The Paradox of Awakening and Profitability

The Paradox of Awakening and Profitability

Building a business is extremely hard.

Building a business on the foundations of Selflessness, Authenticity, Love, and Service is even harder. And one can do that only if one is deeply authentic, generous, selfless and in touch with her/his deep self.

Conscious Capitalism, Servant leadership, love leadership etc. do not happen in isolation. These are, but an outer manifestation of a leader’s inner life. One who doesn’t live by these principles can never bring this to fruition in real world.

Living a spiritual life, living a life based on true north principles, balancing the paradox of individual awakening and business pressures is tough in a corporate environment, so, my respect for those who have been able to translate these principles and bring them to life in businesses is immense.

I stumbled upon “Meaningful Work: A Quest to do great business, find your calling and feed your soul” by Shawn Askinosie last month when 800-CEO-READ featured it in their upcoming books to read. Today’s blog post by Seth Godin calls out this book. A peep into the book traces Shawn’ career trajectory from being a successful lawyer to praying hard daily for years to find a meaningful calling, ultimately resulting in entrepreneurship. I found it fascinating for the references to the Trappist Monastery.

While I know very little about the Monks and the Trappist Monastery, I had read about it earlier in a fascinating book titled “Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks” by August Turak. Turak writes about how the principles of service and selflessness can be the foundation on which a wildly successful business can be built.

Closer home, I am aware of Aravind Eye Care, Cipla (do read this post) and Hare Krishna exports from Surat whose founders have built their businesses on these principles.

While there is so much talk today in the papers about VC’s, funding, how to make profits etc. There is hardly any talk about how to build sustainable, relevant and meaningful businesses. Businesses built on true north principles. Professors who are called to talk about business, regurgitate the same old tales we have read in the business papers, hardly anyone talks about this personal journey. I have actively sought out stories like these in my readings and they fascinate me no end. Walking the path of deep spiritual values is hard and guess that’ the reason we hear very little stories like these! So when I do find them, I feel like celebrating and sharing their success!

In my view, Shri Krishna in The Gita, lays out a very clear, unambiguous path, that can be used as guiding principles and I will share it in the next few posts.

But for now, given that we are talking about Monks and Businesses, I would like to end up with this beautiful story narrated by another monk who heads an Asset Management Company. We can all start with this parable and come back to hear how Shri Krishna answer’s the question about What kind of business/product/service to build in the next post.

Update: This series may have to wait for some more time!

The struggle of Deep Science Startups.

The struggle of Deep Science Startups.

[After years of sharing my poems and experiences in spirituality on this blog, I am now bringing all my other writings here so as to consolidate them all in one place.]

The MIT Technology Review carries a typical story about how innovators in deep science are finding it difficult to translate their R&D into viable businesses due to the lack of understanding, patience, and support from the wider finance ecosystem. Written by Illan Gur, Founding Director of Cyclotron Road, a VC firm that invests in hard science, this short article captures the core of the issue in Deep Science Investments.

Illan writes:

An innovator I know—let’s call him Tom—had trained for a decade at some of the world’s top research institutions to become an expert in materials science and engineering. He’d developed a new manufacturing technique for semiconductors with the potential to enable next-generation power conversion devices for lighting, EVs, renewable power, and defense applications. After demonstrating promising results and gathering enthusiastic feedback from industry experts, he was ready to take his technology to market. But how?

….Today’s research ecosystem isn’t built to support innovators like Tom. Their projects are too applied for academic labs, which focus narrowly on new scientific discoveries. Meanwhile, private industry can’t justify investment in expensive research that doesn’t yet have clear commercial potential. Faced with this chasm, even the best innovators struggle. Many are bound to say “why bother?” Can we blame them?

So how do we keep the Toms of this world in the game? For starters, we need to do a better job catalyzing the creation of science-based startups and supporting cutting-edge research within them. Free from the institutional pressures of academic publication or corporate quarterly earnings, startups can serve as powerful vehicles to bring hard technologies to market. Such firms often spend years performing research to develop a first product. Yet despite driving some of the biggest technology disruptions in recent history, small businesses receive only a small percentage of all government research funding.

