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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

BOOK SUMMARY 142 The Other 8 Hours

BOOK SUMMARY 142 The Other 8 Hours

·         Summary written by: John Petrone
"The Other 8 Hours is all about investing your time in activities that pay the highest returns—whether the returns are financial, physical or spiritual. How you invest your other 8 hours determines your happiness and financial success."
- The Other 8 Hours, page 59
Although we don’t realize it, most of our most significant achievements and relationships occur in the 8 hours we’re not working or sleeping. The author calls these the “other 8 hours.”
In The Other 8 Hours: Maximize your Free Time to Create New Wealth and Purpose, Robert Pagliarini asserts that we can take control of these hours to achieve what we want. For some of us, that might be more personal time with our families; for others it could be pursuing a side venture generating an extra income stream.
The author is a financial planner who’s written several books and appeared as a financial expert on numerous television shows. He’s used his other 8 hours to productively build his financial planning practice and distills his wisdom in this highly practical book.

The Golden Egg
Uncover your ideal life
"A meaningful life is what The Other 8 Hours is all about. Since most people don’t get a lot of meaning from sleep or work, our last hope is to find meaning during the other 8 hours. If we can fill some of this time with identifying and reaching our purpose, our lives will be much more satisfying and full."- The Other 8 Hours, page 233
Pagliarini refers to it as finding your pulse and uncovering your ideal life. Get out of survival mode and look forward to thriving. “You need to get clear on what ‘get a life’ means to you, and you need to invest the other 8 hours in activities that enrich you and bring you closer to your ideal.”
Pagliarini offers several ways to help us figure out what our ideal life would look like. He suggests starting out by embracing the gap, which he refers to the divide between where you are and where you want to be. Going through the different areas of your life—family, health, finances, and growth—you can identify gaps in a particular area.
Once you’ve identified gaps, prioritize and set goals for the areas you want to begin work on. He offers suggestions for dealing with setbacks such as anticipating as many roadblocks as you can to prepare yourself for obstacles. Brainstorm solutions before being confronted with them.

Gem #1
Re-gain control of your time
"Reclaiming as much of the other 8 hours as possible is our first goal because without it, we are stuck… The more of the other 8 hours you have, the more you can focus on those pursuits that make your life more fulfilled and get you closer to reaching your goals."- The Other 8 Hours, page 33
In order to maximize the other 8 hours, we need to ensure we have the time and energy to work on the pursuits we want to. Taking control of your time and identifying non-essential tasks is the first step. Pagliarini calls this PERK, which he identifies as Postpone, Eliminate, Reduce or Keep. Are there any unimportant and unsatisfying tasks that can be put off or eliminated to free up your time, such as excessive TV watching?
A related suggestion to PERK is to outsource activities that take a ton of your time and you don’t enjoy doing. This is especially helpful if you have a little extra cash but are short on time. There are numerous companies providing outsourcing services at various price levels.
One unconventional recommendation is something the author calls frictionless reciprocation. He describes this as doing a valuable task for someone without it requiring any additional use of your time. An example would be cooking a meal for a neighbor in exchange for him mowing your lawn. Cooking an extra serving of a meal requires minimal additional effort and is something you planned on doing anyway.
Once you’ve figured out what you want and freed up your time, become a creator.

Gem #2
Become a Creator and Monetize your Passions
"Sometimes you need to do something new and different to succeed."- The Other 8 Hours, page 82
You’ve freed up your other 8 hours and figured out what you would enjoy doing more of. Use that newfound knowledge to start creating a new stream of income.
A creator is someone who produces or develops a side project or venture that brings inspiration to his life. The kind of “excitement you can feel when you are creating something you are passionate about.”
An initial consideration is a cost/benefit analysis. How much effort and money will the side venture require compared to results generated? Given the time constraints, focus on high leverage activities providing the greatest results from the least effort.
In addition, consider your unique talents, skills and experience to “produce the most value”. You don’t want to spend a year learning the business before you see a pay-off. Stick to your circle of competence. The author goes on to list several side gigs including starting a blog, freelancing as well as reselling and affiliating (via Amazon).

The other 8 hours are key to creating change in your life and “if you don’t invest the other 8 hours in the areas of your life that are important to you, those areas will shrivel up and waste away.” 

