Wednesday, September 22, 2010

To change a lightbulb

A couple of days ago I was the 'chief guest' at the annual debate competition @ NIT Calicut, called 'Spitfire'. As per tradition, I was invited to say a few words.

When asked to speak, I really have only one thing to say: 'Follow your Dreams'. I might modify this message, depending on the audience. Use different examples. But the essence of the message remains the same.

I don't for a moment believe that I can erase the years of conditioning from parents, teachers and society at large. Which is, follow the path of least resistance. Get a good education, get a good job, get a home loan, get married.

*Repeat cycle with own offspring*

But my guess is, a handful of young people in that audience actually want to break that mould. And people like me, with a slightly different outlook to life, give them the courage. The courage to say go-phoeey to the rest of the class which is pretty damn sure the regular way, is the only way.

Yesterday, the first question came from one such regular, who gave a 3 minute speech on why following your dream is not practical. Because we are middle class.

I said, "If you don't want to do something different, please don't do it!"

Sometime later another young man repeated the same argument.

I said,"If you are happy, if you are charged up, doing a regular job, please do just that!"

The question is, are you, really?

The 'most wanted' job on NIT C campus right now is with Amazon. Last year, the company picked up 12 students for a package of Rs 16 lakhs.

The next 'most wanted' jobs on campus are with PSUs. The perks are good, and so is the take-home.

"But students from NIT don't really stick with these jobs," says a student."These companies may stop coming to campus."

Instead, some PSUs are planning to shortlist BTechs from all over India, based on their GATE scores. The top 500 would be eligible for jobs, regardless of the college they are currently attending.

So, then what? The hordes of engineers who are 'happy' with the way the world is will then decide to 'be different' and try for an MBA.

A few kilometres from NIT is the breezy campus of IIM Kozhikode, situated on a hill. The architecture rocks, the view is better. And the lecture theatre in which I have an informal session organised by the E-Cell has a projecter & Powerpoint.

The dilemma remains the same, only the names of the companies and size of the package is different. Because very few students are actually *charged up* about marketing or finance or HR...

And so we remain like 30 watt bulbs, feeble and dim. Never knowing the radiance of our true potential. Yet somewhere yearning, to feel that glow from within.

To feel activated, to feel alive, and truly human.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Need a PR Agency (pro bono)

The Vice-Chancellor of Mumbai University will declare 'Joy of Giving' Week on campuses, on Sep 15. I am sure many more college managements join the movement and encourage students to do something for the underpriviliged, for society - with this push!

We're looking for a PR agency who can help get the press to cover the event. In the spirit of Joy of Giving it needs to be a pro-bono effort (mailer + some follow up, if possible).

If you can help, do get in touch! Email rashmi_b at

Friday, September 03, 2010

Lipstick Jungle - Survival Guide

A couple of days ago I caught a show on Zee Studio called '15 Hottest Hollywood Moms'.

The list includes the likes of Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna. All of these women earn between $10 and $20 million a year and manage their mommy lives with a retinue of nannies, cooks, drivers and maids - the best money can buy.

But equally interesting is how they earned their money. By acting in just one or two major films, and commiting to a couple of big brand endorsements. The really smart ones continue to earn royalties for work done years ago (like Julia - for Pretty Woman). Or they produce films which earn them a share in the profits.

The common thread running through their lives is this: control over what they do, and when they do it. Their schedule works for them, not against them.

If an actress with young children has to shoot for a film, she takes her kids and nanny along. It's perfectly acceptable; it's the way the industry works. And nobody bats an eyelid.

Let's, for a moment imagine the same scenario in another industry. You can't, can you? Two reasons.

A woman in her 20s or early 30s, with young children, cannot afford the same kind of support staff as a movie star. (Although in the Indian context, that's not strictly true). The second and more important reason, however, is this: "It's just not done".

A star can have it her way, because she is a star. Whereas a junior or mid level executive is... just an employee. Important, but not irreplacable. The system will not bend to her needs, she must bend to the System.

When she bends upto breaking point, the employee makes the only choice she can: which is to drop out of the System.

These thoughts come to mind as I read that IIM Kozhikode has achieved a new record by taking in 30% female candidates into its flagship PGP program. That's all very good but ten years from now, when these women are facing the questions of job vs motherhood, career vs family, will the answers be any different?

I really don't think so.

The class of 1993 at IIM Ahmedabad had a record 30 girls (in a batch of 180). Double the number of girls from the year before. At the time, we graduated with stars in our eyes and the conviction that we could conquer the world. But, most of us were conquered by the challenges of motherhood.

A good number of us are working, but few, if any, upto full potential. Or with complete focus. We follow our husbands when they are transferred. Look for part-time jobs even after the baby starts school. Say no to jobs which require too much travel.

Because. It keeps life more simple and manageable.

Oh, so you women have no *ambition*? Well, it's not quite like that. Women do have ambition, they dream of a life where they can have it all.

A stimulating job, which makes the best use of their education and talents.

A wonderful home and a warm, loving family.

Time for exercise, reading, friends and foot massages.

However, Murphy's laws for Mothers decrees that a woman can have any two of the above. At best. So, make a choice - and hurry it up! There's a kid with homework waiting....

If you're a young woman in her 20s or early 30s reading this, I bet you are depressed by now. Well, don't be. My objective is not to just state the obvious, to lament the status quo. There are solutions.

The first thing to accept, very early, is that you will not have the same career path as a man, the linear A to B, B to C, management trainee to CEO.

Let's say you start working at 24, and plan to have your first child by age 32. That gives you 8 years in which to build your *star* value. To become more than just another employee to your company or organisation.

Enter baby.

Now, if you have successfully built up your brand value, one of two things can happen:

* You and your boss sit down together and create an arrangement that works for both of you.

It's possible, though rare, so you need a Plan B to fall back upon. Which is...

* You take your knowledge, expertise and network and use it to become self employed.

Meaning, from an employee you become an independent consultant. Or a 'freelancer'. Or 'a service provider'. Which is as difficult as it sounds. What you're selling is your skill, and that does not require investment.

All you need is *one* person who believes in you. For whom you do the job so well, that they recommend you to another person. And thus the cycle continues.

As you get better - and better known - for the work you do, you will be able to charge more for it. Earn as much or more than in a regular job. And, do it all, on your terms.

If it means taking along your children and their nanny - while you speak at a conference - so be it. That's what Julia Roberts would do, without any hesitation.

Be the star of your own life. Bask in the glow of the spotlight instead of lurking in the shadows of narrowly defined success.

Because you're worth it, and that's not just an advertising slogan.

You truly deserve to have it *all* and the sooner you get on the zig-zag path, the faster you'll get there!

P.S. If you're a woman, at any stage in her career, and would care to tell me your story, please drop me a line at rashmi_b at The more we share, the farther we can go together, and grow together. Knowing that you are not alone!

Experience the Joy of Giving - again

Last year more than 100 colleges across the country came together to hold a Joyfest on campus. A nationwide student initiative, which is part of the Joy of Giving Week from Sep 26-Oct 2.

Once again we invite colleges across India to give of themselves. Donate blood, or clothes & stationery. Organise a lunch for street children. Sing and dance with people who are just like you, only less fortunate.

To know more about holding Joyfest on your campus logon to or email info at

This initiative is supported by JAM magazine.. But, it does not 'belong' to anyone. It is yours, it is mine, it is everybody's!

Joy of Giving Week is meant to sensitise us all to the need to give. In giving, we get infinitely more than we imagine. The hope is that this one week will make us want to give more - of our time, our money and our attention - all through the year.

And in doing so, bring joy to ourselves and others around us. The time to start, is today!

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