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Session with Prof. Jeanne Lietdka

Session with Prof. Jeanne Lietdka By Aneesh Raman

Prof. Jeanne Lietdka is a professor of Strategy, Ethics & Entrepreneurship, who has also authored the book Designing for the Greater Good: Innovation in the Social Sector. She is an expert on design thinking.In her session, she mentioned the need on focusing on customers , their need and empathize with them. She mentioned that we have endless possibilities, constraints and uncertainties that you cannot control. She proposed to start a problem with constraint. One should build deep understanding of the problem. She said that in reality eight out of ten problems are rejected. One should touch base with reality of what is going on today. The way to realize that is through journey mapping, creating personas and through ethnographic interviews. When asked if design thinking will work in the data rich machine age, she mentioned that work very well together and there is a large opportunity and we can go deeper. She stressed on the need of experimentation, understanding the problem, making the problem hypothesis driven and make ideas testable. Finally, the conversation culminated by discussion on her design thinking model of  What is? What if? What wows? What works?, which she explained along with the napkin pitching, of what the idea is? What needs does it meet and how will the idea be executed. She paved a way saying we need to experiment more and dig deeper to understand our customers.

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Lessons from Dr.Sanjay Kumar, Blog By Siddharth Kumar Gopal

Lessons from Dr.Sanjay Kumar, Blog By Siddharth Kumar Gopal

Our session with Dr.Sanjay Kumar, India Country Director, Harvard Univeristy was an eye opener for most of the attendees. Often we are so enamored with our ideas and potential solutions to perceived problems that we fail to really understand the environment and associated problems of the target users. Dr. Sanjay Kumar explained this to us in a very easy to understand manner. He spoke about how most of us in the session would be from private schools and if we are solving a problem like access to education then we need to actually visit those places to deeply understand the issues faced there.

Don’t blindly rely on data, live the experience:Sitting in a premier private school with good access to internet, we may design an app to address the education gap. We may also explain how our idea is great using data that we have collected which shows that more than 65% of children in the school going age do not have access to quality education. But, this is not how we can actually solve the problem. We need to visit the rural areas, live with those people, talk to them and understand all the various interlinked reasons why there is a lack of quality education or why children are not going to school. Only then we will be able to create a solution that actually becomes a success.

Understand The Problem, The Need and The Gaps: He also mentioned that while it is very easy to write articles on a complex problem like education and even claim to be an expert in that area with some data and statistics, we actually will not understand the problem or the need of the potential users in this manner. So, instead of immersing ourselves in data from the internet, we should immerse ourselves in the lives of our target users, so that we understand the problem, as well as the needs. We should then identify the gaps in the market and the current solutions being offered, so that we can create a solution best suited to address the problem.

He also explained the difference between sympathy and empathy and how we should feel it and live it before we solve it – no matter what the problem statement is !

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How I Felt When I Knew I was in the Top 50

How I Felt When I Knew I was in the Top 50

That is me at the Apharwat Peak in Gulmarg Kashmir, which is at a height of 3747m. When I reached there riding Asia’s largest and highest cable car, I felt a mix of emotions – excited, on top of the world and at the same time shivering inside !!! This is exactly how I felt when I heard that my idea of a smart plastic ATM network has been shortlisted as one of the top 50 ideas from over 62000 entries received nation wide in the Youth Ideathon contest conducted by ThinkStartup. I feel truly thrilled, but also there is a slight shiver inside – on how the next round would go.

But, I firmly believe that just like you need to be prepared to enjoy the snow and have a great experience, you need to prepare well to pitch your idea effectively to an esteemed panel. And, that is exactly what I am doing right now – going through all the notes I have taken during the wonderful week of mentoring that we received from real life successful enterprenuers and renowned professors – and comparing those against my pitch, refining, practicing and getting ready for tomorrow, so that I can successfully climb the next peak in this entrepreneurial journey. Someday, I am sure my idea will live up to the tagline ‘Mera Idea Jo Badal Dega Bharat’.

