Taking the Untrodden Path

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Being Employee #1 at a Startup

Category : Uncategorized

This April, I completed 4 years at DeepRedInk Consulting. As the first employee of DRI, I have had some tremendous opportunities to learn, grow and contribute- personally, professionally (and even spiritually!).

Startup Employee

Here are some of the valuable lessons I learnt, being part of this roller-coaster ride:

1. Navigating through Uncertainty

We have always gone through days filled with overwhelming uncertainty about the next business enquiry, timely payment of salaries, etc. It does feel like driving at night, with minimum visibility.

The key is to be patient, persistent and optimistic.

2. Taking Responsibility

Having led various initiatives during my Undergrad, this came naturally to me. There was always this sense of psychological ownership towards DRI. It always felt like I’m contributing towards building DRI, from scratch. Over the years, I’ve done everything from execution to management, and now, I’m one of the 5 people steering this ship towards its next couple of milestones. The key here is be Intrapreneurial and strive towards leading from the front at all times.

3. Learning from Failure

Every individual (founder & non-founder) is bound to screw up somewhere, sometime with a key project. Instead of playing the blame game, we always preferred to look at the silver linings and took it in our stride. And, made sure we grew and got better, with every mistake we made.

The key here is to cultivate a growth mindset across the organization.

4. Developing a multifaceted skill-set (i.e, become a Generalist)

The flexibility that comes with working at a startup is unparalleled. Despite a background in Software Engineering, I chose to specialize in the poised-for-growth Social Media domain. After spending more than 2 years in this domain, I shifted to Brand Strategy, Account Management and finally to Program Management where I’m currently working.

In a startup environment, we are always short of hands and we try to cover up all the loopholes by playing multiple roles across different functions of the business. This gives a change to early stage employees to jump in and take more responsibility across core and support functions like Finance, Administration, (and HR). Being the first employee, I got exposed to most of these business functions that helped me develop a multifaceted skill-set, having done Business Development, Strategy Consulting, Marketing, Hiring, etc.

The key here, is to be open to new opportunities coming your way. And, keep building your repertoire.

5. Influencing effective Decision Making

Prompt decision making has been quite a challenge for DRI’s Founders. DRI, has always adopted the Decision Making through Consensus approach. And, for anything to reach consensus, takes time and energy. Over the years, we have followed various models/frameworks to arrive at decisions in a quick time. Some worked, while some didn’t. I’m grateful to have been part of most these experiments. And, glad to have rolled out some game-changing initiatives to propel the organization towards sustainable growth.

The key here, is to develop a deeper understanding of the situation at hand and view it from different perspectives to get a grip of it.

6. Evolving through Culture shifts

As the first employee, I have had the opportunity to work with almost all the people who were on DRI’s rolls through its short lifetime. There have been significant shifts in Culture of the organization from time to time, and I have been an integral part of this evolution. As one of the early employees, it helps to be the interface (only if required!) between the founders and the new employees. Also, in some cases, an early employee might find it comparatively easier to sell the vision/purpose of the startup to the newbies, than the founders.

The key here is to be conscious of your personal growth, to strive to build lasting relationships, to have empathy for your team members and to ultimately get work done (with so many dynamics at play all time), come what may!

7. Creating Win-Win-Win solutions

As a Senior Leader in the system, it has always been my endeavour to create Win-Win-Win solutions for the Client, for DRI and for my employees, respectively.

The key here is to be present and be conscious of the different dynamics at play between the Client organization, your organization and your employees. All this, while making sure that the project strategy is on track.

All in all, I can say that it is nothing short of an adventure! Looking back, I’m glad I made the decision to be the first employee of DeepRedInk. And, very grateful to the founders for considering me for this coveted position.


P.S: A word of caution for those looking to join a Startup, as its first employee/ early stage employee: If you are not confident about the Founder’s vision (or intention), don’t jump into it. You have to be on board from Day 1. Else, it wouldn’t be an ideal scenario for anyone. Once you’ve signed up, look forward to an exponential learning curve, ample opportunities to grow and great exposure.

