Saturday, October 24, 2015

Some update. Some advice!

You may have read in my previous posts that I kick started a few personal pet projects during my year at INSEAD. Just wanted to bring that topic to a closure by giving a quick update.

In my previous posts, I'd mentioned about two projects that I'd initiated with the Entrepreneurship club at INSEAD. One on publishing student entrepreneur stories and the other on creating a volunteer match platform for student entrepreneurs and partners.

Did I see them through completion? Sadly, no! Why? Well, there were many reasons but here are a some lessons I learnt and some advice for partners who want to support /actively participate in student clubs:
    • Timing is everything! In order to gain traction, start early - in P1 & P2
      I initiated both these projects almost at the end of P3 - worst decision ever. First of all, schedules in P3 are absolutely crazy. Secondly, by the end of P3 the recruitment fever begins. Reality strikes and everyone gets super busy applying for jobs. So it's really difficult to get support from the students (understandably so) and it may become difficult for you to keep the momentum going.
    • Be patient. Find someone from the student community who champions your idea and follow through, follow through and follow through.
      It may get disheartening at times when things stall or when you don't see things gathering mass. Remember, students will be busy and they have their own priorities. Supporting you may not be a priority for all those you reach out to. Nevertheless, you are sure to find someone who will support your idea. However, even they'll be pressed for time. So you need to really push, follow through, find a way to get things going.
    • Be realistic 
      When setting goals, assess what's really in your control in terms of execution and what's not. I found that most things in my case were not in my control and because I hadn't assessed the situation early enough, I felt I was too hard on myself. So save yourself from doing exactly that - you'll enjoy the experience even better!

The other goal I'd set myself was to pick up french. Again, given that my first and foremost priority was my little son, I found it very difficult to find time to invest in this task. However, the good news is that I have picked up quite a bit in the last two months and am taking regular classes now as we'll be based out of Paris!

In addition to the above, I'd started working on a business plan for an idea that came up when my husband went through the entrepreneurship bootcamp  and I am happy to share that I have taken it forward, though with tiny baby steps! :)

If you want any information or questions or advice as a prospective INSEAD student partner, feel free to write to me. Always happy to share my experiences.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Hua-Dan Project

One of goals I'd set for myself before coming to INSEAD was gain more awareness about the Social Impact sector. And as expected, the opportunities INSEAD provided were plenty!  I attended social impact panels and met two Social Entrepreneurs in Residence (SEiR).

What was even better - one of those entrepreneurs actually provided me with an opportunity to support her with her new project!

Caroline Watson, founderof Hua Dan (a social enterprise that has changed millions of lives of immigrant women and children in China), was on campus for a presentation and for the Social Entrepreneur in Residence program.

I really wanted to understand the why, how and what of her story. That was my main motivation.So I strap my son in the stroller and off we went. I enter the amphi and see a few people (surprsingly mostly partners) already seated. I asked her if it was ok to attend the session with my son (who was asleep in his stroller) and she was more than happy with the idea :).

Her story was fascinating. Raised in the UK, lived in HK and moved to China to bring about change - wow!  She was particularly struck by a drama style used by a famous artist in Brazil and wanted to use that very technique to vocalize and mobile people around social issues faced by millions of migrant women workers in China. I was struck by the potential in the methodology used and of course the impact.

When she mentioned at the end of her presentation that she is looking for volunteers, I jumped at the opportunity!

I followed up with her after the presentation by email with my CV and soon we had a call to discuss what I could take on given my constraints and availability. After two discussions, we finalized on a project - "How to position and sell to corporate clients". The deliverables were a sales pitch deck and a sales proposal document.

What I enjoyed most is the process of actually crafting the final deliverables. It was stimulating and challenging.  I had great discussions with Caroline about the potential of her business. She gave me an insight into the new business model - I learnt about the business model canvas method of brainstorming new business ideas. We also met  a couple of times over few months at INSEAD to brainstorm ideas and make sure the project was on track.

I also reached out to my mentor at Cisco who helped me think about Sales processes, pitches and proposals. He is and has always been amazing. I learn so much from even a 15 minute discussion with him! So this project was a great opportunity to put my skills, knowledge, interest and experience to an area what was so new to me.

All in all, a wonderful stimulating experience; a great opportunity to keep my professional side alive and experiment in a safe environment during this major life transition of mine.

