Sunday, May 3, 2015

45 Lessons I Learned at the INK Conference 2014

What is the INK Conference?

From the website,, 'The INK Conference is an annual conference that ams to fuel innovation and foster knowledge by bringing together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers on one stage. The ideas that these speakers put forward are shared with the world, inspiring thought conversation and ultimately action.' or watch the INK Conference video

Why am I so excited about this conference?

Every year the conference is held at a different locations/states around India. In 2014, the 5th edition of the INK Conference came to Mumbai. I was in Mumbai too. I knew I had to be there. I registered for the event and two weeks later, I am at the entrance of a school in mumbai for the INK Live 2014 Program of the conference. We were given a bag, that had the event schedule. On the front page, I found this :-

'Be Humble, For you are made of the earth
Be Noble, for you are made of the stars'

Three days later, I walked out of the INK Live venue with a mind full of ideas, inspiration to climb a peak, conversations with extraordinary people, and an experience to last a lifetime. This is a post about the insights, learnings and observations from my three days at the INK Live 2014 conference. 

The Conference over the years

In 2010, The Curator and Founder of the event, Mrs Lakshmi Pratury (who co hosted TEDIndia 2009) thought about this incredible idea. An Innovation and Knowledge Conference for the stories of India. Five years later, this idea became one of India's biggest conferences of doers and thinkers. The event was held in places as diverse as Lavasa, Jaipur, Pune and Kochi. The themes over the years ranged from -
  • 'Untold Stories' in Lavasa, India in 2010
  • 'Power of a Journey' in Jaipur, India in 2011
  • 'Designing the Future' in Pune, India in 2012
  • 'All That Matters' in Kochi, Kerala in 2013

A list of the speakers that the organizers were able to bring together, over the years, adds even more credibility to their mission statement of fueling innovation by enabling conversations. Some of them were -
  • James Cameron (Film Maker - Avatar)
  • Stefan Sagmeister (Visual Communicator, Designer)
  • Raghava KK (Artist, Entrepreneur)
  • Sunitha Krishnan (Anti Trafficking Activist)
  • Joichi Ito (Director of the MIT Media Lab)
  • David Gallo (Deep Ocean Explorer)
  • Anand Kumar (Teacher - Super 30) and more

Team Indus at INK Live

I noticed a peculiar pattern. Every year the conference got better. Speakers, Venues and Themes kept evolving. In 2014, the conference was ready to make a leap of faith. It wanted to explore the earth we are made of and the stars that are within it. The theme for 2014 was, 'Beyond Boundaries'.

How to read this blog post?

The event was divided into ten sessions. Each session had a theme and about 6-7 speakers. The speakers were from diverse backgrounds. The themes explored were even more diverse. This is how this blog post and each lesson is structure.
  1. the name of the speaker and the work they committed their life to.
  2. a brief description of the idea of the speaker.
  3. one lesson I learned from this speaker.
Here we go...

Day 1
Session 1 - The Big Bang

1) Henry Kaiser  
Guitarist, Diver and Filmmaker - Made the film, 'Encounters at the end of the world' with Werner Herzog. Experimented and helped create new styles of electric guitar sounds. Done over 3500+ dives, 4 Feature Film collaborations and made 250+ record albums. Learning - Find new uses for everyday things. Find local heroes and thinkers and create with global expertise and technology.

2) Sohini Ghose 
Quantum Physicist - Atoms may be only 4.6% of the universe. There is this thing called dark energy and dark matter that comprises the remaining 95% that we still do not know too much about. Also think about how the microscopic world is connected to the macroscopic. Learning - There is so much we do not know about the universe. Keep Exploring!

3) Lakshmi Pratury 
Curator - INK Conference - Shared lessons and stories from her life. Learning - How we can learn a lot from things around us that we do not observe

4) Neil Jacobstein 
Director of Executive Academics at the Singularity University - Brain has had no upgrade for 50,000 years. Brain has its bug and biases in cognition. Computer Revolution could have started in the 18th Century. New technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Robotics will revolutionize the way every day things works like education and health. Books are pattern recognizers based on in-depth study. Learning - An excellent Research and Development environment is much more important than an excellent Venture Capitalist environment.