PERSONAL PROBLEMS SPECIAL .....Problems make you much stronger

Problems make you much stronger

Problems are servants. Problems bring possibilities. They help you grow and lead to better things, both in your organisation and within your life. Inside every problem lies a precious opportunity to improve things. Every challenge is nothing more than a chance to make things better. To avoid them is to avoid growth and progress. To resist them is to decline greatness. Embrace and get the best from the challenges in front of you. And understand that the only people with no problems are dead.
An interpersonal conflict at work can seem like a problem.
But if you think like a leader and use the circumstance to build understanding, promote communication and enrich the relationship, the problem has actually made you better. It has been fodder for your growth and served you nicely. Bless it.
An illness or the loss of a loved one might seem like a problem. Sure it's painful (been there, done that, on the divorce side). But I've been shaped by my saddest experiences. They've brought me depth, compassion and wisdom. They have given me self-awareness. They've made me the man that I am. I wouldn't trade them for the world.
The only people with no problems are dead. Problems reveal genius. World-class organisations have a culture that sees problems as opportunities for improvement. Don’t condemn them — learn from them and embrace them.
World-class human beings turn their wounds into wisdom. They leverage their failures to bring them closer to success. They don't see problems. They see possibilities. And that's what makes them great. Remember, a mistake is only a mistake if you make it twice.
Robin Sharma is author of The Greatness Guide (Jaico)

GADGET GIZMO SPECIAL For Budget Camera Enthusiasts

GADGET GIZMO SPECIAL For Budget Camera Enthusiasts

It's not easy for a new brand to make a mark in the competitive Indian smartphone segment. There are few that make an instant impact with their offerings but many just fade away . itel (the lowercase `i' is intentional) is the latest on the scene and they have started out with three budget Android smartphones. Of the three, the SelfiePro it1511 is the most expensive and is aimed at users who want a good camera without spending too much.

The phone has an 8MP primary camera with dual LED flash. There is a dedicated shutter button on the side which works well and is a rare feature on smartphones these days. We were surprised by the camera performance -focus speed is zippy and the image quality is fantastic (for the price). The photos have good details, rich colours, and minimal noise.They've really spent time on the camera. You get the option of guidelines, a level meter, touch capture, shutter sound, voice capture, gesture shot, smile shot, timer and EIS (electronic image stabilization). The only thing we thought was missing was a professional or manual mode.

As the name suggests, this is a phone that recognises the selfie craze. Even the front camera has an LED flash for better selfies. Even though the front camera is `only' 2MP, daylight images are great. Indoors and in low light we did notice some purple fringing around the edges. With the selfie flash on, the camera manages to capture more detail and most of the time, it manages to take photos good enough for sharing on social media or use as profile pictures.

Hardware is not the best in the price range as you get a quad core processor but with just 1GB RAM and 8GB storage. Even though navigation is zippy, the phone does struggle with games -be prepared for low frame rates and stutters. In normal usage, we noticed that the phone had around 400MB RAM free at any given point -even with over 10 apps running in the background. Battery manages to last from 9 am to 5pm with normal use but charging the phone takes over 4 hours since there is no fast charging support. One good thing about the phone is that it looks more expensive than its asking price. There is a faux leather finish on the rear panel with a slight curve, brushed metal edges and metallic buttons. The 5-inch display with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels has wide viewing angles and excellent brightness. As with most budget phones, the display has thick bezels (they don't look too nice but consider the price again).

Overall, as the first device from itel, the it1511 manages to leave an impression. It scores high on looks, design, display, day-to-day performance, features as well as the camera. The only major quirk we have is the slow battery charging. The biggest hurdle for itel is brand recognition.

