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February 7, 2013 / innovationinitiator

Constant craving…for learning!


maths (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

I’ve spent the last 18 years of my life believing that I knew everything! I was the master of my destiny and I had all the answers. There wasn’t a problem too big or an opportunity too challenging. And people who complained were just loosers not worth the time or money.

Destiny is strange. It manages to bite you in the ass when you’re not expecting it to. (Not that I was ever expecting anything to bite me in the ass!)

Over this last year I’ve not only been un-employed and broke but also extremely fortunate to have been coached by some of the leading minds in India. As part of our Leadership Insights initiative, we had the opportunity to pick the brains of current & former CEOs of billion $ companies. I’ve also had the privilege to pick through the minds of the founders of some of the hotest startups in India and the VC’s who are backing them.

I’m currently working on distilling some of these nuggets into a ebook that you will be able to download through but if you want to get a leg up on me, you can see some of these stories right now at .

January 16, 2013 / innovationinitiator

Conquering Challenges to Succeed

Never give up!

Never give up! (Photo credit: Sơn Marki – Tel: 0924.225.113)

While every person we have covered as part of the Leadership Insights series is an exceptional person, very so often we meet people who stand out due to what they have endured and what they have achieved.

We had the privilege of meeting not only one but two of them last week. Deepa Kannan and Shyam Nair are a married couple running a successful yoga business who have had to conquer their personal demons and challenges to get to where they are today. Their company Yogasopanam Wellness is one of the leading Yoga institutes in Bangalore and well on their way to becoming an institution in the field.

While I’ll invite you to hear Shyam’s story through his own words, I will take a quick moment to talk about why it had such a great impact on me.

Shyam was born into poverty and had spent many of his growing years with less than a square meal a day. He thought he had left those days behind when he moved to Bangalore, got a great job at a technology firm, got married and the family grew to include a child. Unfortunately life had other plans for him.

Take a look at his story. I was amazed at his strength and faith. Tell me what you felt.

You can view other Leadership Insights here.

January 7, 2013 / innovationinitiator

How large is your world?

“We’re here to put a dent in the universe..” Steve Jobs

Steve-Jobs1At 24 Steve Jobs had a vision. And the vision was not just a better computer or better user interface but a vision of making a dent in the universe.

I heard of this quote a few years ago and, like everyone else, was amazed at what that 24 year old had achieved by the time of his death last year.

There is a lot of difference between knowing a quote and believing in it.

As Rubina and I began our entrepreneurial journey, we knew that the Leadership Insights initiative has a lot of potential. Our goal is to build this to a platform where incredible people are sharing incredible insights and inspiring, motivating and triggering the rest of us into action.

Anand Sudarshan brought Steve Jobs quote to life for me during our recording of the Leadership Insights. As the CEO of Manipal Education, Anand conceived the idea of creating a platform to impact the higher education sector. While others had thought of a similar platform or tool, Anand’s vision differed in one small aspect. He thought of transformative scale. For Anand, the opportunity was the million strong kids with limited or no access to higher education. After 6 years and a quarter of a million students later, I believe Anand has been able to create the transformative impact that he was aiming for.

Our realization now is that we need to think transformative scale with the Leadership Insights Series! We have to make our own dent in the universe. We need to build a unique collection of deeply impactful stories, of everyday people.

We’ve started on our journey, what are you waiting for?

Watch Anand Sudarshan’s video here.

And from the Pirates of Silicon Valley

December 24, 2012 / innovationinitiator

Storytelling – The lost art of teaching

Prince Valiant: The Story-Telling Game softcov...

Prince Valiant: The Story-Telling Game softcover (1989) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Story telling

used to be one of the most powerful ways for transferring knowledge and experience to the future generations. For a substantial part of human civilization, the only method we had for teaching others was through telling the stories of our heroes and heroins and illustrating their struggles as a solution for our problems.
From the Quran to the Bible and the Bhagwad Gita, all religious books are essentially a collection of stories of exceptional people and what they did when faced with adversity.

