Funny Side Up

All those moments that left you speechless…More like the dumbfounded speechless. I was just thinking about it today, and thought I’d share some such situations that I have been lucky (and sometimes not so lucky) to be stuck in the middle of.

Funny Side Up

All those moments that left you speechless… (No, not like when you saw Claudia Lynx or  Mila Kunis on TV). More like the dumbfounded speechless. I was just thinking about it today, and thought I’d share some such situations that I have been lucky (and sometimes not so lucky) to be stuck in the middle of.

  • About two months back, I called my credit card company to tell them that I hadn’t received my estatement, and to ask them to mail it to me. The charming voice at the other end asked me some random questions just to make sure I was the actual holder of the card, and then proceeded to say that she’ll have the statement emailed to me. Then, as what I assume to be a part of the ‘procedure’, she thought of “confirming” my cell number, mail id, landline number, address (hey, don’t look at me, am still wondering about the logic behind it). Anyway, so when she read out my address, I realized that she’d got one alphabet wrong in the name, so I asked her to correct it. After that, again, as part of the procedure, she proceeded to fire a series of questions, about practically everything, just to (again) make sure I was me. The second last question, ‘what was the last amount billed to your card?’ Thankfully, since I had received a message when the transaction happened, I remembered and told her the amount. Last question, ‘where was that transaction made?’ How the hell would I remember, it was over 12 days ago. ‘No problem’, she said, cheerfully, ‘you can check on it, I’ll call you back tomorrow’. I completely forgot, so the next day, she called up as planned, but I didn’t have the info. ‘Not a problem’ she said again,  suggesting the same deal of me checking after I get back from work, and that she’d call the next day. Anyway, I checked that evening, but missed her call the next day. Next thing I know, I receive a letter from the credit card folks (the address on which, by the way, still happened to have the minor spelling mistake). The letter stated that “this is the last correspondence to your old address, and all further correspondence would be made to your new address.” Whoa. When did I change my address? And, if that wasn’t enough to leave anyone wondering, I received another similar letter the next day (with the spelling mistake rectified), informing me that my new address has been updated in their records and from then on, all correspondence would be to the new address.
  • Back in 2008, I got myself a Vodafone USB internet card after paying for a limited usage for the year (1GB free/ month). The little software which installs on your laptop, helps you connect/ disconnect, and also shows you the usage. So I’d keep the usage within limits, so as not to have to pay at crazy rates/MB beyond the free usage. And then, about 4 months down, I received a bill for Rs.200 for excess usage. As I saw the statement only on the due date, I thought I’d rather pay it and then look into the matter. So, I paid, but then didn’t bother check with Vodafone. Next month, I made sure I kept checking my usage. I’d used about 3/4th of my free limit for the next month, but I received a bill for Rs.1400. Ok, now things were getting serious. I went to Vodafone to find out about the screw-up. After the usual ‘Happy to help’ chat, they assured me it was probably a billing mistake. That it happened sometimes. The issue was that while my Vodafone software was showing my usage at 3/4 of the limit, on the company system it was registering a usage 40% or so more above the limit. Few days down, my connection was blocked. Next visit to Vodafone, the same exec apologized profusely. He said he had forgotten to log the complaint, which is why it got blocked. I told him to take care of it, n went my way. Next month’s bill was over Rs.1500 (Rs.1400 + late charges, service tax, the works). What followed was 2.5 months of constant comms with Vodafone, at the store, on the helpline, and to with every email id I could find on their site. They kept insisting that they’ve checked and rechecked, and that I would have to pay up. At the end of that time, I had pretty much had it, and so I went and settled the bill, so as not to let them torment me anymore, even though they still hadn’t realized that there was something wrong with their systems. Next thing you know, I receive a letter from Vodafone’s legal guys threatening to go to court if I didn’t pay. The @#$#.! I called the lady at Vodafone whom I’d been in touch with regarding this matter. She was, I think, some mid-level manager. She told me that they’d received the payment, and that I could ignore the letter. Then I happened to just discuss the problem one last time with that lady. Just to let her know the hell they’d all put me through for some mistake on the part of Vodafone. And when I, for the nth time, told her about the Vodafone software that installs on the laptop, I said, ‘you know, the little window that shows the level of usage, and other info’. Her reply was priceless. The Customer service something Manager told me she had never seen the actual software before. And she didn’t know what it did. So, I was arguing with about 12 different people at Vodafone for well over three months, had to shell out money for no reason at all, and all along, this lady, who was definitely at a fairly high up position, didn’t even know what she was arguing about or defending. No better way to kill customer care, eh? I guess all along, all they meant was ‘Happy to Help (ourselves to your money)’.
  • Several years back, my dad had applied for a car loan. So, as part of the process, the bank executive dropped by home one afternoon, to get some papers filled, and to collect the post-dated  cheques. While dad was signing the 59 odd cheques (5 year loan), the executive, with a concerned look, asks dad, ‘Sir, I hope you have the total amount (the loan amount) in this bank account?’ Dad, already a little irritated with all that signing, suddenly was at a loss for words. He tried his best not to show his disbelief at the question, which of course, didn’t work too well. He looked at the executive and said, ‘if I had that kind of money in the bank, do you think I’d be applying for a loan?’ It then struck the executive, who then tried his best to hide his embarrassment with ‘of course sir, well, I was just asking’.
  • As a kid, I used to frequent the Croissants‘ outlet near my granny’s place. I had many favourites on their menu. And we sometimes used to parcel plain croissants. A slightly microwaved plain croissant tastes great with tea, especially in the mornings. So one evening, mom sent me to pick up about 15 plain croissants. I walked in, to find that I was the only customer in the huge place. Anyway, so I paid at the cash counter, and then walked up to the counter for plain croissants and gave the attendant the little order slip. He looks at it, and then asks me, “Will you be having them here?” I looked around, and then asked him, does it look like I’ll be eating 15 plain croissants here, alone?” Talk about being stuck with your foot in your mouth =O
  • My job in Venture Capital too, made sure I got a regular dose of such situations. Like a few times when I’d get calls or even random visits from aspiring entrepreneurs. They’d go, “I’m planning to venture out on my own. How can your Venture firm help me?”, they’d ask, with a straight, I-mean-business sort of face. That would get me all thrilled, every single time. I mean, it takes a lot of guts and conviction for anyone to start a business on their own. And I admire that. So then I’d ask them about what the venture is all about. How much money they’d need, and all that. Then comes the priceless answer. Something that normally sounds like, “I have a few different types of businesses that I could possibly get into. Depending on which one, the venture funding I’d want would vary. However, I haven’t really worked out the exact funding that might be required. You see, I could either start with one of the businesses in one state, or cover like, half of India. So accordingly, the funding I’d need would vary. I wanted to know how your fund could help me out.” Huh.! I could’ve sworn the board outside my office didn’t read ‘Charity Venture’ or something to that effect. Then why.?

