Serendipity with Amit Ranjan


By Sahiba Sethi and Kumar Tanmay

If you have ever seen Amit Ranjan’s picture, you can’t ignore when you come across him. That’s his charm. It’s inexplicable. You got to experience it first hand. Here is a teaser about our experience.

We are shameless in meeting people. However, we were surprised that Cofounder of Slideshare and Director of LinkedIn sits in the same café as we for shaping the future of amazing startups he invests in. We were under a notion that multi-million deals happen in star hotels. (Thank God, saved few thousands before we raise our first round! The next time we don’t have to account for the coffee expenses in our investment pitch! I am serious.)

We had made our mind, the next time we see him we are going to steal a moment out of his schedule. While he was regular to SDA, we always saw him occupied in his meetings with a gentle smile on his face. But not long until one fine evening when we were just coming out from Chaayos cafe we saw him placing his request at Costa. We right away went ahead and said, “Hi Amit, we are really fond of you and it would be pleasure to talk to you and learn” and then he was really kind to give us his precious time to share our experiments.

We never felt meeting a man whom the Government of India has roped in to develop the next generation products for the nation. He was candid enough to inform us that he was early for a meeting so we could chat. It was totally unexpected and out of the world feeling for us that we have actually managed to steal a moment in our very first meeting. He could have easily asked us to meet next time citing his meeting then. For his credentials, anyone would believe him without any doubt. However, great people are more approachable than those who have tasted success without much struggle (we have experienced it in our own circle!).

We spent memorable 25 minutes, and we got a direction with a very important input that changed the entire direction of our start up. We have come across quotes and blogs that success comes to those who listen more and then respond (and not talk!). Amit Ranjan is one of the few who is a living example of being an excellent listener. And last but not the least, he offered us his coffee and snacks too! He never took a bite till we left and if we recall it right; he did not touch his coffee either. Even though he was listening to us all the while, his eating would not have diluted the essence of an unscheduled-meeting. We learned an important lesson of mutual respect for humans no matter who one is.

We have tried our best not to judge the man behind making our lives easier with Slideshare and LinkedIn. It’s our bit that we are doing to pay our gratitude for his invaluable contribution to our lives without knowing who we are. We are mere human beings!


To the man whom Bill Gates paid a surprise visit

bill gates

By Sahiba Sethi and Kumar Tanmay

The world doesn’t stops to amaze us because there are beautiful human beings around us. If it was Dharamveer last time, today it is Abhishek Sinha, CoFounder, Eko who shared his precious time and invaluable experience with us. It was a long desire to meet him in person for the lives he has impacted at the bottom of the pyramid. The curiosity and desire to meet him reached its zenith when we learnt about Bill Gates surprisingly visiting Eko’s office few years ago! Today we were fortunate enough to meet the three guys we have heard about at Eko – Abhishek, Abhinav and Anupam Varghese.

Tanmay recognised Anupam Varghese, who heads Technology at Eko, almost after 6 years at the entrance. He had first heard about Eko through Anupam because of the faith he had then in bringing banking solutions to the poor. We couldn’t have been greeted better if it was not he – he dropped us to the lift leading to the office and he wasn’t heading to the office then. We were humbled because we were mere strangers.

Before we head into Eko’s beautiful office, we see the picture of the man who is on a mission to improves lives of poor across the globe with the entire Eko team – Mr Bill Gates. You cannot ignore it! Abhinav Sinha, Cofounder was courteous enough to greet us at the entrance just as any guest would visit his home.

And then entered the one whom we had been waiting to meet for years – Abhishek Sinha, who gave us an appointment to meet at short notice. The serenity on his face leaves you speechless. We had a small conversation over the phone last morning and later he showered his praise upon us. I don’t know for what, I couldn’t believe it. But when he spoke the same words looking into our eyes today, we understood we are somewhere doing something right.

Abhishek is a very humble, helpful and courteous human being. We were really amazed with the way he makes a person feel good and important. According to him the following things should be kept in the mind before starting up –

  1. There should be a free trade zone – Don’t do your first business interfering/ partnering to change government regulations.
  2. Technology – Use it to the fullest. Think of processes where fewer people and paper is used.
  3. Rapid scale – Cash burn is light and scalability should be viral, it should have a network effect.
  4. Mobile first business like Whatsapp – Don’t do business with a particular niche, do it with the masses. 
  5. Most important of all –  Daily watch Guy Kawasaki’s video on Art of Start.

