Category Archives: Management thoughts

Manu Srikumar, Denture Capital

An exclusive interview with Manu Srikumar, Hustler at ‘denture Capital’

There is no doubt that startup ecosystem in India is buzzing like never before. Hence, we have seen various initiatives around entrepreneurship being nurtured across the country. Rightly so, these initiatives help both budding and established entrepreneurs to network, exchange thoughts and provide a helping hand to each other. Some of the major startup oriented initiatives are YourStory, NextBigWhat, TechCircle, TiE, The Startup Centre, Startup Saturday etc. The common elements that cuts across these initiatives are events, meetups, online publications, investor meetups etc. Its indeed a crowded space where every initiative is trying its best to build a strong network of entrepreneurs and support them.

Recently, I came across this new initiative called denture Capital floated by Manu Srikumar. I have known Manu for last couple of years. Once over a casual chat on one of the social networks, when he shared the news about him having quit Doctor’s Circle. However, he quickly added that, he would soon return with an exciting project. And weeks after, with no further surprise, it was denture Capital. Unlike other publication outlets, he has taken a very different route by creating short videos, featuring him, where he almost plays the role of a standup comedian, but conveys all recent updates from the entrepreneurship world. Manu through his videos has featured startups, shared updates about funding and lot more about startups in the country. Recently he did a crazy video with Shraddha Sharma, Founder & CEO at YourStory, which can’t be described, but has to be viewed!

Liked the video? Now, let’s move on to know more about denture Capital from the man himself

Explain what is denture Capital in 140 characters! ?

denture Capital is a weekly show on startups. The brain tonic for the upstart!

What is the vision of ‘denture Capital’?

To be the most loved show on startups.

What are three things that an entrepreneur can expect from ‘denture Capital’?

He/she can have a good time and laugh on a Friday evening, get featured if he/she is doing good work and keep updated on things happening around him/her.

How is ‘denture Capital’ differently positioned with respect to other startup/entrepreneurship oriented communities and initiatives?

While startups are different from the corporate, startup media still remains corporatish. We want to present it startupish.

What were your thoughts behind launching a series of video content for entrepreneurship space?

Content consumption patterns are changing. People are watching more and more video. We wanted to do a show around this that people love and look forward to. We also felt our audience will definitely have some takeaways from watching the show.

Tell us something about the jovial tone all ‘denture Capital’ videos are based so far. Will you continue to do so in future? Do you sense a challenge in sustaining this tone for long term?

denture Capital is a refreshing take on startup news and parody. More than jovial, we try to keep it simple and easy to comprehend. In the process, we add a lot of fun. Yes, we will continue the same tone for the show.

We are inherently funny people! I don’t think it will be difficult sustaining the tone.

Was it a conscious choice of not launching a website first? If yes, what’s your strategy behind it?

I think the goal for any company should be to do an MLP, a Minimum Lovable Product. Work on things that are your core. Though a website is definitely up on the cards, our initial goal was to see if our videos are loved by the audience. Now that we know they are, we will build a website.

Plus, since we are in distributed content, we exist where our audience hangs out. So, our focus will be more on YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and other forms of new media.

What’s the thought behind a lowercase ‘d’ and an uppercase ‘C’ in ‘denture Capital’?

To get people thinking! Look, we made you think because we did this differently.

Are you keen on hiring (or looking for contributors) and expanding the team? If yes, in what profiles?

We look for Hustlers. We believe skills can be taught. We don’t mind hiring Hustlers and then training them on video production, community engagement and other skills that we will need in the future as we grow.

Loved the concept? Go, now and subscribe ‘denture Capital’ on YouTube and don’t miss the next video from them! If you intend to join Manu’s gang and contribute, connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Thank you Manu, for your kind gesture to share details about ‘denture Capital’. I am sure ‘denture Capital’ would do wonders in the weeks to come. All the best!

Jungle Book Movie 2016

10 Key Corporate Lessons from Jungle Book Movie

Is Jungle Book movie just kids’ movie? I thought so before entering the movie hall. But, once I walked out, I realized it had few learning for us adults as well. In fact, I could draw a lot of parallels between jungle situation and corporate environment. In each of the animal characters, I could visualize a type of person we often meet in our daily lives at work.

