Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Eliminating Open Defecation from the World

Today's post is about a young Indian girl called Babli. She must be around the same age as my 6-year-old son Rishab. Like any other girl of her age group, Babli too wants to enjoy childhood. One could tell merely by looking at her that she is raring to take on the world.

But Babli is poor, er, very poor.

When I first met Babli, I asked her what she wanted to become when she grew up. She choked with emotion speaking about her biggest desire.
"I would like to be a teacher, but I have to be able to live long enough."
She is often forced to miss her lessons due to diarrhea. Children like her frequently fall ill because of the lack of proper hygiene and sanitation. Her problem is made worse by the fact that she doesn't even have access to a toilet. Left with no other choice, she gets up every morning - before the crack of dawn - and is forced to defecate outside. Making it even harder to stay healthy and safe.

And you'd hope Babli's case was probably one-off. Now picture this. 
  • According to an estimate by the UNICEF, almost 594 million people in our country - that is nearly half of India's population - defecates in the open. The situation is particularly acute in poverty-stricken rural areas like the Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh.
  • It is observed that toilet shortage, especially in rural areas, is fueling rape scourge, as women often become "easy prey".
  • The recent news of rape and killing of two young girls aged 12 and 14 in the Katra village sent shivers down the spine. The girls had walked to the wheat fields at night to defecate, only to be abducted by three men who gang-raped and killed them. The brutality didn't end there; the men hung the girls from a mango tree by their head scarves.
  • A top police officer in Uttar Pradesh reported that most women raped in the region were found defecating in open.
  • Among all the countries of the world, India tops in open defecation*, a fact that should put our heads down in shame.

[* Reference: The Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation report — 2014 update — released in Geneva.]


Why Defecate in the Open?


There can be several reasons why someone would practice open defecation: 
  • Lack of other alternatives like toilets not available or not attractive.
  • Toilets are available but they continue to stink (often true in case of shared or public toilets)
  • Toilets are filthy, dark, or unsafe.
  • People are culturally or habitually inclined towards open defecation.

Open defecation. Unimaginable in 85% of the world. The only option in the remaining 15%.


Let's start by understanding about open defecation. Most people who defecate outside have no choice. They often do it in the open spaces with little privacy.

Image courtesy: http://opendefecation.org/

According to statistics released by the United Nations, around 1 billion people worldwide are forced to practice open defecation, causing diseases like diarrhea, worm infestation, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, polio, reduced physical growth, impaired cognitive function, and under nutrition. Undoubtedly, one of the most apparent manifestations of extreme poverty.

Why it is that no one talks about it?

Let us break the silence


In 2013, for the first time, World Toilet Day was celebrated as an official UN day. Not only that, the term "open defecation" was introduced at the highest level, which drew attention to this issue.

Image courtesy: http://opendefecation.org/

Open defecation is clearly an indication of a global sanitation crisis staring us in the face. Ending this practice is the need of the hour, and can help reduce hospital visits, missed school days, and worst of all, child deaths.

While speaking to Babli, it occurred to me that maybe every day children like her drink water mixed with their neighbors’ feces.

Did you know that The Ganges, which happens to be the largest river in India, is considered to be one of the most polluted rivers in the world? Every minute 1.1 million liters of human excrement enters this river. Disgusting to say the least!

What can we do to help Babli?


It is estimated that lack of access to proper sanitation and water supply, including the practice of open defecation, costs the poorest countries in the world a whopping $260 billion a year. What's even more concerning is that one third of the entire human population (2.5 billion people) still does not have access to proper sanitation, including toilets or restrooms, with dramatic consequences on their health, dignity, and security.

Image courtesy: http://opendefecation.org/

If you build a public restroom, you can prevent a child from dying every two and a half minute from a preventable diarrheal disease. You can also educate children and adults about the benefits of improved hygiene and sanitation.

Image courtesy: http://opendefecation.org/

By doing your bit in spreading awareness about open defecation, you can help vulnerable population - including people with disabilities and women - from falling prey to sexual violence.

You can even urge school authorities to build private toilets, so that girls do not have to discontinue their education once they enter puberty.

Image courtesy: http://opendefecation.org/

I am happy to report that Churu, a district of Rajasthan state of western India, will soon become an open defecation free district. UN has also vowed to eliminate open defecation from the world by 2025.

Finally, let us try to help young girls like Babli who can one day put all their worries related to proper hygiene, sanitation, and health to rest.

[Participate in the "You Click Domex Contributes" initiative at http://www.domex.in/You can bring about the change in the lives of millions of kids, thereby showing your support for the Domex Initiative. All you need to do is “click” on the “Contribute Tab” on www.domex.in and Domex will contribute Rs.5 on your behalf to eradicate open defecation, thereby helping kids like Babli live a dignified life.]

Friday, November 14, 2014

Honda Amaze is Amazingly Indian

Ever been to a blogger's event not knowing what to expect? Well, sometimes that could be disappointing OR effing great. In my case, it simply turned out to be spectacular!

On November 7, I received an invite from Bloggers' Mind – a social media agency that works with various brands across the Automotive, FMCG, Technology, and Lifestyle sectors – to come and celebrate the completion of the "Longest Drive through Amazing India", part of Honda's "Amazingly Indian" campaign.



Not only did I graciously accept their invitation, but I also volunteered to cover the event for them as a return gesture.

What I didn't realize was that I'd get to witness a Guinness Award Ceremony firsthand.

Mr. Hironori Kanayama, President & CEO of Honda Cars India Ltd receiving the Guinness World Record

Also, get to click selfies with Chetan Bhagat, author of bestselling novels like Five Point Someone (2004), One Night @ the Call Center (2005), The 3 Mistakes of My Life (2008), 2 States (2009), Revolution 2020 (2011), What Young India Wants (2012), and Half Girlfriend (2014).

