Mumbai Matinee

It always feels a bit discomforting to get back on a chair and type out this letter to self about past experiences and thoughts. Let’s just accept that this blog isn’t really the kind that gets updated with a predictable frequency and I am going to partly blame the phone-driven social media for me not able to find time for it. Held hostage by AI driven feeds of seemingly infinite potential, in past few months my literary contribution on the personal front got limited to occasionally posting photos on instagram and retweeting thoughts that I wanted to share but had already been captured succinctly. Writing blog posts in comparison seems like a mega project, something that needs not only unwavering devotion but also cosmic blessings for me to be able to publish a post end to end within a weekend.

But no, really it has been me! Often I’ve thought, if part of the purpose of the blog is for me to document my past experiences and thoughts, why can’t I just remember them. The assuring feeling that I’d remember is the strongest just past the event, hence the reluctance to not document it. What a naive thought, you should be wondering, well, I agree with you, now I do.. The other purpose of sharing my opinions, travels and stories remains. But I must prioritise learning over reflecting, so whenever I am taking a break from the blog, it’s safe to assume that I’m learning something new. In this case, it was the city of Mumbai.

I shifted to Mumbai, from Gurgaon, in August 2017. This time from a small company setup to a big one. Now, if I go back on my own timeline, I did write about my decision of shifting from Bangalore to Gurgaon. where I mentioned why I quit my MNC job and shifted to product operations, in an e-commerce setting. Then why the shift again? And this is a question that I got asked often as I was building my new network here at workplace, it had almost become a way for me to introduce myself. The short version is that I realized to make any sort of impact on the world, I had to narrow down to an industry, choosing a function was not enough. More so for me, as my functional preference sits at the intersection of operations, digital product management and business intelligence.

While e-commerce seemed like an obvious choice when I jumped into it, I realized that it is more of a channel of customer interface than an industry in itself. The product being sold through the channel, was the one which defined the industry. This is how I chose transaction banking as an industry, for its nodal position in financial relationships between service providers ( commercial banks, paymnt banks, NBFCs and other fintech startups) and the end customers (retail consumers, merchants and corporates). Could I have deduced this logically before I actually interacted with interviewers on the other side of the phone, no way! So much for careful data analysis and pre-determined paths!

I got an offer to join-in as a product manager for CMS products within the Transaction Banking ecosystem at Axis Bank. Given how the industry is at an inflection point of digitization, it seemed like a good first step for me in the right direction. I packed my bags and started out for Mumbai.

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today looks like a good day to be out in the morning!

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I had a very bad impression of the city when I had visited previously, mainly because of the density of the old areas, piles of garbage on street curbs, stinking alleys and the shabby state of buildings. Little of  that has changed in the last 5 years, and while these things still bother me, I’ve also found reasons to love the city.

I’ll list some of these things below but before you proceed, I also want to take the opportunity to introduce the revamped page taxonomy. If you look at the menu, you’d see 3 headers – lists, travelogues and hobby network. I’ve decided to publish some of the content on these pages instead of posting about them in posts like this one. It keeps the geek in me happy to use the latest apps available in the market and in a way, have this blog as a place where it all comes together. You should start with my Mumbai Travelogue where I’d be pinning all the places I’ve been to so far, from my base in Mumbai. I’ve done similar maps from my previous bases in Pilani, Bangalore and Gurgaon. Back to why I don’t hate mumbai as much then..

Option to walk/run by the sea, feeling the breeze, has to be #1 reason! My home is at walking distance from the worli seaface, and I often go there for my morning runs.

But whenever I am able to get up in really early on weekends, I head out for the hills away from the coast, for rides! I usually board the local train from the closest station at 5 minutes from home and in 2 hrs I can get away from the city. It took awhile to find the good routes and I did stop once it got a bit too hot, but I am looking forward to hitting back on those roads in the monsoons!

 

The hills are not just for cycling, there are numerous hike one can go for in these hills. I went for a couple as well, just after the rains ended, which is the best time to visit.

 

The way Mumbai is different from Bangalore and Delhi is that it is much more commercial and dense. The business areas in the southern part of the city, where I live, were in previous era the spots where most of the textile mills were located. Changing economics paved way for financial institutions and other offices to take up the mantle of leading employers but the worker force didn’t just leave with the mills. Here and here are 2 insightful posts that you can read on this topic. Those families evolved with time and there is a distinct sense of entrepreneurship and dhandha mindset which you wouldn’t see in the native citizens of other major cities such as Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, etc. So, although I am not very appreciative of the pace of gentrification, one can only wait for bureaucracy and economics to sync. My hope is our newer cities, by the time they grow as old as Mumbai and Kolkata, hopefully would have figured out a smoother transition plan.

