RIP Dr.Kalam


As the country mourns the loss of a great visionary and one of India’s finest President – Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam, I would like to take just a moment and share one of his quotes which had the strongest impact in my life and has kept me going.

Dr APJ Abdul Kalam

11 Lessons from being a business owner


Last month I completed 1 year since I quit advertising, quit a job and started managing a small business along with my wife. What I do now is different from what I did in the past 14 years of my working life. Different but at the core very same.

However running your own business has some challenges and some lessons you need to learn fast if you want to survive, grow and make your efforts count.

1.Self-starter Wanted
There is No Boss for a pep talk, no colleague to drink with and no HR for your Annual Review. If you can’t be a self-starter then things are going to be a drag. You need to wake up every morning & get to office NOT because your boss needs you or the client is firing. But because you have clients to face and salaries to pay at the end of the month.

2.No role only responsibility
As a business owner you have no defined role you only have responsibilities. If transport fails, you need to load the taxi and have the good delivered to the client. If your accountant is missing, you need to issue bills and follow-up on the money.

3.Respect your time
If your business is a small setup, chances are you are working by yourself most of the time. Which means you need to fix deadlines for yourself and ensure you don’t get lost trying to check Facebook & Twitter because there is nobody expecting a report at the end of the evening.

4.Penny Pinching
Every penny counts. Cost of courier, travel & telephone expense, staff entertainment – all these indirect expenses matter if not controlled. So be wise, search for cheaper options, look for ways to ensure your expense is controlled from day one.

5.Build relationships
I think this one applies for any scenario – Job or Business. Don’t work with people because you think they are being paid and hence obliged to deliver. Work with the attitude that together you are fulfilling a requirement and helping everyone in the deal move forward. Respect them all.

6.Hire attitude then talent
As a small business owner budgets can be small when it comes to hiring help / talent. My experience – Hire people with the right attitude. A 6/10 on talent can be made into a 8/10 over a period of time. Hand holding, guidance and training should get them there.

7.Develop a problem solving attitude
Shit will happen. Things will not go as planned. You will be challenged almost all the time. As a small business owner if you don’t develop a problem solver attitude there is very little you will be able to achieve. Leave the comfort, roll up your sleeves and be prepared to get your hands dirty.

8.Spread your hope & risks
No single client should be responsible for all your expenses. Spread your business so that you don’t have to close shop if that client goes out of business or just happens to not pay for the services/goods. Keep the faith but spread it.

9.Keep innovating. Keep experimenting.
In the last 1 year we have experimented and introduced our clients to a varied product range. Some were hits, some failures. We have worked & then re-worked our price points, re-seller commission models and everything that goes with it. We have banked on the success but haven’t stopped the innovation because we for sure know that our best designs will be outdated very soon.

10.Build your image
As a small business owner, I strongly recommend spending good time & some money building the right imagery for your business brand. Do you have a well designed logo? A sales pitch for new clients? You don’t need to spend mega bucks on marketing but do focus on the smaller elements to build the right image for your business.

11.Money is a bitch
Buyers will come in with very big smiles. They will agree to prices with maybe a small smile but they will smile the least when you talk about payments. If you happen to be unlucky, at some point chasing your OWN HARD EARNED money will become a TASK. Calls, follow-ups and what not. So play safe. Keep your risks minimised.

Want to share something with me & my readers? Do leave a comment below.

Photography finds a new expression at Freecultr Express


A few months ago Sandeep Singh, my ex-boss at Quasar Media who now heads Freecultr called me to introduce and induct me into the BETA version of Freecultr Express. This is an online initiative by the fashion brand to let artists / photographers & the creative lot have their designs printed on a t-shirt, which are available for consumers to buy online or at the brands’ stores. The earnings per t-shirt are shared with the design owner.

It was an experiment & over a weekend I handpicked some of the photos which I think would look good on my online showcase.You can browse my design store here.

freecultr t-shirts photography

Over the last few months, the project has done well for the brand and also become the centre point for the brand as can be seen from their new website design. I am sure the artists too have benefited from the project. Besides earning some pocket money for myself I am happy that my photography has found a new platform to be displayed & appreciated.

The Woohoo! Moment was last week when Sandeep shared this screenshot from Jabong.Com One of my design t-shirts was featured on this online fashion store.

freecultr jabong t-shirts

Express Freecultr at Jabong.Com

This has been a great boost and I am hoping to select a few more of my photos which can make for some fabulous t-shirt designs. If you’ve got some pieces of creative work, do send in your work to the team at Freecultr.

Automate sending your Pocket Articles to Kindle


kindle wine glassSimple as it may sound, it doesn’t seem to be. A couple of Google searches, checked IFTTT but there wasn’t something which seemed easy and above all “Automated” with scheduled delivery options. The most famous way to do it is – Pocket to Instapaper to Kindle. Messy!

