Sunday, August 26, 2012

When I met Hillary Clinton....

In May 2012, I got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact face-to-face with one of the most influential and powerful women in the world- Ms. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the United States Secretary of State.

To watch the video footage of the show & my question (at 51:31), click here.

Secretary Clinton had a stop-over at Kolkata during her short to tour to China, Bangladesh & India. As part of the U.S. Government's Youth Advisory Council (for India), I was invited to Kolkata to meet the Secretary of State along with other members of the council from New Delhi, Mumbai & Chennai.

Photo Courtesy: NDTV
And if the thought of meeting the 'Most Admired' woman in USA wasn't enough, there came another stunner. We were going to be live on renown journalist Barkha Dutt's show- We the People on NDTV. 

                                                                                        Photo Courtesy: Pallavi Kaushal
It was an  open forum with Ms. Dutt playing the moderator's role. After a tête-à-tête with Barkha Dutt, the floor was opened up to invite questions from the 
audience. I finally got my chance and raised to ask my question on the issue of 
Outsourcing & Protectionism being promised in the 2013 US Presidential Election 
Campaign in USA in an attempt to address local sentiments over a shrinking economy 
and rising joblessness, a cut-down on outsourcing will result in huge job losses.


She replied, stating that it was a legitimate issue to be needs to be aired. She also spoke of the President Obama's goal of developing their own exports, improving education & skills training of the U.S. people.


                                                                                                      Photo Courtesy: NDTV
What really struck me about the former First Lady was her cool and calm demeanour. Barkha Dutt had pointed out at the beginning of the show that since the time Ms. Clinton took over the post of the Head of the United States Department of State (2009), she has travelled more than 7,00,000 miles to 95 countries which works up to around 25 trips around the globe! Despite so much travel, she hardly showed any signs of flagging energy, which is remarkable indeed.


To watch the video footage of the show & my question (at 51 minutes 31 seconds),
 click here.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Social Media for Democracy


A couple of weeks back, my Uncle- a Social Entrepreneur called me and asked if I was interested in doing a conference on The Role of Social Media in Democracy on behalf of my firm, along with 2 other non-profits. 

I took some time, asked my colleagues and jumped into it. I've always been inquisitive about Social Media and it's applications across diverse domains. With democracy coming into the picture, it does look like a lethal combination. I gave a thumbs up and we set about looking for the right speakers for the various themes. 

By God's grace, it's all gone well with a few minor hiccups here and there. 

Today, Social Media is a lot more than having simple & friendly interactions on Facebook & Twitter. It has become the most potent tool for reaching out to the masses & spreading awareness about various issues.

Alec Ross, senior advisor on innovation and technology at the US department of State had said- "One of the greatest benefits of social media for government’s relationship with citizens is the way in which it helps strengthen democracy. “At the core of democracy is citizen participation. The more our citizens are using social media for the purpose of electioneering, communicating with government and engaging, the more robust it makes our democracy" 



The conference should ideally be attended by social entrepreneurs, social media enthusiasts and pros, media persons, change-makers, students and active citizens



This conference is being jointly organized by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (www.fes-india.org) MICCI (www.micci.in), COVA (www.covanetwork.org) & Dot Now Social (www.dotnow.in)

For the detailed itinerary, kindly go here

To join the event on Facebook, click here 

Also, we'll be tweeting live from the event. Here's the hashtag- #sm4d


There'll be 5 sessions and each session will consist of the following topics.

Day 1:

Session 1: Social Media- Power to People? (History of Social Media, Overview of Social Media Landscape, Applications of different Social media platforms)

Session 2: Role of Social Media in Strengthening Democracy: Strategies and Applications (Successful Social Media Strategies, Case Study- Jan Lokpal Movement)

Session 3: Can Social Media Change Power Structures? (Role of Social Media in Changing Community Equations, Social Media for Democratization and Transformation of Rural and Tribal Societies, Application and Impact of Social Media on Governance, Application of Social Media for Effective and Transparent Policing)

Day 2:

Session 4: Should Government Monitor / Regulate Social Media (Misuses of Social Media- An Overview of Cyber Crimes, Impact of Social Media on other media, Prevailing Regulation Policies in different countries and their impact on Freedom of Speech)

Session 5: Open Forum

The questions we explore during the event may not be totally new, but they are questions worth reconsidering through a new, composite lens: What role can social media play in democracy?

Looking forward eagerly to the event. 

P.S: To follow the proceedings from the comfort of your home/office, kindly follow #sm4d on Twitter. Thanks

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Training for Trusteeship

Last year, I had written a post on Trusteeship as part of a selection criteria for an International workshop to be held in Sri Lanka in September. Thankfully, I was selected after 3 rounds & got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to represent India at this exclusive 8-day workshop for youth leaders of SAARC countries, called Training for Trusteeship. It was organised by Weeramantry International Centre for Peace Education and Research (WICPER), in association with UNESCO National Commission, the Earth Charter Initiative Costa Rica, the World Future Council - Germany and the US Embassy, Colombo UN Year of Youth and the UN Year of Forests.

