René Seifert

Entrepreneur, Global Citizen, Flat World, Internet, Web 2.0, Innovation, Start-Up

Archive for the 'Bangalore' Category

New Venture: MillionMiles Media launches aMillionLives.com

For more than half a year I have been really busy creating something new. Today, I am proud to announce that I started a new venture MillonMiles Media Ltd. and we just went live with our really cool flagship site aMillionLives.com. And, yes, we have a Facebook Fanpage, too, where I like if you like ;-) In case you want to read our „official press release“, it’s here for download.

aMillionLives.com

Let me explain here on my blog in a bit more of a conversational tone what we are up to. We are global publishing network writing stuff that matters for our life, in particular the various lives of each of us. You might be familiar with Edward de Bono’s concept of the various hats we should put on during decision making. Similarly, on a broader perspective in one’s life somebody might be a teacher by profession, have a family with a lovely wife raising two kids. But there is more to life than the obvious on the surface: This human being might be an avid guitar player, enjoys going for a hike in the mountains and really love his food. That same person will find help, advise and entertainment for his various lives like in a magazine as a teacher, spouse, parent, musician, naturelover and foodie. Check out our overview of all the lives we are writing for.

aMillionLives.com

Here’s the deal with „global“ for our publishing network. I’ve been living and working in various continents for the last years where I dare to say that I have a fairly good understanding how to assemble a business that brings together the best pieces from each part of the world. Our company is incorporated in London (U.K.), a big chunk of our operation runs out of Bangalore (India) with an international team, the design for aMillionLives.com has been done in Poland, our writers hail from India, the Philippines. Our users as we know from our logfiles appreciate our content from all over the world, the U.S. running with 60 % at the forefront.

aMillionLives.com

Where does the name MillionMiles Media (MMM) come from? Two simple explanations: I was looking, no surprise, for something that sounds somehow cool and has „Media“ at the end. If you check out every freaking word on this earth in combination with „Media“ at the end, the domain is taken by some filthy domain-grabber. So extending the query to two prefix-words, landed me with MMM. Second, I liked it because last year with all my travelling I had crossed the mark of a million miles in my frequent flyer programme.

aMillionLives.com

Yep, that’s my news of the day. Happy about every feedback, good or bad, sympathetic or just pathetic. If you like our Fanpage on Facebook or moreover, place a link from your blog or site to aMillionLives.com, I’ll include you in my evening prayers – hands duly folded. Promised.

India: Advertisement around Arranged Marriages

Came across this advertisement from Platinum, a company which in line with its name sells Platinum-jewellery in India. Here, where more than 80 % of all marriages are arranged, Platinum found a remarkable twist how to set this subject into a photo story. A sort of “photo love story” where marriage comes first and loves follows suit. (Click to enlarge the pics for better legibility of the text)

NUMBER 1

Platinum Advertisement in India

NUMBER 2
Platinum Advertisement in India

NUMBER 3
Platinum Advertisement in India

NUMBER 4
Platinum Advertisement in India

Happy-Happy-End. And now, in order to bring you from here to there: would you please buy the rings …

Back to Normal after the FIFA World Championship

Over and out, with Spain being the new Football World Champion 2010. Well deserved, especially for playing the most efficient football of all teams whereas the usual 1:0 victories didn’t really reflect their true dominance during the matches. Spain threw “my” German team out and prevailed over Holland in the finals whose only creativity consisted in systematically employing systematic (brutal) tactical fouls. Therefore congratulations to this proud, fair and technically supreme Spanish championship-heroes.

For me, it have been awesome 4 weeks juggling work, travel and watching football. It’s sort of only every 4 years that I get drawn into TV so much, but it was definitely worth it. Interesting, also staying both in India, Germany and actually Spain during the tournament and experiencing the different spirits in these countries.

In my observation, Indians have become bigger aficionados of football this time than in 2006. Speaking to random people, even my gentle Bangalore-neighbours in their 60s and 70s, they confessed how they were spending long nights in front of TV when the matches – due to the time shift – started right at midnight.

At the same time, on the other side in Germany, a healthy patriotism has become the norm which was unheard of before the Championship 2006 in our own land. Four years ago showing German flags was still being discussed, in parts controversially, but no longer this year. Good.

Moreover, this young, ethnically diverse and highly committed team of the German national team won the hearts of all in Germany and of many abroad. How often did I hear something sympathetic like “I am watching all the matches and Germany is playing so well that they deserve the championship!” Although history turned out differently, still very kind to hear.

