In Brief: Shunya One Ep 23


On this episode of Shunya One, we are joined by Vahishta Mistry, a former journalist and media professional who has moved on to building tech products from remote places. He speaks about his journey as a digital nomad, its challenges and the opportunities it brings to the table.

Vahishta discussed how critical it is for team-mates to take ownership and foresee a problem before a certain situation arises. He said:

Ownership for an employer; to provide that ownership to someone who is working remotely is a. - a huge responsibility and you are putting yourself in a very vulnerable position at that point. Which means you need to invest that trust essentially you need to know that person a little better. That brings me to the point where it is ideal if you actually work with that person. Even if you need to pay for that person to come for a little bit, work with you for a month. Kick the tires, make sure they are okay and then send them off.

Shiladitya inquired about the difference between Silicon Valley and India, in terms of the work culture be it work ethics or transparency. To which Vahishta responded:  

I hesitate to generalize on that basis but I will tell you one thing and it’s not a Valley thing, it is universal and I have seen this between two companies within India. It is the amount of faff in the office, to be honest. Teams that faff a lot don’t get s*** done and that’s the fundamental difference. I think one of the benefits to working in other cultures, again and I am not saying the U.S in particular but anywhere else is a team that can get their head down and start at a given time, get through a single process and then get done at the end of the day even if it is 5’O clock. You don’t need to work late, it is not about how many hours you put in, it is about how efficient you are in those hours that you do put in. Such teams will do better.

Shiladitya wondered how one jumps right into a work culture like this. Vahishta explained:

It is hard, I would spend the time and invest the time to build up a good network. I would start slow. I think if you really want to do a step-by-step progression up to this, you would need to start small. You would need to start by making profiles on sites like Elance, and Fiverr, so on and so forth. Try and build a body of work there. First of all, that would be a learning experience to even see whether that lifestyle suits you even without traveling. Just be home and do one project on that side. Don’t give up your day job. Do one project on the side, see how that feels. A lot of people don’t like it, it can be very nerve-racking for you to not have anything to do, or having to do something without too much instruction.

Catch the episode here:

In Brief: Shunya One Ep. 22


On this episode of Shunya One, we are joined by Naiyya Saggi, Founder of BabyChakra, a parenting platform. This conversation covers how technology can help make better decisions about childcare, parenting and healthcare with a focus on building a strong community equipped with insights and technology.  

Shiladitya inquired about the the kind of insights that Naiyya found to understand the market for BabyChakra. To which she responded:

Just think about how we all make decisions today. Essentially there are two massive trends that we are riding on: I think now is the perfect time to be creating something like BabyChakra. the first big trend is of data democracy. So you look at how Jio has come in and completely changed, how we consume and how much we consume online, right? And how online consumption is now becoming a part of how we operate, day in and day out. And the second big sort of trend, if you will is: look at the smartphone prices. And if you look at how India has completely leapfrogged. We didn’t even go through the “desktop or the laptop revolution” we pretty much leapfrogged into the smartphone ecosystem. And what that means essentially is that there are more women who for the first time in history have access to the internet. And what are these women looking for? And honestly, they are not even on Facebook groups. Why? Because they feel Facebook is not safe, it is not a trusted platform for them to be a part of. So where do they come to? And what do they access or what are they even allowed to access online? It is stuff around parenting, family, healthcare. It is stuff about what is good for themselves and their kids.

Naiyya also spoke about how technology comes into play:

Think about what you want your consumer and user to experience. And what adds value to his/her life and then build accordingly. And some these things are some very very simple feature sets and some of them are much more complex in terms of the algorithms you build out or sort of how you undertake to create a certain experience. Just to give you two very quick examples. I love the fact that both of you used the word community because fundamentally that’s what we want to feel like. And actually what we are is a very very smart and a very personal companion. So every mother has a unique BabyChakra experience and that is powered by machine learning and that is powered by proprietary algorithms that take more than 150 data points from every interaction that she has with BabyChakra. So that is pretty much what we are building at BabyChakra in terms of the overall experience.

