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
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
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.
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
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. Reli
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,
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
India's employment data is sobering ( see here ). The pandemic has wrecked havoc and the structural problems of the economy - service sector dependence, uneven regional development and health and education challenges - are more evident than ever. Something needs to happen, and fast. To its credit, the government acknowledges the education challenge. Belatedly - it took more than 30 years - India has come up with a new National Education Policy. It is a comprehensive policy, which covers the whole spectrum of education and perhaps overcompensates the previous neglect by advocating radical change. As I commented elsewhere on this blog, it shows a curious mixture of aspirations, cultural revival and global competitiveness put under the same hood. However, despite its radical aspirations, the policy document often betrays same-old thinking. One of these is India's approach to foreign universities. The NEP makes the case for allowing foreign universities to set up operations in Ind
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.