A Selfie Moment with Chetan Bhagat

Have I gotten you interested yet? Here's the scoop on the event as it happened.


Event Date: November 9, 2014

Event Day and Time: Sunday, 10:30am

A Punjabi Folk Dance Troupe

A North Eastern Indian Folk Dance Troupe

But first about the Guinness World Record.

Longest Drive through Amazing India with Honda Amaze


Bunny Punia
(Associate Editor at Gaadi Web Pvt Ltd) and Shantonil Nag (Content Writer at Gaadi Web Pvt Ltd) created history for covering the longest journey by car in a single country.



Together, they covered a distance of 23,823 Kms in 1 car (Honda Amaze) across 400 towns and cities of India.

Bunny Punia (Left) and Shantonil Nag (Right)

Bunny sums up his out of this world experience in mere one sentence:
“53 days, over 23000 kms, one amazing country, thousands of pictures, hours of video footage, millions of memories, and one capable car.”
Longest Drive through Amazing India with Honda Amaze

The unsung heroes, however, were the following folks:
  • Rajender Singh Negi - for capturing experiences in the Video format.
  • Deepak Dhojia - for editing and making live videos.
  • Kanika Sood - for playing the quintessential multitasker in this epic drive event.
  • The Gaadi Web Pvt Ltd team (including Abhishek Chaliha, Shivank Bhatt, Jeo George, Siddharth Motu, and Kanupriya Bhatnagar) - for handling everything else.

This drive was flagged off from the city of Jodhpur on September 15, 2014 and culminated at Greater Noida.

But the celebrations didn't end there ...
 

Honda revealed that the family sedan, Amaze, has seen a tremendous response from customers in India. In just 16 months since its launch, the product reached the 100,000 sales milestone. Undoubtedly, the fastest in the history of Honda Cars India Ltd (HCIL).

Discover Amazing India in Honda Amaze

The Honda Amaze was also declared the “Car of the Year” and “Compact Sedan of the Year” by leading automobile magazines, clinching 12 major automobile awards in 2013-14. HCIL celebrated this success by organizing the "Longest Drive through Amazing India" initiative.

Chetan Bhagat Signs In for Webisodes on Drive through Amazing India


The "Longest Drive through Amazing India" is followed by a series of webisodes on "Drive through Amazing India" led by the renowned author Chetan Bhagat. In this web series, Chetan will travel to unexplored places of India.

His first destination will be a church submerged in the waters. No kidding! Not explored by many, the ruins of Rosary Church lie unscathed in Shettihalli, Hassan, Karnataka.

The ruins of Rosary Church in Shettihalli, Hassan, Karnataka

The water recedes during summers, a time when you can get to see the church up close and personal. Even when the church is submerged - half under the water - you can go near it on a coracle.

You too can be a part of this exciting journey with Chetan by participating in the upcoming contests, wherein you'll be asked to post stories or photos about unexplored places of Amazing India. The shortlisted candidates get to travel and explore the most remarkable places of India, just like the man himself.

A Group of Enthusiastic Bloggers (From Left to Right: Shubham, Jatin, Yogita, Rahul, and Harsh)

It DEFINITELY pays to be a blogger! Sometimes the perks come in the form of opportunities and can be enough to justify the trouble like waking up early on a lazy Sunday morning.

#AmazeLongestDrive
#AmazeWorldRecord
@hondacarsindia
@bloggersmind
http://amazelongestdrive.com/

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Igniting Hopes of Countless Indian Women via Sheroes

I'll start today's post with a heartfelt ode to a courageous woman - someone I know and continue to admire every day. Someone who left her country and sacrificed a flourishing career in teaching just so she could be with her man. Someone who understands motherhood and the challenges that comes along. Someone who always puts family before herself. 

I wish I could go on and on about Sadhna, and how she has changed me for the better. She is not just a life partner but my entire existence.


Sadhna - An Extraordinary Human

It hasn't particularly been easy for her to give up everything just like that. There were days when I'd return from work only to find her reeling in pain. It wasn't her struggle with the children that bothered me the most, but the loneliness that had started to build inside her slowly.


Sometimes she would talk about getting back to her feet again but then drop the idea altogether looking at our 2-year-old daughter Saanvi.

Her story seems no different to me than the several others we hear often - of hapless educated women in our country who end up leaving the workforce permanently, depriving themselves of a fulfilling career and in turn the financial independence that comes along with it.

To bridge this gap and empower women like Sadhna in general, Sairee Chahal started Sheroes in January this year. The idea is to build a community of working women and connecting them to mentors and other resources.

Sairee Chahal

So who exactly is a Shero? Every woman who makes a choice and makes it work for her is a Shero.

Thanks to Sheroes, women seeking a career now have a platform to voice their concerns openly. In fact Sheroes has become a gateway to the finest opportunities, resources, and conversations for women especially, promoting work from home job options. Perfect for a work-life balance!

Diversity and Inclusion

I was in awe of Sairee ever since I heard her speak on Diversity and Inclusion at my office on International Women's Day. It was during her speech only that I got to know about the Sheroes Summit 2014.

By a stroke of luck, I received a bloggers invite (courtesyBlogAdda) to cover Sheroes this year - India's largest opportunity scape for women. The event was held at The Suryaa Hotel New Delhi on November 4, 2014.

Sheroes Summit, Delhi

Curating the Sheconomy


After a quick welcome and introduction by Sairee, came the keynote session by Deep Kalra, MD, Founder, Makemytrip.com.