I would highly recommend anyone who has the time when at INSEAD to utilize such opportunities. You will surely learn something new and a whole lot about yourself,

Friday, July 10, 2015


INSEAD hosted the very first TEDx INSEAD with a theme "Re-Think" on 24th of May 2015.

And this post is not so much about the main event (which by the way was fantastic) but about my TEDxINSEAD story.

It all began when I saw a message on FB calling for students and partners to participate in a TEDx talk competition but what I can recollect is how excited I got seeing that :). It was an opportunity to become a TEDx speaker - an opportunity to inspire, educate, share your passion and become a part of the TED world!!

Oh by the way, I am not a public speaker. I have never presented or given a talk to a large audience. My presentation and public speaking skills have been limited to team meetings. But it's one of those things I've always dreamed of doing - talking to an audience to inspire, to challenge, to ignite minds..

But there was one problem..I didn't know what exactly to talk about!

It was a week before the deadline to enter the competition. There was a whirlwind of ideas. But after advice from family and friends, I decided to steer away from controversial topics that needed a lot of research. So that surely helped me narrow down the list.

Two days to go before the deadline to submit my idea and still my ideas were vague and broad. I was in two minds and I wanted to back out. But my friends and family pushed me to go for it. After a long chat with my dear husband, I finally had a topic but still didn't pack the punch.

I had to submit a paragraph about the topic and if selected would be called to pitch the talk within 5 minutes! Yes! 5 minutes.

Finally after probably several hundred iterations, here is the topic I submitted:"What can you do to support women through life transitions".

But after I sent the my submission, I realized that life transitions don't just impact women but anyone who goes through them.

So I refined the idea further and finally had a concrete topic - "Re-thinking Life Transitions".

A day or two later, I was invited to pitch my idea to the INSEAD community and a panel of judges. There were 15+ other students (including one other partner) I was up against and there was going to be just one winner from the Fonty campus who would get a place in the final event.

It would have been amazing to win, but I was so happy just to be a part of it. I mean, I felt great to be sharing the stage with INSEAD students. I loved the fact that the organizing team was so inclusive and had extended the competition to partners as well and remain eternally grateful to them.

The experience is something I will forever cherish as one of the best during my INSEAD journey as a partner. I am glad I did this. I am so glad my husband pushed me to do this. I received lovely messages from students and friends about how much they loved it and it felt good to see that those 4 minutes actually made a difference!

Here is the video of my talk. Use password : INSEAD to view the video. Please leave your comments below. Would love to hear from you.

TedExStudentComp from Aishwarya Bajpai on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Feb '15 to June'15 - What kept the INSEAD spouses and partners busy

Spring in Fonty is absolutely gorgeous! Lush green, mostly sunny days, cool spring breeze, smell of freshly cut grass and oh! those colourful flowers. It's that time of the year when you want to start getting out of your home and the lush surroundings within and around the town won't disappoint.

So as you can imagine, it's a perfect time for picnics! There are two-three picnic spots in Fonty. One at the entrance to the forest right behind the INSEAD campus and the other in Le Parc behind the chateau. For those with kids, there is a playground in the park which is a perfect spot to spend a few hours with the little ones.

Walks in the forest behind the campus and le parc behind the chateau were something we did quite often and some partners also visited near by towns. I was away for two weeks in March and Apr-May, so couldn't participate in a lot of those activities but as you can see in the photos below, my friends had great time! There is also a great spot for horse riding, tree climbing and zip lining. So yes! Plenty to do outdoors when the weather is nice and bright :)

Besides the picnics and sightseeing, there were:

Knowledge Exchange Sessions - as mentioned in my earlier posts, the objective of these sessions is to share your experience, knowledge, interests and learn from each other. Over the last three months, we've had four talks - basics of psychology, language and the brain - how it works, dementia - why, how and what can we do to help and finally a session on raising international kids introducing the concept of third culture kids (TCK). As you can imagine, it was super interesting and so refreshing to learn something new in an environment which is so diverse and safe.

English Classes - One of the partners took this fantastic initiative - to run weekly language classes for non-native speakers where she facilitates discussions around various topics (very interesting ones) to help learn and practice better. 

Bracelet Making Class - One of the partners hosted a bracelet making session. I missed it because of my little boy but what a great idea!

