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The Dhandhekibaat Collection (1)

I’ve been writing my signature #dhandhekibaat blogs for a while now, and many of them have resonated very well with readers (views, likes, dislikes, comments). Here is a collection of some those posts so that you can read them in one place and hopefully benefit from them!

Greatness lies in the ability to connect..

An (ex) good friend of mine told me an amazing story. She was Gujarati & came from a wealthy industrialist family. She worked in her dad’s business as did her siblings. Her mom was the quintessential home maker – taking care of the kids, entertaining friends & family. She was an ace!

When my friend’s family would go out for dinners, her mom would mingle with other women guests. Discussions would be centered on food, kids, family; never business or trade.

One day, at a diplomatic dinner, my friend was amazed to find her mom chatting with an elderly white gentlemen. They kept laughing & she seem riveted in her discussions. The invitees were high profile & my friend just couldn’t fathom who this person was?

On inquiring, my friend was STUNNED. The man was a Nobel Prize nominee in Chemistry & one of the most respected professors of a US University. He was visiting India & hence at the party.

When my friend asked her mom what they spoke about, she couldn’t recall. She just said, “He was a funny man”.

I learnt that greatness comes when you can connect to ANY & EVERYONE despite your wisdom & stature. Most mental fences we build come from ego & vanity. Break them fast & see yourself scale.

Win your battle before fighting it.

Yrs ago, an office of our Quality Team came up for renewal. For some reason, the landlord asked for an obscene hike in the rent. It made no sense to demand that % increase. My CFO explained to him that in yrs of business, we had always agreed to % increases, but this demand was unjustified. He did not budge.

I summoned my partner of 17 yrs Dinesh Gopalakrishnan & told him, “Dinu, I’m NOT going to pay this. You need to plan & fit the QC people in the existing 2 offices.” Dinu gulped. We both knew it was impossible. Then I said, “Dinu, break down the conference rooms, the reception, the bathrooms…Get those folks in.” He GOT the message & 6 hrs later showed me a plan. He had made very clever adjustments & planned the seating for the folks.

I called my CFO to tell the landlord we were vacating. Now, if he wanted to renew, I suggested a LOWER rate than the previous % we had offered. A week later, he meekly agreed & renewed for 3 years.

This is a lesson about self imposed psychology. You need to KNOW you will WIN before you battle. Then when you go out, you WILL succeed.

Reinforce yourself with a CAN DO; WILL DO spirit. The world & its players will play their part to help you; not resist you.

Lessons from MTV Dropout Season 1


1. No one is a “born” entrepreneur. It’s only personal drive, commitment and passion that makes you one.

2. The higher you set the bar, the higher people rise. People are taller than the challenges they face.

3. Entrepreneurship is NOT about Business alone. It’s about making something from nothing. And that is the role of God.

4. Entrepreneurs are the torch bearers of change. They light up the world they touch and travel through.

5. There are many prisons we carry with us : our minds, our attitudes, our upbringing, our hopes. Entrepreneurship sets us FREE from all of them.

Thank you God and Guru for the highest form of blessing.

How Frugal (Kanjoos) are you?

I was a teen when I read the epic story of American Airways CEO Bob Crandall who figured that if the airline removed 1 extra olive from the first class salad, it would save 40K US$ year. What stunned me was the story on his inquiry on security guards expenses. He was told they were to protect the airplanes. He got them replaced by dogs. The next time, he probed why the Co was spending on dog biscuits. He was reminded about his switch to dogs. He ordered dogs to be recorded & their barking played inside the hangars. He got rid of the dogs & biscuits 🙂

My lessons :

– The ‘silly’ money you save ISN’T about moneys. It’s about creating a MINDSET not to waste money.

– Costs escalate very fast. Revenues don’t. I prefer spending with lots of caution.

– In funding winters, frugality reigns supreme. In fact, when summer comes, you have stopped bothering about the weather 🙂

Who is using whom?

“Use your brain. Don’t let your brain use you. Road rage is an example of your brain using you.”

Via Deepak Chopra in Super Brain

People or Jobs? Who or what comes first?

For 30 years, I have met people who are on the top of their jobs but were never trained or educated in that field. Doctors who have become exceptional textile entrepreneurs and BCom graduates running amazing tech companies.

I read an interview in Stanford Insights of Thomas Harman the CEO founder of Balsam Brands – the largest online seller of high-end artificial Christmas trees. He is asked ” What is the best advice you’ve ever received? He says “My father, who ran a small business, said, “If you come across a truly exceptional person, you should hire them and create a role for them, even if you can’t justify it.” More than half our leadership team at Balsam Brands came from that advice. When we met them we didn’t have a role for them and it was a stretch to bring them into the company”

In our 2win startups, game testers became amazing analytics experts; an HR head converted to an ace sales person (that also in China); a webmaster became a Product Director.

My personal belief is that great people do great jobs because they are determined, driven and passionate. I have a complex of not being an engineer & that makes me understand tech in a broader manner than most techies.

Being Unashamed of what you do

In 2013, I was @IIT Mum 4 their ‘smashup’. Kanchan Kumar was killing it!

I went 2 the Men’s toilet & was stunned 2 see a young, lean boy pitching his startup INSIDE! I was shocked & said, “Dude, what’s going on? Why can’t u pitch outside”? Sushrut Munje with gr8 pride told me, “Alok, this is my operating ground! I’ve just started ‘Hammer and Mop’ & v will b the greatest cleanliness company in the world. What a better place 2 pitch?!”

He told me how unhygienically offices, homes & schools were cleant & how he was going 2 change all of that! I wished Sushrut lots of luck & was pleased 2 see Hammer and Mop scale over the years! The concept of ‘Job Pride’ could’nt have been stronger.

Often I meet ppl who introduce themselves with an apology! “Alok, I work in the Steel know..old world..”; “I’m in the Kapda market. it’s not like ur tech stuff..”; “Arre, I make pickles..very thanda biz..”

How can u succeed if u are NOT PROUD of ur job? Why should u be apologetic about ur profession?

On the other hand, I remember an uncle introducing himself as a “darzi” (Tailor) wherever he went! He used to run a garment export biz 🙂 He retired making it one of the largest in India!

Wisdom is in making ur job YOUR GOD. Then everything will be Gold!

Who are your “Brown Cows”?

Look at the image below. Think it’s funny?


Let me ask you – who are your ‘brown cows’? What are the ideas, assumptions & concepts you have embedded in your mind that may sound as ridiculous as the photo?

Let me share my brown cows:

– When I started up, I thought “An IDEA was everything”! If I had a great idea, I was 90% done. Turned out that only helped 0.9% in my success

– I assumed getting funded meant salvation. In my previous Company, that was the biggest mistake I made.

– I assumed people who were given responsibility would do what they were supposed to. Turns out that these highly paid folks develop frequent amnesia about their duties. One dude even bankrupted one of my ventures!

– I assumed getting rich would give me great happiness. Turns out, that was the least of my motivators.

I meet people with the ‘brown cow’ syndrome everywhere! Some VCs believed that hiring army loads of IIT grads would build a great Company. They know better now. Some overfunded smart alecs thought a TV campaign would make them the next Apple of the world. They can’t even pay their office electricity bills today…

Contemplate on your brown cows & share them fearlessly as comments?

The 2% of everything

How did I manage to survive in my first entrepreneurial venture ? In the first few months, I cold- called 500 clients. About 300 came on the phone. Of these, 150 agreed to meet me. Of the 150 meetings, 100 asked for a proposal. Out of the 100 proposals, 10 finally agreed to do business with me (for FREE). I closed 10 clients out of 500. That was a success rate of 2 %.

Let me share some of the best know statistics:

– In the stone-age of advertising (think Mad Men), glossy envelopes mailed to targeted databases elicited a 2% response rate (think a reply or a mail order).

– Zynga (a gaming company) was able to sell virtual sheep, tractors, farmhouses and trees in a free virtual game to only about 2% of all its players. That game was called Farmville and the 2% made Zynga a multi-billion dollar company. For the record, the rest of the 98% (who didn’t pay) spammed all their friends on facebook and killed facebook game notifications forever.

– The famous 2% rule amongst stock traders states that no trader will ever bet more than 2% of his worth on any trade.

-The infamous ‘Nigerian Scam’ has a 2% success rate, but that’s a method I would seriously ask you to skip!

Read more examples and detailed descriptions here

Dealing with Negative People and Toxic comments

In Business as in personal life, you will come across MORE than your fair share of negative people who will bombard you with their toxicity. Why they do, what they do is not your concern – how you deal with them is.

I’ve have massive experience in this 🙂 From a VC who hated Indian Entrepreneurs to external partners (of a game) who only liked to insult and rebuke me to social media vultures & hyenas who circled around me in the hope that I died, I’ve seen them all. This is what I do to tackle this menace & my humble advice to you:

– First, LISTEN to what they are saying. Typically 20% of radioactive spew will MAKE sense. People make objective points in an insulting way. So be CLEVER in culling out what can improve you.

– Reply back only to points that you have missed out or what may seem misrepresented by you. DO NOT JUSTIFY YOURSELF. Only weak, helpless people do that.

– Ignore the ‘serial offenders’. 98% of them do it for the publicity and cheap thrill of getting noticed. DO NOT give them that pleasure.

– BE open, receptive and INTROSPECT. That IS the positive outcome of any kind of negativity.

– DON’T run a “I was right, you were wrong’ race. Just speak your mind and move on.

Awards are …. Scams

This is gonna hurt people. But I’ve gotta do my job: Share the Truth.

4 yrs ago, I got a mail from ‘Red Herring’ stating I was to Win an award of best startup. Quickly it unravelled that the ‘Business Model’ of Red Herring was to make ‘fools’ spend money on going to a big ball in Hong Kong & then receiving ‘fictional’ awards.

Like going to a shop, buying the biggest trophy available, placing it your office & feeling good about yourself.


– Awards are ego-boosters. The title, event, process, makes people happy. That’s also what makes them weak

– What started small, has become a tsunami. I’m sure there is an award for best bathroom, best parking lot attendant, best coffee mug. Of course there are 200X awards for every job, business & enterprise. Think : Does that make sense?

– Have you noticed what happens hours AFTER an award? The world looks the same. Clients sound as demanding. Awards are very expensive drinks that you buy for a good night out.

– Some dinosauric business models are based on awards! I know ad agencies who CREATE work to win awards. You can imagine what a state their biz is in.

Do you work. Excel. Compete with yourself. Award yourself with knowledge & experience – not Cups & Shields.

The next time you say “I will do this later”

98% of the time when people are confronted with something that is taxing : Reading a new report; reviewing analytics; browsing industry reports, writing a blog, going for a run, meditating, etc, their typical reaction is “I will do this.. just a bit later”.

98% of that later never happens. I call this “stalling & falling’

We need to do something out of our routine & comfort zone to progress. We get ample opportunities to do so, but almost never take them up.

I want to motivate you to move the needle just 1-2% more. Don’t become superhuman & start doing everything that comes your way. Just say “Let me DO THIS NOW” – double the times you do currently. Which means moving 2% to 4%. That’s it.

This is what happens when you don’t stall:

– The thought of starting a new activity is 100x more painful than doing it. Once you start something, you will enjoy it so much you will probably make it a habit.

– Most innovations, ideas put into action, personal growth (writing, working out) happen when you step out of the shadows into the sun.

– Super achievers are those who almost ACT upon ideas, opportunities & insights. They have just trained themselves to NOT STALL. Why deny yourself being one?

Don’t cheapen your brand, your service… yourself.

In the 2000’s, I found it hard to work with Ray-Ban. Whenever I pitched to them, I was told “We have many partnerships with Indian brands; we don’t need you. Look at India Today – when you buy a subscription, you get a Ray- Ban. They promote us.”

As a novice in brand engagement, I was in awe of their strategy.

A few months later, I called my Ray-Ban contact for a meeting. There was no answer. When I dialled the office, I was shocked to learn that the entire team had changed! An Italian exec had taken charge & he had replaced the old hands.

I managed a meeting with him & he said, “Mr. Alok, in an effort to save on promotions & marketing, the Indian team decided to partner with any & every brand that bought our sunglasses to package as a giveaway. In the past few quarters our consumer sales collapsed. When we investigated, there was a shocking revelation. Consumers said, “We don’t need to Buy Ran-Bans! They always come as freebies & gifts. We have now STOPPED all giveaways and will work to restore our brand image”


– Don’t save paises to lose rupees.

– Don’t become a ‘giveway’- aka “FREE KA MAAL”. Respect YOURSELF & services above all things.

47 ways to destroy your Startup and Business

I asked Entrepreneurs of what they had encountered that had destroyed or ruined their businesses. Hundreds wrote in. Some of the ones that stood out from the final 47:

– Thinking that money solves all problems. Money is often THE PROBLEM.

– Assuming consumers are morons and will start paying after giving them freebies

– Giving away those CXO titles when you can count your team size on your fingers

– Insanely Believing in Co-Founders Ideas.

– Being covered in media once and feeling like ‘GOD’ thinking that startup would succeed cos of this.

– Giving priority to hiring based on education level, not the talent and hard work.

– Not having spoken to at least 10 people in a similar space who have failed in some way

– Drifting…from one grape to another till you cry that all the grapes are sour!

– Faking numbers to impress.

My Way or the Highway

A few yrs ago, I was chairing a CNBC show called the Philips Simplicity Challenge that was about finding entrepreneurs with simple ideas to create a great business. We had a team of IIT profs to help validate tech questions. Suresh Venkat was my hero anchor.

Towards the end, an entrepreneur presented his idea about ‘home protection’. He showed a dizzying chart of sensors placed in & around homes & how movements would alert the home owner on mobile via sms & a call. I tried to explain that normal people slept with their ringers off, but the entrepreneur ignored my comment. He went on & on and asked for many crores to build his system out.

After others done their head banging with this guy, I asked, “Instead of your buying your system, why can’t I just get a Dog?”

The entrepreneur was furious & left the competition.

Have you noticed a dark grey zone in your head where a red banner reads, “My way or the highway”. I’ve experienced it & it is the ‘death zone’ of entrepreneurs. It’s that state of mind when ONLY your idea makes sense, no one elses. That state is when the worst business decisions happen.

It’s VERY comforting to think you are right. Its horrific to hear that you are wrong. But 98% of the time that may be true.

How articulate are you?

I read “At Amazon, potential product ideas get written up into dummy news releases that get marked up. Creators must answer questions such as the cost of the project, how much the product or service would sell for and the launch date.” (credit : WSJ).

Can you imagine writing a mock press release for a product that hasn’t even been produced? The insights, benefits, competitive differentiation, so many ‘why’s to be answered even before you start building your product ?

At Games2win, we encourage our Insights & Analytical managers to write a complete description of why they want to change pricing, economy, game mechanics in games with a forecast of results. Post changes, the verdict is captured in that sheet so that it remains referenceable for everyone.

If you are a startup, write a business plan in as much detail as you can. Check this template of mine that has worked well for many people – I tell entrepreneurs to take 40 days to complete this so that they get the gravity of the effort.

If you an employee, write down your conversations even before you have them. You will be surprised how much clarity you will get.

Writing forces you to be clear. Clarity delivers success.

Lack Confidence? Start meeting people.

Till the age of 28, I met factory workers, truck drivers, labor union leaders, jobbers, hamaals (haulers), wholesale distributors & agents while working in my Dad’s Socks Factory and earlier in my Nana’s Transport Company.

When I had the idea to start contests2win & started to execute on it, my meetings were with Brand Managers & Directors from the Top IIMs, VCs from Harvard & Wharton & super intelligent, erudite folks who were 10-100X better educated than me (I am a B-Com). For a while I would be intimidated by them but kept meeting & learning from them. Sure, there were some embarrassing moments. When my idea clicked & became a success, my confidence grew & empowered me to meet anyone & everyone. I discovered that the secret of building super confidence was just meeting people.

Check the chart. It plots confidence vs. people met. In the middle, somewhere, confidence gets shaken when you meet lots more accomplished people, but then it soars as you grow your meetings.


Takeaway : Do not miss ANY chance to meet people especially those who are very accomplished. As you meet them, your confidence & success will be firmly established. Soon people will vie to meet you.

Don’t listen to what they say

A few days ago, a rather serious looking person asked me, “Alok, aren’t you tired of the rat race?” I looked at him quizzically & said “The last I knew, rats never run races. Humans do and quite well I would say.” Mr. Sad just didn’t reply back.

Where do these inane, stupid and horrifically worded phrases come from? Rat race? The Grind? Corporate Ladder? Where is the ladder in your office? If is it only in your mind?

In a tightly squashed train compartment, each person inside is uniquely journeying on his own destiny. There is NO collective suffering or enjoyment. We don’t need to compare, compete or concern ourselves with others beyond the neccessary!

– STOP comparing yourself with others. That’s demeaning to you and them.

– REVIEW your progress & success NOT your setbacks and failures.

– COMPLIMENT people on their achievements ; DON’T be jealous of them. Jealousy is like non recyclable plastic. The Universe hates it.

– GRATEFULLY thank your luck for your health, family or whatever blessings you have.

Losers write phrases to silently weep with. There are no rats around and no races to run. It’s just you, strolling through your own rose petaled lanes, scented with joy.

Be yourself. And uniquely so.

The business of “Name Dropping”

Sometimes I have the misfortune to speak entrepreneurs, consultants, bankers and even retired folks who keep dropping names like the Nazis dropped bombs on continental Europe ! “I know this guy; so and so is my tenant; that famous person is on the same board I am on; XYZ eats ice cream in my wife’s shop…”

I don’t get what this missile strategy of naming people achieves?

– 99% people want to understand WHY they should engage with you. NOT WHO you engage with.

– by dropping names, you relegate yourself to secondary citizenship. It’s like staying backstage all through a play in which you are supposed to act in!

– to financiers and acutely money minded people like me, it gives me the signal of extreme inferiority complexes and complete lack of self pride. I stop engaging with name droppers.

Be yourself. Every word you say must be something you should be proud of, if replayed 10 years later. Dropping names is using expletives in my parlance.

The reason you should write

You should be writing at least 250 words a day, come what may. Why?

– Knowledge: if you write consistently, it will be on a topic that you know. Typically your work or passion . But writing will force you to research ideas, concepts and information about your subject that you may not have bothered with before. You will notice that your original level of knowledge of your subject before writing was sub 2%. Writing will scale it 5-50x

– Clarity. Most authors write for themselves. Or maybe they realise that after years. Writing is a meditation. It brings the writer more clarity than the reader. It’s the best way to help yourself via a public fora!

– Connectivity : If you write bite sized, snacks content, you will begin to attract zillions of readers – most of whom you will have NEVER met otherwise. To make “contacts”, write. Parties, Ivy League halls and conferences don’t even come near.

– Contribution. As you age, your ability to go out of your way to help people will diminish. Gyaan Daan (the gift of knowledge) is the most sacred. That’s why you remember most of your school teachers so fondly today. Your keyboard can make you immortal. (Not in fame but in Spirit)

What will not change in the next 10 years?

Jeff Bezos says: “I get the Q: “What’s going to change in the next 10 yrs?” I never get the Q: “What’s not going to change in the next 10 yrs?” The 2nd Q is more important. It’s impossible to imagine a future where a customer comes up & says, “Jeff, I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher.” “I love Amazon; I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly.” So the effort we put into those things will be paying off dividends for customers 10 yrs from now. When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.

When I was a boy, I played with many ‘dinky’ cars. My sisters played with dolls & doll houses. As I grew up, I saw kids doing the same. As my daughters grew, they played with Barbie & Doll Dress up games. My nephews were attracted to toy planes & cars. When I launched Games2win, I said, “Boys & girls will play with dolls & cars. Their desires will not change. The form will. Lets build games on this.” 10 yrs later, that insight has done very well for us, with girls playing everything (70% of our car gamers are girls).

Takeaway? Identify a long lasting habit & build a business of the future around it!

Leaving more on the table than you should

A standard negotiation concept I practice is to leave a bit more for the person selling you products or services than could be reduced. If the final price could be closed at 100, I handshake at 105-110.


– The deal isn’t done when it’s agreed. The deal is done when it’s delivered. ‘Sellers Remorse’ is a danger that can always derail a good deal if there was too much initial pressure to close. I would prefer to keep doing my business than trying & finding new partners

– Like Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand”, there is an “inaudible whisper” that goes around your business dealings you run. Squeezing out partners to the point of making their suffer makes you attract lower quality of sellers in the long run. Again using an economic term, you ‘crowd yourself out’ & damage your business.

– Suppliers who are more expensive usually have a reason to be dearer. They represent quality. You can learn from them. If they make money from you, they will hang around your office and enrich you. It’s like staying in the Oberoi to avoid being bitten by bed bugs. You may also land up sitting next to a CEO at an Oberoi cafe vs. hoping to meet one in a bed bugged dharamshala.

The Transfer of Benefit

Why does meeting a Venture Capitalist sound so exciting to all of us? It’s because we immediately think of the benefit that may accrue to us. Lots of ‘free money’, new found respect & the ability to really grow our business. How will we benefit them? Who cares, who asks, who knows?

When things benefit us, we immediately react, positively.

I learnt this early in the Business. When you pitch, sell, propose, transact, quickly project the benefit to the other party vs. trying to negotiate & making YOU seem to be the beneficiary. Things close much faster. At contests2win, I would tell brands how online contests would give them massive engagement; with mobile2win, our sms voting would deliver extra revenues. In games2win, consumers who download our games immediately have start having fun & reward us with in-apps etc.

An NGO I work with never gets this right. When they do events, they want marquee speakers but NEVER explain why the event will benefit the speakers. Hence no one comes!

Master the Art of The Transfer of Benefit. When you make people feel they benefit, they will engage with you. And when they do, make sure you fulfil your promise so that they become your long term partners.

Consumers acquire Brands. Not the other way around…

I’ve been thinking about the tricky business of consumer acquisition & why so many startups commit suicide doing so. I asked myself, “Alok, how many brands acquired you”?

My insight was stunning! I acquired brands – not the other way around. In the past months, I acquired Netflix, an iPhone, a Macbook Air, a Dream Car, Indigo flights, restaurants meals, Uber rides etc. NEVER ever did they acquire me!

These brands built out amazing products & services & their usefulness made ME to acquire THEM! Exactly how at Games2win, we generated 135 million downloads of our mobile games. We’ve never acquired users – they acquire our games.

WHY have startups got the equation wrong?

– They have INFERIOR products that will NOT receive word of mouth. Their expensive advertising gets them some suckers (consumers) who vanish soon. Once spends stop, their business collapses

– The USEFULNESS of the product or service isn’t clear to the consumer. I would rather refer a pricey restaurant to someone vs. a ‘cashback’ site that offers refunds on a 3rd rate restaurant!

– Disillusioned entrepreneurs think Consumers can be ‘bought’.

Build a great product & service. Consumers WILL acquire you.

The 5 Treasures : Why, Who, When, Where, What.

At Games2win, we noticed that our online ‘Parking’ games were very popular vs. our racing games. We took a dive into the WHY & learnt that young tweens in the world loved to play these games to learn how to park – the most difficult part of driving a car!

Then we asked WHO & were shocked to learn that 80% of our players were girls! They said, “We want to practice parking in a game before we park in real life.”

We asked WHEN? We found that tweens started using these games just before their car driving license tests dates.

Then we investigated the WHERE. 70% of our players were from the USA!.

Finally we asked ourselves, “WHAT” (can we do)? We came up with our 2 best selling mobile games High School Driving Test & Driving Academy that have raked millions of downloads from the USA & the world. We went on to create UK Driving Academy & Indian Driving Academy for right side driving.


– The 5 treasure framework of Why, Who, When, Where, What can be used to systematically build a very valuable business. Each of these must fit like a jigsaw to make magic happen.

– Do not trust outsiders to find out these 5 Golden W’s for you. These are treasures you must unearth yourself.

My 5 lessons from the Zara founder Amancio Ortega

I read an amazing article about the Zara founder & wrote my top 5 learnings from it:

1. To succeed, you need HUNGER. Sometimes literally..

“Mr Ortega, the son of an itinerant railway worker, who started at the corner shop aged 13, had a basic upbringing: an ex-colleague says he talks of meals of ‘only potatoes'”.

2. There is NO formula to great success – Education included.

“His lack of formal education has profoundly affected his management style. Those close to him confirm that he does read—novels and newspapers—but he is reportedly ill-at-ease with writing at length.”

3. The best management style is the one that works for you.

“A business partner of Mr. Ortega for 31 years says that his ex-boss’s working method is to discuss things intensely with small groups, delegate paperwork, listen hard to others and prefer oral over written communication.

4. It’s never about the fame – it’s always about the results.

“You must appear thrice in the newspaper – When you are born; when you are married; when you die..” – Amancio Ortega

5. There is no start or end point.

“I will keep working till the end” – Amancio Ortega

Head vs heart.

U may have heard this story, but I need to narrate it again to make my point. A sage told 2 disciples (old & young) to carry an envelope to a faraway monastery. The sage said, “Don’t involve urself with women. Stay away from them.”

The monks proceeded on their journey. In the evening they heard voices calling for help. 2 women were trapped in a stream & needed rescuing. The young monk saw them & moved on. The old monk swam to them & carried them in his arms to safety.

On their return after many days, the young monk told the old monk, “I will tell Sensei how u muddled with women, despite being warned not to.” The old monk looked at the youngster, laughed & said, “I dropped them days ago! Seems u are still carrying them with u..”

I’ve often noticed that we confuse guidance with common sense & don’t take correct action. My dad for years said, “Advertising is waste of money; it’s a sham”. I started contests2win that ONLY advertised brands.. but with a difference. People said, “Beware of China; they eat you up. We WENT to China & created value there!”


– Be practical & sensible when following advice. Use brains vs. heart.

– Ask 4 clarity when instructions seems general. The interpretation may be v different!

The wrath of stereotyping

In old Hindi movies, an industrialist called ‘Singhania’ is often featured wearing a 3 piece suit, drinking Scotch in a rock glass & behaving like the most debaucherous & depraved human ever. He loots his workers, lives like a king & is the evil-ist person around. No wonder this image made ‘industrialists & businessmen’ the much hated, resented people around. It was ‘dirty’ to be in business and oh gosh.. to make money was sacrilege.

Stereotyping can create distortions of reality that can only lead to harm.

I had the typical stereotype feeling about ‘competitors’ when I first visited San Francisco on a biz tour. I met a Company I envied very much & met the CEO to sneakily ‘get more info’. He was so open & honest and shared lots with me. On the way out, he said, “Alok, you’re a great guy! Why don’t you set up in office in San Fran?”. I said, “Yeah, but I need an office etc.” He said, “Alok, work out of my office! Sit anywhere & start ASAP!”.

That day, every preconceived notion I had about competitors was shattered.


– Don’t let hearsay & stories cloud your mind. Find out facts yourself.

– 98% of people & things are way different than you think.

– Never let people influence your opinion.

Art of management highlights : Art of Living Ashram : 11.11.17

Nithin Kamath CEO of Zerodha

– The first 150 people who joined us haven’t left so far. On being asked why, he said, “we are the only brokerage business that doesn’t have targets for our sales people. Targets often makes people sell bad products. That creates toxicity and bad energy

– None of our employees are from IIT /IIM or even a recognised school. (Only pointing to that fact that talent is plenty in India and labels don’t have to be chased)

– I use a pseudo name and still try and sell Zerodha to prospective clients. I call many of them daily.

– Almost everyday I send google forms within the company to figure how employees are doing. We show that we love our employees

Prashanth Prakash – Partner Accel Ventures

– We never compromise on ethics. Even if it means moving away from deals. Most of them (unethical promoters) crash and burn

– We love to be a part of entrepreneur journeys. That’s more gratifying than just profit outcomes

Mohit Gundecha

– We like our employees to give us quantitative reports periodically. Stories are popular but we need numbers.

– If you aren’t spiritual before becoming an entrepreneur, don’t worry… entrepreneurship will make you spiritual

Audience Polls

Why did you fail as an entrepreneur?

– I kept saying “this won’t work; that won’t work”. Eventually my venture failed. Having a negative mind failed me.

– I became over passionate about my business and forgot being practical.

Why Do Startups Fail?

How long will you wait for your Diwali?

A cunning conspiracy exiled Lord Rama from his Kingdom for 14 long years. He returned triumphant & came back home today. That’s why we celebrate ‘Diwali’. To be honest & direct, we celebrate Lord Rama’s personal victory & enjoy it with Him.

My question is : How long will you wait for YOUR Diwali?

Think deeply : Most exiles are SELF IMPOSED. No one today has the right (or time) to exile anyone. We exile ourselves.

So, what reasons do you have for your exile?

– A bad setback in your personal or professional life?

– A business that has consumed & exhausted you?

– A boss or management that torments you?

– A partner who takes advantage of you?

– The relentless Rat Race that tires you?

– Family and peers who expect you to be different?

– Parents and mentors who expect you to be perfect?

– A bad experience or memory that you cannot erase?

None of these (and others) are worthy of self exile. The mind likes to cling to negative things & makes you feel small, compromised…unworthy.

I say : Your exile is over. Get out of your misery and COME HOME to YOURSELF. Get back that smile, that mojo, your enthusiasm, that delight & happiness you were born with. Announce YOUR Diwali and invite us to your celebration….ASAP!

Don’t fix what ain’t broke. A Classic Case Study

On 23-Apr-85, “New Coke” was launched by the Coca-Cola Co. Coke had a 60% market share after WW II; by 1983 that share had declined to 24%, driven mainly by the competition thrown up by the new, fresh, sweet tasting challenger called Pepsi.

Roberto Goizueta – the then CEO of Coke was obsessed by improving his company’s market share & made it clear that he would do anything required, including changing the FLAVOR OF COKE to improve business.

The “New Coke” after its launch was a complete disaster:

– Over 400,000 calls and protests were received by the Coca-Cola Company criticizing the change .

– Coke hired psychiatrists to listen to the calls who reported that the calls resembled the pain that people shared when describing the death of their family members!

– A passionate Coke drinker filed a Class Action suit against the company for changing its flavor.


– As entrepreneurs, don’t unnecessarily ‘over invent’ things to please consumers. Often consumers need MORE of a good thing – not a NEW thing.

– Never think you are cleverer than your consumers. Make them tell you what you should make. Not the other way around.

Who runs Dhandha in india? A complete eye opener!!

In a bitter, scathing article in the FT ( link at the end), the current government is heavily criticised for ruining the business of small entrepreneurs who cannot comply with GST just after Demon.

What I liked most on the article is this picture.

This is what I see:

– There are many Indias within India. As entrepreneurs, we think of scale basis what we read in the ET. But in India, 95% entrepreneurs have 1-5 employees!

– What are the new business ideas that can leverage GST, Demon? What can you as an entrepreneur think of to serve these folks?

– When we dimension demand of our “target audience”, its very easy to go wrong. Just a simple pic like this proves that we don’t really know how our own Country operates! (I didn’t know for sure)

– Be grateful, thankful for the business or opportunity you have. The majority of Indian business folks are going through hell just now.

Link : India’s small businesses ravaged by Delhi’s radical policies –

When Partners go wrong….(Learnings from the McDonald’s tussle with its Indian Partner)


My learnings from the article and otherwise

– Money IS NOT always the motivation for partners to stick together. Respect usually is.

– Motivations of partners change over time… “re-calibrating” the arrangement internally is a MUST.

– When you go to War, no one wins. Usually vultures and hyenas benefit most.

– TALK to partners more than e-mailing and casual meetings

– The ego of man is his worst enemy. Don’t invite egos into your startups and businesses.

Lesson from Lottery Winners

“What about people who fantasize about striking it rich and never having to work for the rest of their lives? A study of lottery winners for whom this fantasy came true found that the majority said winning had made their lives worse. Some couldn’t handle the money and lost out; others found their relationships strained or descended into reckless behaviour like gambling and making fly by night investments. All were plagued by strangers and relatives asking incessantly for handouts…” (From Super Brain by Deepak Chopra)

My meta lesson?

1. ANYTHING that comes without the intensity of good wholesome karma and effort will always disappoint.

2. Money is NOT what makes us happy by itself. It’s the action of making it that is more fulfilling…

“It’s not what you say. It’s what people hear”.

One reason John Kerry lost the 2004 presidential election was because the average American could hardly understand him. He tended to use overly complicated words and sentences that were far too long. For example, he spoke of his preference for a “progressive internationalism” over the “too often belligerent and myopic unilateralism of the Bush Administration.” In the end, many Americans had no clue what he was talking about.

The strength of the human imagination makes appealing to your audience’s imaginative senses a powerful tool for conveying your message. To do so, it’s essential to create a strong image in your audience’s mind – in other words, to sensualize.

“People may forget what you said, but they will never forget the way they you made them feel…”

For example, good advertising slogans often employ language that grabs your imagination and senses. Just take M&M’s famous slogan, “melts in your mouth. . .” When you hear it, you can practically feel the chocolate on your tongue.

And there’s an easy way to trigger this sensualization with one simple word: “imagine.” When you ask someone to imagine something, you’re asking them to generate their own personalized vision based on their deepest emotions and desires. Naturally, this makes for a powerful image and also explains why John Lennon’s song Imagine is among his most beloved and famous.

Another sonic strategy is to use words that sound like what you’re describing. For instance, when you hear “Snap, Crackle and Pop,” the slogan of Kellog’s Rice Krispies, you get a perfect sense of what it sounds like to be eating the cereal.

Another excellent tool for making an emotional impact is to ask questions. Addressing your audience with a question that begs a direct response will trigger a thought process and lead them to a conclusion.

So, if you reveal the conclusion to your audience right off the bat, they’ll be less invested and interested in what you have to say. But if they reach an opinion on their own, it’ll come with a profound emotional impact.

For example, during the 1980 US presidential debate, Ronald Reagan posed a very simple question to voters: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” By asking this question, he prompted a thought process that led the audience to realize that the country had indeed gotten worse under then-president Jimmy Carter, and famously resulted in Reagan sweeping to a huge victory in the presidential election.

You need to know your audience’s hopes, beliefs and preconceptions. For instance, if your audience is American, you should be aware of common misconceptions about average Americans, such as the assumption that many of them highly educated. This is important because when you look at Americans older than 45, only 29 percent hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. Barely one in four Americans over 25 are college educated.

(From ‘Words that work’ by Dr. Frank Luntz courtesy Blinkist)

The 3 levels of Business

I’ve done many businesses, met over 7000 people, won & lost my fair share in trade. I believe success lies in being aware of 3 levels of business:

– Air : If you are a floater and think that just getting an ‘idea’ or being ‘creative’ or having ‘contacts’ amongst people, can make you successful, you are as likely to succeed as an a donkey singing an operatic aria. Dreamy, lofty, silly assumptions, thinking that the world is waiting for you is being in the Air. Nothing exists in the air except emptiness.

– Land : If you have some experience, done a few deals, been activate and think that just a few months of hustling will make you successful, you are going to crash and burn. Its NOT about being enthusiastic and driven ALONE – it’s about beating the street every day to actually CHECK if what your business is worth it. If you are on land, then burn your heels to the ground till you collapse. You may be successful

– Water. Real business success is underwater – diving to the deepest depths of the ocean. Finding Insights that no one has, observing microscopic details of how business happens. It’s claustrophobic terrifying and deadly; but that’s where you will find real treasure, value, and maybe God herself.


Alok Kejriwal is a digital entrepreneur, based in Mumbai. He sold his last Company to Disney. He currently runs Games2win and is very fond of Entrepreneurs. Connect with Alok on Linkedin, Twitter @rodinhood Facebook. Read his best articles here!



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