Listen to the full episode here: 

In Brief: Shunya One Ep. 21


On this week’s episode of Shunya One, host Shiladitya and Amit are joined by Revant Bhate, Entrepreneur in Residence, Head of New Business at Faasos. They talk about startup careers, offbeat job titles, food technology and business in India. 

Revant explained how the hiring system was put in place at Faasos and what is the best way of defining job roles at a workplace.

I think for us it was very clear from Day 1, that we were broadly firstly, or let’s say the second line after the founder. I think that culture got ingrained in us as well. Though we didn’t create an FER program below when we were looking to hire our second line. We realized that we had to look for the same thing which is ownership and leadership. And how do you measure ownership and leadership? It is broad: can you assign a P&L responsibility to a person who you are hiring? Because if you are not going to assign a hard number target, what are you measuring in your quarterly KRA? How do you know whether your day has gone well or not? No one wakes up in the morning and says I am going to have a crappy day. And in some sense having a P&L responsibility, having an objective target is something that is very very clearly helping not only businesses grow but individuals feel that they’ve performed well or not.

He also spoke about his biggest lessons from his experience of building and creating food brands.  

The biggest learning was that if you can tell a particular thing, first it has to be the truth as close to it as possible. And you have to really talk about it repeatedly from the heart, and actually reach a very small sliver of the audience, that set of the audience will create the brand for you.

Listen to the full episode here: 

In Brief: Shunya One Ep. 20


This week we are joined by Aditya Mishra, Founder and CEO at SwitchMe. The conversation covers entrepreneur-networking groups, the challenges in the banking and finance sector with technology and innovation and what led him to his venture in the home-loans space.

Aditya explained the misuse of the buzzword "disruption" that is often used when corporates invest in startups: 

I think disruption is a word that gets thrown around a lot and it means different things to different people and different people react differently to it. I think it’s exciting for a bunch of people who are entrepreneurs and say, hey we are out to disrupt. That gets them excited that gets them going. And its hugely motivating. I think that’s good. For a bunch of corporates who’ve not been looking at it they react with fear, that my business is going away. And a) it either forces them to work with such startups or do something of their own. I think that’s also good. Then there are a bunch of people I think the smarter kind, they think: that in the end what difference does it make to my customer?

He also spoke about the challenges faced by the banking sector with technology and innovation:

I was selling to banks and I could see that banks couldn’t innovate even if their life depended on it. Why’s that? They would essentially look at the business leaders coming up with the new ideas or they will say okay let the tech guys come up with the new ideas. First of all most bank tech people are not deep tech people. They actually turn to a TCS or an Infosys for help on that. Second is that the tech is not out there is not looking at what the customer is doing, it’s the branch which is doing that. Between the tech and branch there is a central processing centre then you’ve got your operations leadership and then comes the tech. So tech essentially treats the operations leadership as its customer, or the business function leaders as its leaders. Now these guys are not in the market. If you are not studying your customer, if you are not trying to understand the needs how are you going to innovate?

In Brief: Shunya One Ep. 19


This week, we are joined by Siddharth Sharma, CTO at People Interactive, Siddharth talks about his journey through coding and how he set up his consulting firm, SmartMonkeys. The conversation also covers the technology ecosystem for coders in Mumbai and Pune and his work at People Interactive.

He gave his perspective about the real tech talent in the country:

I don’t know of many companies that really have a tech DNA at the start. Many of the founders I’ve worked with have a very very strong business sense. But without someone at the top who knows how software is built, it gets challenging and it gets challenging in very banal ways.

Shiladitya enquired about what Siddharth thinks is the way forward to help change the core ‘Tech DNA’ in companies. To which he responded:

The platform has changed right, the platform is digital now, it is the internet now. It works at scale. You need to deal with this platform. And the way you deal with this platform is through technology. And the problem I think is that building software that works, building products that work on the internet is like literally, I can’t think of any other human activity which works at this scale which is an industrial activity and is yet built by hand. It is an artisanal thing almost, you have people sitting there crafting this code by hand. Every other industrial product out there gets built by machines. You build the factory or you program the robots and they make this thing for you. But this is artisanal in a way and the problems that we solve are extremely complex in the sense that you can’t always predict what’s going to happen when you do something. You build something, you put it out in the market, it breaks; the users say I can’t try to figure what you are trying to do with this. You need to constantly keep iterating on these things and that iterating process I feel is very natural to the programmers and it is not so natural to the business guys.