Sports - Some partners also met on a regular basis to play squash, badminton and volleyball

Student Club Activities: I got an opportunity to meet Sandrine Henton from the Educate Global Fund (Impact Investment in Education). It was a part of the Social Entrepreneurship in Residence program and a group of us had a meeting with her to understand more about the fund and how it works. It was something completely new to me.. so interesting indeed. We also had a Women in Business club event to discus Women's role in leadership, community and society. I got to meet several students and they were so welcoming to the partners. Felt like a part of the INSEAD community :)

National Weeks - there's been the Dragon Week, Lebanese Week, Brazilian Week and Low-lands weeks (which is the last one for the Js :( ). I attended the Brazilian week dinner and it was amazing. The music, dance and atmosphere was so vibrant!! 

So I guess this is my last post about Fonty Partners' Activities. Just one more month to go in Fonty! I can't believe how quickly time has flown by. The next few weeks is going to be all about packing, winding up and good byes :( . I am going to miss this place.. but I can't wait for the next adventure! 

Let's see where life takes us next.... 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

New Year, New Friends

6-Jan-2015 : The official welcome for 15Ds (INSEAD’s December Intake). It just seemed like yesterday that I was in the audience listening to the 14Ds give us the office Partners’ Welcome presentation. And there we were, standing in front a new batch of Partners’ (from both 15Ds and 15Js from Singapore). It was so nice to see new faces and even better to catch up with them after the presentation.I personally was very excited – what a great opportunity to make new friends. Everyone seemed so nice and eager to participate, organise and stay active within the Partners’ group
After the presentation, we gave some of them a campus tour and soon headed to the family room to baby sit for the 15Ds so they could attend the official welcome ceremony with their partners. Keeping the tradition alive you see :). It was the first time I baby sat and it went better than I thought. We were about 5 of us baby sitting 5 kids ranging from 5 months old to 2.5 years old.  An experience I won’t forget J

We also organised a market visit and a walk around the chateau gardens for the new batch of Partners to give them a flavour of Fonty and well, also a good excuse to get together and get to know eachother. :) A LOT of them turned up for the market visit. We, am sure, annoyed quite a few locals at the market that day – such a large group, stopping often to check out local stuff at shops, asking so many questions and of course chatting away while others were there for some serious shopping. Lol. Anyway, after the visit, we went for a short stroll around the Chateau and sat down at a café for some crepes and coffee at the end of it all. I got to meet so many new people and had some really interesting conversations.

A few days later, a few of us went for a walk around the Chateau gardens and stopped for some afternoon coffee, crepes and sandwiches. Again, such lovely company! My favourite thing about being at INSEAD – the people you meet always have such interesting backgrounds and stories!

INSEAD organised more activities for the new batch of Partners as well like wine tasting and Chateau tour. Similar to what was done for our welcome week.

Some other activities that were kicked-off / restarted:
  • Cooking Classes: Yes! The most popular activity before the holiday season is back. The Partners' met for a Moroccan cooking class. Perfectly coordinated and very well organised. Everyone seemed to have had a lovely time. Those who are waitlisted am sure can't wait for the next one.
  • Playgroup : One of the 15D partners has created a playgroup for mums and babies to meet every week at her home. A great way to connect with other mums over coffee and cakes whilst the little ones explore, play and do their thing :) I love the idea and definitely plan on being a regular.
  • Restaurant of the week: Last week we went to Le Mediterranee . The food was SO good and flavourful. The Mezze range is fantastic and so is the menu overall. The staff does speak a bit of English and they have an English menu as well. I would highly recommend it for anyone – even vegetarians. This week, we went to Meatlovers (Don't be fooled by the name dear vegetarians - they have an amazing veggie burger). I am enjoying meeting the ladies every week.. it's great to catch-up with almost the same group every week. I feel like otherwise, I would barely get to hang out with them. 

Oh by the way, how can I forget! For the first time after my son was born (more than a year), I left him late evening with my husband to go out for a ladies night!! My husband actually pushed me to go for it when I was in two minds even as I was leaving.. was a tough decision (Motherhood has totally redefined what qualifies as a "tough decision". lol).. Well, I guess there always is a first time. So I went for about an hour and glad I did! I met such nice people and had a lovely time. All thanks to my dear hubby!! :)

And that reminds me, he has also been so supportive and kind to baby sit my son in the family room thrice in the last two weeks despite his crazy schedule so I can do some work. So thanks to him, I ended up having a pretty a productive week. Made some good progress on the marketing work I am doing for Hua-Dan, I am about 80% done with it and I am already thinking about what next. Btw, once I complete my work with Hua Dan, I will write a separate post about it. 