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old n new, all the same..

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Nonetheless, the way old and new buildings have come to be in Mumbai, the sight is deplorable yet amusing. If you like cityscapes, you should check out shots taken by Sanjog Mhatre, an urban architectural photographer who specializes in such rooftop shots.

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Ahuja Towers (250 metres/820 ft, 53 floors) by @ahujaconstructions , Sheth Beaumonde towers (150 metres /492 ft, 35 floors) by @ashwinshethgroupltd in Prabhadevi overlooking the Mahim Bay. The strip of land visible beyond Mahim bay is the Mumbai suburban district. One can see areas as faraway as Bandra, the Versova beach, Juhu, Santacruz-Khar-Vile Parle, Andheri, Goregaon, extending as faraway as Malad. I love how the Auris Serenity towers at Malad West by @shethcreators are still visible from such a faraway distance (Lower Parel) (spot the twin towers in the exact middle of the suburban skyline). Also visible at the edge of the suburban skyline are Omkar Altamonte, Malad east by @omkar_realtors . . . Towering Goals-©2018. . . #_soimumbai  #instagram  #mymumbai  #yngkillers  #itz_mumbai  #depthobsessed #soi  #ig_color  #beautifuldestinations  #artofvisuals  #agameoftones  #heatercentral  #way2ill #realestate  #urbanaisle  #cityunit  #visualambassadors #urbanandstreet  #illgrammers #theimaged  #moodygrams  #milliondollarvisuals  #fatalframes  #dslrofficial  #citykillerz  #discoverychannel  #canonusa  #lonelyplanetindia  #theuncommonbox #mumbaibizarre

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My vantage points and shots are much more humble in comparison

 

Moving on, even though the noise gets to me at times, but I love the celebrations here, be it Ganpati or Durga Pooja or just a local wedding. Each city has a culture of celebrations, especially the bigger festivals, but the community driven ground level celebrations here are unlike what I’ve seen in Bangalore and Delhi.

 

And it’s not just limited to strangers celebrating on the road, there are more thematic performances, live music events, stand up gigs, theatre shows, marathon races to participate in. Weekends and nightlife can be fun here if you want it to be! The people have been friendly as well so far. But I doubt that’s a city specific trait since most of us are migrants and I guess the lives of people in plush apartments doesn’t really change much with the city. There are more things to talk about but I didn’t start with a list of top 10 items in mind, so I’ll just end this one here..

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Morning cuteness 😁

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Oh, and because I’m writing after this long while, I must cover my trips in my next posts before I forget about them. I’ll start with the tour of Madhya Pradesh, the extended trip that I made just before relocating. Part of it was exploring the famous spots along with parents and post that I did a 4 day cycling tour in the hills of Satpura! So, come back next weekend for that story..

Life in the fast lane

Judging from the erratic frequency of my posts this year, it is only logical to assume that something has changed drastically, so it is time to let the cat out of the bag! I quit my job at ExxonMobil earlier this year in March and shifted back to Gurgaon, my home city. It was a rather short sentence for a change of phase in life, but actually that’ how it went! Although it was my first job change, but it seemed like I already knew what was to be done, how to do it and the adrenaline rush was short-lived. Won’t say that it was an easy decision, as I do miss my life in Bangalore, but it does seem like the right move for many reasons. Why? this cartoon strip sums up the story very well –

shifting to swiggy

I was tired of running in circles of the big company I was part of and decided to go back to hills where I think, I belong. I’ve decided to work with much smaller companies, and hopefully build something from scratch, repeatedly. There is little co-relation between what I studied in college, what I was doing at ExxonMobil, what I am doing now and what I had dreamt of doing as a kid but this puddle of ideas and memories is what life is! I am just trying to keep it a notch above mediocrity, that’s all. A lot of my batchmates are now in the US for further technical study, some have switched jobs to get a step closer to their dream MBA college. I do appreciate the long term view that’s at play here but I have not been able to convince myself for I know for sure that I don’t know if my future self agrees with my present self’s decisions. So instead this year so far has been centered on a self generated problem statement – “let’s find an interesting problem to solve!”. Infact the primary audience of this blog is not you guys, ouch! but my future self so that I have no troubles answering the question – “what in God’s name was I thinking!” if it ever comes to that, and I know at some point it would. How this would all tie-up together is something I’m not worrying about, good-luck future-me!

