“Intention is the real power behind desire. Intent alone is very powerful, because intent is desire without attachment to the outcome.”

Friday, July 2, 2010

Climbing and Entrepreneurship

April 20th, 2005. Bouldering cave at Stone Age, a rock climbing gym in Albuquerque. The climbing problem in front of me was rated V2 (fairly difficult) that started under a roof section, went over it to the side and then crossed back to the top of the roof, right above the starting point. It was a route marked in blue. This was my 2nd attempt. The crux of the route was right at the beginning. I was not able to hold on to the smaller holds called crimps (grabbed with the tips of your fingers) long enough to reach for the next hand hold that was larger. I felt like I was not strong enough. After my third try, I was exhausted. I had used up a lot of energy. I sat on the crash pad, taking a break and staring at the problem in front of me. This time I was determined to complete the route. I had already spent 2 days trying to scale it. But now it seemed like I would have to come back again another day for another attempt.

While taking a breather, I observed other folks as they attempted this same route. Some guys were like me, clueless as to how to make it past the starting point. Then there were those guys who had a lot of muscle power to grip the holds long enough to make it to the next one and complete the climb. This climbing style was of no use to me; I didn’t learn much from them because I don’t have that kind of muscle power to pull my body weight. Then I noticed this woman try it. She was so nimble on the wall - she completed the climb. But she didn’t rely on strength, nor did she run out of it. She was able to take her time, observe every hold, carefully secure her hands, shift her body weight appropriately to reach for the next hold and did that over and over until she made it to the top. It was marvelous! I had never seen such graceful climbing before.

The reason she was able to climb it, was not because she was a woman and light-weight. It was because of how she technically worked on each hold and figured out the adjustments she needed to make by shifting her body weight, twisting her legs so that the whole time, her legs carried her weight while her arms and fingers allowed her to move to the next hold easily without getting fatigued.

I had been climbing for more than a year by then. But on this day I truly learned my climbing style: Study the route first. Anticipate where you might have problems along the way. Take a deep breath at each hold. Don’t fatigue the arms. Twist the body so that the legs are always carrying your weight and not the arms. Don’t force yourself to complete the climb. The goal is to make it easy on you.

Doesn’t this sound familiar when you hear an Entrepreneur talk about what you must do to be successful. The first thing they tell you is to be persistent. I was persistent about completing that V2 blue route. I came back to it each day because I was dissatisfied. Ask an entrepreneur what keeps their fire burning and they will tell you that it has to do with the feeling of satisfaction that they needed to fulfill. I not only observed what I was doing incorrectly, but I was able to see what people were doing right, whether they were power climbers or nimble climbers. Not all entrepreneurs are successful on their first try. They learn from their mistakes as well as from the mistakes of others. It is true that the real pleasure of climbing is when you take each step on the climbing route on its individual merit and solve it to move on to the next. That’s why climbers call the routes a “problem” - because they look at it as a challenge that can be solved. And there are several ways to try a route, but only a few ways to solve it. Similarly, entrepreneurs are constantly trying to solve a challenge. Any new technology or product doesn’t become an overnight success. It becomes successful only after a number of methods have been tried and failed. Entrepreneurs that do succeed are able to do so because they don’t fatigue themselves. They take their time to understand each issue at hand and attempt to solve it one at a time. Completing one challenging route gives them the confidence to try a harder challenge, which they attempt with the same persistence and perseverance in the same way a climber tries to complete a route.

After looking at how the woman climbed the route, I used her technique but modified it for my body weight and length. It worked! I was able to conserve my energy and complete the climb. I realized then that I had to develop my technique further. I asked a few expert climbers for advice. Everyone suggested that the best way to hone my skills is to build muscle memory. When your body repeatedly does the same move to climb certain routes then it develops a memory of that particular move. I took their advice and quickly learned how to shift my body weight, how to use my legs when footholds were scarce, and how to use my fingers for gripping crimps. Basically, I was giving my body the practice it needed so I could attempt harder climbs.

