Monday, April 21, 2014

Giving Back

~Written By Bharat Budhiraja

It’s been 22 years since my parents inducted me into trekking in the Indian Himalayas. On each of my annual sojourns I have passed through scarcely inhabited remote settlements. As a child, my attitude to these was of indifference but as I grew older, the hardships of these mountain people began to disturb me. When the sun goes down, darkness, made more eerie by the looming mountains engulfs the whole place. These small Himalayan hamlets lack the very basic amenities of a 21st century civilized world like electricity and easy access to water. Now that I am a trained Mechanical Engineer, I want to use the knowledge I have acquired, to create some means of helping these poor people lead a less arduous life. I have read and realized myself after spending twenty five years of my life in India that this country has an enormous surplus of energy in the form of non-conventional energy sources like solar. I wish to use my knowledge and understanding of core mechanical engineering principles to develop cheap and efficient devices that are able to convert solar energy into a usable form.

I did my entire pre college education from a school which gave higher priority to moral pursuits than to scholastic endeavors. Every morning all the students of our school got together in a mass congregation, which we aptly called the ‘morning assembly’, to sing spiritual hymns praising the almighty. The hymns were followed by ‘student recitations’. Several students would come up to the dais to recite poems and excerpts from writings of great thinkers and philosophers. This was our daily dose of morality. One line from one of those recitals stuck with me after hearing it time and again, and I quote, "You will go abroad to foreign lands that you may bring back knowledge with which you may do service to her". It was from an address delivered to students and teachers of the Bengal National College on 23rd August, 1907, by a freedom fighter, philosopher and poet Sri Aurobindo. The aim of the address was to motivate the students to be patriotic and devote their lives for the betterment of their country, India. This one line always inspired me while I studying in England and United States, and eventually after spending six years in the west I returned back home to India. The reader may think that I am being too idealistic. Yes, I did have my personal reasons, like being with my family and friends, living in my childhood house again etc., but, I always had a strong desire to ‘give back’ to my motherland for what she had given me in all those years that I grew up here.

There is a famous quote, by Paul Coelho in his book The Alchemist ,” When you really want something to happen, the whole world conspires to help you achieve it.” What is the probability of a person studying in the United States to find a job in an American company based in India? It seems that my desire to come back was so strong that all the circumstances worked in my favor. After completing my masters I eventually landed in a job in an American start-up company manufacturing milk chilling machines for rural India with erratic electricity. The phrase ‘give back’ acquired a whole new meaning since I started working here. If someone who does not even belong to India is spending all their time and energy in solving a widespread problem, then why can’t I? It’s been almost two years since I’ve been working here and trying to fill the gap in an inefficient cold chain between the source and consumer. We are now adapting our technology to work on solar energy, so that we can provide sustainable cooling solutions for agricultural produce. Life seems to have come a full circle for me. I’ve always wanted to harness solar energy to create something that could serve as a self-sustainable and economically viable power generation source, and I am doing just that. I may not be lighting a lamp just yet – but then who said that it’s the end of the road? The journey has only just begun...

About Bharat Budhiraja:

Bharat is crazy guy who left the land of opportunity to come back to his home country to do something here. He yearns to do something for India. He is passionate about trekking in the Himalayas, loves to try his hand at photography, is an avid birder (it’s our avian friends he is referring to here) and claims to have some level of expertise in skills of culinary nature. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014


“There is vitality, a life force, energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.” 
- Martha Graham

So true. Everyone has a story to tell but not everyone shares it. To put it simple, everyone has something to share, but not every shares it. Being living beings, we are blessed to feel emotions, but unfortunately, we fail to express it.

Till now, a larger part of my life, I have lived in a closed cocoon. Not allowing anyone to get a peep into my thoughts. Until, all my unexpressed feelings came out in an uglier way than I had expected. No matter, how hard you try to suppress those unexpressed emotions; they will erupt from within and in unimaginable ways. Sometimes, you learn things in a hard way and unfortunately, I always end up gaining wisdom that way.

I realized how important it is to let your thoughts flow, to keep oneself connected. When we restrict our flow of communication, we limit our potential. We deny ourselves the freedom of expression. We refute our right to share our perspective with the rest of the world. We surrender ourselves to the opinions of others. We breathe in others views and we thrive under others fear. We simply exist, we are not alive. How can we, if we do not have our own expression?

My own experience with the expressing of thoughts has been transformational. It has helped me to embrace life, appreciate life, admire the beauty around and bring a change. Infact, this has been one my best learnings in my journey of MBA so far. To be authentic in your views, to stand by your view point what you feel is right, come what may, defines you. It only happens, when one has a clear thought and is able to communicate it to the outside world. And that’s what the characteristic of a leader is. It strengthens your inner faith. In times of confusion, when my heart and mind simply play with my thoughts, I pen down my opinion. I am sure; many of us have done that at one point of time. And we all know it helps. It helps us to know what we want, to listen to our inner voice.  And, it doesn't always have to be through a written expression – poetry or a vocal one. One can express through music, dance, cooking, art, indulging in small acts that help one to express ones emotions. It could be through voice, behavior and even through silence too. But it’s important that our thoughts be communicated and we stay connected.

