Thursday, October 31, 2013

Last-Bench visits Pune...

At Last-Bench, whenever we see a window of opportunity we strive to make the most of it and, more often than not, push ourselves to the limit - both, as a group and as individuals. It's probably the will to succeed or the passion we possess for our work or maybe it's just a 'startup thing'. Either ways, it ensures satisfaction and pleasure in our results and achievements :) Thus far, we've limited this drive to our 'work' mainly because we've never had the opportunity to extend it to 'play' as well! Hence, when a client meeting was scheduled in Pune we decided to capitalize on this chance and decided to make it into a company outing enthused with learning, adventure and, true to our ethos, lots of fun!

The day began rather early (even by startup terms!) at 6 am. Three quarters of the traveling troupe (Rajeev, Samir and Venkat) were being driven to Pune from Mumbai, with one member (Abhishek) already in Pune the previous day. [For all those concerned, we did not abandon Moushmi and Sajid :P They're currently taking some, much needed, time off :)]. The drive out of Mumbai and into Pune was fantastic. Such pleasure to encounter virtually no traffic as you cut through the city! Perks of early morning travel, we assume :) Then driving through the picturesque ghats on the expressway and stopping for the customary 'chai' couldn't have been a better way to start off, what would prove to be, a very important day for the company. 

The journey itself wasn't limited to refreshments and sightseeing, the objective was to use the travel time to discuss important issues like marketing strategy and plan, in the short term. This also was the cue for 'Mr. Creative' Samir to take a quick nap and dream about his next video masterpiece :D At this juncture, our focus is on social media and how we can leverage it to expand our reach, interact with potential customers, generate leads and eventually drive sales and revenue through it. We spent a good part of our journey reflecting on the learnings of our recently concluded Social Media mentoring session (look out for the blog post discussing it; coming soon!) and identifying areas of focus, goals, objectives and mediums. What remains is formulating a strategy (focused on identifying content areas, creating the content bank and defining roles & responsibilities) and, of course, actually executing the plan! 

We got into Pune around 10.30 am and straight away headed to our client's office for the meeting. After a set of preliminary talks in Mumbai, the purpose of this meeting in Pune was to finalize and, in principle, kick off the partner project. To sum up the discussion in a sentence (though we cannot to justice to the efforts put in from both sides), it was perfect! We were able to understand each others' strengths and how each one of us can contribute (and complement each other) to ensure overall success. Nothing like an association that is mutually beneficial! In retrospect, we feel that we (Last-Bench) got a little extra. We were able to observe, analyze and understand how a larger, education-focused company operates. We got good insights into their content creation and delivery standards, how they approach the entire process, where they separate their functions, where they intervene and collaborate, and how to really drive your product from being an idea to the complete, finished article. All this, while ensuring you never waver from the ultimate goal- solving the problem your customer faces and providing the best possible solution. 

It felt that we'd hit an experiential goldmine! We had come to Pune with the goal to leverage the opportunity in front of us and we did just that AND MORE. It would probably be safe to say we came, we LEARNT, we conquered! :)

Hey, but all work and no play is against the Last-Bench philosophy! So, we wrapped up our meeting and headed for a nice 'lunch + bonding session' at a popular eatery, called Tareef,  recommended to us by a local.  The food at the restaurant was absolutely wonderful and the ambience extraordinary. The calm soothing music allowed us to reflect on an excellent day and the delectable spread that was laid out provided us with the much-needed energy to discuss all things not related to work :D  The sumptuous meal and jovial conversation was followed up with a major highlight (and surprise)- a course of sweet paan [Betel leaf with coconut, fruit preserves, rose petal preserves and various spices]. Quite the perfect way to end an amazing experience in Pune.

Our journey back was more sombre and reflective. We imbibed all the learnings and thought about how we could benefit from all that we had discussed, seen and experienced. It was late evening by the time we headed back to our respective homes but all of us, individually and as a group, suddenly stood taller and more confident from the experience. And what could be better than the fact that we ourselves learned via the exact same methods we employ while teaching - Practicality and Fun! Touché!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Super Saturday at Bombay Scottish School (Powai)

Saturday mornings, for the majority, are generally reserved for fun and would scarcely be associated with any sort of learning. Hence, when we were approached to conduct a leadership and goal setting session for the students of Bombay Scottish School in Powai, Mumbai on a saturday morning at 9 am, we were a little skeptical. Then we heard there would be kids from grade 6-10 and it got us quite worried. 

Don't get us wrong. We love having sessions with students of all ages, they ask some of the best questions and often think at a level that would put top intellectuals to shame! But, saturday mornings are really when they want to just curl up in bed and look forward to a gigantic brunch comprising pancakes, syrup and tons of chocolate! And here we wanted them to sit through 2 hours of interaction, discussion and brain picking. Uh oh!

Now, in retrospect, we cannot reiterate how wrong we were! Of course, all our sessions are fun-filled, practical and full of activities but this one turned out to be something special. From the offset we realized that we were dealing with smart, enthusiastic and ambitious students. They almost certainly are going to end up right at the top in any career of their choice. Their questions were detailed, thoughtful and insightful. Their comments were crisp, accurate and thought provoking. Their enthusiasm and energy unparalleled. 

Our initial concern was waved off and their confident and pin point reply to our skepticism resonated around the room- 'What Saturday morning blues? We're always ready to learn!'  And then it struck us- these kids have two things which we, individually and as a society, really need - (a) Curiosity and, (b) the Will to Succeed. You almost certainly cannot teach that! It almost felt that by the end of the session we learnt as much, if not more, than this bunch of exemplary, future leaders!

Thank you to all the students who were present for an absolutely wonderful time and an even bigger thanks to the management, principal, teachers and staff of Bombay Scottish School (Powai) for giving us this opportunity. Can't think of a better way to spend a saturday morning :D

Here are some pics: