A week ago I was stuck in traffic and my mind was doing what minds do best, wandering. I started analysing the chain of events that led me to where I am in my life today.
The only reason I am where I am today is because my father did not need to charge his phone on a particular night.
With a line like that, a back story is required so I will have to go into some detail about my personal life. But not too many details because… you know… Mark Zuckerberg.
Every year, Indian Oil conducts an awareness campaign about conservation of oil and natural Gases. Our family business is associated with Indian Oil so we are very much a part of organising and participating in the awareness campaign. We make it a point to have at least one person from the family attend the various activities and events that are organised. One of these events is a mini-marathon. Ever the sportsman, my father was to attend the marathon on this particular occasion, but on the night before, he got a message at around 11.30pm, informing him of an important meeting the following morning. Guess who was informed that he was required to go to the marathon instead of him? (answer at end of blog)
I am a night owl by nature. I usually stay awake till 3 to 4 am, working on whatever project I am obsessed with at that moment. I find that those hours give me adequate peace and tranquillity to do my thinking and execution (not literal executions). The obvious fallout of this is that usually I wake up by 10 or 11 am. But I need my 7 to 8 hours of sleep otherwise I spend the following day looking like a zombie having a bad Hair Day.
So naturally having to wake up at 5:30 A.M for any reason is usually a kicking and screaming affair. The cherry on the cake was that if my father had followed his nightly routine of charging his phone in the other room, he wouldn’t have received the message at all and all this could have been avoided.
So I turn up reluctantly for the marathon and begrudgingly run the race, throwing dirty looks round indiscriminately. Immediately after the race, Indian Oil had also organised a drawing competition for children below the age of 12. Since the competition had to have a theme, (oil and natural gas conservation) there was a certain amount of explaining to do to the children. Indian Oil had hired a qualified and competent emcee to handle this. Qualified and competent though he may have been, reliable and punctual he was not. He did not turn up. In disaster management mode, an official from Indian Oil suddenly says “Rick, why don’t you do it. You are an artist so…”
I personally really look up to this gentleman and didn’t want to let him down, so I agreed. The begrudging, dirty looks throwing, bad Hair Day having, zombie resembling emcee suddenly has a microphone in his hand and finds himself explaining the apocalypse to a bunch of disinterested children.
As luck would have it, one of the participants happened to be the daughter of a program director from All India Radio. After the event, she came up to me and said she really liked how my voice sounded on the amplifier and asked me to apply for a job as a radio jockey on the spot. To be fair, I thought she should have offered the job to the amplifier instead, but hey, we take what we can get, right?
I started work at All India Radio and over the course of the next few months, I got the opportunity to cover various events happening in and around Shillong and to conduct interviews with some very interesting people.
One of the events I covered happened to be a film festival in Shillong. The producers had booked a slot to interview an actor and had chosen me to do it. It should be noted that there is a pool of some 20 other talented broadcasters, so the chances of me covering that event were 20 to 1, at best.
On the appointed date and time, I arrived with the producer and the technical team. But as it turns out, the actor was stuck in traffic and would be arriving late. So I found myself sitting around, engaging in small talk with random strangers (I was saving my big talk for the interview).
One of these random strangers happened to be an artist. I am an Aspiring artist myself so we instantly bonded and developed a casual, easy friendship. As we got to know each other and began to swap stories and share ideas, I told him about my entrepreneurial enterprise of starting a makerspace and how I have been working towards the concept with almost every fibre of my being. At that point I had been working towards the concept for the last 3 years. I had worked to learn and understand the various skills and improve my knowledge base and I was at the funding stage. Here’s how that conversation went.
Me: … and thing’s are getting pretty frustrating. I don’t know how much I don’t know and I don’t even know where to start.
Him: Ya, Bro. And bro, i have experienced that most people are very unhelpful.
Me: I know. Jealousy is a mental cancer. (at this point, i smiled smugly at my philosophical kung fu.)
Him: Bro, i read that quote too. B. C. Forbes, right?
Me: … yes.