He said that you should never over think about an idea, just go and talk to the paying customers and understand the problem, dig deeper into the problem. I remember Abhinav and I doing two night-outs and writing 30-35 ideas, then selected one and working on that. Success is about persistence and perseverance, for some it comes early and for some it might take time. But if you have jumped off the cliff then you’re bound to succeed today or tomorrow. Just stick to it. You learn from other peoples mistake and your own failures, try and learn more from others mistakes, don’t do what wrong I did, never ever repeat a mistake.

At the end of our conversation, we observed a common behaviour at Eko. If Anupam had dropped us to the lift directing to their office, Abhinav greeted us at the entrance. At the end of our conversation and to our utter surprise Abhishek, the CEO saw us off till the lift and we were again speechless because we have never been shown such an immense respect. I don’t have words to describe it but I came across a company made of beautiful human beings.

Last but not the least, we were gifted a book “Startup Sutra”. Our happiness has no boundaries today. It’s just the beginning, we will keep sharing the experiences of fantastic people we have met and are meeting in our journey.

P.S: Abhishek, Abhinav and Tanmay are alma maters of BIT, Mesra.

startup sutra

Our learning from Dharamveer Singh, cofounder of Zostel

By Sahiba Sethi and Kumar Tanmay

Our journey cannot be what it is today because of awesome people we have met till date, especially in last couple of months. We have made sure that we keep on meeting good people and keep ourselves in company of awesome people. We learn from them and implement without wasting time. And trust me we have not seen the results yet, however we have enjoyed the process.

Many of them have been generous enough to spare their precious time for us for interviews and without keeping us waiting. They have reaffirmed that success comes with humility. Few have disappointed us too, might be they didn’t take us seriously. We don’t mind, we are and shall always remain grateful to all whom we have met. And hence we thought of writing about some of the amazing ones we have met in last few days.

We start with Dharamveer, Co-founder of Zostel. He is generous enough and invited us straight to his office on the same day. It was a short but a worthy meeting. What we learned from him that he wants to be known as a good human being first and then a successful entrepreneur. He believes in succeeding each day because success is not a destination rather a journey.

Keeping people happy and focused in the team is a necessity and that’s where the culture exists. There is no culture in building and teaching protocols. I believe keeping people happy in his team has made him approachable and we need no proof for that. His message to us :-

“I can’t say that I’m generous in helping startups but yes I do it for myself it makes me happy. But, good to see your persistence for meeting quickly. I do get a lot of people calling, but when I push them around they lose the passion easily. Keep going hard, keep yourself motivated, form an impeccable team. Above all keep taking risks. You’ll love the way you live your life. There’s no success that is to be chased. Success is in each day, which keeps you motivated to work hard and have a peaceful night sleep.

It’s the journey much more than the end. I don’t understand at all, why do people ever get tensed? Like ever! If you just think 2 steps ahead, there’s nothing worse that can happen! It’s stupid.  Specially hate that intelligent people run for placements! That’s just so stupid.  I mean It’s just too exciting and too short to be anything but awesome. Good luck to you guys.

I do hope to create more. At least inspire someone! I used to take out time to write earlier for the same but now don’t get time”.

We wish to meet Dharamveer sooner; learn and share more.

By the way, the best way to conclude is his fantastic piece of writing. Take a look, we read it one go. Don’t forget to thank Dharamveer Singh Chouhan

What is freedom ? Is it being independent ? NO. It’s being dependent yet being free.

What is freedom according to  majority of the people ? It’s being independent.
Do you think that defines total freedom or freedom ?
Freedom is being free in all the spheres of life – spiritual,  mental, physical, psychological, societal, educational, etc. It’s being YOU. It’s being available to may be colour others at their will but not being open to get coloured by others.
Aiming to be independent is a very small and narrow vision. The universe has created a natural cycle of dependence for each and every being and thing. You can’t eat yourself, you cant marry yourself, can’t become your own parent, you can’t produce kids alone and even the great leaders and organization’s might have a strong vision but it’s not realised alone being independent.  A great organization is dependent on the team, on delegating the vision to everyone. Independently you’re zero  or less. You’re great when your thinking is free and you work and depend on everyone. Being dependent teaches you others importance and makes you feel gratitude towards them. I have heard females saying I want to be independent. No dont be independent just be free from your husband or boyfriend or whatever relation. It goes for all the relationships on this planet. Be dependent on him/her, work together and love each other but yet be free. – Sahiba Sethi

Life is a mind game – Fahad Shah founder of The Kashmir Wala and editor of “Of Occupation and Resistance: Writings from Kashmir (Tranquebar, 2013)”.

I am always in talks with my mind. It’s all in the mind, it’s all mind game. You know what is my best, favorite game to play “Chess”. I play chess. You know if you have the will to do it you can do it. If you’re  standing against a wall with a bulldozer but if you don’t have the will to do it, you can’t do it. If you stand there with a nail and you have the will to crack the wall, you can do it. It might take time may be a week,  a month but you’ll cross the wall. So may be when we don’t have investors, we just have the nail, we don’t have the bulldozer which is the grand investment.  But we just have the will to do it so with that will we might break the wall and cross to the other side. And when you cross the wall everybody will be like Oh WOW this guy did it. Now we should talk to him and now we should offer him a bulldozer because he cracked the wall with a nail. What if we give him a bulldozer. What is he going to do ? He will crack shit. So its all about mind. First thing is the will to do and then hard work.  That’s it.

Conversation with Mondoboards Founders

How would you like to introduce yourself and your Co-Founder Pratik to our readers?

I have been an entrepreneur since I was just 9 years old when I started a company that sold class management excel workbooks to teachers. I did my college in Economics from Loyola College, Chennai, and then worked with McKinsey and Company before founding MondoBoard with Pratik.

Pratik returned to Mumbai after completing his masters from the University of Illinois and working in the Silicon Valley. He has worked on US defense projects and also with gaming companies like Zynga and IGT.

What does Mondoboard mean?

Mondo means big. The name came when we were trying to keep a domain name which we wanted to be something big. Board came up because all our events are typically pinned on a board. Hence, Mondoboard! It’s supposed to signify big board.

What made you start with Mondoboard and what’s your vision?

I used to play a lot of tennis and basketball when I came to Mumbai a year ago. I didn’t have anyone to play with and I was looking around trying to find people and it took me 6 months to find a tennis partner. Eventually, the more I thought about it I figured out that there are a lot of people who face this challenge. Wherever you’re today and if you are moving to a new city or you are doing something new, you need to build new connections.

What is your “Why” behind your vision?

I really think that as much as social media has made communication easier, it has made people lonelier to a large extent. Because of Facebook and Whatsapp people aren’t physically meeting each other, and hence, people are getting lonelier. So, social media isn’t solving this challenge; it’s actually when you meet people that you’re solving the challenge of loneliness.

My ultimate vision is that anyone who wants to do anything she loves should be able to find a partner on Mondoboard; to leave a legacy behind where no one is left lonely and be a guy who made the world a happier place.

I believe it’s great to make technology which helps people to meet each other. Today, we are making people meet for sports like cycling, basketball, etc., but tomorrow, if someone is fond of painting or other art forms, they could meet each other regularly using Mondoboard.

What’s your definition of an entrepreneur?

An entrepreneur is someone who’s trying to find water in a desert. He’s the leader of people, who is guiding them to find water in a desert. The way I define it is like this – think you are in a desert and there are a bunch of people out of whom none of them can find water. An entrepreneur is the leader of that group who makes them go to a place where they can get water and this group of people is his consumer base.

What have been your biggest challenges so far?

Building a product that people really love has been a challenge in itself. It is very hard to find out what product we should build that people will love. We have already made 6 versions of our application but we still haven’t really built a product which people truly love.

There are 2 aspects to building a great product:

1) What problem do you wish to solve? This could take a lot of time. It’s hard to identify the right problem.

If Henry Ford went and asked people as to what he should make for them, people would have told him to make a faster horse as they knew that the problem was the current transport wasn’t fast enough. Hence, he built a car.

2) People should love your solution.

Has any funding been done so far?

We are currently bootstrapped. Funders are speaking to us but we aren’t going to raise money for the next 3 months until we get the right product that fits the market.

Can you share your revenue model with us?

Right now we aren’t charging people. But, the way we are going to make it is – whenever an activity is performed it is performed at a particular venue and you need to book a venue. So, we are creating business for them. So, we are going to take a slice of that.

Second way is – sports are highly competitive. Even when we were small we used to play cricket match for money or we used to bet with each other. We plan to make the entire betting process through the application itself. So, we will be taking a small portion of that.

