Speaker: Mekin Maheshwari

On July 24th 2021, we had an Awakin conversation with Mekin Maheshwari themed “From Profit to Potential”.  The talk was moderated by Nipun and Swara. Below is a transcript of the talk. And you can listen to the full talk here.

Swara: Good morning, my name is Swara, and I'm really excited to be your host for today's Awakin Talks. Welcome and thank you for joining us.

The purpose of Awakin Talks is to plant seeds for a more compassionate world, by fostering our own inner transformation and behind each one of these talks there's a whole entire team of service-based volunteers whose invisible work allows us to hold this Space. Today our special guest is Mekin Maheshwari. So thank you for joining us for today's call Mekin.

Let us start with a minute of silence to anchor ourselves in this Space!

Swara: Thank you and welcome back. I'm going to hand it over to Nipun Mehta who is going to engage in a conversation with Mekin. Just a line of introduction for Nipun Mehta. He's the founder of Service Space, which is an incubator of projects that serve a good culture while he does so much through service space in the world, what moves me the most is how he shows up in each and every moment. And one of the things that I know about him is that his wife loves tea and that he took it on himself that every single day he would make a cup of tea for his wife. And I don't know how many years he has done that every single day. I know he's been married for at least 20 years now. So that's like a simple act to do every day with no exceptions. So that's Nipun bhai and over to you.

Nipun: Thank you, Swara. It's such a joy to be here, and especially a joy for us to be in the presence of our guest speaker here who is someone I'm delighted to introduce. I think most people have probably read everything about Mekin online,  and even outside of like the wonderful bio that Awakin Talks team put together even otherwise you might know about Mekin, but in brief, I would say he is an entrepreneur.                                                                                                                                   

He went from various startups, and bigger companies like Yahoo to ultimately at Flipkart.  But where his journey became very interesting is how he went from being the President of Engineering at,  Flipkart to then being Chief People officer taking this company from my handful of people to,  at least a 30,000 and now it's a lot more even,  laying the foundation for all of that. Being the people officer, being in that corporate world, being very successful and then saying, hey! This is perhaps not my deepest calling. So take going on a very different tech track, right?  And unchartered territory of sorts and we'll get into that. It was a track of services. It's a track of Education; it's a track of deep potential.  So I'm excited to have this time together with Mekin. 

Mekin, before I start with my first question, I just want to say welcome. And we're so glad that you're here. 

Mekin: Thank you Nipun-bhai it’s a joy to be back in Service Space. I think the times I have spent with you at Gandhi 3.0, with folks from service space have been the most joyous, the ones that fill the heart to the brim and like overflow. I am delighted to be here. 

Nipun: Thank you. And in fact, I want to start there Mekin so my first introduction to you, or at least not the on paper introduction, or even when we need to, we had met in Bangalore earlier, but my first introduction is right before that retreat, we had an Aspen retreat and there's a particular moment, I don't know if you remember this, but there was, it's a group of very successful business people from around the world. We were all coming together to explore conversation. It was a conversation between business and values. And then in the middle, at one point in the evening, we threw in a curve ball and we had, this is a guest speaker who completely knows nothing about business. And he is all about heart. His name was Arun Bhat. Arun Dada as we call him. And so here is this guy who was never sold his labor in his life, like ever. He has never transacted. Everything has been like mother's love. He says, I'm going to treat everyone the way my mother gave me love. That's how I'm going to serve. And he kind of had his family and all of that. But now imagine this contrasting with like the, people who've had to come from a commercial world and it's quite a contrast and what struck me Mekin, and this to me stands out as the moment when I really felt your heart I would say is that after that talk and I was translating poorly from his Hindi to English and there were many people checking. And at the end of that, a bunch of people gathered around and Mekin came up to him. He waits, he has a question, he's kind of engaged and he waits all the way.  You bow down, Mekin, and you bow down and touch his feet, that mean you saw in him, someone who comes from very different world, he spent his whole life with Vinoba Bhave.  He served and you also served, but there was something you saw in him that you wanted to bow down to.  I wonder if we can start there as your proper introduction. And I was like, what made you want to do that?  Do you remember that moment?  You had tears in your eyes and you were very profoundly moved, it seemed like, but I didn't know, by what. 

