Shradhanjali – Archiving memories digitally

A guest post from by Vivek Vyas –  founder of www.Shradhanjali.com

In this cyber age we get almost everything over internet, still when it comes to finding details of our ancestors and parted loved ones search engines do not find any details.

Eureka Moment

The idea came in fluke in while having snacks as the snacks were served on piece of newspaper obituary column page. We felt bit disturbed and these thought “cant these be presented in some more respectable and presentable manner which also stays forever and can be accessed globally and be remembered and shared?” these questions made us go about this noble portal Shradhanjali.com.

We and our young generations know most about Gandhiji, Bhagat singh and Bose and can deliver speech but when we ask them to speak about their ancestors we can’t speak much for the simple reasons we don’t have any details of them.

There are lots of learning from the lives of our ancestors, they had their achievements, struggles, life lessons etc. which need to be known to their generations.

Shradhanjali.com allows everyone to store, publish, share and prepare a complete ready reference of their ancestors for future generations. Here, one can post unlimited biography (Indian regional languages available), personal and family details, social services and charity done by the soul, photos, embedded videos, unlimited condolence messages can be posted from around the world (Indian regional languages), set background music (religious music choice from mantras, chants, bhajans etc) and set death and birth anniversary reminders for relatives and friends. One can easily update the details as and when required.

The portal has successfully received entry into India book of records and also going to be in other prestigious record book in 2014.

Pain point:

No details of our ancestors are available anywhere on internet. Their details are not searchable and hence can’t be archived by anyone. Young generations want to know about their roots and ancestors but hardly any details are available.

Solution:

Shradhanjali.com provides an advertisement free platform wherein one can share all of the details viz. photos, videos, life journey, family and personal details, condolence messages, social services charities etc. and set reminders for all relatives and friends at one time convenient price of INR 5000.

As of now the portal has more than 240 paid profiles and around 85 complimentary profiles of martyrs, film stars, social leaders, politicians and other public figures.

As Indians we wish pass on our cultural legacy to our future generations and with the help of shradhanjali.com this will be done with utmost ease.

Awards and accolades

Limca book of records

India book of records

Manthan South West India awards

10000 startup – NASSCOM

My take on Shradhanajali.com

I think the idea is very good and pioneering. There is a need, but I have a feeling that the site needs to open to people who may want to buy their own slot on the site, may be leave an authorized biography to be published after their death, may be something that they may want to reveal after they are gone ( there are many people who want to do that) and then open it up for memoirs / obituaries to public on receipt of their death certificate. Number of people who would want to pay for themselves may far exceed the number of people who may want to pay for others.

One time fee of 5000/- sounds a bit high and may restrict the service to a section of society, but if that is the segment the founders want to focus on – it is a good beginning. As a business one time fee for unlimited usage may not be bad assuming that profile base would steadily increase over a period of time till it saturates and stagnates where other stroke of innovation would be required.

I see tough competition from ‘Family Tree’ websites which offer this service as part of larger family tree management services that include all family events like births, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and even deaths. When I can get a generic service from someone that is very useful for planning events , setting reminders etc why should I use a memorial only service?

There has to be a social angle built into it for the spread out families to be able to participate and contribute to the portal. It is a tough product to market as you have to reach out to a grieving family, so it is best to let people know about it by letting them participate in the portal for public figures or distant relatives.

Entry barrier is very low – many large media houses or content engines with a instant and big reach can replicate it very easily.

Anti Piracy at International Film Festival of India, Goa

International Film Festival Goa

International Film Festival GoaI was attending the 45th International Film Festival of India, that happens in Goa every year around this time. Incidentally, I live at a stone throw away distance from the venues so I happened to visit it many times. The venues were wearing a festive look with the festival motif – the colorful Indian National Bird Peacock was everywhere. In between there was a Standee saying that the festival is protected for Piracy by Pinkerton. I was curious and came back and found that it is a 19th CE company that is known for helping corporates manage various kinds of risks.

