Social Entrepreneurs

imageWhen it comes to work, ours is a curious lot. Always willing to check new things (as long as it takes us away from our work ;-)).

So it was no surprise when on our way to lunch we noticed a simple sign at a hall … it said “Youth Venture Workshops”. Since we are in the career space and passionate about entrepreneurship, off we went. The workshop was having their lunch break and we took that opportunity to talk to some of the organizers. Their idea was simple, they talk to individuals who have a burning desire to change something in the society, and help them achieve it through guidance, team building, and funding. They identify potential social entrepreneurs who have the drive to change the society and help them.

The organizers were kind enough to invite us to stick around and watch some of their sessions. The teaming sessions were simple, and involved a lot of play … just the right thing needed to build a team of young and energetic people.

The workshop turned out to be a subscription based program, for which one has to enroll in the month of June. So we gathered took information about their site and went back to work. After coming home, I decided to check up on their site, and read about the youth venture. Turns out that Ashoka Partnership is one of the largest association of social entrepreneurs!!

At the program, we talked to some of the participants who were volunteering, and it was a good experience to see people take charge of the desire to change something in society and act upon it. The next time you blame society for something, remember it can be fixed :-)

Job is War!!

At a friend’s wedding, I heard about this new approach to one’s job. The man was talking that his employee’s are peace time soldiers, “eh?!?” I went. The idea is that many employees approach their job in a fashion like peace time soldiers … they assemble in formations, they do their drills, they salute to their seniors and when no one is looking, they relax and goof around. Having done this myself, I could not disagree … so what does one do to get out of this rut? The answer is simple … go to war!!

During war, soldiers are willing to give their lives (in this case their jobs) for a particular purpose. Employees should identify the purpose for which they will strive hard and achieve or else give their jobs. That gives them the true drive at work, an achievable goal and also a reality check. If an employee cannot come up with any such purpose, then you can be rest assured that he/she is already looking out for different opportunities and is not really pulling his/her weight around.

I tried this tactic with myself at my office, with wonderful results. Not only am I making goals clearer for myself, but also I am sending out a message to everyone else whom I am working with as to what drives me and what is my top priority.

So what are you willing to die for?

Purpose needs to be actionable!

A friend’s cousin approached me recently. He wanted to enter the gaming industry and was essentially clueless as to what to do next. Since this career stream was startlingly similar to what I had started out with (this was at the age of 10 for me though), I decided to make his quest my personal crusade. Where I had taken up games as a form of entertainment, I decided to take up his case.

So I asked him as to what had he done to get closer to his purpose. Other than playing different games, he had done absolutely nothing. He was starting from scratch, towards a journey less travelled. Imagine sailing in an uncharted sea (non-mainstream career), without a look-out tower (lack of visibility) and without the sails (lack of skill-sets) to drive you ahead. Tough journey right? I pointed him in the right direction and gave him some actionables that would get him started on his path. I also asked him to build the right set of capacities before makes the jump to gaming as a career. There is a vast difference between playing a game and making one, between having an interest and pursuing one, between having a purpose and acting on it.

I ask myself and you, that is mere purpose without action enough then? I might have lofty ambitions and a strong purpose driving me … but am I acting on that purpose?

Work is Play!!


I have been reading Reeves and Read’s Total Engagement: Using games and virtual worlds to change the way people work and business compete, this is as part of my work (I know, rocking job :-)). The whole idea started when we decided to see how individuals change their approach of work if they see their passion in their work (and not the other way round!!). One of my passions is games. Hence the book, and to see how games can be used in work scenarios in order to change the way employees engage with their jobs.

By the first set of chapters itself, the authors had me re-affirm my faith in games completely. The authors looked at around 800 different jobs available with the US Labour Department (O*NET), and identified around 50 0r so different capacities/skills needed to function in those jobs. Each of these skills was then explained as something that we (as gamers) do whilst playing our favorite games.

So why do we pay for doing the something for which we can also get paid for? Why cannot work become play? I strongly believe it can be made into a play-space. Imagine your job as a MUD :-)

Learnings from start-ups

j0387194During my brief stint with eYantra, our foundation team did some cool stuff. We also made more than our fair share of blunders. I am just putting it down in one place, so that oth ers can benefit from our experience. On reflecting back, I am glad this happened because it was an eye opener in more senses than one. It was also a stint which significantly boosted my confidence.

