Monday, November 28, 2011

My Experiments with Entrepreneurship

About a year and a half back, after I graduated from CEDT, I started my journey on the path of Entrepreneurship. It started with various experiments with ideas. First idea that struck me while attending the Solar products exhibition in Hyderabad was that of making standalone Solar streetlamps. Of course this idea was shot down by my mentor with the reason that there are hundreds of people doing it. That was the first lesson I learned. If you are making something new then you should be either the first or best or different. And my first idea wasn't fitting in any of these and so it was better to leave it there.
With this newly found wisdom we (me and my team) started brain storming again, and realized that instead of entering into renewable energy generation domain, which needs considerable amount of capital, we can enter into the energy saving domain, going by the saying "saving is nothing but earning". 

After few months of market analysis and lots of surveying we finalised on the idea of energy efficient lighting and decided the first product to be energy efficient LED lamp for commercial buildings. We did a small customer survey as well and received a very good response. 

The next question was where to make the product? how to prototype it? where to test it? And a single answer to all these questions was Incubation centre. So we started applying for various incubation centres. Out of these IIMB's NSRCEL was the quickest to response. They called us for a meeting, where they evaluated our B-plan and gave a very valuable feedback. We fine tuned our B-plan accordingly. Meanwhile we realized that for a technology startup it's better if the incubation centre have some technical background and facilities and the best option was IISc Incubation Centre. 

Me being an IISc alumnus (which is also a necessary condition to apply to IISc incubation) applied for it. It took around 3 months to come to the final evaluation meeting. Finally the meeting happened and we got selected for it.

The incubation includes office space for 1 year, a small seed fund, technical support and mentoring needed. Its truly a great support that we got. But this is not a reason to rejoice, getting incubated is like receiving hall ticket for the exam, the real test begins now. 

If anyone from IISc or IISc alumni want to apply for Incubation the procedure is very simple. Go to SID office and submit your B plan and they will start the procedure.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Swargarohini Trek

Imagine yourself in a place surrounded by snow clad mountains on four sides, green grass and innumerable flowers with various colours and shades, a river, many small streams and a glacier flowing at some distance, no other human being in sight, no noise except that of flowing river and only a few birds and their chirping; sounds amazing? Thats exactly what we experienced during Swargarohini trek.

Swargarohini is name for a path which Pandavas had traversed on their way to Heaven, when fully covered by snow it actually looks like staircase, thats why the name Swarga-Rohini. 

On 14th of July Poovaiah, Sathajit, Yatin and I reached Badrinath. We stayed there for 1 complete day to get aclimatized to high altitude. The trek started next day from a small village called Mana (Altitude of 3,000 meter) around 3 Km from Badrinath. On the way of the trek there is no town or hotel or any human residence around hence we had to carry many items like tents, mats, sleeping bags, food items, stove to cook, fuel etc and thus we decided to take 4 porters along with 1 guide making our team of 9. To describe the complete experience and thrill in words is very difficult for me but i have tried my best with the assistance of a tool which is famous as something which speaks thousand words, thats right Photos. The link to the associated photos are given wherever needed, it is recommended see those photos parallely to get a feel. To see the complete album click here.

Day 1#  Mana to Lakshmi Ban (8 Km):
Our plan to start trekking at 7AM was little delayed by the morning showers, so we started at 9AM and crossed the small wooden bridge on Alaknanda river. Rest of the trek was on one side of Alaknanda river. At some places it was dangerous to walk because of sloping mountain on one side, river a few hundreds of meters down in the valley roaring and just enough space to keep 1 foot at a time. Initially a dog accompanied us for a while, the legend goes that whoever goes for this trek is always accompanied by dogs. On the way we spotted two Himalayan crows. At Lakshmi Ban we saw Bhoj trees, these tree's skin was used to write Ramayana in olden times. The view from Lakshmi Ban was amazing, we could see the union of two rivers Alaknanda and Alkapuri. We set up tents there and relaxed. At around 8.30 PM it was almost dark and the sky was clear. No clouds, no light from street lamps to hinder the view, the only light was the moon light reflected from snow around. Because of very clear sky we could see innumerable stars and also many falling stars, after some time when moon rose the view of moon and venus seen next to dark mountains was breathtaking. Unfortunately on all the other nights sky wasn't clear and we couldn't see this view twice.

