A school reunion 25 years in the making

What you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.

-Julian Barnes, The sense of an ending


A bus rumbled through a sleepy town, past rocky hillocks and green fields, past garish hand painted walls, past a greying sky pregnant with nostalgia and the chance of rain. Little did we know the rain were to play a cathartic role in our trip.

Oblivious to the varying landscape, inside the bus sat 23 stories bound together by the destination. Laughter and untold stories reverberated across every seat setting the stage for a magical weekend. 

It was my 25th year after I had left Rishi valley and here we were together travelling back in time to rediscover hundreds of memories walking the 350 acre campus. I had joined the school 34 years ago as a little boy. 

We had come together from destinations around the world to meet again and find ourselves. London, Hong Kong, California, New York, Abu Dhabi and from across India my batch mates had traversed and hopped aboard the bus at Bangalore. 

We never missed a beat. One hug and we were perfectly back in sync, back as little kids without pretense cloaked in an aura of trust and camaraderie. 

Rishi Valley School sits nestled as a valley between rocky hills and lush green trees. Over 80 years the school still retained its soul, choosing to stay untouched by technology or modernity. Rishi valley wears it austerity proudly and this serves as one of the greatest catalysts for students. 

We stared silently as the campus and the neighboring hills loomed through the windows. A 6 hour bus ride riddled with food breaks, pit stops and leg stretches had brought us now to the gate of our childhood. Grinning 40 somethings arriving at a campus that had once transformed and evolved each of us. 
RV as we called it fondly, was exactly as we remembered it. Each of us hopped off the bus, to be welcomed by the splendor of this picturesque campus. A gentle breeze ran across Neem leaves, past tamarind and eucalyptus trees. The wind scurried past and swung open metal doors that creaked, it shook yellow petals down onto the road into a beautiful carpet. The architecture stood simple and austere, hand in hand with the scenic campus amidst chirping birds. 

The caretaker Gopal walked out of the guest house timeless,exactly as we remembered him. De ja vu could have been his middle name as he near perfectly guessed each of our names and welcomed us back. We morphed into school kids in an instant as we nosedived into our school days. The reunion had shifted gears. 

Over the next 2 days we immersed ourselves in our school days reliving each moment. We walked to every corner of the campus, to our classrooms through the years, meeting teachers, visiting the hostels, the assembly. Having current students on campus made it even more real as we saw ourselves in them. 


We shared anecdotes at each location, reminding each other and shaking up forgotten events. We relished the food, sang songs together in the music room, danced old folk dances we were taught, climbed the hills and played sports too. A few woke up at the crack of dawn and jogged to the mouth of the valley and back and survived to tell the tale. It is amazing what the sound of birds, silence and the lack of wi fi can do for the mind. We were instantly refreshed wearing the grin of our school days proudly on display. 


On the last evening, we sat on the terrace together. The moon hid behind dark clouds as we peddled ghost stories and played songs from the eighties. The mood shifted with the weather and a magical connection wove its way across each of us. We were suddenly amongst friends, people we knew for over 3 decades, people we have grown up with. As the clouds parted and it rained heavily, something magical happened. 

We opened our hearts and shared our thoughts without fear of judgement. Amongst our oldest friends we rained our stories, we bared our soul and spoke of happiness, of trials and challenges. That evening we suddenly stood united as one unit. We felt lighter and realized that these are friends who will be there for each other no matter what. Within that paradigm shift, we suddenly wove a wonderful web of trust and connectivity that would now stay with us for the rest of our lives. 


We travelled back from school as one close knit family. I discovered so many little anecdotes and stories realizing how they have shaped who I am today. I left younger, clearer and recharged. I left school with a bunch of friends suddenly much more closer than I ever knew them. I left school discovering myself a lot more. I left school with a warm fuzzy feeling and a glow. There was an energy and positivity inwards that even days at a holiday retreat couldn’t bring alive. 

That’s what a school reunion does. Nostalgia is one helluva volatile catalyst of positivity!

10 Innovative marketing  techniques for todays business landscape

This article appeared in Arabian Business-Start Up Magazine in Dubai May issue. Here is the article in text form.

