Consumer Insight

By Jayaram Rajaram

Most MBA-types (I’m one of these useless ones too! : -)) banter on about the importance of consumer insight in business. This term is highly overrated according to me, and several useless market research and consulting firms make hell of a lot of money by putting your customers and consumers into boxes. They use jargon like perceptions and preferences, perceptual maps and all sorts of nonsense to hide behind terminology that the common man can’t understand. Questionnaires seldom give you any insight and are a whole load of crap according to me (Pardon my language).

Now let’s cut to the chase so I can tell you what I understand consumer insight is all about. Recently we launched disposable diapers (Brildiapers) for babies. A lot of people saw the pack and asked me what I meant by the words ‘Consumer Insights –India’ on the pack. People were expecting me to say some big 4 consulting firm did this massive research etc. My answer was simple- consumer insights were MY insights as a customer who bought practically every single diaper brand in the market for my son (They were shocked!). I say it openly, NOT a single diaper in India was good enough for my son! So I had to import one that was reasonably good from the US (Still nowhere near the quality that we went on to acheive with Brildiapers Prime)! How do I say they were not good? I tried them ON!! I placed them one at a time as a lining for my underwear and wore each one on for a few minutes. The second test I did was to place each diaper over my mouth and nose and tried to breathe (Not with the same diaper that I tried on of course before you ask me! : -) ). Was I crazy?? NO…I was NOT doing this to launch diapers at that point, my baby couldn’t tell me that his diapers were not comfortable, so I decided to help him out (Simple isn’t it?). It’s called empathy and I would urge every parent to do this with products they use on their baby! Did this crazy exercise give me consumer insights? Did it tell me of a gap in the market for the discerning SEC A parent? You bet!

After my wife and I went through 15-20 different brands and sadly had to import one brand of diapers from the US, I asked myself why no company was manufacturing diapers for the discerning Indian parent who wants superior comfort for their baby? At one point it irritated me because, most of the brands were doing their best to keep prices low (Which is important for the bottom of the pyramid mass market in India) and were unable to use the more expensive materials they were using abroad. What did this mean? A huge compromise on comfort for ALL Indian babies! Even if a parent could afford more expensive diapers, the really good ultra-thin breathable ones were not available in the market!

Now that I had REAL first-hand CONSUMER INSIGHT as a parent, I went ahead and got my team to research in-depth and launch Brildiapers Prime- an ultra-thin, highly breathable, 6-layer, super-absorbent, rash-proof diaper made using world-class raw materials from Germany and USA, for unmatched baby comfort. Now my son is almost 2 and yes, he wears Brildiapers Prime Large!

In conclusion, I would urge my fellow MBAs, entrepreneurs and leaders to get out and become a consumer themselves rather than spend company money on useless market research. Get intuitive to identify unrealized needs and create markets if you will. Move from head to heart. Be obsessive about your brand; solve problems for your customers every single day.

Click here to read more about why brildiapers are special, thanks to first-hand consumer insights and real love that has gone into creating them, in the news!

About the Author:

Jayaram Rajaram is the Managing Partner of Bril and the Managing Director & Chief Dreamer of ELSA. Jayaram writes from his heart and about personal experiences. He writes about varied topics ranging from parenting to leadership and entrepreneurship. Now that you have read one of his intimate experiences with baby diapers, the least you can do is go to buy a pack, wear them yourself and report back to Jayaram with the results, or use them for your baby if you are a parent! LOL


Innovation in Marketing

Social Media Really Does Work-  Case Study

The following case study clearly reveals how innovation in marketing using social media is extremely powerful. The case study emphasises the importance of creativity and innovation and how marketing teams must look within and do for their brand what they would love themselves. Looking within, listening to your gut and acting upon it systematically is what innovation is all about. As more and more marketers debate the power of social media, what I say is that these marketers should not blame mediums for their lack of innovation and creativity. Social Media channels like Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter etc are mediums that will work for creative organizations and not for organizations that are trying to port traditional mass media / offline strategies online.

This case study that I present is a real one that I personally ideated for my company Bril (

It all started off with this simple nostalgic post of a Bril Ink bottle, that sparked the idea: Click Here to see this post that went viral.

Campaign: Bril Nostalgia Photo Contest (Click Here to See the first post announcing the contest)

Make people share their best and most loved school or college photo using an authorised facebook app that was setup on the Bril facebook page ( ).

