CV Raman nagar : A green running route

Bagmane Lake There are many interesting running routes in and around Bangalore city, some of them still remain unexplored. CV Raman Nagar DRDO are is one such running route, which will always remain very close to my heart for many reasons. First I have been living in the same area for years together now, used to go for long walks in the same route much before I started training for long distance running with Runners High. Second, this serene and green router is well maintained, one of the most beautiful landscapes that I am aware of.  It also gives a great opportunity to listen to self while running.

For people who don’t know, DRDO Township is located in CV Raman Nagar, about 2 KM from Indira Nagar. This access restricted Township has some timing limitations where pedestrians and vehicles are not allowed to pass through between 8 PM to 8 AM. Also none of the private vehicles are allowed into the township during any part of the day, which relates the traffic to a larger extent. Well maintained roads, restricted access combined with excellent greenery offers a very good opportunity to use this route as a walking or running track.

The route starting from CV Raman statue -> Bagmane Tech park entrance -> DRDO Township -> DRDO shopping complexDRDO_entrance (1024x768) covers good 2 KM stretch, which is ideal for anybody to start running. This stretch has good combination of flat, uphill and downhill surfaces that gives a good experience for a runner. Since the whole stretch consist of well laid out roads, possibility of skidding or falling is almost ruled out. With ample parking facilities (both inside and outside the complex), a good ‘out-and-back’ of the above mentioned stretch will give a 4 KM distance. As a part of our running program with RH, I have been using this route as per the weekly plan. Also when I miss my weekend runs, this route serves as an alternative option thereby getting rid of guilt feeling that comes as a bonus for missing the routine.

From timing point of view evenings (especially between 5 PM – 8 PM) serves as an ideal slot to go for a run as there will be a lot of regular walkers and runners. Couple of vivid incidents always comes to my mind when I think of this route. The first one being spotting a dead snake on the route, which not only scared people who were walking or running, it created a bad stink in the entire area for more than a week. It was stinking so badly that it even after a week I couldn’t run in the route. The second one being picking up smaller fights with security authorities for stopping me by asking some vague questions, irrespective me mentioned that I came to run in that area. Every other day security personnel keep changing each of them have their own set of rules for pedestrians and timings. It would be better if they come up with some proper mechanism for handling this.

If you are looking for Running_route_3 (1024x768)a good running route well within the city, especially in the Bangalore east area I would strongly recommend DRDO. The ‘darshini’ located inside the complex serves crispy plain-dosa, combining it with a cup of hot tea will complete your run in a high note for sure. Now it’s time to tie your laces!

Almabase: Building scalable alumni networks

almabaseProfessional networking plays a critical role in individual and the organization’s growth. Even dealing with customers, we are actually working with a human being, where professional connect is super important. Thanks to the Internet, there are tons of professional networking sites (ex: LinkedIn) available which do wonderful job of connecting people worldwide. However they still fall in short when it comes to alumni of a particular college, who are spread across multiple batches, courses and geographies. It is highly possible that alumnus of a particular college/university is seeking a professional help, which can be easily provided by another alumnus. Just because they are not able to connect many such win-win propositions doesn’t get leveraged. Compared to any other references, saying ‘I am from the same college’ immediately establishes trust among individuals in any conversation, that eventually make things happen.

After passing out from National Institute of Warangal during the year 2001, I have been reasonably connected with our local alumnus chapter. It is always challenging days to maintain multiple spreadsheets, mailing lists etc, in a world where information about each individual is changing very fast. Considering that we all are working professionals with pretty busy schedule it’s hard to keep the data updated all the time. Having networked with alumni helps in multiple ways (seeking mentorship, getting reference with a potential customer, applying for a new job with a company, building personal/family level connections, building social community, contributing for a special cause, simply recollecting those good-old-days etc…). In each of the situations mentioned above, when unknown people are coming together it takes a lot of time to establish trust because both parties don’t know each other. Alumni networks significantly help to establish the trust factor quickly, thereby making things happen much faster than it would be otherwise. Building this gap of connecting this trusted network with the power of technology was lacking for quite some time.

