experiences in these carriers that I mentioned is quite superior to the domestic ones. (Kingfisher was an exception, bet they aren’t around anymore unfortunately).

Domestic air travel expenses have really shot up since the exit of the two of the main players from the market: Air Deccan & Kingfisher. There was a time when it was normal to get a Cochin — Delhi ticket for around 4k with the peak rate working out to be around 8k. I haven’t even seen a sub 10k fare for Cochin — Delhi anytime in the recent past. I recently did come across some articles which mention that Captain Gopinath is soon going to be back with his next airline in an effort to make air travel cheap and affordable again. And I'm also really looking forward to Tony throwing in a dash of much needed competition into the Indian commercial aviation sector with his award winning Air Asia fleet!

You can do a lot with 20%

Note: This article was originally published on April 5, 2014


You can do a lot with 20%. The oft quoted Pareto’s 80/20 rule postulates that 80% of the output is produced by 20% of your efforts. This along with the Parkinson law (Work expands to fill the time you allocate for it) is the guiding principle behind almost all of the productivity hacks practices and advocated by Tim Ferris. I subscribe to the worldview that it is indeed so. It’s a different discussion altogether whether this theory (and the Parkinson theory) is valid and that can probably be taken up in a later post. But for the purposes of this article, let’s just assume for the time being that the Pareto principle holds. So the starting assumption is: You can create 80% results with 20% of your time and effort; and 80% is a lot!

Pareto principle — 80/20

Google introduced a 20% in its work culture in a very interesting way. All Googler’s are allowed to spend 20% of their time in their personal interest projects; projects that may not even have anything with to do with the objectives of the company. This was a masterstroke in so many different levels is my take; enhanced productivity, happier Googler’s, increased motivation and exposure to a vast repository of unbridled innovation. In our recent trip to Silicon Valley as part of SVSquare, we had the opportunity to meet and interact with the person who really got most of us hooked on to social networking; the founder of Orkut Mr. Orkut himself! Orkut was a project of his that he did while he was in college. He decided to pick it up and work on it as part of his 20% at Google when he joined the company. (FYI — Gmail & Adsense are also the products of the 20% policy of Google) It was his 20% and he worked on the entire project on his own. People started using it and now it needed to have a name. Apparently, Merrissa & Larry suggested to him that since he owned the domain of his name (orkut.com) already, he should just call his project Orkut and launch it right away. And that is how Orkut.com was born. And it changed the way we communicate with people online. You can do a lot with 20%!

With Orkut & Asha Jadeja at Googleplex during the SVSquare trip

Orkut is to social networking, what Captain Gopinath & Air Deccan was to domestic air travel in India. From the perception of being very expensive and hence the privilege of the elite, students started coming home during vacations in flights. Thanks to Air Deccan students staying in hostels could spend much lesser time traveling in trains and hence more time with family during their vacations; and that too at about the cost of a train ticket! Orkut changed the way we connected and stayed in touch with people. Gopinathan had a vision of making the common man be able to fly. Air Deccan changed the way we viewed domestic air travel in India. What Orkut had was only an interest, a hobby project if you will. Different motivations but equivalent in terms of impact in our everyday lives; both changed the way we do things!

We already had a 20% in the college ecosystem as it is. I was in the college basketball team when I was in college and in my final year, I also got to represent Kerala University. Now if you are a University player (or an elected Union member) you get upto 20% relaxation in attendance requirements (and also 4% marks). In my final year, I was both an elected College Union official and a University player. I would have loved to get 20% each for both resulting in a total of 40%, but the system allowed you to have only a maximum of 20%

There is another 20% that we have been championing for at Startup Village. Our request to the Government was simple; an entrepreneur, ie someone who is trying to create jobs and wealth in society, should be supported on par with someone who is pursuing sports. Nothing more but at least on par. All those efforts resulted in the Government of Kerala coming out with a Student Entrepreneurship Policy; a first for any state in the country. The policy enables college students to get 20% relaxation in attendance (duty leaves) and 4% additional marks (grace marks) if they are doing a startup with any Government of India (Department of Science & Technology) recognized incubators in the state. That’s pretty neat in itself. But lets also understand the significance of such a policy in slightly more detail.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy announced the policy in September 2011

What this means is that, if you are student, you have now been empowered with the choice of spending 20% of your time in pursuing projects that interest you. This is similar to what Google offered its employees. What that translates to me is that Kerala is now a state that has a human development policy on par with the HR policy as that of Google (the 20% rule at Google is regarded as a game changer, again a first of its kind, in how organizations viewed HR and employee productivity / engagement).