Him: Well bro, I am attending a workshop next week sometime. Its about business, or getting investment or something. Bro, you should come…
Me: I’m probably busy, but I’ll think about it..
Next thing I know, I find myself sitting for a workshop by Dhriiti. It gradually became apparent that they were focussed on helping the participants. And that help was extended on a very deep and personal level. They wanted to get us to go where we wanted to go. Not where they thought we should go, as is usually the case with “experts” and “consultants”.
For someone who has had to hustle for information from those who mistrusted my motives, learn things the hard, slow way, ask for guidance only to be ignored, and discouraged from the happiness that comes from the pursuit of happiness, I could not believe the goodwill and sense of belonging I found within a room of strangers. We were united by one thing. Faith. Faith that the path we chose was beneficial and would help us grow. Faith that we could and would learn whatever was required of us. Faith that even though being pro-active is fraught with failure and ridicule, it is far nobler to try and fail.
At the same time, I was blown away by the randomness and blind luck in the face of astronomical odds that has now put me in touch with this organisation.
So what am I trying to say?
The world works in mysterious ways and an insignificant event can trigger a chain reaction that could be the difference between a life you choose to live and a life that you are compelled to live. If my father’s cell phone was charging in the other room, which is usually the case, he would not have gotten the message about his engagement and I would not have been forced to show up for that marathon.
If the emcee was on time I would not have been forced to speak on the microphone.
If the program director from All India Radio did not happen to be there or for any reason, did not come up and speak to me, I would not have become an RJ.
If the film festival was assigned to a different broadcaster or if the actor had been on time I would not have gained a new friend.
If for any reason that conversation between us would not have happened, I would not have associated myself with Dhriiti.
If I have not met dhriiti, I would not be on this concrete path where is leading me to my goal.
Make no mistake, person reading this. This is not a veiled promo for Dhriiti. There is no guarantee that anything will come true or that success is about finding smart/successful/influential people and copy pasting their formula. In fact, failure is likely and success is more of an exception to the rule. But failing with the right people is preferable to succeeding with the wrong ones..
Moral of the story- Be open to the world, participate, speak to strangers and don’t make assumptions. Be specific in your vision but flexible in your path.
Burying yourself in your cell phone, being half present in the real world is not very different from actually and literally burying yourself. The chain of causation is impossible to predict and our world is chaotic and difficult because of this. Embrace the chaos, bro.
About the Author: Chancharick Choudhury is a sculptor, radio jockey, event management consultant and aspiring entrepreneur from the hills of Shillong. His mission in life is to bring current technology into the service of each and every member of society. His cheese omletes are legendary.
Enterprises that continue to do things the way they have been doing them in the past soon become history! Innovation is the key to continued success of any enterprise which strives to meet the inarticulate needs of the existing market.
The business life cycle includes inception, introduction, growth maturity, decline and exit. In the inception and introduction stage, an entrepreneur toys with business ideas, their feasibility, business models, their launch etc. It is at the growth stage that new challenges start to surface. One of the biggest challenges faced by entrepreneurs is how to constantly innovate and not get stagnant.
Authors of the bestseller Built to Last, Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras, summarize their findings from 3M and provide key takeaways to drive Innovation at an enterprise:
“Give it a try–and quick!” – Essentially echoing on having a process to try out a lot of stuff, and keeping what really works. The key here is to do something. Keep on trying something new.
“Accept that mistakes will be made.” – Learn from the mistakes quickly, and move on. Failures are part of what leads to innovations. Don’t repeat the same mistakes though.
“Take small steps.” – Experiment, but on a small scale. When something looks promising, go all out and seize the opportunity. This way one can do plenty of inexpensive experiments that create a funnel of would-be innovations.
“Give people the room they need.” – Without entrepreneurship, there is no experiment. Without experiment there is no success or failure. Create time and room to experiment.
Overcoming resistance to innovation
Its human nature to resist change. The strength of habit associated with existing behaviour and the myriad risks of adopting an innovation are the most common factors why people resist innovation. As an entrepreneur you not only needs to look for opportunities to innovate but you need to also understand the psychology of resistance to innovation to be able to execute your decision.
