It all started at ISB in our Competitive Strategy Class Professor Aks has left us with a thought that “platforms will replace pipelines” and it stuck with me and I kept invested in that thought and started reading few articles and a book “The Matchmakers”. It made me realize that my industry-Solar EPC, will also will be disrupted by a platform in the near future. Then I started to discuss the idea of building a cleantech platform with my colleagues Mr. Praveen and Mr. Dhiraj, and my classmates from ISB PGPPRO, Mr. Chandan and Mr. Sheshu, they all thought it will definitely give us the scale and scope to serve a large market and take the benefit of network effects and complementary services. We got together as a team and started with understanding customer pain points, we did surveys of existing customers and potential future customers to find out the roadblocks in installing a solar rooftop. Thanks to our Marketing Classes, which focused on empathising with the customer and understanding the customer pain points. In early stages of our ideation came across an opportunity to participate in HULT Business Competition. We applied for it but were not successful as we were trying to do too many things at the start- like both solar rooftops, electric vehicle charging stations, etc. This brought us to the reality to focus on creating the minimum viable product. We reiterated and made our business simpler with focus on using more technology and partnerships to solve customer problems on a large scale.
Then came the opportunity to participate in SCG Bangkok Business Challenge, our work in the last 3 months has helped us streamline our idea and make it a viable business model. We submitted our business plan and got selected in the internal round to represent ISB in the competition, later we took the advice of Mr. Shiv and Mr. Narvottam, along with our external advisor Mr. Goutham to refine our business plan and apply for the competition. 70+ Schools from across the globe and 20+ Teams from Thailand have submitted their business plans to be selected to the semi-finals, 5-top Business Schools from India were in the foray too. We had a long wait after submission for a more than a month and got to know the results on 20th Dec that we made it into the semi-final list of 19-teams and we were the only Business school selected from India. We were happy that we made it to the semi-finals but then started the real journey to make a good business model that is practical, feasible and viable to win the competition and taken forward as a business after it. SEAL department and Ms. Sumitha has supported us by providing mentorship from Mr. Anubhav Asthana, Mr. Arnab. It was a a great learning experience to work with Mr. Anuhbav and Mr. Arnab to refine our business model and plan, they helped us refine it further and helped us not get distracted by trying to do a lot of stuff at the start.
We later have registered our start-up as Amplify Energy Innovations and started operations, then came the opportunity to participate in Envision, an start-up accelerator event organised by Dlabs, the team at Dlabs has been patient with us and helped us pivot our business model and look at the idea of being an asset light platform, we adopted that thought and participated in the Dlabs Envision events, it helped us understand what the judges look at when we present a business plan, the feedback helped us prepare for the SCG Bangkok event and we met a lot of wonderful people from other start-ups and judges who liked our idea and offered help and advice. After Envision we sought the advice of Mr. Kiran Alla an ISB alum who helped us with few key suggestions on how to perform well in such business competitions, from his experience in representing ISB at competitions earlier and his expertise in energy sector. Before the competition we had a golden opportunity to meet Mr. Neo Kok Beng, professor for Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship at NUS during our international immersion. He helped us apply the lean business model canvas to our business model and tap the hidden potential of our platform by using the network effects and complementary services by studying the customer journey, the pinball strategy, customer value maps that he taught us have helped us show a differential in the competition and win. We met Mr. Jay Arya during the international immersion and had a 15- minute interaction with him, but the help he provided us in providing pinpoint feedback on each slide has helped us cut out a lot of non-value added items and refine our deck for the semi-final presentation.
Our journey at the Thailand did not start on a great note, it started with by losing the printed material for exhibits in transit, we had to run around at get them done in the last minute, as we landed a day earlier than the competition schedule. Our teammates Dhiraj and Sheshu were instrumental in arranging the exhibits in a short span of 8 hours. We had then participated in the Semi-final round and our idea was well appreciated by few judges, but we could not directly get selected to the Finals.. We had to play a play-off round, meanwhile the same day we were selected for sustainability round finals so were had to make 3 presentations on the same day, one in the morning and two in the evening.Sasin has been instrumental in organizing a feedback session with the judges after every presentation, so it gave us opportunity to learn the flaws or the know the better aspects of our business model where we must concentrate. As we were drained out after pitching the presentation 3 times in the same day and were anxious about the result. It was announced late in the evening around 8:30 pm during the networking dinner which means we had less than 14-hours for the final presentation due at 11:00 am the next day. We met Mr. Sharma an Ex- ISB administrator who has taken teams from ISB for many global competitions. He advised us on how to take the questions from the judges in the finals and how to answer them, it helped us great deal to tough judges and their questions that were focused at challenging our business models. Finally, on the final day we gave our best shot and all the other teams appreciated the way we dealt with the question and the impact of our business model. It has helped us win the H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s Sustainability Award and award for the best presentation in the group. Winning the sustainability award is a good start for our business which focuses on sustainability and clean energy.