Mekin: Thank you for taking me back there I was so deeply inspired by not just his thoughts, but his accents, that how the life he had lived and the stories you told, the stories he told and the simplicity with which he answered the questions that a lot of us put with lot of convoluted minds and hearts dishing out questions to him. And he was answering them with those same simple filters of how he's lived his life. So for me, I think the pieces that made me bow down were about one, just the conviction and the action being completely in harmony right there. There was no difference between what was being said and what was being done, what was being taught and what was being acted on. And I have like, personally, that's been a journey for me. That's been a struggle, right? It's easy to believe in something, but then to live it, to act it in small moments; I think that's been a journey.  And I have faltered in that many times. I did the same thing with what you say, your words and your accent. And what I felt with Arun Dada was that there was so much integrity, truth, power in everything that he would say and do.  So to me, I don't remember the bowing down or the tail, but like for me, there was a lot of joy and respect and just meeting him and getting to know him. And he is so old and a lot of gratitude to you and to Service Space to have, I wouldn't have ever got a chance to speak to someone like him. I remembered my question to him and I've quoted that answer to many people after that. So my question to him was that I have this struggle of building an organization where I want to promote agency, where people do what  their inner calling is what they believe in, but at the same time, he stopped me right here. And he said Sanstha mat chalao! So it's basically meant that, like trying to build an organization, like trying to organize this idea of enabling agency and that clarity of thought that the moment there is an organization, it takes away agency, right? That the organization's goals become larger than the individual's agency, and that clarity of thought, like without even letting me finish my question, he knew what the route was. And I've said this many times before. I continue to run, and many other people that, Hey, by organizing ourselves, we are in some sense, reducing agency 

Nipun: Well thank you! One of the things Arun Dada says is that when you introduce others you are actually introducing yourself. I think we can extend that to say, when you bow down to others, you're bowing to that part in you. I think when you honor and acknowledge somebody else being the change so deeply, so simply, without any agenda that it mirrors your own aspiration. And I think even that aspiration alone is something remarkable, so thank you for being on that path. 

That aspiration alone is something remarkable, so thank you for being on that path. All of us around you were moved by that and so was Arun Dada and I think that’s your and I think that's your character. I want to start in your early years and I want to play a little clip from somebody you will recognize and who has known you for a long time. Let's play a short clip: Mekin and I go back 20 plus years where we met in college in 2001 and we got married in 2005.After four years of knowing each other, I could easily say that he had a number of triggers and used to be an angry young man. I would be scared and get nervous around him. If I said the wrong thing then maybe he'll get upset and I would have to watch my words with him. Now it's absolutely zero because he doesn't get triggered and he has come 360 degrees. He has come quite a distance from where he was and I have a lot to learn from him because I'm at that stage where everything gets me upset. I've started journaling to myself that these are my observations through the day and I have to sit outside myself to see why I was triggered.  I notice he’s very calm about his emotions.

Mekin: Why am I surprised? 

Nipun: We figured rather than just asking a question, let's go to a credible authority, your wife. Clearly, she loves and thinks so highly of you. She was saying that here was a man who has gone through this incredible transformation from an angry young man to somebody who is in the middle of so many intense things, and yet is able to just retain his composure.                                

No one at your work has said that they've seen you angry. Can you take us through that transformation? How do you change so radically?  What inspired that change? What sustained it? 

Mekin: As I reflect back that I wouldn't lose and get angry with everyone. Richa, my wife, and my Mom have possibly seen me most angry. They have faced my anger a lot more than a lot of other people. They have seen me very closely and seen that transformation or change happen. I feel it started around the time when we got married. The realization that after having known each other for over four years, I thought, I knew her well. Then as she moved into the home and we started living together I realized there was so much she had to change in her life. I didn't necessarily didn't necessarily think how challenging, how difficult, and ever demanding it was for her. Wanting to do things in a certain way that she'd done earlier. The visual in my head is like a color flowing into water and becomes one.

I would lose my temper at small things with simple triggers. It was a lot of arrogance and I had entitlement. Just watching and living with her helped me to see myself. To see my arrogance and entitlement, which by the way, continued through a large part of my Flipkart journey? I was hardly home and our daughter was six months old when I joined Flipkart. Then our son was born, two years later and l the amount of time I spent with my wife and kids during those seven years is not forgivable. She managed with all of that happening. It's not like we didn't fight, we had plenty of masla in our life. Overall, she continued to be this person who lives in the moment and I continue to be this person. 