SUMMER MANGO SPECIAL..... In mango country...(2)

 In mango country...(2)
...that is India, each community enjoys a variety of unique mango delicacies….. the traditions, tales and recipes of savoury preparations
Prawn and mango curry, Goa
There’s no summer that passes in Goan homes when we don’t look up at mango trees, lush with the raw green fruit threatening to turn into the famed varieties of Monserrate, St Anton and Mankurates that we pluck and transport to the kitchen.
There is a plan in mind. The popular Goan fish curry is now ready to receive its annual benediction of a tang, which is exactly what the raw mango does. The curry paste itself will undergo no change whatsoever, since it is sacrosanct, but to its repertoire there will be gorgeous slices of mangoes, with the juicy seed, floating in equal measure with prawns or shrimps. Or sometimes, like the diva that the mango is, all by itself. Here’s the recipe:
—Amy Fernandes
For curry paste
l 1/2 coconut, scraped
l 1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
l 1/2 tsp haldi
l 5-6 peppercorns
l 6 red Kashmiri or Byadagi chillies, deseeded
l 1/2 inch ginger
l 1 tsp tamarind paste
l 1 tsp raw rice
Grind to fine paste and keep aside
Other ingredients
l 1 cup shrimps (washed, deveined, salt-sprinkled)
l 1 medium-sized raw mango (washed, peeled and sliced
like potato wedges. Retain
the seed)
Heat a tablespoon of oil and throw in some curry leaves and a sliced tomato. Stir till it turns soft and add the curry paste. Fry on slow heat for 3 to 4 minutes, add half a cup of water and salt to taste, and bring to a boil. Now, add the shrimps and cook for a few minutes before adding the mangoes. Once the shrimps and mangoes are cooked, you’re on. Eat with steaming hot rice.
Ras nu jamanwar, Gujarat
Kids sitting cross-legged in a line on the floor, bending forward whilst sucking on succulent mangoes with a dish underneath to prevent messing the clothes or the floor, entails my fondest childhood memories of summer vacations at nani’s house. Despite the precaution, the orange pulp almost always got smeared around our lips, and in my case, when I indulged in keri on rare occasions (I wasn’t very fond of them), it would make its way to my legs, hair, and elbows, giving everyone reason for a good laugh, “You’ve made your whole body eat!” On seeing my lack of enthusiasm when the carton of mangoes would arrive at home and make everyone’s faces light up, my grandfather would tell me, “You’re really not a Bhula. How can you not like mangoes?” But what I looked forward to—and still do—like the rest of the family, was ras nu jamanwar (a special meal that complements aam ras) at our house, and once in the season at nani’s as well. Hours of joyous yet laborious cooking go into preparing ras (made of Pairi keri sans milk or any additions; alphonsos are only eaten cut or in milkshakes), puris or bapdi rotli (a double roti that is opened once it balloons fully, resulting into two thin, almost translucent ones), gunda nu shak (fragrant manjack with stuffing of gram flour, jaggery and masalas), fajeto (mango and curd curry) and rice. Nani’s house would also have tindola-parval nu shaak (ivy gourd and pointed gourd sabzi with masalas and grated coconut) and for farsan, the famous dhokla (hers are with rava, not rice). Gujaratis have ras in many ways: plain, iced, with rice (in place of dal) or like I love it during these meals, breaking a rotli, taking some gunda and lots of the extra stuffing, dipping it into ras (instead of fajeto, as most do) and enjoying the divine melange of flavours. My favourite is ras-dhokla as dinner during the mango season. Here’s how you have it: dip hot dhoklas into the accompanying spicy coriander chutney, then in ras and wolf them down. This season is also the one time when my sister, famous for avoiding dinner at home, checks the refrigerator daily for a bowl, or many, of doodh-keri (milk mixed with hand-mashed mango pulp and floating cubes of alphonso mangoes). Irresistible!
—Pooja Bhula
(Gunda nu shaak)
l 1/2 kg medium-sized unripe gundas (fragrant manjack)
l 11/2 cup gram flour roasted in a tbsp of oil
l 4 tsp dhania powder
l 4 tsp red chilli powder
l 1/4 tsp salt
l 1 cup grated jaggery
Wash the gundas, remove the stalk and hit that spot with a pestle such that it cracks. For each gunda, dip a knife in salt, insert it in the opening, scoop out the seed and remove the glue. Once they are deseeded and glue-free, stuff them with the roasted gram flour (to which masalas, salt and jaggery have been added once it cools after roasting). Keep the extra mixture aside. In a deep pan, add 1.5 tbsp oil and stuffed gundas. Cover with a thali containing some water. Slow cook for 20 minutes. Once they soften, remove the lid and add the remaining flour mix. Toss from time to time and slow cook for about 10 minutes, till the mixture outside is crunchy and almost black. Serve.
Pakke aam ki sabzi, Rajasthan
Every grain of sand in the desert region of Rajasthan seems to hold a story to amaze you. It’s no wonder then that a simple pakke aam ki sabzi, which my Marwari friend, Chitra, recalls her mother making at home since her teenage years, has a fascinating tale too. “We first ate it in Surat, where my uncle had moved; it’s made in every other house there,” she says. Turns out it’s not her family and relatives alone who make it, but many in the Oswal community that she belongs to, as well as others in western Rajasthan. “Rajasthanis got their supply of mangoes from Gujarat, where it is much cherished, as this king of fruits was a favourite corporate gift among traders in medieval times. The similarity between Oswal and Gujarati cuisine is a result of their strong trade relations, which led to inter-marriage and subsequently, cultural mingling,” says Jaipur-based travel consultant and history major, Arun Pratap Singh. Western Rajasthan is greatly influenced by the Oswals, and so, other communities there too prepare aam ki sabzi, albeit in their own way. For instance, while Chitra’s version is a complete vegetable in itself with ripe, spiced alphonso slices, a granny of Singh’s friend in Pali prepares it like a thick pulpy gravy — with the seed thrown in too — to replace dal during the summers. It is eaten with complementing dry vegetables such as bhindi. Care for some?