What are yours and Pratik’s responsibilities in the start-up?

Pratik takes care of technology and coding (80% of it). I engage with the users and try to figure out what they want as I understand the user data.

What are the most important traits a person should have to launch a start-up?

1) Knowing your “Why?” – what you want to do keeps changing but ‘why’ really builds inspiration, makes you rush through hard times, makes you work 16 hours a day, 7 days a week.

2) Flexibility and being determined – The biggest mistake one could do is over relying on one’s gut and intuition. You need to be open to what the market is saying and improve or change your product based on the feedback.


Luck could range from anywhere between 0 and 10,000. But, if you are determined to hang in there for long enough luck will obviously become positive at some time or the other; it will come in your favour and you’ll make it big. There’s a famous saying- “If you hang around in a barber shop long enough, sooner or later you will get a haircut“.

3) Hustle – If you want to get through to somebody, are you willing to call her/his receptionist 50 times?, are u willing to go door to door speaking to customers, and probably, being rejected by most of them? Hustle is the will to do it when the outside world says that you shouldn’t do it.

What are the lessons you have learnt so far?

1) Patience – The ability to work hard consistently for long till you get to it.

2) You’ll never have all the skills that you require to do a start-up or get to your vision and there are two ways to accomplish this:

• You can learn those skills. (OR)

• You can create some kind of distortion field, become inspirational and you can draw people with skill sets and make them a part of your vision.

Ideally, it should be a mix of both.

Which is your favourite quote/inspirational statement?

This comes from the movie “Rocky Balboa” when Rocky is speaking to his son, “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place. And, I don’t care how tough you are; it will beat you to your knees and keep you there if you let it. You, me, or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward.” That’s how I want to do things.

One more thing that I wish to share about how I feel about myself and what I want to do is – I don’t want to be an icon. I want to be an idea. I want to represent possibility. I want to represent hope. I want to represent magic. People think 2+2 is 4. I want to make sure that 2+2 is what I want it to be and I want to make it whatever I want it to be.

What message would you like to impart to our readers?

If you have a vision and a dream and you don’t know how to get it, don’t worry! As long as you know why you want it and you are willing to be there long enough to get there you’ll achieve it for sure. Start working towards it and the answers will come to you.

Leadership by Sahil Dharia (Founder and MD at Soothe Healthcare) ex Global Head of Operations at Thomson Reuters

Sahil Dharia says, Leader provides a vision and the ability to galvanize those people and provide them with a path to walk on that’s leadership.

The necessary component of my definition is to have a vision, vision that unites several people.

Difference between a leader and a manager is –  A manager is giving a specific task tumko ye karna hai. Wo karney mein wo management hogaya.

How to do it ? Kaise mein karna hai ? Kitne mein karna hai ? Performance criteria, success criteria kya hai  ? That is management, that’s not leadership.

Leadership is to tell him you have to do that. That isn’t dictating, that is creating a requirement or following  a vision. I want to go there. Who creates that  vision ? That’s leadership. And I think anybody can do that irrespective of position and age as long as you have the ability to look at things as they could be rather than the way they are. Sometimes even a founder can be a lousy leader. A leader can be at any level. According to me leadership is simply the ability to see things the way they could be.

Of course it also has to follow through with the ability to get things done. Baari basri batey karo and na karo. Its the next component of leadership. But yes many people can do the second part i.e getting the things done. The first part is critical. You should be able to see something.

Have you seen that movie “Wake Up Sid”, when Kokona Sen finds that house which is a dump and it’s visible from an apartment, horrible apartment ganda hai that character Ranbir Kapoor says kitna gandha hai cheeh. But she says, “usko dekho na clean kar ke kitna acha hoga” So she’s able to see things, not the way it is now but the way it could be if she puts a little effort to clean it. And it looks so brilliant after that whole cleaning session. That’s leadership. She did which no one else did, others thought its a gandha apartment.



download     love-lasts-forever-400x400-imadw3zyn8ydgah951OfWnEs0JL._AA160_

1.Tell me about your childhood, previous avatars. Were you dreamer since the beginning ?

I had a very normal childhood sharing my space with my two siblings. I don’t know if I can say I was a dreamer from the very beginning but yes I always liked English literature as a subject and loved reading good stories.

