Monday, September 17, 2012

A once-in-several-lifetimes experience!

The Majestic Mt.Kailash
Just back from a trip to Kailash-Manas Sarovar.  I can do this article in many different ways. It can be a diary recording all that happened in the last fifteen days on a day-to-day basis. It can be photo-essay on the breath-taking landscape,- the brooding mountains, the snow that played peek-a-boo, the temperamental skies, the horizon that refused to stay put behind the artist’s canvas. But neither will capture and convey what this journey meant to me or how it transformed my life. So I will seek the coward’s way out and jut bullet my top-of-the-mind thoughts, randomly, faithfully and ruthlessly.
·         I had just immersed my father’s ashes in Paschim Vahini and come back home when I saw Joydeep’s post on FB about the trip. Something stirred in my brain. I signed up.  Strange because a trip of this kind was nowhere on my radar ever.

Joydeep and Me

·         Once I signed it seemed just the right thing to do. My faith in Joydeep when it comes to travel is such that I did not even do homework on what a trip like this entailed before saying yes. 

·         As I read the literature the organizers (Banjara) had sent us, one thing became very clear. This trip would challenge me in more ways than one. Not just physically as it was a hardy terrain but in terms of basics. I’m a creature of comfort and my idea of a holiday is one long perennial self- indulgence. This trip meant that I had to sleep in a dorm, pee and crap out in the open and do without water for cleaning up. Shudder! Shudder!!!

·         Even as I read some of the blogs, spoke to people who had gone on this trip before, the sheer magic of the place took over. I told myself that the prima donna me cannot go on this trip. I have to be left behind.

·         The me who would go on this trip was a ‘sponge’ who would simply soak up every single moment of the trip as ‘magical experience’. So the trip did not start when we left for Kathmandu. For me it started two months prior, on the day I signed up.

·         From that moment on, I looked at the world with wonder. Shopping for gear? My god, Decathlon! Just walking through the aisles of the massive store in Bangalore, looking at the sports-wise display of products, smelling the danger, sensing the adventure, blowing a big gaping hole in my pocket, proudly checking out if the hiking shoes were water repellent (they actually made me step into water!) and if they had a good grip (they made me try different surfaces!), I was like a child on its first Disney trip!

Swati, Me and Kavita
·         So sponge I remained. Six to a room? How wonderful to have company. Please if I snore, wake me up! Stinky loo? Let’s get a nose job after the trip! Crap in the open? Sure, first find space between two cars, wait till the pressure builds up, run, squat, poop in one pile and gleefully dab hand sanitiser! No shower? No problem, take half a mug of lukewarm water, dip a hand towel and wipe yourself down! Only time I freaked was in Paryang when Kavita said there were bed bugs! I was determined to enjoy every single experience, so much so Swati said at the end of the trip that she found it very hard to believe that not only did I never once complain, I didn’t frown even!

The Sexy Bandana that Kavita gave
Suited-Booted the Manas Sarovar way!
  •       What were life savers during the trip? Wet wipes(they occupy a shrine-like place in my designer bathroom at home now, toilet rolls are out on their ears !), trekking poles, hand sanitizers, head lamps,   quick dry towels, blister socks, hiking boots, those sexy bandannas which Kavita gifted everyone (which not only covered your ears, they also formed a halo around your head),  water bottles, frost,  chap sticks (buy flavoured ones, they do the job and keep you smelling good too), deo,  thermals,  a 70+ sun screen, and a button-down rain jacket. You can even go to the Everest base camp armed with these!
·         On the way back we all had our ‘what do I want most right now’ list. Someone wanted hot shower; another, a kickass drink; a third wanted clean sheets to sleep on. I said I want water to clean my bum.

·         I now must be an evolved species as one of the nights I had woken up with a blistering nightmare that I had run out of wet wipes!.

·         Post script : As I took a dip in Manas Sarovar, and gazed at Mount Kailash draped in snow,  looking majestic and  mysterious, I did not feel insignificant or vulnerable or humbled. I felt strong and proud and special that the mountains saw it fit to take me on a conducted tour of their world. 