I enjoyed the time in Bangalore, it was my first full-time job out of college, and I learnt a lot in the MNC setup that ExxonMobil provided. If I were to recommend  a fresher, coming straight out of college and clueless about life like most of us are, I would definitely recommend going for a corporate job, for it sets a solid foundation needed for a long professional career. Once the base is set, a job at a younger company hopefully would accelerate the learning and growth. So after 2 years of taking rounds of the parking lot, I am now ready to roll the windows down, get the music volume up and step on the accelerator to feel the breeze, and just to complete the metaphor, mind it that in Gurgaon, dust hits you first but eventually you’ll get to the good part.

More to follow on what I am doing currently and where, but after rounds of testing I’ve realized operations as a function is where I fit. I love analyzing business problems and come up with creative and yet easy-to-implement solutions. So that’s what I’ve been doing, got to it after a few iterations, and the best part is that the INTJ me loves to be at intersection of departments, not having to follow a routine and yet contributing to the overall growth of the company. It gets overwhelming at times but hey! there are no manuals for pushing a rock uphill, one has to JUST DO IT 😉

New Kid In The Town

It’s been over a month since I started up with my first job after college and in the process.. shifted to Bangalore. This post in on my first impressions of this new life. I had been told enough times by many people that college life is nowhere close to real deal and I agree with that but not in the way things were told to me. Also, Bangalore is very different from Delhi and I’m just getting to know the place, although I miss Delhi life but yes, things look good here as well.

bangalore rooftop

The photo above is of the view from my apartment terrace – I live at Kundanahalli and  what you see basically is Marathalli, South East Bangalore and almost at the periphery of the city

Things are good in Bangalore.. the local people were kind enough to accommodate folks from all over the country without any economic and demographic issues and the terrain here is pretty as a picture with all the lakes and hills but there is one thing I’m starting to dislike already… the constant rain! Look at the photo I’ve clicked and posted above and that’s  how the sky is everyday! Every evening there is a drizzle for 20 minutes and somehow it is perfectly timed with the time I get off from work. It’s not really a pleasant walk on the sidewalks when I keep stepping in puddles. I prefer walking over taking a bus for upto 5kms as the traffic is really crazy in office hours (where it isn’t in any big city, so, I won’t blame Bangalore for it) but this rain is kind of a deal-breaker.

I’ve been putting up just fine here, actually I’m living with four strangers in a flat but it just so happens that everyone in the house is good and there haven’t been any problems so far in this arrangement. I’d like to take sometime to mention that our arrangement here at the flat seems like one decided after a long discussion, it can’t just be that we all got here in this flat by chance. I am from Delhi, my room-mate was born in Pakistan and now lives in Gujrat!  Also, we have one Bengali, one Maharashtrian and one Andhra guy. I couldn’t have myself picked more distantly related and pan-India combination of people to be flat-mates. Each of us has a different mother-tongue and ours can be a good plot for a TV series. I’m just glad that everyone knows enough Hindi to have a general conversation. Whatever this situation is, I’m having fun adjusting to it and learning a lot while living with people who are very different in many day-t0-day things. This is the part I feel is different about real life from the one I had at college. Everyone there had a similar mindset, similar interests and it was really easy to have a conversation about anything as people had similar opinions and views about life.

I’ve been trying to live on the principle – Your personality is the average of the personalities of the five people you live/interact with on a daily basis.

As a result of this although I’m meeting many new people, but I am sort of rating them on my imaginary scale so as to keep my top 5 choices really a good mix of everything. It can be a fun exercise once you get a hang of it, try it sometime!

I won’t go into further details, but yes, I see a much open culture here in Bangalore, maybe it because of the young crowd, i guess see many more people from my age group, the ones who grew up with technology and are more influenced by Americans as compared to their own grandparents. So people might judge you here based on your clothes or the phone you use but not on the basis of your religion or your caste. I see a lot of cafes here which again is a sign of open culture which encourages discussions and collaborative projects.  I’m hoping to find new team members to work on new projects, someone who might be interested in photography, travel and technology like me. There are new ideas bubbling in my head with every line I type but I guess you need not know everything right now..

