I have been asked time and again to list out books which have motivated me, helped me overcome weaknesses and become a better human being, innovator and entrepreneur. I have created a list of 30 such books. Some of these books have been major bestseller but that does not matter for a reader like me for whom the quality of the book is most important. So, why these 30? The reason I chose to list these 30 books and none other is the value they have created in my personal and entrepreneurial life, along with the fun I had in reading these books.
(Please note this is absolutely my personal opinion bound upon none)
So, here goes the list:
1) The Godfather (Mario Puzo)
The Godfather is an extraordinary novel which has become a modern day classic. Puzo pulls us inside the violent society of the Mafia and its gang wars. The leader, Vito Corleone, is the Godfather. He is a benevolent despot who stops at nothing to gain and hold power.
2) Steve Jobs – The Exclusive Biography (Walter Isaacson)
In Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography, Isaacson provides an extraordinary account of Jobs' professional and personal life. Drawn from three years of exclusive and unprecedented interviews Isaacson has conducted with Jobs as well as extensive interviews with Jobs' family members, key colleagues from Apple and its competitors, Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography is the definitive portrait of the greatest innovator of his generation.
3) Delivering Happiness - A Path To Profits, Passion, And Purpose (Tony Hsieh)
Now in trade paperback, the hip, iconoclastic CEO of Zappos shows how a different kind of corporate culture can make a huge difference in achieving remarkable results -- by actually creating a company culture that values happiness --and then delivers on it.
4) The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future (Chris Guillebeau)
In The $100 Startup, Chris Guillebeau shows you how to lead of life of adventure, meaning and purpose – and earn a good living.
5) The Last Lecture (Randy Pausch, Jeffery Gaslow)
Professor Randy Pausch's moving and inspirational book based on his extraordinary Last Lecture. 'We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.' On 18 September 2007 computer science professor Randy Pausch stepped in front of an audience of 400 people at Carnegie Mellon University to deliver his last lecture. At 46, Randy had been told the month before that he had pancreatic cancer and had only
6) The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell)
The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate.
7) Who Moved My Cheese? (Spencer Johnson)
The bestselling classic that has helped millions of people find success and happiness through embracing what is inevitable in life: change.
8) The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari (Robin Sharma)
An internationally bestselling fable about a spiritual journey, littered with powerful life lessons that teach us how to abandon consumerism in order to embrace destiny, live life to the full and discover joy.
9) Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way (Richard Branson)
That's the philosophy that has allowed Richard Branson, in slightly more than twenty-five years, to spawn so many successful ventures. From the airline business (Virgin Atlantic Airways), to music (Virgin Records and V2), to cola (Virgin Cola), to retail (Virgin Megastores), and nearly a hundred others, ranging from financial services to bridal wear, Branson has a track record second to none.
10) The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the great thrillers of all time. In 1853 William Thackeray wrote to a friend: 'began to read Monte Cristo at six one morning and never stopped till eleven at night.'
11) Thinking, Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman)
Daniel Kahneman, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his seminal work in psychology challenging the rational model of judgment and decision making, is one of the world's most important thinkers. His ideas have had a profound impact on many fields-including business, medicine, and politics-but until now, he has never brought together his many years of research in one book.
12) Murder in Mesopotamia (Agatha Christie)
It was clear to Amy Leatheran that something sinister was going on at the Hassanieh dig in Iraq; something associated with the presence of ‘Lovely Louise’, wife of celebrated archaeologist Dr Leidner.
13) Jugaad Innovation: Think Frugal, Be Flexible, Generate Breakthrough Growth (Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu, Simone Ahuja)
Jugaad Innovation argues the West must look to places like India, Brazil, and China for a new approach to frugal and flexible innovation.
14) Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle (Dan Senor, Saul Singer)
Start-Up Nation addresses the trillion dollar question: How is it that Israel-- a country of 7.1 million, only 60 years old, surrounded by enemies, in a constant state of war since its founding, with no natural resources-- produces more start-up companies than large, peaceful, and stable nations like Japan, China, India, Korea, Canada and the UK?
15) Stay Hungry Stay Foolish (Rashmi Bansal)
Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish is the story of 25 IIM Ahmedabad graduates who chose the rough road of entrepreneurship.