Recently came across Almabase, build by couple of my college juniors which perfectly fills this gap. It is a hosted solution that helps to build alumni portals (check out this URL, built for NITW Alumni)in no time. The main power of this platform comes from the powerful algorithms that builds the alumni tree in no time by leveraging social networks. For example today we have built about 28000 strong alumni network in no time. Once this network building (which is the most difficult task) is established, other activities like creating chapter wise sub-pages, specific events, news and collaboration activities can be done quite effectively which also this portal supports quite well. By subscribing to this service, all the college alumni network need to do is to buy a domain, configure it and forget it. It is quite easy to maintain and gives quite a lot of customization features that can be built on a per college basis. With collaborative content editing and sharing such portals make the alumni networking a real easy and effective one.

I have gained a lot both professionally and personally thanks to alumni networking. However there is a limit to individual’s ability to establish and sustain the network, where solutions like Almabase can come handy. Nowadays I am performing some specific search in my alumni portal (powered by Almabase) which is providing accurate and latest information about alumnus located across the globe. I am sure this is just a beginning, quite a lot of things that can be done with this.

Trusted network powered by technology is a killer combination, which Almabase is trying to leverage. If you are college alumnus or local chapter member or want to revive you connections, go ahead have a look into it, it’s worth your time.

Running as a therapy

Most of us think Running as a physical activity, resulting in better health.

The real impact that running has created goes way beyond physical health, thereby acting as a therapy. The Alternative, a new age media created a set of stories recently where they covered stories of individuals where running made a big impact. There were people suffering from migraine, autism, schizophrenia etc…and how running has transformed their lives. I am happy to be surrounded by such individuals with whom we run as a community in Runners High.

Check out the following URLs for the individual stories:

New blog creation – three options

This post might sound elementary, it will be definitely useful for folks who want to start their own blogs. Here is a brief on three options that are available:

  • Creating in WordPress/BlogSpot: This is plain vanilla approach where anybody can create an ID with these two popular blogging platforms and get started. Both of them offer excellent configuration and customization options (in terms of plugins), ideal for starters. In fact I know some of the very advanced and popular bloggers still run with same old WordPress ID. The best part is it comes with 100% free with almost unlimited storage options.
  • Having a domain + linking back-end with WordPress/BlogSpot: This is next level of sophistication where you can buy a domain name (ex: myblog.com) and link back-end with WordPress/BlogSpot by providing re-direction option. This gives advantage of having own domain, but back-end is still provided by WordPress/BlogSpot. However if you want to extend it beyond a blog, this will not be a feasible option as there is no control on the server. Only blog interface is provided to configure/change blog posts. The same holds good for option 1 also. Buying a domain name is relatively less costly (say about 500 INR) per year.
  • Having a domain + having own hosting space: This is second level of sophistication, where you get to control anything and everything. Creating a blog, content management system, web pages, e-commerce etc, can be done at a single button click if you have this option. Provides complete freedom and control over anything and everything. However one needs to pay for domain name (say about 500 INR) and hosting space (say about 3000 INR per annum). There are multiple providers (like Godaddy), where jwritings.com is currently hosted. Their service and support quality is quite good.

Depending on your need and objective, appropriate option can be chosen.

The crux of coaching

Every year 5th September is celebrated as Teachers day in India. We were preparing a custom greeting card for our little one

Coaching
Coaching

(to share with her teacher) to demonstrate a good gesture. Around the same time my mind started thinking about teachers, coaching and positive impact it creates individuals. The process of coaching doesn’t end after we pass out from school/college; in fact one requires coaching from a different dimension afterwards. I have been coached by many exceptional individuals for whom I will remain eternally thankful. There are numerous occasions when I was clueless, done mistakes or even frustrated. These set of mentors/coaches were always available to me to help and support all the time. I tried to look back and try to understand what exactly these individuals have done to me? After all what exactly is the crux of coaching?

I would like to take my recent example of coaching from long distance running experience and try to find answer for my previous question. When individuals are getting trained for long distances, it is highly likely possible those individuals face difficulties to keep up with running long distances. The issue can be due to physical fatigue, injury, mental blockers, and inferiority thinking which eventually leads to lesser self confidence in the person. In such situations individuals end up running last or walk or even think of quitting the run. Understanding this state quickly, I have seen the coach end up running along with this slowest running person in the group.

Now what is the powerful and indirect message that coach is conveying? Primarily the slowest runner gets a mental support that he is not alone and running slowly is not a big issue. By getting an encouraging word or two during such situations (“Good job, you are getting better”) from the coach instills confidence and re-assurance. This creates a huge transformation on the person, who is getting coached, which will help them to get out of the issue (mentioned above) quickly, even though it might fall under any of the category.