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Celebrating 5 Years of DeepRedInk

Category : Uncategorized


Five years have just flown by. It seems like just yesterday that we started working out of our homes, armed with just our laptops and lots of dreams;

dreams of starting a business around doing what we love
dreams of building a company that’s loved by its people
dreams of deeply engaging with our clients and partnering in their growth

And, we feel so blessed that so much of it has come true. Dedicating this journey to all the people; teammates, clients, partners, families, friends and well-wishers that travelled this far with DeepRedInk. Immensely grateful for the good times and the hard knocks that I’ve shared with each one of you.

I’d like to express deep gratitude to everyone who has supported me and encouraged me to be a part of this fantastic journey. Proud to have contributed to this fantastic startup journey! And, glad to have met such remarkable people along the way who pushed me out of my comfort zone, helped me realize my highest potential and made me the person I am today.

Looking forward to bigger and better milestones.

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How to keep tabs on the Indian General Elections – 2014

With the Elections just around the corner, several politicians and their respective parties are busy polishing their image, building their portfolios, mending ties with their allies, sling mud at their rivals and preparing their manifestos. At the same time, traditional media and social media platforms are coming up with innovative tools to help the public keep tabs on all the happenings on a national and local level.


Here are some of the tools, trackers and portals you could ‘bookmark’ or save to stay up-to-date with the General Elections 2014:
Recently, Facebook rolled out its India election tracker app for its 80 million odd users in India. Visitors to this dashboard would be able to watch the Candidates 2014 livestreams, take a poll about the issues that matter the most to them in the election as well as compare how much the Facebook community is talking about leading candidates and parties over time. 
To view the app, go here
Whether you are a politician, journalist, or someone who just wants to keep a track of the latest happenings in the world of social media and politics, the Election Tracker is your answer. This tracker from mobile telecom service provide MTS and India’s largest Social Media knowledge storehouse Social Samosa provides real-time data analysis, comprehensive tracking, relevant data and graphical representation to help you stay updated on all the social media conversations around the elections.
To view the tracker, go here
Towards the fag end of 2013, Google launched an elections portal that aimed at assisting the Indian voters to understand the electoral process, get access to all the news related to elections and politics, get detailed information on specific political parties and serve as a one a one stop destination to help voters get answers to their elections and voting-related queries to make an informed decision.
To view the portal, go here
Catch all Hangouts and Election related stories on this dedicated hub for the Indian elections by YouTube. YouTube has partnered with all the top news channels across 5 languages to build this one stop destination for all the top stories, breaking news and campaign trails during the elections.
To view the hub, go here

Socialbakers’ Election Infographic for India
Wondering how political parties and leaders are engaging on Facebook? Here is a great infographic by Socialbakers where you can view data-driven social statistics for India’s largest competing political parties & understand the social media story being told.


To view the real-time infographic, go here

This portal from MapsofIndia.com brings to you everything related to elections as they unfold. It provides up-to-date news, accurate maps, critical analysis, and facts on the various elections in India. Opinion polls allow users to express themselves and get their voice heard. To view the portal, go here

Facebook Lists
Facebook provides its users with an option to organize the important and interesting content through the Lists feature. This feature helps The users can create their own interest lists based on the things they care about, or follow other people’s listsWhen the user creates or follows a list, they would see the best posts from that list in their main News Feed. Check out the following lists curated by Karuna Nain from Facebook India:

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Changing the conversations around Failure

Category : Uncategorized

For a long time now, Failure, rejection, defeat et al. have been viewed with a negative lens. Failure happens in so many different ways, at unexpected times and often has a lasting impact on an individual or a collective. So, how about changing the way we perceive failure from its current negative shade to a more positive one? How about emphasizing on the learning from failure and celebrating it, instead of treating it like a unfortunate tragedy?

It is with this spirit and intention that we set out to do FailFest– a fun and engaging forum to celebrate and honor stories of failure by highlighting the learning, valor and resilience. 
We planned to explore this grey zone by calling upon the indomitable souls, who rose from the trenches of failure by reflecting and learning from it. 

We wanted to change the existing conversations, where Failure is considered undesirable, unacceptable. an outright defeat and a complete disaster.