GO TO and scroll down to see 100s of happy photos shared by participants. or just Click Here for the photo feed.

Objective of Campaign: To make Bril reconnect with parents / adults (Bril’s potential customers) who have used Bril Ink during their school days by leveraging nostalgia (a very powerful emotion) and Make Living Fun for all participants. A campaign that is all about the participant and his / her life.

Prize: Brilslate Android 4.0 Tablet worth Rs. 10,999/-

Campaign Cost: Rs. 20,000/- including cost of prize, facebook promoted post cost of Rs. 8500/- plus shipping and handling charges

Steps Participants had to take to Participate in the Bril Nostalgia Photo Contest:

In order to participate people had to:

  1. ‘Like’ Bril’s Facebook Page (The app ensured this was the first step that people had to complete before taking them to step 2)
  2. Enter their contact information (Name, Email ID and Mobile Number)- This built a good email and phone database that could be used later
  3. Upload a school or college photo that they felt was their best

The participants were informed that Bril will feature as many photos as possible, on the Bril Facebook page after affixing Bril’s Logo and a link to the photo contest.

While it was made clear that sharing their photo, tagging and liking were not mandatory and not at all a criteria to win the contest (Satisfying Facebook’s contest rules), participants were encouraged to Tag friends in the photo and others they loved, once it got featured, just to share the joy and Make Living Fun by rekindling nostalgic juices of their loved ones.

Campaign Result and Reach:

Bril received over 292 entries in 2 weeks.

People started participating for the fun of participating, and voluntarily and enthusiastically shared their photo and tagged all their friends (once it was featured with the Bril Logo and a link to the contest). This made the campaign truly viral as people were enjoying the process without worrying about winning.

Each person shared / tagged 10 people on average.

Our study showed that each person had on average 400 friends on facebook

So what was the campaign reach?

292 people X 10 people tagged on average per person = 2920 people reached directly

Let us say each one of the tagged people have an average of 300 friends who would have seen that tagged person’s photo

This makes the reach: 2920 X 300 friends/person reached directly = 876,000 people who saw the Bril brand, the contest and came to Bril’s facebook page

The real reach was even more because of the comments, likes etc that happened on each photo.

Cost per person reached:  Rs. 20,000/876000 = Rs. 0.0228 per person reached.

Leads generated as a result of this campaign: 292 (Only participants considered, but Bril’s lead capture system captured on average 10 leads more per day during this campaign (14 days) in addition to the participants)

Cost per lead captured: Rs. 20,000/292 = Rs. 68.49 per lead

Bril’s facebook fanbase grew from 12,000 fans to 20,000 fans in a matter of 2 weeks thanks to this contest

In comparison:

Average cost of a single 10cmX5cm ad in a leading English daily: Rs. 300,000 (Approx).

Approximate Reach (Not measurable): 300,000 people

Cost to reach: Rs. 1 per person with no real brand engagement

Max. Number of leads that a good ad generated (Based on an ad released in a leading national english daily  by Bril in September): 250 leads

Cost per lead: Rs. 300,000/250 leads = Rs. 1200 per lead

Bril’s Mission: To Make Living Fun for parents and children through world-class products, services and opportunities.

The contest was in perfect sync with the company’s mission as people started to enjoy the process of participation rather than play for the prize and started sharing good old memories with people they love, taking the Bril brand out to their friends and family happily.

Who’s Idea was it? In-house by Jayaram Rajaram, Bril’s Managing Partner, who is also the Managing Director & Chief Dreamer of ELSA Learning Private Limited. Jayaram is a hands-on innovator, entrepreneur who actually implements in his businesses, the innovation strategies that leaders, organizations and teams are taught as part of BrilArt@Work workshops ( ) .

Jayaram’s Linkedin Profile:

Campaign Executed and monitored by: Bril’s Social Media Partner Scion Social




Battle of all times – Sibling Rivalry

A familiar story to every parent of two or more children, “sibling rivalry” can sometimes really stress out a mother. I have 2 kids – a 7 year old boy, Rohan and an almost 3 year old girl, Shriya. Rohan, who is otherwise, very “macho” in his choice of games and toys, loves to grab and play with Shriya’s dolls every time she sits down with them. Shriya, who is typically happy to sit with her grandmother surrounded by play dough, puzzles, toy cars and colours wants to play only football, BeyBlade and cricket when her brother is around.

So, what’s new ? The answer is “Nothing” ! I’m pretty sure this is how it is going to stay for generations to come. I’ve heard platitudes like “This fighting will bring them closer” “That’s how your uncle and I used to be when we were kids and that’s how you were with your sister” “It will pass – this is how brother and sister will bond“… et al.

While it all sounds fine, I still feel like banging my head against the wall most of the times ! And that has set me thinking : how can a young boy be the trendsetter and leader, in school and in the playground,and ape his baby sister at the same time ? How can a toddler stumble through her alphabets and numbers yet know exactly how to irk her brother into shouting and hitting ?

If any of you have the answers for me, I promise to treat you at the best restaurant in town !!

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.

Quitting is Easy!

The following is an email that I took out to my team of managers when a pretty senior manager quit during a transition period in my company. We had just promoted a long-timer to fill his shoes. The transition was basically a move from being just a stationery products company to a baby and children’s products company. There was a lot of pressure on the teams to get out of their comfort zones and start thinking like a start-up. There was pressure on managers and leaders to understand, align teams and deliver in unfamiliar territories and product categories.  I felt the message in the letter is very important for every leader in today’s challenging and uncertain markets. It’s more important to people who shift jobs at the drop of a hat and likewise companies that hire and fire. Stability in teams, innovation and sustained action is what sets Great companies apart from the Good ones.

I have changed all names in the letter to protect identities.

Subject of Letter (Email): Quitting is Easy

Dear Managers,

Firstly I would like to congratulate Sachin on becoming an Area Sales Manager. Sachin has not become a manager by default due to Hari’s exit, but because of his ability to solve important problems for the company, and his go-getter attitude. Sachin was a deserving candidate because he has a positive attitude and has shown the behavioural characteristics of a leader, with the ability to embrace change while sustaining and growing the heritage business also. At Bril, we try our best to give people within opportunities to grow, and as managers and leaders all of you should be looking at grooming future leaders. Make sure you are encouraging people below you to grow. Identify the guys who are ready to walk the extra mile and give them added responsibilities. Allow them to fail as long as they are diligently and ETHICALLY taking action. Sachin, so far you have done well to get where you are, but I sincerely hope you realize that this is the beginning of your journey. Do not allow this promotion to get to your head. Stay focussed, grounded and positive. Think big, motivate and work with your team to take this company into the future successfully.

You must be wondering why the subject ‘Quitting is Easy’?

Yes, the point I want to make through this email is that Quitting is the easiest thing that all of us can do. True leaders, in fact the greatest leaders of today are people who didn’t quit when there was pain, when times were tough or when there was change or transition. Steve Jobs was thrown out of his own company, but he never gave up pursuing his dream. His positive attitude and drive made the universe conspire and give him back his company on his terms. Apple nearly went bankrupt at one point, but Steve Jobs knew it in his heart that one day it would be the best and most sought after company in the world. He never stopped working on his dream and the rest as they say is history. Ask anybody who has worked with Steve Jobs and they will tell you that he was a tyrant to work with, but the people who stuck on have become millionaires (Some even billionaires), because they kept a positive attitude in the toughest of times and kept taking action day in and day out for many many years till success was inevitable.

Leaders of tomorrow will be people who sense an opportunity today, in times of change, maybe even adversity and take it as a challenge to seize the opportunity that every change or adversity brings along with it. Bril today is at an inflection point of tremendous growth. All of us are fortunate to be in the positions that we are in today, as I believe in my heart that this company and brand is going to scale unimaginable heights. I include myself in being fortunate, as it is only divine grace that puts us in a place of opportunity and surrounds us with people who are going to create the future. This is a time that I am going to be harshest on the people who I believe can deliver, but are being pulled back by their negative mindset or maybe lack of systematic action. I will be harsh if I sense that you or people in your team are not pulling up your socks and working your butts off (Pardon my language). I will not tolerate excuses; I will not take NO for an answer. The products identified as the future of the company HAVE to be sold, and sold in the tune of several hundreds of crores in the years to come. This has to happen without sacrificing on or while achieving growth in the stationery business. What does it take? More number of hours of work, supreme time management abilities, dealing with more rejections in the market, motivating the right team members and good old dedicated action (New distributor appointment, Primary, primary primary, secondary, secondary preschools, apartment complexes, flier distribution……..again and again and again focussing on the new products daily and making it a part of your and every team member’s daily routine like they do for stationery products and more). So in this mail I want to make it very clear to you that when I scream at you, I scream for YOUR growth, so you can achieve your full potential and make the company grow. A parent only screams for the benefit of their children, a guru only reprimands the brightest of students (There is no ulterior motive!). Please don’t prove me wrong, as I believe that this team is the brightest and most capable team we have ever had at Bril in all these years. During this time, those who are weak hearted and cannot see a bright future here will leave. That is fine, but what I would like to emphasise is that QUITTING IS EASY. It is the easiest thing any of us can do. Believe me that I will not rest till Bril is a huge force to reckon with- I believe that this is my life purpose. Stay here, if you share the same passion as I do, or we can be good friends and you can move on. Having said this, I honestly believe that each and every one of you I am mailing today has the capacity to lead their respective teams and this company to great heights. I sincerely hope you believe in yourself too. Who says there will be no problems along the way? Great leaders are those who love the challenge and convert problems into opportunities.