—Pooja Bhula (Recipe by Chitra Golia Sethia)
l 6 alphonso mangoes
l 6 tsp dhania
l 1 1/2 tsp turmeric
l 2 tsp red chilli powder
l 2 tbsp ghee
l 1-2 tsp sugar
l 4-5 tbsp mango pulp
l Salt to taste
Make vertical slits on the unskinned alphonso mangoes, but not right till the bottom. Fill the masalas in the slits. To a semi-deep pan, add badi elaichi (optional), all the same masalas in the quantity you wish and some mango pulp, sugar and salt. Slow cook a bit and then add the mangoes. Slow cook for another 10-12 minutes till the mango skin softens enough for it to rupture with your finger. Eat with thick chapattis.
Mango, muri, maach & more West Bengal
Summers in Bengal are about the nor’westers blowing petticoats off your clothesline and grandma insisting that you bury your back in Dermicool to avoid those prickly heat rashes. Thankfully, they are also about mangoes—creamy sweet Himsagars, full-bodied Fazlis or the blushing Golapkhash, often accused of immoral attractiveness.
Over the years, Bengali women have managed to involve mangoes at different stages of the meal. They have long figured out how a smattering of raw mango in masoor dal can make the whole family cluck their tongues in sour delight—while at the same time pacifying their nervous Bengali stomachs. When it comes to fish, they turn to mango as well, marrying off the humble mourola maach (mola carplet) to the king of fruits, with a merry borjaatri (groomsmen) of mustard seeds, green chillies and mustard oil. But the most simple, and genius, of inventions is doodh muri aam, literally ‘milk, puffed rice, mango’ that’s soul food for children, old folks and everyone in between. Served in wide bowls that encourage happy, ungraceful swigs of the milk thickened by puffed rice and mashed mango pulp, this feast can be put together faster than a Bengali can rattle off the names of his favourite revolutionaries. Versatility being the fruit’s middle name, doodh muri aam is enjoyed both as breakfast and dessert.
—Sohini Das Gupta
Ingredients (Aam dal)
l 1 cup red masoor dal
l 1 small green mango (raw, sliced boat-like)
l 1 green chilli (slit)
l 11/2 tsp mustard oil; 1/2 - 3/4 tsp mustard seeds
l Salt and sugar to taste
Heat mustard oil, add mustard seeds and the green chilli. Once the seeds crackle, add the mango slices, toss and add dal, salt and sugar (as per the mango’s size and sourness). Once it boils, serve with steamed rice.
Ingredients (Mourola maach er tok)
l 500 gm mourola fish
l 1 green mango (raw, thinly sliced)
l 11/2 tsp mustard oil; 1/2 – 3/4 tsp mustard seeds
l 2-3 green chillies (slit)
l 1/2 cup ripe mango pulp
l Salt and sugar to taste
Marinate fish with some turmeric and salt and fry. Heat mustard oil. Add mustard seeds, let them crackle, then add mango slices, a pinch of turmeric, green chillies, 2 tea cups of water, the fish, salt and sugar (as per size and sourness of mango). Cook a bit. Remove from the gas and drizzle the mango pulp. Serve with steamed rice.
Mambhazham kootan, Kerala
Back in the ‘80s when I was growing up, in the quintessentially south Indian locality of Sion, summers had quite a few unfailing visitors. Out of which the ‘baby mango’ seller was the most prominent because of his unmistakable sales cry. “Vaddumangai!” he would shout in impeccable Tamil, though he was a typical ‘kaka’ with the bright, white dhoti and topi. Vaddumangai is the tender, green, small mango that goes into the making of the typical mango pickle. Summer also meant the Malayali new year Vishu, though with Mumbai as our home, Diwali was far more exciting than Vishu. But Vishu meant that typical Kerala foodstuff would make its way home. Occupying the pride of place was ‘Mooaandam’ mango or Trichur mango, the main ingredient for the famous mambhazham kootan or mango curry. However, only after marriage did I start relishing it. Here’s my mother-in-law’s recipe:
—Sugatha Menon
l 1 kg fully ripe Trichur mangoes (can be replaced with any small, sweet variant)
l 1 cup coconut, freshly grated
l 2 cups sour curd
l 2 tsp jeera
l 3-4 pieces jaggery
l 200 gm vellarikka (red cucumber available at vendors’ selling south Indian vegetables)
l 1 sprig curry leaves
l Salt and spices (red chilli powder, turmeric powder) to taste
Skin the mangoes and cucumber. Deseed the cucumber and chop into medium-sized pieces. Cut mangoes in large pieces, leaving flesh on stone (seed) intact to use in the curry. Put all the chopped pieces in a large pan, add salt and spices, a little water and cook till evenly done. Don’t overcook. Add to it a fine paste of coconut, curd and cumin seeds, as well as some water you would have ideally used to cleanse off the mixie jar in which you made the yummy paste. Adjust seasoning, add jaggery and mix well. Add stalks of curry leaf. Let it all blend well. Switch off the gas.
For the tempering: Heat 2 tbsp coconut oil. When hot, add mustard seeds; once they splutter, add 4 whole red chillies, 1 tsp fenugreek (methi) seeds and 1 stem of curry leaves. Pour this spluttering mix to the curry. Serve with steamed rice and pappadums.

