Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Being a startup mentor at StartUpPulse - An Inc42 event

Last week, I was an invited mentor to the Startup Pulse event, organized by Inc42 . It was an interesting experience for me personally. 

Here's why?
1) From the start of 2015, I've been keenly following the India start-up ecosystem, and keen to play a part. This was my first opportunity to do that!
2) I was the only woman mentor to be part of the 16 mentors! :)
3) Looking back, this opportunity landed at my door-step purely by the power of my writing and networks. So there is power in words and the power in networks.

Some lessons I took away from the event:

1) Dream Big, The Vision Matters | Key to taking the start-up route is to dream big, and think of how your idea can solve a problem, change the world and make a difference. Others might not agree / support, and that is probably the best indication that you are on the right path

2) Understanding the overall "business/ financials" is important | You need to know how to make money, and how to make money work for you. Some comes from learning and some from experience. But key is to stay on top of numbers

3) The idea matters, But execution even more | So you need to have a great team to take your idea to reality. Invest in the right founding team. That can be the only reason for you to have a fair shot at success

4) Women Entrepreneurs rock | I'm also totally amazed to see a new breed of no-nonsense women entrepreneurs who know what they want and how to get there.. Totally kick-ass women, and first time I am seeing many of them - who are surely but steadily growing their businesses...

5) Embrace Technology | I'm always happy to see how so many solutions are based purely on the power of technology . Some of them have used it in ways that will really blow your mind. I love how so many innovative mobile apps are coming up every single day! I also love how there are so many "marketplace" apps.. Like neither do they own the consumers / suppliers - They just build platforms to bring everyone together - from art, to education, to legal help.. range / diversity is awesome...

6) Age Matters | Average age of founders is between 24 to 30 years. Mostly single / newly married. I think your risk taking appetite reduces with age, unless you have nothing really to lose

7) Personal Finances should be planned | Don't get into loans, EMI's, etc. / buy things you don't need / can't afford. 3 years don't expect to take home too much, Have a fund to take care of regular expenses.. That way, you are not worrying about how to pay the bills..

Just my thoughts. Comments welcome..

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Open Letter for the case of India's Retired Workforce

First published on Huffingtonpost

According the 2014 World Fact Book, 5.8% of India's 1.2 billion population is above the age of 65 years. In terms of absolute numbers, that is 7,19,43,774 people. A vast majority of these individuals have retired from active employment. Many of them suffer from health issues, but somehow keep going through the rain and shine. What other options do many of them really have?

I observe and converse with many of these men and women at various occasions -- be it a social gathering, at the apartment community events, at the supermarket. They are (extended) family, friends of my parents/in-laws, my friends' parents or my children's friends' grandparents. They are diverse in terms of what they did in their past avatars in life -- from corporate executives to scientists to bankers to teachers to members of the armed forces to entrepreneurs to merchants to hoteliers...

As I ponder about this group of people, I consider some of the defining characteristics that are unique to this generation.  One, they have time at hand in an otherwise time-deficit economy. Two, they have real-life experiences and wisdom, which is invaluable.  Three, they've completed most of their key life responsibilities in terms of their children and family.

"They want to do something more meaningful and constructive with their time and life. They just don't know what and how."

Yet, many of them lack a purpose in life.

Purpose is that one thing which makes you want to get out of bed every day. Purpose is that fuel which energises you. Purpose is what keeps you going when all the cards are stacked against you. Purpose is that catalyst which helps you cross the chasm. The minute purpose goes out of your life equation, there is a void.

I sense this void in them too.

They want to do something more meaningful and constructive with their time and life. They just don't know what and how.

They want to share their knowledge, experience and wisdom of life. They just don't know who will listen and how to get them to listen.

They want to make a positive difference in their sphere of influence. They just don't know how to go about it.

Many of them expect very basic "compensation" for their time, advice and guidance. For starters, some respect, attentiveness and warmth. They also tend to value simplicity in transactions and operations - for example, they'd rather do what they have to do from within the confines of their homes.

On the other hand, I see  younger generations, who believe they are somewhat cool and hot in very many things. Yet they seem to be missing a warmth?