16) Connect the Dots (Rashmi Bansal)
Connect the Dots is the story of 20 enterprising individuals without an MBA, who started their own ventures. They were driven by the desire to prove themselves.
17) Mein Kampf (Adolf Hitler)
This book will give you an insight into one of the greatest tyrant of this century, his political ideals, beliefs and motivation, and his struggle to consolidate Germany into one great nation.
18) The Second World War (Winston Churchill)
Winston Churchill’s monumental The Second World War, is a six volume account of the struggle between the Allied Powers in Europe against Germany and the Axis.
19) The Firm (John Grisham)
When Mitchell McDeere qualified third in his class at Harvard, offers poured in from every law firm in America. Bendini, Lambert and Locke were a small, well-respected firm, but their offer exceeded Mitch's wildest expectations: a fantastic salary, a new home, and the keys to a brand new BMW.
20) Rules for Revolutionaries: The Capitalist Manifesto for Creating and Marketing New Products and Services (Guy Kawasaki, Michele Moreno)
Guy Kawasaki, CEO of garage.com and former chief evangelist of Apple Computer, Inc., presents his manifesto for world-changing innovation, using his battle-tested lessons to help revolutionaries become visionaries.
21) The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide For Anyone Starting Anything (Guy Kawasaki)
A new product, a new service, a new company, a new division, a new organization, a new anything—where there’s a will, here’s the way. It begins with a dream that just won’t quit, the once-in-a-lifetime thunderbolt of pure inspiration, the obsession, the world-beater, the killer app, the next big thing.
22) The Little Kingdom: The Private Story of Apple Computer (Michael Moritz)
Recounts the eight-year growth of Apple Computer, Inc., from garage workshop to international business leader and spotlights the personalities behind Apple's remarkable successes
23) Return of the Little Kingdom: Steve Jobs, The Creation of Apple, and How It Changed the World (Michael Moritz)
Return to the Little Kingdom is a contemporary perspective on the accomplishments of Steve Jobs and the extraordinary comeback of Apple.
24) How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie)
For more than sixty years the rock-solid, time-tested advice in this book has carried thousands of now famous people up the ladder of success in their business and personal lives.
25) The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda (Swami Vivekananda)
Nothing short of extraordinary by a great teacher and philosopher of Modern India.
26) Start-up Sutra: What the Angels Won't Tell You About Business and Life (Rohit Prasad)
Through the true stories of two sets of people who braved the rough road, Start-up Sutra presents entrepreneurship in its essence – not a checklist to be crossed, but a passion to be lived; an iterative process of near-death experiences and incredible turnarounds that founders of businesses navigate by a combination of chutzpah, sagacity and sheer brazen luck.
27) A Bank for the Buck: The New Bank Movement & the Untold Story of the Making of India's Most Valued Bank (Tamal Bandyopadhyay)
The Story of HDFC Bank on how it created value for customers and became India's most valuable bank.
28) Bill Gates: Entrepreneur & Philanthropist (Jeanne M. Lesinski)
Bill Gates is famous for co-founding Microsoft and shaping the computer age. But USA TODAY, the Nation's No. 1 Newspaper, predicts, "[H]is most lasting influence may be in philanthropy as he now sets himself to giving away his vast fortune."
29) Elon Musk: Biography of the Mastermind Behind Paypal, SpaceX, and Tesla Motors (Pauline T.)
Elon Musk is primarily known for the part he played in founding the widely known electronic money transfer site Paypal. These days, Musk applies the same imagination and ability to innovate that he used to make PayPal a success to his leadership of Tesla Motors, of which he is presently chairman.
30) The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses (Eric Ries)
Most startups fail. But many of those failures are preventable. The Lean Startup is a new approach being adopted across the globe, changing the way companies are built and new products are launched. Eric Ries defines a startup as an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty.
Punishments Need to Stop! 'If They are Kids and We are Grown-ups, Why do They Need to Understand us More than We Needing to Understand Them'
Recently, I was speaking with a noted educator who has been working with the CBSE for over two decades. Our topics of discussion started with the curriculum, delivery mechanisms and somehow wavered off to punishment.