@PoojaBhula DNA 22MAY16

BOOK SUMMARY 141 Talk Lean

BOOK SUMMARY 141 Talk Lean

·         Summary written by: John Petrone
"More modestly, [this book] will give you the courage to say what you think and to ask for what you want and, if what you want is obtainable, it will give you the best chance of obtaining it quickly."
- Talk Lean, page 12
Talk Lean is based on a training approach created by Philippe de Lapoyade, who through his company Interactifs, has taught communication techniques for 25 years to companies all over the globe. The author, Alan Palmer, runs these seminars in Europe and was permissioned by Philippe to produce a written version of the methods presented at the seminars.
Talk Lean: Shorter Meetings. Quicker Results. Better Relations, by Alan Palmer, provides a valuable framework for improving the results you want from your conversations and meetings. The principles and skills Palmer describes are a refreshing antidote to the struggles people experience when planning difficult conversations.
The author provides numerous examples, revealing clearer and more concise ways of getting your point across, including some that would be considered difficult or at least mildly uncomfortable such as asking your boss for a raise. Many of the methods or principles discussed focus on putting the listener in a proper frame of mind to listen and therefore be more receptive to your ideas. Its aim is to increase trust and transparency in all your communications. A good place to start is by figuring out and declaring the purpose of your conversation or meeting.

The Golden Egg
Be clear about your true intentions
"When you announce an objective at the beginning of your meeting, you’re being very clear about what you want to happen at the end of the meeting."- Talk Lean, page 51
It’s surprising how many people plan a meeting or conversation without stating a clear outcome or goal of what they expect to happen at the end of the interaction. This happens because people are either afraid or uncomfortable to say what they’re actually thinking. If you’re thinking of something, say so. It adds value to the relationship and increases confidence in what you say.
When you state your intentions at the beginning, you are being open and candid about what you want. Be direct and open about your intention. This sets the stage for increasing transparency and building trust with the other person (or people).
A valid objective involves “what you want the other person (or people) to do or say or think at the end of the meeting, or what you want the two (or more) of you to have produced together at the end of the meeting.” It must be something that is achievable from all interested parties involved.
 So, you’ve declared what you’d like to achieve from your interaction. Now, how do you increase your odds of getting it?

