Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fortune at the bottom of the pyramid

Social responsibility is not something limited to only corporates. Its left wide open , to anyone who would stop by & listen , understand the ills and plagues of the society and come up with innovative , cost effective ways to reform the society and uplift the masses . The world has constantly urged the new batch of  entrepreneurs, internet evangelists and other free thinking radicals to come up with simple yet effective solutions that can aid the poor ,living in the deep ,deserted urban areas or the ones living well below the poverty line in a ridiculously expensive to live urban areas

The call is not just to upgrade the lifestyle of the poor ,but rather to provide even the most basic and essential necessities /commodities to one's reach. Something as basic as drinking water and food .The internet has been one of the key channels in bringing together the best minds in the world to research and develop economical solutions in battling poverty . Be it free tutoring classes online to poor kids or the 100 dollar laptop project for kids in Africa that enabled kids to get access to computers and the internet.

One of the key things that most researchers and the govt.aided NGO's are missing out on is , its not necessary to give them a one time supply of resources like food ,money or water but to provide them with a self sustainable solution that can last for ages . These are noble deeds , no doubt , that no common man would actually venture into , in his busy workday life, but ultimately an end goal is not reached . The only way is identify solutions that could actually transform lives . I have personally had several discussions with several researchers, NGO's and other communities in their quest to transform the world and actually make it a better place to live

One such amazing video i watched was that of Cynthia Koenig ,whos innovative and ingenious product could actually reach the extra mile for the poor people living in the deserts of Rajasthan. Her product involves a rotating push trolley that could actually transport a large quantity of water , even in rough terrains and can simply be rolled along like a wheel with a lever. The product is cheaper than we could imagine and could find immense use for ppl living in the desert and has to walk nearly 6 miles to get just a bucket of drinking water

The most interesting part in this idea is that , the inspiration came from a common scene at the airport . Something any guy would overlook. Would anyone bother carrying a pair of heavy suitcases by hand , when you have an easier option of using a trolley ,where you could place the luggage and push it across till your car. Leveraging the same idea in a water carrying container wheel was the result

The power of ideas do not dawn up us at a fixed moment or time, or when people are huddled in conferences . It comes when your mind is open and able to receive ,observe,learn and implement simple ideas we use in day to day life and leveraging them to solve world issues . Doesnt sound difficult and certainly wouldnt so , if you just gave that single try

Another very interesting video I came across in Ted.com is by Christian Sarkar. If his project is properly launched and actually comes into force, it could be the next big thing in solving poverty , bringing equality and closing the divide among people one inch closer .It can fulfill the most impossible of dreams of poor people,owning your own house . What if you hadnt rubbished the thought right away, saying it wasnt feasible or not even close to being cheap in building a sustainable simple house for poor people
Well certainly this man didnt think so . Christian Sarkar formed upon a mini group of people, supporters from various parts of the world, through the internet in midst of making his dream project coming alive. A house for every man

For people who have been forced to live in payments or the dark ghettos , or the houses with hay stacked roofs, his solution can come across as a divine blessing , a gift to mankind . What Christian Sarkar dreamt and actually implemented is something noone could even imagine of . A 300$ house !!
With a group of researchers around the world, he actually managed to build a self sustaining solid house for just 300$ (=Roughly Rs.18,000) .The project was tested in IIT Chennai & also tested across a few other countries and seemed to get some great reviews. The video below explains it all.. Do watch it
(Both these videos were sourced from TED.com)
Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012 , which had these 2 distinguished speakers amongst others speaking about their dream projects and how they brought it to life

The greater idea or the greater picture indicates the power of the human mind and its limitless possibilities . It also gives us a huge learning that , its not only a wonderful deed in contributing to the society but also found a huge unexplored ,infinite possibilities in making a fortune at the bottom of the pyramid

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Desert Triangle Drive

A 1800 KM drive  . Across  6 cities . 5 days of Intense driving !  In the vast expanse of the Thar Desert , Rajasthan

That's what it took to experience one of the greatest and longest ever road trips of my life and something exactly a dream drive should be like in every way , perfectly awesome. The trip began from Delhi . Along with a few of my friends, we borrowed a friends' Hyundai i10 . It combined the comfort and luxury of a hatchback and also fuel efficient . We set out in the early morning hours, before the buzzing city woke up and began my drive on our first destination, Jaipur

Before the drive we loaded up with food , water and more importantly installed a aromatic Ambi-Pur car freshner in the car to enhance the drive experience.. The aroma and the freshness lingered for the entire week when we are at the wheel and never once did it fail to freshen & energize us