These aren’t just anecdotal stories. Closer home too, we do see – innovators, researchers, engineers and scientists in area’s other than software – struggling to make viable business from their research. As Illan writes, had they been software engineers, it would be a different story altogether:

If Tom were a software innovator, he could build a prototype and validate his product in months with little more than a laptop. But to innovate in semiconductor technology, he would need the tools of cutting-edge research—fume hoods, spectrometers, electron microscopes. He would also need time. Turning a semiconductor breakthrough into a market-ready product can take years.

We all know the amount of money that has been pushed by Angel Investors, VC’s and Fund’s into the startup ecosystem in India – most, if not all, going towards software startups, making it hard for those who are trying to build businesses in Deep Science. BTW, the GoI has several ongoing schemes trying to help startups across industries and technology area. Here is a quick list of 50+ such schemes.

Columbia Business  Press recently published a book titled “Venture Investing in Science” by Douglas Jamison and Stephen Waite. Douglas is the CEO of 180degreecapital, which invests and builds transformative companies from disruptive sciences with a focus on what they call Biology+. With over decades of experience in venture investing in deep science companies in the US, Douglas had, had a front side view of the issues related to the deep science investments and he brings that out in a very vivid manner – the book starts off with a historical context related to advancements in deep science and technological changes and their profound impact on economic development as well as the Evolution of Venture Capital in the US. The authors brilliantly trace the beginning of deep science from the publication of Newton’s scientific treatise in 1687 titled Principea and trace all the advancements in sciences and link them to the corresponding shifts in economic models and the consequent increase in living standards in the Country. The first three chapters are a brilliant read for those who are interested in getting a refresher in sciences as well as those wishing to understand the emergence of the VC market in the US.

The key theme of the book is the diversity breakdown in Venture Capital and how the shifts in US Capital Markets have worked to impede VC investments in deep science that have had a consequent dampening on the American economic system that is essential to foster higher living standard over time. The author’s build a strong case by telling the story of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) – a company built on deep science innovation and how the VC investment returned a massive 500 times return to the investors.

DEC was founded in 1957 was born from funding  provided by Dept of Defense to the Lincoln Labaratory at the MIT. The lab was established to build new computer technology for the cold war. DEC blossomed ‘cause of the adoption of another great deep science advance in the 1950’ – the transistor – developed by three engineers at Bell Labs. The first American VC firm ARD invested $70,000 into DEC and took control of a 70% stake in the company. In 1996, DEC went public raising $8 million, making ARD’s investment 500 times more valuable at IPO price. Deep Science was translated into technology, into innovation and into great wealth.

The heart of the book is about “diversity breakdown in venture investing”. A Diversity breakdown when it happens ultimately leads to the collapse of systems (eg., The DotCom bubble of 2000 and the stock market crash). The premise being with more venture capital being diverted to software investments, there is relatively less money flowing towards investing in deep science companies, specifically deep science companies outside of biotech/health devices, this could ultimately result in a collapse of VC system. In addition, the authors make a brilliant point: While Govt continues to spend on Deep Science R&D, the research and inventions will be wasted if there isn’t any innovation capital left to take these research to commercialization. This, in turn, will have a cascading effect where the payoff from R&D and research will be less, consequently impacting govt funding to R&D as well. Brilliantly detailing the changing landscape in investments and why investors prefer investing in software rather than deep sciences; how the shifts in the US capital markets have contributed towards impeding venture investments in deep science, the authors back their claim by extensive economic data points, with the key underlying message being that “Software is eating the world”. The authors go on to make a case for emerging deep science venture opportunities in areas such as Quantum Computers, Hydrogen Fuel Cells, Nanomaterial enabled water filtration and desalination; Nano-enabled therapeutics, Precision health etc. that could provide growth and prosperity if we find a way back to bring diversity back to venture capital investing.

The authors conclude with a rational optimism and hope that there will be a change in this trend and that investments will come back to deep science ventures in the future. They point out that while most Silicon Valley VC’s continue to shun deep science ventures in favor of software investments, established companies like Google, FB etc have stepped up investing in Deep Science as well as some newer funds have started raising money for early stage investing in deep science companies. In addition, they believe that the success of Elon Musk’ venture may also result in the beginning of a new trend that may lure VC’s back to deep science investments.

