Raj's Lab

Strategy and Entrepreneurship


Happy Children’s Day 2015

Factual Details: 14th November every year is celebrated as Children’s Day in India. It is because 14th November is the birthday of India’s First Prime Minister – Jawaharlal Nehru. He loved children and insisted that they be given love and affection, because they were the future of his beloved motherland.

But what we miss is that there is a child inside every one of us. And it is the grown-up in us who stops the child inside us from manifestation. While all of this may seem abstract and philosophical, ask anyone who is towards the end of their life and he or she is bound to speak about the innumerable things they wanted to do, but never did. Why? Because they let the grown-up voice in them get the better of themselves.

The only way to truly live life is to live like a child, with that childlike attitude. It is a life of curiosity, joy, experimentation, and fun. A life without inhibitions, without prejudice, without fear of failure and without a need to comply to others beliefs. I strive hard as a teacher to embed this lesson into every class I teach and at every level. Let us allow the child in us to live all through life.

Happy Children’s Day!

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India’s Demographic ____________ (what)?

Indians have a fascination for records. We seem to do anything to become record holders! Let me not say more. But last week there was news that we have created a record which is very difficult to beat – Only 1 in every 6250 can get to be a peon!

23 Lakh young (mostly) Indians applied for 368 ‘peon’ positions in a state government. Representative News Link: http://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/255-phd-holders-among-23-lakh-lining-for-peon-s-job-in-up-115091600880_1.html (So many newspapers and periodicals have news items on this). Please read.

RECORD: 6250 applicants for every peon position. This includes graduates, post graduates and PhD holders! Embarrassing?

Why is this happening in India? Why is everyone blaming everyone else? Whose job is it to create jobs? I’m surprised we still think the Government can create all the jobs! If we don’t allow our industries to grow, there are never going to be enough jobs ever. I will be surprised if the common man does not understand this.

We keep hearing “Demographic Dividend” – I hope this above record provides a clarion call to everyone in this Nation that if we do not do something about the youth, there is going to be chaos and social instability. We will become a sick society and this so called “Demographic Dividend” will turn into “Demographic Liability”. So if we have to do something about this, at least two things come to my mind:

A) Make it easier for entrepreneurship

We have been doing pretty badly in most world ranking with regards to doing business. Be it the ‘Doing Business’ reports or the ‘World Innovation’ rankings or any ranking. While Indians do very well as entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs outside the country, why are they not able to perform within the boundaries of our nation? Lets do something about it.

We need more entrepreneurs. We need more of our youth turning into job creators. Even if they provide employment for 10 people each I think they need to be celebrated, because there will be trickling down of wealth. Lets make it easier to be entrepreneurs in this country.

B) Make education more responsible

While many people are not even getting educated, the ones who do, are not learning much as they pass through the education system. Our Universities and Institutions are slowly becoming ‘degree-holder’ manufacturers. Our universities themselves need entrepreneurship. They need innovation. They need entrepreneurial academics. Lets become them if we can, else move aside and let the ones who can do it, do it.

The time has come to make education responsible. People need to be told that if they cannot display certain basic skills they will not get their degrees. They must be encouraged to experiment. They must be encouraged to become entrepreneurs. Teachers must inspire innovative ideas and initiatives and not kill them as they arise. This is not just the responsibility of the student alone, but the teacher, the administrators, the policy makers, the politicians and the entire ecosystem.

There is need for entrepreneurship in every sphere of Indian society. Be it the Government, the University, the Professions, etc. Lets breed entrepreneurship. As a teacher I encourage every student I meet to try their hands at entrepreneurship. I am happy some of my students have turned entrepreneurs and created jobs.

Think how you can encourage entrepreneurship in your role (parent, teacher, boss, policy maker, administrator, etc). Do whatever it takes!

Only ideas have changed the world. What is your idea? Make it see the light of day. Change the world.

A small wee bit!


It’s Monday, not Sunday! So what?

In recent times I have been infrequent in my posting on the blog. Its not that interesting things are not happening in life, but just that excuses seem to have taken greater control. Hence I decided that I will write from last Sunday (yesterday). But for some reason, I had enough excuses to not pick the computer and type those words. As I was reflecting over this, I told myself “Since you have decided to write every Sunday, let me start next Sunday.” But on closer objective viewing I soon realised that it has been the same excuse which has kept me from writing over the last few weeks / months.