The entire tour as per our supposedly "rock solid" plan consisted of 6 cities ,which consisted of Delhi, Jaipur,Jodhpur, Jaisalmer(Pokhran and Kuri), Ajmer, Pushkar and back . Each of these cities was separated at a distance of nearly 300 kms and was almost like a Triangular route and hence the name Desert Triangle.
The drive to Jaipur was mostly pleasant though in most places the road was non existent and it became more and more evident as we entered the districts of Rajasthan. The car maintained its speed though occasionally had to slow down considerably for the potholes that were innumerable in the small villages we passed through. We reached Jaipur well past 1pm the same day and had a delightful lunch at the tourism hotel
Jaipur , true to its nickname retained its lovely dose of pink in most areas ,and looked like a  really developed city in midst of a sprawling architecture of  palaces ,forts and gardens . We covered almost 3-4 places the same day and toured the hot city and reached the palace around 5 , when we were in for a surprise .

The time of our entry coincided with a Ad shoot (IPL Rajasthan Royals title song video shoot) and in front of us ,stood the ever beautiful gorgeous Shilpa Shetty swaying to the music of Halla Bol , on top of an elephant seat . To our advantage, there wasnt much crowd around the area and we seemed to bask in the limelight and enjoy the spectacle as it happened .We took innumerable pictures as the event progressed and also happened to catch a word with her ,which was the highlight of all

After what seemed to be an eternity at the Jaipur Palace, we drove down to the nearby Hawa Mahal and finally settled for a fantastic Rajasthani meal in a small corner shop

The second destination was Jodhpur which was beautiful in its own way. The roads were clean , well built and one could experience the beautiful Rajasthan folklore in this city , from the people, their food, culture and monuments and overall the journey was worthwhile, though uneventful

Our third destination was to Jaisalmer . Jaisalmer is the entry point for the Rajasthan desert  , which was 300 KMs away from Jodhpur . Jaisalmer was a stark contrasting change to the twin cities Jaipur and Jodhpur with a splash of Blue. We learnt that , we were to cross the heavily cordoned off military areas of Pokhran (alongside the borders of Pakistan) where the very famous missile testing took place

Almost everywhere we could see mammoth military tanks and army vehicles and we almost had to give way for around 20-30 of them  at one single time. At one point of time ,we almost rode to a complete halt by a nearby "Chai-shop" until the entire parade of military vehicles passed through (One of the first time i ever saw a Tank in operation , in my life)

We had booked a cottage in the middle of a village called Kuri, which is further 50 Kms away from Jaisalmer, deep into the desert . The drive took us to middle of nowhere though the map and direction posts indicated that we were on the righttrack .We reached Kuri in the late evening and it was one fascinating village that I ever visited. It was a tiny village with small handloom shops, mini huts , and the only cottage houses which we fortunately had booked .Locating people was actually a tougher challenge than signposts. The village was surrounded by sanddunes and cactus filled deserts with the occasional camels roaming around , just like those old films .The stay in a mini cottage , in the middle of nowhere with minimum facilities and some authentic Rajasthani dinner made us completely awe struck

With countless pictures , and the digital camera almost reaching its memory storage limit ,we decided to drive down back to Jaisalmer . About 15 miles down the way, the car came to a halt ,and we realized the car fuel had reached to an empty state. We looked around and found almost no signs of life or any vehicle even in the nearest vicinity . The way back was more than 25 Kms and we knew it was not easy to walk back without the car in the hot sun , in the middle of the desert. The sun was slowly rising and the temperature started to soar . Heights of despair were almost reached and we seemed to lose hope by the second. There was no cell towers and hence was completely out of coverage . We wandered off together towards the dessert in search of any human life that may point us in some way or the other for a emergency call or relief

At a moment, when life stood still and every alternate plan came with a failure, we spotted a small guy riding a camel. We got back to life and almost ran towards him . He seemed to understand our broken Hindi, and nodded vigorously for our cry of help .Despite the desert's soaring temperature, we were forced to pour

our water from the bottles, and carry off the empty ones along with us. 2 of my friends decided to stay back near the car , while 2 of us, in a never before experienced "Camel Ride" rode off in what seemed to be like hours in the poor camel's back. We finally spotted a truck who stopped at our waving and with such a generous heart gave us a bottle of diesel from his own truck's engine . After a profusal of thanks, we went back with the same camel and reached our car . Despite the hardship, soaring heat , it was a never to forget experience in an almost no man's land

The trip concluded with a visit to the adjoining cities of Ajmer & Pushkar as we finally shifted our gears to the fifth as we stepped on the Delhi Highway, bound for the national capital

The whole trip was summarized in that one small desert trip we took in Jaisalmer and it was definitely indeed a "AmbiPur" Fresh n Happy Drive

For information on Ambipur , do visit facebook.com/AmbiPurIndia

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Love for the open road with an impassioned spirit

I believe in road trips.   