I’ll end with the thought that I am hopeful from the city of Bangalore that I’ll enjoy my stay here and this would be a memorable chapter of my life! 🙂

Big Change

I am writing this as I am travelling to Red Fort for my last photowalk in Delhi, for I am shifting to Bangalore 2 days later! Everything seems to fit right now…. the first photowalk I had gone for after buying my DSLR was at Red Fort and today before leaving Delhi, I am sort of completing a circle. I’ve been living in Gurgaon (Delhi) for the last 20+ years and I love it being here, it’s the best city! and this fact won’t change for me, it’s too late to stop loving Dilli I shouldn’t be this dramatic but yes.. I will surely miss Dilli and my home ofcourse :’)

I love and prefer taking a flight everywhere I travel. Get More Info here if you want to know how to travel in luxury. Soon I have a flight to Bangalore, and it’s a big step for me to shift to Bangalore. I am joining Exxon-Mobil as a Planning Analyst and have been posted at their Bangalore office. I got the job from campus placement offers at BITS Pilani and I was lucky to have one of the best jobs offered on campus! I think it’s a right career move as I’m passionate about data analysis and business planning. Plus Exxon-Mobil as an organisation seems really great! The reason I feel it’s a good choice is that I feel happy to be moving towards it..

What does this mean for Photowalkrs?
Well, I’m loving photography and travel more than ever, no doubt about that… I am on my way to a photowalk as I am writing these words. But I’ve spent a lot of time on judging whether Photowalkrs can be a full-time startup right now or not…. The more I think about it, the more I think that it’s best to keep it as a weekend project. I’ll tell you why – I believe photowalkrs is a little ahead of its time atleast for Indian Market. And I’m not saying this to brag about the idea, I really wish this wasn’t the case, but unfortunately it is.. I can tell from my experiences with people who were my test cases that they still need spend a couple of years with technology to be able to use photowalkrs effectively. Also, internet is still not fast enough to make use of realtime updates,  no-one wants to wait for more than 10 seconds to open a page to be just able to click on a link and repeat the same process again.

We can make the app, infact we’ve already made a prototype, but if there are hardly people who can use photowalkrs, then it’s really difficult for us to sustain ourselves. The conversations I’ve had with photographers in the US, we might have a good chance there but not enough expertise to start operations in the US as per today. This has been a little demotivating to be frank… As a result I’ve decided to spend more time on studying and observing the photography scene. I’ve redesigned the photowalkrs blog as a feature magazine on this hobby space. I’ve been writing about the news and updates from around the globe and I’m also featuring local groups/clubs and individuals who have been leading photowalks and trips. Photowalkrs is more like Schrödinger’s cat right now!

Now that I’ve started on this road.. another thing that went in the wrong direction for starting up photowalkrs full-time is the founding team…. Well, it is difficult to write about people with whom you’re friends but i should.. Photowalkrs team might be a really strong functional team but we don’t have the X-factor required for that bond as a startup-founding-team. I am probably high on passion but not so good when it comes to the tech part – coding. I am, what they say, the Business guy but without any experience and working on just trial and error basis. You can take a guess that my technically skilled partners dont care as much about the photographers and travelers as they do about the efficiency of their code. Also, a team of 4 maybe is a good idea for a college band but not so for a startup. We should’ve been 2 people but I dont think which 2 of the 4 could’ve been the best. It’s a messy situation and we’re sort of stuck right now between our jobs, which seem to be really good, and photowalkrs and life’s goals in the long run.

As a matter of fact, three of us – Me, Shrinidhi and Jalaj got one of the best job offers in our batch i.e. Exxon-Mobil, Citibank and Schlumberger respectively and Kazi is doing his internship at Morgan-Stanley. So our team is really strong functionally, I’m not just saying it… I think it’s only logical to focus greater part of our time and energy which are promising not just now but in the long run as well. We have to be smart as well along with being passionate. The worst thing would be to work part-time, dislocated in 4 different cities, still not be able to gain traction and along with it sucking at our regular jobs. It’s better to choose the battles we should fight and the ones which are more rewarding.

So, yes, this is a big step for me as I am taking a step off to change directions. I am looking forward to the new life at Bangalore, take up the job and the challenges there, learn new things at the office and yes, ofcourse… explore the weekend photography and travel scene in Bangalore. I’ll continue writing on the photowalkrs blog and feature various interesting groups and share updates. We’ll try launching a test version of photowalkrs to test out our hypotheses about the users, hopefully the results would be better for Banglaorean photowalkrs, maybe that’ll give us a kickstart.

Either ways, I am looking forward to the weekdays more than the weekends, now as I am finishing the piece I had left in the metro, I have my flight to Bangalore tomorrow. I should go to sleep as tomorrow a new life starts for me.. a big change!