Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What story you want to tell?

I will tell you a story.

There was a village in a remote area in India. It was ruled by an evil land lord. People in that region are terrified and pray to god to send someone to save them. There enters the hero from somewhere. He encounters heroine by mistake and falls in love. He spends time romancing  her for some time. Then comes confrontation with villian. Fight starts between protagonist and the villain. Each devising strategies to take down each other. Finally comes a moment when a person very dear to hero was killed by villain very cruelly. And hero takes revenge on villian and saves the village.

Sounds familiar? 

I saw this story hundreds of times in different languages with a different hero, heroine, villain, different place, different time. I like watching movies as it was my favourite source of entertainment from my childhood. There came my curiosity about story telling. How can people watch / read stories with same plot again and again? I started noticing that as long as the story teller keeps it interesting, people can watch / hear as many stories as possible.

In the book "TED TALKS", Chris Anderson mentioned that in ancient times, people used to sit around fire places in the evenings and elders used to tell stories. Stories of heroism, bravery, stories of victory, stories of devil. Others in the pack used to listen to these stories very attentively. At that point, the whole group becomes a single entity and all the people involved feel same emotion at once such as laugh, feel the pain, getting excited along the characters of the story.

I realized, There is something far more important than telling a story, it is about connecting with other human beings at a deeper level and Celebrating the commonalities among us.

If you had noticed, there are not more than 6-7 plots in most of the stories we heard. *

Man vs man
Man vs nature
Man vs society
Man vs self
Man vs god
Man vs woman 

We all heard many stories. But you know where the challenge is? When you want to tell a story.
You wonder on what story you want to tell.

One of the best sources to find content for stories is our environment (people around us). Most of the time we are focused on our own lives and mostly ignore our surroundings (especially people). If you open up and look around, every one has a story to tell. Observing their lives, hardships, lessons learnt will give good idea about the stories you you want to tell your audience. My favourite way is to look at history for material. Ancient times, how humans evolved, battles fought, stories of kings and their times give ample content for your usage. 
There is no standard formula for telling a story. However, some of the frameworks mentioned above can help you as guidelines.

So what story you want to tell?

* http://lenwilson.us/seven-stories/

Friday, September 16, 2016

My thoughts on India's performance at Rio Olympics

I was elevated, excited and enthralled for the glory that Sakshi and Sindhu brought by winning their medals at Rio olympics. Like millions of Indian fans, i watched women’s badminton finals. Even though PV Sindhu lost the match to world no. 1, i liked the way she fought till the end. Her fighting spirit apart from the medal is appreciated by everyone.
I was proud that in a country where sports infrastructure is less and kids are encouraged to become engineers and doctors, these athletes are bringing medals for India. I got curious about Sindhu. I wanted to know How she got there? what training she got? what sacrifices she made? As i dug deeper, following is what i believe are the reasons for her success.
Purpose, Practice, Perseverance, and Progress
Purpose: Sindhu’s father was a national level basket ball player. Yet he allowed her to play badminton as she showed interest in badminton only. She started playing from the age of 8. Played her first tournament at the age of 10 and ever since, she has been playing the game. Sindhu identified her interest very early in her life and luckily she got support from her parents and focused all her time and energy on the game and it helped her significantly.
Practice: Malcum Gladwell, in his book OUTLIERS said, to master any skill, one needs to practice at least 10,000 hours. Sindhu trained in Pullela Gopi chand Badminton Academy. At some point, She used to travel 50 km to the academy and starts training at 4:30 am everyday. By the age of 21, Sindhu already played badminton for 13 years. Assuming she played about 3–4 hours a day, 300 days a year, she would have crossed 10,000 hours of practice. It gave her massive advantage in terms of acquiring the skill.
Perseverance: There was a time she exited early in national under 13 badminton games. Next day morning, she was at the academy practicing the game. Even in Rio finals , she was trailing in all 3 sets. But she constantly fought back and won first set, and nearly made it in the 3rd set. She had her share of failures. But it didn’t stop her from moving forward.
Progress: Many people spend time practicing the skill. But not all succeed. what makes the difference is the feedback one gets on their game. Having a coach who understands your strengths, identifies weakness and helps you grow, makes a lot of difference. Sindhu got a great coach in Pullela Gopi chand who had a track record of producing winners such as Saina Nehwal. Gopi Chand has played a major role in her winning Olympic silver medal at Rio.
I would like to mention my favourite quote of will smith on talent and skill. “Talent is what you have naturally. Skill is only developed by hours and hours of beating on your craft.” It takes having clear purpose, then keep practicing to improve one’s skill, persevere through tough times and progress till you reach your goal.
India may not have fared well at Rio olympics. However, we need winners such as PV Sindhu and Sakshi to inspire next generation of sporting talent so that India can get better results in future sporting events.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Travel Chronicles

I was in the boat with other tourists. I was enjoying the view where boat was passing through a passage between two high lands. Suddenly my friend called, "Hey, come to the other side". The moment I reached other side of boat, I looked at the scene in front of me and I froze. All I could see was large blue sky, water falling from fifty feet height covering my eye site, making so much noise that I could not hear any other sound. Misty fog was created right in the middle of the fall as if there are clouds forming in front of my eyes. Water was so violent, I felt like I was in the middle of a storm.  I had never seen anything like that in my life and the whole experience gave me goose bumps.