After much digging around and checking reddit comment threads I managed to find 2 good service providers:

En2Kindle – Free trial for 1 week, after which you need to pay a US $6 fee per year to keep the articles coming. Articles come as single pieces and are listed with their titles on the Kindle. – Free Service. I had some delivery issues in the initial few weeks and didn’t seem to work so I had to go back to En2Kindle and pay up the money. However I just noticed last week the service is back and the articles are coming. Articles get clubbed and are delivered in a “Kindle Magazine” format.

Once done, you can keep adding to your Pocket list and read the long articles with ease on your Kindle.

What my 2 year old kid thinks of the Kindle?


Kindle Printed Book

As a practice every night I try and read for at least 30 mins before I sleep. The other night I was reading on my Kindle. My little one walks into the room and comes around the bed side to see what I am doing. I see her pick up one of my other books (print version) and ask me why I was not reading this one.

I replied – “Papa wants to read this one tonight (and I point to the Kindle).”

Her response “Papa see this book (pointing to the printed copy) so nice colours – blue, pink, orange so nice nice, this (kindle) is only black black, not nice”.

She puts the book back on the table, smiles and walks out of the room. Least bothered if her opinion has made me switch to the “nice bright book” instead of the boring Kindle.

Travel Diary: Business Trip to China


One of the key highlights of 2014 was a short trip to Yiwu City in China. I had the opportunity to visit one of the world’s largest wholesale market which boasts of over 65,000 traders/manufacturer outlets. The trip gave me a very small but impactful exposure to the business processes of the country and probably a brief understanding on why the country is poised to become the next super power.

Yiwu City - Early Morning

In the next few paragraphs I am going to share some of my observations & notes from the trip. Although a disclaimer that these are from a short 6 days trip to Yiwu City only.

Hard Working Bunch of People
The Chinese are very hardworking. The Yiwu Wholesale Market operates 7 days a week 9am – 5pm come rain or shine. No weekly offs and we the city doesn’t seem to take it slow even on a Sunday. I think the only time they close down for business is during the Chinese New Year when most of them go back to their villages to spend time with the family.

Women Empowerment
They are out there manning (pun not intended) the stores, negotiating & closing business deals. Superb at their sales and very tough when it comes to pricing – the ladies do a fine job, trust me. When work calls they even show their muscle power and are seen packing huge cartons and getting them across to the delivery vans. All in a days job. Bravo!

Textbook - Foreign Trade English

Textbook – Foreign Trade English

Learning to speak English
They have realised and are putting in a lot of effort to learn English to be able to engage & communicate better with the world outside. A lot of the young staff members have a better command of the language making business talk a lot more easier.

Shopping isn’t cheap
Contrary to popular belief, the retail market isn’t CHEAP just because its CHINA. Priced a bit higher than your average shopping in Mumbai, the product quality was superb. Shoes, leather bags, clothes were fabulous.

Cycles available for public use, Yiwu City China

Cycles available for public use, Yiwu City China

Impressive Infrastructure
We didn’t see a lot of the country but the 2 hour drive across the highway which connects Hangzahou Airport to Yiwu City was fantastic. Superb well managed roads, smooth vehicle movement made the long journey very easy.

Veg Thali in Yiwu City, China

Veg Thali in Yiwu City, China

The happiness of seeing vegetarian indian food available in abundance very close to the hotel. After a long tiring day in the market, good food really kept us going.

Restaurant Review: Burma Burma


My food blog Khana Peena hasn’t been getting much action. It’s not that I don’t eat enough but I am not writing enough about the food I enjoy these days. So I don’t think I deserve to have a food blog and instead will be sharing the food bites & more here on this blog itself.

Kickstarting 2015 on a foodie note, the first blog post from my recent visit to the much talked about Burma Burma.

Day 1 of 2015 and mission accomplished. Burma has been captured. Let’s admit it, getting a table at Mumbai’s Burma Burma – The ALL VEG Burmese Restaurant is a challenge. After futile attempts for most of 2014 we finally wriggled a table to kick-start the year.


Once you experience the place, it settles in why the fuss about getting a table. Yummy (all VEG) Food, Good Service & Limited Seating (actually they aren’t that small also).

A quick check on Zomato for recommendations and advise from the waiter for the evening & we were decided on what’s going to be coming in. Tea Leaf Salad had a lovely taste. The soup whose name I can’t seem to remember was good but kind of heavy so next time I would opt for the more clear soup. Get the Steamed Soft Buns – Onion and Spinach & Tofu. We enjoyed both the flavours. For the main course we got greedy and ordered the much recommended Khow Suey & a portion of Burmese Rice and Vegetables. Thank god for a well built up appetite that evening we managed to enjoy both the dishes.

Steam Buns

Steam Buns

So like I said good food, decently large servings, warm service & a not too loud ambiance makes this a lovely choice for dining. If getting a table became just a bit more easier I am going to go back here.

If you enjoy talking about food, join me at Zomato where I am cross-posting my experiences.