5) Team Indus - India's entry for the Google Lunar X Prize
A team of  24 engineers that came together to create technology to land a robotic craft on the moon by 2015. Learning - Collaboration is much more powerful than one sole genius. You cannot do everything yourself. Find brilliant people. Work on bigger brilliant problems together. Create more brilliant people

6) Vani Koli 
Venture Capitalist - How can we make sure entrepreneurial wealth is better distributed. India is not an easy place to do business. Next decade is about acceleration and technology. Learning - Work together to create an environment conducive to innovation and entrepreneurship

7) Shipra Jain 
Jewellery Designer - Change the concept of jewelry. It can be art as well. Let people customize their purchases. Learning - Make Design more accessible.

8) Anshu Gupta 
Founder of Goong - Not too many beggars in villages, mostly is cities. In villages they work. In Delhi many beggars die of cold in the winters, because of lack of proper clothing. Learning - Create enterprises to solve social problems

9) Anjney Midha 
Young Investor -Read Banker to the Poor by Muhammed Yunus. Among many other young people applying Dr Yunus' ideas at college across America. Learning - Peers can help with little amounts of finance and feedback

10) Raghava KK
Raghava is an artist and he wants to make life richer through visual, cognitive content. Created an application called Flipsicle. where the individual can answer a question that people put up, with various different pictures. So many perspectives to same question. The very act of asking a question gives the individual a dopamine high! Learning - By understanding subjects of study (history, technology, physics, art, you can get a zillion business ideas)

11) Arunima Sinha
Mountain Climber - Was thrown off a train in India. After recovery decided to climb Mount Everest. For 30 minutes she held the audience spellbound with her description of this climb that she undertook to the top of the world, even after losing a leg. Learning - Set clear, specific goals. Then stay focused and do everything in the world to bring it to life.

Session 3 - Giant Leap

12) Abhijit Bhaduri 
Chief Learning Officer - WIPRO. There are three types of learning. Inner, real and virtual. Expand your definition of learning. Learning - Why learn from a handful when you can learn from 7 billion

13) Daniel Kraft 
Physician Scientist - Works at the intersection of Health and Technology. Wonder why healthcare is reactive and not proactive. You are CEO of your own body, not the doctor. Exercising and understanding your body's needs can help. Technology with genetics, wearable trackers and more can help track your health better. Learning - Future of health technology is already here. Your health matters.

14) Shriram Nene 
Surgeon and Serial Entrepreneur - Only 1.6 million doctors for 1 billion people in India. Create apps and platforms to give more people access to medical care. Also working with his wife Madhuri Dixit, to create an online content and media program related to dance and fitness. Learning - We can use entrepreneurship to solve social problems

15) Hamish Patel
Healthcare Entrepreneur - Made an IPhone case that is also a sensor for health purposes. Next time we ask our loved ones how they are we should already know. Learning - Create products that add make existing products more useful and add utility to them.

16) Reshma Valliapan
Mental Health Advocate - Spoke about how many people suffer from mental health disorders but do not reveal it. Learning - This can happen to anyone and we must be more understanding and solve our own difficulties too.

17) Ugesh Sarcar
Magician - Indian contemporary and street magician. Really passionate about his work and engaged the audience with some of his tricks. Learning - Engage and entertain with your passion

18) Namesh MVS 
Horticulturist - Heads one of India's first commercial grower organization with Zero Pesticide (™) Fresh Produce. Learning - 50+ contaminants put into some of my food. Do I also eat with a mask on?

Session 4 - The Stuff of Life

19) Satyajit Bhatkal 
Filmmaker, Creator of Satyameva Jayate - 150 Hours of documentation behind per show. No matter how many books and research papers you read, seeing something first hand or listening to a first person testimony is a whole different experience. Learning -TV can be used for purposes other than entertainment. It can engage the masses for intelligent discussion and debate 

20) Aurelie Chauleur 
Music Producer - Music is a beautiful way to preserve and sustain a culture. It empowers the local communities and can be used to engage with people beyond the local context. Learning - Empowerment needs no language

21) Harshavardhan Kadam 
Visual Artist - Makes street art across India. Has a travel studio, Inkbrushme. He is excited about connecting ancient tradition and new age platform rituals. Learning - Harsh mentioned how the universe may just be made of stories and not atoms.

22) Vishwa Subramanium
Conductor and Music Director - What if you could mix Bollywood and Beethoven. Learning - Can we globalize art the way we globalize the world.

23) Vishal Gondol 
Gaming Entrepreneur - Founded first company at 16. Indiagames, another venture he founded has over 300 employees in four countries. He spoke about his love for walking and creating walking tribes. He recently completed a challenge to walk 100 km's Learning - Set big big big goals and engage a community and complete them.