Also, I finally got to meet the president of the INSEAD Entrepreneurship Club. Super nice guy. He was very supportive and appreciative of my ideas and has given me the go-ahead for them. So quite excited. 

This week I got to be a part of a market research for a new business venture of some students. It was a 45 minute interview and I really enjoyed sharing insights. At the end of it, I couldn't help but wonder... well more like dream about their success..that someday I may see their products on the shelves of some great stores and have a big smile on my face, thinking back to the time when I was interviewed by these super successful guys :) Lol.

Last night, one of my friends organised a welcome party at her home fore the desi partners (and their partners ;)). Loved it!She is such a wonderful host!!!

At the end of the evening I realized how much I love being a 15Jpartner, because Js get to spend so much more time with Ds (And get to know more Ds) than the Ds would get to spend with the next batch of Js. We are so lucky!! :)

With this, I guess I’ve got you all up to speed with all the happenings here at Fonty.

Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Backlog - November & December

I can’t believe that I haven’t blogged since end October. But before I dive into the last few months, here’s wishing everyone a very very happy and prosperous 2015! Hope you had an amazing year filled with cherished memories. Wishing you a year that is even better than the last J

As you know from my last post, P2 (Period 2) at INSEAD began the last week of October and let me tell you – it hits you like storm and goes by in a flash.

For the students, it’s six subjects crammed into one and half months of classes plus two national weeks, national week bidding day and of course crazy INSEAD parties (more reasons than usual because it marks the end to their very first section and very first group… everything changes here on.. well not as dramatic as that really but the students party like it is the end of an era.. lol)

For Partners, it was a crazy one and half months as well because we went from just being acquaintances to friends which meant more get togethers and in addition, we organised various activities – one almost every week! So yes – a packed P2 for Partners as well.

I wish I could blog in detail about every event but because of the backlog, I am just going to give a summary ( (which by itself seems long enough) of the events during the two months. In case you want to know more about anything in specific, feel free to write to me or leave a comment below.

It's going to be a long post...So here I go:

Oct 31 - Halloween Party at INSEAD
This was organised at Tavers and man! They did some serious Halloween décor. It was fantastic. Everyone and I mean EVERYONE (about 200 people) dressed up and it was a CRAZY party.

November 3 - Kids Halloween Parade & Desi Week Amphi Storming
INSEAD organises a Halloween party for kids - a day when all the baby INSEADers dress in adorable costumes and parade the galleries for trick or treats followed by a small get together at the restaurant.

The same evening was the Desi Week “amphi storming”. It was the first day of Desi Week and as a tradition, some students storm the amphi, do their thing  (for desis it was of course dance to an awesome Bollywood number), showcase what’s to come for the week and finish off with a bang. The Desi amphi storming was FANTASTIC. My husband was a part of it and he went absolutely crazy. Yes! I mean every word of it. He got up on the desk and danced… Never seen that side to him.. I guess INSEAD brings out the BESTEST in people. Lol.

November 4 – Visit to the Farmer’s Market
As a part of the French Immersion activity, we decided to visit the local market to check out the local produce, food, cheeses etc. One of the French partners decided to share with us some local insights. We also learnt some useful phrases :) Nice day but it was starting to get so so cold in Fonty.

November 5 - Desi Dinner
Mid-week of any national week is a dinner with a traditional fare. The desi dinner was very well organised. The décor was so pretty, people dressed in their best Indian wear, there was a Desi IQ quiz, Fashion Show, Dance performances and finally a dance party. Everything was so lively and everyone seemed to have the time of their lives. This set a huge expectation for the end of the week Bollywood party (Which sadly wasn’t as good as people thought it would be… Nevertheless, they still had a good time)

November 6 - Colombian Breakfast
One of my friends, a Colombian, invited few friends for a traditional Colombian breakfast. There were Arepas, some other traditional breakfast items – like a dough ball filled with savoury cheese and eggs. The highlight of course was the banana walnut cake she had baked. It was SO good!

