I have been pursuing, with all earnestness, a particular dream for last four years, but I have reached a point to pause and think, and change directions, if necessary. Call this return of the practical, or even its revenge; however, it is my return to the real life in many ways.
My problem has always been that I have been trying to do too much. May be I read too much new business mythologies and signed up to garage entrepreneurship without necessarily connecting the dots, that I am late in life to start, and not everything happens to everyone. This is not a new feeling, I have been here before: What is new is this - whenever I thought about this earlier, the full reality had not sunk in till then, and I saw giving up as a sign of cowardice! Cowardice - that's how I thought - in chivalrous, almost quixotic, terms! Now, I am trying to think like a grown up, and viewing giving up, at least some part of it what I wanted to do, or deferring, as pragmatism.
My idea is to create an online platform for delivery of British education abroad. Working with colleagues over last few months, we refined the idea considerably - with open source technologies, smart partnerships to keep the costs manageable and even finding a way around the country-to-country regulation maze. However, as we came up with a smart business model where we needed only a small amount of money, relatively speaking, that very moment, Europe started cratering, and most investors sought refuge into the big and the known. Accordingly, for last six months or so, we had to go into a scramble for scale, trying to package our idea alongside a brick-and-mortar entity, a money-guzzling one so that the investment is of the right size, though this meant considerable departure from the pure passion of a start-up.
This was indeed a mistake. As I myself often say, each business has its business model. After spending six months to fit our business idea within the frame of a larger business, I have come to realize that aligning with a brick-and-mortar entity will not make the core idea any safer or sustainable: In fact, just the opposite, it has all the risks of derailing the business by crowding out our time.
Friends, who have been pointing out the obvious for a while, are astonished that I took so long to come to this relatively apparent conclusion. However, two factors kept me on this path as long as it did: First, that the business I was trying to align everything with was the one I worked on for a considerable period of time, and helped reshape the agenda, at least as far as I was allowed; and second, the path to start up, in England just at the time of the European meltdown, was not easy, particularly considering my own financial commitments, age and all that. However, it is still undeniable that I did not take the plunge, and was forever warming up by the side of the pool. I have now reached a point where I either leave the idea or jump in.
I am planning to do, expectedly, both at the same time. I shall abandon the pursuit of combining the two models - I already have - and return to the pure-play start up plan. However, this time around, I shall commit to start in baby steps, making small investments in the platform and the content, doing up the website, connecting with a team of people, etc. I shall approach this as play, not work, at least as long as it is not ready. This is where my big mistake was: Waiting for everything to happen before starting.
I shall also continue working, though I want to change the nature of my work. I want to go back to more academic work - I shall again take on teaching and writing commitments - which will hopefully give me more predictable hours and work schedule. I shall now lock myself into a room and try to finish my dissertation in a hurry, and postpone my pursuit of a Ph D by a year. The idea is to go back to my start-up days, when I arrived in this country and took on odd jobs and counted days I actually could survive, while I build everything up from scratch yet again.
All change, yet again, then, but that is a better way of living life than remaining stuck. I am passionate about creating a great online college which will make education available, in a meaningful way and without giving in to the cost spirals and pressures, and would work on creating this. But, this is not about fast-mover advantage etc: These things are never too critical in education. Education is a supply-deficient marketplace and all that matters is reputation, which stands on the back of doing a good job and having satisfied students. Elementary, indeed, but I indeed took my eye off the ball: It is time to get the focus back again.
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
Nations are ideas. We try to fashion them as territories. But how can a river, a mountain ridge or sometimes an imaginary line in the middle of a field can explain the wide division in the lives, thoughts and futures of the people who live on different sides? Nations are not the people too. Indeed, people build nations and become its body. But the soul of the nation is an idea: People come together on an idea to build a nation. While that's what a modern nation is - an idea - and that way exceptionalism is not an American exception, very few nations are as completely defined by an idea as Pakistan. There was hardly any political, geographic or military rationale of Pakistan other than the idea of an Islamic homeland in South Asia. [In that way, the ideological brother of Pakistan in the family of nations is Israel] This, abated by the short term political calculations of some backroom colonialists, created a modern state which must be solely sustained on that singular idea. Religi
This post is a reaction to Aatish Taseer's evocative obituary of secular India in the Atlantic ( read here ). While I agree with it mostly - and share the reservations about the direction and the future of India - I differ with the author on one key aspect: I do not agree with his portrayal of a resurgent Bharat eating up a secular India. In fact, I believe while Mr Taseer regrets the Indian elite's loss of connection with the realities of day to day life of the country, his very presentation of Bharat and India as oppositional entities stems from that incomprehension. While I understand that he is only using these categories as RSS uses them - to effectively other the English-speaking elites and non-Hindus - I believe it is a mistake to describe the profound changes in contemporary India as the ascendance of Bharat. I grew up in Bharat. I never learnt English until late in life, when I started working. My growing-up world was one of small-town India, vernacu
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 was gui
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
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, as
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
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.
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
The story of British influence on Indian Education, to which Macaulay's Minutes of 1835 belong, has been told in six distinct phases. Syed Nurullah and J P Naik's very popular and influential History of Indian Education calls these 'six acts' of the drama: From the beginning of Eighteenth Century to 1813 The British East India Company received its charter in 1600 but its activities did not include any Educational engagement till the Charter Act of 1698, which required the Company to maintain priests and schools, for its own staff and their children. And, so it was until the renewal of its charter in 1813, when the evangelical influence led to insistence of expansion of educational activities and allowing priests back into company territory. From 1813 to Wood's Education Despatch of 1854 The renewal of Charter in 1813 re-opened the debate, which seemed to have been settled in the early years of the company administration, between the Orientalis
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.