Day 2# Lakshmi Ban to Chakrateerth (13 Km):
On the way to Chakrateerth we saw Sahastradhara falls, the point where a glacier becomes river. This patch of the trek was comparatively easy. Chakrateerth is a very nice place for camping. A flat ground in the middle of rocky mountains covered with grass and flowers. A stream flowing on the sides carrying pure, cool and sweet water. Water is another unique feature I liked about this trek. The water we drank during the whole trek was taken from the streams flowing nearby the places of camping. It was really pure and its taste is something I cant explain in words, it was simply superb.

Day 3# Chakrateerth to Sathopanth lake (4 Km):
After getting used to the climbing and climate in last 2 days we planned and managed to go only 4 km on 3rd day. The reason was the terrain was full of boulders. One has to be very carefull while walking in boulder zone. We reached at Sathopanth lake in afternoon and camped there. Sathopanth lake is triangular in shape. We took a dip in its water, it was freezing cold. In the evening we went to the icy place which was feeding water to lake.

Day 4# Sathopanth to Swargarohini base to Sathopanth (16 Km):
We started early in the morning as we were going without tents and porters and had to be back to Sathopanth camp before evening. The evenings in this part of Himalaya are very unpredictable, it can rain or the whole place can get covered with thick fog making it impossible to see around and thus walk, fortunately nothing like this happened. On the way we saw Surya kund. After walking 8 Km really fast we reached the base of Swargarohini, the last point of our trek. From this point we could see the way to heaven in front of us. It was very much tempting to continue further and see what lies beyond it (the legend says only Yudhishtir could cross this last part of the way to heaven) but the distance (around 100 Km but looks very close) and difficulty of the terrain would mean a sure way to heaven :) After enjoying the magnificent view around we started walking our way back to the camp at Sathopanth lake.

Day 5# Sathopanth Lake to Mana (25 Km):
We started walking determined to make it to Mana before the end of the day. We took fewer and shorter stops and covered 16 Km really fast. It had rained a lot previous night causing the water in all the strams we crossed on our way up to increase to a dangerous level making them very difficult to cross. We managed to cross all the streams somehow but we got struck at the last stream which had a scary flow. One more tour group was struck at the other end of the stream. With the help of porters from both the groups we managed to cross this last hurdle but it took 1 hour. Again we walked really fast, it was drizzling so we had to take out plastic covers, the night was approaching fast. At around 7 PM we reached at the base of Mana and now had to cross the river Alaknanda which had expanded a lot and was flowing around the small wooden bridge. Crossing this river took 5 minutes and the water was deadly cold. Finally passing through all this when we reached Mana it was complete dark.

We completed the trek safely. The experience was surely a lifetime experience. Himalaya is one of the most beautiful places on earth, a must visit for everyone. I decided to go there many times in the future.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

My Experiences with Tata Jagriti Yatra 2009

Tata Jagriti Yatra is an annual train journey with the motto of "awakening the entrepreneurial spirit". In this yatra 400 youth, majority of them from India, are taken on an 18 day All India trip to visit the unsung heroes of India and see their exceptional work with the aim to inspire them to build Social or economic enterprises.

The yatra began on 24th December 2009 at Mumbai. Let me start with the train, a chartered train was arranged for the yatra, all the bogies of the train had yatra stickers pasted outside. For us this train was home for next 18 days. The train comprised of sleeper coaches, 1 pantry, 2 AC chair cars and bathrooms. PA system was fitted in all the bogies of train. AC chair cars were fitted with Audio Visual facilities and were used for on board activities like discussions, presentations etc. But the most amazing arrangement was bathroom coach. Normal sitting car coach was converted into bathrooms in a truly innovative way. There was a pantry car with really supportive serving people, the food served was good.