[Deep Kalra is the Founder of India's leading online travel company, MakeMyTrip.com. Launched in India in 2005, MakeMyTrip offered the convenience of online transactions coupled with great value prices, revolutionizing the way Indians research and purchase travel services. MakeMyTrip is today the largest e-commerce business in the country. Having steered the MakeMyTrip business as CEO since its inception in 2000, Deep took on the role of Group CEO in August 2013, to focus on Strategy, M&A and international businesses. Deep continues to lead the Group's strategic developments and overall execution excellence.

Deep has been associated with TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) Delhi Board since 2007 and took over as the President in January 2013. He served on the NASSCOM Executive Council from 2010-2013. He is also an active Angel Investor in the Internet space.

Keenly interested in contributing to society, Deep is a founding member of "I am Gurgaon" - an NGO focused on improving the quality of life in Gurgaon. He is also closely involved with Udayan Care and GiveIndia.]



Deep Kalra

Main takeaway for me from his wonderful and thought-provoking session:

Deep on Past versus Present
  • MakeMyTrip was founded in 2005. However, it took 8 years for the company to be something meaningful.
  • The game changer now is technology.
  • Two events that changed travel forever: 9/11 and the dotcom bust.
  • When venture capitalists threatened to back out of the business back then, MakeMyTrip had a choice to close up shop or sustain heavy losses. Deep chose the latter - the best decision of his working life to date.
  • Every entrepreneur needs to ask himself: do you really believe in your business?
  • He took zero salary for 18 months, the same time when 18 out of 42 employees in his company had tendered their resignation.
  • Three years ago, two major airlines decided to sever ties with MakeMyTrip.
  • MakeMyTrip made a dream debut on NASDAQ in 2010. Deep's mantra to success: take the plunge and stay on course.
  • For MakeMyTrip's NRI offering, there were lookers but no bookers.
  • After the entry of low-cost carriers and low fares and the opening of Indian railways website, MakeMyTrip got the first-mover advantage.
Deep on People
  • He urges all, including womenfolk, to put your doubts on the table.
  • He took the plunge at 30. Yesterday's 30 is today's 20.
  • Self-evaluation: No one knows you better than you OR No one knows me better than me.
  • Play to people's strengths. Everyone has an X-factor. 
  • Everyone cannot be a pinch hitter or a slogger. There is a reason why Dhoni is such a good match winner, especially during the death/slog overs.
Deep on Entrepreneurship
  • The best entrepreneurs in the world never work for anyone. 
  • It takes two dots to make a line; you need resilience and gut, but most importantly you need to be stubborn.
  • For every new venture, you need a confidant and a mentor who can steer the business in the right direction.
  • Read the market right.
  • Bring disruptive ideas to the market.
Deep on Teamwork
  • It's always the team (Case in point: Snapdeal's journey from being a deal site to where it is today. How it changed course is commendable.)
  • Hire someone who is better than you; don't hire a mini-me.
  • Hire someone who questions you, competes with you, and most importantly, disagrees with you when you're wrong.
  • It's right to be wrong.
  • Your best friend at workplace is the one who irritates you the most.
  • Evolution of the team: A team with all-rounders versus a team with specialists.
  • Innovate all the time or perish (Case in point: 4 million MakeMyTrip apps downloaded to date).
  • Encourage risk-taking by hiring Young Turks.
  • Choose guys with spark - spot them and take risk.
Deep on Best Places to Work
  • Company believes in sharing wealth (70% are covered under employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs)).
  • Preserve culture with growth.
  • Concept of egalitarian or equal is encouraged within the company.
  • Transparency + Accessibility = Trust.
  • Happy employees make happy customers.
  • Obsession on customer, not competition.
  • Back your instincts with Analytics.
  • Measure week to week - Excel is all you need to master.
Deep on Empowering Women
  • 1000 Home Experts in 8 Cities: For the most part, these experts work from home and are required to report at office for a week only. They earn 27k INR per month on an average; the best can even earn up to 1 lakh INR per month).
  • Reiterated what Jeff Bezos once said: Work hard, have fun, and create history. Two out of three is not an option.
  • Transition from an order taker to an order maker.
Women's Market and Changing Trends in Business and Society

The next session was a tête-à-tête with Paresh Nath, Editor, Founder - Delhi Press, largest publisher, distributor for women centric magazines and content.

[Paresh Nath is Editor and Publisher of Delhi Press magazines. Delhi Press, a media conglomerate, has always been proactive in catering to new and emerging market segments with special focus on the needs and aspirations of young people. Paresh started his mission with the group at only 22 years of age and has seen the group rise to a leading publishing house in India with 36 magazines spread over 10 languages commanding a readership of over 30 million. Among the highly respected titles are Grihshobha, Caravan, Sarita, Saras Salil, Women’s Era, Alive, Mukta, Suman Saurab, and Champak.

Besides his editorial accomplishments, he is associated with many social organizations in various capacities. He served as President of the Delhi Junior Chamber in 1978. He is Trustee of Indraprastha Education Society and Hindu College Education Society.

On the professional front, he is the Founder President of Association of Indian Magazines (AIM). He is President of Indian Languages Newspapers Association (ILNA) since 2009 and served for two years as Deputy President of Indian Newspapers Society (INS). He also served as Chairman of the Media Research Users Council (MRUC) for two years.

He is a Political Science postgraduate and has a degree in Law, both from Delhi University.]

Paresh Nath, Editor, Founder - Delhi Press

What promised to be a fireside chat turned out to be a bit of a damp squib. Nath's opinions about Indian women were dated and smacked of hypocrisy to say the least.