I've learned from her about living in the moment, but. When the two of us are on a walk then I will be walking two steps ahead. I'm almost in a hurry to get somewhere all the time and she is pulling me back.  Watching her, seeing the kids grow up and seeing the larger pieces that helped me move away from anger.  I don't think I ever got angry with even my college friends, so, people can’t believe I got into a fight. Richa laughs at what I call a fight, so, from those places not a lot has changed.

Personally, with her and my mom there is a lot of admiration, respect and a little bit of learning from them to live in the moment. Then not care so much about the judge within me. The judge within me has acted or has defined a lot of my early life of what is right or what is wrong and shut out some of my feelings.

I've learned to listen more to my feelings thanks to Richa and thanks to me. That is really what calmed me down. 

Nipun: It's remarkable to hear you reflect because everyone around you looks at you as if this is an iconic symbol of equanimity. You're ever present even on our check-in call you included everybody and said hello to every single person. It just seems very natural to you. The essence of my question is about the bit of your journey where you were trying to at Yahoo understand user behavior and trying to understand people. There's a data element, but there's also an element of how you understand your own self.  I'm curious if you can reflect a little bit on that because then you go on to become chief people officer at Flipkart. Card. Clearly there's something in you that knows how to work with people, how to give the benefit of the doubt, how to bring everyone together and synergize them. I'm wondering if you can take us on an arc of; what did you learn about people, from the data analysis from your Yahoo days? What about team building and how did that evolve into your Flipkart days? 

Mekin: I find it again hard to place a finger on one event that transformed me. I feel starting from a place of trust has come as a gift and just been natural. I almost can't imagine a different way. I have encountered them and discussed with people why starting with trust makes a lot more sense.

The analytical side of understanding people and what I learned from data is something that surprised me. People go with defaults and whatever is the most obvious thing that's available.  I was doing analysis of data for Yahoo toolbar. These toolbars are extensions that you add to your browser. The mere presence of the toolbar on somebody's browser would enable them to steer towards using Yahoo a lot more. As a business, that was a great piece. We, as a company, were not valuing what that meant to us because there were things people did on the toolbar that you can't measure. What do they do off the toolbar?

And I don't think we, as a company, were valuing what that meant to us, because there are things that we will do on the toolbox, that you can measure, but what do they do off the toolbar and just because this is a reminder to them constantly, it's in their face all the time, what’s the impact of that.  So, I studied that and the realization that reminders like this, or just being there as default, drive a lot of human behaviors. So that was one, but on the other extreme, I also found that Yahoo was then supporting or partnering with a bunch of internet service providers. So, we would get anonym zed data of internet usage, and I was interested in what do users love most, what do people love most on the internet? And back in 2003, the one website which had usage, off the charts, was this website called neopets.com. And I had never heard of it. I didn't know what Neopost were. And so, I went in and tried to figure it out, and it was basically a site for virtual pets. That you could own a virtual pet, and then you had to take care of it, you had to feed it, you had to pet it, you had to listen to its grouses and   anger.   And it had over 500 page views per session that users stay on and keep coming back. And so on   one end you have people, who are just doing whatever is put in front of them and then on the other end, you also have people, who are following this instinct of, they want a virtual pet and caring for it and  really  doing whatever it takes to make that virtual pet happy.  And this, back then, was a lot more Korean, Japanese, and the East Asian users who would do this a lot more.

But, I think, to me, these words were examples of user agency, if they have a chance, they would, and this is what users will want to spend time. They would love to spend time with pets. They would love to take care of someone. There is that innate need, that people want to be surfaced and Neopost are fulfilling that need for them. And then here is what you would call the platform where, whatever you offer to people, people will use and just do that. It made me realize that technology was obviously very powerful in being able to shape and influence user behavior, but at the same time, technology was also powerful in enabling a lot more agency, in enabling people to be able to do what they really wanted to do. So, I think those were the early pieces that I learned from.  I think some other things I learned was that people's actions were driven more by their fear, than by their hopes.  The Neopost group was small and the other groups were larger.

 At Flipkart when we were trying to figure out, we were this amazing book selling company, who had grown rapidly. And then we launched that next category. We launched mobile phones. And this is at a time in India, when mobile phones are starting to take over and a lot of mobile phones are being sold. In a little after 2010 and three months after selling, after launching mobile phones, the mobile phone sales are nearly flat.  Our book sales continue to rise, but we are just not able to sell mobile phones.  Hardly anybody in India reads books, but we are able to sell books and almost everybody is starting to buy mobile phones and we are not able to sell mobile phones and we thought what’s wrong.  