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The current business landscape calls for a rethink of your marketing strategy. As CFOs tighten budgets and question marketing spends, CMOs have to still meet targets and ensure the organisation is continuing to grow. Marketeers are faced with the quandary of continuing efforts in increasing the visibility of their brand and staying top of mind with their consumers while working with reduced marketing budgets. Reduce your marketing efforts and you face the threat of losing market share or helplessly watch a new entrant capture mind share of your consumers immediately.

Given this scenario, marketing today requires a blend of innovation and imagination. The key is to take on the challenge and find new ways to create demand and interest in your product or service. Here are 10 innovative methods that can help businesses market their business, connect with prospects without increasing marketing spend.

1.Word of mouth

“Do what you do so well, that people cant resist telling others about you”

-Walt Disney

Word of mouth is one of most powerful mediums of marketing because it comes from happy customers. Creating evangelists for your business needs to be engineered right across every department of the company. If the goal of the organisation is to deliver a customer experience thats so spectacular that it surpasses the client expectation by a mile. A delighted customer will shout your name from rooftops. Mapping the customer experience step by step of the buying process and studying ways to wow them at every interaction ensures this. Do the unexpected and don’t just meet their expectations- shock and awe them with delight. Apple has customers who are evangelists converting everyone they know into the fold and will never ever move brands regardless of whatever option comes their way.

2.Increase conversion rate

“If content is king, then conversion is queen”

-Jon Munsell

Time needs to be invested to relook at the complete process of client acquisition. What steps can be put in place to double the current conversion? If you are at 25%, can your big hairy audacious goal be 50%? Its a good time to relook at your website, what you say, your SEO, first meeting, marketing presentations, quotes, pricing, negotiation strategy and even what rituals can help build trust. Mapping the clients decision process in detail and juxtaposing what you can do the influence the decision your way can help. Think out of the box, think funny, think values, think persuasion and go ahead and implement it immediately!

3.Social media

“Activate your fans, don’t just collect them like baseball cards “

-Jay Baer

Social media today has democratised marketing and client engagement. It means that the person with the best ideas and client engagement wins and not the one with the biggest ad spend. Even the smallest companies can easily create compelling viral content that can interact and emotionally attract a consumer. Its not about the number of fans and paid followers, its about the engagement and building brand loyalty and eventually converting to a sale. Social media is the most cost effective way to reach out and seek to your consumers on a one to one basis. Once the brand DNA is established, the brand needs to be humanised to connect. Based on your demographic and target there is a right medium or a combination of social media platforms that reach out and build bridges with consumers. Social media is also a double edged sword where customers will shout from the rooftops if they are unhappy and a company needs to have a clear and authentic method to combat and resolve issues immediately.

4.Existing and Past Clients

“Customer service should not be a department, it should be the entire company”

-Tony Hsieh

Acquiring a new client is 7 times more expensive than retaining an existing client. It’s even more important today to ensure that your existing clients stay forever. Calculating the lifetime value of a client to the company and then focussing all efforts to retaining them. Every department should know the importance of an existing client and alarm bells should sound if you lose even one. Reconnecting with clients who have done business with you in the past is another way to focus on a target segment and win business with someone who already knows you. Make those phone calls, dust that rolodex and reconnect. Ensure you have a drip marketing system in place to inform your past clients or your current achievements and activities without reaching them spam or junk mail.

5.Get out of the office!

“The magic to a great meeting is all of the work thats done beforehand”

-Bill Rusell

The best way to increase conversion is to meet more clients. Increasing the number of clients you meet is directly proportional to the number of new client acquisitions. Plan meetings closer to each other so you can do more in a day. Create systems to reach out and meet prospects. All your marketing efforts should be engineered to connecting with your target clientele.

6.Public Relation

“If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on Public relation”

-Bill Gates

PR tells your story and instead of you professing your strengths, this allows other people to speak about you. Having a clear strategy on what strengths and stories you want your consumer to hear is the first step. Listing which mediums you want to be heard in and what stories can enhance your expertise is the next. Engaging with a specialist company ensures a clear strategy and a consistent effort which is long term. Many companies make the mistake of expecting immediate results. PR is brand building over a long term and will not result in an immediate sale.