I have been thinking of the punishment system in Indian schools ever since and realized it was high time that I some light on how it is disturbing our kids today. Being a recent school graduate of 2007, I remember a time in Class 9 when we were hearing news of corporal punishment being banned for schools and I also remember an FIR being lodged on one of my school teachers when he had slapped a kid.
It is good that we are done with corporal punishment legally (in reality, it is still rampant), but my attention today is on the psychological punishment being meted out by school teachers and administrators which is doing much more damage than corporal punishment mostly did.
Were you familiar with hearing statements by your class teacher in front of your entire class, your friends and colleagues such as 'Is this what your parents have taught you' or ' Is this how you behave at home' or 'Do you belong to an illiterate family'? Well, I would hear such statements everyday when I was in school and the victims were always the same bunch of kids.
Being an educator from the modern world, I feel these direct statements in front of your peers are a damaging proposition. It is damaging in a sense that you are being mocked by a grown up person who does not have the ability to peacefully manage and resolve problems. It is damaging in a sense that you would be next mocked by your friends after the class is over.
I remember a few instances when I was punished just for challenging a teacher's ego. To me it did not make sense, was my teacher not proud that I was not blindly listening to what he said but was actually thinking! So, punishment was suddenly less about me being wrong and more about hurting a teacher's ego.
Do we really need to do this?
Today, I am worried about kids who are punished daily. Initially it becomes a traumatic experience and soon comes a time when the kid would just stop caring. This is the instance where we may have created an anti-social element. Is anybody benefiting from such a system? I truly believe not.
I still see some kids standing out, some teachers shouting at the top of their voices, etc when I visit schools or principals trying to resolve a complain of a very stubborn child in the presence of the child and teacher. Are we really doing well just by putting a ban on corporal punishment?
So, the question that crops up next is what do we do about it? There needs to be a radical change in case we wish to see the situation to be different, to ensure we are able to understand even the wild kids without misusing the power of any form of punishment.
We started following an interesting strategy at Gyan Lab for the same. I have very firm beliefs that this will have miraculous results as we are seeing some good cases already. We have a number of really mischievous kids in Gyan Lab especially in the lower classes. They are kings and queens of their own accord. Under no circumstances would they sit quietly. This also started resulting in breakage of a number of equipments and we needed to figure out a way to do something correct about this. That is when it struck me that we needed to make the kids realize their mistakes and the gravity of their mistakes without being harsh or overbearing on them. So, we started replacing the stuff without scolding or charging the kids (unlike a classroom, where any breakage mostly results in parents of the guilty paying up). But we brought this situation to their notice. And we asked to write down as to what had happened, what went wrong and how can we ensure that such incidents do not happen in the future. We then made these kids responsible for ensuring that the same mistake was not repeated by anyone else. We also made them realize that this had made us pay a lot and now we were losing money. This made them sad too and imbibed an important lesson in their minds. We started teaching them about things such as taxes and other necessary economic concepts. They would work out to find how much would their parents earn and understand that it was unwise to ask for expensive gifts on a regular basis as it was hard-earned money. Of course, some kids surprisingly also spoke about bribes, black money and we had to tell incidents of really popular people ending up in jail for the same and understood that at this tender age they already knew about their parents black money dealings.
Though we did not have cent percent results, we were influencing kids positively, we were helping them judge right and wrong, and we were giving them a sense of responsibility (which nearly everyone waives off as they are ‘just kids’). And now, we are making this a mandate at Gyan Lab.
At the end of the day, my question is if they are kids and we are grown ups, then why do they need to understand us more than we needing to understand them. I think we have something very serious to think about now!
1) It is easier to be outside class than inside class – all you need is a bit of creative talent (Creativity, Acting Skills)
2) Every year you have to have a new professional interest till you are in Grade 10 (for some it even continues further) (Deep Thoughts, Variety in Planning)
3) Every grade seems extremely easy only after crossing it (Flair, Excellence)
4) Everybody wants to sit next to you if you are among the top 5 rankers in Class as it is believed some habits can just be copied (Xeroxed) into others; After 10th, stop scoring and you are an even bigger star (Popularity comes with Marks first and later vice-versa)
5) An innocent face is a boon which helps you discover a lot of new pranks yet escape punishment every time (Creativity, Artistic Skills)
6) If you are a good cricketer, singer, poet, writer, or have any well expressed skill, you must be ready for stardom in school (God-gifted Talent gets Solid Exposure)
7) If you are a few teachers’ favourite, you are in for a lot of slack in every domain (Favoritism, How to Get It?)
