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In Pursuit of Awesomeness - Things I did

14 June 2011 View Comments »

Yesterday, I wrote my 30 Under 30 which is a list of the 30 things I plan to do before I am 30. The list was a collection of things which I haven't yet done. But there are already a lot of things I have done in the pursuit of Awesomeness. Here are some of them jotted down. I hope some of you will get inspiration for their 30 Under 30 from this list.

Initially, I am only putting 30 things in things I did. But, I will be adding more to this list as and when I do something worth mentioning.

In pursuit of Awesomeness by Lucky

1)  Steal Something
2)  Start a Web venture ( BITSexam )
3)  Start a Company ( Colon K )
4)  Do rafting ( At Rishikesh )
5)  Go on a Roadtrip to an unknown destination ( on 26th Jan 2011 )
6)  Travel around the country on a train ( TATA Jagriti Yatra )
7)  Write to a Magazine ( wrote to Bhelpuri magazine )
8)  Work as a freelancer, social media guy, programmer and a writer
9)  Write Poems in two languages (Telugu and English)
10) Cry out loud ( Most difficult phase of my life till now )
11) Jump from 2nd floor of a building ( in 7th or 8th class )
12) Pay a bribe and Refuse to bribe ( Traffic Constable and LLR )
13) Eat in more than 10 Star Hotels ( Thanks to Startup conferences :P )
14) Help organize a national level event (Event Management)
15) Watch movies continuously for 20+ hours
16) Hack a website ( Secret shhhhh! )
17) Make a software Crack ( Desktop Icon Toy )
18) Quadboot from a single Hard Disk ( Ubuntu, Suse, OSx86 and Windows Vista )
19) Earn 1 Lakh+ in a month ( via Eureka Tips )
20) Take bath on the railway tracks ( During TATA Jagriti Yatra )
21) Study in a premier institute ( BITS Pilani )
22) Deeply Hated, Loved and Respected by at least one person each
23) Travel more than 50,000 Kms on Trains ( cumulative - during my different trips )
24) Stay awake for 48+ hours ( OASIS rocks! )
25) Lie under water for more than 2 minutes.
26) Donate Blood ( 5 times till now )
27) Watch a match (actually a live telecast) in stadium ( World Cup 2011 Finals at Gachibowli Stadium, Hyd )
28) Sleep on a highway ( Also on stairs,grass, portico etc)
29) Travel 200+Kms on top of a bus with a girl ( From Pilani to Delhi )
30) Receive award/prize infront of an audience of more than 1000full post 
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My 30 under 30

13 June 2011 View Comments »

I recently stumbled upon a few 30 Under 30 Lists. Gaurav and Keerthi Kiran 's list of 30 things to do before  30 inspired me to make my list of 30 things to do before I turn 30. I actually have a list of things to do already but this one will be a written on stone kind of list.

The 30Under30 should act as a light house that guides me during the busy  phases of life. I will make it a point to revisit this list and update the progress. I am sure that I will be happy doing that. I will not be putting any things that I have already done under this list.

Lucky's 30 Under 30

1)  Play administrative role in a Sports organization.
2)  Make a world tour.
3)  Learn Chinese.
4)  Host a talk show.
5)  Somehow get involved with a movie/tele-film/TV Ad.
6)  Go to Kulu-Manali, Ladakh and nearby places.
7)  Bungee Jump.
8)  Teach in an Engineering College.
9)  Give a talk to an audience of at least 500.
10) Write to a News Paper.
11) Publish a Book.
12) Make a video of Bicycle stunts by me.
13) Rank first in any significant exam.
14) Get a story about me published in media.
15) Own an educational institution.
16) Spy on someone/something and probably get paid for that.
17) Own a food business.
18) Get a passive income source.
19) Learn to perform somersault in the air (front flip)
20) Get disconnected from everyone I know and stay at an unknown place for a month.
21) Become a VC/Investor.
22) Save someone's life.
23) Design a dress and wear it.
24) Run in a Marathon.
25) Create/Initiate a Viral Campaign.
26) Own/Rent a house on the banks of a water body.
27) Run an Incubator.
28) Shoot a Gun at a shooting range.
29) Do standup comedy to an audience.
30) Ride a Horse.
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Why there is need for a Better Payment Gateway in India ?

06 June 2011 View Comments »

Payment gateways in India suck. It is not just me but many people who have planned/implemented an e-commerce application would agree with me. There are many reasons as to why I arrived at this conclusion about Indian Payment Gateways.