  1.  What’s the purpose to start with this ?

To be very honest there wasn’t any specific purpose to start with writing, it was just that I was into reading a lot and with the kind of time we have while sailing on board I started to pen down my thoughts in black and white. That is where I discovered I had a flare for this skill as I could easily put my thoughts on paper and that’s how it began.

3.What are the challenges that you’ve faced ? Any rejections, failures ?

Tell me about it!  Yes, I did face severe criticism from few friends and rejections from lots of publishers initially. I did not get a publisher for a year and a half after completing my book, but giving up on my dreams is just not me so I kept on pursuing until I got lucky.

  1. Share your journeys most highest and the lowest point

Highest point was when my first book became a national bestseller and lowest point when I faced my first rejection from my dream publisher.

  1. Any rituals that you follow ?

I believe in God and offer prayers everyday without fail.

  1.  What do you do for your self development ?

I think a lot! I make lots of resolutions and try to follow them as much as I can. Besides that I refrain from getting my mind diverted to petty issues and focus on the bigger picture of my life and try to motivate myself and others to value their precious time and make hay while the sun shines.

7.How did you build your team & how do you keep it motivated ?

I am still in the process of building my team

  1. Are you bothered about your ups & downs ?

Being Human it is natural to be emotionally vulnerable but I try to maintain my calm in both highs and lows of my life as it is part and parcel of life.

  1. Any previous entrepreneurial journey ? Why did you quit or exit ?

No, Writing is my first and last love, I haven’t ventured into any other entrepreneurship and I don’t consider writing as my occupation, it’s my passion.

10. What kind of books do you read ?

I read all genres of books but specifically my interests are in romance and thrillers.

11. What is the worst thing that people have told you ?

I try not registering such negative thoughts or comments in my mind and are best to be avoided and not being affected by it.

12 How do you take criticism ?

I take criticism very sportingly, in fact I encourage my fans to come up and give honest feedbacks which are for my betterment only. My wife is my biggest critic

13. What is the biggest sacrifice you’ve made for this venture ?

I really don’t thing writing has made me sacrifice anything in life, in fact it has helped me to evolve as a person and made me an obsessive thinker. My wife might say that I have less time for family though

14 How do you survive in this competitive world ?

By taking competition in a very healthy manner, and focusing on my growth rather than brooding on other’s success

15  What is the biggest learning you have got from your family and you’re using it in the business ?

No matter what, your loved ones are always there to support you through thick and thin so I’ve learned come what may never take anyone for granted just like your family.

16. Please share your love story if any and only if you’re comfortable

We have a very interesting love story as my wife is a muslim and we had to got through a lot in order to get married. We met through a common friend and she clicked at that very moment but after that was a roller coaster ride of maintaining a long distance relationship and convincing our parents and fighting the society. But eventually every thing had fallen in place and we are happily married for 4 years now.

17 If you were given one wish to change the world, what would it be?

I would like to bring equality all over the world so that no man dies of hunger and there is no jealously or animosity due to financial disparities.

18. Your thoughts about being interviewed ?

It feels great to be considered to be interviewed. Its fun!

19. Where do you want to see your organisation 5 years down the line ?

I see myself as a successful writer and a script writer who is not just writing books but bringing good stories on the table.

20 What’s your message for the world?

Be Yourself and follow your passion, it’s the best feeling in the world to be able to discover and follow your dream!

Mind that has unleashed it’s inner beauty thinks beyond clothes,face and other material stuff

We’re only worried about our face when we don’t have anyother bigger, eternal beauty unleashed.  As soon as we unleash our inner wisdom we stop worrying about face and clothes – Sahiba Sethi  
You can connect to me at –
Twiter – @SahibaSethi3


Your work should make everyone feel WOW.

Your work should make everyone feel WOW. 
Do you always remember the people who serve you at a coffee shop ?
No right.
We remember only the ones who make us feel WOW/Who work as an artist.
Recently I met a simple coffee brista who made me feel wow, he truly cares for the customers. I was at Maxims, Kailash Colony market, Delhi with one of my college buddies and we ordered a cold coffee and one had to see the way the barista was  decorating the coffee with patience.  He took so much time and effort making some beautiful art on the top of the coffee. I could see him completely engrossed. And then after serving the coffee he asked us “Ma’am do you want me to make any change or are you happy”. And I felt so nice as It wasn’t some very hi-fi shop but a simple but yes famous pastry shop and now I know why ?  Because it makes people feel WOW.
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