If you are an investor or an entrepreneur or even someone who is remotely interested in current scientific and economic trends, this book is a brilliant read. I only wish I had a hard copy rather than the ebook on Kindle to read. Some of the economic charts are practically unreadable on the ebook.

The best book on Leadership & Spirituality that I have read!

It is very difficult to articulate the effect of a spiritual guru in your life. While on hand one goes through life’s up and down’s like everyone else, there is a unseen connection and bond that permeates all through. Dr APJ Kalam’s latest book “Transcendence” is a brilliant exposition on the impact that his spiritual guru – Shri Pramukh Swamiji of Swaminarayan Sanstha had on him.

Kalam writes:

“How do I summarize Pramukh Swamiji’s effort on me? He has indeed transformed me. He is the ultimate stage of the spiritual ascent in my life, which started with my father, was sustained by Dr Brahma Prakash and Prof Satish Dhawan; now finally, Pramukh Swamiji has put me in synchronous orbit. No maneuvers are required any more, as I am placed in my final position in eternity.”

Those of us who are fortunate to find a living spiritual master can instantly recognize what Kalam writes. My first visit to Swaminarayan temple was in Chicago sometime in 2004 or 5 and then I visited Akshardham in Delhi sometime in 2008 and was blown away watching the movie on “Neelakanth” (Linking to Mystic India movie on YouTube, but I guess the one I watched in Akshardham was a shorter version and more crisp)

Kalam writes about his experience of his chance encounter with the BAPS organization and Pramukh Swamiji and how the spiritual connection and the presence of Swamiji helped him take tough decisions with ease. Kalam talks about politics, his presidential term, his travels, his vision for India, all coupled with stories, anecdotes, and lessons from the lives of scientists and great leaders. But the underlying essence of the book is how the presence of Swamiji in his life helped him. Kalam quotes extensively from The Quran and Thiruvallavur and from other great philosophers and thinkers driving home the point as to how a true spiritual person embraces wisdom of all religions and makes it his own and more importantly, reflecting on the knowledge, acting on it and living can make a huge difference.

The book is divided into four parts and I loved the part where Kalam writes on Creative Leadership.

He drives home the point that Creative Leadership as the foundation of change. He writes:

“Creative Leaders are not born. They are the product of particular circumstances and conditions; they evolve to bring change for the better. I have enumerated eight facets of creative leadership, namely – fearlessness, courage, ethical living, non-violence, forgiveness, compassion, vision and cooperation….” Each of these attributes are explained through stories drawn from the lives of Nachiketa to Verghes Kurien.

I wish I could write more, but suffice to say that this book integrates Science, Spirituality and Leadership in a scintillating way and will remain as one of the best books on leadership and spirituality that I have read.

The print version of “The Gita In My HomeWork” is out

Taking a freshly minted book, smelling the pages, is sure a much different and satiating feeling than viewing an ebook on computer / tablet. I am delighted to let you know that the print version of “The Gita in My Homework” is now available for purchase.

The Gita In My HomeWork

How to purchase:?

The book is available on Flipkart at: 

Currently available on Amazon as a paperback and in ebook format:

Here are some Customer Reviews:

Join the book group on Facebook  and do follow the book’s twitter stream



An approach to life – Contentment and Generosity

Extract from “The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living” Volume 2 by Eknath Easwaran


Sri Krishna says, Tushti: “Be content with what life sends you.” Don’t be a beggar, sitting with your little tin cup and begging of life, “Please give me a few cents of pleasure, or at least don’t give me any pain.” Don’t ask always what you can get from life, but danam: ask what you can give. Stand up to your full height and give freely to those around you – your time, your resources, your talents, extra clothes or vegetables from your garden, whatever you have. It doesn’t matter whether the gift is simple or modest; what matters is that it be given freely, wholeheartedly, without any reservations, without even the left hand knowing what the right hand is doing. You are not wealthy simply because you have a lot, you are wealthy when you have given a lot away; the more you give, the more you will have to give – not in money, but in the richness of your life.