Firstly, none of the big players support recurring payments. No recurring payments means you cannot have subscription based services. That means SaaS applications, membership portals, member clubs etc will have to live with the hassle of making customers to pay every once in a while. This makes you to convince/lure the customer each and every time you want them to pay. So, customer acquisition costs rise.

Setup charges are high for Indian Payment Gateways. Their global counterparts like Paypal, Alertpay etc., do not charge any setup costs. Indian Payment Gateways are thriving because players like Paypal don't support Indian Rupee and Indian debit cards directly. A startup has to shell out anywhere between 10,000 to 50,000 INR to get their accounts setup. Add to it the costs of e-commerce website development, integration with the payment gateway APIs etc., which makes it not a simple deal to start an e-commerce website. This rules out the possibility of selling online for a small-time seller.

From my experience, no Indian Payment Gateway is secure. By now, everyone might have known got to know about CC Avenue hacked Fiasco. Whatever the truth is, it is now known that CC Avenue stores the user passwords unencrypted. It is now become a defacto industry standard that all passwords have to be hashed such that they cannot be retrieved. But here India's top payment gateway stores passwords in retrievable format. That makes the already averse Indian customer to keep away from online purchases.

The way in which accounts are setup is not handled seemlessly. I hear reports from many entrepreneurs who claim that once the payment is done, the account setup process is not done properly. The Payment Gateways are clueless as to what papers to submit, which type of businesses are supported etc. Apparently, customer support also has showed a difference before and after payment. The paperwork related problems may be not due to bad handling of Payment gateways but due to unorganized structure among banks. But there could surely be an improvement in the customer support part.

Taking the above information, I feel there is scope for a good payment gateway to come up in India. Though it may appear CC Avenue has already acquired the market, if the above problems are addressed, I am sure that the new entrant can quickly grab the market. Any payment gateway which supports recurring payments, low/no setup fees and is highly secure can dethrone current payment gateways and make its way to the top.
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How I landed in a well-paying job even though I know nothing

03 June 2011 View Comments »

For folks who don't know it yet, I recently joined a job in a startup that pays me well. But I am not going to describe the job in here. If you are looking for the job description look at this link. But I will explain how I landed in this job even though I know nothing about the technologies mentioned. I know I can make it an e-book with the title "How I got a job that pays me Million bucks per hour" and sell, but as a valuable dormant reader of this blog, I will give it to you for free.

Once I decided that I need to take a break from Entrepreneurship stuff and land in a programming job, I started to realize how tough the journey is going to be. I expected people to lay red carpet to their companies inviting me to join so as to utilize my entrepreneurial-socialmedia-seo-webmarketing-analytical abilities. But the reality is different. Companies want people who give results and apparently results come only with relevant experience. So, my two years sabbatical with entrepreneurship, social media, internet marketing etc is counted as no experience in these companies. And hence I started applying to fresher roles. But too bad that I was considered old for those roles and hence resume was never shortlisted. Moreover, I was told that it takes at least 1-2 months for the calls to start appear as resumes move very slowly in the corporate hierarchy. This made me restless.

I come from the world where things happen very quickly. In that world, if you are late by even a minute you might have shut the door on a life-time opportunity. But here it is different. Two months seemed too long to me. So, I laid out a plan on how I am going to minimize this time and land in a job that fits to my requirements. The plan I chalked out was as follows:

1. Prepare a Resume

Everyone knows that a resume is the first step in your job preparation. But the problem is not many people allocate sufficient time in resume preparation. For me, as I knew that my major problem is getting shortlisted (as I am confident I can get through once shortlisted), resume was a matter of utmost importance. Firstly, I selected a template that was very suitable for me to highlight my strengths and hide my weaknesses. I am not asking you to lie here, but asking you to hide. Luckily, my resume had enough points to fill 4 pages. Now, I shared this draft resume with at least 30 of my friends and took suggestions from them. Important of their suggestions was to reduce the size of resume. Recruiters have to wade through hundreds of resumes and hence their attention span is very low. So, you need to keep your resume as short as possible highlighting all your strengths. With their help, I reduced the resume to 2 pages. Then I got two friends, who possessed the best writing skills among my friends, to proof read the resume. With that done, I have finished the resume preparation. We need to make our resume easily shareable. So, I uploaded it on Scribd so that anyone who finds it good can forward to recruiting companies easily.

2.Job Portals suck

Everyone knows it. Still, I do not want to leave any stone unturned. After all, I am looking to land in a job very quick. So, I uploaded my resume into all the job portals. When people apply for jobs, they concentrate only on top job portals. But the real jobs are at niche job portals. They are more focussed and the companies advertising jobs over there are very clear about their requirements. Moreover, it is comparatively easier to grab the attention of recruiters there. So, I scoured for the niche job portals and applied in them too.