Photo Courtesy:  Joydeep Chakrabarty, for more pictures check out my Facebook page.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Inbound Marketing

A brilliant concept that I came across -Take a look
The days of relying solely on tradeshows, cold calls, and print advertisements are over. The fact is that people tune out many traditional forms of marketing. And who can blame them? Let’s face it, we all screen telemarketing calls, commercials, and direct mail, to name a few. Prospective buyers can afford to do so because we live in a world where they can educate themselves before engaging with sales. The Internet allows them to research their options without the annoyance of a hard sales pitch.
In the new world where buyers are in control of self-educating, your job as a marketer is not to find leads; it is to help leads find you. Inbound marketing is a way of reaching prospects in this new buying model. In fact, as outbound marketing gets less effective and more annoying, inbound marketing takes on a bigger role in your marketing mix.
So what is inbound marketing? Our definition of inbound marketing is: The process of helping potential customers find your company – often before they are even looking to make a purchase – and then turning that early awareness into brand preference and, ultimately, into leads and revenue.
At its core, inbound marketing is about creating interesting, informative, and even entertaining content and optimizing and distributing it across online channels so it can be found by – and hopefully engage – prospective buyers.
Read more on this link…

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The VC Bugbear : Why is the ball so firmly in their court, when they don’t play fair always?

It is paradoxical that a key element of the entrepreneurial ecosystem—venture capitalists—are also the most dreaded as a community. I know they are called vulture capitalists, so you may ask, why I am surprised. Each time I have the dreaded ‘encounter’ with them vis-à-vis our mentees, I tell myself, I have seen it all, and yet they manage to surprise me by stooping to a newer low! Let me share some of my experiences.

Much at stake
About a month ago, one of our mentees attended a startup event where he met some angels. One of them expressed interest in our mentee’s business and a second meeting followed. I had told our mentee very clearly that he should not sign any document without running it by me first. The discussion obviously went well and the angel said he would invest Rs.75 lakh for a 45 percent stake. He then produced a term sheet and asked our mentee to sign on it. So, our mentee said, “I have a mentor and I need to run it by her. I will sign only after discussing with her.”
The angel turned ugly. He said that the deal could not be discussed with anyone, least of all the mentor. “If you don’t sign the term sheet now, the deal is off the table,” is what he said. Our mentee then managed to buy a day’s time by saying he needed to take permission from his father who is also a director in the company. The angel reluctantly agreed.

Lucky break
When our mentee called me, I told him that 45 percent stake for Rs.75 lakh was worse than a deal Shylock would strike. So, he needed to think this through before signing and one day was not good enough to take that decision. I also told him that there would come a time when not only would the angel have two seats on the board (he had asked for them in the term sheet), he would even have his own guy running the company and it will soon become the angel’s vision and not his anymore. Fortunately, we managed to dissuade him from going ahead and he soon met an NRI from his domain who came on board as a strategic investor. But we were not so lucky with another mentee who decided to sign a similar term sheet, much against our advice and much to his peril.

Caught unprepared
My second peeve is about their high-handedness and shallowness and how, combined, they architect a forgettable encounter. Some time ago, one of our mentees met a large and reputed VC organization through some connections. As they had already invested in a competitor’s company, our mentee sent them an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) before meeting them. Pat came the reply that they don’t sign any NDAs. Our mentee, who did not want to sound churlish, went ahead to the meeting. He was told that he had 15 minutes. Being a mature professional, he played ball. He was very surprised when, during the conversation, the gentleman made random statements with respect to his business, claimed he had gone through the website, but the observations belied that. How hard is it to actually do some homework before meeting an entrepreneur? Everybody understands they will not invest in every business idea that comes their way but given their aerial perspective, they can at least make sensible observations, right?
I am waiting for a time, in India, when entrepreneurs can be as choosy about their VCs as the latter are. Right now, it is a lopsided market, with all the dice loaded in the VCs’ favor. But I am sure there will come a day when entrepreneurs will do due diligence before divesting their stake, and they will do so on a level-playing field.