I also take pride in the performance of our team which in its composition should be seen as a blueprint to where Germany with its multiple challenges should be heading to: Targeted immigration with “no creed, no caste, only merit” (to borrow the karma of India’s IT-champion Infosys) combined with a strong emphasis with affirmative integration. If our German government was run like our national football team, Germany would be as good as Singapore  (I’m aware that this is not desirable for everyone, for me it clearly is.)

Anyway, it also means from today on back to normal: no more long nights in front of TV, no more beer, chips and other junk food. Instead lean nutrition and lots of training as I have to get fit for a mountain tour beginning of August.

FIFA World Championship 2010 in South Africa will be well remembered.

Vijay Mallya coming Home: Greeted like a God

Thursday evening in Bangalore, I was heading out to have some good Teppanyaki-dinner in Bangalore’s Shiro-restaurant. The place is actually located within “UB City”, the latest luxury shopping mall built by Beer Baron Vijay Mallya who happens to have his private residence in Bangalore just by the side of it. Practical, isn’t it.

Arriving at the mall, there was a big crown right in front of Mr. Mallya’s house, everything was prepared for some solemn welcome when a few minutes later the motorcade arrived. What followed was the loudest detonation of firecrackers starting from the leading Mercedes of Mr. Mallya directly to the entrance of his house – which at the other side leads to a fuel station (see my video):

When Vijay Mallya, the flamboyant billionaire who recently entered into Formula 1 with his Force India, stepped out of his limousine, he was greeted with flowers, a cap like a maharajah and several scarves. After waving graciously into the crowd around, he and his entourage disappeared into his private residence to continue the party surrounded by fire spitting into the air and fireworks this time cracking up into the air. This was by far the most over-the-top scene I have seen in my entire life. Mr. Mallya must be running a whole department in his company to organize his cult of personality.

The reason for the spectacle, as we found out, was that Mr. Mallya had been re-elected to parliament, to be more precise to the Rajya Sabha, India’s Upper House and the Council of States.

To the regular observer, this didn’t just look like a politician is celebrating his election, it rather seemed that a god had given himself the honour to step down to us mere mortals. Somehow I remembered my Latin lessons in school. A winning commander in Rome who had his triumphant march through the city was given company by a slave who went behind repeatedly saying: “Memento moriendum esse!” (=Remember you must die!)

I saw the commander, but I didn’t see the slave.

Incredible India: Weekend Walk through Bangalore

For any walk through India, it’s never wrong to carry a camera. Take it for granted that there is always something rewarding for first the eye, then for the lens – and hence for eternity.

Here just around the corner, I ran into two guys with two big bamboos (the visible ones ;-) who are preying through town to shake some ripe mangos down whose time has come.

Mango Pluckers hunting through Bangalore

A little later, four guys from the public telephone operator BSNL at a switchboard on Brigade Road doing some wiring, installing and checking. Please note the in India commonly prevalent high “labour intensity” for any task …

Fixing telephone Lines

Then a snapshop for the foodies, went to a restaurant to have my beloved Dal Fry for luch, where this lady is responsible for making the chapatis. No doubt that she possesses the physical strength to do quite a bit of them.

Chapattis in the Making

Last but not least, two boys in the street, one pushing the other.

Mobility for the Young

Wonder what they will become when they grow up. Extrapolating this scene into the future: The one pushing in the back a pilot, and the one sitting in front a Maharadsha :-)

Amazing India – Impressions from the Airports

Even after 6 years of living in India, the subcontinent is full of surprises every day. Just one week of being here, countless of heartwarming, witty and inspiring stories. Starting in the here and now: I am sitting on a “laptop station” after security of Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi and blogging this post away. Really amazing where India has gotten with such a world class airport, working stations including free high-speed wireless internet (try to get that on a German airport).

Delhi Airport

It’s been quite a busy travelling week, so last Friday I have been at Cochin Airport where this instance caught my eye. In contrast to western economics where capital EXCHANGES labour for the sake of saving cost, the success formula in India seems to be capital PLUS labour.

Machine & Man at Kochin Airport

In a congenial combination of man & machine the concept works like this: A customer steps forward to the apparatus and selects an item. The guy in the yellow T-Shirts takes his money and shovels it into the machine, the magazine drops down, the guy picks it up and hand it to the customer. Variation B: For bigger items, that’s even more hilarious, the guy collects the money, opens the door, grabs the article and hands it out. So basically as a customer you get the feeling that modern technology is still grounded by good old human service.

Some Indian ads are just involuntarily funny, I really wonder what rode the heavily metrosexual art director of coming up with this copy. It’s supposed to promote the speed of transfer as well breadth of shopping opportunities at Bangalore Airport.