Gem #1
Personalize your statements
"It’s always more powerful and better for the relationship to personalize the statement, to favor the first person over the second or the third."- Talk Lean, page 127
When people have something difficult to say or are just uncomfortable being direct with someone, they hide behind meaningless impersonal phrases and indirectly try to communicate their point. They bury their true intentions to soften the blow and secretly hope the other person picks up on their subtle hints.
A better and more effective method would be to personalize your message using “I”. Consider the author’s example, “I really want to work with you” versus “We’re hoping we can possibly reach a mutually beneficial agreement.” The first statement is much more powerful and direct. Or instead of saying “We’ll think about it”, perhaps saying “I’m not interested” would work better.
The author also believes that you should “express yourself one idea at a time and then ask the other person what they think of what you’ve just said.” This gives the listener time to actually ponder what was said so you can address any concerns they may have. This increases your credibility and trust with the listener.

Gem #2
Relearn to listen
"Listening, despite appearing deceptively easy, is difficult to do effectively because our emotions distort our view of what was actually said and because we’re already busy analyzing and formulating responses whilst the other person is still speaking."- Talk Lean, page 97
In today’s hyper-connected and information overloaded world, listening is a forgotten and underappreciated skill. We want 30 second sound bites and headline summaries of what’s happening. But how can you adequately address what someone’s concerns are if you don’t invest the time to listen?
Palmer’s suggestion is to take notes by trying to capture the speaker’s exact words. He calls it rigorous listening and asserts that it helps to enhance understanding of what was actually said. Only once you understand what was said, can you adequately respond.
The author also recommends paying attention to body language and gestures used by the person doing the talking. Is it consistent with the message? Palmer believes that “Your body will always unconsciously be providing indications about what you’re really thinking or feeling.” Words combined with gestures increase impact.

I believe that if you consistently apply the skills in this great book, you can improve your communication results. The author offers great practical advice and it’s up to us to put it into practice. 



The opportunity for tech-enabled startups in education is huge -as are the challenges of scalability and viability
In March 2015, Embibe, a company pro viding customised learning solutions, de cided to make what appeared to be a fool hardy move. At a time when startups were racing to squeeze out more revenue from their business, it seemed to head in the opposite direction. After charging `12,000 per user for its online education content, it decided to make its content available for free and instead focus on im proving personalised learning outcomes.
The startup, backed by Kalaari Capital and Lightbox Ventures, eschewed fresh funding and unfettered growth and de cided to strengthen its business by push ing users to pay for better outcomes. In this case, it was via what it called person alised score improvement, by looking at three key parameters: behaviour or com mitment, test-taking skills and knowledge of candidates.

Embibe's founder Aditi Avasthi says the company is using growing capabilities in data analytics to go against conventional wisdom -and entrenched offline and on line competition -and try to recast the focus of the test-prep industry. From a zealous focus on inputs (massified, ge neric content and questions for candi dates), Embibe wants to make more aspir ants successful in tests. “Education tech nology, or edutech, is predominately an inputs-focused business, with little atten tion to the output or end result from using all this technology,“ she says.

Avasthi has led the hiring of senior management from companies such as Flipkart and McKinsey to add muscle to Embibe's new business model and says the firm can provide a 60% improvement on scores in over 10 tests. She points to an IIT-Madras student who used the platform before the Joint Entrance Exam to discover that he wasted precious time on 41 questions he didn't even answer. “We will soon launch a score-improvement guarantee programme for our candidates,“ she boasts. “We are basically selling them morphine.“ Despite her bombast, Avasthi and her peers in this space are quick to admit that it is very difficult to build scale and stickiness in this market. Not only do they have to compete with offline rivals for the attention and money of different pieces of the education ecosystem (students, parents, teachers, schools, government), they also have to deal with a flood of free content that is available online. “There has been little technology disruption in this segment,“ says Vamsi Krishna, cofounder of Vedantu, an online marketplace for tutoring and test prep, funded by Accel Partners and Tiger Global.