That was my first experience visiting Nayagara falls.  I was never much of a traveler. All the travel I did was visiting relatives or traveling for study or job purposes. That moment at nayagara changed my perspective about travel. I made a decision, that I will visit as many places as I can. Since then I traveled to over 7-8 countries and visited many cities in India. Each time I travel, I learn something new. Something about place, people, culture, food habits, history, more importantly I learn something about myself.

One of the aspects I struggled with when I visited non-English non-native place is the language barrier. 
When I visited Taiwan, locals didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Taiwanese. Basic necessities such as food, navigation became a problem. I struggled to find routes and destinations.  I still remember standing in front of a food stall and looking to eat food.  I was very hungry, but, I could not strike a conversation with shopkeeper to give me food. It was a humbling experience and  I felt like an illiterate trying to figure out basic things. However, I started enjoying the process in my subsequent travels.

Another aspect I look forward to in travel is the random encounters with people. Interaction with people from different backgrounds helps me understand different perspectives. Once I was in a flight from Delhi to Bangalore. It was a 3 hour flight. I started a random conversation with a person next to me. We spoke at length on various issues such as generation these days and current telecom and internet situation in India, what are the causes we are not growing as fast as we should, only to know in the end that this gentleman is a General manager in BSNL, overseeing broadband adoption across India. Another time, I helped a lone lady with her luggage during Mumbai-newyrk flight. We became friends quickly. She is a well known paediatrician in Newark city. She said, "whenever you come to this city, don’t forget you know someone here". Whenever I travel, I look forward to these random encounters and the experience it brings.

Most important thing about the travel is, I learn something about life. Once I was traveling back to my hometown. Last leg was a 4 hour bus journey to reach my village. I was all bogged down with my worries related to career, office problems, personal problems etc. There was a couple next to me. Husband, wife and 3 children are happy and they are having great time during the journey. It suddenly occurred to me that my life is good in terms of my job, family, friends, health etc. That moment, I learnt from that unknown family to enjoy every moment and life is not as bad as I often thought it is. I enjoyed my vacation forgetting whatever problems I thought I had and had good time at home.

Each one of the travels changed me as a person. Be it enjoying nature, struggling with basic necessities or having those random encounters. It teaches me how little I know about the world. It helped me connect with different people and get different perspectives, and most importantly it helps me find little more about myself. That feeling drives me to take up next travel where I can expect the unexpected.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Software Dairies

Mahesh is my colleague working in IT industry for past 15 years. He usually spends 15 hours a day at work. He is professionally successful, Got promoted fast and he gets a hefty pay check. However, Recently he was diagnosed with diabetes. He is only in his mid-30s. 

Today I want to talk about a problem that is more frequent in IT world. Work induced health issues for IT professionals.

Software industry boomed during 90's. Many people got benefitted economically. Most of us earn more than what our parents used to get and we Live a comfortable life. However, we are paying a price for the life we live now. We are doing stressful mental work sitting in front of the computer day after day.

Demanding work and work schedules are putting health of software professionals in danger.
According to a research conducted on IT professionals in major cities, some of the top reasons are

Long working hours, Prolonged sitting, Interacting with visual display units and Lack of exercise.

We are in a competitive industry. We work hard to get the next raise or promotion. Average IT professional works between 10-13 hours a day including the after night work trying to catch up with counterparts across the globe. 

Our jobs are white collar jobs. It requires us to sit in front of computer all day. Productivity scientists say "sitting is the new smoking" and it is not good for our body.

Interacting with Visual display units: On average, we spend between 8-10 hours a day in front of a computer, TV or mobile phone. This is a lot of stress on our eyes and drains our energy. In the study, astounding 70% of IT professionals complained on eye related issues.

Lack of adequate exercise makes us inactive and less energetic. 

All these factors are causing strain on personal lives, Sleep disorders and sometimes even leading to depression. 

What can we do to combat the stress. The coping mechanisms suggested by experts are surprisingly simple.

Sleep, exercise, diet and taking breaks.

Sleep: Our body works when we sleep. With enough sleep, we get recharged and will be ready for a next day. On average, we need 6 to 7 hours sleep every day.

Exercise keeps our body active, improves metabolism, and removes toxins from our body.

Diet is the most important aspect in the list. Many fitness experts suggest that diet contributes 80% to health compared to 20% of the effects from exercise. I like one of the quotes from a trainer "We are what we eat".

Finally, taking breaks is important. It applies to both daily breaks as well as yearly break from work.
Some scientific studies suggest it is not recommended to sit for more than 90 minutes at a stretch.
In longer term, taking a break from work and spending time with family and friends helps us rejuvenate and refresh both mentally and physically.