So, the message I would like to drive home in a nutshell is……

  • Quitting is easy- that’s why quitters never grow. They normally start and quit all the time so they never really achieve success in anything they start (Most ordinary people are quitters). Leaders are persistent and keep DOING till they achieve their goal (No matter how many months, years or lifetimes it takes).
  • You fail only when you Quit.
  • Believe in yourself
  • Always have a positive attitude
  • Genuinely be good to people. Show them you care, but reprimand when it is due. Be fair even when you reprimand.
  • Don’t lose that fire in your belly EVER!
  • Great things happen when small actions are taken on a daily basis
  • Don’t wait for that big deal. Win a small deal everyday

I am hoping and praying that this is the dream team that will take Bril to stratospheric heights in the years to come.

All the best.

With Love,

Jayaram Rajaram

Managing Partner – Bril

Managing Director & Chief Dreamer

ELSA Learning Private Limited / /

This post is as important for children, who will be future leaders, as it is for adults. Not quitting, and being persistent will surely Make Living Fun in the long run. As parents, let us try to instill resilience and a Never Say Die attitude in our children.



Entering the mind of a child

Entering A Mind Of A Child

You may say that I’m over analyzing, but today I would like to take a couple of feet off my already short 5 foot frame, subtract a quarter century from my age and try to see things from the eyes of my 7 year old. Here is what he listens to in the morning:

  • “Rohan  – wake up – getting late”
  • “Drink your milk – if you miss your bus, I’m not going to drop you”
  • “No – you can’t play your cricket cards now – no time”
  • “DRINK your milk before I count to 10″

This is what he hears when he gets back:

  • “Wash your hands”
  • “Not on the floor – the uniform goes IN the laundry hamper”
  • “Eat your fruit first – then you can have some junk food”
  • “You are going to have to switch off the TV in 5 minutes”
  • “BTW, what did you do in school today?”
  • “Just a couple of minutes more – then TV time is over”

And this, when he comes back home from playing downstairs

  • “I don’t care if you don’t like daal – you’ve got to eat it”
  • “No time to play now the board game now – play with your sister for sometime”
  • “Clean up – do you think I’m going to do it at the end of the day??”
  • “Time for bed – otherwise you can’t wake up in time for school tomorrow”
  • “Good night”

And I sometimes wonder, have I really got it right?

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.

Is Innovation & Creativity Mere Lip Service in Organizations?

By Jayaram Rajaram

How to create and sustain an Innovation Culture in your Organization?

I have interacted with many-a-CXO over the last 10 years in business and almost every single time I have heard the words ‘Innovation’ and ‘Creativity’ being used. While I find that there is unanimous vote when it comes to the importance of innovation, it’s the MBA-clan and managers who sit inside boxes that are talking about the urgency to innovate. While the desire to innovate is a good starting point, most leaders and teams seem to just get stuck with the desire alone. Unfortunately most Business schools stifle creativity and innovation by equipping future leaders with analytical tools designed to mitigate risk. Innovation and creativity can never happen when leaders tread cautious paths. Time and again people say they want innovation but are even scared of embracing a slightly off-beat advertisement campaign maybe in a not-tried-before media vehicle; leave alone allowing collaborative creativity that is required in creating innovative products, innovative distribution channels or coming up with innovative solutions to sales or operational challenges and most importantly to people issues.