Connecting back, this is exactly what they have done to me time-and-again. In challenging situations these mentors ensured that they kept faith and confidence, which meant a lot to me during such situations. With this support it was quite natural for me to figure out action and come out of difficulties.

In my opinion, having faith in individuals and installing confidence during difficult times summarizes the crux of coaching. For the person is receiving end it is a humbling experience.

Confidence vs Arrogance

Recently I was in conversation with one (relatively younger) colleague (say named A), who is at peak of his career. He is been handling plum assignments, Work activities matching to his strengths, Strong backup from senior leadership for his assignments, Very high visibility with customers – a great combination anybody can ask for. Definitely his hardworking ability and capability matched with this opportunity which has made him a star performer over years. Everybody (including myself) have seen such phase of career, during which individuals demonstrate lot of confidence, positivism and energy. However during the conversation, I found A slowly crossing limit and started behaving in a arrogant manner. He quickly gets into ‘godfather’ mode and start providing unsolicited advice as if he knows everything under the earth. Frankly I didn’t expect this from him. As a higher performing individual, I always thought he is a mature individual, who still has a long way to go in his career. Success (that too when it comes in abundance), starting affecting his behavior now. By looking more closely, he always been an individual contributor working on plum assignments with heavy duty back-up. Any change/issue, he is given necessary power to get it escalated because of which he always got his things done in his own way.

Similarly, some years back I have seen another individual who was in pinnacle of his career (say named B). You name any award he already got it. In fact there were some special award categories were created in order to acknowledge his contributions and results. This individual has organically grown his group from the scratch, because of which he enjoyed enormous amount of ‘organizational currency’ in terms of higher reputation with customers, better command over customer dynamics, deeper understanding of people etc. Faced by same behavioral he ended up rubbing shoulders against individuals, picked up fight with peers and demonstrated as if there is no tomorrow. However due to certain business situation, organizational structure got changed and he was rotated into a different role where he was put into a total new situation in a new business with new team.

As B always grown things organically, it was like ‘fish-out-of-water’ feeling to take up something in between and struggled to gain grounds. As his behavioral issues (like arrogance) has multiplied over years it became impossible for him to adapt to the new situation and demonstrate leadership. Slowly-and-steadily he lost his credibility and became ineffective in the organization. Another job rotation followed, which has made B’s life even miserable. Even today it is very hard for B to come in terms current situation (caused because of multiple changes). Since he has not faced the situation in the past, one small change has literally blown away his career. I am now wondering if the similar situation comes for A, how will he come out? What if he is asked to lead a set of people whom don’t know at all? How well he will be able to manage change? How effectively will he be able to keep his ego under check? How well he will adapt to new situation and perform? How effectively he will be able to handle ‘out-of-limelight’ situation for which he has not used to?

Often there is very thin line between confidence and arrogance, which makes whole lot of difference. Unless individuals are able to manage it well, individuals and their career soon becomes history.

The story of long distance running

[I wrote this article to share with my folks in Runners High community (referred as RH in the article below). Some names might look little unfamiliar for general readers. I will continue to write about long distance running, going forward]

Initial conversation with Santhosh

Keeping up physical fitness is one of the key priorities for every one of us. There are many options available (ex: Aerobics), however long distance running is something which I have been aspiring to start for a long time. My initial understanding with running came in form of Santhosh, who was doing his marathons (for Asha NGO) when he was working in the US. I used to follow his blogs to keep in touch ever since we passed out of college more than a decade back. He used to write regular blogs on his preparation, challenges and how money raised through running is used to contribute grass root level organizations, especially children. Even much before Santhosh started off RH (vaguely recollect it was year 2008), I clearly remember meeting up for lunch with him about me doing running, which I immediately ruled out by saying “Running? Give me a break. Please coach somebody else to keep your motivation high; I will probably bring down your energy levels by not showing interest in such crazy stuff!”

Lonely planet

Times passed and we went on our own ways. In the mean time, I have kept up with my aspiration to keep physically fit by doing various activities like Yoga, Meditation and some games over the weekend. However I was doing them all alone, which was becoming very difficult to sustain. Over a period of time, consistency took a huge hit as it is very easy to give up when you are alone. Again back to square one, I was primarily looking for some activity with higher sustainability factor. In the mean time, there were some colleagues who got into long distance running, through them I used to get updates about growing “community” approach towards running in Bangalore. Finally I decided “let me give it a shot, let even hell break loose!” One email to Santhosh (again) and got signed up for KTM with 10K finish goal.