While we have replaced the ancient tomes with the modern case studies, we have also started loosing the art of story telling. We rely more and more on boring numbers, data and charts to ‘sell’ our dreams to others.

Think of the last sales meeting or presentation you sat through? Irrespective of the kind of product that was being sold (consumer or business focused) chances are that you sat through a 43 slide presentation largely filled with technical and marketing gobble-de-gook that tells you very little about how it make a difference to you and more about why the company feels that they are cool!

One of the best story tellers in the modern times has been Steve Jobs. The predictable clothes, the same fonts, similar tempo but….

Steve Job’s built Apple on the power of dreams. Apple doesn’t sell you computers, music players or portable computing devices. Apple is in the business of selling you dreams and possibilities.

The possibility of being a great graphic designer, or a award winning video producer, or of being the only kid in the block with the coolest mobile phone. Sure they make great products, but its the dreams and possibilities that they promise that makes their products successful.

hedgeI bought my Mac for the same reason – 27.7 inches of possibility. I saw my photo of  ‘A hedge’ wining the 2012 IPA and my videos being nominated for the Oscars.

For the Leadership Insights series we have used the story telling format to capture learning and insights of super achievers and lead radicals.

Each story talks about a specific event in the speakers life and about how they engaged with it. Each story is a self contained lesson which leaves the learning to you.

You choose if you want to be inspired, surprised, motivated or activated. The speakers are sharing their experiences  you choose what you want to do with it.

To know more about the Leadership Insights series, click here.

December 17, 2012 / innovationinitiator

What’s holding you back?

I meet a lot of people as part of my work, both socially and professionally, and most people talk about how they envy my ability to step out and become an entrepreneur.

While there are benefits of being accountable to your self, there are challenges of cash-flow, inspiration, seeking within self for motivation and the biggest of all, having no one else to blame for your failures!

But, this is not about me. The same people who envy an entrepreneur also talk about how they would love to do the same, if

The big 


Sujit Sumitran is once such person who kind of challenged the ‘big if’. During the recording of the Leadership Insights series, Sujit talks about being diagnosed with a heart condition at 40. A illness that could have possibly crippled his love for the outdoors and sports. As he went through his post operative recovery, he was advised by a lot of people, including his doctor, to start acting his age and living the life of a heart patient.


Sujit took everyone’s well meaning advice, considered it, but decided to follow his own heart. He has today run multiple half marathons, is preparing for a full marathon and spends most of his working hours on his feet in high energy activity.

If Sujit could face the things that could have slowed him down, despite experts advising him to take it easy, what’s holding you back from chasing your entrepreneurial dream?

See Sujit’s insightful story here.

To see similar stories of entrepreneurs and leaders, check out Leadership Insights.

I’d love to hear from you about what’s holding you back so do feel free to post in the comments section below.

December 13, 2012 / innovationinitiator

Stopping to start again!


StopS (Photo credit: maplemusketeer)

For the longest time since I shut down my first venture, I was always wondered if we gave up too easily.

We were doing well, had clients in Singapore, Dubai and India and generating enough to get us by.
But, somewhere along with business, raising finance and conflict of interests with the co-founders, we just gave up and moved on.

Once we stopped it took me 15 years before starting again and launching my current venture. During those 15 intervening years, I kept questioning myself, my goals and the very first venture.

Bhupendra SharmaOne of the earliest person’s we recorded as part of Leadership Insights is Bhupendra Sharma. Bhupi and I had worked together on and off about 4 years ago before I took a break from the innovation space and moved over to a technology company.

When we finally met and sat down to record for the Leadership Insights series Bhupi talked about leaving something he took 20 years to create and starting afresh all over again..

Having co-founded and invested 20 years of his life to build one of the most successful consulting companies in India, Bhupi talked about realizing the emotional and intellectual disconnect with the company. While the money was good, it didn’t bring happiness. Happiness for Bhupi was about following his dream, being a pioneer, pegging his flag well ahead of the others and getting teams to form around it.


Dream (Photo credit: jbellut)

As I came back from the shoot, I kept playing Bhupi’s words back in my head. Was it possible that  me and my founders (all around great guys!) were just not seeing happiness in the same things? More than work was it an ideological disconnect?