And you'd seriously expect us to read magazines like Women's Era, Grihshobha, Caravan, etc. after this? No effing way!

Grihshobha
 Main takeaway for me from his utterly boring session:
  • We are a nation of "illiterate" educated.
  • Delhi Press is primarily an editor's magazine <sigh!>.

Mobility and Sustainability - Trends We Need to Know

The next session by Tavleen Mehendiratta, co-founder i-mobility.org, brought the audience back to its feet and infused some energy back into the event.

[Tavleen Mehendiratta has a Bachelor in Engineering (Hons) from Brighton University, UK with Professor Morgan Heikal Student of the Year Award. Working as an auto journalist for 2 years, she interviewed head honchos of the auto industry until she started looking at the sustainability side of things. Intrigued by how the cities were evolving, pollution was contesting to set new records and the cities were bursting at seams, her career started to make a transition from motoring journalism to sustainable urbanization. She started to look at how the world was looking at smart cities, smart mobility systems, smart energy as answer to challenges of massive urbanization, energy security and formation of mega cities, thus she co-founded i-mobility.org.

She's also worked with Mahindra Electric Vehicles as an evangelist and her speech on her journey of interviewing experts and naysayers of electric vehicles, at the launch floor of their electric car was much appreciated by Anand Mahindra. At Mahindra Electric Vehicles, she was primarily in the virtual ownership team; her profile was uniquely placed in the company where she looked at the changes in vehicle ownership patterns, rise of car sharing and its impact and also worked with a leading brand consultant to work out a strategy to identify the electric car’s target audience through ride sharing communities. As a passionate individual, she contributed to Group Strategy Office on future of mobility under their overarching theme of ‘sustainable urbanization’.

Currently her focus is on targeting the bottom of the pyramid that means the citizens of these smart cities; she engages with students on issues that are of grave importance like urbanization, internet of mobility, smart policies, smart cities etc. She's also given an inspiring talk to students of 'Masters in Business Economy (MBE)' of the prestigious Delhi University, South Campus on 'smart cities and smart policies' and has been a speaker at the IEEE meet 2014 and a guest speaker at the Birla Institute, Pilani on 'engineering cities of tomorrow'.

i-Mobility.org is shortly launching short-term courses for students on 'Smart Cities and Mobility 2.0' and 'Smart Energy and Policies 2.0' for educational significance; the courses already have the Govt. of India approval (VSkills). It has inputs from organizations like Bosch, Tech Mahindra, EBTC etc. and universities like MIT (Dr. Ryan Chin, Carlo Ratti), Tufts, Leeds and more. The courses will be ideally suited for professionals working in energy and mobility companies and consultancies, also for students studying engineering, economy, social entrepreneurship and environment.

On the corporate side, she's consulting Tata Motors to reposition the Nano as a smart city car in the country through a pan-India movement and Mahindra & Mahindra to start a conversation on their electric car.]

Tavleen Mehendiratta, co-founder i-mobility.org

Main takeaway for me from Tavleen's interesting session:
  • A day in jam = 70 lakh man hours lost.
  • 20 lakh cars ply on Delhi roads daily.
  • 1200 new cars keep adding to the mess every day. 
  • Delhi is by far the most stressful city for parking.
  • The big question is: Are you driving to work or working to drive?
  • 13-day traffic jam in Beijing. Is Delhi next to follow?
  • Air Pollution Masks business in India: No takers yet but a strong need is anticipated.
  • Roads are a shared space but often abused.
  • The solution could be Nanolution, that is, the power of compact and smart.

A leaf from Tavleen's session

Championing Remote Work

This session from James Joseph, author of God's Own Office, was an instant hit with women - most of whom either took a sabbatical or left their job completely after marriage or children.

[James Joseph is the founder of JackFruit365™ - an initiative to create an organized market for Indian Jackfruits in India, 80 percent of which is reported to be wasted every year and to create an engine to support free midday meal program for poor children at school.  

James has over 20 years of Sales and Marketing experience in North America, Europe and India with globally reputed organizations like Microsoft, 3M, and Ford. In his last role as the Director, Executive Engagement at Microsoft India, he was responsible for strengthening Microsoft's relationship with the senior executives of top 200 enterprises in India and he managed this role from his home office in a village in Kerala.

Prior to this role, James was responsible for the manufacturing industry marketing for Microsoft UK. Before joining Microsoft, he held business development, sales and marketing positions at 3M, Ford Motor Company, i2 Technologies and Informatica. James is a recipient of several awards including Circle of Excellence, the highest award for Sales and Marketing employees across the world at Microsoft, Start-Up Entrepreneur of the Year at TiEcon Kerala 2013, New Age ICON d' YOUTH Kerala 2011, etc. In addition, James serves as a mentor for the Startup Village in Kochi.

During his work across three continents James had the rare opportunity to design signature dining experiences for his clients with several internationally renowned Chefs which helped him to develop JackFruit365™.

James is also an author and his first book "God's Own Office" will is published by Penguin Books in October 2014.

He has a Masters in Engineering Business Management from University of Warwick, UK and has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram.]

James Joseph, Author of God's Own Office

James is a recipient of the Highest Professional Performance Award from Steven Anthony "Steve" Ballmer, the ex CEO of Microsoft.

Main takeaway for me from his session:
  • He started his presentation with these three questions: 
    • Why should mothers work?
    • Why work from home?
    • Why work?
  • Don't be a 'Frog in the well' or a 'Kue ka mendak'.
  • Stay away from pushy people. Was forced into believing that he possessed the remote control to "red light" button.
  • Who can work from home: 
    • Creative people
    • Experts
    • Helpless (mothers)
Marriage, Mentorship, and Careers

Post lunch, we were invited to be part of a Power Couple chat with Nikhil Mehra and Vidushi Mehra.