Pinkerton

Here is what I gathered about them :

Pinkerton is one of the oldest and most experienced corporate risk management firms worldwide, established in 1850 by Allan Pinkerton and having close association with FBI. With headquarters in USA, Pinkerton has presence over 100 locations worldwide.  They are one of the leading corporate houses to provide Intellectual Property Protection services across the world. They have been associated with various media houses including Motion Pictures Association of India, Warner Bros. etc. to support them in a host of activities including providing Anti Piracy Partnership Support for their movie releases across the globe. Pinkerton is one of the very few risk management firms with the capability and resources to use Night Vision Glasses for detection of piracy on a commercial level. They were appointed as Anti Piracy Partners for the 15th and 16th Mumbai Film Festival  – wherein they provided Theatre Security and Anti Piracy Services for the entire duration of the festival, spread over six theaters and for over 200 movie screenings. Pinkerton has also for the first time in the history of IFFI 2014 provided for anti cam / piracy services (back with all latest technological gadgets) for India’s oldest and largest Film Festival in collaboration with the Government of India and Ministry of Goa.

Now I was curious to know how they do it, and a bit of research led to this :

Pinkerton helps provide an on ground enforcement and coordination structure across various theaters. They position teams of covert / covert agents at every location considering the Probability of Interception. These agents are trained and backed with latest technological equipment and can distinguish between Just for Fun type of Pirates and Professional Pirates. They deter piracy by ensuring that no recordings take place and in case of an attempt also help liaison for formal enforcement action.

Anti-piracy operations are through a pre determined approach. The seating arrangements are studied in order to ascertain the most probable seats for piracy that pirates would love to use, and planning accordingly. Projector room is used in order to scrutinize the  security arrangements of movements like entry and exit. The agents are trained to frisk, detect unusual movements and also to notice people who might be behaving out of ordinary. Night Vision Glasses that are used to detect piracy attempts even in pitch darkness.

Now, what we do not realize as common visitors to such festivals – who are there to enjoy films and their favorite artists & film makers, that piracy of movies screened at these festivals can be a big deterrent to the industry. Festivals are a place for the film makers and artists to network and learn from each other and showcase their work to their potential audiences. Films are capital intensive products and intellectual property of the producers. Piracy is a big threat to their commercial viability specially with ubiquitous technology that makes it very easy to copy movies illegally.

Experiential Travel

Travel is becoming a big money spinner across the world. While India is just waking up to its untapped potential in tourism sector, there are a lot of new concepts are being experimented in this space. Enabled by Internet, there are lots of new concepts coming up in the travel space. Experiential travel is the new trend in travel space after the site seeing ind of travelling has been exhausted. People want to travel for experiencing a new space and not just looking at the landmark monuments. They want to see how the locals live, what they eat and how they are different or similar to their own cultures.

About a decade ago, couchsurfing started a trend by providing travelers an opportunity to stay with locals – and their model involved no commerce, so it was the goodwill of a host to accommodate guest in their homes. Since guests paid nothing, there was no expectation whatsoever they could have from the hosts – they had to take whatever the hosts offered. Then came the concepts like AirBnB, where people could rent out extra spaces in their home and since there was a fee – the expectations were set accordingly. Hosts would end up sharing a bit of their day to day lives with the guests, but it primarily became an alternative to hotels.

Withlocals – a Netherlands based company has just launched a new paradigm for travelers, by giving them options to choose smaller activities with the hosts. They are currently present in 8 Asian countries and soon planning to launch in India – though I think put together India may be bigger than all these 8 countries. They have activities under three categories:

  1. Eat with Locals
  2. Tours with Locals
  3. Activities with Locals

While I am sure Eat with Locals is their most popular category – as most travelers crave to eat the local food, and just about anyone in the destination can provide that experience. It is also a no-brainer, no stress activity that all of us invariably enjoy doing. What I am excited about this is the other two activities – a knowledgeable local person can really enhance your experience of visiting a place. they usually end up showing you what is not mentioned in the guide books – like small eatery where the locals go or some festivals or rituals that usually remain out of bound for visitors.

The third category – Activities with Locals looks the most promising – I checked few activities on their website and found some very interesting results like Fruit & Vegetable Carving  or a Jewelry course in Thailand, Vintage Treasure Hunt in Singapore, Rock Climbing in Malaysia, Music Jam Sessions in Nepal, Plucking tea leaves in or visiting a Snake House in Sri Lanka.

You can search activities based on various parameters like the location, price, time required or the number of people involved. I am sure these selection parameters would grow as the concept takes off. They also employ local ambassadors to curate & verify the hosts and the experiences. I think it is a great model as this does not alienate the locals and also helps them gain some employment. The prices seem reasonable. Withlocal takes a 20% commission on the fee from the guests, and I think it is a reasonable revenue model for both the platform and the hosts.

I am keen to see the kind of unique experiences India is going to add to this list.