Most of the time innovations are communicated keeping in mind the people who embrace innovation. On the contrary, entrepreneurs need to communicate their innovations considering the ones who might resist! Hence while as an entrepreneur you aim to innovate constantly, communicate it to your employees considering their perceived fears.
When the perceived risk is low but sufficient change in existing habits is required, convince your team on the usefulness of the innovation and hence the need to change habits. Innovations which attempt to replace existing products fall in this category.
Radical innovations and technological breakthroughs like nuclear energy, videophone, birth-control pills are examples of innovations which bring along high risk perceptions. Here your communication needs intensive emphasis on negating perceived negative effects, inducing experimentation.
And there are some ‘No resistance innovations’ like changes in the fashion industry, which neither contain any perceived risks nor attempt to replace existing habits.
In India, the early bamboo architecture laid the foundation of the dome-shaped Mughal constructions including the Taj Mahal. Recently, India has seen a swelling demand for use of bamboo in the construction industry, leading to better economic conditions especially in the rural areas. Also the dynamics of supply chain management would see a change with increasing opportunities for small players and start-ups.
Increasing Business Opportunities for Entrepreneurs
The paper and pulp industry consumes 35% of the bamboo grown in India followed by housing at 20%. The National Mission on Bamboo Technology and Trade Development has assessed the demand for its various applications as 27 million tonnes against the availability of 13.47 million tonnes. The size of existing bamboo economy is estimated as Rs.2043 Cr. as against the market potential of Rs.4463 Cr. The projected annual average growth rate of 15-20% it is expected to reach Rs.26000 Cr by 2015.
Entrepreneurs must exploit this opportunity and use this natural resource to meet the increasing need for housing and growing pressure on land.
Bamboo could substitute as the main load bearing element in construction
Field visits to the rural areas of Jharkhand reveal that Bamboo is primarily used as load distributors on roofs with timber as the main load bearing element. Due to the long gestation period of trees and growing concern for deforestation, availability of timber poses a threat. With the spurring of construction activities in the rural areas under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Indira Awas Yojna and the likes, it is imperative that entrepreneurs at the grass-root level look into local materials to sustain such activities. Hence there is a need to investigate if bamboo could substitute as the main load bearing element.
Land degradation & acute shortage of bricks
Our interaction with Jharkhand Education Project Council (JEPC) officials also revealed that there is an acute shortage of bricks in the district of Ranchi itself so much so that the requirements of bricks for construction work under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is becoming increasingly difficult to meet. Against a requirement of 2,79,78,200 bricks in a year, the total availability in the district is 2,76,00,000 bricks. Thus if we take into account the demand for SSA alone the shortfall is to the extent of 378200. One brick requires 0.0204 cubic metres of soil, totalling to a requirement of 570755 cubic metres per year to meet the requirements of SSA alone. This has implications in terms of land degradation too.
Addressing global warming
Growing concern over the impact of increasing Green House Gas (GHG) emissions on world climate has prompted the world community to address this pressing environmental problem, thus the Energy Building Code 2007, was introduced as one of the measures. Bamboo is not only the World’s fastest and the strongest growing woody plant but is also an enduring, versatile and highly renewable resource. Its adaptability to different climatic conditions makes it one of the most important species for mitigation of the climate change. It has been reported that ‘Phylostachys bambusoides’ in Kyoto, Japan, has a carbon sequestration potential of around 2 tonnes per hectare. Agro-forestry has been found to be the most cost effective method of addressing the carbon emission and consequent global warming issues. By going for shorter gestation period species like bamboo, can be used as an effective mitigation option through carbon sequestration.
An eco-friendly housing option
Bamboo construction is also an attractive business area as customers are showing interest in eco-friendly products and the government is also looking for substitutes of timber so that the forest cover is protected. National Mission on Bamboo Applications (NMBA) was set up with a budget outlay of Rs.100 crores in 2004. Its core aim is to promote bamboo based products. Using bamboo for housing purpose is an eco-friendly option. When bamboo is used in houses then the carbon remains locked in the bamboo till the duration of the structure. The lesser the processing, lesser the energy consumption. The use of bamboo parabolic arches as load bearing elements is thus a ‘green’ option for housing, a growing opportunity for green entrepreneurs!