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Lessons from Rahul Garg, Blog By Siddharth Kumar Gopal

Lessons from Rahul Garg, Blog By Siddharth Kumar Gopal

Think of Mowgli and his struggle of growing up in a jungle fighting enemies like Shere Khan, befriending Bhagheera and others – we all love that Jungle Book story, don’t we? Well, inspired by this story, Mr. Rahul Garg named his company Moglix ! And we, the top 125 students of the youth ideathon contest had the fortune to attend a session by him. Here are a few key lessons from the session:

  1. Never be Shy; make use of every opportunity: He spoke about his childhood when he was passionate about learning and sports and advised us to participate in a lot of activities in school. He spoke of the many things he learned by participating in sports such as team work and how these are important skills in real life too. He encouraged us never to leave any opportunity unturned. He also gave an example of creating a moving car game when he was just in 9th
  2. Try Your Best Always: Whether it is studies or our passion, persistence is the key to success and Mr.Garg told us how he would spend hours and hours doing mathematical problems. When it comes to business ideas too, one should look for challenging problems to solve and be persistent trying to solve them.
  3. There are No Failures, Only Failed Experiments:Garg also shared the many failures he had experienced in his entrepreneurial journey such as the GST Tool that was developed, but did not succeed in the market as there were other players who managed to capture the market faster. However, he advised us that there are actually no failures, but just failed experiments – so if one idea doesn’t work, one must know when to stop working on it and try something else.
  4. Be Fluid with Your Time and Priorities:Garg also gave us some very valuable advise around time management and managing our priorities, with a wonderful example of a glass being filled with rocks, sand and water. Imagine a glass, and you have a few rocks, some sand and some water. The glass is the amount of time you have in hand and the rocks, sand and water are the different tasks you have with different priorities, with rocks having the highest priority and water the least. When you fill the glass with rocks, you will feel that there is no more space in it. But you can add sand and it will fill the gaps between the rocks. You can then add water which will soak up the sand and also fill the remaining gaps. Similarly, we need to decide the rocks, sand and water that we want to fill our glass with – and this has to be fluid. For example, just before an exam, we might spend additional hours studying, while just before a competition, we might have to put aside our books and prepare for the competition.
  5. Don’t Think Big Companies Have all the Answers : As an answer to one of our questions, Mr.Garg told us that we must not be afraid to create a startup thinking that bigger companies with more financial strength and sales muscle will be able to solve the problem faster and better. This may not always be the case, as no one, including the big companies can solve all problems. They will also be prioritizing their focus areas and filling their glass with rocks, sand and water. What is least priority for them as a large company maybe our highest priority as a startup and therein lies our opportunity to succeed.

Thus if we play to our strengths, and prioritise our passions and ideas in a fluid manner and be able to work hard and persistently, then we can surely make our startup a success too.

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Prof. Jeanne Liedtka Blog by Siddharth Kumar Gopal

Prof. Jeanne Liedtka Blog by Siddharth Kumar Gopal

Have you heard the terms Design Thinking, Moses Myth, Napkin Pitch or ‘Job to be Done’ ? Well, our session with the amazing Prof. Jeanne Liedtka taught us all this and more. Design thinking is essentially a problem solving approach which keeps the customer in the centre of the product design process. She described it using a 4 step model of What Is, What If, What Vows and What Works. The core idea and the tools to be used in each step is captured in the diagram below:

It starts by paying attention to the people you are trying to serve, understanding their lives and needs. The next step is to generate a portfolio of ideas without worrying about real world constraints. As Prof. Liedtka says you cannot design a better tomorrow if you are stuck in today’s constraints.  Once all ideas are generated, then we bring in our business needs into the picture and see which of those ideas are financially viable. The next step is to prototype and test the idea in a limited market of real life customers so that we get accurate feedback on what works and what doesn’t about our product – this will help us fine tune the product further, before we take it to market on a large scale. The Prof. wasn’t a huge fan of the ‘Fail Fast’ model, as she believes that often failure is the result of not planning and analyzing the data properly. Once the idea is finalized, she recommends the ‘Napkin Pitch’ model to help take it to market. This is enumerated in the table below:

The Napkin Pitch
The Key Idea: What is the key concept of your product. Needs Being Met: What customer needs does your product meet?
Execution: How will you deliver the product or service to the customer? What are the things you need to make your idea practical? Business Benefits: What business benefits will you derive? Are there already competitive ideas in the market? How are you different?