So, I decided to fight over this excuse inside me. I told myself I will start today, even though it is Monday and not Sunday. I can always go back to Sunday from the coming weekend. At least I would have started and hopefully this will bring back the old discipline and routine to writing.

I see this in almost every individual I meet. Even the so called successful ones fight this problem almost every day. They win over their excuses and make things happen. And that seems to make the difference between those who do and the ones don’t. So, my urge to every entrepreneur and/or entrepreneurial individual I meet is – win over your excuses to doing. There will be a hundred forces which stop you along the way, but don’t be stopped. Just thrive. Just push that little bit. That is all it takes to be happy. The fact that you tried.

There is nothing greater than trying. The sports season is at its peak on the campus I stay – so in true sportsman spirit – lets play for playing is the only thing.

Lets not try to be perfect for there is no such thing in the world. Think about it. But more importantly start actioning your thoughts.

Lets start!


The elusive ‘Focus’

As a perpetual student and researcher (now doctoral scholar) I always look for ways to learn about focus. As a teacher I talk a lot about focus to my students. As an advisor / consultant, I try to help my clients bring focus to their initiatives.

‘Focus’ seems to be a magical tool to maximise output. But most often it is elusive and misses our grip. The price we pay for losing focus is large, especially over a lifetime. This is one thing I hear from every successful scholar I interact with. It is the same secret shared by every entrepreneur I meet. Today I want to share with you an excellent episode that I observed over the past week which is an example of what ‘focus’ means.

Background: Becoming a doctoral student has enabled me do what I love most – be with books and read them voraciously. I spend all the time I can in the wonderful library of my institute. With thousands of books, magazines, journals, handbooks, encyclopaedias, research reports, online databases, information banks, audio-visuals, etc., the collection humbles me every time I enter this temple.

Episode: Recently, there was a young boy who had joined one of the courses offered by the institute. He over the past few days routinely visited the library every evening after classes. He spent about two hours every day at the same place. He used to come in with his laptop, settle near the section containing CDs/DVDs (movies, talks, etc) and systematically download information on to his laptop. It almost became a ritual. Without any distraction from people moving around, he continued with his task. It seemed in about a week, he had accomplished copying all the data available on CD/DVD form in the library. He simply disappeared after that.

Learning: Develop ‘focus’ by developing: Goal + Ritual + Repetition.

1. Goal: Set a clear goal. (He wanted to copy only CD/DVD movies onto his laptop)

2. Ritual: Set a time everyday to do the activity. (He sat every day after class at the same time)

3. Repetition: Persevering till goal is reached. (He kept coming till the act was completed)

While the episode might seem funny to some, it clearly has lessons for life in it. If one can set clear goals, all other aspects / distractions can be easily / naturally ignored. Once a time slot is allocated for an action (however mundane), it enables progress. Because of clear goal and time allocation, perseverance is possible (measuring your way to completion).

Though the episode is not important, just try to apply the same to your most important task. While copying movies from CD/DVD was probably that young boy’s goal then, what is your’s now?

If you are a researcher / scholar – are you clear about what you should read and complete by when? are you sure when (every day) you are going to do just that and nothing else?  are you persevering to get back to the act everyday?

If you are an entrepreneur – are you clear about what your current experiment is? Are you sure about what actions you should engage in everyday (sales/product development)? Are you repeating the action every day at an appointed time? Are you measuring yourself against some set goal and persevering to reach it?

Developing focus is not easy. If it was, every one of us would have been manifesting our talent’s maximum. But sadly, focus differentiates the successful over the crowd. Being entrepreneurs or entrepreneurial academics is almost the same thing – both require focus – focus on what one wants to achieve in the immediate term, medium term and long term. Set a specific time every day to engage in the act. Measure and persevere to get back to the act at the appointed time.

I do not know who this boy is. I probably will not recognise him the next time I see him. But I thank him from the bottom of my heart for he clearly taught me through his actions, what focus meant, how it can be achieved and what to do when it is done. Just disappear from here to the next!

FORMULA: Goal + Ritual + Repetition = Focus 

Think about it!


3 Habits to sharpen the writer in you

I recently came across a short paragraph summarising three succinct pieces of advice for writers by Madeleine L’Engle. I presume it will be useful to writers of any kind / genre. The three pieces of advice is not new but is a strong reinforcement of the advice we normally hear:

1. Keep an honest, unpublished journal which only you (writer) reads

2. Read. Read. Read. No writer became one without reading.

3. Write everyday, however little.

I cannot tell you how important these simple and direct messages are. Though they seem so obvious, anyone who has written anything will acknowledge how easy it is to lose these messages from our mind. I was so happy to have come across this short blurb – http://explore.noodle.com/post/96582787828/i-have-advice-for-people-who-want-to-write-i

If you want to write, remind these rules to yourself often. It will enable you be a good one and more importantly, a happy one!