About the author: Smita Chugh is a ‘Doctoral Research Student, Centre for Rural Development and Technology, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi’.
Abhijit and Gaurav, entrepreneurs from premiere institutes – IIM and IIT, are motivated with a cause. Their drive to discover and implement sustainable environment solutions finds its roots in their student years. The promoters have a long background in climate change mitigation programs and campaign. As Gaurav puts it, “I am the founder of Delta Climate – the first campus sustainability program which is an enabling means to convert the IIT campuses sustainable; and Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN) – a nationwide youth network of climate change activists. I have had long term interactions with groups like the Clinton Climate Initiative, 350.org and understood the dynamics of the green market. We have realized a lot of spaces where IT can automate processes and make them more efficient.”
ECPS was founded out of a considerable need gap analysis between the currently existing audit and consulting model which lacks in providing complete solutions to the Energy and Carbon needs of a firm.
The focus of ECPS
Abhijit and Gaurav have identified four key focus sectors, which are critical to solving the energy and climate crisis in the coming decade. These are smart motor systems, intelligent logistics, improved building technology and smarter grids. Talking about the enterprise, they add, “ECPS is strategically positioned to serve the market gap unfilled by the conventional consulting model which is unable to serve the non compliance energy and carbon markets, in particular. We believe that technology has the power to complement what consultants and auditors are doing in this market, in a more efficient and cost effective manner. Also, automating solutions gives us a big competitive edge in terms of scalability and customer loyalty over any on-site model.”
Challenges and hurdles
Just like any other enterprise, these young entrepreneurs have faced and overcome various operational and technical hurdles. In their entrepreneurial venture, the duo has consulted many mentors and guides, so as to make the most of their experience and fresh perspective. Abhijit, 23 and Gaurav, 20 confidently talk about their journey so far, “We are a start-up of students, with work experience in varied fields. We have had to work our way out to run ECPS along with our curriculum at IIT’s and IIM. We have to be very efficient in managing time so as to strike a perfect balance between work and the academics and coordinate well with the system. While building our product we have to be specific about providing high quality custom solutions. To overcome these problems, we have always worked as a team, understood the problem at its core and work towards the solutions in a systematic manner.
For operational issues, we have always been helped by the Entrepreneurship Cell, IIT Bombay and the Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE), IIT Bombay. We have always found our solution by brainstorming and discussion. For technical problems, we always have the luxury to consult our Professors at IIT Bombay and IIM Bangalore. We also are in touch with a network of technical professionals; we work with them on an informal basis.”
USP for the clientele
ECPS offers an out-of-the-box and smart IT solution to fulfill the energy and carbon efficiency needs of the clients. The enterprise mostly has corporate clients who use their software and products on a recurring basis. Gaurav discusses, “ECPS provides solutions which supersede the current offerings in the market. Our USP includes the following:
- Cost cutting potential
- Branding advantages
- Corporate valuation and Investor requirements
- CSR and corporate sustainability
- CDM potential
Our current revenue model of ECPS is based on recurring revenue, based on the services offered to our clients. We operate as a Software-as-a-service (SAAS) model. ECPS would stick to the same revenue model for the next couple of years.”
Message to the youth of India
Gaurav sums up all his lessons and experiments with entrepreneurship quite precisely in his message to the emerging entrepreneurs of India, “I have always believed that one can pursue his/her goals and aspirations with hard and smart work. To all the potential entrepreneurs in India, I would like to say – be sure about what you want to do and how you would do it and once you have made up your mind, hold no bars. The world is yours! It is a very good time to be India – to enable the lives of millions with your enterprise. The future looks very bright to me.”
In an interview with Abhijit and Gaurav, founders of Energy and Climate Productivity Solutions (ECPS), Unnati Narang explores the intricacies of their product based technology firm focused on providing smart IT solutions to the clean technology sector in emerging markets.