1) Register the tricks shared by mentors: The Jungle Book movie opens with the race between Bagheera-The Panther and Moghli, which Bagheera wins. Though Moghli is disappointed at losing the race, he ends up learning the key lesson about Dead Trees. Well, many of us would have assumed that shot being ‘just a perfect opening’, while little did we realized in the beginning that this lesson would play a crucial role in the climax of the movie. Moghli remembered the trick and leveraged it to win the battle against Sher Khan. It’s a classic learning for young professionals that they should not only learn the tricks shared by mentors, but also register them firmly in their minds. Who knows, those tricks might come to your rescue a decade later!

2) Show team spirit not only during good times but also during crisis: There were numerous instances in the Jungle Book movie where team spirit was displayed. We all enjoy our happy-go times in corporate celebrating each other’s birthdays, team accomplishments, etc. But, the key lesson the movie tries to drive is to maintain the team spirit even during crisis situations like the Water Truce instance or the final battle against Sher Khan, while all animals got together to fight the beast.

3) Look for the dependable savior around and hold on to them: Let’s admit, it’s tough to find such a mentor in today’s professional life. Yes, but its not impossible! We just have to be careful in evaluating people and not get swayed by the fancy degrees one has, or the higher numerical job experience one flaunts. More than these tangible elements, what we all look for in a dependable savior like Bagheera-The Panther, is a person whom we can trust at all times, and whom we can depend on relevant and valuable advice.

4) Beware of people who might deceive you: Oh, we all would have encountered one such person in our lives like Moghli had with Kaa-The Snake, in the Jungle Book movie. We need to be extra vigilant from such people who possess sharp skills to deceive people in their own game. Though, this is tough to have a skill, we should regularly train ourselves in evaluating people whom we interact and beware from such people.

5) Negotiate smartly: Corporate life is all about negotiations with clients / colleagues / superiors. The Jungle Book movie beautifully exhibited couple of trade-off situations – Baloo-The Bear’s negotiation with Moghli to get him honey from high rocks, King Louie’s negotiation with Moghli to get him Red Flower (fire), Sher Khan’s negotiation to get him Moghli himself. Only one of these three negotiations materialized, while the other two had to meet fatal end. Negotiation is one of the key skills that modern day professionals are expected to have, irrespective of the job profile they are in. We professionals need to gradually inculcate this art and excel at it.

 6) Avoid stereotyping: Just because few men caused fire in the jungle, Sher Khan-The Tiger assumed Moghli’s father also to destroy the jungle. Sher Khan-The Tiger, in the Jungle Book movie attacked Moghli’s father and killed him just as he had stereotype about all human beings. We often stereotype people based on their caste, religion, college etc. Its a great lesson for all of us to avoid stereotyping and judge the situation based on its merit.

7) Capitalize on limited resources: The Jungle Book beautifully showed how Moghli made the most of limited resources that were available to him. Many a times in the corporate we face situations where resources are limited and we have a steep milestone to be achieved. One should not put down the towel citing limited resources as a reason, but should work around them and achieve the end objective.

8) Don’t aspire for false pride: There is a huge difference between aspiring for false pride and working towards success relentlessly. King Louie – The Bandar King in Jungle Book movie aspired to become powerful by claiming the red flower (fire), as he thought it to be the key ingredient of being powerful. Success doesn’t come easily and it definitely doesn’t come from imitating the other’s tricks. Even if you imitate you got to understand the relevance of those tricks in your situations. We need to craft our own success path instead of trying to find shortcuts from other’s success.

9) Avoid over-confidence: Sher Khan-The Tiger in the Jungle Book movie had enormous over confidence about this strength. He thought he would easily win over the young kid. However, the battle was won by the kid. Many of us tend to be over confident once we reach the zenith of our career. This learning mostly applies to all senior leaders who think they have achieved their highest point in the career and can’t be brought down. Well, it’s a big mistake. One should never underestimate the younger generation and their capabilities to surpass us.

