“Zero”

Jis number ke piche jud jaye uski kimat badh jati hai, aur jo usse takrata hai wo khud bhi zero ho jata hai”

Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year (2009)

This is one of my favourite movie quote. For those readers of this blog who does not understand Hindi, here’s a translation for you- “(Zero) is a very useful thing. If it is added after any number, it transforms people’s luck. If a number attacks it, the number itself becomes zero.

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Photography and Consent in Tourism in Global South

I was leading an Immersive Trails walking tour in Kolkata once with a group of foreign tourists. We have a very strict ethical policy about not taking photographs of people on the street without their informed consent, and we brief the walk participants about it. We explain at the beginning of every walk that we as walk leaders cannot provide consent on behalf of the people on the street. While we can help the participants to communicate with them, the actual consent has to come from them.

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Squalor and Prejudice: The Story of My Origins

I remember our first colour TV. I grew up poor. Getting a 14 inch colour TV was a thing of pride for my family. My dad bought it before 1998 Football World Cup. Buying TVs before World Cups gave you good bargains and it was all about bargains for us. We shopped through various stores to find the cheapest option, to save some money. Seeing this discarded TV today on morning walk reminded me of that time, that TV.

How to Buy a Car in Kolkata if You are a Bengali Non-Tech Entrepreneur Who Started From Scratch!

So my wife Chelsea and I are buying our first car. We run Immersive Trails, which is a purpose-driven immersive cultural travel business. While applying for car loans we have been getting more than usual scepticism from the loan officials. They try to ask, often in roundabout ways, about how we are still in business over the last 2 years of COVID19 related disruptions in the travel business. They ask for our business bank statement and business IT filing, to make sure we are indeed in business and raking in the moolah. A Toyota dealer had also audaciously asked whether the secret of my identity and finances lay accross the border in Bangladesh. To understand why Bangladesh, and not a Swiss Bank or Lichtenstein or Cyprus, you need to be aware of the current talking points in right wing politics in India. I leave it to you to explore that in your own time.

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Burj Khalifa in Kolkata & a Case for Virtual Travel

Why do people rush to see a tin foil model of Burj Khalifa, or a cloth and plywood model of the White House? Why are we intrigued by a scaled down model of the Big Ben, Angkor, Sukothai? Durga Puja and the popular theme pandals can tell you a lot about unfulfilled wanderlust of people and can be a key to unravel the massive potential for immersive virtual travel.

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Breaking News: You can be a Start-Up Founder without Knowing How to Code!

So you think to be a start-up founder you need to be a coder? If that was so, neither I, nor my wife and Co-Founder Chelsea would have founded Immersive Trails and ran it successfully for the last 4.5 years. I am an archaeologist by training and Chelsea, an anthropologist.

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This Verse in the Bhagavad Gita Changed My Life

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।

मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि॥

Karmanye vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana,
Ma Karmaphalaheturbhurma Te Sangostvakarmani

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2, Verse 47
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Innovate, Empathize, Remove Conjecture: The Post-Covid Way Forward for Indian Travel Businesses

There is a lot of anger brewing over the last year among everyone who’s livelihoods depend on Indian travel businesses, which contributes to 8% of the total employment in the country and a whopping US$234 billion towards India’s total GDP. The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the tourism sector in India, as it has done throughout the world. It forced many large and small businesses to shut shop and hundreds of thousands lost their livelihoods. It was rather shocking for me to receive a call from a renowned tour operator one day, selling, not tours, but PPE kits and sanitization solutions.

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Empathy is Everything in Customer Service

My wife and I dread the tea aisle of our local supermarket chain. The supermarket is always crowded with staff on the floor, and they keep on changing the location of the shelves now and then, making it very difficult to find anything each fortnight. But the tea aisle is just worst. The customer service staff there, or as we have code worded them “the TA girls”, are always there to pounce on you when they see you enter the aisle. We, and other customers, get constantly followed and badgered with a flurry of questions: “Green Tea Ma’am?”, “Darjeeling Tea Ma’am?”, “Try this new tea sir.”, “Chamomile Tea Sir?”, and so on and so forth. We dread the TA girls and therefore my wife has decided to avoid the aisle altogether and rather buy tea online. Much less hassle, we get what we need, without the constant badgering or hard push to sell.

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Guts Matter, Caste Don’t

I was watching a talk on YouTube by Wow Momo founders Sagar and Vinod Kumar. The way they made momos (dumplings, sort of) into a successful fast-food chain in India, is really admirable. But what put me off in their talk, is something that seems to be a trend in the talks by many current generation startup founders in India. They proudly emphasized, like many others, about the caste/community they were from, which was portrayed as a reason for their success. Here, they are from a small, closely knit Sindhi community in Kolkata. For other similar talks, many other founders emphasize on their Marwari or Gujarati roots as a recipe to their startup success. My non-Indian readers must have gotten the drift by now. The Marwaris, Gujaratis and Sindhis, much like the Jewish community in the West, are known for their business acumen and ability to take risks. These communities and their caste networks made an enormous impact in the economy of South Asia for hundreds of years.

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