Navigating the ebook self publishing maize the APE way

A friend of mine has a reasonably well selling self published book in the market and I have been trying to get her to move it as a ebook and sell it on Amazon. I thought it would be a simple task of taking the manuscript and converting it into .mobi format and push it out to Amazon; how wrong was I. To see the madness about the formats and the support on different platforms, you just need to head to this page; you will get an idea of what I am talking about. Innumerable formats, innumerable platforms and innumerable rules, enough to drown you.  As an author, who isn’t well versed with technology, this is overwhelmingly and daunting. How do you publish an ebook? What does one need to understand from a technology perspective? Which formats to use? How to convert your document to those innumerable formats? Will the images render properly? How does one figure out the pricing of the ebook? Should one opt for a 35% royalty or a 70% royalty on Amazon? What about Apple ecosystem? Which aggregator to use? Isn’t it enough to sell on Amazon? Do I need to create another format for Nook and Kobo? Questions, Questions and more Questions. Enough for one to walk away from this business of self publishing ebooks. And trust me finding answers on the net isn’t easy either.

So when Guy Kawasaki sent me a review copy of his to be released APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a book, I was glad to find a book that can help people understand the complete ecosystem of writing a (e)book, publishing it and lastly marketing it.

If you are an author or about to author a book, I would strongly recommend that you read APE  first before embarking on your journey. APE demystifies the entire process of Authoring, Publishing and Marketing your book. It is divided into three sections – Authoring, Publishing and Marketing (Entrepreneur) and I thought depending on where one is in their current journey, one can focus on that relevant section and get the most from this book. The three sections covers the following topics:

  • Authoring a book: covers topics such as:
    • Should one write a book
    • Tools for writers
    • How to write your book and
    • How to finance it
  • Publishing a book: This section for me was the heart of the book, pretty detailed and exhaustive, this section alone is the reason why one should buy this book
    • Apart from editing, copywriting and how-to’s about turning your manuscript to a book, it covers the entire eco systems of ebooks
    • Selling your ebook through Amazon, Google, Apple, B&N, Kobo etc
    • Using Author Servicing companies
    • Using Print on Demand capabilities
    • How to price your book
    • Issues with Self publications
    • Navigating
  • Entrepreneurship: Last, but not the least, success of a book is judged by how many people read it and find it useful. This section deals with marketing, building an enchanting brand, using social media to get the buzz out and engaging with bloggers and reviewers.

I am delighted Guy and Shawn saw the need for this book and wrote it. I am sure this will very well turn out to be a bible for authors.

The 4A’s to career success – A review of “What the CEO really wants from you”

The last time I wrote about Gopalkrishnan, I mentioned that if there is one author I would like to meet, it has to be him. And look at it, the desires do get fulfilled as they come, I did happen to bump into him at the NHRD Conference in Bangalore when I had gone along with Guruji. Unfortunately, apart from a few words introducing myself and saying how much I enjoyed reading his two books, I did not get adequate time to spend with him, maybe the universe in its generosity will fulfill this wish too at some point in the near future.

Meanwhile, Gopal’ new book : What the CEO really wants from you: is definitely a must read. Written in the same style as his previous book, “When the Penny drops“, it begins with an introductory story that Gopal uses to build the concept for his 4-A framework that he expands in the rest of the book. Interspersed with anecdotes from his corporate life, relevant case studies and the sidebar boxes that help reinforce the concepts, make this book a compelling read for all in corporate life.

The underlying theme running through Gopal’s three books is about deep awareness of the our own Self. Our performance in the corporate world is but a reflection of how well we are connected with ourselves. I believe that these books are really about becoming aware of your latent spiritual side and bringing it to workplace.He could have as well named this one as “Implementing your spirituality in the workplace”. If it was digging into the repository of Avvaiyar’s to talk about self-awareness in his last book, Gopal starts this one by drawing an analogy of Buddha’s middle path and the dangers and pitfalls one faces in one’ corporate life and how one can get derailed by not being on the middle path.

As I read through the book, I created a visual map of the same and instead of writing a review of the book, I will embed the visual map of the book. Hope you will love this.