Free vs Paid

Convincing those who use free content to pay for value-added material is hard -according to industry estimates barely 2-3% make this switch while the rest elude the grasp of edutech companies. “Unlike other segments, education ventures need time to incubate and organically grow,“ says Shantanu Rooj, cofounder of Schoolguru, a provider of online courses to universities.

Funds are required to grow these businesses, but risk capital investors remain guarded on the prospects of companies in this sector. “Startups need to work hard to build trust as `education' brands,“ says GV Ravishankar, managing director, Sequoia Capital India Advisors. “This will take time. Startups should not expect that the best tech alone is sufficient to win the market. They need to focus on delivering on the promise of better outcomes for students.“

In March, Sequoia led the investment of $75 million in Byjus, an online person alised learning tool started by Byju Raveendran, a former CAT topper who used to run a successful chain of offline tutorial centres, before knuckling down to take his business online. While ventures such as Embibe and Topper (funded by Fidelity Partners, SAIF Partners and Helion Capital) focus on students preparing for tests, Raveendran thinks there's a bigger market to be tapped among students looking to improve their learning through the academic year and beyond.

“Technology is playing a big role in making learning interesting,“ he says. “With the smartphone as the access device, we have more than half of our users from outside the top 10 cities.“ With over 1,20,000 paying students on the app, which was launched in Au gust 2015, Raveendran and his team of 400 technologists, teachers and content developers want to move away from India's traditional focus on rote-learning.

“We want to create a habit of autonomous learning for Indian students,“ he says. Despite these claims, Byjus has not made a huge dent in the market -it plans to have at least 3,00,000 paid users on the app in a year, in a country with over 250 million students in the K-12 system.

Live Classes

Others such as Krishna of Vedantu are betting on the use of technology to disrupt the way teaching and tutorials are delivered. In its attempt to recast this business, Vedantu provides a live tutoring platform for students and teachers (not just trained teachers but anyone -an engineer, a homemaker or a retired senior citizen -who has time to spare) to take a few classes.

Instead of a fixed salary that teachers get in the offline world, the online tutors decide on the hours they work and the syllabus they teach and get wages accordingly. This means teaching can be for as little as 15 minutes or can be booked for an entire semester. Vedantu provides teachers with tools that enable them to create and share content, says Krishna. Users can either buy a monthly package or purchase bulk hours. “We have 300 teachers on Vedantu from over 200 cities and towns in India,“ he says. “We have 35,000 students who have completed over 70,000 hours of live sessions.“ As the model gains more traction, Krishna sees the business growing at 25-30% month-on-month.

When it comes to education, startups aren't just targeting the K-12 herd. As the need for education spreads from preschool to employees who want to be trained and retrained by experienced professionals, companies are devising business ideas to keep pace. For example, Nayi Disha, a developer of educational computer games for preschoolers, was founded by college mates Kartik Aneja and Kushal Bhagia to provide a new medium of motion-based learning for children.

Inspired by the educational CDs that they watched as children, the duo have devised games that are used in over 100 schools today. With early funding from private equity veteran Ajay Relan, among others, Nayi Disha should be in 300 schools in a year, says Aneja, but they have no illusions about the rough road ahead.

“Selling to schools can be quite tricky,“ he admits. “Since multiple stakeholders are involved, it is difficult to evaluate who takes the final decision.“ While Nayi Disha benefited from getting an early customer and product votary in Swati Vats, president of Podar Education Network, the founders have yet to put in the hard yards to convince potential customers, even as they keep a wary eye out on potential competition. “Edutech can quickly turn into a feeding frenzy, because every competitor can devise a me-too product,“ says Aneja.

At the other end of the spectrum, compa nies such as UpGrad and Simplilearn are targeting working executives who want to upgrade their skills.Simplilearn started as a blog before it evolved into a venture to provide mid-career training in new technologies such as big data, cloud, IT security and digital marketing.

