Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Did I make a few wrong choices?

I bet this is one question that most of us have asked ourselves. Some more often than the others. This question, especially pops up when we are going through a life crisis of varying degree.

“What if I had not quit that job in the leading software company?”

After specialising in technology PR for a few years, I got a break at one of India’s leading IT outsourcing and consulting firms. I quit quite suddenly because of a particularly nasty manager. The job itself was very cushy with flexi-timing, young team, great technology infrastructure, you name it. But you know what they say, “you don’t leave companies, you leave bad managers”. I left it to get back into “agency life”.

If I had not left it I would have not been working with a global communications agency that was setting up in India. I would not have gained international exposure. I would not have got a chance to work with colleagues of different nationalities or travel to other countries. I would not have got an opportunity to set up an office in a new city and build a business from scratch. I would not have met bosses and colleagues that set high standards of what is a great place to work. I would not have been nominated for one of PR’s most prestigious awards.

I would have also not have been laid off due to recession that hit the US and had ramifications in India.

So I could think of the one bad thing that ruined it all or a million great ones that really enriched me as a human being.

We tend to put a lot of focus on our jobs and careers as mark of success. To me success is having great friendships that you will cherish for life. Success is having a loving wife and a beautiful son. Success is having time for your family and being able to live a life where you have happy smiling faces all around you.

Of course, all this could have also happened if I had not left that “cushy job”. A lot would have changed as well. For example, I might have not met my wife if I might have made a different choice. I wouldn’t have left India for Dubai. My son wouldn’t have been born.
We can think of a thousand such examples of where we went wrong. But everything that resulted out of that decision could not have been bad. In fact, there would be some incredible things that happens later as a result.

So did I make a few wrong choices? Maybe.

Given a chance would I change anything? Never!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Knock, knock! Who’s there?

Yesterday was Neil Nitin Mukesh’s happy birthday. Out of nowhere Twitter went crazy with jokes about Neil Nitin Mukesh.

“Neil Nitin Mukesh calls his biceps, six pack”

“Neil Nitin Mukesh once won a race, he got gold, silver and bronze”

“Gutthi can do a complete 5 min intro joke sequence with Neil Nitin Mukesh. ‘Nitin-Neil, Neil-Nitin, Neil-Mukesh....”

In fact, the man of the hour himself tweets saying the best joke came from his father “three cheers to NEIL NITIN MUKESH”

The world has found a new pastime after making jokes about Alok Nath and Arvind Kejriwal about their sanskaaripan and honesty.

I must admit that all these creative jokes made me jealous about the fact that I couldn’t come up with even one joke. I mean, think about the creative genius who came up with – “Alok Nath is so sanskaari that he removes his chappals before playing Temple Run.”

These trends can rarely or never be orchestrated. These are things that catch people’s fancy and then spread like wild fire. I mean, there have been people more sanskaari than Alok Nath (I would presume). But his character in ‘Kanyadaan’ really put him in the limelight. Of course the fact that he has only played a sanskaari father in almost all his movies helped, I guess.

But are these jokes just jokes or are they part of a brand building exercise? Many brands over the years have run Twitter contests where a particular hashtag is promoted. Tweets about the contest is promoted and the brand managers pray really hard that the audience laps it up. More often than not they do lap it up.

What if brands were to jump on to an already trending topic? What would those jokes be like?

Colgate would say
“Alok Nath is so sankaari that he uses Ganga jal with Colgate toothpaste”

Honda Activa may post
“Alok Nath is so sankaari that he has to break a coconut everytime he takes his Honda Activa for a spin”
“Neil Nitin Mukesh was caught riding triple seat on a Honda Activa”


Tell me your thoughts.

Friday, January 10, 2014

‘High on life’ or ‘high in life’?

It was the spring of 2007. I hate to celebrate holi mainly because it gets messy. But when my friend suggested that we should have something that will show us a good time I was tempted to at least try. A good time around holi, other than mutilating each other’s faces with colour, means only one thing - getting high! I know I cannot endorse it on a public blog since this might be read by under aged children or even worse, the moral police and the worst of all, my mother. So in the spirit of keeping everyone protected, I’m going to call the substance ‘white candy’.

Kids, the thing about white candy you should always remember is that ‘you should never touch it’, ever. If you are hell bend on trying it (I mean, obviously you want to do it since you are just told not), you should know everything about it. So read on.