There is so much demand in the market and yet people aren't buying from us. And then we started introspecting and started talking to people and realized that a book is a three-hundred-rupee book, phones even then, were about five thousand, ten thousand or more.  And there is just that marked difference in people's willingness to take a risk with a mobile phone, ordering something online. Aayega, nahin aayega (whether it will come or not come) we don't know.

And then as we started speaking to people, they started sharing that fear. What if something's wrong with the phone? What should I do? If I buy it from a shop, I can go to the shop and ask the guy to fix it.  But with Flipkart, what do I do? And we realized we hadn't thought about those pieces.  So, based on a lot of this learning, we launched a thirty-day replacement guarantee. A lot of people laughed at us that, In India, how can you think of a 30 day replacement guarantee, are you okay? In India who does that kind of thing?  We launched cash on delivery. We scaled cash on delivery.

And I think in some sense, what we did in those three, four months, was understanding people, that people were operating from a place of fear, if this is not right, what happens? So, the fear of the unknown and it was basically being able to solve that fear is what Flipkart was able to do and then grow. But if I were to step back and generalize, I have seen a lot more people operate from a place of fear, then operate from a place of hope and I've had a very interesting relationship with fear. It's something I would fight with my mom about in some of our acts. She would say that a little bit of fear is necessary. You should be obedient, and you should do things because of fear, for your own good and for your own safety. And especially with my sister: I have a younger sister and I would say what you're doing is causing fear and she shouldn't operate from a place of fear. And this is when I was seven or eight and we would have these fights. And I think she grew to be a far more fearless person despite whatever mom was doing.

So, I don't know if I ever really understood fear, but as I grew up and I started exploring education, and then I found all that Rabindra Nath Tagore   has written about a place without fear, Jiddu Krishnamurthy    has written about a place without fear. I was probably on to something.  Maybe I should delve more in this idea of a fearless world.  So, I deeply believe that people do what they feel is the best they can do, at that moment. That at any instant, any action that the user is taking, that the person is taking, an individual is taking, is their belief that this is the best option they have.  Now they might believe that because of constraints they have, because of stories they have told themselves, because of family, society pressures, good or bad, however, you look at it, but they are doing, each individual, at every moment, is doing the best thing they think they can.

This is an operating belief I've held and it's deep down. I don't know why I hold it, but it's just been there, that everybody's trying to do their best. And hence if an action is not necessarily good for them or good for society or a positive action, it might hurt people, it might hurt ecology, economy, etc.  I have gone back to asking what were the conditions, what's the context, what led the person to do this, rather than the person doing X or Y.  I think of each one of us, as the product of our past. Our experiences have led us to where we are and that is what is leading us to do what we are doing right now. And again, there is this mix of, there is a little bit of our own agency, but there is a lot more of our context.

Nipun:   That's inspiring.  There's a quote that says, “Be kind, because everyone is fighting their own fight,” as if everyone is going through that. And even if you don't know it, if you just lead with that idea, it seems   they're probably going through a lot of other stuff, in their own contexts that I don't know about. And maybe this is why they show up at work and today they're not in their best. And if you can just give that benefit of the doubt, which is what it seems like you're sharing, then I think you can not only get a lot done, but it's actually a lot more meaningful. It has a lot more purpose. It satisfies in a different way.

Mekin:  When you start with that, what then happens is co-creation, what then happens is often a lot more beautiful. Because if you're willing to take that first step to try and understand what's happening and why are you doing this, the other person opens up.  I love the interesting story from Flipkart early days.  There is on a quiet Monday, in 2010, Prarabdha, who was the one of first interns at Flipkart, walks up to me and says that Mekin, our website on the mobile phone, this sucks and I'm taken aback. I'm the head of engineering. I feel responsible for it. And this is an intern who has just joined the company, less than a month back.  But I take a deep breath and ask why do you say that? And then he shows it to me that you have to pinch and zoom to be able to see. You try and click something, you click the wrong link because it just doesn't work well and sure, I get it.

But I'm like so what? How many people even use the mobile website? So, we end that conversation, and I am a little angry inside, probably, at that moment, I realized. Away later, I went back to him and asked him what do you want to do about it? He says I don't know. And then the next weekend he worked on the mobile website, created a completely brand-new version, working at a friend Tapas’s house.And then on Monday, he says Mekin, we have a new mobile website.  I think I actually did almost nothing. 