From Entrepreneur Magazine, May  2012, Edition.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Ecommerce and Liability

Who is to be accused now?

(This blog extract is taken from
To begin with, an old event comes to mind. In 2004, Avnish Bajaj, who was the CEO of Baazee.Com, was accused and put in jail because ‘someone’ was trying to sell porn on his platform. Avnish had nothing to do with the case, as was a market place with the management having least control on what was being traded. However, in the present scenario when ecommerce has evolved into Online Retail, and management practically controlling everything that sells, do the CEO’s & Director’s understand the liability they carry on their heads.
Now, it’s no more hidden what eCommerce companies are doing to meet their ‘projections’ that were presented at the time of raising investments. Right from selling ‘blackCherry‘ to selling ‘Black’ Blackberry, they are working on all possible strategies to give the consumer only one thing…BEST POSSIBLE DISCOUNT without any concern.
Just a few months back, Jai Anand, a 2nd year law student, highlighted the whole blackberry episode on deals and you, on alok kejriwal’s iconic blog, where they were selling defective / refurbished phones. At times, these devices did not have their IMEI number registered with Indian Customs. While it may appear to be a small concern, it is a big threat to our national security and comes under the National Security Act (NSA) andis a serious violation of law.
Read more on iamwire

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


  All the mentees who come to CARMa are special, unique. They have qualities that are enviable, equally qualities that could become show-stoppers for their business.  A big aspect of CARMa's mentoring is to make sure that their strengths are fortified and their weaknesses are either converted to strengths or held in check.  This is the famous X factor in every business, the one I would like to call CARMa Quotient!

  Check out the CARMa Quotient of some of CARMa's mentees on CARMa channel on Youtube


Waterwoods at Kabini - My weekend getaway

Geeta and I at the entrance of the bungalow

When Geeta and I decided to take a short weekend break, I didn’t fret even for one minute about where to go. Like the Surf ad, Joydeep hai na!:) He’s the quintessential oddroader (which incidentally is the name of his company too, check it out, He’s our ‘go to’ man for destinations and places to stay in. By the way Joydeep, one more avenue for monetization for oddroad could be as ‘locale’ hunter for film shoots no, given your penchant for the road less traveled??? 

Ok, this blog is not about Joydeep so I don’t understand why he’s grabbing so much paperballs ( as opposed to eyeballs, since this is in print, if you didn’t get it!)
Joydeep suggested Kabini and Waterwoods. My faith in him is such that I blindly booked online. 
Kabini from home is 275 kms. We left at seven in the morning, stopped as usual at Kadumane for breakfast (by the way it is on the Bangalore- Mysore route). The Waterwoods executive, Rajeshwari, who had taken my booking (more about her later had clearly told me to turn right at Columbia Asia on the outskirts of Mysore and go on the H D Kote road  ( Heggadevana  Kote) on the outer ring road. The road is dug up in places but by and large it is a smooth drive.

Rajeshwari had also told us that we have to turn right again at Chitravan resorts (which is where you  leave the ring road behind) and drive straight for the next 50 odd kms till we reach a junction named rather strangely as Hangpost  (I’m going back to Waterwoods next week, I will find out the significance of this name).
From Hangpost it it some 30 odd kms to Waterwoods. Since the drive up until now was peaceful, we kind of started to doze off, it was almost noon and the sun was merciless (do you know Mysore is a neat 2 degrees hotter always).  

As soon as we entered the Rajiv Gandhi National Park, we saw sign posts on the left which said Water Woods, Jungle Lodges and Resorts and probably Bison Camp, 12 kms. Alongside the signposts, there should also be a statutory warning, All ye enter, take care of your bones!

There is no road at all. You literally bump from one deep hole  to another deeper hole, if that is possible. Years ago I had driven from Puri to Jamshedpur and had been amazed at the roadlessnessness of it all which had tested my mettle as a driver (I lost my shirt several times but my axle was in tact !) So I’m back to the same roadless driving (this time as a passenger and I think this is harder than being a driver!)to Waterwoods. To add tadka to all of this, suddenly our driver says, hope Waterwoods is close because there is no petrol in the car! So we switched off the AC and the sweltering heat combined with the nerve wracking drive put us in right bad humour and when we arrived at Waterwoods, all we wanted was to laze in a cool place where the earth didn’t convulse.