Some of these aspects are practical such as taking breaks and sleeping where as others like exercise and diet take discipline to achieve a balance. For example, Getting up early everyday so that you have that additional time for exercise, eating simple food like salads takes lot of self-control and discipline.

My colleague who was diagnosed with diabetes now lives a controlled life with mandated daily sleep, walk everyday and a strict diet. We need not wait for greatest catastrophes of life to strike us to make the change or makes things better. Small changes in life style will have a great impact on the quality of life we live and can handle the stress and health issues our jobs can induce on us.

Monday, August 1, 2016

My first speech in Toastmasters: The ice breaker

Ice Breaker

Recently i started my journey in toastmasters. It has been a wonderful experience so far. I would like to share my journey as part of this blog.

I still remember the day i woke up on the first day of hostel, my parents were not by my side. I was 10 years old, alone and terrified. I was 2nd born of 3 children in a middle class family from a small village in Andhrapradesh. My parents sent me to a residential school in hope of getting quality education for me. I struggled initially. However, slowly i learnt to be on my own. Apart from providing quality education, my residencial school also provided good sporting facilities. It was a good distraction away from home. I enjoyed playing games a lot such as kho-kho, kabaddi, vollyball, cricket, athletics etc. My interest in sports has only increased over time. I had carried out this habit of playing for the large part of my working life as well. Sports taught me the importance of team work, leadership, taking responsibility, being competitive etc.

I completed my studies and started working in Bengaluru, IT capital of India. I got my first onsite opportunity to visit Canada two. I was excited to visit a foreign country for the first time in life. 
the day i landed in canada is the day my customer filed for bankruptcy. I had six months to spend in Canada before leaving for India. So, i decided that we will roam as much as possible in the next 6 months. We were on road virtually on every weekend. We visited many places in Canada. 
That experience made me fall in love with traveling. I returned back to india after 6 months. From then onwards, every decision i took, i made sure that i pickup an option that involves travel. I did mba abroad and took up a job that involved travel. Since then i had traveled to 7-8 countries and many cities in India. Travel teaches something new every time, be it experiencing new cultures, languages, food habits, ways of life. Had many humbling experiences that gave me new perspectives about life. 

I was playing on weekends, traveling to places whenever possible. Life was good. but then, 3 years ago, i met with a knee injury. It took me a month to standup again and 2 months to walk. I was devastated because the injury may not allow me to play again.  One of my friend suggested me to try yoga. I had an impression that yoga is for old people only. I tried yoga as i felt i had no other option. After practicing yoga and meditation for few months, i started realizing unexpected changes in me. I was calmer, clear in my thought, most of the negative emotions in my life had subsided and I became more empathetic towards other people. More importantly, i was able to run after an year. 

Today, i still play and travel whenever possible, meditate to keep myself calm and i look forward to many more exciting phases in my life. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Disrupting Marketing Landscape using Social Media

Disrupting Marketing Landscape using Social Media

Traditional media such as news publications, television have been ruling the roost for over a century on how content is delivered to the audience. Print media, Television, weekly, monthly magazines collecting and sharing regular news as well as quality content such as interviews from famous personalities.

We heard about digitization for a while now and how it is changing the marketing landscape for various industries. First it has changed telecom industry, moving away from analog to digital telephony. In the process came internet that has changed the face of many industries, especially media industry.

One of the changes I observed is the way NEWS is delivered to people. In late 80s in India, a newspaper was delivered home, one Black and white television with a big antenna on top of the house that needed to be adjusted so that people can view decent quality picture from TV channels sponsored by government. During late 90s there was surge of private entertainment channels as well as news channels creating their own content for public. News was curated, edited and delivered to public.  24/7 news channels took viewing to another level where debate on state issues has become synonymous with daily viewing along with soap operas.

Businesses used Advertisements on various media such as print, radio and television to reach their target customers. However, there was dependence on content that has maximum viewership such as Live sports, latest movies, successfully running TV shows where businesses could promote their brands.

In the internet age, one of the most visible campaigns was Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi’s social media campaign where agenda of the government and views of their party were proactively taken to people over internet based sites such as Twitter, Facebook etc. These digital campaigns differentiated current government in reaching out to young and majority population of India compared to their competitors. This shows social media is proving to be an effective medium where brands can directly reach out to their target audience with minimal/or no support from traditional mediums such as TV/news channels.

Today brands are directly communicating with their customers over social media. They are hearing complaints, promoting new campaigns also in the process are forced to come up with innovative ideas to draw attention from their and target and potential customers. These brands are starting to depend less on traditional media and focus more on communicating with their customer directly  and also promote their brands that can increase their bottom line. 

Is another disruption in Media Industry round the corner? 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Why Big Companies can't innovate

Recently i read an article from Harvard Business review. Posting my thoughts on the issue.

I often wonder why many big companies, with lot of muscle power (money), fail to innovate. Even though companies come up with many good ideas, only few see light of the day and fewer meet with success. Whatever innovation happens is in processes or operational efficiencies. Even though there are exceptions such as Apple, we will have to wait and see how long Apple will be able to sustain their innovation quotient.