Our victory is a cumulation of guidance, support and good wishes of all of them. We dedicate our win to the PGPPro Class of 2019 for rallying with us and supporting us in the journey. We thank ISB for the support and mentorship, it helped us do our part to make the school proud during our short stint here as student of PGPPro. We take this opportunity to thank our families who put up with our tight schedules for the last 4 months and supported us, by taking care of our needs as we worked daily for 2-3 hours after office hours in the ISB library and remotely to prepare for this competition, the learning was worth the effort. (News Link – http://www.bangkokbiznews.com/recommended/detail/1229)
ABOUT THE COMPETITION-
The SCG Bangkok Business Challenge @ Sasin is Asia’s only global postgraduate start-up competition. Teams will not only be competing for the most prestigious prize of all, H.M. The King of Thailand’s Award that was originally kindly bestowed by His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama IX) and subsequently by King Maha Vajiralongkorn (King Rama X), The Bangkok Business Challenge was founded in 2002 by Sasin School of Management as the first such regional competition in Southeast Asia. In 2015, the competition introduced H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s Sustainability Award to further highlight our conviction that social and environmental responsibility must be practiced by all businesses, whether they are social, not-for-profit, or commercial ventures. (Link: http://bbc.sasin.edu/)
ABOUT AMPLIFY ENERGY-
ONE-STOP SHOP FOR CLEANTECH NEEDS
We are building a technology enabled cleantech platform that will connect- customers, installers, financers, and manufacturers in a seamless way . We envision to amplify cleantech implementation in India and other developing countries which are fighting the problems of pollution and climate change. We are currently offering solar rooftop solutions for residential, commercial and small scale industrial customers.
A customer who needs to install a solar rooftop needs to get in touch with- an installer, bank for financing, Electricity Distribution Company for Net-Metering, Manufacturer for warranties, Insurance agency, etc. which is cumbersome .
Indian government has set a target of 40000 MW solar rooftops to be installed by 2022, but only 3000 MW has been installed as of 2018 due to four major roadblocks- High Upfront Cost, Lack of Easy Financing, No After sales maintenance and lack of incentives.
The Indian market size to be served is $ 30 Billion (Rs.2,20,000 Crores) in the next 8-10 years. Our target is to serve 7% of this market in the next 10 years through our platform and amplify solar implementation in India.
We are building technology enabled platform that can reduce manual intervention, time and effort to serve this large market. We are also enabling customers easy financing options from Banks, NBFC’s . Quick and Quality Installations, with long-term maintenance and incentives to produce clean energy.
“Easy Financing, Quick Installation and Incentives”
Website Link- www.amplifyenergy.in
ARTICLE CONTRIBUTED BY TEAM AMPLIFY – CHANDAN, SHESHU, DHIRAJ & YASHWANT
How should we address a professor? should we use their first name? should we call them “sir” or “madam”? or just “professor” ?
The most effective leaders instill grit and grace in their team. Prof David DeSteno in his recent HBR article on “Managing People” suggested that the best way to do so is by cultivating three specific emotions: gratitude, compassion, and pride.
Cultivating three specific emotions: gratitude, compassion, and pride.
Inspired from how my program team brought back the ‘ship’ into a stable state, and how the leadership team instilled grit and grace in the team, I put my thoughts in a poem, if you will :).
Interestingly that is one such transformation that I am focusing on at the ISB’s PGPPRO program, which is focused on core Leadership and Strategy. While managing schedules between school and profession is truly challenging, what is more motivating is knowing “That the Smooth Seas never made Skilled Sailors”.