Over the years, I have been tracking companies that have excelled despite recessionary environments, with customers falling over each other to buy their over-priced products. Yes, the first company that comes to everybody’s mind is Apple then there’s 3M. Yes, Google gives its employees time to pursue their passion and allows them to fail. While this is a very good step forward for innovation and has yielded great results, why do so few companies come to our mind when we think of the word ‘Innovation’? I am not saying that there aren’t more companies that have taken the innovation pledge seriously. There are a few hundred companies that are continuously creating the right environment to nurture creative thinking amongst employees and their customers and shareholders are rewarding them with premium margins and share prices. But the point I am trying to drive home is that, in order to be able to create, nurture and sustain an innovation culture, the right leadership is required. I am sad to say that many companies are stuck with leaders who have suppressed their own intuition for way to long and have prevented anybody else to get creative in the true sense.

Before I offer a solution, let us analyse why Apple has been so successful? In my opinion it is because their products were designed with the arts in mind. Arts are more human, arts have a heart and Steve Jobs was inspired by Calligraphy, Zen and simplistic design- the arts. He intuitively built products that he would love, rather than asking customers what they wanted. Asking customers what they want only gives you iterative improvements and rarely radical innovation (I am so happy Steve Jobs came along, as finally people listen to me about meeting unrealized needs!). Steve Jobs honed and acted upon his gut because he got in touch with his core through Zen meditation. More importantly he had the guts to defy corporate risk aversion and create & take-to-market products that revolutionized the world. . How many CXOs have such gumption to stand out and say the buck stops here?

Now that the problem is clear, what can be leaders do to enhance and sustain creativity and innovation in their organizations? While you don’t find a Steve Jobs every day, every single organization can take the following steps to nurture creativity within.

  1. First and foremost every leader must give employees opportunities to realize that they too have a creative side. Not only by acknowledging and accepting suggestions and ideas from even the junior-most employee, but by acknowledging talents in the arts.
  2. Leaders and Talent Heads must start recruiting people who have pursued some art form like music, dance, visual arts etc. as they would understand how the arts have the ability to impact people at their core, and apply it to their work- if given the right environment and opportunities.
  3. Try to create opportunities for people to look within and de-stress. This could include meditation sessions, exposure to creative arts performances by musicians, dancers, artists and maybe even cooking sessions, photography, drama sessions etc.
  4. Incorporating a system whereby employees, especially leadership teams interact and attend workshops conducted by real creative geniuses, to understand the essence of tapping into their innate creative zones and understanding how to create the correct environment for innovation to happen.
  5. Get new perspectives by engaging in and also helping your employees engage in creative interests (even during work-hours whenever possible), to understand the emotions that they feel while doing so. These are the emotions that should translate into products and experiences that the company offers to its customers (Remember- that’s what Steve Jobs did). I call it taking advantage of your goose bump moments to intuitively know what makes people tick. I’m hoping your employees and customers are people, if not this may not work J
  6. Cut-out power-point presentations and focus on real idea generation and open-ended brainstorming sessions. Encourage people to move from head to heart in every meeting. Believe me customers are fed-up with information overload and want to work with companies that are more human, while delivering results of course.
  7. Encourage people to dress-down and meet customers like they meet friends (This is innovation in sales). This is a pet topic of mine and will tell you more about the importance of this in a separate post.
  8. Encourage action and systematic action to put creative ideas into real-world action. Nothing happens without systematic action and even the best and most creative ideas will remain just that-brilliant ideas without leaders who ensure they are acted upon.
  9. Last but not least, allow people to take risks and FAIL!

About the Author:

Jayaram Rajaram is the Managing Partner of Bril, a company that works on a Mission to Make Living Fun for its customers and consumers, through its world-class school stationery, baby and children’s products. For more information about Bril please visit  (Bril’s Facebook  Page: . Jayaram is also the Managing Director & Chief Dreamer of ELSA Learning Private Limited, a human development company that works towards nurturing and enhancing creativity amongst children and adults and also helps organizations take innovation seriously through its BrilArt@Work offering. For more information about BrilArt please visit


My experience as a parent volunteer at school

My experience as a parent volunteer at schoolYesterday was the annual event at my daughter’s school “Magic Puddles“. The theme this time was “Street Utsav” & the school team had roped in parent volunteers to help them out. We started off with lots of ideas on showcasing the street flavours of Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. Our first few meetings were full of enthusiastic suggestions from parents and teachers on dandiya, Char minar, Hyderabadi biriyani, dhoklas, et al. It all sounded hunky dory. But, I soon realized that we were nowhere close to execution! While the teachers were juggling school work with this added responsibility, the parents were doing double duty with work and office – none of us had the time to actually do anything!