Knowledge Connect – A citizen’s initiative

Books Initiative by CII

A few weeks back I got in touch with the trustees of Panaji first – an initiative by CII and some eminent citizens of Panaji in Goa. They were curating quality books for the Goa State Library and I played a small part by recommending some. What I liked about this initiative, besides the fact that it is led by citizens is that the focus is not on donating books, focus is not on any books – but on ensuring that good books are chosen so that they are read. Now I know to an extent what is a good book is subjective, but they have applied a few objective parameters to ensure quality including rating systems of portals like Goodreads.

Sharing this – as I think this can be replicated across cities by its citizens and organizations.

Here is their formal Note on the initiative:

About Knowledge Conect Project

The Knowledge Connect Project is an initiative of Panaji First, a Trust formed by CI Goa State Council with an aim of launching the city of Panaji and its denizens into 21st century. The current century needs a new kind of a learner; not a learner who churns out answers by rote but someone who can think expansively and solve problems resourcefully. The traditionally academic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic must be augmented by curiosity, creativity, critical thinking, cooperation and communication skills. This project aims to use The Central Library, Panaji as a focal point for connecting with the stakeholders in Panaji. In a nutshell, the Knowledge Connect Project is not a book donation project. The book donation is only the starting phase.

Plan of Implementation for 2014-15

a) For the current year the project aims to enhance the collection of books at The Central Library. The selection in the current year would be books and videos in the areas of Popular Sciences followed by Social Sciences, Innovation and Children books. Our target is to ad between 5,00 and 10,00 books of international quality by March 2015.

b) The selection has ben benchmarked to the most read books in leading libraries around the World. The books have ben chosen from the bestseller in the New York Times, most read books in New York Public Library, Pulitzer prize winers and finalists for the last 10 years, the awardees and the long lists of books of Royal Society, London, Booker prize winers, awardees of Goldman Sachs/FT and books with average ratings exceeding 4 on godreads.com and a wide selection of books on Indian history and books written by Indian writers.

c) We have already printed and mailed attractive brochures on Popular Science selections to the Headmasters at Panaji schools and colleges. We now plan to have short presentations in these schools and colleges to popularise reading as a habit. We are also contemplating to make available e-books on kindles for reference section. This will complement the hard print copies. Once we reach a target of 5,00 books, we will initiate a project for Central Library to lend the books to Panaji schools and colleges on long term basis. Our object is to bring the library to the readers instead of the traditional efforts of getting the readers to the library.

d) The Knowledge Connect would initiate steps to get eminent writers to speak to Panaji citizens and students at The Central Library on periodic basis. A comprehensive calendar is being drawn up for a period of 12 months.

e) During the current year, the Panaji First also plans to initiate a science experiment competition. The students will compete to build a scientific concept through a model. This will be learning by

f) Panaji First also plans to organise field trips for the school and college children so that they get connected with business and non-business organisations early in life.

The initiative is therefore to create a repository of knowledge and create a connect using al five senses. Currently the project is driven by business organisations and individuals excited at he idea of creating a knowledgeable Panaji. Those interested are requested to connect [email protected] either with recommendations of books or with their willingness to contribute.

Selecting the Ideas

Freek Vermeulen in her S&B article How to Let 999 Flowers Die talks about variation in business Innovation and the process to select ideas. I always said that inviting ideas is a simple thing, it is more important to manage the ideas that you receive. Having unlimited ideas does not really help as many organizations like to believe. It always helps to put boundaries to where you need ideas so that you get ideas that fit into your strategic direction or in the space where you need them. Just like Sheena Iyenger says in her book Art of Choosing, we need choices, but limited choices.

Freek makes another important point about selection of ideas – that should not be done only by the top management, but should involve everyone. They bring in the angle of wisdom of crowds, and I would add to that organizations should give importance to those who are on the ground and understand the need of the new ideas. They also understand the challenges that current situations give and how the new ideas can help.

Read the article for examples that they share to substantiate their points.

Leveraging the power of Data

While most urban startups are focussed on two things – venture capitalists who can potentially give them money to setup and run their businesses and on getting a word out in the media – online and offline, I came across this very interesting venture that focusses on generating databases of information about rural India and sells this information to those want to look at rural India as a market and it employs locals youngsters to run the operations ensuring that it eventually benefits the communities in the villages.

Pradeep Lokhande’s RuralRelations has compiled data of about 40000 villages across 8 states in the country. They sell this data to the companies and brands that want to target these villages while also giving them access to the talent that is available in the villages.