I worked there for a span of two years, and had to come back to Mumbai because of personal reasons. What happened after that I only came to know through small and infrequent chats with the employees there. Enough to realize that I need to share this with everyone to benefit from the collective’s insights.

The Do’s

  • Have high levels of energy. It’s your baby, only you can make it happen and no one else. If this requires sacrificing lazy Saturdays and Sundays, then so be it.
  • Your core team can make the difference between a failed idea and a successful venture. Their group dynamics is very important for your venture to succeed.
  • Weekly meetings to keep everyone upto par on different tracks. I think this becomes more important with increasing members in the team.
  • Show a sense of direction, and be integral to your vision. If you falter, your team looses faith in you. Soul searching (if any) should be done with as small a team as possible.
  • When in doubt, discuss. Come to a common agreement with the team to move ahead.
  • Be starkly honest to the first set of your employees. Treat them like family. If you are a product oriented firm, then your product development team is to be treated with the utmost respect.
  • Get some market traction before your product is ready. That way you will already have a ready buyer for the product.
  • (appended) Find differentiators and expound them in the market
  • (appended) Believe in your idea. If you don’t believe in it, then no one else will

The Dont’s

  • In an e-commerce setup, all the divisions are important. One cannot run without the other. Treat them likewise.
  • Under-commit but don’t over-commit. Your reputation is at stake e.g. if you promise someone biryani and deliver daal then it won’t be appreciated, but the other way round, you will have a satisfied customer
  • Don’t expect your employee to show the same amount of commitment that you have. You have equity, they don’t.
  • Confounding your employees with that variable performance bonus … it’s more of a disabler (suggestions welcome here). (amended) If you still want to have that variable, then have complete transparency in how it is calculated, and give your employees a chance to perform by including it in the next round of appraisal.

The list will be re-visited upon and your comments will be integrated into this. Thanks in advance.

Manish Saini writes –

Don’t reduce the pay of your urrent employees in the pretext of the variable, rather introduce as a part of your next round of appraisal.

Ranjith Boyanapalli writes –

DOs would be to “find a valid differentiator” and have your “goto market strategy well in place”.

Mayur Pathak writes –

Every idea needs its own time and grooming. It is important to be persistent enough. Take suggestions though, but dont rely on them. Dont give up just because you lost patience or because some one said so. Come to the office every morning thinking this is going to be the best day ever.

don’t reduce the pay of your urrent employees in the pretext of the variable, rather introduce as a part of your next round of appraisal

Why use LinkedIn

This is more of a recollection of my learnings than anything else, people can share their learnings and I promise to grow this space.

  1. Targeted resume submissions – Find the organization you want to apply to, go find folks in your network who work for  that organization. Use their referrals to get your resume the place you want it to be.
  2. Business Visibility – Professionals talking about their organizations can act as evangelists on LinkedIn. With the integration of Twitter, the value of LinkedIn as a Social Media Platform has increased a thousandfold.
  3. Peer learning – People who work in the same industry can collaborate to discuss and resolve each other’s problems. Whereas this seems to be a generic utility of a community, I have seen this happen pretty well through the Q&A forum of LinkedIn. Since people who contribute to these are serious minded professionals vis-a-vis the casual replies of Orkut. All this for free unlike Experts-exchange, where the user has to fork out good money to get to the solution.
  4. Showcasing – This is the most obvious one, do I need to get into this :-)

Your comments are more than welcome on this one, since it will only add to this post.

Capability v/s Attributes

Today I was talking to one of my classmates after aeons. Sagar was my classmate from engineering, both of us got selected as Software developers in IRIS. From then onwards, our career paths took different turns. I went on to do a PGDM from IIM-I, he went on to pick up technical expertise as an Application Developer in Oracle. Over the years, he worked on transaction life-cycle management, real time data, ETL and more importantly in the financial domain.

7 years after graduation, Sagar wants to go into Product Management field. He has the capabilities at one level, he knows the financial domain, he knows how to handle releases, he can plan a roadmap. Now although he knows he can function as a Product Manager, most of the companies insist upon a BE + MBA combination before the interview stage itself.

Why is the industry oriented around attributes instead of capabilities?