“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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The Tinted Glass in Customer Service: what customer service training lacks

I arrived at Bangalore airport covered in sweat and carrying a semi torn bag. It had been an extremely muggy summer day, and I spent quite some time outside to get Uber to the airport- one cancellation after another, you know the drill. The long ride through Bangalore traffic snarls was exhausting, and the cab’s AC was not working either.

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Don’t Worry, Make Money

In India there is a lot of stigma around making money. I regularly speak to young entrepreneurs in mentoring sessions or while just catching up with friends who are starting up or considering starting up their business journey. What I hear often is a deep seated sense of guilt about making money. Turning a profit. The guilt comes from the fact that the society, especially society in Bengal, where I am from, tells you since your childhood that businessmen are evil incarnate. They tell you how, in business, you cannot make money without cheating someone. Making money in business, and turning a profit is almost always equated with the cheating your customers out of their hard-earned cash. Our folktales, media and now, social media are flushed with stories of dishonest businessmen. This is the narrative that we grow up with. As a result, we see traditional entrepreneurial communities like the Marwaris, Sindhis and Gujaratis as morally corrupt, and which leads to many unwanted stereotypes.

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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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App Cabs- Algorithm vs People

Ryde, a new app-based cab aggregator has launched their service in Kolkata a couple of days back. This is the third such company to have launched in Kolkata in the last 4 years attempting to take some market share from Uber and Ola in Kolkata, capitalising mainly on customer frustrations, especially about surge pricing. None of the previous ones survived. Will Ryde be the one to make the market monopoly of the Big Two?

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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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“It Won’t Work”- why you should not give a F to naysayers

All my life I’ve been told things won’t work:

1. When I wanted to study history since Class VI my school wanted to talk me out of it, because I won’t get a job.

2. When I went to the UK to study Archaeology, people said I was wasting my parents money, that they didn’t have & my time. Who ever got a decent job being an archaeologist? Zahi Hawass, may be, but who else?

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