Anatomy of a Seminar - National Achievers Conference - Part 4

The next Speaker was Peng Joon. He looked like a young man of about 25. But as the people of Chinese origin look very young, it is difficult to estimate his correct age. He was introduced as an Internet entrepreneur who owned 500+ websites. 

Jung came up to the stage and gave his intro. He started showing his old pictures. They were pictures from his childhood, showing a scrawny boy of about 9 or 10 in a countryside farm. He said, he grew up in his father farm and he hated every minute of it. He wanted to become rich like the city kids and enjoy life. Apparently, he got a Malaysian government loan to go to study in an us University. He wasted his time in us playing games on the Internet – World of Warcraft - and flunked his exam. He was sent back to his country and the govt sent him notice to repay the 50k USD loan. He did not know what to do. But took up a job that paid 300 USD a month. He realized that with this salary, it will take a lifetime for him to clear his loan. But he did not know what else to do.

Someone told him that he can make money online. He toyed with the idea. Then, he thought he was good at playing Internet game. Why not write a book about how to win in ‘World of Warcraft’ game. So, he wrote that book and put up the ecopy for sale. Seven months passed and finally he made a sale of USD 7. Slowly, he figured out how to attract people and increase sales. Slowly traffic started building and sales increased. He then hired people to write other books for him. He sold them on his site. His business boomed. Then his showed us pictures of his prosperity. His pictures with celebrities like Richar Branson, Robert Kiyosaki, etc.

As a proof of his income, he also showed us his gmail account where there were mails showing credits for various amount each hour. Finally, he said he does not worry about money anymore. Making money is very easy and even when he sleeps, his websites make money for him.

All the while I was wondering why this guy is telling this. What is his motivation? I noted in my workbook that he is going to sell something at the end!!

Then he showed us pictures of him taking holidays at exotic places, his students speaking highly of him etc. Then he came to the point. He said I have a program for you. You pay me Rs 70000 for a 2 day program, I will create a website for you, build your product, make the first sale and give you all tools and support to sustain it. I was vindicated.

But the story did not end there. He said, at the stalls near the walls, there are volunteers who are ready to register people who are interested. And he urged all the people to take 10 minutes to walk up to the stall and speak to the volunteers. I did not budge. Some people went. Some didn't. Then he says- “All those who are wise, who know that investment in learning new things is never a waste, will go and check out the stalls”. He said, “You are not losing anything by going to the stalls. So, don't be a fool, stand up and take the first step”. In effect, he was trying to tell that those who stay back are fools. However, I still didn't move.

He kept increasing the offers. He promised bonus. He promised tones of ebooks worth of Rs 70000! So, he said the training was infact free. He promised 1 to 1 coaching. He promised to create a lifetime support group.

He kept talking, his speech cadence increased, with a sense of urgency, that we are going to lose something very significant. “Please take the first step, if not now, when will you do that? All successful people are action takers, do not think much! What would happen if you say Yes, what could happen if you say No?”

I felt he was embarrassing people who were sitting back. By now, there were only a handful of people who were still sitting in their chairs. So, he gave up on us and focused on the folks who had moved to the stalls.

He told he will give an irresistible offer to those who have taken the first step and gone near the stalls. The offer was that the first 57 people who register in the next 7 minutes will get a 50% off!!!

I kept smiling knowing what game he was playing. Under the garb of spreading knowledge, he was selling his training program. Had he really been such a successful online marketer, why was he selling his training program? He should have been focusing on growing his internet business. But since he was focusing on selling the training program, it was obvious that his training was his main business.

Anatomy of a Seminar - National Achievers Conference - Part 3

Murali introduced the first speakers of the day, Subodh Sangle. Subodh is supposed to be the spokesperson of Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association. This person came and gave a presentation on the dabbawala and how they achieved six Sigma in their delivery. He also had his side kick, a dabbawala who came along with him for I do not know what but to say hi and take his 2 minutes of fame on the large stage. Though I knew about the subject of Dabbawalas, still there were a couple of new snippets that I got to know.