In an attempt to instill that grace, a few weeks back I led a SAFe Program Increment planning for my program, and I took the whole introduction session to another level by narrating a ‘motivational’ poem to the whole program team, and worth mentioning – appreciating the leadership team for their efforts in making the program successful.
Let us keep sailing!!!
The tides were high, and furious looked the sea,
Winds were strong, but so determined were we,
We hit an iceberg earlier, so we looked little pale,
With the will of a thunderstorm, you said – “Once Again! We Sail”,
We took on the hooks, not for a moment we were afraid,
Loosely coupled and strongly aligned was the principle we laid
An island of value for our customers, is what you envisioned,
And a promise to bring it for them, we made,
We will pave our way through the ambiguities that are dense,
For we all know, the purpose and support is immense,
This moment is ours and exciting times to scale,
Today we meet again, to strengthen our sail,
A lesson of life we learned from our leaders,
That the smooth seas never made skilled sailors.
We are part of the digital age where business world is evolving very fast. I am an IT professional with one and half decade into my career and the challenge I took to revisit an academic environment is going on well in ISB by studying alongside like-minded senior professionals. I am someone who has primarily learned management skills being on the job, and ISB is providing me the perfect way to augment my identifications, hone my technical and soft skills, and ground my practical knowledge with understanding of business theories. The purpose of studying business at ISB is to marry theory with practice, allowing me to fill knowledge gaps and tackle some of the most pressing issues faced by today’s mid-level managers
Why PGP Pro with ISB:
- Compete with myself
- Developing a strong professional network
- Boosting key knowledge and skills
- Accelerating career progression
- No time away from work and family life to pursue a traditional full-time MBA.
Challenges for me:
Every alternate day, my team member asks “when he/she will get role change” or someone comes and say “I got job offer with 100% hike so can you match my hike” or someone with 1 year experience come and ask “I want onsite as some of my friend has travelled onsite”. There are many odd questions like this to me and I have no straight answers for any of these. But as a manager of large program, I pretend to be helpful for all these “ASKs”. Few readymade asks as below from my boss/team across projects:
- My friend got a role change. I have also the same experience and same role maturity. When will I get a role change?
- My friend got this much hike. Why my hike is so less?
- My friend got so much payout. Why was there no payout for me this quarter?
- Doing same work repeatedly for last 3 months can I change my project as my friend is doing automation?
- My boss asks me to give 4% Q-o-Q growth– which is possible?
- Bring innovation every alternate day – but how?
I do not have a magic stick where I can fulfill all these aspirations but I need to be on top of these asks and assure them that sooner or later these all will be taken care of.
How ISB is helping:
The implications of this learning is huge. I am able to put classroom theory into practice and add value to my company straight away. I have the opportunity to learn from an MBA program that is equivalent to a full-time MBA, while still working—this is rare.
- There are diverse, definable, and recognized leadership styles. Each style includes different approaches that are based on research. I learned about the different styles and how to apply them in the real-world.
- Help to take out of comfort zone and challenge individually – “Dil maange more”
- Peers are from different walks of life and bring a diverse range of skills and professional experience to the classroom, allowing me to benefit from their unique perspective and expertise. What I have found that I am learning alongside a successful tech entrepreneur, a senior scientist, and the Managers of a multinational company. We have all the bullets in one pistol.
- I do understand the nuts and bolts of technology as part of my day-to day job but along with that now I understand the business aspects of systems in order to make informed choices. Now I am more efficient or to be efficient to make decisions about my team and budgets.
On a Sunday evening, I was revising concepts in Corporate Finance, a course that was recently taught in my Exec MBA at ISB. I was immersed in a Net Present Value (NPV) calculation when I heard the doorbell. And then another call-out-loud, “Jeet, please check the door!”, from my wife who was in the kitchen. I rushed anxiously towards the door, while still crunching numbers in my head.
“Who is it?”, she asked.
“Grocery delivery man, from Grofers”, I said.
I collected the grocery items and thanked the person. While I was closing the door, what immediately caught my eyes was this packet, which had sachets wrapped in plastic. I unwrapped the packet and found detergent sachets, must be around 20-25.