From this experience, I realized that my entrepreneurial endeavor is no different than my climbing. I need to develop muscle memory in order to get better at it. And building muscle memory entrepreneurially comes from making an attempt, failing, and trying another method till you get it right. The moral of this story is not that climbing helps build entrepreneurial skills. In fact, the moral is that we all should reach into our individual passions and use what we do best to identify and help with our entrepreneurial challenges. There is much to learn from listening to successful entrepreneurs or leaders, but there’s much more to learn from our own lives!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

What is your beat rate?

Ever heard that perfect song when you were feeling high or when you were feeling low. You know how it lifts your spirits. Ever wondered what the beat rate of that song is? And then wondered if you were to search for songs with similar beat rates from all your favorite artists, you would probably experience the same emotion as that first song did.

Try it! When you listen to your favorite song, find the most prominent beat in the song (like a drum or something) and count the times it beats in a minute. Then find another song that makes you feel the same way and count its bests. It most likely will be the same!

I then suppose that that’s your beat rate for "riding your bike” or for that “quiet moment”.

I wonder if there’s already an app out there that lets you categorize your songs based on your beat rate. Now there’s an idea for all you computer geeks or entrepreneurs out there.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

First Trip - India '09

Finally took my first journey. I traveled to the state of Gujarat, just north of Bombay (Mumbai). It is also home to my community. Was based in Ahmedabad and traveled frequently to a city called Rajkot, which is one of the industrial bases in the country for all engines manufacturing. This city hosts 4 industrial estates, which are lands alloted by the government specifically for industrial activity.
I made 2 round trips, 6 hour each between Ahmedabad and Rajkot to meet with a few of these engine manufacturing companies and its local market.

But everytime I travel to a new location, I am always amazed to see new devices or designs of devices for functions we take for granted.
For example, the picture below is of a road-side tea stall.
The guy is using a regular "chula" for making tea, which is a coal burning stove. The uniquness of this chula is that there's a pump connected to it. So instead of waving a fan to heat the coals as normally done in any household, he uses a rotary pump to blow air into the chula.
All tea stall owners in the city use this chula design!!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Back to the roots

Back in Mumbai, India to continue on the second phase of SEED's journey. This next step is very crucial to build the most important aspect of the business.

Watch for this space as information pours in.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Is India an Elephant?

India; is it a Panda, Peacock or a Tiger or any other animal? This was the topic of discussion at this year’s India Business Conference at the Kellogg School. My answer, I guess it depends on your individual perspectives and experiences.

But a bunch of business folks at the conference unanimously called India an Elephant. This begs the question of what did businessmen/women find so elephant like about India? Is it its enormous size that makes it a difficult place to do business in? Or is it its strength that is represented in some of its business houses like the Tatas or Ambanis. Some people commented on the mental ability or capacity of the elephant as being indicative of Indian businesses, while some hinted that once in rage no one can stop the elephant from storming and moving forward.

It brings to mind an old joke or idiom where 4 blind friends touch different body parts of an elephant and describe it as a snake, a wall, a tree trunk and a rope analogous to its trunk, skin, feet and tail.

While some people like to call India, a country of contradictions, C.K.Prahalad interestingly enough re-positioned it as a Kaleidoscope. Whether you are a blind person touching an Elephant or have 20-20 vision looking through a kaleidoscope, India is definitely a land of growing business opportunities and innovations.

The conference I attended on Saturday discussed exactly why this was the case about India and Prahalad opened the forum with some fine examples and ideas to make the case in point.

What is the Indian market like and how do its consumers behave?

· 2/3 rd of the population lives in poverty = Base Of Pyramid (BOP)

· Markets are unorganized and inefficient

· Diverse religious and cultures

· By 2025, 300 million new workers. But out of 100 Indians, 70 complete primary education and only 7 graduate = large unskilled workforce

· 60% of the total population is <30 old = " aspirational">

Traditional business processes and products do not easily transplant and work in India. For example, take the picture of the Elephant.