Failure by all means, is truly ‘inevitable’. It is a quintessential part of life and we get to see it time and again. Like the classic dichotomies of life: Day-Night, Good-Bad, Black-White, Failure forms a pair with Success. However, one can’t succeed every single time. We are bound to screw up on some occasions. But at the end it’s these failures that help us learn. These mistakes enable us to think, be creative and do the innovative.
FailFest is a manifestation of this whole idea around changing the conversations around Failure. The first FailFest was held on May 3 at Hyderabad, India. We invited people from all walks of life, from book authors and actors to techies and entrepreneurs. Anybody, who wanted to share their major learnings with a compelling storyline was welcome.The speakers spoke about their challenging journeys where they faced failure, in some form or the other at every step and shared their biggest learnings from those thrilling experiences. 

In short, FailFest was all about:
– Victory over vulnerability
– Acts of bravado
– following your heart; your passion
– persistence in times of adversity
– Learning. Reflection. Introspection
– gaining Insight and Hindsight; developing Foresight and more…

To view the Event on facebook, kindly go to http://j.mp/FailFest1

FailFest is one such initiative to change the conversations around failure. We hope to build on this momentum and do more such activities to bring about this shift. If you are interested in changing the conversations around Failure, kindly join our community on Facebook- www.facebook.com/FailHyd

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When I met Hillary Clinton….

In May 2012, I got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact face-to-face with one of the most influential and powerful women in the world- Ms. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the United States Secretary of State.
To watch the video footage of the show & my question (at 51:31), click here.

Secretary Clinton had a stop-over at Kolkata during her short to tour to China, Bangladesh & India. As part of the U.S. Government’s Youth Advisory Council (for India), I was invited to Kolkata to meet the Secretary of State along with other members of the council from New Delhi, Mumbai & Chennai.

Photo Courtesy: NDTV
And if the thought of meeting the ‘Most Admired’ woman in USA wasn’t enough, there came another stunner. We were going to be live on renown journalist Barkha Dutt‘s show- We the People on NDTV. 
                                                                                        Photo Courtesy: Pallavi Kaushal

It was an open forum with Ms. Dutt playing the moderator’s role. After a tête-à-tête with Barkha Dutt, the floor was opened up to invite questions from the audience. I finally got my chance and raised to ask my question on the issue of Outsourcing & Protectionism being promised in the 2013 US Presidential Election Campaign in USA in an attempt to address local sentiments over a shrinking economy and rising joblessness, a cut-down on outsourcing will result in huge job losses.She replied, stating that it was a legitimate issue to be needs to be aired. She also spoke of the President Obama’s goal of developing their own exports, improving education & skills training of the U.S. people.

                                                                                                      Photo Courtesy: NDTV

What really struck me about the former First Lady was her cool and calm demeanour. Barkha Dutt had pointed out at the beginning of the show that since the time Ms. Clinton took over the post of the Head of the United States Department of State (2009), she has travelled more than 7,00,000 miles to 95 countries which works up to around 25 trips around the globe! Despite so much travel, she hardly showed any signs of flagging energy, which is remarkable indeed.

To watch the video footage of the show & my question (at 51 minutes 31 seconds),
click here.

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Social Media for Democracy

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A couple of weeks back, my Uncle- a Social Entrepreneur called me and asked if I was interested in doing a conference on The Role of Social Media in Democracy on behalf of my firm, along with 2 other non-profits.

I took some time, asked my colleagues and jumped into it. I’ve always been inquisitive about Social Media and it’s applications across diverse domains. With democracy coming into the picture, it does look like a lethal combination. I gave a thumbs up and we set about looking for the right speakers for the various themes.

By God’s grace, it’s all gone well with a few minor hiccups here and there.

Today, Social Media is a lot more than having simple & friendly interactions on Facebook & Twitter. It has become the most potent tool for reaching out to the masses & spreading awareness about various issues.