7.New geographies

“If Opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door”

-Milton Berle

When the going gets tough, looking at markets which still have demand and a growing consumer base is a great idea. This is a tougher and a more expensive prospect but it balances your risks. Investing in new and emerging markets bears fruit in the future. New markets which don’t have long flying hours, that don’t have much competition, have low set up costs and have potential demand for your product or service are good parameters for selection.

8.Networking

“The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing”

-Tom Fishburne

Connecting with potential customers and partners on an ongoing basis is critical to grow your influence as an entrepreneur. Join business networks, industry associations and conferences to grow your bandwidth of contacts.

9.Showcase industry expertise

“You must become an expert on a product, service or anything you write about to really be effective”

-Joseph Sugarman

Speak at conferences, write articles, blog, lecture and position yourself and your organisation as an expert in your field. Assume expertise in your subject and ensure you are one too. Educate yourself, keep track of trends and devour information on your subject field. Become and influencer and a voice for your industry and this will convert to business eventually.

10.Reposition the brand

“Its time to reset, rethink, reposition…”

-Hunter Hayes

A challenging business scenario is a good time to relook and rethink what your company is, what your weaknesses and strengths are, questioning if you really have a USP or an edge over your competition. This is the time to get better at what you do, improve and look within. This is a good time to rebrand, redo your image and express your differentiated strength clearly to your consumer and target clientele.

“Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs”

-Peter Drucker

The author Sajith Ansar, is the founder and CEO of Idea Spice, a branding firm that has helped 1000s of brands innovate and market themselves internationally.

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What a beautiful and inspiring quote by George Bernard Shaw 

  

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. 

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live.

I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.

-George Bernard Shaw 

What a beautiful thought and a clear philosophy to live your life by. I chanced upon this in a Robin Sharma video and was mesmerized by the words and it’s call to action. 

Life is about burning brightly each day. Robin Sharma in his video asks in a similar vein, what would you do if it was the last year of your life? 
How can we make each day epic and burn so brightly and own each minute as a magical gift. To be completely in the moment and be a beacon of energy and positivity doing what we love with unending passion and fun. 

Great thoughts…

  

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5 ideas to make a life changing vision board 

  

Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others. 

Jonathan Swift

A vision board is a tool that has time and again helped me create a road map and clarify my own picture of where I want to be in the future and become a catalyst to achieve the dreams. I have scoured articles and books to know more about the effectiveness of a vision board. I have changed and tinkered with my goals and pictures over and over and what I want with my vision has organically evolved each time I created a new board. 

When I look back at all the road maps I set out for myself it’s amazing how different each one is and how easily I have floated towards achieving them soon after I made them. My initial vision boards were skewed towards material aspects and studded with manifestation of only wealth. Eventually there’s been a journey towards balance, health, family, happiness, work excellence, laurels and charity. Balance of work life and everyday happiness became the primary goal of achievement eventually. 

I have made and remade many vision maps and boards and found some that worked and many more that didn’t. Here’s 5 secrets on making a vision board that’s transformational. 

1. Know what you want

  

It is so important to know what you want for yourself. Close your eyes, project to the future and ask yourself what you really want. Then ask yourself what do I want this for? What will this give me? Why  is that goal is part of your dream? 

Make a list of your asks and categorize them once they pass your questions. Ensure every aspect of your vision resonates deep down within. 
This is an opportunity to truly introspect your ideal life 5 and 10 years later and have a crystal clear idea of what it looks like. 
2.Transport yourself to the future and live the moment 

  

What I learnt over the years and through discussions and reading is that the more clear you are of your vision the higher the possibility of achieving it. It’s important to be able to close your eyes and see yourself in an already achieved state. 

Be able to see the surrounding, smell the ambience, feel the textures, hear the sounds and play the movie in your head of yourself being there. For example if you are visualizing your dream home, every detail should be accessible in your mind. The walls, the furniture, the sounds, smell and the moments. See your emotions when you have achieved your vision, interact with the dream and it will increase the confidence in arriving at the destination. 

Even writing your dreams from an already achieved state  and with specifics helps accentuate the clarity of the vision. For example instead of saying “I want to publish a book by 2018” write down “By June 31st 2018, I have published my book titled ‘start up failures’ and 100,000 copies have been sold in the first year”. 