8) Participate in what you want to participate and challenge the norm, in case there is one. (Challenging Attitude, Entrepreneurial Spirit)
9) Question a teacher and his methods when you do not understand, go out of class if he cannot bear you inside (Free Time to Think and Plan once Outside)
10) Make friends with everybody, and especially the folks from the other gender (no, they are not your enemies), you learn a lot of skills on your communication and behaviour front that will always actually help you a lot later in life (Smartness, Communication Skills)
I'm ... I'm ...
(Lyrics from I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane)
This is the kind of thought that is running in my mind at the moment. All my belongings have been packed neatly and boxed in brand new cartons. Here I am ready to leave Manipal as my hometown and move to the start-up capital of India – Bangalore. This was to happen long back in January but I kept juggling between places. Now, it is finally time to say goodbye to Manipal, a place where I have spent nearly the last 6 years of my life (69 months to be precise).
Manipal has been the greatest learning turf in my life so far. While I will learn more at various stages of my life, these past years will help me shape my life towards something meaningful and enjoyable.
I came here as a kid wanting to become an engineer. At that point of time, I was fascinated by cars and designs. So, I chose mechanical and never regretted it much. I had super fun during the first one and half years. The first year was spent in bonding. Being in P section, attracted a lot of wrath of other section people due to the large mobs we used to move in. Infact, there was a joke which went like – If you see 20 – 25 people in a cluster, it is P section!’
But there was one disrupting moment in those 18 months which changed my life forever. In my 2nd semester, I attended this workshop by some random club named Akshay Urja Club (AUC) on Paper Presentations by Team Energia. They were the most successful team on campus in terms of technical paper and business plan presentation. It was inspiring. I wanted to do it too.
Lesson: There is a life changing moment hidden somewhere for all of us. At the time of occurrence, it does not give us that impression; it does so when you look back into the past.
First Year in Manipal
I along with four other friends of mine ended up joining the club as well. During my 3rd semester, I also presented my first ever technical paper during Techtatva’08. It went horribly. I had forgotten to make a powerpoint presentation and remembered it 2 hours before the event and ended up messing everything up.
Lesson: You could go ahead and give up on something if you have hit a roadblock. But then you would be a coward. To constantly keep fighting automatically brings in an entrepreneurial spirit in you which is a lesson for life.
I worked for the club selflessly. I never wanted anything back, just wanted to work and keep learning. I voiced my friends’ names when our seniors were selecting organizers for Techtatva’08 and still ended up working during the entire time without ever asking for anything.
Lesson: This is especially for the present Manipal batches. Please deserve before desiring something. And nothing happens in a day, you have to have the patience and perseverance.
I, along with a couple of my friends (Bales and Vaibhav), had previously written a Technical Paper on Sea Water Purification for Potable Water Extraction. We worked on it again and it was presented in IEEE TechWeekend 2009. We won the First Place there. But there was a catch there. I had two other friends who wanted to present with us (the team limit was 4 people per team). So, I asked Vaibhav and Bales to go ahead and present the previous paper as they had worked hard on it as well, while I formed another team, sat down to write a completely new one on Waste Management (Portable Toilets) to accommodate the other two friends. And the second paper ended up not creating even a stir. I gave up my 1st ever possible glory (unknowingly) but was happy that I was able to work with my friends.