With client deadlines breathing down my neck & my troublesome toddler eating away whatever free time I had, I undertook the responsibility of handling a “Dandiya” stall, where I would teach youngsters to make their own dandiya sticks from newspapers. I decided to make this fun for myself and my kids by involving them in every step. My daughter accompanied me to the shop to buy craft accessories, my son helped me glue things together & they both gave me some critical feedback on the end products too.

The day of the fair – a lovely Sunday morning – was really exciting. Glad to leave the kids behind with their father, I went in early to the school to find a whole bunch of mothers and teachers looking all resplendent like a glass of bubbly champagne! We had a blast setting up the stalls, trying our hand at a few rounds of dandiya dance before the crowd arrived and, of course, in sampling the food at the food stalls. As the children and their families came in, time just flew by in all the craft activites, games, qawwali rounds, dandiya dances, et al. As a lover of craft, I had a blast teaching youngsters to mess around with fevicol and paper creating their own sticks. As a mother, I enjoyed watching the smiles on the faces of each child proudly showing off his/her hand-made puppets, kites, caps, pen holders, etc. Most of all, as a stressed out working mother of two, I enjoyed doing something for myself – something which I truly enjoyed.

As a busy parent, have you ever taken time out to do something different – which turned out to be surprisingly refreshing?

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.

Who are the people in your (changing) neighbourhood?

Who are the people in your (changing) neighbourhood?The Unit of Study for this month in my daughter’s Kindergarten class is ‘Community Helpers’. And I had the bright idea of showing her the delightful Sesame Street 2-minute “Who are the people in your neighbourhood” videos on the different professions – she would enjoy the catchy tune and colourful costumes and I could laugh at the droll puns and sing along.

So the first video plays and Netra stares intensely at the man in a tall cap holding a box of vegetables, cheese and other fresh food items.

Netra (wrinkling her nose): “Who’s that?”

Me: “The grocer.” And then I go on to explain how a grocer has a small grocery store and sells food items.

Netra (waving away my explanations): “I’ve never seen a grocer shop. We only go to Cold Storage.”

Me: “Maybe here, but you have seen small grocery shops in Mumbai.”

Netra: “No – I went to Reliance Fresh. It’s a big shop.”

Me: “Ok let’s move on to the next video”.

Netra: “Who is that?” She points at a man in a blue uniform with a satchel in his hands.

Me: “The postman who delivers our letters. Don’t you know that?!”

Netra: “I know who the postman is but I thought they were extinct!”

Me: “Whaaat?! – they are people Netra, not dinosaurs! Why would they be extinct? If you want to write a letter to Brinda paati, then you need to write her address on the envelope, stick a stamp and ….”

Netra: “But amma, why can’t I just send her an email? And I skype with her everyday, so why should I….?”

Me (anticipating and stalling a string of questions): “Ok…. But next month you have to write a letter to Santa Claus and then you will have to go to the post office….”

Netra: “But you were telling daddy that everyone is on Facebook except him, so you can send a message to Santa Claus on Facebook, no amma?”

I clutch my head in despair and try to identify safer videos – we breeze through doctor, nurse, teacher, librarian. Then we come to a man with a saw and a hammer.

Netra: “Handy Manny!”

Me (sighing in relief): “Handy Manny is a handyman, but yes, this is close – a carpenter. A carpenter doesn’t just repair things but also builds furniture for you, like tables, beds….”

Netra: “I thought we go to Ikea to buy furniture and then build it ourselves!”

Me (losing patience): “Ok, you tell me what video you want to watch!”

Netra: “Why is there no investment banker in the neighbourhood?”

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.

Teens & Time Management

Teens & Time ManagementThe high school years (Grades 9 -12) are crucial as they, whether one likes it or not, largely determine   the choices a student has in college and beyond. As such, all parents are concerned about how to help their children during this time.

My daughter Priyanka is in Grade 11 and she has  multiple goals for the next two years- staying focused on academics, taking standardized tests, creating a portfolio for music and dance, doing some writing and also applying to shortlisted colleges. Add to this the long commute to and from school, she really does have a jam packed schedule.