Alec Ross, senior advisor on innovation and technology at the US department of State had said- “One of the greatest benefits of social media for government’s relationship with citizens is the way in which it helps strengthen democracy. “At the core of democracy is citizen participation. The more our citizens are using social media for the purpose of electioneering, communicating with government and engaging, the more robust it makes our democracy”

The conference should ideally be attended by social entrepreneurs, social media enthusiasts and pros, media persons, change-makers, students and active citizens

This conference is being jointly organized by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (www.fes-india.org) MICCI (www.micci.in), COVA (www.covanetwork.org) & Dot Now Social (www.dotnow.in)

For the detailed itinerary, kindly go here

To join the event on Facebook, click here

Also, we’ll be tweeting live from the event. Here’s the hashtag- #sm4d

There’ll be 5 sessions and each session will consist of the following topics.

Day 1:

Session 1: Social Media- Power to People? (History of Social Media, Overview of Social Media Landscape, Applications of different Social media platforms)

Session 2: Role of Social Media in Strengthening Democracy: Strategies and Applications (Successful Social Media Strategies, Case Study- Jan Lokpal Movement)

Session 3: Can Social Media Change Power Structures? (Role of Social Media in Changing Community Equations, Social Media for Democratization and Transformation of Rural and Tribal Societies, Application and Impact of Social Media on Governance, Application of Social Media for Effective and Transparent Policing)

Day 2:

Session 4: Should Government Monitor / Regulate Social Media (Misuses of Social Media- An Overview of Cyber Crimes, Impact of Social Media on other media, Prevailing Regulation Policies in different countries and their impact on Freedom of Speech)

Session 5: Open Forum

The questions we explore during the event may not be totally new, but they are questions worth reconsidering through a new, composite lens: What role can social media play in democracy?

Looking forward eagerly to the event.

P.S: To follow the proceedings from the comfort of your home/office, kindly follow #sm4d on Twitter. Thanks


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Training for Trusteeship

Last year, I had written a post on Trusteeship as part of a selection criteria for an International workshop to be held in Sri Lanka in September. Thankfully, I was selected after 3 rounds & got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to represent India at this exclusive 8-day workshop for youth leaders of SAARC countries, called Training for Trusteeship. It was organised by Weeramantry International Centre for Peace Education and Research (WICPER), in association with UNESCO National Commission, the Earth Charter Initiative Costa Rica, the World Future Council – Germany and the US Embassy, Colombo UN Year of Youth and the UN Year of Forests.
The workshop was held at Kegalle in Sri Lanka from September 4th to 11th. It was a unique forum for young leaders from various South Asian universities and youth organizations. It was a thrilling experience to say the least. They all came from diverse cultural, religious, geographical and professional backgrounds. These outstanding young leaders in the region had been engaged in development activities over a period of time and had managed to bring about a positive and progressive social change in their respective communities & regions.
With other youth leaders of the SAARC countries
The concept of trusteeship is emphasized to bring home to these young leaders the notion of responsible management of our inherited culture and resources for the benefit of those who are to come after us.
This workshop is aimed at inspiring youth to do what they can as individuals and future leaders to change their countries for the better by working across the cultural, religious, disciplinary and institutional divide in serving their communities.
During the course of the workshop, we met, interacted and learnt from international experts in social media, climate change, social advancement, peace and conflict resolution, international law, and biodiversity.
Delegates from India, after the Country Presentation
I’ve always been passionate about building ethical, responsible and profitable organizations and also be a part of the policy-making process. 
Through TFT, I’ve added to my repertoire – elements of cross-cultural understanding & peace-building and access to collaboration with other South Asian regions to fight various ‘common’ issues. I hope to partner with other South Asian organizations in the near future and execute well-planned initiatives across the region.

Giving my Project presentation on Youth Empowerment 
It was a fantastic learning experience indeed for every participant. Personally, this international exposure was very beneficial for me. Prior to this conference I was not really have the ‘Big Picture’of the South Asian region and was really focussed on getting things done on a local level. This conference has really opened up new horizons for me. I strongly believe that a good social model is one that can be replicated effectively in any context/region with minor modifications. Through the workshop, I received access to a large network of individuals and organizations at the international and regional level. Hoping to work closely with them in the near future.
Delegates from all the South Asian countries pose for a picture on the Cultural Eve
Delegates from India & Pakistan with H.E. Judge Weeramantry on the Cultural Eve

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The 24th year of my Life!