The view of the cottage at Water Woods
First impression of Waterwoods was green quaint largeish bungalow, made for the somnolent. Even the two dogs that lazily opened their eyes when I tried to talk to them kind of looked at me as if to say, dude (or dudette, as my friend Pramod says!) , in this neck of the woods, give your mouth some rest !
We got ourselves Room No 1 after inspecting all the river facing rooms. This one did not have a balcony like the others did, but had lovely French windows wrapped around a love seat and you could see the river from any part of the room. The furnishing was basic, no wardrobe, one double bed, a chintz covered armoire, some leopard prints on the wall. 

We had a buffet lunch set in the common dining area, large windows opening out to so much green your eyes actually hurt! Good food, very polite staff, delightful experience.
In the evening, we walked up to the river. This is River Kabini which is a tributary of Cauvery, and I’m told in the rainy season, meanders right up to the bungalow. Right now, between the bungalow and the river all we saw was popping tadpoles. My god, there were  gazilions of them,  we knew they belonged to the frog family but they looked very different from the frogs we are used to, smaller in size, friskier and in a contest of we- avoid- them- or- they- avoid- us, I think they won, hands down!  

Over the next two days, all we did was chaise-longued around the river, had all our meals on the river banks,

The Geese Talk

Made friends with the geese (there was one  particularly chatty  cheerleader who insisted on engaging in monologues with us!), Went for runs alongside the river, boat safaried (the best sightings were of two crocs, one which had gone into hibernation with its mouth open!) and a whole school of otters. For more pictures check out my FB page!

Boat Safari

One last word. The staff here are polite, helpful without being intrusive, cheerful andinterested. Rajeshwari who was really my first contact with Waterwoods kind of set standards for designing a delightful customer experience. I bugged her several times on our way to Waterwoods for directions but she held her cool.  It is very rare that you have a holiday without adding conditional clauses to it, but here was one.


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

2012 and CARMa!

2012 began with a bang for CARMa with four of our mentees going to market early this year.

Shreya, all of 22, the youngest of the lot went to market this February. If you love everything handmade and love those abstract, unusual trinkets, then Itshandmade is your go to website.

Are you a travel enthusiast?  Love backpacking? And want to discover India the way you like? Then welcome to Oddroad. It’s been a tough journey for Joydeep and he has now successfully gone to market – Let the trip begin.

Those hamburgers and French fries may be your staple diet and sitcoms may be your favourite pastime.  But it wouldn’t hurt to shake your hips to a ‘cholike pecche’ and smack on some samosas once in a while. Full in love with ‘Indianmyra ‘– where everything is Indian.  Veena brings des to the vides.

Gone are the days when keeping your physical store bright and trendy was enough. Welcome to the era of web 2.0, where your virtual presence can make or break your identity.  Say hello to Akankasha Singh – Your online magician, who can make your online presence bombastic.  Get viral with ‘Tuesdays’.

CARMa’s hearty congratulations and love to all of you, we are so proud of you.


It all began on the 24 of Feb. Our dedicated office boy Rajkumar reached office bright and early and began to pack stuff and the neighbours wondered what’s going on and he said ‘we are shifting’ and continued to do his work. At 8.30am Ma’am received a call from Rajakumar and all that ran in Ma’am’s head was ‘oh God! What’s gone wrong?’ Paranoid with what the call was about, Ma’am picked up the call and to her surprise Rajkumar said ‘Madam, we are half-way through the shifting’. Elated by the news, she headed to office immediately.

The rest of us reached office at 9.00 am, with a mixed feeling. Excited to step into a new home, yet could not part ways with a place that was so close to our heart and was filled with memories.  But moving on is part of life and we on went to do just the same.
10.00 AM on an auspicious Friday, team CARMa stepped into its new home and a brand new beginning.