I have never had white candy before. Neither have the two idiotic friends of mine. We decided to take three candies in milk since we were three of us. Kids, this was our first mistake.

Two of us had two glasses of this milk and one had only half because she didn’t like milk. That was a wise decision. Nothing happened. We looked at each other wondering, ‘what was all the hullaballoo about white candy that people keep talking about?’ We left my house to have lunch at a restaurant nearby. Those were mistakes number two and three.

As we sat at the restaurant musing about how hopelessly uneventful the day has been I noticed something very peculiar. The restaurant was empty. We had just placed our order. We were waiting for the food to arrive, when suddenly the furniture started to move.

‘Hey, the benches are coming closer to me,’ I shouted.

My friend who had half a glass of milk started to laugh incessantly.

I wanted to laugh too. There was only one thing we all knew about this evil white candy. If you start to laugh you cannot stop. I began to get anxious because I had two glasses, how hard will I start laughing and for how long?

It was hard to stop this madness now. I used all the will power I could muster to stop laughing. That is when it hit me. Depression!

At this time I am thinking that laughter was a better alternative than feeling terminally sad.

I dialled up one of my trusted friends who may know a thing or two about the blasted white candy. Well his credentials are that he grew up in Mumbai. That definitely puts him in a better position than someone who grew up in a small town in Karnataka.

After listening to what happened he said, ‘don’t worry man. You can easily have up to two white candies. You guys are totally fine.’

Totally fine? ‘We had three,’ I thought. It’s officially time to panic.

Our hearts were racing to the extent that we thought it would tear off from our bodies and run on the streets. We could feel the two parts of our brains working clearly against each other.

When we reached back home, my roommate gave me the ‘not again’ look. In my defence, I’ve never had white candy before. However, I may have stumbled into my room with the ‘where the f*** am I?’ look more than once.

My roommate is from Patna. That makes him an expert on everything legal and illegal. So I could really count on him to take the white candy out of our system.

The anti-dote to this horrible product is tamarind water. The three of us gulped down almost three litres of paani puri ka paani from the nearby vendor and passed out for the next 20 hours.

If you think that this is the end of the story you are wrong. The story continues for another 48 hours where I am walking like the living dead. This might not be the ultimate hangover but I have had it with any hangover to do with white candies.

I’ve never had the notorious white candy again. But I’m happy that I have a great story to tell.

Many of my friends have stories to tell about the white candy too. One, had his hand in the air for two hours trying to catch the moon. True story. Another climbed a tree thinking he was a cat. Someone else was running around a table for half an hour. The thing about white candy is that you vividly remember each stupid act that you do. So in effect knowing the truth is punishment enough for taking it.

Written in public interest.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Building my personal brand

The concept of creating a brand out of you is not new in this internet savvy age. Actually people have always strived to create a niche and work hard to create an impression – first or lasting. Like everything else today, personal brand has also found a platform for amplification.

After working in public relations for nine years I have decided to build a brand of me. So here I begin…

1.       What is the brand?
Communications specialist with creative bent of mind. The problem with creativity is that it is very subjective. We have had flashy clothes being sold at fashion street and Dharavi. The staple fashion for the ‘massy’ Bollywood buff. The so called elite would cringe at these clothes. Last year however, neon was the ‘in’ colour in the fashion circles. Now the same elite wear ‘flashy’ expensive clothes. Reebok and Nike came out with neon shoes. Who thought of these outside the box ideas? Or was it already in the box waiting to be discovered in new light?

There is probably nothing new that I can come up with as a creative communication specialist but implementing ideas in a way that gets noticed is perhaps something any communications professional can, should and probably is bound to do.

2.       What is the differentiator and the message?
Anyone with a laptop is today a writer. Yes, no one owns pen and paper anymore. Even if they do it would be to create a to-do list, which may be stuck on the refrigerator door. Anyone with a voice is a communicator. There are a million ideas online on how the communication landscape is changing, people are increasingly consuming content online and organisations are drowned with ‘big data’ – a mine of information about consumers, their preferences, behaviour which will help companies to better their products and services. So what is my differentiator?

The key to being successful in any field is to foresee the future. What is going to be the next big thing in your industry and what is your point of view on it? I foresee convergence. It is not so much a foresight as much as it is today’s reality. However, with the power that each individual has today to do a myriad of activities that were once specialised, the future lies in being jack of all trades.