November 7 - Birthday and Ukrainian Cooking Class
Yes! Happy birthday to me!! J Was a very special and memorable day indeed. My husband organised a surprise get together and had put together a video montage of 15J Partners’ birthday wishes (which they had sent in their native language). It was so so sweet. A lovely cosy birthday celebration!

The same afternoon, a group of Partners met for a Ukrainian cooking class. On the agenda were all vegetarian dishes - a salad, a pumpkin porridge and cheese filled ravioli/dumplings. I couldn't make it to the session, so waiting for round 2 which, hopefully will be soon. :)

November 10 - Day Out at Vaux Le Vicomte
A few partners decided to spend an afternoon (turned out as a whole day trip) at the Chateau – Vaux Le Vicomte. It’s a beautiful place, lovely gardens. Once a year there is chocolate exhibition at the Chateau and lucky us, the day we chose to visit happened to be “that day of the year”. A nice day out from Fonty and would definitely recommend it.

November 12 – Birthdays of the month
We had decided to start a tradition of celebrating birthdays of the month and had a small get together at the family room. It was a fun evening – there was cake, games and best of all – a lot of fun! Unfortunately, we haven't been able to keep up the momentum. We hope not to miss Feb birthdays. Have to put it on my calendar.

November 14 - National Week Bidding 
This is something you definitely do not want to miss at INSEAD. It’s the day teams bid for the National Week and it’s absolutely crazy. It’s the day when the teams showcase their local culture and it’s so much fun. The day ends with a presentation which is “must-see” when at INSEAD. The teams bring out the best of best and it’s packed with so much energy and surprises! Highly recommend that you attend it.

November 17 - Baby Shower
A few of us threw a surprise baby shower for one the 15J Partners who was soon leaving for Singy. Was a lovely evening. Most of all, was so nice to see how much she enjoyed it.

November 19 – Social Impact Week Panel
I have always been really interested in anything and everything around Social Impact and so I decided to attend the panel organised by INDEVOR (INSEAD’s social impact club) during the Social Impact Week. The panel was on “Impact Economy” and the panellists consisted of some amazing people from Impact Investing, Venture Philanthropy to Incubators. I couldn't stay for the whole panel but I would highly recommend anyone interested in this area to attend events like these. You get to meet and hear from some brilliant minds.

November 20 - Thanksgiving lunch/cooking class
As a part of the cooking class series(We'd had a Indian, French and Ukrainian classes so far), one of the Partners decided to cook us a traditional thanksgiving meal and even gave the group a demonstration of the famous pumpkin pie. She'd put in so much efforts and everything was so perfect. A big thank for such a lovely afternoon and a bigger thank you to my friend who has been so regular in organising these cooking classes. They have been super popular :)

Last week of November – A few friends got together for a fun filled evening on Thanksgiving and the same weekend, we visited Strasbourg for this Christmas Market. Oh yes – also Fonty light up this week. It was so so pretty!!! So Christmassy. I so love this season!! :)

And before I knew it, December was here. It was exam time again and it was also the last two weeks in Fonty for those leaving for Singy for P3 and beyond. So there were a lot of farewell dinners and parties amidst the exam craziness and not to forget a national week - Africa week. Some highlights for me were:
  • I'd organised a Crepes and Galette afternoon for the Partners as a part of  the "French Immersion" events. Jeromine from INSEAD Student Relations helped make it all happen as her friend happens to be a chef at a lovely creperie  - La Poterme at Moret sur Loing. I fell sick and couldn't go but the Partners enjoyed a live demonstration and set-menu which includes an aperitif, galette (choice of 5), cidre, crêpe dessert and coffee!!! For 25 Euros per person.
  • Dinner with Friends – We hosted a dinner for a few friends who were off to Singy. Such a fun night!
  • Son's first birthday – This certainly was the greatest highlight! We celebrated it in the family room and had all our friends attend the party. A party I will never forget. Was so special.. will remain a cherished memory indeed./
  • Friend’s baby shower and farewell dinner – Yes! We had another surprise baby shower this month. The ladies turned Salamander (house) into a pretty pretty place. So beautifully decorated and organised. Was so glad to be a part of it. The following day, one of my friends hosted a lovely dinner for us before we all of us left for the holiday season.

So there you go! A super long post.. but I guess this is what happens when I am not regular with my posts.

Hope you enjoyed going through it. 

Signing off :)