Googlers, now enabled with the 20% policy, have the ability to balance their work and their creative pursuits and still have the weekend to themselves to spend time with friends and family if they so wished. Similarly, a student in Kerala now need not be faced with the choice of pursuing academics OR attempting a startup. Enabled with the 20% policy, it’s now academics AND a startup; you now have an option and the opportunity to balance both. You spend 20% of your time on your personal project and Google pays you for that; you spend 20% of your time on your personal projects and University awards you with 20% attendance for that. It’s not a question of either this or that anymore. Its AND! The distinction is quite significant if you can truly appreciate. And that again is well aligned to the opportunity that this time and age offers.

Each and every student have the right to this 20%. In the sports format, the number of people who could claim it was limited; a basketball team can have only so many players after all. It was a zero sum game. With the 20% under the student entrepreneurship policy, no student will need to compete with his peer for his 20%. It’s not a zero sum game. On the contrary, you are better off collaborating.

Its been heartening to have various people from other parts of the country reaching out in an effort to understand more about this policy and to seek guidance on how they can go about implementing this in their state. The efforts and enthusiasm shown by the Vice Chancellor of Gujarat Technical University himself along with his enterprising colleague Hiranmay in getting such a policy implemented in the state of Gujarat was exemplary and require a special mention. I aspire of an imminent future when such an opportunity and benefit is extended to each and every student of our country!

You can do a lot with 20%. Orkut was built with 20%. Most students (including yours truly) cleared their engineering with 20%; both in terms of effort and time. Clearing 16–18 back papers along with regular papers within the span of late S7 and S8 is yet again a manifestation of the 80 / 20 rule! What will you do with your 20%? And you can do a whole freaking lot with 20%!

If you are a student in Kerala reading this, have you staked your claim to your 20%? If not, why not and what are you waiting for?

ABI India WEQ 2016 Facebook Live Sessions

Note: This article was originally published on October 13, 2016

WEQ (Women Entrepreneurship Quest) is a flagship startup competition targeted at early stage founders hosted by Anita Borg Institute supported by DST & IUSSTF. The top 25 will be invited to GHCI conference and 10 winners will be taken on an all expense trip to Silicon Valley. I also happen to be a consultant to this year’s edition of WEQ. More details can be availed from their website — bit.ly/WEQ2016

As part of the outreach efforts, there is a FB Live series that is being conducted and some fabulous women founders have been lined up. 3 Live sessions have been completed and 3 more are left — one happening today evening (at 4pm) and two tomorrow (at 11am & 4pm).

For today’s live it will be Shanti Mohan. She is the founder & CEO of LetsVenture, an online angel investing platform that has helped over 80 startups raise their angel funding (1Cr to 4Cr range) so far. Our very own iTraveller also managed to raise then 1Mn USD angel round thanks to the support they received from them.

One among the most powerful women founders in the Indian startup world now, Shanti has managed to rope in some of the best names in the angel investing world in the country to become investors into her company as well — the likes of Ratan Tata, Nandan Nilekani, Kunal Bahl, Sharad Sharma, Rajan Anandan etc. You can read more about Shanti here

Tomorrow we have Sairee Chahal of Sheroes in the morning. Sairee is a bit of a phenomenon in the women space and being a tv personality also earlier, she has quite the following as well. Sheroes, a career destination for women, is working towards reducing the gender gap in the workforce. Sheroes also recently raised Series A funding of 12 crores from Lumis partners. You can read more about Sairee here

One of the best ways to learn and broaden our perspective is through peer learning — from people who have been there and done that. And these women are some of the most accomplished in their respective domains. Those who nurture entrepreneurial ambitions or is looking to generally understand what is happening in the women startup space, these are the some of the best people that you could possibly connect with. Given that FB Live is also a QnA format, you also get to ask questions.

Given this context, should you feel that this could be beneficial for you in any way, I would highly recommend that you attend and take advantage of this FB Live talks that is happening today and tomorrow. Do also pass on the message to any friend or colleague of yours who could benefit. For those interested in attending the FB Live sessions, you can do so from the ABI India FB Page. Check out this GHCI blog post for more details.

Two more requests before I conclude

  • Should you be nurturing startup ambitions or know someone who does, do look at applying / do encourage them to apply — Link: bit.ly/WEQ2016
  • Would be great if you could chip in with a small contribution from your end. Should you find this opportunity valuable, request you to vouch / support retweeting this post on Twitter & sharing this post on Facebook