Connecting with 5.6 Billion – Global South Meet Up

Easter is a fun British holiday. A little like Christmas but a little too close to Christmas in that it always sneaks up on you. So when I agreed to speak on this panel the day after Easter Monday I didn’t factor being full of chocolate eggs and jet lagged from the clocks going back.

My specialist subject as ever was India. As I prep for my time on Mastermind I took the opportunity to talk about it at Global South event which reading the internet I don’t think actually includes India. Oh well.

BITS Pilani TEDx

925_935120493210109_822083995775189572_nBITS Pilani a well established private university in the Rajasthan dessert held a TedX this week and in their wisdom invited me to speak.

I have to say I didn’t really believe the email, when it arrived back in August last year, but I replied anyway and was surprised to get a quick response.

bits2The first challenge was picking a topic. The email said that the theme set was Bread and Butter. Later I learnt that the key sponsor was Amul. As the deadline for a talk theme loomed I was in the depths of writing my first book and after a few weeks of brain freeze I tentatively asked if Work and Happiness was a good topic, I was surprised when I got an incredibly enthusiastic reply.

By the end of year, with the book completed, I was wondering why I hadn’t picked my favorite topic of Humans and Robots.

The car collected me from Jaipur and my guide was a talented well read economist undergraduate who made me question my topic again. This charming ambitious student questions started by asking my views on the current low oil prices. My talk needed to be clever. A chai break, a temple tour and 6 hours of questioning later we arrived. I hurried over the new auditorium to rehearse. I was struck by how much hard work had gone into this event and how well organised the team of undergraduates had undertaken the brief. TED’s and TedX seems to me much more about the ability of organisers to put together a great event and pick an exciting audience.  In this case 40 organisers and 60 ticket holders made up the 100 audience allowance set by the Ted licence. Each one writing a detailed application to be allocated their spot. No pressure then.

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Kavita on stage

In addition TedXPilani 2016 had 4 female speakers out of the 9 who were able to make it in person. This is a far cry from the stats June Cohen a Executive Producer of TED Media in 2013 a workshop says that only about 20% of the short-listed TEDx talks that come to her for consideration on are by women. I really want to change my topic – something more unique.

Life on a campus set in a remote desert is very different to the universities I attended set in big cities where the drinking age was younger than I was at the time. After the event the students with talk of their incredible start up ideas were kind enough to show me around campus while explaining how they had fun. From my perspective they seem to work really hard and for the most part seemed very happy (and maybe didn’t need my talk after all).

As I continued to worry that my talk idea wasn’t unique or terribly deep or globally relevant an audience member approached me and said my talk really connected with him. Finally I realised Tedx is about the local connection whatever the idea.

MyKitaab Podcast

At the end of last year I was interviewed by MyKittab which was published during the Jaipur Literature Festival. For some reason we talked about the TV show Big Brother or Big Boss as it is known in India.

Official Episode Info
Kavita’s journey has taken her to London 2012, a stint in Gurgaon, India, and now into entrepreneurship, where she runs her startup What’sMySize. Her book, Kabhie Khushi Kabhi Kham, is about working in India. In this episode, Kavita discusses the motivation behind her book, how she chose the title, cover design, and we talk about finding a printer in India and getting ISBN. When she is not writing, she is a speaker at forums such as TedEx, and she is a filmmaker. You can get the links and the resources mentioned in this podcast episode at

Starting Up The Lean Way – Grace Hopper Bangalore 2015

At Grace Hopper Bangalore India 2015 this week I was part of a fun session that offered speed mentoring for lean start ups. It was part of the entrepreneurship track designed for business owners, employees and those considering to start their own venture.

Tathagat hosted the session which focused on the following case study with us the panelists:

  • Mythily Ramesh talked about how she transitioned from the corporate world in Wipro to the start up world and her incredibly interesting social enterprise NextWealth which helps rural Indian university towns develop a sillicon economy based on cheaper off-shoring. Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 10.23.40 am
  • Zainab Bawa CEO of HasGeek Media talked about building a developer ecosystem in India by organising communities and helping developers hone and consolidate their talent through highly selective speaking engagements.
  • And finally I talked about how raising funding has caused What’sMySize to pivot its business model dramatically over the years. Focusing on how my relationship with board has adapted and changed.