Lemme know bout your ‘at a loss for words’ moments…

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The Last Straw

This one’s for all those people who’ve found their goal, and work towards it like nothing else matters, like there is no tomorrow. And for all those who know the true meaning of rules, the sensible rules at least.

The Last Straw

Have you ever been in a state where you’re head is filled with the purest rage? Where you think, ‘once more someone messes with me regarding (whatever), and they’re really gonna get it?

Have a look at this article. Just an average, or in my view, above average employee, who just got pushed way over the edge, for apparently no fault of his. (Fed-Up Flight Attendant Makes Sliding Exit)

What happened was, that an airline attendant, Steven Slater, who probably had his share of responsibilities and troubles, got pushed a little too much when a passenger stood up to fetch his luggage on the aircraft before the crew had given permission. When Slater instructed the man over the PAS to remain seated, the passenger goes ahead with removing his luggage. And when Slater reaches the passenger, he accidentally gets hit on the head by the luggage the passenger was trying to remove. Now this, in itself, is a random accident that could happen to anyone. But when Slater asked for an apology, the passenger proceeds to curse him. So that’s two mistakes by one moron of a passenger. Firstly, not following rules, and then throwing his weight on someone trying to enforce those rules.

Slater, who apparently has served 20 years in the industry, (20 whole years is a bloody long time eh!), was a regular chap, who had been recently caring for his dying mother, who happened to be a retired flight attendant. His father too was a pilot in his day. Slater happened to be the leader of the airline’s uniform redesign committee apart from being a member of the airline’s in-flight values committee.

So I guess that does speak for his character, abilities and his work.

There’s something that the average consumer, customer or colleague often doesn’t understand. That different industries and businesses have rules for the purpose of the very meaning of the word, rule = that which is prescribed or laid down as a guide for conduct or action. So obviously, being aware of the risks, or to maintain an orderly way of doing things, rules are laid down.

But most beings, thinking themselves the wiser, feel that they can merely bend the rules a bit to accommodate their holiness. It’s easy when the average self-centered soul thinks that way. But what happens when everyone starts thinking that way. We get chaos. We get three lines at a counter where there’s supposed to be only one, we get five lines of cars on a road with three lanes, we get the ‘everyone’s doing it so why cant I?’ question staring you in the face. We get herd mentality. We also get more fights, more abusing, more punches, etc. Because they are not the only self-centered one around, there are more like them always around, many more.

And then what happens. The last straw. What’s worse, is that oftentimes, the one pushed off the edge for no fault of theirs, gets punished too.

Like Slater, who after letting out a string of expletives at the passenger over the PAS, grabbed a beer, activated the emergency-evacuation chute, and slid down and drove home, only to have his home surrounded by police officers, detectives and port authorities, and him, arrested.