 

She also spoke about the Moses Myth where we look at entreprenuers as something akin to miracle workers like Moses who magically parted the Red Sea. She mentioned that while entrepreneurs are creative geniuses, who could identify problems and needs and potential solutions which others could not see, they are not necessarily magicians. Also, most of us can still find solutions to cross the Red Sea by systematically building a bridge across it. Thus Prof.Liedtka has provided us with a scientific roadmap to fine tune our business ideas, rather than going with our gut instincts, and hoping for a miracle to make our product a success in the marketplace.

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Special Session by Professor Mohanbir Sawhney

Special Session by Professor Mohanbir Sawhney

Professor Mohanbir Sawhney is not just the McCormick Tribune Professor of Technology at the Kellogg School of Management, a well-renowned author and consultant, serving on the Board of Directors at Reliance Jio Infocomm, and a figure with many more titles and accolades…he is also a published poet and most importantly, a recognised leading thinker of the world! Despite of all his achievements, he remains humble, calm, and even humorous throughout the meeting.

One of his opening statements is, “The world is your Lego set.” He goes on to name the four building blocks of digital infrastructure that build the world today more than any others—devices, wired/wireless networks, cloud computing, and AI/machine learning. He cites various examples to support his teachings, some of which include – Uber, Ola, Byju’s, etc. Prof. Sawhney continually emphasises to always start with a problem, and never the solution because, “A fool with a tool is still a fool.” He focuses on the opportunities for India – education with reference to cultural and vocational contexts, health which is, “a massive industry and leaves a lot to be desired,” and finance with respect to financial inclusion. Sir ends by joking that he has an acronym of his own, just like those in Bollywood movies; the acronym being ‘KKH’ or ‘Karna Kya Hai (What to do)’, but even something said jokingly holds deep meaning and leaves us with a lot to think about.

We are grateful for to the professor for taking time out of his surely busy schedule and gracing us with his presence—what we learnt will influence us in our lives positively and forever stay with us.

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SHEROES from Siddharth Gopal

SHEROES from Siddharth Gopal

Yesterday, we had a very interesting session by Ms. Sairee Chahal, founder and CEO of SHEROES. Some of the key lessons we learnt were:

  1. Start young, start small, start simple:Ms.Chahal herself had started working while as young as 17, and this ensured that she had more than 4-5 years of work experience by the time she passed out of college. Also, it is not essential to start a huge company from day one. Our idea can be made to work with even a whatsapp group or a Facebook page when we start off, as our resources are limited.
  2. Be consistent and show up every day: She told us that we need to do something everyday towards making our dream idea a reality. It is important to continue maintaining our relationships with everyone we meet as we never know who can help us in our venture. In a rapidly changing world, doing things consistently day after day is the mantra for success.
  3. Be ready to have a thick skin and ‘beg and borrow’: When it comes to financing as well as gaining a foot in the door of large companies for our ideas, we need to have a thick skin and be ready to ‘beg and borrow’ and hustle to make things work.
  4. Be hyper-focused: We cannot always be all things to all people, so we need to be hyper focused on what we want to achieve and remove all other distractions and work towards realizing our dream idea and making it a successful venture.
  5. The concept of ‘dog fooding’: It is essential that we test our products/ideas ourselves as well as with our friends and family, so that we can fine tune it, before we take it to the market.

She also mentioned the importance of soft skills for an entrepreneur, including the ability to have an open mind and be curious about the world around us and to always be able to learn.

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