3. Set your expectations

When most people go out on job search they are not very clear about their requirements. They get desperate in job search and opt for any job. But if you don't choose a job that reaches your expectations, there is a high chance that you will repent in your job. So, define your expectations clearly. My expectations were that the job has to offer me high experience of programming, very good pay , job security and a good growth rate. I think most of them will have the same expectations. I even wrote them on the whiteboard in my room so as to not get tempted by jobs that have most of these qualities except one. I want my job to have all these not one less.

4. Learn the most popular technology

As I said before, I was considered a nobody because I did not have proper programming experience. I was so low on confidence that I believed what they said was right - that I know nothing about programming. It was good in a way. This led to me to decide that I have to do some learning before attending job interviews. As, my expectations did not include work in specific technology, I decided I will learn the technology that has high number of jobs and growth rate. A small research in the job portals, world wide web and my network made me choose JAVA as the programming language that I need to learn to get the job I wanted. So, I decided to learn JAVA. Not just programming, for any field you want to do a job in, I think, it is important that you be equipped with the knowledge of most-popular technology.

5. Leverage your network

Network is everything. We heard it many a time. But this should be the best time that you can utilize your network. Everyone has a network. Your college friends, your alumni, friends of friends, School friends, relatives, colleagues of parents, Online friends etc., all are part of this network. As any job consultant/ job portal would tell you, the maximum number of jobs are attained through network rather than portals, walkins etc. So, I decided to use my big network for my job search. Using your network means not just you but all the people in your network doing the job search for you. As I can't reach to each and everyone telling about my job search, I used the social media. I published my resume, along with what I am looking for, on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. I put the same as status message on my IM accounts and made sure  they remained online for the most part of the day. I also mailed to my alumni groups, startup jobs mailing lists, and my friend groups.  Many people contacted me after this blast saying that they are referring me/ forwarding my resume in their company. Some good people even offered to send my resume to people in their network. It really worked.

6. Don't be shy

The most important thing you must realize is that we are begging for a job. Beggars can't be shy. If they are shy, they can't earn their bread. Most people are shy at asking others for help in their job search. That doesn't work. I decided that I am not going to be shy. I know that people are going to ask me why I am quitting entrepreneurship, or how I did wrong by going for entrepreneurship etc. But that doesn't matter. And I need not hide my decision. So, I told everyone that I am looking for a job and I was not shy in doing so.

7. Practice daily

Though I was completely immersed in doing the above activities, I never stopped practising. I don't know if the maxim "Practice makes man perfect" is right  but I am sure practice makes you learn things easily and remember them better. So, I picked up random problems and tried solving them in different ways. StackOverflow is a very good source to pick up IT related problems and learn from.

8. Be humble

All the points above are pre-interview strategies. The real war starts when you are actually shortlisted and being interviewed. I made sure that I utilize my learnings before to get through the interview. While answering the questions is important in interview, it is also important that you be humble while answering them. Your confidence shouldn't be misunderstood as over-confidence. Adding a bit of humbleness in your answers will surely help in this. You can show humbleness by using a soft voice, ensuring no bragging in your talk, giving succint responses etc

9. Be Yourself/ Be honest

You need to open up with recruiters. Many people try to answer the generic questions "Tell about yourself" with the most generic by-hearted responses. I made sure that I don't prepare for these questions before hand and speak my heart out. Because of this act, I may not get the job but I will be sure that the interviewer knew what I want before offering me the job.

10. Understand your limitations

Everyone thinks that they know their limitations. But the problem is we don't understand them. I made sure that I list my limitations before the interview and when the question landed in that area, I clearly said them that that is my limitation. Agreed that I tried to hide my limitations in the Resume but in the interview I wanted to be true about the limitations. If I don't say that I am weak in that particular area, the recruiter might ask more questions related to  that making the most part of interview hapless.

If you are not yet bored with the above stuff, here goes the simpler stuff of how my job happened. After following the above points, I got many people to help. One of my long-forgotten friends has seen my status message in GTalk and referred me about a job in an exciting startup. I forwarded my resume to them and that happened to be the first and last interview in this job search :) I said I do not know the technologies ( JAVA, Spring and Hibernate ) they needed yet but they were happy about my resume and my performance in the interview that they believed I can learn it very soon.

Though I was not really excited about my job while joining, I can now say that this is the best programming job that can happen to me at this phase of my career.

Oh, by the way my company is hiring now. Here is the JD. If you are interested mail me your resume at santosh.lakshman(at)yahoo(DOT)com
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