Normal people don’t do such crazy things. Grab a beer and jump out of a plane. As ridiculous as that sounds, bloody cool even. But no, normal people wouldn’t take their job that seriously either. Most of the kind of staff I have seen on airlines or even with some people I’ve had the (dis)pleasure of working with, they wouldn’t have bothered too hard in trying to enforce rules and regulations to that extent. They try a bit, and then don’t bother. So it’s usually the most hard working, the most driven and most dedicated of employees who usually end up reacting in such extreme ways when they are constantly pushed against the wall for their efforts and dedication.

It’s because, on a scale from 0 to 100, the average expectation of, say quality, or enforceability of a rule for a normal person is, say 50. The normal chap or gal would expect something in the 45-55 range under most circumstances. So when the weird folk bend the rules to say a 40 or even 30, they think they’re just doing something that’s 10-20 units off the normal. Not too big a deal.

But to that crazy dedicated worker, the normal delivery expectation he or she provides is nothing less that a 95. When someone’s screwing about with rules (pushing it to the 30’s or 40’s), regular employees think they’re 10-20 below average. From the dedicated fellow’s point of view however, they’re way below the 95 average. Which is why you then get the extreme reaction to situations like this.

Reminds me of the movie ‘The Rock’. Am pretty sure most of you who watched it, ‘wowed’ at the story, the action, and then forgot about it. But give it some more thought. The story of a Brigadier who takes tourists hostage as a final desperate attempt. An effort to get the government to open its eyes to a cause he’s fighting for. The deaths of fellow marines killed in action, who have been denied even the honour for their ultimate sacrifice.

But somehow, that fight of the Brigadier General is never addressed during the rest of the movie. Or realized even by most people who watched the movie. So, through most of the movie, the Brigadier General is viewed as the bad guy.

It is only a few people who follow the rules to that level, work towards something with everything they’ve got, and the least they expect, or rather deserve; is respect for their efforts. And when finally, their efforts aren’t leading to anything, they sometimes end up getting frustrated and taking a drastic step in a final attempt at bringing out the flaw in the system…only to be rewarded with punishment.

Rather than look at the final action, it would do some help if people were to even look at the situations and all the causative factors which eventually culminate in that one drastic or so-called stupid career-killing step.

I guess the world expects people to merely reconcile themselves with things that happen. To not complain, challenge, nor question it.

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Be Your Best Judge

Be Your Best Judge

This is a small extract from Michael E. Gerber’s ‘Awakening the Entrepreneur Within’. Michael Gerber is the bestselling author of The E-Myth Revisited, E-Myth Mastery.

He says “Unfortunately, most businesses don’t close soon enough. They just linger on and on and on, surviving as best they can. Entrepreneurs should never create a business simply because it can survive. To do so would be to commit oneself to daily dying. Entrepreneurs create business that thrive.”

I guess that simply says a lot.

While starting companies is one thing, but something that entrepreneurs should always constantly do is judge or evaluate their business/ progress/ future growth, rather than losing sight of the big picture in the race to capture more market share…

Judging based on the business itself, competitors, and on the vision.

Many companies just seem to drag the eventuality, that way burning tons of money, sabotaging employee careers, and neither growing nor benefiting from the business.

Opposed to that, it sure takes the rare soul to accept defeat, wrap up, and fight another day.

And there is an advantage to that. Your big business could be based on the idea you get after you’ve freed your mind of a business that’s just trudging along. So be your best judge, and take a good call.

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Way to go, Alok! The Venture Capital Differentiators

Way to go, Alok! The Venture Capital Differentiators

A few years ago, I came across this interview with Alok Mittal on the internet. Alok is the Managing Director at Canaan Partners, one of the leading VCs in the technology and healthcare businesses, the world over. And in that interview, Alok was talking about their investment in techTribe a few years earlier. techTribe, by the way, happens to have a job referral service offering, similar to the incentive based job referral business model of the company I wrote about earlier.

Alok had publicly agreed that the incentive driving referrals was not going as expected. And that they have been planning to sell the company as the business model didn’t seem to work. I did feel a sense of pride and satisfaction that my gut feel and reasoning was in a way being backed by someone, who is to me, something of an authority in the field.

Then, something struck me. Here was a world where everything that everyone spoke about publicly was, like the Americans popularized, “good”. And amongst them was someone as knowledgeable, intelligent, and capable as Alok Mittal. It took someone humble, grounded, and true to his work, to openly talk about his mistakes. Literally in Rudyard Kipling’s words, he could ‘meet Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same‘.

Hats off to your humility and honesty towards your work, Alok.!

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Models that Puzzle Me

This is one of of some business models that just don’t make sense to me.

Models that Puzzle Me

If you came here expecting some scoop on Gisele Bundchen or Miranda Kerr, I suggest you hit the ‘Back’ button. This one’s more about the ‘less figure, more strategy’ business models. I’ll work on a post on real models sometime soon though, I promise.

A few years ago, on a random day at office, I received a call about an investment opportunity. At the time, I used to take an average 2.5 inquiry calls per day, speaking to a wide assortment of people. From second and third generation businessmen to entrepreneurs working on their second or third successful venture. And even some final year students who had budding dreams about what could as well be the next big thing. And every once in a way, I’d get a venture who’s business model was confusing. Here’s one of a few business models that puzzle me.