3.Create detailed visual boards across sections

 
Make vision boards for each category of your life and populate them with pictures of your dream. I have a few sections which I have evolved over time. 

Health, family time, travel, office and work, awards and accolades, hobbies, friends, dream home, dream office, dream clients and team, money, investments, friends and mentors, spirituality, toys and gadgets (car, brands, clothes, electronics etc). 

Creating vision boards across these categories have helped getting clarity under each section and makes sure the vision is complete. Involving the family and getting their buy in also helps cement these visions and enlist them as catalysts. 

It helps further to get yourself in as many pictures of the vision board. For example, if it’s a dream home or a car, go to the house and get a picture in front of the porch or seated inside your dream car doing a test drive. 
To make these vision boards, varied tools can be used. The easiest is to do the old scrap book method of cutting pictures and pasting on a board. Otherwise, Pinterest can be an amazing tool, PowerPoint or keynote your vision board. Once they are done, make them into a poster you can place somewhere that you can see every day is the best method to help actualising the dreams. Maybe on your bathroom mirror or as a poster in your office or bedroom. 

4.Make action steps for each board to achieve the same 

  

Often we make the mistake of making a vision board and expecting it to work magically for us. Detailing action steps to achieving some of these hairy audacious goals goes a long way in making them come true and giving it steps to reality. 

For example, if your vision is to write a book, your action steps would be:

a.finalise subjects in the next 3 months

b.start writing and keep aside an hour every weekend towards this from December 

c.Find an editor to work with

d. Attend the literary festival and find a mentor 
This should be applied across as many categories with tangible steps to achieve your 5 or 10 year vision board in bite size chunks. The trick is to dream without boundaries and make them big hairy audacious goals and then to break them down into practical steps to get there. 

5.Rewire your deep rooted relation  with success and prepare for receiving 

  

The biggest stumbling block to achieving success and our dreams are our deep rooted relation with the concept of success and money. We are all brought up with phrases we hear in our youth from family and friends. “Rich people are corrupt”, “you can’t be successful without hard work”, “money is evil” and many more thoughts and advice that slow us down without us realizing them. 
It’s important to work on being ready internally for the success that will come and prepare ourselves to embrace the future.  Our self fulfilling prophecy is engineered deep in the mind and every preparation will fail if we don’t believe or desire success within. 

Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.

-Henry David Thoreau

In memory of a professor 

A really inspiring professor of mine passed away this week. He taught me almost 25 years ago and the fuandamentals of the design process he instilled is so deep that I  still carry the ideas with me to solve my client’s design problems. Even today, every word he taught is ringing clear as I draw upon their science and logic and apply it to my profession. 

It’s amazing how some educators shine like a beacon of light and stay inspiring years later. What sets them apart? It’s the passion to touch their student’s lives and the pure passion for  the subject they teach. 

M P Ranjan lived and breathed design till the very end. His eyes twinkled with passion as he spoke about design thinking, design education and it’s far reaching impact. He inspired every student he met along the way even years after they had graduated.
Imagine if each educator could impact their students, what a wonderful world it would be. 
I wrote these words the day after he passed away and drew this too. 

It’s overwhelming seeing the outpouring of grief, stories and anecdotes on how Ranjan impacted all our lives. He was a professor who wore a twinkle in his eyes as he inspired and educated. 
He was many things to many people. He was an educator and a mentor, pushing boundaries and encouraging each of us to do more and think more. He was a design evangelist, speaking up for causes and being a catalyst of change. He was a source of inspiration, igniting in each of us an ability to think behind our abilities. He was a farmer, installing within each of us the seed of curiosity and discovery. 
Ranjan laid the foundation and inspired the process of design, explained systems thinking and the ability to use this to solve any problem. He taught us that design is a powerful tool and taught us to wield it responsibly. 
We will all miss his thoughts, questions, his cheshire grin and timeline of selfies. This is a void which can’t be filled and his legacy will always live on in our work. 
Thank you Ranjan for your role in all our lives. You will continue to inspire us wherever you are.