So, connect with your inner soul where your true self resides. Allow your energy to truly flow out in form of expression and creativity. Let your inner wisdom and joy find a way out, to shine through and light the world outside.  
Explore yourself. Discover your voice. Express your thoughts.

I would like to know- what’s your medium of expression? Share your thoughts.

P.S.: When I say, silence can be a medium of expression too; I meant to achieve it through meditation, through chanting, through prayers. It’s the form of communication with God.

Continuing on my journey of self-discovery - expressing and staying connected! 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Making your Pitch Right: Mistakes to avoid while pitching to an Investor

~ Written by Aniket Dey

The advent of entrepreneurship in India coupled with a growing economy conducive to innovation and technology has paved a path for an entrepreneurial boom in India. One of the primary reasons a lot of people shied away from taking the road less traveled of entrepreneurship was the lack of financial resources. That isn’t the case anymore. There is a large network of venture capitalists, angel investors and independent funds ready to invest into ideas that have the ability to make money.

Lets’ see - how it all works.  You set-up a start-up, build a product and start selling to customers, only to find out you need more money. You need more human capital, costs are soaring or you’re simply running out of money. What next? ‘Exit’ at this point will hurt you and your aspirations badly. So the alternative is – arrange for funds. Where do you get the money from? Angel Investors, Venture capitalists etc. are there. But the question is – HOW? How do you pitch to them?

I've been an advisor and investor at various early stage start-ups and I've noticed a common denominator - entrepreneurs committing some common mistakes while pitching to investors. For an entrepreneur, there are various factors which point to the success of a venture- profits, growth, social media presence, partnerships etc. However, for an investor, there is only one measure of success- Return on Investment (ROI). Will they be able to recoup their investment? How long will it take? Is there an opportunity to exit?

The mistakes to avoid while pitching to an investor:-

Talking Potential
Every business has potential, but that is not a differentiating factor. You have to aim to be disruptive and to grow exponentially, which is what investors look for. Sometimes passion clouds perspective. Instead of focusing on the opportunity size, focus on developing a competitive advantage. This will give you an edge over others with similar ideas that are lost in the sea of potential.

Facts and numbers don’t sell alone, stories do.
I've noticed a large number of people who correlate statistics to success. Ever wondered why some movies and books gross billions of dollars, simply because people connect to stories. Keep presentations about realism. If you’re selling a health product for children, don’t start off by talking about what percentage of children is obese. Instead, say something like “Imagine if your loved one were to face health issues at a young age.” Always establish a sense of familiarity and trust.

Idolize your Business Plan
I've seen too many plans go wasted because the entrepreneur was not willing to change or tweak his/her idea. When I made my first pitch to an investor competing against 50 other business ideas, he didn't like what I had to say. He countered me with a changed business model which basically threw junk at my plan. But in the long run, I saw that being flexible and having an open mind to learn can make your product bring more moolah and success to you.

Lack of focus
In Bangalore, I've noticed that far too many people are starting up. That’s a good thing but also a bad thing. People are creating products and technology in search of a market instead of designing something to solve the market needs. It’s an economic fundamental – ‘demand has to meet supply’. Instead of second guessing, you should go out there and understand your potential market. Talk to customers, engage them and find out what needs have to be solved.

Optimism Glut
Being optimistic is a key trait of an entrepreneur. However, over optimism can kill your vision.  Being over optimistic about sales, adoption rates and development can leave you in shackles. This needless optimism in financial forecasts could underestimate the case required to achieve key performance milestones to help the business raise capital and surpass break-even.

Lack of Humility  
The golden rule every entrepreneur must swear by is that you aren't the smartest guy in the room.  Accept advice; be grateful for their time and gracious if they decline. Entrepreneurial circles are small in India, if you burn one bridge now, the rest of them could fall like dominoes sooner or later.

About Aniket Dey: 

Aniket Dey is a student and an Africa / Asia focused entrepreneur. He is a B.Com (Honours) student at Christ University, Bangalore. Aniket has been an advisor, investor and founding team member in various early stage start-ups. His naïve and romantic belief is to make positive social impact through business and change the world. He has been published in The Telegraph, The Economic Times and His hobbies are sports, food and networking.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Confessions of a Stock Picker

~Written By Priyankar Sarkar

Value investing is a concept which was first coined by the towering intellect Ben Graham. He wore many hats viz, as an economist, investor, author and professor. His concept was fairly simple which states if an investor can buy an asset worth one rupee or less than that, the investor should be happy. If an asset is available at 50 paise to a rupee, the margin of safety is said to be higher compared to an asset selling for 70 paise to a rupee. The greater the margin of safety, the greater the chance of making lucrative returns in the equity markets.

The oracle of Omaha, Mr. Warren E. Buffett is the current mayor of Graham’s school of thought. Mr. Buffett has helped evolve the concept of value over a period of time.The sage of Omaha and his alter ego, Charlie Munger, suggest that we should buy great companies at reasonable prices and hold it till eternity! Other investors such as Philip Fischer, Sir John Templeton, Peter Lynch had different variations of value investing Lynch asks us to diversify whereas Buffett tells us to concentrate. There are different ways to go to heaven, choose the one which best suits you!