Anyway, so this call, Mr. Promoter of a company that was into the job portal business that was based on referrals. Simply put, the usual job portals work on the model that companies that hire from a particular site would have to pay them certain fees which would give them access to a filtered set of numerous candidates, and perhaps if some of them were hired, the portal would get another x amount of money per candidate hired.

Now that model, as we know, perhaps works just about fine, as demonstrated by the popularity of naukri.com, monster.com, timesjobs.com, and several thousand others.

This particular business model Mr. Promoter told me about, seemed to be based on a reward system. How it works, is as follows. You are  a good friend of mine. I know you’re looking for a job, so I get in touch with this company, and give them your cell number or perhaps your mail id. They get in touch with you, tell you that they’ll help you with getting a job. They ask you for your resume, and for the particulars of the kind of job you’re looking for, etc.

Now suppose they find a suitable opening for you. They put you across to the company, and in case you’re hired, obviously this firm would get their fee for helping them find a suitable candidate. Of that fee they receive, I would get a small percentage for the lead. Thus incentivizing me to refer more friends of mine for more requirements.

I tried discussing with Mr. Promoter, almost to the point of arguing. I just couldn’t see the future of such a business, and I wanted to make sure he saw my perspective. It appeared simple to me. I could of course, be totally wrong. I mean, that’s what the VC business, just like anything else, is about. It’s about perspective. I could have my views, Mr. Promoter would have his. The market and success or failure of the company would prove one of us wrong.

Anyway, so my points of argument were, that the higher the post, the higher the pay the firm, and in turn the person referring someone would receive. But, in the real world, you don’t really find a VP or CEO of a company referring someone to a firm. Right? I mean, who would have the time or the inclination for something like this. And at that level, one would have bigger things to worry about that trying to find people in order to make some quick bucks by way of referral.

So that leaves us with entry-level all the way to perhaps lower or mid-management candidates. Now most of them would anyway be registered on all the top job sites, where many if not most companies, would be tapping into, as one of their many sources for finding candidates. So that being the case, we can’t really expect a group of students from a college to refer each other to this firm in the hope of supplementing their pocket-money, eh?

So, anyway, I turned down Mr. Promoter’s investment proposal and even called him later to try to reason out that somehow, the business model didn’t seem to hold. He however, seemed convinced.

So much for one of the business models that puzzled me. The promoter and I have not been in touch since. And while I do hope he’s doing well, I am curious to know how his business worked out for him.

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Herd Capital

Everyone’s aware of the herd mentality. Be it iPods, bigger and bigger cars, or even a Twitter account.
I’ve noticed similar mentalities in the VC industry. Why do we seek the safety of the herd?
Here are a few examples of it, and also the effects of the same on industries.

Herd Capital

Everyone’s aware of the herd mentality. Be it iPods, bigger and bigger cars or houses. Or even a Twitter account (which doesn’t really make sense if you’re not actually gonna use it). Hell, even I got a Twitter account that I don’t use.

And many a times, it takes a while before a smart management guru finds the method behind some of the madness.

I’ve come across a few similar instances of herd mentality in the Venture Capital industry too in the past few years.

Before I mention them, I’d just like to state here, that the views below are only mine, and I don’t, in any way mean to undermine or insult the knowledge and strategies of my fellow members of the VC community. I’m merely expressing my concern about something I’ve observed.

Herd Mentality. Hmm.

Here’s one such example that comes to mind. The textile/ garment manufacturing and associated retail industry back from 2006 through most of 2008. Companies saw several Million $ of investment, and were doubling and tripling their manufacturing capacities – spinning, weaving, dyeing, printing, stitching; you name it… not to mention the number of retail outlets, adding customers (read big brands in apparel) with demands going into astronomical numbers of pieces of clothing.

And obviously all of this took the valuations of these companies pretty high. Just to give some perspective to the quantum of investing, this sector saw around 3% of the total $5.6 billion of VC investment in just the first six months of 2007. That’s roughly a whopping Rs.750 crore.!!

And then, with the collapse of the US economy, textile exporters suddenly lost one of their prime markets. What followed, quite instinctively, is that many of them came back home and focused their energies and capacities on the domestic market. A domestic market that was beyond saturated with all the domestic expansions that were funded.

That led to more n’ more discount malls springing up, running on wafer thin margins.

Then, there was the mad rush after clean n’ green businesses. Of course, there’s nothing bad about investing in technology that’ll help conserve the limited resources of the globe. But from a VC’s point of view, it’s about making money too, right? The focus on making those returns should be a fine filter through which great companies and amazing business models must pass.