10) Show loyalty: In the Jungle Book movie, though Moghli realized that he didn’t belong to the wolves race, he chose to stay with them. As soon as his life was in danger, he could have easily moved to the village and saved his life. But, he chose to fight the situation and always considered himself to be one amongst the other animals in the jungle.  We professionals too need to show our loyalty towards our organizations. However, the key aspect of loyalty is that it should flow from both sides. Like, in the Jungle Book movie, even animals showed love and respect to Moghli. Similarly, in reality organizations need to respect and appreciate their employees and not treat them just as replaceable resources!

Usually in such movies (like Life of Pi), we appreciate the cinematography, while most of us ignore the message that the movie makers are trying to convey. While I was watching the movie, I could relate lot of characters to people around me in corporate and personal situations.

I hope you would find these lessons to be useful. Did you have any other lesson from the movie? Please share in the comments section below.

Cashkaro.com Launches Funny TVCs Yet Driving Strong Social Message

Cashkaro.com has been one of my favourite online business model brands that has impressed me in recent times. They recently came up with two TVCs which has been going viral for quite sometime now. Though the pitch that brand made while launching these TVCs was that they are funny and highlighting their value proposition. However, I could also sense that these TVCs drive strong social message in a subliminal manner. In this blogpost, I will talk what’s so unique about their TVCs.

But, before that let me set the context by asking you all readers to think for a minute on brands that you remember have been successful to drive social message through their TVCs. I am sure many of you would recollect Tata Tea (Jaago Re campaign) or Idea (Latest campaign being ‘India ko no ullu banaowing’) or Titan (Remarriage campaign) and some of you would also relate to Amul’s billboards that try to cover the contemporary news. It has been a successful strategy for brands to leverage social message and build strong brand recall.

Let’s talk about how Cashkaro.com has tried to do the same. These are the two TVCs so far by the brand:

1) Hindu temple priest

2) Marriage event

Were you able to realize the social messages? If not, here is my take:

1) Hindu temple priest: Hindu is the predominant religion in India and people of this country have enormous faith in God. They consider the temple priests to be direct messengers of the God and blindly conduct whatever the priests ask them to do. One of the most common behavior of people visiting temples is to donate some cash on the puja plate. Some do it with the noble thought that this money would be utilized for temple’s development or the money would be used for a noble cause like feeding poor etc. However, many of them have a blind belief and enter into a cognitive deal with God that in case their wish gets fulfilled, they will donate X amount of money to the temple. Many prominent temples in this country earn crores of rupees in this manner. Some are well managed but, I am sure most of them have become a business model for so called wealthiest people around in the city / village.

I feel that this TVC highlights this area of corruption that is highly prevalent in this country and may be urges people to have a second thought before they blindly donate money to the temples.

2) Marriage event: Now, this is my favourite. Dowry, the hottest debate topic in India and also the most cruelest as it has led to many deaths. It is very well known that many women are tortured and even in worst case hacked to death in case her parents fail to provide the dowry that groom’s parents demand for. The situation depicted in this TVC is also one of the most emotional scenes in many Bollywood flicks. I feel this version tries to create an awareness amongst youth to avoid demanding dowry.

I feel these two TVCs have been a great output with best blend of highlighting social message and yet being funny for people to maintain interest. I won’t be surprised to see following themes in the future episodes of Cashkaro.com’s TVCs:

1) Kid and parent going to school / college for admission and the kid taking back few bucks as ‘cashback’ from the donation that parent pays to seek admission

2) A couple riding a bike being stopped by traffic policemen, husband paying bribe to get away fast and wife snatching back few notes as ‘cashback’

3) Jailor sneaking in few currency notes inside jail and taking ‘cashback’ from convicts

4) Youth being caught at airport by customs officer and the officer ‘earning cashback’ and allowing youth to sneak few products without paying custom duties

5) Election campaigner ‘taking cashback’ from the money that is given to voters (mostly a day before the election).

PS: This is not a sponsored blogpost. The promoters of Cashkaro.com do not have any clue about this blogpost, until they see it live.