Now that’s something I wouldn’t usually care about, but the MBA courses were playing a role I guess. Or maybe it was my recent read – Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why”. I recalled from the Marketing course, why companies still sell sachets along with big packets (like 2kg+) for detergents, and similarly for shampoos and other products.
But, with finance concepts revolving around my head, I thought let’s see what is the real difference in price of 10 sachets of 200g each, versus a 2Kg packet. Aha, I found she had paid 18% extra for those sachets. Then why buy sachets still?
Oh boy!! Typically an Indian husband waits for such an occasion when he thinks he can potentially win an argument over his wife (especially when the husband is an engineer and wife is a doctor!). I was smiling out of happiness, I peeked into the kitchen to see she was preparing tea.
I went back to my laptop, crunched numbers on excel about 18% extra cash outflow every 3 months for 5 years, and calculated what is the Future Value (FV) worth.
I couldn’t wait, “Twitter! (her nick-name for how much she tweets) You know you are really paying around ~20% more when you buy the sachets versus the bigger box of detergent”, I said. And continued, “Do you know if you save the 20% extra that you are paying now, you could buy lot more detergent in future? Go for the bigger box, save money :).” And then sarcastically I said “But you haven’t studied Finance right? How would you know?”.
I cleaned up the table in the balcony, and sat there with that feeling of “Yes, I won!!”, waiting for the cup of tea.
She got the tea. “Ahemmm… Why are you sounding so logical today?”, she said keeping the teacups on the table. And then kept one sachet too. I knew she is not going to let me win this time too :).
Handing over the cup to me, she said, “When I buy the big box of detergent, I always struggle to guess how much detergent should I put in the machine. 1 spoon or 2 spoons, I couldn’t get a better idea. You remember when I was doing laundry with the bigger washing machine, you always complained about water wastage. Even you couldn’t guess what would be the right water level, because every week the number of clothes was different. You were unhappy with the cleaning.”
Yes, that is another story, she recently purchased a smaller washing machine (capacity – 2.5Kg). The bigger one I had was 6.5kgs. And she convinced me after arguing for weeks that we needed to purchase another smaller machine.
“You were always complaining about the cleanliness too, sometimes you said that we are running the machine overcapacity”, she continued. “Now, I do laundry 2 times in a week, I use the smaller machine. I exactly know in 1 sachet, how many clothes I can wash. I also have a better idea of how much water will be required, because every time I have an almost the same number of clothes”, she continued.
I interrupted, “But really you needed another smaller washing machine?”, trying to recall previous discussions.
“Yes, because with a lesser number of clothes, it takes lesser time to wash. Since I am doing laundry more frequently, you get to choose between the clothes you want to wear and you wear cleaner clothes now. We save water too, see even you have stopped complaining about water wastage.”, she responded immediately.
She continued, “And for bedsheets and bedcovers, I use the bigger machine and that is only twice a month”.
I realized all I was doing was – DOING AGILE.
Now that struck a chord in my mind. I was actually hearing this:
- Her focus was only CLEANER CLOTHES (Quality), even if that requires more investment.
- With smaller machine and sachets, she had become better at estimation, even better at managing resources (Water).
- Washing the clothes more frequently removed any ambiguities in scope (no. of clothes), it increased predictability.
- I was getting to wear clean clothes every day (overall quality improved and responsiveness).
- Tightly aligned to ensure I wore cleaner clothes, however loosely coupled to the machine (big or small).
- She learned iteratively to get better, focused on being roughly right than precisely wrong.
What I heard from her opened my eyes to what is truly the difference in DOING AGILE and BEING AGILE.
Being a program manager at work, managing a multi-million USD project, I was perplexed to hear that argument. Day-in and Day-out at my work, I talk about Agile. I discuss team metrics, burn-down graphs and talk about being high performing teams. I collect data about iteration acceptance, and cycle time for global teams, and always push the teams for smaller user stories so that we are more responsive and predictable in our deliveries.
I realized all I was doing was – DOING AGILE.
What I heard from her opened my eyes to what is truly the difference between DOING AGILE and BEING AGILE.
Agile is a mindset, and we hear this every day at work, but what is that mindset is what I learned today.
To my surprise, she had got rid of her big shampoo and body lotion bottles. All that she had was sachets and smaller bottles.