However, here’s what happens with the herd mentality. Some companies with limited knowledge or capability, get invested into. And that’s only because some VC was probably not approached by the best companies in the sector yet. Or the VC did not want to miss out on the ‘gold rush’. And so they end up investing in the 20th company in the sunrise sector at a ridiculous valuation. The VC seeks the safety of the herd. Everyone’s doing it, so maybe I should too. This makes the top team at the company over-confident of their supposed capabilities. What’s worse, it makes it tougher to raise its next round of investment. Because of the already sky-high valuation it got its first round investment at.

So, we end up with:

  • Just a handful of the numerous funded companies actually adding reasonable value, globally
  • Several overconfident funded companies that just trudge along, finding it difficult to raise additional money
  • The sector very quickly becoming over-invested and going out of flavor with the VCs. This is due to high valuation expectations by other companies. This is resulting in less investment happening in creating more effective and widespread clean and green technologies and applications; something that was needed by the world on an urgent basis, to begin with

It would help if VCs invested after a well thought-out strategy rather than almost on impulse. Irrespective of whether it means missing the bus on a fad investment sector. This would result in the VC not making losses on a bad investment. At the same time, she or he could focus on understanding the sector quickly and perhaps support young companies with innovative products or solutions that they feel might significantly help preserve the planet. Instead of dumping money into just another solar-cell manufacturer. Or another wind turbine manufacturer, or something like that.

In the end, all this could be herd mentality, or perhaps even the wisdom of the crowds.

Only time and lots of investing will tell.

[Again, these are just my views on it, being strongly based on my belief that known and stable businesses or mass producing of products should be funded more by debt; and the risk investing in paradigm-shifting technologies and solutions should be left to VCs. I would like to get the views of promoters and fellow VCs on this. In the end, it’s all a part of our learning process.]

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A Soccer for Peace

One World Futbol – Game for Peace?

A Soccer for Peace

Not so long ago, one Tim Jahnigen invented the most durable soccer ball ever. A soccer ball that does not need pumping, and one that never goes flat. It is said the ball could remain unaffected by even the worst environmental conditions. That’s almost 2 years of hard work, dedication and perseverance brought to perfection.

All this, inspired by a documentary on refugees in Darfur who were playing soccer with a ball made of trash and twine. Is’t it a brilliant idea?

You can read more about it at http://www.oneworldfutbol.com/how.html.

$39.50 gets you an all-terrain soccer ball. For every football they sell, they donate one by way of their non-profit outfit. This great initiative begs one to imagine a generation of people in a war-torn region dropping their guns to play a game of soccer instead.

That would be a step towards hope. A step towards peace.

Lets hope the ‘One World Futbol’ is a big step in that direction.!

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Dare to Venture?

Dare to Venture?

“The best things in life are free,

But you can keep ’em for the birds and bees;

Now give me money, (that’s what I want) that’s what I want.”

– Barrett Strong

Lets see. First time entrepreneur? Maybe you’ve already taken the brave leap, but suddenly hit a roadblock for lack of funds to scale up? Or not enough to even qualify for an order? Perhaps banks wont help because your services or IT firm doesn’t fit into their way of doing things? Or even better, you have a crazy idea that could as well be the next big thing, only if someone would see the potential growth and the guts…

If you sniggered after reading any of the above, you’ve probably already had your share of knocking on doors in a bid to expand your business, or even just set sail…

I’ll give you a lil overview on venture capital, hopefully answering some of those questions you had about it…

  • VCs invest in ideas, businesses with a high amount of perceivable risk but also a potential upside
  • VCs invest towards buying a stake in your company (they buy shares of your company, without any collateral or pledge. That however, doesn’t mean that you don’t take their money or them seriously coz it appears to be tension-free capital unlike a bank loan.
  • Not wanting to alarm you, but generally the legal agreements with a VC are made in such a way that the VC has a significant powers where the company is concerned.
  • The powers and rights should be seen as a trade off for the risk the VC takes, and the collateral-free funds they bring into the company, and their time and effort.
  • And while certain clauses in these legal agreements might give some of you sleepless nights, many extreme measures are almost never exercised by the VC. They’re sometimes just there so that promoters don’t think of playing any tricks on the VC or the company.

Yeah I know this is a very basic and simple way of putting it. There is much more to it, but if I were to put more here, you’d be asleep before I’d expect you to scroll down…

Anyway, I’d just like to elaborate a bit on the last point in the image above. I think is crucial for you entrepreneurs to know when you plan to raise money from professional investors:

(ok, now I usually get extreme reactions to my comparisons/ examples, so even if you find the comparison absolutely insane, don’t miss the underlying message)

The relationship between a VC and the promoter/ management team…it should be looked at like a serious relationship, a marriage of sorts. Or even as though you were looking for your next best friend if you’d like. And as we all know, everything long term can’t be based on the trivial. Like ‘I love the way she looks n dresses’, or, ‘I think she’s my soul mate coz we look great together’. Or ‘she just has the most amazing expression when she’s trying to work the microwave while reading thru the manual’. Or some similar nonsense.

The long haul asks for bigger and more important factors to be considered.