3.       Who are the competitors?
There are 7.1 billion people in the world. 39% of them are using the internet. However, everyone can create a space of his/ her own. The most important thing it to be heard, seen and be searchable.

4.       Implementation
Here’s where I start getting generic. Remember that creating an online brand is not rocket science. You have all the tools that help you showcase your talent – Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Youtube, Blogger.com. It is more easier than ever to own a domain with your name. I would have loved to own www.rishar.com but a jeweller in Florida already owns it. But since no one in India seems to own the name, I’ve immediately blocked www.rishar.in

5.       Points to remember
Be true to yourself. Internet is a public place. If you won’t say something aloud in a crowded place, you probably don’t want to say that on the net either.

Phew! That is enough for the day. As I move forward I’ll share more tips. Stay tuned for more stories from my life.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Diwali downloaded!

We all grew up celebrating the festival of light with fireworks, oil baths and visiting friends and relatives etc. Most of us may not have noticed how our Parents and Grandparents performed puja of Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesh, and other deities. So when a bunch of youngsters come together to celebrate Diwali in the ‘traditional’ way, we turn to the only source of information that we know of – The Internet.

So the new age Diwali Puja goes something like this.
Step #1: Google Diwali Puja customs and purchase required items
Step #2: Download Ganesh Aarti and Lakshmi Pooja Aarti
Step #3: Perform the Pooja as per downloaded instructions, play the bhajans and then make a wish.
Step #4: Set up the table for gambling and drinks, and hope your wish comes true tonight.

It is true that we turn to www for all of life’s problems. Think about it. Even before your family doctor comes to know about that weird wart that is growing on your hand, you start searching about it on the Internet. If you are planning that trip to Honk Kong, you go to Makemytrip.com before contacting your travel agent. Your banker, accountant, neighborhood box office, shopping mall, telephone, television, everything is on the Net. If you feel down you turn to the Net to cheer you up with some jokes. If you feel lonely, you turn to Facebook.com to catch up with Friends. If you feel like celebrating you download your favorite songs and look for party ideas. The Net knows all and is present everywhere.

The last I checked, we knew the Omnipotent and Omnipresent as Him. The One! The Almighty. So is the Internet the new God?

Logically, one could get to this conclusion. God lives within all of us. This means, He is a part of every individual. A collective unit of humanity, if you may. Guess what the Internet is.
So will the Internet replace God as we know Him or Her? That’s unlikely, I guess. Sometimes, it takes a little more than knowledge to pull us through this world. We call that faith!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The big splash!

The bride was picked up with her trail sweeping the beach sand. The celebration was unmistaken by people around, as firecrackers light up the dark Goan sky. Even the police turn a blind eye to the bridal troupe on the beach. This was a celebration like no other. As friends of the bride and the groom take shots of Vodka and Scotch and wash them down with Beers, the bride was dropped into the sea.

Big Splash! Time: 1.00 am

The celebration has peaked with high spirits all around in the air. It was time to call it a night. All the bride’s maids and all the groom’s men, and the rest of the gang pack in MUVs to go home, where the party continues. And the bride and groom zoom away to have their own little party.

17 hours before the big splash!

The bride calls me to deliver the bride’s maid to get dressed. I was the official chaperone to pick up the guests who decided to land for the wedding in the last minute. Between the errands, an agitated bride decides to share the stress with me. I don’t blame her. It’s her big day and everything had to go perfectly. It was going to be a long day, so everyone better have slept well.

27 hours before the big splash!

We are somewhere in North Goa. Need to go back home to take some rest before I start my errands of picking up the last minute guests for the wedding. But how can you resist all the fun and dance and booze of North Goa, especially, when you are visiting the city only for a few days. We decide to stay on for a couple of hours more. It turned out to be more than a couple of hours.

48 hours before the big splash!

I am apologizing to a stranger. “I am playing pool after 7 years,” I said. I must have repeating this twenty five times, while playing miserably. It is difficult to take aim when you are totally buzzed and you are seeing more than one striker ball. As expected we lost the game.

There was a firang dancer, gyrating to Kajra Re, and later doing a belly dancing number. All friends joking around, partying, playing truth or dare with the bride-to-be. Later in the evening everyone hit the beach. No, not swimming but spoiling our shoes and good clothes. This is the best bachelorette party ever!

52 hours before the big splash!