Almost all B-schools teach that more the risk, more the return. Value investing is quite the contradictory. It says lesser the risk, more the return since the first aim of a value investor is to cut down risk. Value investing also defies the efficient market hypothesis. Great investors have proved time and again that the financial markets are efficient most of the time but mispricing does exist. Some argue that since data and information are available to us instantly (thanks to the Internet) and hence the markets are always efficient. But who is processing that information? It is the human brain, which is irrational! Human beings “processing information” determine prices. Therefore, stock prices are not always rational. It is our job to figure out the discrepancy between price and intrinsic value. More the discrepancy, more the margin of safety!

However, I feel the concept of value investing has evolved over the years. What value are we referring to? Is it simply buying cheap assets? Is it prospective value, enduring value or is it valued based on history? These are some of the difficult questions which I often ponder on as a student of ‘Graham and Buffettsville’.  The predictability of cash flows in a business also acts as a margin of safety thus providing value. When Dalal Street was in the back waters in the early 1990s, there was a stock which was then recently listed – Container Corporation of India Ltd. It is a PSU (Public Sector Undertaking). Most of the investors did not understand the business model of the company and therefore did not show any interest. There was hardly any liquidity in the market for this particular scrip. However, one of my acquaintances saw this as an opportunity and invested in the company. The rest is history. The stock has multiplied more than 50x over the last decade. This has taught me two lessons: liquidity per se has nothing to do with value and the fact that most of the investing world does not understand a company which I do in itself provides a margin of safety. This has been elucidated by Buffett over the last five decades. He has termed this as “circle of competence” – invest in businesses which you understand.

Experience is the best teacher! I vividly remember having picked a stock named Agro Tech Food Ltd in July 2008. Having discussed this stock with some of my friends (who are also die hard value investors), they were not convinced of this idea and they tried to dissuade me from buying the stock. Since I had conviction, I went ahead and bought the stock. The stock has given me a whooping return of almost 400% since then. It demonstrates that as value investors we may frown at each other’s stock picks but the underlying principal remains the same.  As Rakesh Jhunjhunwala put it very aptly when he said that the two most difficult adjectives in English language are beauty in a girl and value in a stock – it differs from person to person!
To create wealth in the stock market, one needs to be a contrarian. Independent thinking is vital. To quote Buffett A public opinion is no substitute for thought”. Along with keeping an open and independent mind, I would say let common sense prevail!

About Priyankar Sarkar:

Priyankar Sarkar is a passionate stock picker. He recently completed his MBA from SIBM-Bengaluru. His hobbies include reading, playing squash, chess, cricket, networking and gaining wordly wisdom. A keen follower of Hindustani Classical music. He has been an amateur investor for the last seven years in the Indian Capital Markets. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Corruption- What is it?

Written By Siddhaarth Mahan

With election season upon us, all that matters is voting for clean governance. Wish it was that simple. Just a push of a button and whoom, a clean corruption free government.Everyone talks about removing corruption from the country. But the fundamental question is what is corruption? Does anyone really know? According to some Just accepting and offering bribes in a government office is the be all end all of corruption. 

Corruption starts in the mind. Everything else is just an extension from there. Only money exchange illegally is not the only form of corruption. Cheating with people in day to day life, cheating in relationships and above everything cheating with oneself are all part of corruption. Not sticking to resolutions, not exercising, being lazy and etcetra are all prime examples of cheating with oneself.They seem trivial at this stage because there is no limelight to escalate it.But the seeds of corruption are sown right there. Then it grows from there only to 
become big scams and people finally notice them.

Every child today talks about corruption these days.It has slowly enveloped into cynicism leading to an environment which is very detrimental to the country and personal surroundings.We don't want to understand and get to the basics of it all. Labeling everyone corrupt , generalizing the whole crop of politicians as corrupt or blaming everyone around us for the vicious circle of corruption,is only an easy way out.

Whereas one might want to remove only the small part of the corruption that of illegal money exchange. But even that can not take place until the root cause of it is tackled.For that is the solution right in the mind itself. Reiterating it then -'Dishonesty and cheating with oneself is where it all starts, corruption happens in the mind'.

About Siddhaarth Mahan: 

Siddhaarth Mahan is an actor, painter, lover of music, a guitarist and yes, likes to express himself through writings as well. 


Hey friends,

I missed being on this space for long. No excuses. But would like to make it up for all the losses and look forward to continuous momentum here. 

One year in MBA has taught me lot of new things, had many new experiences which I shall be sharing in my upcoming posts. But that’s not all. As I was thinking of making a come-back, I thought - why not ask my friends to contribute and share their view points on the topics that interest them. So here’s a new feature of Guest blogging! It’s a best way to get introduced to new ideas; new readers; new communities; make new friends and share your message across.

Hoping, my friends- readers and followers will add value to the discussion on the various topics that will be featured.

"You might not write well everyday.  But you can always edit a bad page, you can't edit a blank page."
~ Jodi Picoult 

Stay Positive. Stay Healthy. Read a lot. Share your Knowledge.