The second most prominent thing about yatra was diversity among participants. All of us were from different lands having different economical, educational, professional and most importantly cultural backgrounds. There were people from all across the India, few from UK, US, Australia too. Spending time with such a diverse people was an experience in itself, although I faced lot of trouble remembering so many names. I learned how people work on same thing but in different ways. For example there were so many working on micro finance but each of them had different ways.

First line in the guide book given to participants of yatra said 'This is not a joy ride' and we realized how true it was after we started visiting role models. The days were very hectic and on board activities like presentations and discussions further added to it. The map of the places covered is shown in above picture. In 18 days we covered more than 9300 Km. We passed through various temperature zones, 30 deg C in Trivandrum to 2 deg C in Tilonia. This definitely made yatra challenging health wise and tiring too.

About the learning part, I learned a lot from the yatra. Over past years I was made to believe that being an idealistic one can not survive. But now I have seen idealistic people who not only survived but succeeded in extra ordinary works. I learned various ways of working at root level. I learned that Food, Clothes and shelter are still the basic needs and there are billions who does not have access to all three and thus there is a huge potential to work at the root level.

The next amazing thing about the yatra was the role models we visited. (I will write in detail about all of them in a short while) A list of them is given below.

  1. Mumbai Dabbawala
  2. Mr G. Vijayaraghavan, man behind Technopark in Trivendrum
  3. Sabriye & Paul founders of Braille without Borders and IISE, Trivendrum
  4. Arvind Eye Care, Madurai
  5. Aparajitha Foundation, Madurai
  6. Mr R. Elango, Kuthabakkam village near Chennai
  7. Agastya Foundation, near Bangalore
  8. Industree crafts foundation, Bangalore
  9. Naandi Foundations, Hyderabad
  10. Mr Joe Madiath founder of Gram-Vikas, Brahmapur in Orissa
  11. Tata Steel, Jamshedpur
  12. Jagriti Sewa Sanshtan, Deoria in UP
  13. Mr Anshu Gupta founder of Goonj, Delhi
  14. Mr Bunker Roy founder of Barefoot College, Tilonia in Rajasthan
  15. Okhai, Tata Chemicals, Mithapur Gujarat
I observed some common things in all the role models and these are listed below.
  • All of them had either seen or experienced a 'pain point' and they decided to act on it.
  • Common values all followed were honesty and integrity.
  • Common traits all had were hard working ability, empathy, bravery, persuasion.
  • All of them were dreamers.
  • All created enterprise or organization which wouldn't depend on them i.e. which will grow on its own.
  • None of them worried about the money. The lesson here is as long as you are doing honest and good work you don't have to worry about money, money will follow you.
  • None of them bent against the problem of corruption. Lesson here is if you give bribe the first time, you will have to give it forever.
Apart from all the serious stuff we had lot of fun among our cohort and groups. Singing songs and dancing at any given opportunity, bumps for anyone suspected of having birthday, pulling each others leg while having dinner in compartment, new years celebration on platform, small games played during the short travels in buses, writing messages for each others time capsule bottles are all memorable events too.

The 18 days passed like a moment and in the end I realized that Tata Jagriti Yatra was truly an experience of lifetime which has given memories to cherish, friends to share and inspiration to follow dreams.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Nobel peace prize - A Practical Joke

I read a news item today about how the Nobel Prize committee (who were, I guess, trying to be funny by declaring peace prize for Obama) played a practical joke by actually giving the noble Peace prize to Obama. The committee decided to give the peace prize to Obama in February, when he had just taken the charge as US president and had barely done any 'Peace Work'. The Peace prize committee just assumed that Obama would do some peace work in future so why not give him an award right now for his good intentions, maybe this would put a moral responsibility on him to live up to his Nobel peace prize winner reputation.

But their plan to ensure peace by means of giving a peace prize went to pieces yesterday when while accepting the prize Obama quoted that "war has a role in peace". Obama made it pretty clear that winning a peace prize will not deter him from any of his war plans; whether those wars would ever lead to world peace is a whole different issue. I wish if I could be there in Oslo to see the expressions on faces of committee members.