Venture funding is never about the money as it is about the connect the promoter, the team and the VC share. You could probably raise capital from multiple sources. But nothing will compare to the magic the team of promoter and VC together can create.

And unlike relatives whom we don’t get to choose, promoters can and must take time to see if her or his visions, objectives and spirit matches are clearly understood and appreciated by the VC they’re in talks with. Coz otherwise, like good ol’ Axl Rose says, ‘nothing lasts forever…’ Things sure can get nasty between promoter and VC if they don’t share a similar vision. And they are bound to lock horns. In which case, they both suffer, along with the business, employees, customers, etc.

You wouldn’t really want a tug-of-war with the promoter trying to go global next year, and the VC ranting for a quicker exit.

Even if your business is strapped for cash, always choose your VC very carefully. And raise only the money you need. Gone are the days when VCs funded the Lamborghini’s of dotcom promoters.

I’m still just four years and learning in this industry. But if you do have any queries about venture capital, fire away. I’d be more than happy to try and help you out with it.

Happy fund-raising.!

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Drivin’ me Nuts.!

you are driving one morning to work. nice weather, relatively low traffic. ‘i’m finally going to reach well before time’, you think to yourself. just at that moment, a speeding cab whizzes to your left, suddenly cuts you without a signal or warning. you snarl, and then immediately think that it feels like a really great day, full of positives, so you wouldnt want to ruin it by getting into a foul mood over a crazy driver. you near a signal, nearing a car in the next lane, who appears to be somehow drifting towards your lane. you honk lightly. you think he’s getting back into his lane but just as you’re real close to his car, he honks back and swerves in your direction. your brakes screech the car to a halt, and your still wondering if that actually happened.
Grrrr..!! that does it. that driver’s going down, you tell yourself, as you floor the accelerator and veer into the last lane and align yourself in perfect striking position.

Drivin’ me Nuts!

You are driving one morning to work. Nice weather, relatively low traffic. ‘I’m finally going to reach well before time’, you think to yourself. Just at that moment, a speeding cab whizzes to your left and cuts you without a signal or warning. You snarl, and then immediately think that it feels like a really great day, full of positives. So you wouldn’t want to ruin it by getting into a foul mood over a crazy driver. You near a signal, nearing a car in the next lane, who appears to be somehow drifting towards your lane. So you honk lightly. You think he’s getting back into his lane but just as you’re real close to his car, he honks back and swerves in your direction. your brakes screech the car to a halt, and your still wondering if that actually happened.

Grrrr..!! that does it. That driver’s going down, you tell yourself, as you floor the accelerator and veer into the last lane and align yourself in perfect striking position. Then you suddenly realize that you’ve rattled the nerves of that middle-aged lady whose trembling hands just about managed to swerve out of the way of your car screaming through. So you slow down, and try and get back your cool. Though its not happening. the music playing doesn’t seem to work its magic either. You get to work, your mind imagining you perhaps strangling the driver who dared to cut you.

I’m sure you can relate to at least most of that.

I got my driving license sometime in 2001 i think, though I’ve been crazy about driving well before I could pronounce “car”. As a toddler, I’d sit on my dad’s lap while he’d drive, and I’d hold the steering and pretend to drive.

Then, when i was halfway through school, I’d change gears on my relative’s jeep, while the driver drove and took care of the foot pedals.

Anyway, almost soon after i learnt how to drive, i came to realize that the way people drive has a strong correlation to their personality and behaviour patterns, and also the peculiarity of people in that region.

For instance, in Mumbai (India), where I’ve driven the most, cars on the road tend to make maximum use of the road. Three lanes could accommodate up to 5 rows of cars and still have place for a bike with saddle bags on either side to smoothly ride through.

Now while I say this after driving/ observing only certain parts of India, am sure if anyone paid enough attention, a pattern would emerge for the population at different locations, across the world.

A foreigner visiting India had observed that Indians, while driving, make full use of the road. So if there were no road dividers, cars would “expand” to the opposite side of the road as long as there was no on-coming traffic, and then get back into their side of the road while some vehicles whizzed past from the opposite direction, and then get back to using part of the opposite side again. Talk about adjusting to the surroundings.!

I noticed another interesting habit in the town of Mangalore, and in the city of Bangalore, and am quite sure it must be highly prevalent. If one wanted to turn right at a crossroads which had a small circular garden or something similar at the centre, they would normally be expected to drive around the circle in a clockwise direction to get to that particular turn. However, most of our great people would instead find the shortest path… making the right turn just before the circle…I mean who cares if you’re staring at a bunch of alarmed drivers coming head-on.

That reminded me of this joke i read sometime back. A man is driving on NH1 when his wife calls him. “darling, be careful”, she says frantically, “I just heard on the radio that there’s a madman on NH1 driving in the wrong direction. Please be careful.” Her husband replies, with a hollow laugh, “your damn right about that, but it’s not one madman, but hundreds of them!”