This is an example of a distribution system that the election committee of India is using to distribute electronic polling booths to the far regions of India. Impressive!!

Therefore, to do business in India, traditional business models must change. How? Prahald provided some different points-of-view (POV) on how to do this.

Different POV #1

Price - Profit = Cost, versus the traditional method of Cost + Profit = Price

Different POV#2

Value equation for emerging markets has to change (see figure)

Different POV #3

Innovation sandbox => Embrace the constraints of emerging markets

Different POC #4

Investment capaicty doesn't come from money only, but should also come through increasing collaborative capacity.

The conference was entirely targeted towards MBA students only. Other speakers included T.N. Balaji from ITC Ltd. who talked about e-Chaupal and another interesting Agri-business concept that has also been successfully implemented by ITC, and CEOs of Future Group, Bharat Forge, etc.

Check out the conference website for more information: http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/News_Articles/2009/indiabusinessconference.aspx

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Social Entrepreneurship and Terrorism, a solution to 26/11

26/11! That's how the media is reffering to the terrorist attack in Mumbai on Nov. 26th, 2008. This incident was too close to home for me. On that day, at 11am when I had planned to complete a homework assignment for one of my classes I heard the development of terrorist activity starting from one of my favorite café and a common hangout spot in Mumbai, Leopold Cafe. For the next 6 hours I was watching live streaming news from a local Indian news service as the events unfolded. The sight took me back to that unfortunate September morning when a number of us saw the second plane hit the second of the twin towers live on TV.

The last few days have not been easy in trying to stay focused to complete my assignments while wanting to know more about what’s going on in Mumbai, calling all my family and friends daily to find out the latest and to get a pulse of the emotions running through everyone’s mind. Every time I hit the books, I can’t help but drift into the sights and sounds from that Wednesday. Here are excerpts from the commentary from some of my friends.

“I am cancelling my trip to Mumbai for next week. My dad’s freaking out and will not let me get out of Delhi.”

“I’ve joined a group to talk about how we all feel and the message we want to send to the government”.

“Everyone is fine. Luckily this happened at 9 in the night, when most of my friends and family had returned home.”

“My cousin works at the Taj and his shift got over an hour before the terrorists entered the hotel. He lives close by, a stone’s throw away and can hear all gunshots and bombs going off. We were really worried for him, thank God he’s safe.”

“Can you believe it, there were only 10 of them!”

“There’s been a total lack of intelligence and a breakdown of the system.”

“We are going to organize a rally to force the government to take action. We are paying all of this tax money and if it can’t even protect us in such a situation, then the government has no right to be in power.”

I’ve been listening continuously to comments like this and watching news incessantly. Why do I need to watch the same news over and over? I finally realized that this is a knee jerk reaction, a way for me to find peace within me, a way to cry out about what’s happening. I haven’t spoken much about my feelings, how I feel and I guess I need to vent. I thought I could keep my thoughts to myself. But that's not helping and so here it is. This post is my way to vent out my emotions.

I’ve never believed that governments had enough of a power to effect change no matter how noble their ideas. Instead, I believe that this new breed of entrepreneurs called Social Entrepreneurs have more power to effect change and that’s the reason they are doing what they do. I immediately decided to research online for social entrepreneurs or people not recognized as one yet, who work to fight terrorism by fighting social problems such as poverty, lack of education and healthcare by creating income generating opportunities. These social entrepreneurs all know that terrorism stems from adversity and from a continual betrayal by the system. There needs to be a method for people to vent their anger, disappointments, frustrations and the only outlet or counseling they get is from terror groups. Sometime back, we heard from a speaker at a business event that Hamas is considered as a social service group. No doubt!! The challenge for the social entrepreneurs then is to provide access to an alternative outlet to vent.

As David Bornstein describes them, “Social entrepreneurs = Destabilizing forces”

So, here I was online searching for people who were doing this kind of work and to find a way to put my built up energy into their work rather than organize rallies, write letters to government officials, demand their resignations, etc. which I feel are all reactionary measures and not pro-active steps. My job here is to highlight some of the work that these other brave souls are enduring. They work among populations that are known to breed terrorists. Their challenge is to not only work with dismembered sections of the society but to also come up with solutions in places that lack access to common services.