The workshop was held at Kegalle in Sri Lanka from September 4th to 11th. It was a unique forum for young leaders from various South Asian universities and youth organizations. It was a thrilling experience to say the least. They all came from diverse cultural, religious, geographical and professional backgrounds. These outstanding young leaders in the region had been engaged in development activities over a period of time and had managed to bring about a positive and progressive social change in their respective communities & regions.
With other youth leaders of the SAARC countries
The concept of trusteeship is emphasized to bring home to these young leaders the notion of responsible management of our inherited culture and resources for the benefit of those who are to come after us.
This workshop is aimed at inspiring youth to do what they can as individuals and future leaders to change their countries for the better by working across the cultural, religious, disciplinary and institutional divide in serving their communities.

During the course of the workshop, we met, interacted and learnt from international experts in social media, climate change, social advancement, peace and conflict resolution, international law, and biodiversity.

Delegates from India, after the Country Presentation
I’ve always been passionate about building ethical, responsible and profitable organizations and also be a part of the policy-making process. 

Through TFT, I've added to my repertoire - elements of cross-cultural understanding & peace-building and access to collaboration with other South Asian regions to fight various 'common' issues. I hope to partner with other South Asian organizations in the near future and execute well-planned initiatives across the region.

Giving my Project presentation on Youth Empowerment 
It was a fantastic learning experience indeed for every participant. Personally, this international exposure was very beneficial for me. Prior to this conference I was not really have the ‘Big Picture’of the South Asian region and was really focussed on getting things done on a local level. This conference has really opened up new horizons for me. I strongly believe that a good social model is one that can be replicated effectively in any context/region with minor modifications. Through the workshop, I received access to a large network of individuals and organizations at the international and regional level. Hoping to work closely with them in the near future.


Delegates from all the South Asian countries pose for a picture on the Cultural Eve
Delegates from India & Pakistan with H.E. Judge Weeramantry on the Cultural Eve

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The 24th year of my Life!


As I write this post, I draw closer and closer to my 24th birthday. Just a couple of minutes to go for the 'occasion'. 


My 24th year has been pretty eventful to say the least. Lots of ups and downs since Jan 18, 2011. Just a day after my 23rd birthday, I was on a plane to New Delhi to visit my ailing Grandmother who had suffered a fracture. I was in the capital for almost a week, oversaw the surgery and left 2 days after that. She was recovering slowly and exactly after a month, she breathed no more. I was on the plane again, this time with my whole family. It was a difficult time for me. I always felt I lacked 'that emotion' which would make any normal person cry in such a situation. I was totally numb. I felt it deeply but there were no real outburst of emotions as such.


Back in Hyderabad, I resumed my job at 'my' startup. Things were going great. Got loads to learn about Social Media, Management Consulting, Marketing, Strategy, Hiring, the whole 'Startup affair', just about everything and 2 -3 months later we merged with a partner firm. Another startup, with some fantastic individuals. Together we moved into a new office and started work big time. It was to some extent the turning point of my nascent career. I got exposed to Content Strategy, Communications strategy in general and met some more awesome people on the way. Towards the end of the year, we got another partner and that really provided us with the stimulus to diversify and explore a new domain- Design, which otherwise wasn't top priority. The year ended with a lot of parties and get togethers and I could really see something 'great' brewing in the organization. Hope to see Deep Red Ink gain more momentum during this year and cross the targets we've set for 2012. 


On the personal front, I first got a chance to organize an International Fund raising event in my town- Hyderabad in March, which was a huge success. In June I attended a life-changing workshop- Tao of Facilitation, thanks to my folks at work who encouraged me to go for it.  I learnt to Accept things in their present form, acknowledge silence, develop a helicopter view of things and discovered responsibility in a new way.


Soon after that I was selected to attend 2 Internationsl conferences, one in Switzerland and another in Sri Lanka coincidentally with overlapping dates. I was fully funded by the US Government for the workshop in Sri Lanka and went for it. It was an enriching experience really. I got to represent India at an International level, sharing the platform with leaders from South Asia. Made a lot of friends, understood key issues plaguing the region and crafted a 'solution' to a panel of global experts.


Being a cricket fanatic, it was a great first half being an Indian fan, having to see India lift the World cup after 28 years but also had to deal with humiliating defeats abroad in England and Australia.


These were more or less the highs, but what struck me deeply throughout the year were Deaths of my dear ones! I lost my Grandmother in the first half of the year, then my Grandfather in August, a dear friend in the following month and exactly a week back another close friend. The most recent loss has really hit me hard and it's yet to sink in.


Another friend was hospitalized last week due a bad lung condition. I hope and pray to the Almighty to heal him in super quick time.


All in all, it was a year filled with surprises, adventures, unexpected challenges and enormous gratifications, unprecedented joys and irrepairable losses.

Here's looking forward to a great journey of 365 days around the sun, minus the losses.