The dabbawalas, around 5000 in number now, come from a specific community or caste in Maharashtra – The Malva caste. These folks are not highly educated, but operate a tiffin delivery system, picking up tiffin boxes from homes or their customers, delivering them at their offices, and bringing back the tiffin boxes to home for a monthly charge of Rs 800.
They have got various accolades for their operation. Prince Charles visited them and so have various other dignitaries.

It seems, if there is a delay in providing the tiffinbox to the dabbawala, they will tolerate it for 2 times. If there is a delay third time, they will stop the service. Though this is against the principle of customer service, on a large scale it helps as some other customer would not be penalized because of delay by one other customer.

It was interesting to note that cash and letters were also carried in the tiffin boxes. The way they put it is, it is not food, but the trust that was carried in them!

Their aim is to have punctuality and accuracy at any cost.

In recent months, they have started a campaign of Share My Dabba’ also. This is a small sticker which if someone puts in the dabba, the leftover food is shared with poor and hungry children. I had seen this youtube video earlier, but it is worth a watch again!
However, talking about Subodh Sangle, he seemed to be a well educated English speaking person. But I did a little bit of research and it was clear that Subodh may not be the representative of all the Dabbawalas. There seems to be some issues between him and the Dabbawalas who accuse him of not representing them correctly and not attending any of their association meetings for the last 5 years. Here is a news article from a trusted source.

My take:

Success has many fathers! When people realized the successful operations of Dabbawalas, many claimed association with them. There will be people who will also try to take advantage of it. But that does not take the sheen away from the Dabbawalas who have been doing a great service.

Anatomy of a Seminar - National Achievers Conference - Part 2

On the day of the seminar, I took a print out of the ticket that was mailed to me after registration, and reached the venue by 8.00 am. It was supposed to be a full day event, from 8 in the morning to 8 in the evening. 12 hours were too much for me. So, I planned to check it out just for a couple of hours. If it was interesting or good, I thought I can stay back, else leave.

When I went near the hall, there were some stalls outside and they were checking the printed tickets. The volunteers handed over a form, a pen  and a small booklet. I filled out the form and gave it back to the volunteers. Then they attached a paper bracelet on my hand and asked me not to remove it till the end of the seminar. That was basically the identification for someone who has registered.

I realized that we were in silver category of registration. There was a gold category and a VIP category also. The gold category, I found later were made to sit closer to the stage and had snacks, drinks and food included as part of the deal. The VIP category apparently could also have a personal meeting with the speakers, apart from all privileges of gold category. We, the cattle class, were left to fend for ourselves. We had to buy our own breakfast, lunch and snacks, which were priced at a premium.

I saw many folks milling around. I could see some usual suspects from Toastmasters community, the ones who are into training and motivational speaking.

After an inexplicable delay of about 45 minutes, the door of the hall were opened. People rushed in. I took a seat in the front row for the silver category. Then, I looked around. It was a large hall. There was a huge stage in front with massive speakers. There were 3 large screens placed in between the audience so that they could have a good view. There were 2 live camera stations. Loud music was playing. There were 3 sections of about 20 chairs each and about 15-16 rows. Thus roughly, there was space for almost 1000 people. Towards rest 3 walls of the hall, there were some stalls arranged.

I was soaking all these when someone came up on stage and introduced himself as the MC. I looked at the familiar face and recognized him. He was Murali Sundaram,  a motivational speaker cum trainer whose posts I follow on Facebook.

I had a bit of interaction with him on social media earlier, which might be interesting to you. So, once he was propounding on the law of attraction. He posted that when we plan for some contingency, we attract the same. I asked him, does it mean, if I buy life insurance, I am attracting death? There was a good discussion on that though he could not convince me.

So, Murali started with his regular routine of Good Morning! More loud... More energy. Then he tried to get the audience energized by making them say I,  say Yes, clap as hard, as fast and as loud, clap with the person on left clap with person on right routine. I knew these drills and let them pass. But I was observing the crowd and they were going crazy doing these drills along with the loud music.

Nonetheless, the critical Evaluator in me found some areas of improvement. He tried to engage the audience by asking questions as: How many of you are here to learn something new?. He had told the audience to answer by raising the hand and saying I loudly. But he should have asked : Do you want to learn something new instead of how many...

