Friday, 7 November 2014

INK Live 2014 - An Incredible Experience!

Last Saturday, I was at the most exciting place for technologies and ideas in the country! INK Live 2014. I was lucky to be among the few chosen bloggers who were sponsored by Blogadda to attend this incredible event.

Held at the American School of Bombay, INK Live ran the live telecast of the INK Conference. I picked out a good seat to listen to Ramesh Rao who talked about the "dance of the heart". He has researched extensively on the variability of heart rate. Interestingly, most active and successful people in society have a "variable" heart rate (as opposed to a regular heart rate). And contrary to what you might assume, it is normal to have variability in your heart rate.

This "variability" is called the "vegal tone intensity" of the heart. Dr. Rao's research shows that the intensity of vegal tone is directly proportional to the subject's social connections. In plainspeak, this means the more socially active you are, the more variable your heart rate will be (and as per statistics, the more successful you will be! :-) ). Social connections are not a 21st century fad. We have Facebook today, but there was satsang then. People would gather in groups to chant devotional and religious songs. 

Dr. Rao studied this phenomenon a little further, and came upon NNSO events, or instances that see increasing variability in the heart rate. He studied these NNSO events under various situations, and plotted the "dance steps of the heart".  His work reveals that chanting holy prayers and meditation result in the highest number of NNSO events, and therefore, more variability in the heart rate. This means - the secret to success lies in meditation and social interactions! That's a gem of an information I will carry with me.

I skipped the next couple of talks to attend a workshop on crowdfunding. Anshulika from Wishberry delivered the workshop that covered a lot of important things about this innovative way of raising funds from the general public. 

First things first. Crowdfunding is not the right tool to generate perpetual funding for a business. It is for you to start up your idea when you don't have even the bare minimum for a prototype (for hardware-related products). Once you create a prototype or gain some traction in your business, you must look towards venture capitalists and angel investors, who will ultimately pump in the big bucks.

There are four basic types of platforms for crowdfunding:-

1. Equity Platform: You reward your investors by giving them a stake (or equity) in your business. Note here that the Indian Government does not allow you to raise funds through equity crowdfunding online. You may only do this offline, i.e., knock on the doors of VCs & angels for the actual transactions after you've attracted them online. This is a good platform if you already have some sort of a small business and wish to scale up. Let's Venture is an example of the equity platform.

2. Debt Platform: This platform is a good way to take out a loan for your project. You are expected to return the funds with 0% interest in most cases. This is good for businesses which are sure to generate monetary returns in a couple of years after starting up. Milaap is an example of a debt platform. And may I ask you to contribute to my campaign on Milaap which aims to bring clean water and safe sanitation to the rural women of Tiruchilappalli?

3. Charity Platform: This is a platform to crowdfund for charity events and causes. Ketto is widely popular and also used by celebrities.

4. Reward Platform: This is the most popular platform for raising startup funds when you only have an idea and need money for a prototype or to start working on your project. The fundraising periods don't go beyond 6 months or a year. This is because any idea which has wind will make news only for a few months, after which it will fizzle out. If your idea can't raise funds within those months, maybe you need to rethink its feasibility. This platform expects you to reward your funders in some way - it could be early access, exclusive previews or behind-the-scenes access, etc. Wishberry, Kickstarter, Indiegogo, etc. are some popular reward platforms.

The key to good fundraising is to select the right platform, then make a strong sales pitch. Your sales pitch could be a video or pictures and description, or a combination of all. The more interesting and appealing your pitch is, the more people would want to fund your pet project.

The final step in crowdfunding is to share your campaign on every corner of the internet/social media you can lay your hands on! You must never be shy to ask for funds. The most shameless campaigner gets the maximum funds!

I could go on and on about crowdfunding, but then I wouldn't do justice to the broader theme of INK Live. (I will perhaps write a full post on crowdfunding someday if you pester me enough.) After the workshop, I went back to watch the live stream of the conference. That's when I met Partha, a human rights blogger from Bengaluru. I realized then how far people had travelled to attend this conference. I met some more people from smaller cities who were bunking in Mumbai so they could attend on all the 3 days.

The next talk was by Ben Nelson who propounded on the importance of analytical approach to education and shared his ideas on reinventing the system and bringing in disruptive education.

I wasn't prepared for what I'd witness next on the screen. 13 and 11 year olds - Melati and Isabel Wijsen, the sisters from  the Green School of Bali, took centre stage as the youngest eco-environmentalists. They delivered a powerful speech on the importance of waste management. These two feisty kids founded 'Bye Bye Plastic Bags' and persuaded their government to ban plastic bags from Bali. They also showed everybody how significant little kids could be. We cannot ignore them because (in their words) - "Kids maybe 25% of the present. But they are 100% of the future!"

The stage was then set up to resemble a science lab. Shashwat Ratan, a technology educator, demonstrated some entertaining and interesting toys designed by kids who used multiple science-concepts in creating them. He wanted to drive home the message that the traditional Indian education system discourages students from venturing beyond the prescribed syllabus, whereas kids learn best when they "do" and "see".

I'll remember the experiment that Hannah Roodman, a Jew from Brooklyn, New York conducted as she made the world's first Google Glass documentary. She was disturbed by the rift between the Jews and the Blacks in her neighbourhood. So, she got volunteers from both the communities to wear Google Glasses and record videos of what they saw. In the end, it was discovered that people are all the same, irrespective of their religion, color or ethnicity. They all have similar struggles and dreams. Her video was shown to the neighborhood and they have started embracing one another.

The final talk I attended was that by Preeti Shroff-Mehta who introduced us to CQ - Cultural Quotient. In the interconnected global village that we live today, we cannot expect to work smoothly simply by possessing IQ and EQ. It is imperative that we are sensitive to other cultures to work in the most efficient way possible.

I think it was a Saturday well spent for me. What do you think? If you would like to read about more of such interesting thoughts, please follow my blog and leave a comment below.

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