I see nuclear families (with mothers that work and not) that are struggling to raise their children, are torn between the traditional and modern because there is so much to do and so little time at hand. But missing out on an well-meaning guidance and support on a daily basis?

I see a vibrant start-up community and ecosystem in India. They have ideas, dreams, aspirations, passion, an appetite to try and take risks. But missing in experience, mentorship, practical wisdom and foresight?

When I look at the younger and older generations, I think they beautifully complement and supplement each other. What one has the other does not. What one gives the other desires to get.

All that is needed is to bring these worlds together. How? With the power of technology. The answer is really a marketplace ecosystem which brings potential opportunities to the retired workforce. So what does this mean?

For the retired workforce
Step 1: Register with your profile/skills.
Step 2: Search for any opportunity where you think you can/are keen to help.
Step 3: Help in whatever way you can.

On the other side, to post opportunities
Step 1: Register with your profile.
Step 2: Post an opportunity description with what exactly you need.

Sounds simple right? In reality, I know it is way more complicated. Things like background check, validity of the person/group, trust, etc. will need to be addressed.

But here's the thing -- there is an opportunity, be it for businesses, government or even innovative technology solutions. Right?

And whoever addresses this opportunity will be sure to amass the goodwill and blessings of very many. Is good karma lucrative enough? I don't know.

What do you think? Leave a comment to let me know!

Dedicated to D and all those men and women who continue to live their purpose irrespective of age.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Being "THE" Mother-in-law | The Good, Bad and Ugly

A friend of mine delivered a baby boy. As the good news spread among friends and family, the congratulatory words started pouring in. Some wished the couple for becoming parents. Many expressed their joy and happiness that the couple was blessed with a “son”, and a few expressed their emotions by telling her “Congrats! You’re going to be “THE” Mother-In-Law”. When I first heard this, I laughed. And so did my friend. So “You’re going to be “THE” Mother-In-Law. Just what kind?” I asked her. “I don’t know what kind, but not the kind of my Mother-In-Law” she said. We laughed about it!

A couple of days later I met another acquaintance (who has a son of marriageable age) and I observed behavioral changes in her. She appeared to be more serious, grumpy-faced, and uptight – which is not her usual personality. During idle-chat I asked her if all was well. I gathered that she is preparing herself to play the part of a mother-in-law! “In our community the mother-in-law has to be a certain way, so I figured it made sense to start preparing to be that way” she said. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry!

Another good friend of mine recently became a mother-in-law. Soon after her son’s wedding, she lost her spouse. She was broken. Her son and (extended) family meant everything to her. And I know for a fact that she put a lot of effort to bond with her daughter-in-law. Unfortunately, it never happened and her daughter-in-law made every effort to maintain a distance. It hurt my friend deeply and she asked me “Is this about me? Or it is about my daughter-in-law? Why can’t my bahu understand that family is all that I have left, and the relation with my son means the world to me?” I did not know how to respond.

I had it tough, so I don’t want my daughter-in-law to have it easy. I’ll do whatever it takes to make her life tough” said one mother-in-law. And another wise old lady I know said “Don’t call her daughter-in-law. She is like my daughter. I will do everything in my capacity to love her, accept her and make her life beautiful”

I’ve also seen (up close and personal) "THE" mother-in-law publicly criticizing and condemning her daughter-in-law. No matter how good she is and what she is doing, the mother-in-law will find some fault – from the daughter-in-laws dress, to food, to habits , to style, to family, to upbringing, to education, to value system, to name, to personality, to skills, to communication, to expressions, etc.. It amazes me how some of these women can find always a point of critique , and be so vocal in their public expression of the same. Too many friends have been deeply affected (mentally / emotionally) by these rebukes. Many of them feel humiliated, insulted, hurt and deeply embarrassed that they lose their self-confidence or start believing these factoids to be true. For e.g: A very good looking friend of mine got married into a joint family set-up where the mother-in-law always told her “I don’t know what my son agreed to marry you. Your features are lousy. You are so fat, dark-skinned and don’t look appealing”. At first she ignored these comments. But when she heard them every day, she started believing it to be true. Her spouse was silent during these discussions. That only re-enforced this belief system. She became so negative and depressed that she even started avoiding social gatherings. Fortunately, her family / friends sensed something was amiss, and helped her tide through the phase.