He also spoke about the current situation with coders and their skill set.

Many of the really really great coders I know they’ve often been to courses like NCSTs or MCA somewhere. I don’t know if computer education is lacking but I really feel it could have been much more widespread. The average college graduate today is not really been given the skills that are going to work in 2017.

Listen to the full episode here: 

In Brief: Shunya One Ep. 18


On this episode of Shunya One, we are joined by Aakrit Vaish, Co-founder, and CEO of Haptik, a conversational commerce platform backed by Artificial Intelligence and humans for a chat based interface. He worked at Flurry Analytics, a mobile application company; before co-founding Haptik in 2013.

Aakrit talked about what made Flurry stand out from the other players in the analytics space and what led them to focus on mobile as a platform. 

With Flurry, they were just really obsessed about building great analytics tools for developers. They really just said that we don’t know about anything else, we will figure out business tomorrow, we will make it free. This has to be a product that should be free and we should build a tool that does really well at analytics for mobile apps. Because google analytics does not do it. GA does web and something else and they’ve just converted it to mobile. So flurry was just obsessed with that. They did really great content marketing around it. So which was PR, they were very active in SF, Bay Area dev circles. They would just do a lot of developer evangelism that comes use it.

Shiladitya inquired about what led him to focus on chatbots and artificial intelligence with Haptik. Aakrit said:

The thesis was very simple, that messaging is going to rule the world. That is going to become your de facto platform or de facto interface for the smartphone. And everything that you do on a smartphone will at some shape or form go through a messaging interface. That really was the thesis. Now the question is what used cases, how do approach it, how do you go case by case - that’s when we started working on V1, V2 and V5 and what’s going to happen in the future.

He also explained what falls under the category of Artificial Intelligence and what they do at Haptik.

A.I in its true sense is actually - can machines be intelligent enough to understand what you are doing and help you do something or the other? It is a very abused term now, where people think everything is A.I. It has various different sub-divisions to it. Robotics is part of A.I, machine learning is part of A.I, Linguistics is part of A.I, Natural Language Processing is part of A.I, Data Analytics, and Big Data is part of A.I. We actually think we fall in that A.I bucket because we do a lot of Natural Language Processing. So that’s the area we focus on, which is when someone types how can we interpret it and respond to it?

Catch the full episode here:

In Brief: Shunya One Ep. 17


On this episode, hosts Shiladitya and Amit are joined by Annkur Agarwal - Co-founder and CEO of SahiGST and  Pricebaba. Annkur co-founded SahiGST in 2016, a GST filing and compliance solution for Indian businesses. While Pricebaba is a product research engine that helps consumers with product recommendations, costs comparisons and options available to figure where to buy it and how much to buy it for. 

They talk about how his journey, his experience at various technology and entrepreneurial networking events and how technology is enhancing GST filing in tandem with the government. Annkur explained how the government works with GST and aligns technology for its records. He said: 

The whole idea of GST from a technology point of view is, what the Government wants is that every transaction that’s happening in the country specially every B2B transaction. They want you to upload all of those transaction details, basically the invoices to the government portal. So for example, if I say I’ve sold something to Amit, and I have given his tax identification number and Amit has declared that he has brought this from me and he has given my tax identification number, that transaction should also match on the government portal. And on the government back-end, the transactions match, that these two parties have said they’ve done business with each other.

Annkur also spoke about SahiGST's core role as a service driven company:

In our business, it’s about how efficiently can we take your data, run validations on it - have you done something wrong, give you those warnings and then take you to the government to file it.