Another strange driving habit, very similar to our corporate circles, is people’s reaction when being overtaken. Some people drive at a slow 25 kmph. And with a gap between them and the vehicle in front being big enough to fit an A380 (Airbus). Now you are somewhere between these two cars, in the next lane. You have turned on your indicator to signal you’d be moving in between the two cars.

Soon as you’ve given the indicator, the car behind you and in the next lane, rockets to 60 kmph. The driver desperately tries to keep you from getting into their lane. You barely manage to save scratches on your car, wondering if the driver left his senses back home that morning. Its very similar to the behaviour of crabs in a bucket. Even if they aren’t trying to get out, they’ll do everything they can to prevent others from getting out. If you’ve driven in India long enough, you’d know over 85% of the people never use indicators.

I assume its for one of two reasons; first being, ‘why bother signalling, if the other driver loves his car, he’ll slow down anyway’, or, because he/ she’s dead sure the car behind will speed up, so instead, its better to suddenly cut lanes while no one’s expecting it.

Nothing’s more horrifying that a parked car suddenly darting into your lane on what seemed to be an empty lane till then.

Ok, maybe that’s not horrifying enough. Try this instead. You got that same parked car suddenly taking off on the extreme left, going 0-30, and darting to first lane to make a U-turn. These drivers expect everyone else to be driving at 20 kmph with a foot ready on the brakes. Or they consider themselves immortal. And you thought Milla Jovovich had a hard time in Resident Evil.

All these trends/ characteristics associate closely with what Indians have been known to be like. Now I’m not generalizing. And while I take pride in being an Indian, am just pointing habits/ behaviours we must strive to change.

And while your at it, try get hold of the book “Games Indians Play – Why We Are the Way We Are” by V. Raghunathan, to get some more perspective on the general attitude.

Anyway, I’ll get back to what I was talking about (I tend to deviate from topic quite easily).

Indians (me obviously included), are always in a rush to get somewhere. So much so, we tend to cross the zebra crossing, or stop over the crossing, while waiting at a signal. Every second counts, I suppose. The closer you are to the starting line, the quicker you can leave on green. Then it doesn’t matter if you continue to drive at 25 kmph in fast lane from there on. We’d still prefer to be right there, first car to move, when the light goes green.

I’ve seen cars literally squeeze through gaps between cars. Some drive halfway up a sidewalk, or drift to the wrong side, just to be first at a signal light. However, after the lights turn, somehow, they don’t bother getting even close to the 50 kmph speed limit. They’re driving at their pace, with not a care in the world, even at 9 am on a weekday. Brings me to wonder why then, do they take all the effort to get to the front row.

Now this one absolutely takes the cake when it comes to driving in India.

Recollect how some cars try to get to as much in front as possible, while waiting at a signal?

There’s another really funny trait among many of our drivers here. Some people end up going so far ahead at a signal, that the signal is actually behind them. I mean, “what the ****!!”. So when the lights go green, they depend on a car behind to honk, to let them know that they can move. So if the cars behind weren’t in a hurry, cars could be waiting for as long as 10 seconds, before moving. Believe me, its a hilarious sight to see.

Imagine something like that happening in Formula 1. An over-eager-to-win F1 driver driving past the racing lights and stopping, before the race started. All I can do is hope we all drive a little more responsibly. And be a little more accommodating, on the road, at work, at home, everywhere.

http://shrutinshetty.blogspot.com/2009/09/drivin-me-nuts.html

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Why…Not…Serious.??

Nobody panics when things go “according to plan.” Even if the plan is horrifying! Look at what’s happened in India over the past two decades. We’ve had bomb blasts ripping through cities, over and over again.
The news channels have ‘field days’. Give it a few days, and everyone has put the incident into some low priority folder in their heads, and gone about with their routine like it never happened.
Now while resilience is a good thing, everyone’s missing the bigger point. Why can’t the security forces, the police, the intelligence agencies, and even the common man become more responsible.

Why…Not…Serious.??

The Dark Knight is by far the most outstanding Batman movie ever, but what’s even more spectacular, is the Joker.

The Joker, not only inspired horror, but what he said could run shivers down your spine.

Whyyy so seriouss..??

What I liked most about the Joker was the fact that most of what he said, like it or not, is absolutely true in the world today.

I’m still hopeful. Just like Batman was when the two ferries were rigged, with the remotes kept in the other barge. But when you look at the state of things around, the Joker’s words tend to cross your mind…

Hmmm? You know… You know what I’ve noticed? Nobody panics when things go “according to plan.” Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all “part of the plan.” But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds! Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos.

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Look at what’s happened in India over the past two decades. We’ve had bomb blasts ripping through cities, over and over again. People are horrified, shaken, paranoid even. The news channels have ‘field days’. Give it a few days, and everyone has put the incident into some low priority folder in their heads, and gone about with their routine like it never happened.