Looking at my own friend’s network, I observe that almost all my married friends have been influenced in some way or the other by their mother-in-law. I mean if you are in India, marriage means marriage of two families. So your in-laws are bound to be an influence in your life – You cannot escape it! In some cases the influence has been positive and many married women are at a happy place – Like someone I know discovered her love for cooking through her mother-in-law, someone else was introduced to music and art because of her mother-in-law, someone has a fashion designer in her mother-in-law, some have found their philosopher and guide in the mother-in-law, some have a friend in the mother-in-law, some has a teacher / Guru in the mother-in-law. Such tales are far and few though!

In most instances there is some “negative” emotion from both ends – be it disappointment, bitterness, animosity, hurt, jealousy, insecurity, etc. – and I’ve seen these emotions in the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law. Many times I wonder “Why?”. I mean a women should speak up, stand up and support another woman, but many times women tend to be each others “frenemies”.

Below reasons emerge as strong causes:   
  • Dealing with change in the family with the introduction of a new member – this means change in lifestyle, everyday routines, habits, priorities, interests and time. Everyone needs time to adjust and adapt
  • The “power equations” change – when the mother-in-law does not know how much power and control she will continue to exert on her son, and the daughter-in-law trying to exert her influence on her spouse / family
  • Fear of future, and need to set precedence today – The uncertainty of what the future will entail, and how everyone starts the relationship today will set the way for the future
  • Need for respect – one of the key aspects of marriage and relationships is the need to be respected. The thing about respect is that it needs to be earned. The other thing about respect is that its definition and manifestation is changing. So earlier, respect was a function of age. Respect meant you don’t question. Today, respect is really a function of how someone perceives you. And how they respect you is very personal to their value system – so it may feel right to the daughter-in-law to question age-old traditions which don’t seem logical or make sense.
  • The “Love” equation has more variables – There are indeed many types and ways to love. The mother’s love has its own defining characteristics, but so does the love between a couple. So the need to find a “love” equation with more variables, but yet balanced enough to keep things intact is important
As I sign-off, I leave with one parting thought | It takes effort from everyone to make a marriage work – the man, the woman, the mother-in-law. And the father-in-law plays a part too!

What do you think? Leave a comment to let me know…

First published on WomensWeb

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Published on NewsCred | Content Marketing Lessons from crafting 3000+ posts

So proud to be published on NewsCred​ | ContentMarketing Lessons from crafting 3000+ posts

For those who don't know, NewsCred is a leading global content marketing platform. I have been following them for several months now, Their content is awesome! They publish some amazing and unique insights and perspectives with contributors from all over the world, and are associated with top brands like Pepsi, Toyota, Visa, Cisco, etc.

From being a loyal reader to now being a contributor ; journey has been amazing.. -   And the learning continues...

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

How do the new age working mom's make it work everyday? – Nuggets of wisdom from real-life experiences

Ever since I have become a mother, I have a new found respect and admiration for all working mom's. Because she possibly and probably endures more than what anyone would ever know or imagine every single day – Juggling the many roles and expectations for self, family, friends, workplace; doing a balancing act everyday and hoping that it will all be OK!