For which nothing else gives you greater passion , a liberation of your spirit and freedom and a touchline reality with mother nature . Road trips creates a parallel reality shift , where the sorrows are left behind and that moment creates an excitement of entering new lands and some uncharted territories

The key difference in making a road trip from good to great depends on several factors  : A rock solid car that can sustain rough terrains and tricky road conditions . A great group of friends who can make the whole road trip worthwhile without getting monotonous and last but not the least , a passion and a will to explore uncharted territories. It also certainly helps immensely if the lingering smell in the call has a pleasant fragrance creating an exotic impression .

The olfactory sensation from a nice freshner like an Ambipur Car Air Freshner creates a transcending freshness transporting to another world and makes the whole journey even more pleasurable
My idea of a perfect dream road trip was something that actually happened a couple of years on my trip to Delhi - Shimla – Manali . An unforgettable road trip, it was nothing short of what Barney Stinson would have referred it to as Legn – wait for it – Dary !! 

We planned to have a long drive from Delhi  - Shimla – Manali – Chandigarh,after flying over to Delhi from Chennai . It was a mini reunion trip with a few select college friends. After our arrival in Delhi , we hired a Mahindra Scorpio from a travel firm to take us to Shimla, our first destination. The total distance was 343KMs and the drive began very well with some amazing weather in the early morning bliss and the smooth roads in the highways added to the overall effect . 

We were 4 of us excluding the driver and the car cruised along the highway (NH 22, if I am right) in good speed with the music blasting and some wonderful chilled and Fragrant fresh air from the A/c  , thanks to Ambipur Car Air Freshner . We had several pitsops which included tasting the “Asal Dhaba” Food in the roadside restaurants and getting a Quick Chai. We reached Kalka at a decent time though the driver was pretty fidgety and nervous throughout. Kalka , being the base station was the entry point to Shimla .This was where the events take a quick turn . The driver slowly brought the car to a halt towards a corner of the road and announced nonchalantly that he has never driven in the mountains ,especially a car like Scoprio and cant drive in the Ghat section . We were quite shocked at this new revelation and mightily worried about the whole plan schedule

The four of us quickly decided and planned as to who’s gonna drive across the steep and dangerous mountain roads(ghat sections) till Shimla. They all pointed fingers at me, despite forgetting that I  have equally no mountainous driving experience, though would definitely fare better against the driver who refused to drive completely or the others who looked completed passed out . It was a 96 km Distance and one of the most challenging efforts I had been assigned to . The car suddenly looked beastly and the roads looked much smaller and steep . Taking the wheel at the base of the world famous Himalayas was something that could have given me an instant kick though and made the drive an unforgettable one

There were several shops,view points of the deep gorgeous valley and ravines , small villages along the way and the railway lines that kept running parallel to the ghat roads  gave us some “invisible”force and protection that kept us going

There was one too many hairpin bends , steep climbs that forced you never to leave the accelerator and clutch even for a second nor stop anywhere ,as the car just go back down the slope ,added to dodging the incoming traffic in the even smaller roads. We later learned that Shimla was at a height of 7234 Ft and ironically a “Himalayan task indeed” . 

The Scorpio was strong enough to handle 5 of us and the pure fresh fragrance from the Ambi Pur Car Freshner kept us at peace at all times without any pressures. As the climb got higher, the temperature dropped drastically and the air pressure higher.  The deep valleys looked spectacular amidst the backdrop of a snow capped peaks in full glory. It really brought out a "Roja" movie moment , the pure joy and estacy of seeing a snow capped peak in a earth shattering silence amongst the peaks could be a life changing moment
The moment where you forget everything , life comes to a standstill and you just awe at those extremely beautiful peaks several eons away

After a 3 hour effort with small pitfalls and narrow escapes from accidents ,we reached the summit (as we call it). Shimla was on our eyesight like a jewel in the crown and we really felt the entire effort was worth it . It was one journey that none could ever forget and personally it was one Ideal Drive that one could ever hope for . Getting down from the car after a exuberant journey , I just thought to myself, why not drive again to Manali as well , with a wicked smile :)

I guess i looked just like below after my journey

For more information on Ambipur Car Freshners, do visit facebook.com/AmbiPurIndia