24) Jitish Kallat
Artist, Curator - Works in media like painting, sculpture, photography and installations. Learning - There are layers of perspective and each layer seeks to be discovered.

25) Rajiv Subba
Founder - Dirty Hands - The company makes silicon mannequins that are almost real life like. Today they make these objects for various films and brands. He bought one of his mannequins on stage and for a moment I thought it was a co-speaker. Learning - Explore the unexplored. There is an opportunity everywhere.

Day 2
Session 5 - Travelers Tales

Satyajit Bhatkal and the Satyameva Jayate Story

26) Daniel Leithinger 
Inventor - PHD Candidate on human computer interaction at the MIT Media Lab. He is on a mission to design computer interfaces that will engage with human bodies more fully. Learning - There is so much more we can do with computers. When computer interfaces become more human friendly, more people will engage with it.

27) David Rowan
Editor - Wired -UK - When you put in data to sensor things and collect data from it, you can change the way those things are represented. Learning - The Internet of Things can change the way we represent things.

28)Neeraj Kakkar 
Beverage Entrepreneur - He narrated the story of a drink his grand mother made that he really liked and could not find now. It was called Khanjii. He found a similar drink in Turker on a trip there. He wants to bring these local flavors to the world. After 8 years in with Coca Cola he wants to  change the world one drink at a time. Learning - Use your Industry experience to innovate and create in your field.

29) Phanindra Sama
Founder - - Wanted to go to Hyderbad from Bangalore to meet his parents. Unfortunately he got no ticket. So he had to stay back for Diwali. This made him wonder about the bus operators system in India and how it could be more efficient. So with a couple of technical colleagues, he launched It took 3 years for them to get 400 operators. Learning - Solve a very basic need in a very niche market and you may just be worth 800 million rupees.

30) Kenneth Sebastien
Stand Up Comedian - 5 ways to not be successful and be like the cool people. Do not Day dream b) Do not be around successful people c) Fit in always d) Do not touch people's hearts e) Just undermine yourself always. A comic narration with several personal anecdotes. Learning - Anti - Self Help is great advice too!

31) Shravani Hagargi 
Social Entrepreneur - After getting her Bachelor's in Social Work she co-founded Safe hands, a company that employed women safety guards and helps them become financially independent. Learning - Where you come from is not important, what you do with where you come from, is very important.

Session 6 - Future Billions

Arunima Sinha and her inspiring story

32) Rajan Anandan
Managing Director - Google India - Education is going through a transformation. Change always happens when you take a completely a new direction, not when you fix the old one. All the jobs we are studying for may not be there in the future. Learning - Start a Learning Revolution

33) Ben Nelson 
Founder - Minerva - We are told to pursue passion but we need to train ourselves to be effective in our pursuits. Designed a university course with a new learning framework. It is focused on analyzing the world 2) understanding material 3) interrogating subject matter at depth 4) understanding the world context 5) synthesizing these processes 6) Effective communication. First year they study critical areas. Second year they develop expertise through complex course in their chosen subject areas. Third year they prototype a creation. Learning - What if you got 50,000$ to educate yourself the way you want to educate yourself?

34) Shashwat Ratan
Founder - Robo Shack Microtonics - Aims to make learning technology fun and engaging. Demonstrated some toys he made that allowed students to explore and play with technology - Learning - Making is learning too. When you make, you are adding value and learning at the same time.

35) William Florence
Head of Education Outreach at Google - Formal system of education is broken. It is not going to be fixed. The old education system was designed to create a Ford not a Tesla. Learning - Soon small chips will have all of human thinking in them. Be prepared.

36) Bickram Ghosh 
Musician - He spoke about the relationship between Music and Literature. How poetry and rhythm had common patterns. He played some notes and then read some sonnets of Shakespeare to back it up. Learning - Find patterns. We are surrounded by them

37) Introduction of the INK Fellows - Stories of all the INK Fellows for 2014 were shared by the curator, Mrs Lakshmi Pratury. There were musicians, artists, engineers, chefs, programmers and more. They worked and collaborated on projects together too. Such a wonderful initiative to support young minds with projects they are passionate about. Learning - Collaborate. Add intelligences. Create together. One person is not an island.