IIM-B and DTS sound in my stomach

KTM 2013 @ 9.5 KM mark
KTM 2013 @ 9.5 KM mark

When I dropped into for intro session at IIM-B, I got really scared at first sight. While the “community” factor was really heartening to see, fellow runners from RH scared me continuously talking about running among them. Key words like “ultra”, “Boston marathon”, “finish goal”, “ITB” were getting exchanged among folks, sounded Greek and lain for me. When Santhosh introduced individual coaches (and their accomplishments in running in Grand Canyon, Himalayas etc…) I almost fell like running out of IIM-B auditorium. I was telling myself “Where am I, what am I trying to do? I have absolutely no exercise background and these folks are talking about running 50 KM!”  I could clearly hear DTS music in my stomach and somehow (!) stayed back in the auditorium and paid the fees. At the same time I told only one thing to myself “I will stick to the schedule given my coach, let me stop thinking and start running”. When I look back that’s probably the best decision I have taken when it comes to long distance running.

Kicking VIRUS (Viru Sahasrabuddhe) out!

Thanks to strong support from my wife, I was able to get up on time and show up for running by not bunking any classes (except couple of occasions due to self/family health reasons). Initial few days were very difficult where I literally had lot of pain all over the body. Every other day I used to get new type of pain from different set of muscles, which I didn’t even knew existed in my body for so many years. As per my initial commitment (of sticking to schedule) I decided to put on with coaching schedule.

The first thing that amazed RH is about the excellent, self-sustaining system built which works automatically. Right from day one I didn’t even bother about my timings, ran as much as possible. When I couldn’t run, I just paused, stopped, gained breath and again started running. I also ensured that I don’t end up comparing myself with fellow runners mainly because I wanted to come out of this “metric” (popularly known as KPI) based thinking which we are so used in school, college and corporate world. After all I didn’t want to emulate VIRUS (ref: 3 idiots) by overtaking the fellow runner to keep myself ahead. The very fact that I am able to get up and run at morning 6 AM at Cubbon is a huge achievement, rest all were immaterial anyways 😉

Coaches and mentors

Now coming to coaches, they were absolutely amazing people. In our Cubbon library group we had Srini, Kanishka and George were our main coaches who led by example by ensuring we followed the schedule

KTM 2013 Finish point
KTM 2013 Finish point

on time. I still remember them running along with slowest runners in our group (I am definitely one among them) ensuring that they are supported well. This built a huge confidence, faith and aspiration to push myself further. If not for the confidence coaches had in each one of us, KTM 10K would have never remained a possibility. Our mentor Asha brought a lot of enthusiasm and energy by sending regular emails, follow-ups and breakfast meetings. By now all my DTS music (from stomach) almost went mute, because I was able to understand the fact that coaches and mentors also started off similar to me. With sheer persistence they were able to run such long distances.

The Macho image and KTM

Slowly and steadily number of kilometers increased (2,3…6) during weekend runs. By now I was able to build my “mental creation” for completing 10K. Thanks to social networking, I was posting some updates in FB about my running and my friends and family started responding quite positively. Over a period of time “macho” image got built for me (Oh! You run 10K? That’s amazing) and I know how much still I need to learn when it comes to running. I don’t want to write much about KTM day as it was just a “flow” and made it happen! I am a much better person (in terms of both mental and physical) already signed up for Ultra for 12.5 KM with same commitment of sticking to the schedule, stop thinking and start running.

Santhosh again!

This post will remain incomplete if I don’t write a paragraph about Santhosh. We started off together during our undergraduate days, been a partner-in-crime for four long years (got ragged by same set of seniors, got caught by police for violating section-144, danced together in countless fresher/farewell/birthday parties, got first job in same company etc..) . It feels amazing to connect with him in a new dimension called running, after 12 long years.

Notes on Sudharshan Kriya Yoga (SKY)

Way back in 2006  I have learned Sudharshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) as a part of my Art-of-living course. Years might have passed by, but SKY stayed on with me as a ‘capsule’ given immense benefits. This post is about benefits I have experienced with SKY.

SKY is a rhythmic breathing mechanism taught as a part of Art of living course. Typically it takes about 20-30 minutes to do this breathing exercise, it is highly advised to do it after performing certain Yoga asanas. The philosophy is to first stabilize the body using asanas and then move on to perform SKY for working at breath level. This is also called as ‘short kriya’ which is typically done at individual level. In case of weekly art-of-living follow-ups a ‘long-kriya’ is performed which takes about 45 minutes of time.