Now while resilience is a good thing, everyone’s missing the bigger point. Can’t the security forces, the police, the intelligence agencies, and even the common man become more responsible. Why aren’t we, as Viper in Top Gun puts it, ‘compelled to evaluate what’s happened, so that he can apply what he’s learnt’? And why do we always go back to being our usual  irresponsible selves?

The another blast. And then another. So many innocent people who just didn’t deserve to die, lost their lives in the most gruesome of ways. And still, the intelligence agencies, the security forces and the police expected that if the bad guys are gonna ever attack again, they might do it the same way, so lets keep a watch out for bombs.

How can you just assume everything. The terrorists have been successful so far because of our ignorance. We checked random taxis, buses and trains for explosives or suspicious looking objects, but left such a damn big coastline unguarded.

And, once again, on Nov. 28, 2008, Mumbai (India) was hit in a manner least expected. And for what felt like a lifetime. Like the Joker said, the bad guys here too just introduced a little anarchy, a lot in fact. And that upset the established order. Nobody saw terror come in that form. And then, everything was chaos. And we, with all the security, and all the intelligence, were sitting ducks.

If not as back as 1993, at least by 2003, or for that matter 2006 all the way to the Mumbai terrorist attack, couldn’t the security and intelligence agencies have sat and thought like the terrorists, and prepared themselves accordingly.

There’s this Bollywood movie called Border, which is one of my all-time favourites. It is based on the 1971 war fought between India and Pakistan, where Pakistan decided to forcefully enter India and capture whatever area it could.

Now, whatever I’ve mentioned say here is based on what I’ve read, and parts from the film.

But well, here’s what happened. Expecting a Pakistani attack by Pakistan, a small regiment of the Indian army at Rajasthan was given a choice. Of holding the Longewala post in Rajasthan till reinforcements arrived, or to flee the post. Another strategic post, Sadhewala, had a much larger Indian battalion posted there. The Pakistanis had planned to attack the Longewala post with a much larger tank battalion. The Major heading the small regiment questions his commanding officer before leaving for the post. He asks ‘how can he assume that just because the Pakistani’s attacked the Sadhewala post in the previous war, that they would do the same this time’? Or ‘whether he thinks the enemy is expected to ask them where to attack’.

The 1971 war makes for one of the most amazing war stories, and one that fills me with pride for my country. And rightly so. This war is significant in the history of wars. To date, remains one of the few wars where a highly outnumbered army emerged victorious. Let’s put that in perspective. 120-130 Indian army soldiers guarding an outpost, were attacked by a 2800+ Pakistani tank regiment. At night. Indian fighter planes at the time were not equipped for night flight. They therefore had to wait till dawn to rescue the army regiment. This small Indian army regiment inflicted heavy casualties on the 2800+ enemy soldiers and tanks mostly due to a favourable terrain, accompanied by the soldiers, who courageously held off the enemies till morning, when the air force came and wrapped things up in our favour.

But to think about it; while we sure won that war, we sure beat the crazy odds, and we did what under most circumstances, given the odds, would’ve been nearly impossible otherwise, but; did it have to be that way.

Could we have perhaps had both locations reasonably well guarded. Or if troops could’ve been mobilized to either location at the earliest. We would have beat the enemy much faster. Or better still, looking at the strong army, the enemy probably wouldn’t have attacked in the first place.

A famous quote goes something like this – “It’s better to sweat in peace, than to bleed in war.”

Simply put, that means, if we plan well, if we anticipate things, if we do our homework in a proper manner, it would save us a hell of a lot of damage when things go bad. In fact, in matters of national security, I feel, if we do our homework, if we are more prepared on a continuous basis, there wouldn’t even be situations like that in Mumbai, or for that matter, all the attacks in the past few years across the country, or even in other countries abroad. Is human life so cheap, that people just take national security so lightly.

And if that was not enough, we made a joke of ourselves at the hands of Pakistan. When we kept providing them information linking the terrorists to their country. And they repeatedly deny it, making a joke of the entire thing.

Imagine the families of all those who lost someone to the attacks, or to the blasts. This would’ve just made them feel like a foreigner in their own country.

Now sure like any other guy, I’m crazy about first-person shooter video/ pc games; and absolutely crazy about recon games. And like most of us chaps, I’d love some action, etc. But it’s a totally different thing watching your fellow Indians bleed for absolutely no fault of theirs.

And while we are inherently a peace-loving country, over the years, why have we become so laid-back and meek? While I don’t suggest an Israel-style retaliation to attacks, though, believe me, Israeli’s absolutely rock at it. And while they sure do have a lot of crazy attacks happening there, at least their average citizen knows that their country doesn’t take things lying down.

We on the other hand, on that particular occasion after the Mumbai attack, made it appear as if we were at the mercy of the Pakistani verdict, which was absolutely ridiculous.

Lets think…

Be more prepared and pro-active…

Lets be alert…

And open to ideas. To logical reasoning…

Lets protect our country…

They say “The night is darkest just before the dawn.”

So why not stand together, and do our part in this fight against terrorism; to bring in that new dawn.

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