Here’s what I came across….

1. Sushobha Barve - Center for Dialogue and Reconciliation (CDR)
Profile: http://www.ashoka.org/node/2648
Other weblinks: http://kashmir.ahrchk.net/mainfile.php/v1n6/250/, http://www.opfblog.com/290/bridging-divides-by-sushobha-barve/

2. Susheela Bhan - Institute for Peace Research and Violence
Profile: http://www.ashoka.org/node/2647
Other weblinks: http://proxied.changemakers.net/journal/300506/paul.cfm

3. World Comics - http://www.worldcomicsindia.com/index.html

4. Greg Mortensen and David Relin, authors of the book, “ Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations…One School at a Time”, http://www.threecupsoftea.com/

5. Students tackle terrorism, illiteracy, disaster relief and more in social entrepreneurship contest - http://news-service.stanford.edu/pr/03/social264.html

Stanford student Uri Pomerantz, an Israeli, lost his great-aunt in a terrorist attack at a Jerusalem bus stop in 2002. Hisham Jabi, a Palestinian now studying at the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management in Southern California, lost a cousin to a bullet in 1991 as Israeli troops quelled a demonstration in Nablus.

Their losses could have made them enemies. Instead, they chose to become business partners. To address the economic roots of terrorism, they teamed up to form Jozoor Microfinance (Jozoor means "roots" in Arabic). The company grants microloans to young Palestinian men who could become targets for recruitment to terrorist groups. More than 60 percent of the Palestinian population lives on less than $2 per day, and the unemployment rate exceeds 50 percent.

I invite all you folks out there to add your experiences and comment on other activities beyond what I have listed here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

BREAKING NEWS - It's raining ships!

Sometime back (http://entersection.blogspot.com/2008/06/bangla-chronicles-day-15.html) I had blogged about how excited I was to see a ship breaking yard in Chittagong, Bangladesh. I think I had failed to mention how dangerous it is to be in a ship breaking yard and also how difficult it is to get in since they have been getting a lot of international flak on thier inhuman working and environmental conditions.

Four out of five of us that entered a ship breaking yard by sweet talking the manager, walked in with cameras in their hands. A stupid mistake! The manager immediately wanted to kick us out for bringing cameras with us and so everyone kept their cameras back in the car. I for one, had smartly placed the camera inside my pants, good thing that digital cameras are small and light. :-)

This place was a graveyard of ships from all over the world; ships were dry docked to the beach and there were people on all of these ships using hammers, saws, and metal cutting torches, tearing away each portion of the ship and selling metal scraps and other useful equipment like kitchen furnaces, lifeboats, etc. found on them. I don't need to highlight their working condition, which is generally common to find in any developing country, but I would like to describe the beach. I'm maybe used to seeing murky sea waters in Bombay, but the water here was beyond murky. It was frothing with white stuff and the beach sand was bright red (rust) in color. Definitely not the water you want to swim in.

So, as crazy as I am for action, I convinced everyone that we should take one of the boats that these people use to get to the ships. It turned out to be a truly crazy idea! We were passing between these two ships and generally watching large chunks of the ships falling into the water, when we heard a huge crackling sound like the sound of thunder ripping through the air. The back section of the ship to our right suddenly tore away and came crashing into the water. It was like watching a piece of an iceberg falling into the water. As the part sank into the water, it created a huge waves that came towards our little boat. Everyone freaked out as our boat got rocked by the waves and could have easily overturned if we were any closer to the ship. Everyone panicked and we asked our boat guy to quickly get us back to shore less any other ship pieces fell on us. True story!! Check out the video to listen to the shocked reaction.

This was truly the wildest part of our summer trip in Bangladesh. And we had our professor along with us to acknowledge how crazy Angie and me were when it came to exploring the country. LOL!