Category : 2011 , 2012 , birthday , deaths , life , random , tao

As I write this post, I draw closer and closer to my 24th birthday. Just a couple of minutes to go for the ‘occasion’. 

My 24th year has been pretty eventful to say the least. Lots of ups and downs since Jan 18, 2011. Just a day after my 23rd birthday, I was on a plane to New Delhi to visit my ailing Grandmother who had suffered a fracture. I was in the capital for almost a week, oversaw the surgery and left 2 days after that. She was recovering slowly and exactly after a month, she breathed no more. I was on the plane again, this time with my whole family. It was a difficult time for me. I always felt I lacked ‘that emotion’ which would make any normal person cry in such a situation. I was totally numb. I felt it deeply but there were no real outburst of emotions as such.

Back in Hyderabad, I resumed my job at ‘my’ startup. Things were going great. Got loads to learn about Social Media, Management Consulting, Marketing, Strategy, Hiring, the whole ‘Startup affair’, just about everything and 2 -3 months later we merged with a partner firm. Another startup, with some fantastic individuals. Together we moved into a new office and started work big time. It was to some extent the turning point of my nascent career. I got exposed to Content Strategy, Communications strategy in general and met some more awesome people on the way. Towards the end of the year, we got another partner and that really provided us with the stimulus to diversify and explore a new domain- Design, which otherwise wasn’t top priority. The year ended with a lot of parties and get togethers and I could really see something ‘great’ brewing in the organization. Hope to see Deep Red Ink gain more momentum during this year and cross the targets we’ve set for 2012. 

On the personal front, I first got a chance to organize an International Fund raising event in my town- Hyderabad in March, which was a huge success. In June I attended a life-changing workshop- Tao of Facilitation, thanks to my folks at work who encouraged me to go for it.  I learnt to Accept things in their present form, acknowledge silence, develop a helicopter view of things and discovered responsibility in a new way.

Soon after that I was selected to attend 2 Internationsl conferences, one in Switzerland and another in Sri Lanka coincidentally with overlapping dates. I was fully funded by the US Government for the workshop in Sri Lanka and went for it. It was an enriching experience really. I got to represent India at an International level, sharing the platform with leaders from South Asia. Made a lot of friends, understood key issues plaguing the region and crafted a ‘solution’ to a panel of global experts.

Being a cricket fanatic, it was a great first half being an Indian fan, having to see India lift the World cup after 28 years but also had to deal with humiliating defeats abroad in England and Australia.

These were more or less the highs, but what struck me deeply throughout the year were Deaths of my dear ones! I lost my Grandmother in the first half of the year, then my Grandfather in August, a dear friend in the following month and exactly a week back another close friend. The most recent loss has really hit me hard and it’s yet to sink in.

Another friend was hospitalized last week due a bad lung condition. I hope and pray to the Almighty to heal him in super quick time.

All in all, it was a year filled with surprises, adventures, unexpected challenges and enormous gratifications, unprecedented joys and irrepairable losses.

Here’s looking forward to a great journey of 365 days around the sun, minus the losses.

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Around the World in 60 seconds

Category : being different , Travel , world , youtube

I came across this fascinating video on Facebook and thought it was worth sharing. This video clip features the man (name unknown) who travelled the globe and made this video with a 1 sec footage of every location he had been to.

Not only the idea, but even the execution in the form of video editing is fantastic. Hats off to ‘this Guy’!

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‘The Wall’ floors one & all

    Rahul Sharad Dravid became the first non-Australian to deliver the much revered Bradman Oration for 2011 and stamped his class on this ‘ground’ as well.

The speech was well received, deeply appreciated by cricket fans, former players and custodians worldwide. Personally, I was moved! By the end of it, I was floored by the great man’s words of wisdom.  It was emotional, humorous, insightful and entertaining- in perfect proportions. After all, it’s perfection that he stands for. 

He left us cracking  when with his take on Shane Warne’s diet and gave a subtle tribute to Tendulkar(& himself) with “Like a few, creaking Terminators, we’re back. Older, wiser and I hope improved” 

 While 2010 belonged to Tendulkar, 2011 was the year of Dravid, all the way, with The Bradman Oration being the icing. 

All Hail the Wall!