Mekin: And that's probably the right thing. Had I acted on the impulse that, "Hey, here's somebody's telling you something that's not right about one of your creations," and had I not sat that down, maybe he may not have created it. But that's probably the only thing I did, which is to not react, to not -- well, otherwise it was just, his agency's like, "Hey, I want to fix this. It's his pain." And he went on to serve. I think if people feel like that, you trust them that it's okay for them to be themselves, they go on to do things which are far beyond what you can ask people to do. And I think at Flipkart, there were hundreds of stories like this where all that was happening was basically people taking ownership and responsibility and initiative that, "No, no. I don't like what we are doing here. And I want it to be better because I..."

Nipun:  But it's a different kind of leadership, right? It's not leadership that says, "I'm the boss. I have the vision and you will implement what I have in mind." It's almost like you're letting go of that control and you trust in the group a lot more than your individual capacities. And I think that takes a lot as a leader to do. Maybe. So maybe it comes very naturally to you, and you're like, "Oh, it doesn't take a lot. It's just common sense." Everybody does win with that.

Mekin:  See, I think you are saying I do this well. And then I compare this with what Arundada is saying and I'm like, "I'm far away, dude." 

Nipun: There's always a higher benchmark. There's always a higher benchmark.

Mekin:  Thank you. Yes, and there is, and this is something we try and do and autonomy and agency continues to be the most popular topic. That, "Hey, how much do individuals do?" And then, "What about strategy?" And, "How do you go towards the parts that we want to go to?"And I feel, yes, compared to most organizations and most of the corporate world, I'd say that, yes, I've probably done better. Working with people comes a lot more naturally to me. It's been easier for people to do what they are capable of, but I still think there is a long way for me or for us in organizations as a society, to be able to really enable what people are, their true potential is. There's just so much sitting there, so much potential lying there and it gets shut down by so many activities, so much action that we do.

Nipun:  And potential, I think, is an interesting segue into the next part because you actually, you were doing so well. You were happy. You probably were having so much impact at Flipkart, but you felt like maybe this wasn't your highest potential, or maybe this wasn't your deepest calling. Can you take us briefly through that process  -- from an onlooker's point of view, you're like, "Man, this guy's got a dream life and dream situation." And you were like, "No, wait a second. I want to go and serve." And you're still pretty young. So, what goes on in your mind that flips that switch from this unending rat race to actually going the other way?

Mekin:  So before I start on that story, just a couple of pieces, just backtracking, right? I don't think I ever got fully enamored by any one goal. And it's not that I have to be rich. It's not that I have to reach "x." So there hasn't necessarily been a goal that I've been running my life with. There has been a lot of, what we at ServiceSpace call, emergence. That decision to join a certain college when I had the option; the decision to leave Yahoo; join a startup; then a decision to join Flipkart. I think all of these have been decisions that have felt right in the moment and not necessarily from a destination point of view, that, "This is where I want to and, hence, this is the path."  So that's just been the decision-making process. And in that same process, there was this incident. There were ten of us famously called us the "Flipkart Think Tank" -- trying to think about what should be Flipkart's strategy for the next ten years? In some sense, like I often joke and laugh, "Hey, here is a seven-year old company trying to think about the next ten years."  Well, we all, with full ownership, participated in that exercise. And one of the ten is an ex-consultant and took us through a visioning exercise, which was like, "Hey, what does the world look like ten years from today? What does Flipkart look like ten years from today? And what do you look like ten years from today?" And for me that was a super jarring exercise because I just could not -- I tried very hard to see myself at Flipkart, and I just couldn't. And it was very jarring because this was a company that I felt I'd grown up with, I'd brought up.  Like, I would call it my "first child." The other two kids that we've had, I had spent far less time with them than I had with Flipkart and had given a lot more to it. And yet I couldn't see myself with this entity ten years from today. And that left me very unnerved. I didn't know why it was happening, but I just couldn't see myself. And, maybe for a moment, some of the myths and stories dropped and I could see this truth. That, "No, this is not me." I think a couple of months of exploring or figuring out things like, "Hey then if this is not me, who am I and what do I really care about? What should I be doing?" et cetera.  "Let's get out of Flipkart and then start exploring and figuring out and thinking."