  

Connected minds 

Once in a while, I let the monk get away from his solitude and mediate with others. The energy of connected silence i find visually and emotionally uplifting. 
In life too, we come across people who suddenly cross our paths, where you can immediately sense their aura, their positive energy and shared intent. Suddenly, there’s a connection like you knew them from a lifetime ago. People always carry their energy around them and this speaks way before they even utter a word.   

    
 

Depicting clarity 

I am exploring  ways to depict meditation and self knowledge. I found a few metaphors that align with my interpretation of the process. 

I am using building forms to depict the outside world and symbolize the noise of everyday life. The energy lines around the monk attempt to describe the changes and the aura that permeates from self realization and The winged eye is awareness and enlightenment. I also explored adding movement or wind as a metaphor of the positive feeling of change. I wanted the monk to have a sense of calmness, stillness and equanimity too. 
What’s wonderful is that the process of drawing is transferring this sense of calm to me. 

  

    
   

Everyone meditates differently 

Meditation is best defined as a state where the mind is silent, completely still and without distraction.  The mind is clear, relaxed, and focused inward. We aspire to achieve a state where the mind is silent and no longer distracts. 

Every individual will have their own process to get to this state of being. It’s not necessary to attain the state of inner clarity only through traditional methods.  Some may find it being lost in a pure state of bliss within their craft, or work, or music, at a concert or the opera, sitting by a brook, trekking or as a whirling Sufi dervish. It’s about switching off into a zone where every external distraction switches off one by one till you are left in a state of pure balance. 

For me this state is when I sketch. I find myself at peace and being able to blank every bit of information that wants to catch my mind. I find myself enveloped in a place of complete inner focus and stillness. 
This sketch is both my moment of being completely still and also depicting how each individual has their own mediation process. 
 

Where everyday is a vacation

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Imagine a life where everyday is a vacation. Where every single day we wake up smiling with a hop in our step.

What are things we do on a holiday? Slow down, hear the birds, feel the wind on our face, let go of all stress, do the things we love, spend quality time with our loved ones. We only do the things we love, we indulge ourselves, we breathe easier, we listen to ourselves, we laze in bed, eat slowly, sip on our coffee and relish the flavor, we watch strangers and soak in cultures. We are inspired easily, we laugh more and grin through the day.

Why can’t we do this everyday in our lives. Why can’t this become our constant state of being? A heightened awareness, doing what we love, smiling and in our zone. When we realize what we love, pursue excellence in our passion and then become so good that the world wants your talent, we enter a zone.
This zone allows us to indulge everyday doing we are passionate about, getting better everyday and honing out talent further and further. A laser focus on our competence and love for our own craft allows us to revel in the joy of what we love every day.

Combined with a life balance where we have enough time for ourselves and the people we love. Quality and quantity time with our families, friends and well wishers, touching lives each day and inspiring others yet being inspired easily. When we devote time for ourselves meditating in our pursuit for self knowledge and equanimity. When we learn to be authentic, don’t judge and be affected by situations and reactions. Imagine what a vacation life would be.

Givers gain 

 What goes around comes around. Goodwill is the most precious asset to nurture. Networking is helping others achieve their goals without expecting anything in return. The more you become a catalyst to people’s dreams and aspirations, the more the power of reciprocity kicks in. The secret is not to expect it and never to make that the reason to help.  

Having fun sketching! 

I am managing to take out precious time every day to sketch. Still exploring quotes and concepts that inspire. The addition of using water color pens has allowed a add a dash of color to bring alive these ideas. I am also having a blast with the ribbon style 3D typography that’s allowing the words to look fluid and free. 

   
         

Letting go

To be in a place where you can mould your self without the baggage of the past. To be able to access, be aware of and then let go of everything which doesn’t sit well with our values. To be able to simply be in a state of equanimity and see situations and moments for what they are. 

To reach a place of equanimity, we need to let go. And for that that to happen we need to know ourselves. 

This sketch is a simplified depiction of the pursuit of letting go and telling ourselves that its that easy. Just let go.  

 

Depicting meditation 

An illustration I made over coffee yesterday where I attempted to depict what meditation is for me. 

Meditation is to spend time in quiet thought where the mind is an empty vessel. The mind learns to form a ring that keeps external chatter completely away and slowly submerge into a space of complete inner silence. 
This is the space where we uncover the purest form of who we really are.