Catch the full episode here: 

In Brief: Shunya One Ep 16

Amrut Dhumal, Co-founder at Mindseed Education operates more than 50 pre-schools in 7 cities and 2 states since 2011. It focuses on skill development and works with technology to build the modules for learning. He joined hosts Shiladitya and Amit to talk about how education has evolved and needs to go beyond content distribution.  Amrut began with focusing on the myths that the traditional education system offered.  He said:

If you think about the holy trinity of lies in our education system. So sort of 200 years ago, the system that is built is largely just been incremental innovations on that. And the lies or the myths or the beliefs that form it are that no. 1 - education basically means an efficient form of content distribution. If you trace how education has evolved in that sense so you started with a chalk and a board and books. And that was a huge innovation when it came about. And that made more people sort of understand and therefore collaborate largely. That got replaced by smart boards, Khan Academy, even MOOCs; if you think about it they are all playing the same game to some extent. They are trying to distribute content more efficiently. But the MOOCs are trying to efficiently distribute great content. But really, it is about that.

Amrut also discussed the model they follow at Mindseed and what he thought about the conventional method of  teaching the English language with alphabets.

It was just a convention that people agreed upon. They said we are going to call this ‘A.’ If you are thinking about when you are trying to impart this as the basic thing to a child, you are talking about something that is so abstract vs. a chair which is so concrete. We actually start kids off in recognizing their own name. Because that is the most concrete thing for them - this is me. Once they start recognizing that, it is concrete, it is applicable.

Shiladitya then inquired about the scale and expansion of the education model, to which Amrut replied: 

This thing can really can scale when the system of feedback is in the product itself. And then what starts happening is that I am able to do all the things that I needed human beings for. The child is able to figure these things out, if you are saying the child is imputing these rules we need to give him or her stimulus that is engaging, that is at the right level. And then we need to give her feedback, whether you are doing right or wrong. And through multiple exposures they keep moving forward. That’s what we are testing now.

Listen to the full episode here: 

In Brief: Shunya One Ep 15


Abhijeet Ramesh, Senior Director, Digital Solutions at Visa Inc. has been associated with Visa since 2007. He joined hosts Shiladitya and Amit to talk about the payment trends, payment frauds, security, the equation with banks and card-holders and how Visa is placed as a fin-tech network.  Speaking of trends, Abhijeet said:

Plastic is going to start becoming less relevant, and it will exist in virtual forms on devices. The other big trend we are seeing is that pretty much everyone who is any one is now interested in payments. So phone manufacturers like Apple, Samsung or Lg to large technology players like google, to large e-com giants like Amazon. Everyone is out there to building out a pay of their own - an amazon pay, a samsung pay, an android pay.

Shiladitya inquired about the lag in adoption rate with payments, as compared to the western countries considering, ‘cash is king,’ in India. To which Abhijeet replied:

So payments is what we call a two sided business : there is what’s happening on the merchant’s side and the consumer side. So what’s happening on the consumer’s side? - India has the largest basis of cards. We have about 900 million cards. There about if you look at the latest RBI report across all networks but 850 million of those debit and about 50 million are credit.
A majority of the 850 million nearly 90% and before demonitization happened a higher number than that is well were never used or used to withdraw cash from the ATM to pay your merchant. There were two reasons for that: one, is the larger issue of awareness. A country our size both in terms of number of people and the geographic spread and sort of how deep in terms of tier I, tier II, tier III, tier IV; you need to go to create awareness. It is not easy. You need to drive behvaiour change which is not easy. Not just in payments, it is true for pretty much everything, It is going to cost money, it is going to take a lot of time. That’s the first thing. It is very inherent, it is very structural. The other thing is that, for the few people who are willing to use cards, there isn’t enough opportunity to use their card for payment which basically goes back to - there aren’t enough merchants accepting it.

Listen to the full episode here:

In Brief: Shunya One Ep 14


This week, Shiladitya and Amit are joined by Miten Sampat, who leads Corporate Development for Times Internet. Miten focuses on growth and opportunities in investment, strategic partnerships, and acquisitions. On episode 14 of Shunya One, they discuss corporate development and its intentionally unstructured line of work, data security for various businesses, the next big sector and India's pathway to being the next China. To begin with, Miten explained how corporate development works and its scope. He said:

It’s actually just a very fluffy word. And it is kind of a catch-all when you want someone to do things which are not very well defined. So the idea is, companies when they get to a certain scale, they need to find unconventional ways to grow which may not be core to the current business which may mean doing unique partnerships with other large other companies, other small companies. It may also mean acquiring companies. Sometimes what do you do is you realize and some smart people realize they are not going to be smart about everything. There is a lot of innovation happening outside the building and how do you tap into that. So acquisition is an approach and another approach is investing. Even beyond that, you want to build a special project and get a small team and explore something. And so all of these things put together, you can’t sort of assign a very clear job because depending on the challenge you have or the aspiration you have, you figure out what tactic to apply.