Session 7 - Cosmic Journey and Session 8 - Back to the Future

38) Ramesh Raskar 
Associate Professor at the MIT Media Lab - He heads the Camera Culture Research group there. Ramesh has worked on several interesting projects at the lab like femto photography (TED Talk), long distance bar codes and a Next generation CAT-scan machine among other. He spoke about a 'Buildathon' he is working on for the upcoming Kumbh Mela in Nashik. He has gathered a large group of developers and programmers. They plan to use technology to solve all the possible problems that may happen at the Mela. This includes Milaap (an app to find lost kids), Cashless Transaction apps, Health collaboration ( a doctor solves a problem, it is updated online and other doctors are informed about it) and more. They are crowd sourcing wisdom to solve possible future problems. Incredible! Learning - What if you combined Technology, Local Talent, Field Expertise and One Big Problem to Solve

39) Naveen Tewari 
Founder and CEO - InMobi - Spoke about managing his large team at the company. He mentions how he lets all his employees know that he trusts them. For instance they fund the employee's business trip and know that most of their employees will not spend more than the required amount every day. As an entrepreneur your initial role is just to survive. Focus on creating something that will change the world. Learning - Trust is very important in any work environment

40) Liv Arnesan
Explorer, Educator - Described her dream to go to the south pole at the age of 41. Works with schools to inspire young minds to follow their dreams. Encourages young students to solve world problems. Learning - You are never to young to dream a big dream

41) Rajkumar Hirani
Film Maker - Released a trailer of his upcoming movie - Peekay. He described how the main character was like that of a little child. Spoke about his learning his craft from respected personalities in the film industry in Mumbai as well. Learning - How film makers learn from other film makers

Day three had sessions by Vivek Wadhwa, Kunal Bahl, Neeraj Arora, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, Dave Mcclure and Deb Roy among others. The incredible Usha Uthup and inspiring Shantanu Moitra also performed on day 2 and 3 for the audience. The remaining sessions were titled:-

Day 3 
Session 9 - Sky is the Limit and Session 10 - To Infinity and Beyond

Raghava KK at INK Live

42) Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy 
Film Maker - Started writing undercover stories for newspapers from a young age. Her parents encouraged her to speak out against injustice in Pakistan. Studied economics and political science at college, but made it her life mission to tell stories that she felt were not told. Learning - Every story matters. Your voice can amplify the voice of people around you.

43) Vivek Wadhwa 
Writer, Technology Researcher, Myth Buster -Why are there only 800 start ups in India? There is potential for so much more. Success comes from experience, management and luck and not venture capital. Technology is growing exponentially. Anything that becomes an Information Technology goes exponential. India has specialized in information technology for the last two decades. Predicts the rise of millions of internet businesses, hundreds of thousands of app builders, tens of thousands of startups in India over the next few years. Learning - Build. Create. Learn Exponentially. 

44) Deb Roy 
Data Scientist - There is a possibility of creating massive data sets for social impact. Created a Laboratory of Social Machines, in partnership with Twitter and the MIT Media Lab. Got access to every tweet published on twitter. Now through his research work at the lab, has found a way to map the anatomy of a rumour. Spoke about a town in Spain, where citizens can tweet their concerns directly to civic authorities. Also finding ways to connect students at schools to mentors in society. Learning - What if you could capitalize on the several social media updates that people put up around the world? What if we created a framework to use this data, for social impact?

45) Zia Mody -
Lawyer, Authority on Corporate Law in India - Ms Mody described how, 'The environment you have and the ability to do what you want to do, is really because of an ecosystem we often take for granted.' Described how we need to preserve what we have. Spoke about a supreme court judgement in India, that ensured that no government could change the basic tenets of the constitution. We need to cherish what we have. Also described the need for gender equality in work places as a priority for any nation to develop. Learning - Cherish the rights you have. Question laws that wish to take them back. Look at an individuals work and their gender. Develop a personal value structure.

Three days, I will remember for a very long time. What an incredible event. All the videos of the event are available online. Anyone has access to this experience now. I thank the Lakshmi Pratury and the team at INK for bringing this festival of incredible ideas and visionary thinkers to India. 

Thank you Lakshmi :)!

Note :- All this content has been sourced from the INK Conference Website. I cannot thank the organizers enough for making all the videos, tweets, live webcasts and facebook updates available online. This has given people from all over the World a chance to explore and learn from the ideas and conversations happening at this incredible gathering.

Let us Learn Together.
Tweet @AbhishekShetty_

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