Anatomy of a Seminar - National Achievers Conference - Part 1

On a day early February, a friend of mine sent me a message. Enroll for this conference for just Rs 499, a once-in-a-lifetime offer, valid only for today, and you will never regret it!! What was that for, I asked. He said, you get to attend a marvelous full day seminar worth at least Rs 2000. You will have a day full of learning, and it would be an worthwhile investment. Investment, I thought... Interesting indeed.

I have always been wary of offers that come with a time limit, and especially limits that are really short. They seem manipulative. You can sense something wrong somewhere. I thought to myself, if the seminar is worth at least Rs 2000, why are the organizers giving it at a 75% discount? Are there many unsold seats? Or is the value really Rs 499, but they inflated the price to Rs 2000?

Such questions were rummaging in my mind and I was debating whether to attend it or not. Would it be a waste of time, apart from money? What would I gain from this? Finally, I came up with 3 reasons why I should register for it. First, I had never attended such a seminar and was curious to know what happens in them. Second, Rs 499 was not such a big amount, though it was being referred to as investment, that I should be worried about even if the event turned out to be a dud. Third, if not anything, this seminar would give me fodder for at least one blog post. Now, I think, it has given me dope not only for one but for several posts!

With some solid reasons backing my decision, I registered for the event. It was to be held on a Sunday at a convention center in Gachibowli. The seminar was known as National Achiever Conference.

Being the kind of person I am, I try to dig up a bit about everything. So I asked Google Baba and he gave me some Gyan. It turns out that Success Gyan is a Chennai based company which in my opinion is an amalgamation of event management, networking and learning company. One can become member of that, probably by paying something, and get free access to such seminars that they conduct around the country. Success Gyan is again a franchise of a Singapore based company, Success Resources.

Success Gyan, with help of its network partners, set up events at various Indian cities, the Singapore company sends speakers (more and interesting things about them later), the partners sell the tickets (may be on commission basis) and thus the events are organized.
People like me and many others spend some of their hard earned money and time to gain valuable knowledge, or shall I say wisdom.

But it is the company that organizes these events rake in the moolah. I just did a back of the envelope calculation. There were about 1000 people who attended the seminar. There were various types of tickets, starting from Rs 10000 to Rs 499. Assuming that the average value of the ticket be Rs 1000, the total revenue would be to the tune of Rs 10 lakh.  The venue would have cost Rs 2 Lakh.  The airfare of the invited speakers and success Gyan team would cost another Rs 20000 * 20,  Rs 4 Lakhs.

So, total expenses is 6 lakh. Income is 10 lakh. Even keeping 1 lakh more for contingency, there is a neat profit of Rs 3 lakhs. Of course this has to be divided between success Gyan and it's Singapore franchise. But then I suspect that there are even more income streams. 

Animal Farm - Book Review

Animal Farm - This is a short story written by George Orwell in 1945.

Though I knew that it was and is a very famous work, I never had the chance to read it. Few months back, I got a copy of the book. But due to inevitable circumstances, I kept procrastinating reading the book. Finally, when I read the book, I liked it so much that I read it twice! It is around 45 pages in all and a good gripping read.

The book must have been written during the time communist philosophy was fighting for its rightful place in the modern world. The author brilliantly used the metaphor of animals versus human, 4 legged versus 2 legged, to bring out the tussle between the proletariat and the bourgeois.

In a farm in England, owned by a man called Jones, lived many animals. The author excellently portrays the characters of the different animals, Napoleon, Snowball and Squealer, the pigs, Boxer, Clover, and Mollie, the horses etc. He describes how they look like, their features, idiosyncrasies and even their way of speaking.  One day, the animals decide to take over the operations. They successfully stage a coup and seize power from the human owners of the farm, driving them out of the farm.

The humans try to take over the farm few times later. But the animals successfully defend their territory. The story goes on to show power struggle between 2 dominant pigs and how one of them is overthrown. The story illustrates how the message to the masses are twisted, how opinions are changed and others are made to believe what the leader wants them to!!

Finally, all the animals find themselves as slaves to the pigs, who had assumed themselves to be the owners, who had started living like humans and walked on 2 legs. The animals were then even worse off than when they were under their human masters.

Overall, it is an exceptionally brilliant piece of work. This a must read if you like to understand politics, public opinion shaping, and if you savour exquisite usage of English.