Shiladitya asked Miten about the comparison in the environment offered to startups in India and Silicon Valley and also how the accessibility to large platforms is vital to a startup functioning out of India.

Being physically closer to where a lot of the action is; I know we live in a world of infinitely accessible communication so and so forth but ultimately you are doing business with people and it matters whether the guy or girl on the other side wants to do business with you, likes you or doesn’t like you, philosophically agrees with you on several different things. So as a startup when you are trying to build something, everything has to go right. Every additional bit of friction can kill you; it can be the smallest bit of friction.

Miten also spoke about a sector he feels could bring in a vast opportunity for growth in the country.

I think the sector that I am very excited about and I don’t know how it pans out but I think India could be a large market for adoption of electric cars. It’s the future. We have a good auto-components base.

Catch the full episode here: 

IVM Likes: The recommendations so far

IVM Likes, our staff pop culture recommendation podcast has finally hit episode 30 and people will not stop asking about its marriage plans! 

Here's what's been happening for the past 30 weeks: every Wednesday, me and two others from our office (sometimes by their own free will and sometimes by force) sit around a table and talk about all the books, movies, TV shows, podcasts, web-series, YouTube channels, video games, candy bars we love for about 25 minutes. And then we get to have lunch. 

To celebrate this big 3-oh and our failing memories, we put together a spreadsheet of all the recommendations we've made so far. So next time you can't decide what to watch or listen to or read, just find this sheet and pick something guaranteed to fill that void in your life. 


-This sheet does not include some other cool stuff we mentioned in our discussions, so you should listen to all the episodes for that. Just get to it now. 

- This sheet does include Burn Notice. 

Thanks for listening!

- Sharanya

Catch the full episode here:

In Brief Shunya One Ep.13

Pranav Marwah – Co-founder of thinQbate, is an incubator approach for new entrepreneurs and startups offering angel investing, facilitating growth by understanding the basic business challenges and has been striving towards adding value to the various new ventures since 2015.  

He joined hosts Shiladitya Mukhopadhyaya  and Amit Doshi on Shunya One to discuss how the discipline behind sports has helped align his business goals and he communicates this with the many founding-teams managed by his incubation company, and his sports-tech venture. He said: 

I’ve been a big believer of sport being intrinsic to everybody’s life, from a very early age.
I think it is a very undervalued source of skill sets, where you can acquire them in a manner that
you possibly don’t even realize. And that could be with individual sport when it comes to discipline and understanding how to keep pushing yourself when you are perhaps alone. Then, coming to a team sport where it is about understanding how to deal with others and understanding the others’ weaknesses and sort of jumping in when it is needed. I think that is something that you see in the world of entrepreneurship and startups. It is extremely important for the foundation of the company to have that camaraderie and interaction. I think that translates very naturally in what an individual can or can’t do.

They discussed how Pranav drew parallels from factors critical to sports games like human development, competition, and team-work and game-playing to his own company:

At thinQbate where we are an incubator with early stage investment, we have actually used sport to get to know an entrepreneur or a founding team much better, a lot more regularly because it is so important. So we have four pillars we like to adhere by or work towards where early stage companies, in industries, we can bring value which are enabled by technology but backed by the most solid founding team. And that last element is perhaps 95% of the entire outlook. Because it is all about people

Having spoken of mentorship and founding team leaders making most of an incubation system, Shiladitya asked Pranav about what he has picked after managing a portfolio of companies, to this date. Pranav said:

One of the greatest learnings we imbibed before even starting out was can we create collaborations through communities.

Catch the full episode here: 

In Brief: Shunya One Ep.12

Sauvik Banerjjee - Vice President Tata Digital Initiatives, and CTO, of Tata CliQ joined Shiladitya Mukhopadhyaya and Amit Doshi to discuss the transition with brand technology for e-commerce in India, and the startup-corporate equation. They initially talk about Sauvik’s journey through coding in the mid-90s, his experience with Natural Language Processing (NLP) to getting brick and mortar back in shape with Tata CliQ.  This conversation then focuses on how technology deployment is instrumental in filling the gaps for the retail industry. To make this point clear, Sauvik said:  

Retail technologies across the world have very little foot-print of pure tech-play. This actually opens up the door for true digital enterprise-solving day-to-day problems of tech. I’ll give you an example, if you walk into any of the Lifestyle stores in Mumbai, do you know how they count the number of people who walk into the stores? “The clikr,” said Sheladitya. “The watchman has a clikr, so the cliker is the way he counts footfalls. Can you imagine in a day and time when we are talking NL, NLP, AR, VR; retail stores, the biggest of brands have a clicker in a man who is counting footfalls. What I am trying to say is there is always a gap for technology to solve and retail definitely has the biggest gap and the biggest opportunities.

Shiladitya made a point that while e-commerce is a retail front on the web, it is meant to smoothen the supply chain with efficiency. When asked whether the consumer is drawn towards brands from Indian conglomerates, Sauvik says,

You see the Tata Group is this calm but a big elephant. And whenever the big elephant ran the earth shook; whether it was Tata Steel, Tata Motors, Tesla, Tata Communications. To be honest, JRD Tata championed Air India before he gave it away and made it public. And of course, the Reliance Group.

They proceed to talking about the other side of enterprise-tech which is the startup adoption rate and its impact. Sauvik, talks about how big enterprise are running on startup solutions.

The adoption has started. The adoption and mind-space has changed 12 to maybe 15 months back. You will also see in 12 months to 18 to the next 24 months a big success story coming up, post-adoption the impact whether it is a conversion impact or an ROI impact that’s where the bridge between the startup and the enterprise communities will be more spoken about. I think we are in that implementation phase, monitoring observation mode.

Catch the full episode here: 

ReDiscover: Agra beyond the Taj 


The city of Agra is rather synonymous to the iconic Taj Mahal and a touristy visit to the mausoleum built for Mumtaz Mahal, usually tends to complete a trip to Agra. 

However, travel geniuses Ambika and Hoshner wander off to the less traveled roads and alleys to understand the stories behind the historical structures and heritage of the city, way beyond the Taj. 

Here is how you can completely crack exploring Agra! 

You can listen to the full episode here: 

In Brief: Shunya One Ep. 11

Kris Nair - tech entrepreneur, investment professional and Partner of BOLD Ventures, a seed stage venture capital firm (investing in early stage companies looking to change how business is done in Asia) - joined Shiladitya and Amit to discuss what drives private investment to sectors such as core tech and core science. While initially discussing the mindset of investors and the popular investments in food tech, Shiladitya brings up the need for valuation of one’s business in (core-tech) and ageism in core tech investment.

From whatever experience I have running a business which was in core tech, talking to other people in the same industry - whether its vendors or whether its consumers - No one really spoke about the value of your company.....when you have to think of funding, you have to think about what’s the value of what your building.

Most people are just doing trading. Most companies don’t even have core value because they’re not a manufacturer as such - they’re just a layer on top of something else. The people who do actually create intellectual property, core IP (with cool science in it), most people don’t trust them, unless you’re an old dude who’s been with an MNC firm and held enough posts, only then can you be a science-y core tech founder.....How do you earn that trust [of investors] without that pedigree?

After discussing the need for diversity, India’s investment in space research, and the model currently adopted by the Kerala government, Kris explains the fundamental reason investors don’t put money into core tech/science startups.

We don’t have private investors betting on this because most of the private investors are used to paper returns happening in 2 years time [instead] of happening in 8 years time. If you can hold a share for about 8 years then its good, [but] then you’re asking the entire fund industry to change, right? The entire industry is designed to allocate money for about 4-5 years and then make the exits happen and then close everything in a box.