The firm, backed by over $27 million from Mayfield Fund, Kalaari Capital and Helion Venture Partners, has trained over 5,00,000 people thus far and expects to train 3,00,0004,00,000 people annually. Uniquely, Simplilearn isn't an India-only business. The firm has studios in the US to build its content and is eyeing expansion both in India and overseas. “We have become a reliable source for working professionals to reskill and upskill themselves,“ says Krishna Kumar, CEO and cofounder, Simplilearn.“There is an opportunity to build a global edu cation platform from India.“

As demand grows, Kumar and Co are tweaking the venture's business model to keep pace. For instance, Simplilearn offers courses in subjects such as big data, where a professional can take a clutch of online courses and get professional certification once she complete the programme. Elsewhere, the type of content is moving from purely self-learning modules to live classes, even as the company goes beyond IT-related courses and adds a few in the fields of sales, finance, human resources and project management to its portfolio.

On the Job

It isn't always easy to zero in on a business plan while building an edutech venture. Just ask Piyush Agarwal, CEO of SuperProfs, a provider of online coaching for competitive exams, especially for government jobs. The company has been through at least five iterations, from trying to capture classes and making the videos available for later viewing at institutes such as IITs (something he saw at Stanford) to developing high-definition content and transmitting it on low-bandwidth network for schools.

Finally, Agarwal decided to target the millions of applicants for government jobs. He estimates that there are about 50 lakh applicants for jobs in Central and state governments. SuperProfs, which has almost 200 teachers in English and Hindi with more being hired in vernacular languages, hopes to make a dent in this market.

“We want to be the online market leader for people preparing for government jobs,“ he says. In doing this, the company, backed by IDG Ventures and Kalaari Capital, is going head-to-head with old-school, offline training institutes, which not only have a larger volume of students but, arguably, a stronger brand. Agarwal, however, is unfazed. “Offline providers don't have the technical know-how to migrate their large businesses online,“ he says.

There are others that want to take a crack at the government jobs market. IIT-Bombay graduate Ashutosh Kumar, who started Testbook three years ago, thinks there is a massive opportunity in this segment but worries that there are no success stories to emulate. “No one has proven that you can make money in the edutech market,“ he admits. “We think graduate students (with better purchasing power) are a more viable target than high schoolers trying their luck with exams such as JEE.“

To this end, Testbook claims to have racked up 5,00,000 users who have solved some five crore questions on the platform. In a sign that offline ventures want a piece of this market, textbook publisher S Chand took a significant stake in the firm, which was backed early on by Shanker Narayanan, a veteran private equity investor, and LetsVenture, a funding platform for startups.

“By the end of this financial year, the number of users should grow from 5 lakh to 14 lakh,“ claims Kumar. Based on a freemium model of allowing limited free access, Testbook converts barely 6-7% of its user base to paid subscribers. Even if this is almost double the industry average, it will be some time before Testbook can become a meaty business.

Lessons for Universities

Away from the consumer side of the market -those writing exams or looking to reskill -some ventures are also helping with the backend of the business and showing strong, if slow, signs of growth. Rooj of Schoolguru, for example, helps universities take their courses online, with a special focus on digitising the paper-based content handed out to distance-learning students.

“Globally, distance education has transformed and we want to help Indian universities keep pace,“ says Rooj. “We provide them with the tech platform, including audio and video content, to make this transformation.“

Schoolguru currently has exclusive tie-ups with 14 universities across 10 states, with several more in the pipeline, according to Rooj.

“We provide instruction in 10 regional languages,“ he says. “Now, we are looking to expand this business. We have signed our first pact in Africa and are being approached by universities in nearby countries too.“ Rooj is thinking big for his business; in five years, he expects five million students to use his platform and expects revenues to touch $250-300 million.

Scope for Improvement

Harman Singh, founder of WizIQ, meanwhile, has built a software platform where students, colleges, universities and test-prep companies can interact. The firm has over 5,000 service providers and about five million students using its platform. The business is expected to double every year from now, according to him.

Two years ago, WizIQ got over 85% of its business from outside India, but in 24 months it should get 40% of its sales from here. “The Indian market is highly fragmented, with not one provider owning more than 2-3% of the market,“ he says. “A platform like this allows you to consolidate these service providers.“

At the end of the day, both investors and entrepreneurs are betting on the long-term potential. Says Ravishankar of Sequoia: “The promise of technology is to make high-quality education available at affordable prices, at scale. This is the promise that investors are backing and hopefully we will see several valuable companies built in the education sector over time.“

Rahul Sachitanand