Bangalore Airport Advertisement

Well, if I was that girl, I also wished that rather the teddybear be my father and not that guy with the gay moustache with the glossy lipstick beneath LOL

Wipro Netbooks for Vatsalya: Mission Accomplished

After two months of fine-tuning and observation a fresh update: Things are advancing well in Vatsalya, the computers are in use, technology is working and the girls are happy :-) Moreover, from April onwards the training will be enhanced to five times a week by two teachers so that our joint efforts will reap the maximum benefit. These teachers will be paid for long-term by another sponsor, Larsen & Toubro, which Vatsalya was able to attract. Therefore I feel safe to say that by now we can declare the project for the goals we have defined successfully accomplished.

As mentioned in the last update from January, we invested EUR 220 into a new roof for the school patio which has been built and is giving shade to the little children during their school hours from the almost perpendicular sun of South India. Here is the official “Thank You-letter” from the organization:

Recognition Letter Vatsalya Roof

Needless to say that I will regularly come by to Vatsalya and assist wherever I can. Thank you once again for your generous support so that we we were jointly able to make this worthwhile project happen.

Visit to Parikrma Foundation in Bangalore

After Shukla Bose’s inspiring talk at TED India in Novemer 2009, I finally managed today to follow her kind invitation to visit one of the four schools which she has set up in the last six years after the inception of Parikrma Foundation. Check out the website, it’s amazingly well executed, like everything else I have seen today at the tour of  the “Adobe Parikrma Centre For Learning”. (Here is the entire picture set.)

Parikrma Foundation Bangalore: Complex

Given the top-notch organizational standard, one can tell that Shukla has spent a major part of her life in corporate life before she decided to do something that makes a true difference to others. Hence, the place is an amazing mix of high-quality education and dedication of its mostly volunteers as well as salaried full-time teachers. The right attitude for all involved seems of utmost importance for the organization.

Parikrma Foundation: Classroom

“You can’t buy passion”, explains Shukla, and leads by example how focussed and loving she treats each and every of the children, ask them questions, answers the children’s questions back, encourages critical reasoning, a healthy portion of scepticism, gives them a hug and sometimes tender kiss on the cheek.

Parikrma Foundation: Shukla Bose & Rene Seifert

Most importantly, the children feel welcome at this place and encouraged to blossom. As normal as it sounds, it is not. These children have all one thing in common: They hail from very poor families, with an average income of Rs. 800/- (~ EUR 13) per month, and would without Parikrma at best see a school from the outside.

I really like the approach Shukla and her team are taking to their programme: Instead of describing problems and design solutions, they start from a desirable result: Enable children from an underprivileged background to attend college and work their way backwards to overcoming the roadblocks to the objective.

Besides an amazing curriculum which for example is able to teach children from ground zero English in three months, it includes most importantly the family background of the kids as well. It means integrating the parents into the process to convince them of the long term benefit of a good education (lower drop-out rates) to sending alcoholic fathers to therapies and have them afterwards build and run kitchens which feed all the children during school-hours.

Parikrma Foundation: Children at Sports

After my great experience with our charity-project “Wipro Netbooks for Vatsalya” today’s visit was an eye-opener how something based on good intentions can scale into a significant changer of society like Parikrma. Shukla has in my impression done an amazing job in building a platform where new ideas and improvements are constantly absorbed, a platform which is open to the work of volunteers, some of them – which made it really sympathetic to me – guys with long hair and girls with tattoos (rather a rarity in India). These would be assigned to work in well crafted “modules”. Those can range from providing “slower” pupils a bit of teaching-tailwind within a programme of a few months to just have one educational lesson of 90 minutes on a relevant subject.

Parikrma Foundation: Classroom

If you are interested in Parikrma, my fullest endorsement to donate or help. Here is how it works:

  • Sponsoring one child per year including all expenses like books,  school-uniform, teachers’ salary to the partial rent: $500 per year
  • Sponsoring a whole class where the donor will receive regular reports on the children’s progress: $15,000 per year (30 children with $500 each)
  • Needless to mention, any amount of money is welcome.
  • Volunteering, as described above, also with people from abroad is encouraged.

For all this, ideally visit Parikrma’s website where there is more information and even the possibility to donate online.

Thanks to Shukla and her team, keep up the amazing work and let’s keep in touch. I am sure there is something where we can work together in the future.

Wipro Netbooks for Vatsalya: The New Year ahead

Happy New Year to all of you, and all the best for 2010. A quick update from my side on what has happened in the last weeks with our project “Wipro Netbooks for Vatsalya”.