They continue to discuss what is a conducive ecosystem for such businesses

What is a ecosystem? Is it because the economic times is writing about it?...Or, having easy access to resources, team, capital, customers. If things go wrong as a founder in core tech I can talk to another founder in core tech......Capital is there but primarily from govt institutions (grants, etc) customer base [is there], so the only thing missing probably is the biggest one.....basically, private investors betting on it.

Catch the full episode here: 

#PodsWeLike Maltin On Movies

Legendary film critic Leonard Maltin (of Maltin's Movie Guide fame) hosts a wonderful podcast with his daughter Jesse Maltin where they sit and discuss films old and new, and the memories and experiences associated with them.

The episode which features director Edgar Wright as a guest is especially enlightening. It's a joy to hear Wright in full on film geek form as they discuss the difference between listing out 'best films' and 'favourite films', how wonderful it is to discover classics of a bygone era and how it helps appreciate contemporary cinema and the relationship that exists between a critic and an artist.

If you're someone who loves to get movie recommendations I suggest you sit with a pen and paper while listening to this one as some wonderful, lesser known films are name-dropped in their conversation.

You can listen to the episode here:


- Abbas Momin

In Brief: Shunya One Ep. 9

Akancha Shrivastav, an entrepreneur, brand strategist, cyber abuse activist  and co-founder of brand management company Azure, joined Shiladitya Mukhopadhyaya and Amit Doshi to discuss consulting, brand strategy, work culture and cyber abuse. They initially talk about the various things companies overlook when at comes to brand management, common misconceptions and unconducive work cultures. On the latter point Akancha said: 

I want to give you an example, I was consulting with [an] organisation (they had about 5500 people) and they brought me in and the R&D said, “I want you to change all the recruiting designs urgently. Have this done in the next 2 weeks.” I said, “Why?” and he said,” We seem to have 27% attrition rate.” [I thought], at 5500 people, one third of your organisation is leaving all the time. This has nothing to do with communication design, something [else] is wrong. Something is not working. It took us almost 8-9 months, we did manage to bring down the attrition rate to 3% the following year. But it was a long road to finding out....the entire referral system, the entire recruitment system was completely flawed.

Subsequently, Akancha talked extensively about her campaign to tackle cyber abuse and the serious trauma it can cause women. She also discussed the myriad ways stalkers are able to triangulate the location of their prey by analysing their online activity. Regarding the need for awareness on the subject she said: 

I think, especially [with] the younger teenage crowd, it’s very important to educate them because they are the most aggressive users of digital media. They’re also the most vulnerable and the most reckless....I want the teachers, the principals and the parents to be a part of it. If the parents don’t understand it, the children are not going to talk to them. they’re not going to confide in them.

On this point, Shiladitya added:

The younger generation thinks that they know tech better. That’s always lead to them saying, “Hey! you know don’t know this stuff, I know it better.” That’s why educating the seniors is important, because they need to be having a rational conversation about what are the real threats. Otherwise the kids are not even going to listen.

Catch the full episode here: 

The Rediscovery Podcast is back!

Travel pros Hoshner Reporter and Ambika Vishwanath are back with Season 2 of The reDiscovery Podcast and you should start taking notes now!  

In Season 1, they took us on a journey from the coast of Tamil Nadu to the gulf of Kutch, from celebrating Holi in Uttar Pradesh to spotting fireflies in Bhandardara. This Season, they have another epic journey planned for you with from travel recommendations, tips to how to make the most of a tight budget and still enjoy every nook and corner of the country. 

On the first episode of this season, they are answering that big question; how do you travel on a budget? It can be quite tricky but not impossible and so, the travel couple bring their tried and tested hacks about wandering around India on just Rs 2500 a day. You heard that right!