[A former banker with ABN AMRO Bank and American Express and GE Capital, Vidushi also holds an MBA in marketing and finance. She is a musician, theatre artist, film actor and entrepreneur. Vidushi Mehra is a multi faceted, dynamic performer, she has performed in over 45 productions on stage and has also forayed into Hindi films. She is a mother to 7-year-old twins.

Nikhil had been ingenious right from the school days. He had joined the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, California. He has been awarded with some of the most prestigious awards and scholarships. Nikhil was invited to design a collection for a prestigious store "Georgio Beverly Hills" in Los Angeles and was featured in L.A.Times to be the only Indian designer to have had a show in Universal Studio, Hollywood.]


Power Couple Chat with Nikhil Mehra and Vidushi Mehra
Main takeaway for me from this session:
  • You cannot attach a monetary value to happiness.
  • From the age of 10, Nikhil knew exactly what he wanted to become (he even ripped his jeans apart in front of his father). 
  • Many modern-day marriages break up because both husband and wife demand a fulfilling career yet no one is willing to compromise.
  • Their marriage works because of simplicity, pure intent, love, and respect for each other. They are also great friends first.
  • Important to remain who you are after marriage.
  • Marriage isn't nearly as simple and requires patience and practice.
  • Any time you think of giving up, look at your children first.
  • Give up a project if it doesn't raise you to its highest bar.
  • When in conflict, let go of the ego.
  • There can only be one Diva or Superstar in the family.
  • Couples should not discard who is earning more.
  • Conversations ignite great romance.
  • Children don't differentiate between mother and father, and they shouldn't.
  • New age parenting is different due to technology.
  • Earlier women did not allow men to participate in raising kids. But now their expectations have risen.
  • Couples are getting married for all the wrong reasons. Worst, they are having children for all the wrong reasons.
  • Don't be let down by your own insecurities.
  • Fix the problem, don't aggravate it.
  • Get away from the self-inflicted pain.
  • Don't feel let down, let go instead!
That's moi asking many questions

Launch of the Big Sister Mentoring Program 

Sairee unveiled the Big Sister Mentoring Program, which essentially acts like a conduit between mentors and mentees.

Big Sister Mentoring Program
Main takeaway for me from this session:
  • Your relation with yourself is far more important than your relation with others.
  • Happiness is honoring yourself.
  • Holistic pregnancy: Joy in the womb, joy in the world.

Women Owned Businesses - Entrepreneurial Showcase 

The penultimate session allowed women-owned businesses to showcase and present their entrepreneurial ideas to a three-member jury comprising Prajakt RautSwati Bhargava, and Ankur Warikoo.

[Prajakt Raut is an entrepreneur and entrepreneurship evangelist. He helps startups to start up, and has founded http://applyifi.com and http://www.thehubforstartups.com.

London School of Economics alumnus Swati Bhargava quit her job at Goldman Sachs to start Cashkaro.com - the largest cashback site in India. She also started Pouring Pounds in UK, a B2B business where they set up and manage cashback and voucher websites for large partners. 

Ankur Warikoo is the Head of Groupon APAC Emerging Markets comprising India, Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines - part of the 48-country portfolio of Groupon Global spanning 250 million subscribers and over $7bn in annual sales. Ankur has been with Groupon since April 2011, when it entered India and is the CEO of the India Operations as well.]

Three-member jury comprising Prajakt Raut, Swati Bhargava, and Ankur Warikoo 

The day ended with a story from the community - of entrepreneurship and transitions by Natasha Badhwar.

[Natasha Badhwar is a columnist, media trainer, and entrepreneur. She writes on love and relationships in the context of the modern Indian family in her column "My Daughters' Mum" in Mint Lounge. Natasha has worked with NDTV for 13 years and was India's first female news cameraperson. She quit as Vice President, Training and Development.

As a freelance trainer, she conducts Media Training workshops with corporate CXOs as well as journalism students. 
In her entrepreneur avatar, she is the co-owner of the online fashion brand, 'Ochre Sky.' This is a role that brings together her love for design and composition, her media background and passion for creative challenges.]

A Groupie with Sheroes

As I was just about to leave the venue, I couldn't help but think about Sadhna yet again. But this time around, I felt hopeful. Not all is lost - for her and million of women like her. 

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Quikr Transformed Me Into A Happy Family Man

Traveling to me is like nirvana - the best way to rejuvenate the soul, mind, and body. During my seven-year sojourn in Korea, I traveled extensively to explore the scenic beauty of local terrains often unaffected by climate and linguistic roadblocks. Given an opportunity, I'd like to hit the road again and explore both natural and man-made wonders in the vicinity.

None of this would have been possible without my better half, Sadhna, a companion who shares the same joy and excitement about travel. The value of life lies in doing things together, walking hand in hand, going to unknown places to discover one's true self. She absolutely gets it and doesn't mind packing even at a couple of hours' notice.

My son, Rishab, has followed suit. A no muss, no fuss kinda guy - also a long-distance road traveler from a tender age.

Sadhna, Rishab, and our two adorable dogs (Meebo and Golu)

But Life Isn't All Beer and Skittles ...

The lil diva, Saanvi, throws tantrums on the mere mention of travel. Why? Because she only enjoys small rides and wouldn't leap out of her mother's lap, thus limiting both long-distance travel and the benefit of a co-driver.


Saanvi

A 4- to 5-hour drive with Saanvi could well result in a test of my patience as well as temper. And knowing how abrasive I can be, wifey insisted to buy a car seat for our damsel in distress.