After which we broke out into groups and discussed specific questions from entrepreneurs right here in India.  I loved some of the great new economy ideas being discussed. I was particularly excited by the medication distribution for near to expiring product as well as the  dhobiwala (or laundrette) app.

I heard two things consistently in my groups which I am now thinking about;

  • “My husband has started this business and now I want to make it successful, how do I …. ?”
  • “How do I break into international markets while based in India?”

Elsewhere at this incredible technology focused conference attended by 2.5K people mainly women I was really impressed by talks on Indian farming and Skype translations services.

image002This conference beats SXSW hands down because it infuses real technology talks with the usual marketing and futurology one expects. What makes it unique is how many of the strands were focused on supporting women into the highest rung of an organisation and how many go-getting students I met. Loved it and the people around me loved the gifts (selfi sticks, bluetooth speakers, bags, headphones, GOQiii band to name but a few).

See you all in 2016 !

Choosing a Book Self Publishing Partner

I have decided to self publish my book starting with the Indian market. My main reason is that I want the control to manage the book into launch. Also time is important but traditional publisher such as Harper Collins suggest that it would take at least five to six months for your manuscript to be considered. I just don’t want to wait that long.

Deepak helpfully broke down the Publishing Process as follows ; Continue reading “Choosing a Book Self Publishing Partner”

The Indian Startup Show Ep11 By Neil Patel

This week I was interviewed by the very nice Neil Patel for his podcast The Indian Startup Show the number one podcast of its kind in India. Its the first time I have talked about my new book in detail and I am a little surprised so much of my research has stuck. Neil also did his research well and asked me my views on Indian Sports, Women in Tech and this blog. Have a listen and let me know what you think.

If you have a moment sign up for the book and check out Neil’s other podcasts.

Today I am joined by Kavita Kapoor (@kavitakapoor) who is the author of a new book called Kabhi Kushi Kabhie Kaam. The book is based on her first hand experience across India. The book helps young professionals answer their questions and navigate the dynamic ever changing work space. So if you are struggling with what to do next in your life , then please listen. We talk about a wide range of subjects from her experiences of leadership and mentorships , what makes a good boss, what happens if your boss is not very good , her side projects , blogging, entrepreneurship to women in tech. Enjoy the show.

The India Work Survey

Can you help me out by filling out this survey for my new book ? I would really appreciate it

Don’t Let Aunt Anu Ruin your Life

bookAll aunties are gossipy kitty party attendees and twenty somethings are all bar-hopping. Certainly not the Indian stereotypes that new yorkers have been asking me about this week. It is however the protagonists in the book  How I Braved Anu Aunty and Co-Founded A Million Dollar Company.

I stumbled over this self-help management book researching my own bookVarun Agarwal autobiography is a pulp-fiction novel. Chetan Bhagan light if you like. It’s a page turner I wanted to know if Varun got the girl, gets the deal and if he ever braves Any Aunty directly.

In it all I wanted to know if Varun learnt to take risks and follow through on his plans.

Varun and his friend start an online clothing brand. His target audience is his Bangalore school alumni. Perhaps a good reflection of how copying America either in culture or business model is a safe bet in today’s India. This book is as good as any on understanding the nuisances of logistics, delivery, warehousing and brand marketing involved in such a venture specific to India. Varun skill is to explain the stress, the ups and downs and yet still make it compelling. Reading Varun’s book, one is genuinely inspired to follow in his footsteps.

It’s is a fun read. To make it work everyone is characterised with a broad brush we all Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 4.58.48 pmknow a Guju Boy and an Aunt Anu. An Aunt so competitive that she controls your life. The problem with these stereotypes is that women are completely undermined throughout the book. Sexist if you will. Although clearly some women have the power, it’s up to Varun to wrestle it away from them.

And then, there is the boyish writing with its lavish use of swear words and the SMS lingo” The Times of India

If you are inspired to go into business this is a great book. If you are a women and want to date an boy entrepreneur let this book be a warning. Either way its every insightful and really helpful for my less sweary book.

Why Hinglish is the most powerful programming language you can learn

“Ban everyone from speaking hindi in the office”, was the sweeping advice I was given by a fellow Brit upon moving to Delhi. We were both leading large Gurgoan based teams for London headquartered companies and were discussing how hard it was to order a sugar free tea…

IMG_1343.JPGAs a developer you might learn a few programming languages before specialising in one at work. As a British programmer you might find yourself swapping the union jack for a white flag while you diligently take the u out of colour in your css, but spare a thought for our co-workers in South Asia or Ukraine or Indonesia or anywhere you have outsourced you latest coding project. Who’s English are we using to code in anyway ?

The “ugly american programmer” would say its his English. His name is Jeff Atwood and he created Stack Exchange. Atwood says its simple pragmatism for us to use English as the de-facto standard language. Is he right ? Or will it actually be Engrish or Chinglish ? I however, conscious that India will soon have more developers than USA am willing to place a bet on Hinglish.
Continue reading “Why Hinglish is the most powerful programming language you can learn”

Ensuring that your Companies Glamorous Away Day in Goa Sucks

Ross and Russ
Fifty – Prague 2014

One of the most exciting things about working at Fifty is meeting up with our international diaspora once a quarter. Our most recent meet-up was in Prague, the next is in Barcelona. Reykjavik is the one after. Obviously we are choosing fun, not sucky cities. Its easy, as that is where our team have chosen to live. Ok not Reykjavik, that really is picked for fun.

Functional away days can be incredible, none more so than the ones I have experienced at London 2012. We have learnt to sing, dragon boat race and walked over the Millennium Dome looking like super heroes in blue jump suits. They stick in my memory more than the Games themselves. Sadly one had Boris Johnson banging on about being the murder capital of the world, so even the best organisation can get it wrong.

Yet, Boris was not as jaw dropping or sucky as the off-site that I attended in Goa.

Here is a summary of what I learnt on how to royally screw up.

Subdiffusion: “Tell nobody what is happening”

No one was formally told about this away day. Unless you count office gossip. The one formal email explaining the travel arrangements was sent the night before by the office manager. None of the leadership team explained the plan or issued an agenda. This was a great way to create a sucky start to the experience and let rumours fly. It was only when I saw people from the office at Nizamudean train station did I actually think I might make it to Goa.

Continue reading “Ensuring that your Companies Glamorous Away Day in Goa Sucks”

HTML 5 and CSS3 Tic Tac Toe

My Head of Creative Technology was visiting our Delhi team from Singapore last week and upon touching back down at Regional HQ set us the Challenge of creating a Tic Tac Toe game with nothing but HTML 5 and CSS3

So naturally I googled and got this


In the second post Rodrigo had decided to see how fast he can code a tic-tac-toe game. Crazy but it spurred me on. Its close to 43 degrees in Delhi and rising so while I am trapped in air-conditioning lets go…

I barely remember how to create a new file on my Mac with a html extension and then remembered the TextEdit can do that and very proudly I drop a file next to my Xamp folder which weirdly is the entire contents of my document drive at home. I start working my way through FromTheSprawl post and hit my first new thing. Its a nifty tag creating dynamic pallets using JavaScript. Immediately I think I am on the wrong lines but I double check the challenge, Javascript isn’t out.

But the tutorial is still going to fast for me. So lets break it down. I have single box canvas and when I hit on it I want it to do something. Anything.

function canvasClicked(canvasNumber){alert("hello world!"); }

Ok so now lets display something in the Canvas. Putting X ontop. Wait in the post the guys are drawing their X, W3C has an example that displays words.
So combining the two we get.

function canvasClicked(canvasNumber){ var c = document.getElementById("canvas1"); var ctx = c.getContext("2d"); ctx.font = "30px Arial"; ctx.fillText("X",10,50); alert("hello world!"); }
// ]]


So I got a call and went out eat sushi, soaked in the swimming pool. I came back and added all the squares for the game. Just in case you thought life in Delhi was dull.

Kavita Kapoor’s amazing Tic Tac Toe game

Anyway taking out the alert box seems to break the whole thing but I shall ignore this and move onto creating the game logic. When I finally come back to this I am not sure if the computer is going to play or two humans. For now, it was straight forward task to create a variable which tracked if it was X or O turn.

At that point I played my game against myself repeatedly till bedtime and slept happy.

Just a training session ? Run, Hike, Bike and Ski the Himalayas

Its half way through 2013 and I now live closer to the Himalayas than at any point in my life. Yet for 6 months I have only seen my offices or my front room. To inspire me to see more of these gorgeous Mountains I came up with a 6 month plan to Run, Hike, Bike and Ski the Himalayas .

I started the journey, or so I thought, by booking a cheap flight to Katmandu and finding a great deal at Dwarika Hotel. Super excited this has been a country I have wanted to visit since I heard they raced headless chickens.

The first thing that I noticed about Katmandu. It is cold. A good 10 degrees colder than Delhi where I had been training. And training for this challenge, in the 35 degree heat has not been easy. My 6 weeks of training previous to Nepal has been done on dusty Delhi streets and the grime causes my skin to react to the sweat and heat. Giving me almost permanent heat rash. A big Andy Murray fan I use the clearly very Scottish method of having ice bath after each run which makes me feel like a proper athlete.

Thankfully in Nepal my body adjusted quickly to the new temperature and I set aside the stash of steroid creams. Obviously now that I am a proper athlete I need to follow Armstrong role model and clearly illegal  creams are the secret edge. Obviously I don’t tell the sponsors.

Milan arrived promptly for Stage 1 of my challenge. A bike ride. He flinched when I pointed out I had never been Mountain Biking on a mountain before. His fear soon passed when I raced past him in Katmandu’s traffic. Sunday in Katmandu on a mountain bike is a lot nicer than a week day in London on a Boris Bikes.

Once we left the city the views were incredible, my biking technique was not. Not steady or consistent I needed to unlearn every ounce of biking habits I had and start again with a smooth steady. Milan was a gentleman about me walking up Screen Shot 2015-07-11 at 1.04.16 pmhill but he did laugh when I fell in the mud.

Rushing down mountains we found tribes of women dressed ready for marriage and no men. One of most unique festival I have encountered.

In Feb I avoided the avalanches and skied Gulmarg and fell deep into powder. In March we white water rafted above Rishikesh and scrambled the mountain face. In Dharamshala I managed a trek and a run. In Tosh I fell three times on a hike. At Leh I did another bike ride and in Pangong lake I look a freezing dip.

A massive thank you to all my sponsors and to Duncan for my free Osteopath session.


Times of India Competition

The team I lead in Delhi are rather an incredible bunch of hard working individuals. I am massively luckily to be hanging out with them. It was brought home to me this week when I got a call from Muskan. She has only gone and got herself short listed for for the Times of India competition being run by AFAQs.

Times of India are one of those brands like the Guardian or the New York Times that has been around a long time and gives a country it’s distinct identity, one of its many conversation starters. Thus I am very excited for her.

One of 10 teams chosen from over 120 applicants, the iris team consists of Muskan and Anadi. Both locked in a guest house in Delhi for the duration of the competition. On the morning of July 14th the teams were given a digital marketing brief to work on. For the next 24 hours; they are cut off from the world, with nothing but their creative and strategic skills to come up with an exciting solution to the brief. Mid afternoon of the 15th July our amazing team will present their solutions to a jury and a client. If that isn’t daunting enough the winner stands to win Rs. 100,000 and the digital duties for the Times of India Lead India Programme.

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Asian Start-ups The future is now – sxsw

Day 4, decided to multitask by wandering around sxsw Trade Show. There was a moment after rows and rows and rows of stands we hit the Asian aisle and I was hit by a wave of excitement.

Here was Japan’s neurowear launching their new product “micro”. Music inspiration from the sub conscious. Sounds futuristic to me but looks like a silent disco. Lovely people wearing headgear making various funny facial movements.

Continue reading “Asian Start-ups The future is now – sxsw”

iris Worldwide appoints Kavita Kapoor as Regional Digital Director of Operations

In January of this year I deScreen Shot 2015-10-13 at 5.24.46 pmcided to take a role at iris Worlwide, looking after their Indian digital team. I am sure I shall talk lots of about it in this blog but for now this is what the local press had to say ; Shot 2015-10-13 at 5.25.36 pm