Where are your disconnects? Will understanding that make it easier for you to deal with change?

Watch Bhupi’s insight into success & happiness here.

To watch other leadership stories visit Leadership Insights.

December 11, 2012 / innovationinitiator

Engaging with fear

The Garden of Fear and Other Stories

The Garden of Fear and Other Stories (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Feb this year I had a challenging task of laying off 300 team members and escort myself out of the office. It was the first time that I was part of a full shut down and had to manage the shutdown process too.

As you can imagine, it was tough all around and from being at the high point of my career and contemplating my next big move, I was left with no career, expectations and uncertainties of a 300 member family and a slowing macro economic environment.

Over the next 8 months we played around with multiple ideas, applied to over a 100 companies, reached out to friends and family for connections and support and eventually realized that there should be examples of exceptional people going through similar challenges and how they dealt with fear and uncertainty.

Vani Kola is all smiles at TiECon Photo (239)

Vani Kola is all smiles at TiECon Photo (239) (Photo credit: Silicon Valley Blog)

As we officially launch the Leadership Insight series, the one story that comes to mind is what Vani Kola shared about engaging with fear and uncertainty and how she used focus, passion and belief in self to get over it and build a $1.4 billion organization.

You will see these and many more stories of entrepreneurs & leaders at .

To watch Vani’s story, click here .

The Leadership Insights platform is a collection of stories of thinkers, leaders and entrepreneurs; critical moments of their lives that changed the way they engaged with problems and opportunities. Our intent is to build this in a extensive collection of ‘Hero Stories’ from across India to inspire, trigger and catapult others into a growth trajectory.

Support us by viewing the videos and posting your comments and thoughts in the relevant sections.

December 5, 2012 / innovationinitiator

The Art of Conversation

The art of conversation is more about listening than about talking.


Did that sound too obvious? Over the last 40 years of talking and listening to people (ok, maybe the last 30 since I was able to understand language), I realized today that I really had this art of conversation figured out all wrong.

Rubina and I spent the day today in conversation with a close friend and entrepreneur who was contributing to the Leadership Insights series and I realized that for the first time, I was listening to the person and not just talking to him.

Among the multiple stories and tipping points that Vijay shared with us, his battles with perceptions and discovery of mentors/teachers taught me a lot about me and the opportunities at hand.

How often have we taken offense at the way the other person was dressed or talked or stood or talked and refused to connect with the person behind that facade?

To hear more about Vijay Mane’s stories and to connect with other leaders and entrepreneurs, subscribe to this blog or write to me.

Till my next conversation…

December 4, 2012 / innovationinitiator

Cloudy with chance of data

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (video game)

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (video game) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve seen the light, or rather the light behind the cloud.

Since we launched Colorshots I’ve had to spend a lot of time away from a desk. My life is split between shooting people ;), waiting in conference rooms & ideating & brainstorming with my co-founder Rubina.

While I haven’t figured out how to be in multiple places at the same time, I have figured out how to get to my data at multiple  places at the same time!

Google drive helps keep all my data synced between my tablet, phone, laptop & edit system. WordPress allows me to keep our website updated and live from my phone or my desk. And Google Apps allows me to connect to all my business infrastructure from anywhere.

I might be late to this party but believe me, I have seen the light and its all cloudy!

November 25, 2012 / innovationinitiator

meeting people…

3 weeks and 15 conversations later we are closer to our launch date.

The Leadership Insight series has put us in front of some very interesting people and I’ll give you a snap shot of what to look forward to0 –

Vani Kola – talks about starting her first venture and getting people engaged with her dreams

Anand Sudarshan – Talks about building relationships and investing in them for life

Parvathi Menon – Recollects her challenges in starting her second venture and simple realities that kept her awake!

While you’ll get to hear them and many more interesting people in the series what stood out to me as a struggling entrepreneur is that even the more successful among us are equally troubled with failure and financial resources but they persevered.

I’m going to persevere and look forward to your support in meeting and talking to more and more interesting people!