8,301 Miles From New York to a Different Way of Thinking

It’s not difficult to be inspired by India. From Rudyard Kipling to The Beatles, many have discovered India as one of the last places in the world where magic is still alive and well. Regardless, I still wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming spirit that pervaded throughout the city. It was as if the streets were audibly humming with energy. As different as this place is, from cows taking casual strolls to women balancing bright baskets of flowers on their heads, I did feel an immediate sense of familiarity. I’m not sure if I can attribute that feeling to my colleague’s warm welcome or the busyness that instantly reminded me of New York, the place I call home. Either way, I came here around Valentine’s Day and Bangalore’s been a pretty fantastic date. 

Initially I had a few prejudgements, as many people do when entering the great unknown. Mainly I wanted to understand why the fellowship was held in India over any other developing country. Well, it’s only taken a few days for that answer to present itself. India, as far as I can tell, is in the process of building the foundation in which citizens can get many of their basic needs met. Now I stress the words ‘in the process’ as there are still many socioeconomic issues to tackle, but nevertheless, the wheels are in motion.

I’ve been lucky enough to stay with my colleague Bhavna while in Bangalore and like her, I walk to our workspace every day.  Unlike her, however, I don’t have the history or experience of a resident Bangalorian to compare the business culture of 5 years ago to its present situation (as she did in her most recent blog). But like many people who find comfort in comparisons, I’ve been able to juxtapose the atmosphere I’m currently in to the one I know best of all, New York City (cue Alicia Keys and Jay Z). 

This is where I bare my soul and divulge that this is the first time I’ve worked for a start up. In fact, this is the first time I haven’t been the head of a department that casts characters for television and film. Regardless of this, I have worked in a professional business setting for over 8 years and from day one here, I’ve noticed the vastly different business approaches found in India to that of The Big Apple. 

I had the pleasure of having a conversation with a very successful entrepreneur who also happens to be a consultant at BHive Workspace. He’s spent time working with Nobel winners and has created and sold many highly successful start-ups. In a very casual conversation he explained to me that real innovation comes from within. Stripping away the influences of investors or time constraints is the key to creating something truly unique and cutting edge. This concept surprised me as it was almost too simple and straightforward for me to comprehend. From my experience within the communications world of New York, innovation comes from expanding on certain standards that have proven success rates. For example, if Top Chef is a hit, the obvious next step would be to make a similar show, but perhaps with higher stakes or a different set of rules. Innovation in my line of work is more closely related to quickly adapting to trends and kowtowing to the whims of investors or advertising partners. Creating something truly unique takes time and as they say in the biz “time is money”. 

The Indian approach may be a simple one, but it struck me as one that gleaned more sustainable types of innovation. My conversation with Shridar, the BHive consultant, came to a close, but he was sure to let me know the creation of the iPhone 10 was inside me.. I just needed to focus on changing the status quo, not updating it. Luckily, we agreed I had from now till the iPhone 9 to rewire my way of thinking.