Perhaps I was lost in thoughts, and I couldn’t hear what she said more. She finally snapped her fingers to wake me up.
“What do you think now?”, she said.
Without responding to anything, I just walked to her washroom and opened the closet. She followed me. To my surprise, she had got rid of her big shampoo and body lotion bottles. All that she had was sachets and smaller bottles.
She started laughing. “Buying small, I can try multiple brands and settle on the best. You see now the beauty of small things!”, she pinched my cheeks.
I couldn’t express to her how big a lesson that was to me.
I first came to Hyderabad back in 1996 as a 7th grader. I relocated from Vikarabad, a small town where everyone knew everyone else and it hardly took a day to explore the beautiful town on foot. My life was cozy: going to school, playing with friends, sharing stories during power outages and star gazing at nights. In contrast, Hyderabad was a whole new world to me. Earlier it was just a place where my grandmother and other cousins lived and we paid visits to them during summer vacations. When we decided to move to Hyderabad for good, I was surprised, excited and scared too. I had never thought of any other place as home. I was scared and thought that all the people in Hyderabad must certainly be richer and smarter. Hyderabad was a big city, it was impossible to walk to your school like before. I had to take a bus. The roads were so wide and everything was overwhelming. I felt as if it were some sort of dream or something. I saw people hanging from the bus and wondered why couldn’t they just wait for another one. I saw how everyone was rushing and it was exciting to be part of it. The big buildings, houses with elevators (if you ever read barrister Paarvateesam you will understand what I felt!), big shops and those big cars in the showrooms. It was a feeling that can’t be expressed. I was loving every moment of it, but the most important thing I remember is in the way my teacher introduced me to my classmates at school. This was the first time she came across me and what she said then always continued to be with me: “Beware girls, Aparna is going to give you all a tough competition”. I was surprised to hear that. I don’t remember anyone saying anything like that about me before. I always used to make sure that I was just good enough so I wouldn’t get any scoldings from my dad. My sisters were always toppers and they used to bring home lots of medals and awards every year. I used to make sure I won at least one. I never went overboard with excelling at anything because I used to think – you just need to be a little bit faster than the one ahead of you and then you are good. I remember once I forgot that I stood 3rd in class and I would’t get any prize that year and I wanted to make sure I get one. I then saw a kho-kho match underway. I never heard of that game but decided to ask if I could be part of it. Fortunately, they were short of one person to commence with the game. I just asked what are the rules of the game were. One of the girls stared at me as to why she was letting me join the game but was nice enough to brief me about the rules. Guess what?! Yes, we won! I had one prize to take home. Coming back , the way my teacher put it that day about me, made me beam with pride. In my little brain, I thought I should prove her right. I cannot let down the person who trusted me so much. That was the first time I started working hard – just for my teacher. I became the topper in the very next exam and from then on there was no looking back: I was the school topper, best student of the year and later on gold medalist in Civil Engineering.
That one sentence made a big difference in my life. It made me who I am. It made me realize what my potential was and what I could achieve. It made me strong. It made me powerful.
Several years later I ask myself how do I feel today? I can factually say that my confidence isn’t where it should be. I feel powerless. I feel I failed me, not because of what I am but what I could have been. I wasted a whole lot of life chewing on if(s) and but(s). I let many situations cloud my decisions. I was so busy being there for others that I forgot to stand up for myself and chase my dream – I let things go their way instead. A few days ago while I was conversing with an ex-colleague of mine, he just said “You are an inspiration, as always. With your caliber I am sure you will rock the market!” This again, coming from someone who hardly knew me and with whom I haven’t spoken in years.
That took me back to that very same day how my teacher introduced me to the class. It helped me realize that there is a lot I need to do achieve and a lot more to accomplish. There are just a few bumps on the road and hell a lot of unknowns but it is still the same me, who got lost in the woods for a while.
There is nothing impossible and nothing insurmountable. It is just the same world with the different lens. Sometimes it might look like there is no way out or you feel like nothing is going to work but you know what, you have “YOU”. It’s just that the targets got bigger and the stakes got higher. You just need to know that you have it in you and you always deserve better.
You are the one who will make the difference. You don’t need someone to vouch for you . You need you to trust that you can do it. Don’t let go of yourself as “Your dreams can be achieved only by you!”.