We just reached ‘Boomerang’, the venue for the bachelorette party. The bride is looking pretty wearing a small white veil. There were 15 guests, most of who met only earlier in the day. We sit around the table. No one has a clue how to spend the rest of the evening. The only thing everyone was sure to expect is lot of alcohol. This party may get boring soon.

9 hours before the big splash!

All the bride’s maids were sitting on the first row of the church of the left. All the groom’s men sat on the right hand side. Some of us were in these roles for the first time. Some of us were attending a Christian wedding for the first time. Thankfully, we had a booklet with the details of the ceremony. The stupidity on our part was that we kept reading the booklet rather than look up at the actual ceremony. I had not slept for 30 hours, and will not be sleeping to the next 12 hours. The priest asks, “Do you take this man to be…?” Thankfully, my only job was to just sit among the groomsmen, fighting to stay awake. Everything else was going as planned.

31 hours before the big splash!

“There’s a change of one of the bride’s maid.”

“What? One day before the wedding?”

No time to ask rhetoric questions. We are on our way to the shopping complex in Panaji to buy a dress for the new bridesmaid. Nothing goes as planned.

It is amazing how very few clothes there are in a single shade of bluish grey. We don’t find the right fit. So the new bridesmaid settles for something less than perfect. Nothing done last minute can be perfect.

27 hours before the big splash!

Somewhere in North Goa, while we were partying by the beach, the new bridesmaid found the perfect dress in a nearby store. Things can fit perfectly when you least expect it. Need to head back home to get some sleep. Well that was not to be.

12 hours before the big splash!

The bride and the bridesmaids are all ready for the wedding ceremony. Of course, there has to be a good photo-shoot before you start with the traditional events. The single most important instruction for the bridesmaids was to mind the grand trail of the bridal dress. This should not get messed up.

Only twelve hours later, it will find its way to the sand and sea of Goa.

Bonita and Joseph, have a great married life ahead!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Work, War and Weddings!

It has been almost three years since my last update. Life in Mumbai has been revolving around only three things – work, war and weddings. Let me start with the weddings first. Thirty is a fantastic age to be at. Your friend circle is a mixture of single people in their twenties flashing technology in your face, partying till the break of dawn and living an almost carefree life; and then there are the 30+, with their spouse and kids, still flashing technology in your face. But the socializing scene is different. At these events you are sober even after downing a bottle of vodka. You cook your dinner and not order รก la carte. You play board games, home karaoke or just watch re-runs of Comedy Circus.

In the middle of this transition is a wedding.

In the Indian society, a man and a woman better be married by 30 and have kids. This used to be a well oiled machinery till a few years back, before the cable TV made the youth think and have opinions. Knowledge can really be a two edged sword. While on one hand you use your intelligence to do the right thing, on the other you start thinking too much that you lose focus and border on obsession about right and wrong. The problem starts when everyone thinks that they are right and the other person is wrong. So you have a generation of leaders and philosophers but no followers. The social network and online media is not doing anything to help that either.

At the center of weddings is love. I may feel a bitter churn in my stomach to even write that word, I may be cynical, but, I’m not going to be apologetic about it. Love is an obsession, passion and something that’s always on your mind. My love so far has been my work. I’m also married to my work, considering that I always have work on my mind. I’m sure this is the case with most youngsters today. Even if one refuses to admit it – work is the center of every human being today. One works to support his physical and emotional needs. So when someone says that family comes first, I cannot help but wonder that it is actually the job that helps him keep the family happy. So you better start loving your job and start looking for the job that you are really comfortable, compatible and confident with. I believe that one has to be as careful about choosing a job as much as one would choose a life partner. Changing jobs may be easier than getting a divorce but the emotional shift that one goes through would be the same – sorrow of separation and excitement of getting on to something new.

So as you can see both work and weddings are interconnected by love.

Finally, challenging the joy of the two most important things in the life of 25-35 year olds is the conflict that arises in weddings and work – war. Mind is the greatest battle field. This is where most of the battle is fought. More dangerous than any nuclear or biological warfare are the mind wars. Unfortunately there are no clear good or evil sides here. Like I said before, everyone has an opinion today and is quite passionate about it too. This stems from our deep desire to be adventurous. The adventure to do more, see more and feel more!

Morpheus tells to Neo in Matrix, “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.” Would you rather take the blue pill or the red?