Mothercare being a preferred brand of childcare accessories, the search began for a suitable baby car seat.

Mothercare - A Preferred Brand for Childcare Accessories

Brand new car seats that appealed to us are exuberantly priced on the Internet, going way up to INR 10,000 - an amount I'm unwilling to pay <shameless plug> knowing its limited usage and fearing a complete "No Thanks!" from my cutie pie.

A quirky TV commercial grabs my attention and before I know, I am redirected to Quikr, India's social classifieds networking platform for buying and selling anything ... and almost everything.



I simply download the mobile app for Quikr and come across an exhaustive product list to choose from. There are around 12 product categories which are further sub-categorized.

Quikr App on Google Play

This mobile classifieds portal assists in buying, selling, and renting within a fraction of seconds.

Quikr, India's Social Classifieds Networking Platform

The app is user-friendly, so even a non-techie can find his way easily and benefit from its myriad services. I chose the category Home & Lifestyle and then the subcategory Baby - Infant Products. Several product options popped up almost instantly - from used baby cots to new strollers, bathtubs, and so on.

And Then, Bazooka!

Soon I stumbled upon what I was looking for. "A car seat, brand - Mothercare, priced INR 5,000." Bang on!

A Quikr Ad I Stumbled Upon

The description read "Car seat, excellent condition, brand - Mothercare, suitable for children from approximately 9 months (9kg/20lbs) to 4 years (18kg/40lbs). Side impact protection system, recline position for a more comfortable journey, removable and washable covers."

[URL: http://gurgaon.quikr.com/CAR-SEAT-EXCELLENT-CONDITION-MOTHERCARE-BRAND-W0QQAdIdZ187115763]

The post also contained a phone number among other contact details of the seller. A phone call led to the seller's residence where we examined the product first-hand, and once thoroughly satisfied, made the payment in cash.

We were now set for our perfect weekend getaway.

Mothercare Car Seat - Side View

Mothercare Car Seat - Front View

Both Saanvi and her mommy enjoyed the travel and I returned home as a happy family man, thanks to Quikr.

Bang for the Buck

On a relatively free evening, I sat down to explore Quikr further. I was quite happy to navigate my way through a well-planned and a well-designed app.



A closer look reveals various in-built options such as the MSP (Maximum Selling Price) Calculator. Whether buying or selling, do avail the benefit from a unique algorithm that calculates the best possible price of used goods. It compares and contrasts various products within the same category and gives the seller an actual selling price after taking into account the condition of the product, its demand, and so on.

Create an Alert and Relax

In case you don't come across a suitable product offering and would like to be notified of its availability, simply create an Alert. You can describe what you like by choosing a category and further its sub-category. Mention your location and just relax. As soon as what you need becomes available, you'll be notified and then you can contact the seller personally.



Refine Your Search Results using Sorting

While looking for a suitable product, you can refine the search results by using the Sorting option available in each category. You can sort the offering based on the date of posting, price, and availability of an accompanying image. Additionally, filter your search results and limit the range of products offered by choosing the locality of the buyer/seller, type of product, brand name, price range, and so on.



You can also make a choice between an individual seller or a dealer and a used or a new product. Just choose your correct location and enjoy the numerous offerings.

[This post is a part of Quikr.com activity at BlogAdda.com.]

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Beauty Redefined With Garnier Beauty Benefit Cream

How much time does a mother of two tiny toddlers get to apply make-up and be ready for a special do? If she is lucky, then 5 minutes. Probably less most times.

Caught between two restless kids who can't wait to hit the road and even more impatient husband, she needs to deck up fast.

A familiar scene at the Prabhakar household before every outing. I noticed though that Sadhna, my better half, dashes in and out of the washroom, looking perfect in just a fraction of seconds.

The Curious Case of Sadhna Prabhakar

I wondered how she could look the part almost every other time. And in my eight years of marriage with Sadhna, she has never looked better.

So one fine day I couldn't help asking her. Pat came her reply.

"The revolutionary Garnier BB (Beauty Benefit) Cream is the reason behind the glow on my skin. It is a miracle skin perfector."

Garnier BB (Beauty Benefit) Cream 

In fact, the entire range of Garnier BB has been formulated to serve more than "purpose" for every lady who is on the go - whether getting ready for that one special evening or preparing for a long stretch at work.

An All-in-One Moisturizer

Sadhna wants her daily moisturizer to do more than mere "brighten" or "smoothen". In her pursuit to look flawless with minimal make-up, she has chosen Garnier BB (Beauty Benefit) Cream over several others.

Now Sadhna isn't the type (of person) who can be easily convinced about something. This all-in-one daily moisturizer must be truly magical. Why else would she incessantly talk to me about instant beautification?

I can tell you that she's happy. The comfortable texture blends seamlessly into her skin.

A New Generation of Skincare Has Arrived

The Garnier BB Cream belongs to a new generation of skincare that combines multiple beauty routine steps into one, thus saving time. Unlike most daily moisturizers, this one is enriched with active natural ingredients like the essence of cherries, bilberry extract, and ginger.

End Result: A firm skin plus a terrific boost to the natural process of your skin's regeneration.

Go for it!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Demystifying The Clash Of Cultures

Nowadays it is customary for avid travelers to compile a "Best Places to Visit" list beforehand.

Weeks before one experiences an unknown place, a virtual tour has already happened. Acquiring knowledge about the climate, food, local language, currency, and so on is now a prerequisite.

"Be well prepared," they'd say. More so if you want to avoid unwelcome surprises.

When I visited Goa last month with wifey and kids, I had already taken a virtual tour of the city and decided upon my daily itinerary - thanks to the numerous travel blogs. I even stuffed my knapsack with all the must-haves.