Lesson: Winning is good, winning trust and goodwill is most important. Things might not go according to you everyday, but they will do so someday (you will find out soon about this)
We kept working at AUC and the club was doing well for itself. But we were not a muscle organization like a few other technical clubs. We were a small bunch, few 1st years knew about us. People chose everything else over working for us. It just did not feel right. Meanwhile, it was time for Techtatva’09 and I was still searching for my mojo in paper presentation. I was asked if I wished to be the Category Head for Energia (AUC’s) Category. I refused as I was taken into creating my own new event. A month before Techtatva, our club saw the biggest internal conflict that was fuelled by ego more than anything else. Our Faculty Advisor then, Mr. Sudhir C. V. intervened and offered everyone a very fair solution. It was not acceptable to a number of people and they left the club. We had to regroup and start working from scratch. We had earlier proposed one of our batch-mate as Category Head but when Mr. Sudhir C. V. offered to bring in a senior as the same (to avoid more trouble), my batch-mate just left. And we regrouped. With the senior (Anurag Sir) busy with placements, he asked me to attend the Category Head meetings and take the work ahead. I did as asked (for no credit at all but happy with the trust my seniors had in me) and there I got introduced to the Technical Secretary (Animesh bhaiya – bhaiya means elder brother in Hindi). He inspired me a lot to do things right. We would speak at length where he would talk about the complete management of the fest and I kept learning from him.
Lesson: Life will sometimes bring everything that you have worked for under threat but you have to have a clear conscience and keep moving ahead because the most rewarding moments follow soon.
So, I created my own event called SWADES. I worked over a month to create a problem which could not be rigged. That is right, even if someone got the paper even earlier, you just could not find the right answer. In this event, you had to optimise the resources given to you, place buildings on a map and create a well balanced energy efficient city. To rig the event, you needed to create a virtual simulation of the map and test each and every of the 2000 grids placed on the map for optimized location of all the 6 buildings to be placed (this is something that was used on a smaller scale of accuracy while creating major games like RON, Caesar, etc.). The event was a roaring success getting over 400 participants in Round 1 and 40 moving to the next round. People even said that the event paper was tougher and more draining than writing CAT! I think the event might be still alive (not very sure though). But I was and am happy. I got more participants in an AUC event than ever before. People started knowing us.
Lesson: Excellence comes with genuine effort and belief. If your belief is small and lowly, your execution would suck to the core.
Organizing Various Events as part of Akshay Urja and Swades Event
Simultaneously, I re-wrote my Portable Toilet paper and it ended up winning the first place at an event called Engenius. There was also a business plan event called ‘None of Your Business’ but being a proud technical student, I had never participated in B-plan events before. I decided to shed my stupid ‘pride’ and presented a Plan (on which I had worked for over a year) on Burning Rice Husk to Create Electricity. It won the second place. At the same time, another team from India went to win Dell Social Innovation Challenge, MIT Ignite, GSVC and Darden Challenge working on a similar principle and then created this very, very successful start-up company called Husk Power Systems based out of Patna which has touched over 200,000 people giving electricity to people who are off the nation’s electricity grid.
Lesson: Life will not wait for you. I waited for over a year to present my idea on rice-husk based power-plants and I lost an opportunity that could have worked for me. For anything new and noble, there is no better time than now!
I had found my mojo. I went on to win the 2nd place at B-Plan event at IIT Kharagpur in February, 2010 with the Portable Toilets business plan. I had real data, I had material configuration sheets from China, I had data from Sulabh on users and I had spent more than 300 hours on the 3rd Floor of the Central Library (Main Library) where nobody goes today. Back then it was me or people who wanted to make out. I had even become friends with the Library folks because I worked with those dusty Technical Papers dating anywhere between a year old to 25 years old. The idea was also generating good interest and one of the Investors present wanted to fund the building of a prototype but it was too early for me to plunge into such deep research without having much time for it. I also ended up becoming the President of AUC which came as a big shocker to everyone and me too! I know it was not like being President of USA but yes, I was happy and really wanted to prove that it was not a mistake. I, with the guidance of our new faculty Advisor – Mr. Raghavendra Prabhu P (PRP Sir), went on to change the face of the organization. He was my mentor and a friend who taught me a great deal of things during my tenure as President.
Lesson: It is good to get a pleasant surprise once in a while but that also makes it necessary for you to justify the surprise that was bestowed upon you.