My first instinct, as a mother, was to see how I could directly pitch in and help her out, but my son (he is in college)’s words cautioning me about hand-holding her too much and hence not  preparing her to manage college life by herself reverberated in my ears . So, I thought about how I could contribute without necessarily “doing things” for her and decided to put my “management background” to good use.

I  suggested  to her that she create a master plan on excel which tracked her goals across all her priority areas.  More importantly, I persuaded (sometimes goaded J) her to review this every week.

In the first month, in her excitement, she went overboard and literally made an A-Z list of things to do. I desisted from pointing this out to her (with some difficulty I must admit) but only kept prodding her to check progress. End of month 1 and Priyanka reviewed the list. She used colours- red, orange and green- for indicating tasks that were at various stages of completion and was quite crestfallen at the number of reds she had. I consoled her and said that she had bitten off more than she could chew.

For the next month (October), she has been much more careful and put down a more pragmatic plan (while still keeping the bigger picture in mind). She has also thought about when she has her term break and packed more for that period, likewise she has reduced non-academic activities during her test week.  The end of the month will give a clearer picture but I am quite sure that she has made good progress both on how to make a plan as well as delivering on the plan!

This experience made me feel really good on two counts- first, on how much learning she derived from the first month’s experience- at the risk of sounding clichéd, ultimately, experience is the biggest teacher, not lectures, however well-meaning they are! Second, I had grown up in this time as well; I had resisted my tendency to jump in, and instead tried to remain in the background, allowing her to deal with the challenges of managing multiple goals.

As a parent, letting go is not easy and I am hoping that small steps such as this will equip her better to deal with life more confidently and capably in the years to come.

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.

There’s More to Life than English!

Last night I watched the Movie ‘English-Vinglish’ and it took me back to my school days, though the memories evoked strong yet mixed feelings. I come from a traditional tamil-brahmin family where we still speak a lot of Tamil- Thankfully. I went to an International school which I loved, and owe a lot to; but one thing that I wish would change in that school and many international and mainstream schools with a colonial hangover is the attitude towards The English language (specifically to people who cannot speak the English language very well). More than school managements it is an unwritten law that only children and parents who speak ‘good English’ are cool amongst some teachers and peers! God save a child who accepts that he/she speaks only their mother tongue at home! Now I am proud to say that I speak primarily in Tamil with my 2 year-old son, because he’s going to learn English anyway. Not for a moment do I debate the importance of English as an essential tool for communication, but it’s the self-deprecating, belittling attitude of many-an-Indian that we must join hands to change.

When I watched that movie, I realized that as a child growing up in cosmopolitan Bangalore even I have been guilty of laughing at, feeling a tad embarrassed and correcting my mother and grandmother when they didn’t speak this foreign language the way it was meant to be spoken (I know many of us are guilty of judging people by the way they speak English, which we should stop immediately). In fact my grandmother doesn’t speak English at all, and she was surrounded by her children and grandchildren who would only speak in English amongst themselves many-a-times. My heart goes out to the poor lady, who silently accepted her position, and probably even felt proud that her children were so fluent at the English Language (Though she would have yearned to be able to communicate better with them). As we bring up our children, whether we as parents can communicate in English or not, it is important to keep reminding them that this is a foreign language that is important to learn, but what’s more important is to see and appreciate the goodness in people (especially those who are closest to them).

As I type, I am still wondering how, as a parent I am going to teach my son that not speaking English in a perfect manner (What is perfect? There probably is no perfect anyway) needn’t be an embarrassment or a reason to rebuke. I urge every parent to happily teach their children their mother tongues and English, Sanskrit and maybe even Chinese, so we can celebrate India’s and the World’s diversity, instead of being embarrassed by our own languages. Let us take a cue from some first-world countries like Japan and Germany, which have achieved great technological advancements even without being able to communicate in the English Language. Communication transcends language barriers if we move from head to heart. Let us join hands to Make Living Fun for everyone because THERE’S MORE TO LIFE THAN ENGLISH!!!

About the Author:

Jayaram Rajaram is one of the Managing Partner’s of Bril, a company that works on a Mission to Make Living Fun for its customers and consumers, through its world-class school stationery, baby and children’s products. For more information about Bril please visit

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