 

Quantification Matters, But Only To An Extent

Twitter has always been my favourite social media platform for the richness it drives home everyday. Rarely, would you believe that a 140 (or often less than 140) character message can spark an insightful discussion and leave you with thoughts to ponder upon for the rest of the day. One such incident happened yesterday (4th December) when one of my very good Twitter friend @SoravJain tweeted about the year end and the time for Bollywood awards to creep in. I replied and soon another friend (@bijli) too replied to Sorav’s reply. Here is the conversation:

 

But, what did I take back? The learning remains the following:

The numbers or ratings don’t really matter in one’s life. What matters is its relevance. The other day I had a similar discussion in my office and was stumped to see a colleague defend with arguments of Filmfare award’s history. Well, the point of discussion was never around the merit of awards, the focus was ‘how influential are these awards / ratings / rankings really in a consumer’s daily life?’ Sooner or later, we would be bombarded with back to back award nights and I bet a month later hardly any of us would remember who won-what-in which award! Same applies to B-school rankings. How many magazines, newspapers, websites do we see every year come up with various rankings for business schools? Don’t we get confused by them? Don’t we hit the roadblock where we wonder on which ranking should we base our decisions on? I remember an instance when my former colleague went across to search various forums researching the credibility of a journalism college where he intended to study. Though, the college was ‘the best’ in its domain, thanks to the rankings, he searched in deep about the institute, spoke with various stakeholders of the institute and did all ground work. Dear marketers, that’s how today’s consumers are!

Courtesy: Kristin Lebovitz

Courtesy: Kristin Lebovitz

Let’s be honest! I don’t totally nullify the importance of these surveys / rankings / ratings etc. But, I do question when people make a hue & cry around and/or about them. These objective measures have further penetrated to our living rooms in the form of voting for various reality shows, where we TV audience who switched on TV sets to have an entertainment, are asked to vote for the candidates (marketers consider this as an effective tactic to increase customer engagement). How many times we have seen our favourite contestant leave the show, just because he/she fell short of ‘few votes’! I recall when the young girl was crowned as Junior Indian Idol. My heart went out for those other three kids who reached the final four stage. When I tweeted about this, I received replies stating that she was the youngest and so on. I seriously hate to see when Sanjeev Kapoor (the popular chef) rates the recipes (on a scale of 10/20) prepared by the contestants in the popular reality show – Sanjeev Kapoor ke Kitchen Khiladi. I wish to ask him, if he is really doing justice to his task.

No wonder some of the media professionals (both client and agency side) focus on numbers while building a social media community. Sorry to write, but my harsh words to them would be ‘do allocate a budget to gather crowd on your funeral, than just relying on your family & friends’. After all larger the number, better it is! Right?

My only point after all these above anecdotes is:

Numbers, be it in profession or personal lives do matter only to a certain extent. One needs to invariably apply the ‘qualitative’ factors thereafter to have a comprehensive understanding.

sfd

My experience of The Rodinhoods Open House session at IIT Delhi


There would hardly be an entrepreneur (especially in gaming / technology industry) in this country who hasn’t heard about Alok Kejriwal. His glowing face, impeccable business understanding, true to the heart words on his tongue and confidence in his voice completes the package of a charismatic personality. I have heard in the past about him and his open house sessions, but on 9th Nov, I had the opportunity to attend one such for the first time, which was conducted at IIT Delhi campus.

Rodinhood Open House

I reached before the scheduled time and took my seat at the back of the seminar hall which seemed to have a seating capacity of around 200 people. Only a few people were around in the hall, and once this gentleman entered the hall, the dull seminar hall all of a sudden transformed into a vibrant place. People shook hands with him, a few of them had an opportunity to greet him with a hug and few tap on his back, while he greeted everyone around. Just when I thought he would be doing only this to few people sitting at the front of the hall, I was proved wrong, when this person walked right up to the last few rows where I and few others were seated. While he shook hands with me, I was embarrassed with myself to have misjudged his personality.

Soon the seminar hall started becoming a crowded place with people. These were some of the bright entrepreneurs of the country who chose an unconventional path and were happy to toil with the hope of achieving their dreams.

The best surprise for me was when the house was asked to stand up for the national anthem! How many times have you seen that happen at a business meet / conference / open house session? It was first of its kind experience for me and loved the gesture.

The major attraction of the 3.5 hour session was the ‘There but not There’ presentations. Few entrepreneurs who had ventured in to a business but were still struggling to make it big presented their ideas and they asked their doubts to Alok & others presented in the hall. I loved this format where entrepreneurs had an opportunity to share their idea among the like-minded people to receive both brickbats and appreciation. Alok replied to their queries with a straight forward answer, asked few questions back to the presenter, offered them help in couple of cases and also involved the audience to pitch in and help the presenter to deal with the problem.

Then there were three surprise announcements of which, I am sure everyone walked off the seminar hall with these two memorable instances.

First, Autowallah entrepreneur counted the number of customers who took his auto. He knew the distribution of male-female in the total number count. He had the count of repeat customers. Guess what! All these fingers were on his fingertips, who also enabled employment to about 23 people under him, of which we recently fired four people for having misbehaved with female commuters. This shy, lanky, hindi-spoken guy impressed almost everyone in the hall and not only he earned lot of appreciation but also, made everyone realize the importance one should give to the end customer. Nevertheless, why its said ‘Customer is King’.

Second, the blogpost by Abhinav Sahai, Founder and Director of Niswey titled, Flat, marriage and family – 3 reasons why young Indians don’t turn entrepreneurs! that received more than 1,00,000 views on The Rodinhoods website. Inspired by this blogpost, few youngsters prepared a short film.

The main attraction to me of the event were these valuable principles / suggestions by Alok Kejriwal for entrepreneurs based on his 14 years of experience:

  1. Be the Coolie – one should not feel shy to do even the smallest task of his / her company
  2. Find a mentor – it is very critical to identify an appropriate mentor
  3. Don’t have a destination – don’t be too rigid and one should be flexible to adapt the changing business environment, customer behaviour, competitive scenario etc.
  4. Hire people better than you & also convey them that they are better than you
  5. Suffer – the entrepreneurship journey is definitely not a cakewalk
  6. Never stop looking – always look for opportunities and leverage them
  7. Dont be obsessed by milestones – Celebrate but move ahead and aim to achieve the larger picture
  8. Watch out for bad advisors – Its better to not have an advisor than to have a bad one
  9. Find your skill – Identify your strength and leverage it to the maximum
  10. Please remain humble – Very important to remain grounded with every success
  11. Only live for your family – Nothing is more precious than your family, value them
  12. Meet your heroes – Aim, plan and meet the best people in your industry, the role models and discuss your project with them
  13. Meditate – Very much needed in this hypercompetitive environment
  14. Share your idea, doubt, thoughts with others around and see what they think about them
  15. Be yourself….only yourself!

Retrospectively, these pointers look very simple, but I feel that’s what differentiates between the more successful and not so successful people. Though these look very simple tips, as an entrepreneur think how often you implement these in your life.

I am presently not an entrepreneur but what motivated me to attend this open house session was to grab a few learning from the erstwhile crowd who are soaked in this madness. I did try my hands on entrepreneurship but couldn’t sustain it long and here is why.

At the end of the day, few pointers that stuck my mind were:

a) Doing is what matters. If something is itching you for long, and you believe that you have a solution for it, just go for it before you reach a stage where you repent of not having done it

b) As an entrepreneur be prepared to fail. Learn from your failures and move on, rather than cry over it

c) Meet as many people as you can in the real world and evangelize your business. Alok had the figures that he has collected over 5,000 visiting cards which exhibits the pain he takes in meeting people and introducing his business.

d) Sometimes you fail because you are just early for the market. Hence, timing your entry and exit is very crucial.

e) Quality of service is what differentiates even a product based business from the other. Focus on providing best service to the customers.

In short, I enjoyed the open house to the core and would recommend all entrepreneurs to attend The Rodinhoods Open House sessions whenever you get a chance to do so.

Update: How can I forget this awesome gift by Alok to every Rodinhooder who attended the Open House session. He tirelessly handed over this book to each one of them and clicked an image with them.

Yogi