Ever since I have embarked on this journey, I have recognized and realized that all working mom's find a way to make it all work. After all, where there is a will, there is a way! So whenever I meet any such mom, I ask her what is her tip / trick / mantra / best practice. I always go back wiser from these interactions because I learn some little insight that I can apply in my daily life.
In this post, I am sharing a round-up on some of these honest confessions from working mom's. Read on below:
  1. I remind myself of my priorities every morning and evening – so I know who / what is the most important for the day– my kids, my boss, my work, my spouse, my maid, my family or myself
  2. I plan my day meticulously – so I know what needs to be done and when and for how long
  3. I have realized over the years that health is wealth – So I try to eat right, take some vitamin supplements and walk at every opportunity that I get. Good food and exercise have to be integrated into everyday life ; else it does not work
  4. Whatever I can’t / don’t want to do at home – If there is a way to outsource it and I can afford it, I just hire help
  5. I don’t drive. Driving adds to my stress. So either private transport, company transport
  6. I don’t cook. Cooking is a waste of time. So I have employed a cook
  7. I have a fixed time-table / routine for the working days for kids and myself. I don’t entertain / approve deviations, unless there is a compelling reason to do so
  8. I meditate everyday twice – morning and evening
  9. As soon as I enter home, I lock myself in my bedroom for 30 minutes. I don’t talk to anyone. This is my time to unwind
  10. A hot cup of tea / coffee as soon as I step in to work / home gives me the thrust to keep going
  11. Before I get back home, I ensure that I take a nap in the bus / car. A power nap always energizes me
  12. I do a quick round of deep breathing before I enter home. Nothing calms me like conscious breath
  13. I make sure I eat something before I leave and enter home, so I am not hungry. An hungry tummy is the cause for anger and irritation many a times – both at work and home
  14. I take a walk or do some form of exercise every day. It energizes me
  15. I give myself days/ time to do nothing. Idle time rejuvenates me like nothing else does
  16. I have outsourced the house maintenance work completely. It comes at a premium, but worth it for my sanity
  17. I have made peace with the fact that I will never get a certificate for the most beautifully maintained house. I can sleep with mess / clothes / toys on the floor, cutlery on the table and unfinished work at home
  18. Sleep is non-negotiable. I have fixed time for going to bed and waking up. Adequate physical rest is vital to keep me going
  19. I say No to people or events which I don’t enjoy, and take me away from where I want to do. I realize YOLO (You Only Live Once), so why bother about what I don’t want to do!
  20. I have a glass of alcohol every day after the kids go to bed. That is my personal way to unwind
  21. I clean my house for 15 minutes in the morning and evening to organize things. That relaxes me. I can’t think straight when the house is unkempt
  22. I let free advice or feedback or suggestions fall on deaf ears ; The worthy advice / feedback / suggestions somehow
  23. I let-go of things which don’t add any value to my life or my kids life
  24. I don’t watch TV
  25. I time-box social media time – Facebook, Twitter are for a fixed time slot everyday. When time is up, I log off
  26. I take parenting advice only from my mom / mom-in-law. They know best, and it appears that children’s personality is 80% based on genes from mom / dad, right? And nothing like real-life experiences to handle personality-types, so these 2 women are my goddesses. Whatever they advise, always makes sense and works wonders
  27. I disabled notifications for WhatsApp messages. It is a big distractor
  28. I do my grocery shopping once a week ; That saves me time and effort
  29. I stopped living up to everyone’s expectations
  30. I have accepted that I am imperfect, and am Ok with it. Perfection is not my goal in life
  31. I give myself 1 hour every week to do things I love – It can be something different every time, but it is just my time to myself
  32. I meditate for 30 minutes every Sunday. That is non-negotiable and my private sanctuary
  33. I’m selectively blind, deaf and dumb – based on need, situation or circumstance
  34. A poor memory; So no time to remember what I don’t need to remember
  35. I ensure I spend time with people who make me feel good about myself – happy and positive
  36. I talk to my mother for 10 minutes every day. She is my lifeline and keeps me going
  37. I never do my children’s home-work. I made it clear from Day 1 that home-work is not mummy’s work
  38. I encourage independence in my kids, so they own up their tasks and also help out with domestic responsibilities at home
  39. I practice the “silent hour” everyday; No talking / noise at home. Everyone can do what they want, but in silence
  40. I am generous with praise when I interact with others. I realize no great motivator to enlist support than well-meaning appreciation
  41. I don’t stress / sweat about how I look or dressing up. When you don’t bother / care about the need to look good, you spend less time and energy on external frills
  42. A few moments of prayer and gratitude everyday keep me going
  43. Weekly menu planning is done every weekend. I can’t think about what to cook on week-days. It is a big operational hazard!
  44. I keep expectations of others very low
  45. I use technology and mobile for everything  - lists, payments, organizing stuff, etc.  It saves time, energy and brain-power. So I don't have to think or worry about operational stuff
  46. I plan for the worst and hope for the best. That makes it easy for me to deal with anything!
What is your mantra? Leave a comment to let us know..

A version of this post was first published on WomensWeb
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Interviews and Media Mentions
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Quoted in “Open Letter to Women looking for job
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