And then I decided, we would start a fest of our own at AUC. Bold and daunting for a club with just 100 members and a few thousand in cash but we will do it! So, SYNERGIA (Manipal’s 1st Renewable Energy Fest) was born and it was my baby. I had to ensure it survived. So, I spent the first 2 weeks of my winter vacation pitching to various companies for sponsorship for an event that did not even exist but it played well with a number of companies. I was honest. I did not tell them that they will get a 5 by 5 feet space on my banners, no! They are large companies that can buy the entire number of billboards between Manipal and Mangalore at the snap of a finger. I told them the money was for a good cause that would make people in our catchment region aware towards renewable energy and is CSR as well. I also promised to send them a complete report once the fest ended and they could even go through the books if they liked. I was able to impress people with my honesty. So, we had Alok Industries (India’s 2nd Largest Cloth Making Company with Rs 4000+ Crore turnover), State Bank of India, Pratibha Industries (a Rs 800+ Crore construction behemoth from Mumbai working on a number of Greenfield projects), Texas Instruments, Philips BOP and Maxx Flex (India’s largest Flex and Print company with 85% of all flex banners in India being imported by Maxx) as our sponsors. Then I rused back to Manipal alone to hand over the money to PRP Sir and get the plan sorted. I booked all the banners in MIT, got posters printed, booked rooms in NLH and got the entire MIT Management (Director Somnath Mishra, JD Radhakrishna Aithal, various Associate Directors and HODs) on board as well. PRP Sir and I worked as a team here and made sure to get the basics right for the fest to be held in February. Once our Management Team members and juniors were back, the work was distributed among all. They all did a very fine job.
Lesson: A Leader does not sit and boss around, a Leader leads from the front. You take any hit on your team on yourself and you share credit and success with everyone.
Synergia put AUC as one of the most known technical clubs of Manipal. It was very successful. We managed to organize the fest in just 60% of the money we got as sponsorship (huge thanks to PRP Sir for that). This was also the first time in MIT when the Sponsorship amount was more than the Fest budget. We had around 150 teams in the various college events, turnout of over 1000 people during the 2 days of informals and over 150 school kids for the school events. We increased membership to 400+ from 100. We had a good amount of cash in the Club Account. And for the 1st time, girls joined the club in good numbers! That was a feat for an organization that sort of looked like Bajrang Dal earlier. To prove it was successful, we had Synergia’11 the next year, Synergia’12 in 2012 and Synergia’13 this year.
Lesson: It is not people who create legacy, it is an organization that does. Do not propagate the person, build the brand!
Synergia - Learnt a lot while getting it done
In April, I came to know that even non-members can apply for IAESTE Internships during the latter rounds. On the insistence of my good friend, Gandhi, I applied for the same and got an offer from UK in the 5th Round. Not only had I got one of the best paying offers out of nowhere, I became a member of IAESTE after I got my offer. I could not get a better deal. And I got chosen to work on Biophotonics! It was nowhere in my domain (Mechanical) but I had to work with lasers and it was fascinating. I had huge help from Rathi and Neha (IAESTE IndiaMIT NS members and my friends) during this entire duration of application and preparation. I went to UK in July and came back in mid-August having spent just 6 weeks in Glasgow, UK but it was the best time of my life. I had a great learning relationship with Gale (my mentor who is one of the youngest RCUK Fellow with a Gates Foundation Grant), I made the most amazing friends and we are the best of friends even today. Over 60 people from 35 countries staying together was just amazing. Tobi, Mario, Katarina, Milos, Lars, Ines, Maria, Olja, Diego, Ernest and the list goes on and on. Infact, Lars visited me last year in Manipal. It also started a strong relationship with IAESTE IndiaMIT and it still continues today to a great extent. I also had many friends of friends (David, Nelin, Jovana, Kristine, Jana – may her soul rest in peace) come here to Manipal and learning experience got even better.
Lesson: The finest moments in life are unexpected but they need to be preserved well. Building relationships is an art and might need more giving than taking. Are you ready for it?
And once I was back, it was time for Techtatva’10. I was offered to become the Sponsorship Category Head but I was in no mood to work hard again. I wanted to win a major event. And it so happened that we were having a mega B-plan event during this TT called the Venture (thank you Sana and Allen – the Technical Secretaries of MIT in 2010). Also, a person who also owns a big thank you is Udit (by the way, congrats on getting engaged buddy!). Udit was the Category Head of the event and a mastermind of the same. So, I was back into action for the last time before I went on to finish college and get a job. During this while, I asked Abhash and Mikhil if they would like to team with me on my latest b-plan crusade and they were more than happy to come on board. And we created a very first draft of what ADD-on-GYAN is today! Yes, that was way back in September 2010. We slogged for 4 long days and won the event. That is right – 60k cash prize! And, while we were celebrating our victory on the last day of Techtatve’10, we read a poster that read ‘Provenance’ by the new Business Incubator of Manipal – MUTBI.