Can't help but wonder: does the term "explorer" really describe today's traveler or are we mere visitors?

When the likes of Vasco da Gama and Hieun Tsang set sail, they had a vague idea (at times, no idea) about both their journey and final destination.

Vasco da Gama
Guided solely by handmade maps, the North Star, and a non-mechanical compass, these brave men had the heart to venture into uncharted territories and the conviction that they'd find it.

As they progressed from one coast to another, they carried along the taste of that land, its culture, music, language, folklores, and much more. Hence facilitating cultural and culinary mingling. These master navigators maintained every day records of the direction of winds above the sea, the weather, and even the tides.

Detailed travel accounts were later written for the benefit of generations to come.

"Knowledge is best when shared" goes a famous idiom.

Travelogues of famous ancient travelers not only spread interest about an unknown land’s culture and food, they are also responsible for spreading various religious and philosophical beliefs. Buddhism and Christianity, two of the most followed religions, owe their popularity chiefly to the monks and missionaries who traveled in search of the truth and enlightenment.

Travel also facilitated trade. The famous "Silk Route" and "Spice Trade" are a few examples of exchange of goods between two historic civilizations.

The scent of spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, pepper, and turmeric brought several enthusiasts to India, many of whom were later responsible for bringing about a change in its socio-economic conditions.

Likewise various traders, pilgrims, monks, and several nomads carried the thread of silk from China to India and then into the Mediterranean, thus opening a channel of long-distance interaction among civilizations.

We have evolved and prospered collectively, thanks to the flow of knowledge through generations and among civilizations, facilitated by travelers and their written accounts.

A technological advancement in one part of the globe soon travels and enriches the lives of people at the other end.

Even to date narratives and travelogues of the common man acquaint us about the events and happenings in the interiors of far-away lands - whether political unrest, fight against crime, or citizens coming together against immoral democracies. These and several other stories travel via the Internet and have an impact on our tomorrow. Needless to say, each of us has benefitted in more than one way from these shared encounters.

[This post is a part of "Beyond Boundaries" at BlogAdda.com in association with INK 2014.]

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Family Commitment To Change

Sadhna and I are happily married for the past eight years. We have two beautiful children - Rishab (aged 6) and Saanvi (aged 2).


Rishab Prabhakar
Saanvi Prabhakar
Pray For A Healthy Child

It is a mere coincidence that both our kids were born in India. Coincidence because we were based out of Korea, not India.

But that's not the part I want to highlight. For us, where our kids would be born was never actually a concern. India or Korea or elsewhere.  

Sadhna only prayed for a healthy child! Zillions of "expecting mothers" worldwide hope for the same ... and why not!

The BIG Deal

So what's the BIG deal about having or raising healthy children? Why do expecting mothers and fathers go about consulting the best doctors in town - be it paediatricians or gynaecologists?

I can say with a certain amount of confidence that raising healthy children isn't nearly as simple as some parents think it is. If you want to protect your kids from obesity and other life-threatening diseases like diabetes later in life, you need to educate them on the importance of good nutrition and physical activity.

You also need to tell them why they shouldn't fall for unhealthy temptations or habits.

Rules For Healthy Eating

I constantly remind Rishab and Saanvi about the rules for healthy eating. Allowing them to differentiate between what's right or wrong for them in the long-term helps us to stay involved with them and play a crucial role in their overall development. We try to make it a family thingy.

Mix and Motivate

Being a homemaker has given Sadhna an edge. No matter how busy my day is, Sadhna would never miss taking the kids out to the nearest park for recreation. One hour of physical activity in a day allows children to stay fit and happy. Sadhna knows how to mix it, so she encourages kids to play active games like hopscotch, tickle monster, soccer, etc. Whenever I get time, we go for walks together.

It might seem like a lot at first, but eventually you'll start to enjoy the experience.

Sometimes you will be required to talk your child into physical activities. A certain amount of motivation might also help, more so if your kid is shy or lazy.

Value Your Kids Pursuit To Grow Healthy

When kids realize how much you value their pursuit to grow healthy, your bonding with them automatically becomes stronger. Let me quote an instance here. Almost every time a game event is organized in Rishab's school, I encourage him to participate. If he requires my help during practicing, I do whatever it takes to help him compete. I also make sure to be available for cheering, whatever the situation. These little efforts from my side have improved our relationship a lot.

Pay Attention To The Signs

Although Sadhna doesn't object to the kids watching TV or surfing web, she ensures that the children don't end up becoming typical couch potatoes. I have specifically asked her to pay attention to how much time Rishab and Saanvi spend in front of the screen. We have also moved the TV and computer out of their room and kept the same in our living area.

One of our common friends has suggested that we set a daily TV time limit for our kids, but we haven't got to it yet.

Sadhna is also very particular about the kind of foods she purchases for kids. For example, organic foods, cans of low-sodium beans (for proteins), etc. Occasionally she would involve the kids in preparing healthy meals. The whole idea is that Rishab and Saanvi are more likely to eat something that they have prepared themselves; in the process, they'd also learn about the different types of food and where they come from.

Another great idea is to help children plant a garden (if possible) and allow them to eat what they harvest. You can even take them for fun activities like mango or apple picking and serve them a bowl full of fresh fruits that they have selected.

Finally, let us all make a family commitment to change by introducing healthy food and habits. It is never too late and eventually you will get to see the positives.


#ImmuneIndia
@DaburIndia

Sunday, October 19, 2014

An Unforgettable Diwali in South Korea

Diwali - that time of the year again when the entire nation erupts into a frantic celebration mode. A time for reunions, decorations, gifting, and splurging.