Typically in our daily lives many challenges are caused because of external issues (tension, anger, disappointment etc…) which immediately alters breathing. When inhale-exhale cycle becomes shorter, lesser oxygen is taken inside, which aggravates negative emotions. Most of us would have observed when we are in the state of emotions, it tend to continue for longer time mainly because of our breathing pattern. The idea is alter breathing rhythm with long deep breath which will create positive impact thereby altering our emotional. This is what in nut-shell happens by performing SKY. There is definitely a spiritual dimension to it, which will be shared as a separate blog post.

Coming to its benefits:

  • Immediate alteration in emotional levels by switching into positive state.  I have performed kriya is peak negative emotional conditions (ex: workplace crisis) and felt immediate benefit by coming out of it and operate with higher emotional state
  • For some specific diseases/issues I have found immediate relief. For example, in case of minor head ache, stomach problem or back/neck pain, by doing SKY has provided immediate healing effect by making me normally operate
  • Because of the mental & physical benefits mentioned above, individuals tend to be in much positive state of mind with higher optimism and action orientation when faced with real life challenges. This sustained benefits come over a period of time which is more experiential
  • Some of my family members had serious breathing issues (ex: Wheezing), who could see significant impact in overall immunity and attacks have come down drastically. However it also depends on the individual how regularly he/she is performing it.
  • There is no specific equipment or location required to perform SKY. As long as there is relatively quite place is available, once can perform this without any difficulty. There are many occasions I have done it in my workplace ( sick room) and during travel (trains)

Ever since I have learnt SKY, I have not 100% regular in doing it on a daily basis. Definitely I have been fairly regular and benefits have been immensely higher.  Especially, after taking up long distance running, Yoga asanas and SKY is acting as an excellent combination!

Favorite books list

Recently I was talking with my colleague about book reading habit, he was asking me to get a list of my favorite books. Few years back I created a list consisting of my favorite books using Google drive (it was called Google docs then). This list grew over the years when my friends started adding additional items into it. Recently I have updated the list; latest version can be downloaded from the link below:

Favorite books – Link to PDF document

Hope you find it useful.

Innovation – Type 10 – Customer experience innovation [Case: Bigbasket]

Bigbasket
Bigbasket

The tenth and final type of innovation is around customer experience, which is all about creating a superior experience to customer’s entry to exit. In India many players attempted to do online grocery store for quite some-time now. It is extremely challenging business in Indian context (logistics, poor roads, unpredictable traffic, varying climate conditions etc…), which Bigbasket is able break by creating very good customer experience around it. I have personally tried and tested this many times, it works all the time with great experience.

Simple and effective User interface

The first thing that impressed me about Bigbasket is their simple and effective user interface. It was very easy to search/navigate for individual grocery items and create an order in a hassle free manner. Every item contains optimal information (neither too less nor too much) with put me into ease. Also when individuals go back for re-ordering, it keeps previous list handy for modification, which saves time for second time. This works very well for monthly grocery ordering.

Prompt alerts

While building an easy to use user interface might look relatively easy, integrating with backend supply chain to meet the promise is super critical. Especially in India, where the probability of providing prompt service is less (due to inherent challenges like infrastructure) providing prompt alerts to customers about the order status creates a lot of trust. In case of Bigbasket I get regular alerts (both in form of email and SMS) about my order status. Just before the final delivery of goods, authentication PIN is provided via SMS, so that both delivery person and customer can be assured about delivery.

Service delivery guarantee

Bigbasket
Bigbasket

After placing order, customers get to choose the time-slot in which they wanted the goods to be delivered. This super critical item (similar to Flipkart’s cash on delivery service) which helps office goers to get goods delivered at a convenient time. Their interface also shows the current booking status and slot availability in order to help customers choose the proper delivery time. From execution point of view, I have always seen they deliver goods on the time promised.

Return policy and wallet

During delivery, in case of item mismatch (ex: quantity) or damage (ex: broken seal), Bigbasket delivery folks take it back without any questions. Upon entering these items in backend (using Mobile application) customers again get immediate notification about when the updated item will be delivered. In case of item return, the money is kept back in a digital wallet which can be adjusted for next purchase.

In summary right from order placing to goods return, Bigbasket has done massive integration and prompt execution of their service. This gives a great end-to-end experience for customers in terms of quality, on-time delivery and reliability.