The amazing fact is that Obama invoked his hero Mahatma Gandhi as his role model for peace work. Gandhi was nominated for Nobel peace prize five times but never got it. It is surprising that Nobel prize committee didn't find the man who donated all of his life for actual peace work and died for it, worthy of a prize. Maybe he was above a Nobel prize.

Looking at events I have resolved that I will meditate everyday for 15 minutes about research in Physics. This will help convey my intentions to do something great to add to the knowledge of Physics. And maybe I will win the Nobel prize for Physics.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bangalore to Nandi Hills - Cycling Endurance Race

I am proud to say that I secured 42nd rank in the cycling endurance race conducted by BBC (Bangalore Biker's Club) from Bangalore to Nandi Hills :)
I know that 42nd out of 100 participants is not a kind of rank which can make one proud. But considering the terrain of the racing route and the fact that this was my first cycling race, I am little bit proud of myself that I successfully finished race.

The race was scheduled to begin on the Sunday morning at 7 o'clock from the CCD outlet on Bellary road. Totally 4 guys from IISc (Abhijit, Poovaiah, Alex and I) had decided to participate. But an interesting thing happened on Sunday morning which comples me to believe that whatever Murphy said is true. It so happened that there are 2 CCD outlets on Bellary road, one which is around 2 Km away and second which is 20 Km away from IISc campus. As per Murphy's laws until 5.30 AM on Sunday we were assuming that the race will start from the first CCD outlet, so we imagined that it is an easy 5 min ride from campus.

But we got a call from organizers and they clarified that the starting point is actually the second CCD. All of us got ready quickly and set off at around 6 o'clock. We cycled as fast as possible, as if the race had already begun and reached starting point in 45 minutes. There we saw around 100 cyclists with full enthusiasm ready to shoot. Many of them had carried cycles in cars, SUVs etc.

The race started at around 7.15 AM. The total distance to be covered was around 40 Km. There were 3 checkpoints. Water and electrolyte was provided at checkpoints. After first checkpoint the Nandi hill peak (which was the finishing point) was visible. The top part was fully covered with clouds. I got really excited imagining that I'll be there in clouds soon.

After 2nd checkpoint started the last 12 Km stretch of road which was all uphill. I was getting more and more thirsty with every passing Km. But the worse was after 3rd checkpoint, last 3.5 Km was quiet a steep road up. There were many steep and dangerous turns. The sun was fully out. The real test of stamina and endurance was in this part of the race. It was difficult to keep the spirit steady and legs moving. At a very steep hair pin turn, the roaring people was audible and there it was, the finish line of the race. I finished in 2 hr 20 min.

It was a great feeling having finished the race. After that we roamed around there for some time and returned to campus in the evening.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Second semester over....

Last week second semester of first year M.Tech got over.
But why am I writing a post about it? because this semester wasn't like any other semesters.

It started normally. I had taken 6 courses totally. First 3 months were as usual, assignments and labs. But as the last month i.e. April began, all the profs started giving mini projects one by one. By the end of April first week we had 6 mini projects staring at us like raging bulls. We tried finishing as much work possible between the exams, but by the end of April none of the project was over. So the deadlines got extended to May first week and the work ultimately came down to night outs.

One by one we finished all the mini projects. The night before last submission, the labs looked like as if preparations for some festival are going on. Everyone working in various labs trying to finish the job on time. For some, the night continued till next night. But after finishing everything the feeling of satisfaction was amazing. Now there is a little respite for coming 2 months.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Beauty everywhere.....

Come March and the IISc campus starts changing colors. Actually it starts acquiring various colors. Flowers with yellow, red, pink, purple, white and many more shades are seen. Even the huge trees starts blooming with flowers on the top.

Apart from flowers also the leaves of many trees starts getting various colors. Like some trees are seen with only yellow leaves, some with only purple leaves.

Just a look around and you can see beauty everywhere.