Think about it!

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Ideating on ‘wearables’ as an opportunity in class

When we teach entrepreneurship one of the topics that is truly difficult to cover is ideation and opportunity identification. Most teachers find it difficult because students seem to be more aware about trends than teachers, and rightly so. But what teachers should do is enable students look deeply into trends and changes taking place in the society. One such trend is – wearables.

Google Glass has inspired enough individuals to try their hands at wearable devices. People are now wearing more smart devices than ever before. While I was teaching entrepreneurship to a group of textile engineering students, I was amazed at the number of innovations students could come out with in something as simple as clothes. I decided to push them further and hence divided the class into smaller groups and asked them to come up with what individuals would like of their clothes and if clothes could respond to them. Each of them amazed the entire group by coming up with so many innovative ideas, from simple temperature handling clothes, to color changing clothes, to mood enhancing clothes. My God! I wondered if I would ever buy a shirt that will adjust the temperature on the inside based on the temperature outside. But the truth is, we completed the course with much more technology enhanced solutions to clothes than just changing the fabric and designs. One even designed a dry washer for these smart clothes.

If you are wondering if all this sounds like science fiction, believe me, it is not going to be for long. Could you have imagined what Skype is doing to our lives? Could you have imagined how ‘Uber’ and ‘Airbnb’ have changed the way we travel and find hotels? Like all new technology changes, they are bound to have their teething troubles, but it will all be ironed out. So, if you are a teacher of entrepreneurship, you would do well to bring changes taking place in the environment and dissect them in the class for opportunities. You will be amazed by what you see as output from your students. They only need direction – they have the speed, agility and creativity, to come up with innovative business ideas. We need a lot more of them. Let us (all educators) inspire and create the next set of technology driven entrepreneurs.

Try it in class and please do share your experiences! Let us all improve the way we teach entrepreneurship, together.

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Students, Colleges and Start-ups

Recently I was invited to lead a bootcamp for entrepreneurs. I truly enjoy these sessions as it is a clear view into what the future holds for us. Students of today are not like the previous generation! How many of us went to school with an iPad? How many of us had access to so many open source courses at school? How many of us even thought about starting a company when we were students?

Students are turning entrepreneurs and kickstarting enterprises on campuses. It is on the rise. Does it matter if it is a fad / trend / megatrend? Whatever you may think, the fact is that it is happening, at a larger scale than what we have seen even last year. Having been involved (for over a decade) in teaching and mentoring students to take up entrepreneurship, I can see the great change in perception amongst the student community towards such a career. This is largely visible amongst the engineering colleges, and more in the tier-2 and tier-3 colleges. Students now have access to information on their phones, laptops and iPads. They can easily reach out to people via Twitter, FB and Linkedin. They can quickly share their ideas out to mentors, incubators, angels and VCs. Slowly the environment is opening up. But the society (social and cultural environment) has to change its mindset. We have to encourage students to live their dreams. We need to stop pushing them into beaten paths. We need to make them experiment more with their lives.

Students want to do all of this. They have the passion, abilities and access too. Colleges have to use this to their advantage. They should encourage their students to be job creators than job seekers. Colleges need to make their environments display this quality. It is not about vision and mission, but about action. If there is anyway India is going to experience the real potential she possesses, it is through large scale entrepreneurship among her students and youth. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) should start looking at policy level measures along these lines. If the ministry can usher in a mindset change amongst the college level education ecosystem – the results can be mind-blowing. When we unleash our students, we are bound to see their real potential. We can start this by loosening our educational environment. Historically India has been known for her liberal nature with education. The time has come to make this happen again. The government can and should bring about a change, a small but firm change regarding liberal education. This is urgently needed amongst the engineering students. This one change can make them look at the world differently. It will open them to possibilities. This will be the beginning of the high potential entrepreneurship that all of us envision for India.

What I saw in the bootcamp was a glimpse of the possibility, that too with all the current constraints of the ecosystem. If colleges turn liberal and become places where students rush to each morning, start-ups are a natural outcome.

Think about it!


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