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.