Archive for the 'startups' Category

What is inside matters

I was reading Shiv Khera‘s book ‘You can Win‘ recently and I read a story in it that kind of stood out, “A man was selling balloons at a fair. He had all the colors – blue, red, green that one could think of. Once in a while when the sales slowed down, he would send one of the helium filled balloons up in the air and as it flew up all the children wanted one and his sales would go up. A little boy came around, tugged at his shirt and asked him whether the black balloon would fly if he let it go. He calmly explained to the child that, “It is not the color of the balloon but what is inside it that makes it fly”. It is so true about people too.

We, at Sparkling Mindz, make the children realize this and guide them towards thinking and exploring rather than just merely looking at what others are saying or doing. They get a chance to be themselves and even surprise themselves by trusting that they can! It helps improve confidence levels, offers great avenues for self-expression and most importantly, helps them develop as unique individuals that they are. That has been our guiding philosophy from Day 1, that children are unique and different and if we treat them that way they will begin to respect that too.

If you are looking for an exciting place to work, if you are passionate about working with children and looking for a place where you can really make a difference in the lives of children, Sparkling Mindz is expanding and we are looking to hire trainers (learning facilitators) in several areas in Bangalore – Whitefield, Jayanagar, HSR Layout, Kalyan Nagar, Yelahanka, Malleshwaram to name a few. More details at our website – http://www.sparklingmindz.in/jobs.html. Again, if you think that you are the right person to create out-of-the-box experiences for children and are interested to do so, please email us your resume and we will revert asap!

A new journey – Sparkling Mindz

It’s been a while since I posted out here…life has been hectic, life has been venturesome!

About a year ago, an idea struck me that simply summed up as –  the only thing that can make you stand out in the crowd is how you think, learning to think should be taught at a much younger age than it is taught today and that, it should be fun while you are at it! So, I started Sparkling Mindz along with a group of like-minded individuals, who have been a pillar of support in the growth of this organization.

You may be wondering what Sparkling Mindz is? It is an after school program that provides children an opportunity to grasp thinking skills in a fun way!

It is exciting to see the children’s eyes light up they feel empowered to think, generate ideas and then apply it in their day-to-day lives! They learn to transform into confident, thinking individuals…

You can read more about the programs and about us on our website www.sparklingmindz.in and view pictures from the workshop at our facebook page. Do help by spreading the word and becoming a fan on our facebook page!

More on the journey soon….but do write in with your thoughts and comments. Most importantly, help us reach out as far and wide as possible by spreading the word around to those who can benefit and help us make an impact on millions of lives.

Uncomplicating Things

It is interesting how we end up complicating things way beyond necessary sometimes. Today I heard a comment, “You need a process around your process!” As if having one process was not good enough, you add a couple of layers on top of it so that neither you nor anyone looking at it later can understand what it was meant to do at the first place.

Let’s try and keep things simple. Uncomplicate. We need to scale but do we need to embrace complexity for the sake of it?

Technology is not the panacea – Part 2

The next part of the puzzle has to do with the traditional “market ethos” of “why break something that ain’t broken?” If you haven’t read the introduction to this series, you can catch it here (you might want to take a quick look at it before reading this thread)

One might argue, “let’s make things better” or “this is for their good”. But, asking someone to put in any more effort than what requires to keep things going doesn’t ring a bell of happiness in most people’s heads, it rings a bell of despair/alarm. (Obviously, I’m not referring to the market of “techno-enthusiasts” here)

They either know that you right, but don’t want to be the first adopters and hence, a ring of despair or they are alarmed that you are out to get them.

Take the case of school teachers, they all agree that technology could potentially improve the learning capability in students, but why should they be the learning scapegoats? Why, for the peanuts they earn, should they put in any kind of extra effort without a social/economic benefit to show for it (no extra pay, no climbing the hierarchy, no awards – you know, the works)? The prevailing majority attitude then becomes, let it happen independently. That shows for the success of many online tutoring services and several other direct to student technologies. One might ask, what about the success of the likes of Educomp, Everonn etc. – that, for me, is a subject of another post. I’m referring to technology from the teacher’s point of view in this example.

Lets take another example, the nation’s favorite for technology advancement – farmers! All the incubation labs in the country are buzzing with activity around creating technology innovation for farmers. What is the story on the other side though? Alarm bells start ringing in their heads when you talk of any new technology introduction. They think that you might have a trick or so up your sleeve and hence want them to use the technology that you are talking about. Call it lack of knowledge, their hand-to-mouth existence that precludes trial-n-error or “been-there-been-tricked” experiences.