New episodes are out every Monday and you can listen to the first episode here: 


In Brief: Shunya One Ep. 8

Lee Keshav, a tech entrepreneur, racing driver and co-founder of IT startup Hello World Labs, joined Shiladitya Mukhopadhyaya and Amit Doshi to discuss Hike messenger and automotive tech. Having been involved as the Design team lead for Hike Messenger from 2011-2015, Lee discusses what the experience was like being a part of that company. They talk about its founder - Kavin Bharti Mittal, Hike’s new wallet feature as well as its future prospects. Here is what Lee had to say:

Hike will eventually turn into a platform very similar to Wechat. From day one we never said we were competing with Whatsapp……[but] a lot of the privacy features you see today on whatsapp are a direct copy of Hike, because when we started building hike we were acquiring a lot of feedback, and the first thing, girls [would say was] I want to hide my profile photo from some people, maybe I don’t want to show I’m online to some people, or I don’t want some people to see my ‘last-seen’. These things weren’t there on whatsapp back then. So we built them first, and eventually whatsapp noticed because people started going on their reviews and saying ‘you don’t have this feature, I’m going to Hike!’. People felt secure on Hike….we added [wifi] encryption much earlier than anyone else.

Over the course of their discussion they talk about Lee’s racing career, what he has learned from it and how tech has transformed automobiles. Regarding how data some times forces one to do things that seem counter-intuitive, lee said: 

I still remember, I was taking one corner and I would be coming in at around 200kmph and I would brake, down shift and then take the corner at 150kmph…..and my car [ended up] skidding a lot, sliding everywhere and so I came in [and thought] it’s not possble to go any faster. [the engineers said], you’re going too slow. I’m like what do you mean by too slow! He [said] you have to go above 200kmph to make the corner....look at the data. This [driver] is taking it at 210kmph....when you go above 200kmph, there will be enough down force for you to be stable. So, imagine your coming into this corner at say 240kmph and all you do is just lift and you take the corner.....and the car was so stable. I couldn’t believe it! It was like it was on rails!

Catch the full episode here:  

In Brief: Shunya One Ep. 7

On Episode 7 of Shunya One, Mayur Aggarwal, a tech entrepreneur and founder of ShipEasy, joined Shiladitya Mukhopadhyaya and Amit Doshi to discuss logistics.

While discussing bootstrapping and all the pitfalls and penalties one encounters while initially setting up a business, Shiladitya comments on the need for entrepreneurs to be aware of the basic aspects (accounts, HR, etc.) of their business - 

[Entrepreneurs] should know “what will mess with me”, “what will screw up my business and my life” vs “what’s my safe playing ground”. I think that clarity we don’t have, or (because it’s so complicated) we don’t bother. That’s when people start saying, “Let me just find a trusted advisor who’ll say ‘don’t worry about a thing’, and I’ll not even look at the intricacies of it’ and [then] choose to focus on whatever I like to focus on. And that piles up, as an entrepreneur.....and that’s a bad attitude....the fact that most people don’t want to go deep because the deep is so deep

Over the course of their discussion they briefly comment on the workings and importance of Chartered Accountants in India, the Ken article “Why a lack of judicial reforms could kill India’s startup story” and Uber, and then get down to brass tacks of logistics. Mayur illuminates the political influence on logistics in India - 

A lot of unskilled labour generally tends to move into logistics. So, as population has grown, a lot more people have been accommodated into logistics and warehousing. now if you traditionally look at warehousing or logistics they are usually [run by] people who are politically connected, people who are either patrons of political parties or themselves in that whole spectrum. One of the biggest things they can get access to is cheap labour. Cheap unskilled labour. So that builds the building block of that multi-level broker facet. The more people I have in the value stream, I too get ignored for my big margins. [if] there’s somebody else across the state at your end, who’s also running a very bad show but you’re paying him 6%, why not pay me 6% as well. Probably both of them could be eliminated by one guy whose running it at a more efficient manner at 3% but then that’s how the political connection comes in.

Continuing on logistics, they discuss the implications the new GST bill will have on it. Amit comments on the need for overhaul in logistics in India - 

Logistics is the single biggest area where india can improve its efficiency and productivity by so much, it’s not even funny. Right now the amount of time it takes for goods to get from a factory to a distributor is insane! It is insane, when I hear these numbers! And somebody [tells me], “we just sent our shipment out because we’re going to run out of stock in 20 days and we need to make sure it gets there on time.” I’m like 20 days! 20 days is 2%! If you’re running a manufacturing business, 20 days is 2%. that means that basically in a year your looking at 25% productivity that can happen by being able to cut that number.

Catch the full episode here: