I allowed my life to drift quite a bit in the last six months and trying now to re-instill a purpose and take back control. It is an appropriate moment, then, to think what happened, which should tell me what not to repeat as I move forward.
In short, I am guilty of taking the easy path which leads to nowhere. This is such a common mistake, and I am amazed that I did it when I look at the time since New Year 2014. The story goes like this (almost improbably): I give up my globe-trotting job in 2010 to get into education, and then spend about two years working and building a network in the sector. I was working in a For-profit institution during the time, toiling to fix its operations and build the brand so that it could become the platform for the online education I wanted to get into. This effort came to nought, as the owner of the college decided not to pursue the ambitious goals and sold the business, leaving us to try the start-up route.
This is where I made the first mistake (which I see with hindsight): When we had to default onto the start-up option, we did not re-imagine the plan and went with the ideas and concepts that we already developed. Now, indeed, this showed that we were committed to our plan, but the reality had changed and we probably should have tried something radically different. In short, I went with the easier option.
Then, after working for twelve more months on the start-up, after all the accreditation were finalised (this is why education remains a difficult business to do in a start-up mode) when we raised some money but not enough to pay ourselves and do marketing aggressively, I decided to focus on a few key partners and somewhat reversed my earlier strategy to expanding the number of conversations I was having. Again, this made sense at the time: We just did not have the resources to keep traveling, and my finances were getting stretched living through the bootstrap period. But this committed us to a few partners, who were, as I shall understand with hindsight, not reciprocally committed to us. Instead, they were doing what Indian businesses typically do: Collecting the plaques on the wall, figuratively. This was my second mistake, keeping all my eggs in an Indian basket!
The third mistake I committed around the same time is to take on teaching work, which was the low hanging fruit for me - available, and which allowed me to cover my expenses and live in the hope that these partnerships will start paying off. This actually meant my ability to travel become quite limited, distancing me further from the projects I was trying to further. I did try to do Skype or Phone Calls to make up for my physical absence, but, as I knew already, this never works in India. Again, I tried to take the easy way out and live in hope, and ended up wasting six months and living quite miserably.
This ends now. I realise the mistakes I have made and decided to pivot. First, I decided to move away from the business plans we worked with and decided to pivot, something that takes us away from the dependence on business partners altogether. Second, we decided to strip away all the complexities of the business, that created such dependence in the first place, and focus instead on a few essentials which we can do well. Third, I decided to get rid of all my teaching commitments, which I was not enjoying anyway, and get back to international business which I know and enjoyed.
There are lots of things I learnt from this, not least the requirement to focus on essentials rather than entertaining an expansive view. I have also understood what I like to do and what I don't: The detour was worth it, but now I am seeking to get back in track. I am now committed to developing some deep expertise - on a region, and of a trade - rather than trying to have a broad view of education in general and how it is evolving. The latter is my general interest, as is evident to anyone reading this blog with some regularity, but I have realised that conversation is outside the scope of For-Profit Education, where I still have to earn my bread.
Hopefully, these lessons will stick: I am now recalibrating my engagements, enhancing my credentials as a marketer, and regaining my Asian market expertise by taking on projects that allow me to get back there. I have also decided to focus my various research and writing work on the subject that interest me most, that of the history of ideas, and hope that all of this will add up some day. I have set a goal for myself to get back to Asia within a three year timeframe. This rather 'frank' note, which is directed at myself, but also posted publicly for my friends, is the first step in this 'journey'. This is hopefully my return to real life.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
A week into lockdown and things are beginning to change. Mornings are late, afternoons are lazier and evenings never end; meditations are filling out the time for Yoga routines and Netflix profiles are strewn with half-finished movies. This state-mandated, state-funded period of idleness is being likened to being called up to serve, but is nothing like that: Such a comparison is really an affront to the idea of service. Instead, this is just one long streak of panic; of the centre not holding and life not going on as usual. With the usual patterns and rules in suspended animation and business talk - and business - being rendered meaningless, space is opening up for unusual questions: Is Capitalism about to end? Is this the death of globalisation? Does it get uglier from here? My grandfather's generation would have scoffed at us. They saw through wars and pandemics. But, in fairness, we haven't had a life-ending crisis of our own. Notwithstanding the experiences of th
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.