That's Not All

Not to forget the crazy ass traffic on roads, the gambling tradition, and the incessant binging and putting on those extra calories in the process.

Sigh!

Can someone do anything about the burn injuries and air/noise pollution that result as a direct consequence of burning those effing firecrackers?

Diwali in Korean Highschool

You probably think it's a joke but it's not :)

In this post, I'll share my most memorable Diwali story that dates back to circa 2011 when me along with wifey (Sadhna), son (Rishab, aged 3 at that time), and a colleague from Lionbridge Korea (let's call him Jalan "asshole" Andrade) celebrated the festival of lights in - lo and behold - a Korean highschool.

Diwali God Idols
Sadhna wanted an elaborate Ghar Waali Diwali (https://www.gharwalidiwali.com/), all the more so because we were away from our folks in India.



Ghar Waali Diwali

So we chalked out a plan to perfection for our first Diwali away from India.

First, we went to the biggest discount store in Korea called Homeplus to look for Diwali stuff (for the uninitiated, we lived in Korea for seven years from 2005 to 2012).

From one corner of the department store to the other, the search for colored flour, diyas, firecrackers/bottle rockets, lanterns, flower petals, etc. sent the entire retail chain staff into a frenzy.

We weren't going anywhere until we got what we wanted :D

First Success

We DID manage to get everything, most importantly the colored flour for preparing Rangoli.

In India, it is not uncommon to clean and decorate homes, commercial and government buildings, etc. before Diwali.

Rangoli
It didn't matter to Sadhna that we were celebrating Diwali in Korea, not India. She was way too adamant, and wanted our posh, three-bedroom Korean apartment in the heart of Seoul to be freshly painted -- just so she could feel at home during the festivities. Somehow I was able to dissuade her. Success number 1 :D

Don't Freak Out The Dogs

Now Diwali fireworks is considered a family event in most parts of India.

And I wonder why?

People light up fireworks in streets, near their homes, almost oblivious of the fact that they are freaking out the poor animals like stray dogs in the ordeal.

Don't get me started on the air and noise pollution. If you asked me what I dislike the most about this festival, it has go to be this part.

Anyway, since Jalan "asshole" Andrade was planning to pay us a visit on Diwali, we decided to shop for some Phuljharis (sparklers that are very popular on Diwali nights).

Roles and Responsibilities 

So we were all set. I was saddled with the task of indoor and outdoor Diya decoration. Jalan would hang the Diwali lanterns. Sadhna would make the Rangoli.

Diyas Decoration
Since Diwali is hailed as the biggest (possibly the brightest as well if you discount Holi) of all Hindu festivals, it is a custom to pray before we start any celebration. The historical significance behind this is: Lord Rama returned from exile to his kingdom after 14 years, and everyone planted little lanterns outside their homes to welcome him and grace the occasion.

On the D-day

At the setting of the sun, we ventured into a Korean highschool - our hunting ground for bursting firecrackers. We were doing fine for about 30 minutes, until the security guard spotted the fantastic four and shooed us away.

Shaken, Not Stirred

In no mood to allow anyone dampen our festive spirits, we returned to our apartment. And here's what we did.

We lit the candles and diyas again. From the balcony of our eighth floor apartment, Jalan started to fiddle with bottle rockets by placing the stick in an empty bottle and then igniting the rocket engine. Rishab's excitement was to be seen during the first moments of its flight. Simply put, priceless.

Fun-O-Mania

The fun continued throughout the night - with gambling first, followed by two back-to-back Bollywood flicks.

Who could've possibly imagined a Diwali away from home will turn out to be our most memorable to date!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Jeep And Bourbon - Chapters 1 to 27


The Scribe Tribe Team

Chapter 1: Whose idea was it anyway?
By Avinash Gupta

Chapter 2: Touch-Me-Not 
By Vibhuti Bhandarkar

Chapter 3: The Ignominy of Defeat
By Rahul Prabhakar

Chapter 4: The Pleasure of Pain
By Pankaj Sharma

Chapter 5: The Road Not Taken
By Harsh Singh

Chapter 6: The Silent Confessions 
By Veturi Sarma

Chapter 7: The Unwinding of Events
By Sarath Babu

Chapter 8: Two Lives
By Babitha A. Costa

Chapter 9: Life’s Mysteries
By Romita Dey

Chapter 10: The Peace Before the Storm
By Pankaj Sharma

Chapter 11: A Humble Sojourn
By Narasimha Sharma Veturi

Chapter 12: Desire Ain’t A Mere Coincidence
By Rahul Prabhakar

Chapter 13: The Plot
By Harsh Singh

Chapter 14: Small Pleasure
By Babitha A. Costa

Chapter 15: Beware of Strangers!
By Vibhuti Bhandarkar

Chapter 16: J for Jealousy
By Romita Dey

Chapter 17: The Loss of Innocence
By Narasimha Sharma Veturi

Chapter 18: Knock, Knock, Whose There?
By Vibhuti Bhandarkar

Chapter 19: Midnight Mysteries
By Sarath Babu

Chapter 20: My hunches are always right!
By Vibhuti Bhandarkar

Chapter 21: Closing In
By Narasimha Sharma Veturi

Chapter 22: Three is some bad company...
By Vibhuti Bhandarkar

Chapter 23: In Confusion
By Babitha A. Costa

Chapter 24: Forgiveness Doesn't Mean Forgetting
By Rahul Prabhakar

Chapter 25: Surfing through troubled times
By Harsh Singh

Chapter 26: Crime and Punishment
By Narasimha Sharma Veturi

Chapter 27: The Term is Licentiousness
By Rahul Prabhakar