  • The girls are fine, I just went to see them on December 22nd and they were – although in vast majority Hindu – very excited about upcoming Christmas. When I asked what they had learned so far with their new computers, they explained me how to start the machine, change the background colour of the desktop and equally knew who invented the micro-processor and when :-)
  • The computers are all up and running, two of them keep on disconnecting the WiFi-connection. We are in touch with Wipro based on the warranty to get this fixed.
  • Thanks to our network-infrastructure wizard Sumanth, Nokia Siemens Network (NSN) has committed a desktop computer to us, which will replace the current machine acting as the server. We are waiting for NSN to “de-frost” this desktop from its assets.
  • Although we can see initial traction of the girls interacting with the netbooks, we have decided the replace the current teacher and from April have a DAILY 2-hours curriculum. This intention reflects adequately both the importance and the potential that lies in technology-education for children.
  • Hence: If you know any reputable computer school or computer training institution in Bangalore, which would be able to provide a female teacher (against payment) on a daily bases, drop me a mail under rene.seifert [at] gmail.com

The Vatsalya Children’s Home primarily combines housing and school education for the girls whom we have been supporting in the current project. However, the institution runs in addition daily schooling for children from the surrounding slums on its compound. Shashi, the Secretary of Vatsalya, had asked me if I could support her in building a simple roof above the patio where their lessons take place. So far the kids were exposed to the burning sun, which – South India being South India – tends to be pretty hot. So I committed Rs. 15,000 (EUR 220) from our remaining funds which would allow to close the funding requirement and start with the construction work asap.

From our current financials, we therefore stand at a remaining amount of EUR 756.20 , see the overview on Google Docs. As we have the foreseeable cost of paying the teacher for the daily curriculum from April onwards, I propose to “keep the powder dry” and refrain from any new expenditure unless we get clearer visibility on this.

Wish you a phenomenal year ahead, and I will be happy to keep you updated on Vatsalya and “our girls” :-)

TED India with Inspiration for Profit and Non-Profit

Even after a week of TED India, I feel the inspiration of this unique event still hasn’t left its grip on me. On the weekend, there came via e-mail the request from the TED-team to rate the event, it took me some 10 minutes in all various categories and questions, but the last one was certainly the most important. Besides all the dissecting of single aspects of the event, the holistic question was “How would you rate your overall TED India experience?” On the given scale I gave it the best marks with “off the charts”. This applied for the venue, the Infosys Campus in Mysore, as well.

The Infosys Campus in Mysore

(All pictures of the event, here on my Flickr-set.)

What makes this event so fundamentally unique is the mix of phenomenal speakers in a broad array of disciplines combined with an extremely open discussion culture with the attendees, around 1,000. In terms of the latter: The norm is to just sit down e.g. at lunch or before a session and start a conversation with the people left and right of you. Every time, I felt it was interesting what they had to say, moreover the conversation was characterized by mutual curiosity. The topics started mostly with “what do you do” (without the sales-pitch to it) or “where do you come from”. A phenomenal review of the event which speaks from my heart here at GodInChief from my dear friend Vishal Gondal.

TEDIndia: Day 1 - Vishal Gondal & Rene Seifert

For instance during the last night at the party, I spoke to a PhD in biology who has been running a field study in South India how to reconcile the two apparently contradicting systems of wildlife conservation and that of agriculture for the neighbouring farmers. (There seems to be one …)

Plenty of such exciting conversations on how to lift the life of the underprivileged, especially through grass-root-projects which create some self-sustaining momentum. Those can have an approach of “one person at a time” to scalable models. A brief update at this point on our own charity “Wipro Netbooks for Vatsalya”: We are optimizing tiny little bits and pieces. Being an anal German we bought some buttons from felt which we installed below the table-legs to stop them rock, got some pillows for the chairs so that the very little girls would not have to have their arms at the level of their ears to reach the keyboard.

In fact, it was Petra who who took care of it during her and her husband’s Jürgen visit to Bangalore in the last weeks. Jürgen with his IT-network expertise installed a new, more robust WiFi-router which is better suited to serve 12 concurrent connections. Last, but not least: This month, the computer training started with an experienced female teacher twice a week.

Also, I would not like to withhold the official “thanking letter” from Shashi in the name of the institution.

Thanking Letter Vatsalya

What TED’s inspiration taught me or at least recalled to keep in consideration: If you do business for profit, there is always some higher calling beyond the P&L. Go out, find this mission and inspire your employees, your customers and all your other stakeholders with it. Your following will be manifold.

When you are doing well, there is ample of space of doing good. Go and understand what is what you do best in your organization. Find a way to apply a tiny portion of time and resources from it. Find a way to transfer this abilily in order to enable those who need this little kick-start before they can get lifted on their own.

That’s something I have just embodied in a recent business plan. In one year down the line I will have to be measured by my actions resulting from the easy part called words.

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