All this results in the best of the technology interventions not being met with the kind of excitement or implemented with the kind of enthusiasm that was intended. What with all the effort that was put into creating the “cool technology wonder”? Be it the lowest cost laptop, the simplest digitally controlled water pump – if the team doesn’t make an equally gallant effort (as for creating product) into delving and unifying the product experience with the market ethos – it is bound to just remain “a newsworthy cool technology”, nothing more.

Healthy, snacky recess food for children?

I was passing through a school corridor during recess. As I was navigating my way through noisy children running about all over the place, I noticed how children opened up packets of junk food and gobbled it up (and continued running). Also reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend of mine, Vaishali, who told me that packing snacks for her kids that is healthy and yet, tasty was a daily challenge of her creativity. The other day, I read in the newspaper an interesting news article of how schools were requesting parents not to send “messy” foods like chutney and sauce for lunch/recess snacks. All in all, I can see the dilemma of the parents and their concern over the health of their children. Of course, children need something interesting to eat during recess, that is a given.

All these independent dots, bring me to an interesting idea – if there was a company that came out with packaged food that was healthy and yet snacky so that either parents picked it up at retail stores or children had access to it during school recess hours, it opens up a very interesting and socially responsible business opportunity for them. What say?

Quick & Dirty Market Check

The other day I received an email from Vijay Anand as part of a group that I’m also part of. It was about the ongoing debate between figuring out the business model vs. writing a detailed business plan for startups today. I will cover my thoughts on that topic in a later blog post.

This blog, however, is on a note that caught my attention in the email. It said that startups should test the market quickly by doing a “lean” product/solution and turn it around/change it if it does not stick in the market. He also gave an example from their current incubator.

My concern on this is the following, any startup especially the one trying to develop a new market is trying at some level to change people’s behaviors/habits. We are coming up with a new of getting information, collecting it, storing it, accessing it, implementing knowledge, new technology-based tools – and more…While, many of them can be created as a minimalistic products/solutions and test-marketed for a few weeks or months, the change in behavior required to cause even a ripple in the market and create product/solution adoption may not occur in the same time frame (in fact, I’m sure with new markets it will not). It will not even show signs of changing.

But, this is not an argument against doing the quick and dirty market check. What it will show you, in fact, is what you are really up against and it might even point you in the direction of incorporating some changes in the product. The answer to big ground-level changes does not really lie in only figuring out a “business model” or writing a “business plan” . It is in the vision that this change can happen or is required to happen for the world to be a better place. Don’t get me wrong, it is important to figure out how to build something tangible and repeatable for sure but it is also important not to get discouraged while doing so and hence vision is important. I hope people don’t start shelving their plans because nothing moved in the market based on their quick and dirty market check. I agree, it shakes you, quite a bit and it should. Like Steve Blank says, “No business model survives first contact with customers” . But, if you have the right vision and you are solving the right problem, keeping an eye on the market and an ear close to the ground will help you see it through.

Delighting your customer

I’ve to acknowledge that in this world of “heavy” sales pitch and large budget marketing, we fail to notice people who provide us service quietly, efficiently and go out of their way to do a good job, yet don’t make a big fuss about it. We give these people repeat business because they are good at their work, but they don’t get written about or awarded or given accolades for helping make people like do better. I want to talk about a printer guy that I’ve been working, who has done an excellent job of delighting us. (I’ve to mention he is tardy and never keeps time, but this post is not about that!)

We are a startup and I don’t end up giving him large quantity orders. Orders range from 500-1500 pieces for print and at these quantities most (offset) printers refused to give me good rates. He on the other hand, the first time I worked with him, took up the job gladly, did it in reasonably good time and offered me a very good price for the order. The second time I worked with him, he gave me a substantial discount on a price that we had agreed upon (which was already a good price as per the market) and he did it again the third time round! I was surprised when I saw the bill.

I never had the time to thank him for this gesture and he never made a hue and cry about it either. I finally did it today and I’m giving him repeat business for sure. But, more importantly, I learnt a thing about “delighting one’s customer” without making a big fuss about it from him today. If you are good and you are giving your customers something of value, they will realize it without you having to do “heavy-duty” pitching.

This lesson is even more important because he doesn’t speak English or Hindi that well at all, at least not well enough to have a “misunderstanding-free” conversation and so much for the importance of learning “English” that we place in India. Anyway, I’m tending to believe more and more that in life it is really important to do one or two things really well and just get the rest of the things “right” enough, that defines success more than well-roundedness! What say guys?


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