Lesson: The ‘Let us do it one last time’ is a great asset. It makes you create invaluable things without even knowing
The prize was good in Provenance so we participated. We went on to finish 5th because few of the judges did not believe that the concept could work with the exception of Mr. M Chandrasekaran (Shekar Sir) and Dr. Manohara Pai. And this was historic. We became the 1st ever student-run startup of Manipal. The company became the precursor to the huge entrepreneurship buzz in Manipal and I am happy we could inspire so many people.
Shekar Sir went on with helping us setup our pilot and start the company as the Chief Advisor of ADD-on-GYAN and Dr. Pai (as CEO of MUTBI and Board Observer) helped us at every step in making ADD-on-GYAN the epitome of entrepreneurship in Manipal.
So, we got started with the process on 24th December 2010 and finally got incubated on 20th January, 2011. Mikhil decided to go after stocks which he loves most, and Abhash and I started the company. And, as we created our 1st team with 6 members (Sonali was one of them as well), we won more laurels at IIT Kanpur in February and Next Big Idea at IIM Bangalore. We ran the company with Rs 150,000 from January to November 2011 that was generously invested by my parents. At the same time, we also inducted Sonali as a part of our founding team as we found a true spirited smart-working entrepreneur in her. Our seed fund was granted in November and we kept growing as an organization in terms of R&D and quality of work. We won more laurels at NIT Surathkal, EDGEx Manipal, Global Achievers Award among others. In February 2012, Abhash left his place in the team but that was no result of any feud. He left as he believed he was not contributing enough to the start-up and we are good friends even today while he evangelises for and pitches Gyan Lab at various forums, helps us in our hiring process and in demos at schools as well.
Lesson: Life is more about understanding and adjusting. I have an amazing rapport with Abhash and Sonali (the two co-founders) and I value it more than anything else.
I got to meet Mr. Luis Miranda while we were showcasing Gyan Lab to him on his visit to Manipal. He was taken by our idea and even spent an hour with us the next day. Slowly, this relationship grew and I requested him to advice ADD-on-GYAN and he readily agreed. Since then, Luis has been a huge inspiration. He is so friendly and tells you the right things always. Infact, he spent 8 months chasing me to make me call him ‘Luis’ and not ‘Sir’. I finally had to yield!
Confession: I so wish to retire as and when I want (just like he did)
Lesson: Great people are always pacific. It is the wannabe greats who are too jumpy and finally end up not even being close to greatness!
We started off with a 2 seater open cubicle as our office till November when we go our own room as office. Soon, it expanded to 2 rooms and then 3 rooms, today, which forms our R&D Centre. My life’s biggest laurels came with the advent of 2012 as we won Scale Phase Award at DSIC, won at the ET Power of Ideas 2012 (heralded at one of India’s top 20 young start-ups from 14000+ is a huge thing for me) and won second place at Dell Education Challenge (representing not only ADD-on-GYAN or Manipal but the entire Nation)! There is nothing that can beat the satisfaction I received from doing well at these events. We now believe even more in our ability to make Gyan Lab a positive disruption in Indian Education. I made more good friends through these events – Sudarshan (my legal consultant), Sneha (my prospective CS), Vivek, Piyush and so many of them. I now have the finest start-up CXOs of India as my friends. Isn’t that so rewarding?
Lesson: Treat awards as confidence boosting tools not the goal of life!
And finally the decision to move to Bangalore had to be taken to grow the organization pan-India. And here I am sitting in the Manipal office having sent a one tonne cargo comprising of my logistics, R&D materials, etc to Bangalore already and leaving myself tonight. A new chapter is dawning in our lives at ADD-on-GYAN and an old chapter called Manipal is coming to a glorious end.
THANK YOU MANIPAL FOR SHAPING MY LIFE. Indeed, this town is ‘INSPIRED BY LIFE’!