As per this TOI article Pradeep started collecting data on villages by sending  postcards to the village elders like Sarpanch or School principal asking them for provide the basic data on the village. After initial struggle, they could go down to the extent of collecting information about the products used by the villagers across age groups. He even conducted opinion survey for the political parties.

I loved his concept of non resident villagers who are helping him setup libraries in villages. He created a channel for donation of used computers to village schools.

I need to study this venture in detail.

Money Making Content

Strategy & Business article The Digital Commerce Revolution talks about interesting examples of content that directly generates money. As a blogger, I know that many businesses have started tapping the power if content generators, from placing their text link ads in online content, to matched ads much like Google Ads, to expert reviews, pretty much anything to get the word out about themselves.

They site the beautiful Falling For you Target Videos or films within places merchandise that can be purchased instantly from a sidebar. The mug shot of the items is shown in the sidebar, as the items appear in the film, and with one click you can put the items in your shopping cart. I think it is a brilliant example of tapping into the instant interest generated by the film stars and models for lifestyle products. I also found it to be very innovative yet a simple way to reach out to the target audience, and I am keen to know how well are these performing.

They then present the concept of Curated content, where what you see is based on what you are likely to like and buy and not bombard you with everything under the sun. Now I see a bit if risk here, as algorithms, may not have yet matured enough ti understand the behaviors as well and they certainly can not sense the changes in behavior that can be because of the changed circumstances. Most important data that they are going to rely on is past purchases, like the recommendation engines of sites like Netflix. Having said that I can think of many other areas where curated content can be a powerful content, like high-end fashion, customized furniture, art collections etc.

They then talk about insights generated during a roundtable on this topic that talks about Mobile Engagement, New Technologies, Integrating Deals with social sentiments, Data & Analytics and Strategy.

Ideas: Hold them or Share them

Nilofer Merchant in her HBR article Let Your Ideas Go makes case for sharing the ideas rather than holding on to them.

When you have an idea, you make a choice whether to hold it close to your heart or to share it with few people who can help you take it further or evaluate it or share it in open space for anyone to look at it, take it, use it, modify it, critique it and thrash it.

Most ideas held close to one person may remain only with him. Practically speaking to make an idea a reality, you would need help from many people who would help you realize it. So the real choice is between sharing it with select few with a confidentiality clause between you or to share it publicly with anyone.

Traditional business sense would say one must keep an idea under wraps till it is ready to be released with a big bang, or till it has proven itself. Primary motive being protecting the idea from potential copying by competition or a fear that they might actually come up with something better than us with the same idea. You want to reap the benefits of the idea that you assume was born in your head, or at least emerged first in your head. You want to protect it using various laws available.

Think of a scenario where you let your idea be available to anyone like the ‘Ideas to Explore’ on this website and see them bloom in some other gardens. In the age of social media, you can leverage the wisdom of crowds to fine tune your idea, to get more ideas surrounding your ideas, to get a critical appraisal of the idea or find partners to work with on it. If you are someone who gets lots of ideas, you may not have the bandwidth to work on all your ideas but may still want to see them happen. Sharing your ideas, you may help you find the perfect pot for your ideas to grow.

Better Brainstorming

This Mckinsey article talks about brain-steering instead of brainstorming.
Basically, what it suggests is to have a focusses brainstorming rather than an open ended that leads you nowhere. You seek answers to the questions that you know or have prepared in advance. You do not throw open the questions to a big group, but spread the questions amongst smaller groups and then let them share their best ideas with the bigger group. It also suggests that you do not pick winning ideas in a hurry as the participants usually do not have a overall view of the problem and ideas need an executive level vetting.
Though I would avoid giving brainstorming a new name, but I agree with most of what the article says. To get the relevant answers you must ask the right questions.

Disney Method of Brainstorming

Paul Sloane in his latest newsletter talks about Disney Method for Brainstorming, which is a variation of 6 thinking hats technique of Edward De Bono. It is a 4 step process instead of De Bono’s 6 step.
Four steps are:
  1. Spectator’s View
  2. Dreamer’s View
  3. Relaizer’s View
  4. Critic’s View
You look at the problem from these 4 perspectives and then reach a potential solution.
He argues that this is a more productive method than 6 thinking hats as it not only generates ideas, but also helps you evaluate the ideas. I like the spectator’s part as most of the times we tend to see the problem from our perspective, and we fail to see it from outsider’s perspective say that of out customers, our sales force or our consultants. If we can see the problems from their point of view, we would have a more rounded view of the problem and the solutions would reflect that. After all solutions come out of the right definition of the problem.