And again, Nipun, for me the idea of service or "Seva" as we call it, isn't with the destination or the intention of serving that I got into what I'm doing now or what I started over the last five years. I was actually still being very selfish and continuing to be selfish and thinking about what gives me joy. So, the question I was asking myself was, "Who am I?" And it's, again, very self-centered in thinking about. So the realization that I got joy out of things with people. Whether it's the move from thinking so much about the technology team, rather than the technology that we are building; or, the move to Chief People Officer; or, the different people's stories that I really, really love. And, when I look back, even at Yahoo, understanding people, really.  So people give me joy. And within that, like people succeeding, people reaching their potential, people doing things that's unexpected of them, and especially where it's unexpected, where it's the underdog that really does well. And I think a lot of us would relate to the underdog-excelling movies.  Whereas here you have a story where the underdog comes out and then fights hard and then wins.  I feel it's a very human emotion that all of us get joy out of it. I just, in some sense, was able to relate to it and anchor myself to it a lot more. So I think when the decision is made, "Hey, if people's success gives you joy, then..."  To me, education was obvious, "Oh, that's where."  My definition of education is, "How do you enable people to succeed?"

Nipun:  Yeah, this is it. You know, the Dalai Lama has a quote that we often use in ServiceSpace. It's called, "Be selfish. Be generous."  It's in other people's success that you actually can find so much joy. And if you have not experienced that, then you're actually missing out. It's like not having tried a certain flavor of ice cream and you're like, 'Oh my God, try it! It's amazing!" Right?  But you're talking about education, and this is really the core of a good teacher because the teacher does that.  And I want to transition to that, and I want to invite Swara to pick your brain a little bit around education with him.

But, before that, I want to have a little clip here. This is somebody Mekin really admires, somebody who has taught him a lot about working with people. And so let's just take a look and see what he has to say. This is, of course Mekin will know, this is somebody who's quite accomplished in the corporate world as well, Bharat Vijay.

Bharat:  Mekin has been the kind of person you always wish you can emulate. Keeps things simple and always cooperative in his approach. His sense of competition is to just raise his own level of excellence. I remember on multiple occasions where we had our backs to the wall and Mekin is naturally brilliant, also hardworking, and also the kind of person who can rally others and lift them whether it was in Yahoo or in Eugenie. I noticed that, in both the cases, he's the person around whom a lot of good things happen, always ready to take the initiative to organize, and to bring people together and in all causes. I think sometimes, there was an occasion where Yahoo was actually not doing the best thing for its customers. And, we worked together on a project that was unpopular with the management in Yahoo but eventually convinced them to do better by their own customers.  And Mekin carries that inner desire to help others, to organize, to use his intelligence, to help more people. I think that's just so natural to him." 

And,  we worked together on a project that was unpopular with the management in Yahoo, but eventually convinced them to do better by their own customers. And Mekin carries that inner desire, to help others, to organize, to use his intelligence, to help more people. I think that's just so natural, natural to him. And he doesn't let personal setbacks come in his way and he tries to take everybody with him. 

Mekin: Well, thank you. Bharat was my first manager at Yahoo and I feel blessed and it's funny he said that good things seem to happen around Mekin. And  I cannot understand why life has been so kind to me, to have someone like Bharat as your first month, they're like, what did I do to deserve that?

I don't know. But you get lucky with people like him who cared so deeply about all 50 of us to know our personal lives, our work, unblock us.. Be like fully present whenever they were with us. So to have experienced that. So there's a small story in me leaving Flipkart,  which connects Bharat.

We both were still involved, but after I joined Flipkart it had been about six, seven years, me and Bharat hadn't spoken for a long while and I had gone through this introspection journey and there is this morning where I've set up time with Sachin and to go tell him that, Hey, I'm done.

My meeting is at eleven. At nine. I got a call from a U S number. I was nervous about my meeting with Sachin. So I'm early at work and I planned the whole conversation a lot and so on, but, I pick up that call and it's Bharat! And I'm like, hey, how long time, how have you been?  He asked Mekin and I'm okay, but are you okay? Again, he asked it in such a knowing way.  

I tell him Yeah, I'm okay. But here is what I'm planning to do at 11 o'clock. He's like, yeah, I felt something was off. Something was brewing in the mind and he felt it sitting there in the bay area. He reached out and then we had an hour long conversation and hence I had the extra job of convincing my first mentor of what I was doing was right, and thankfully he's been like my dad, my wife, my mother, he has been just so supportive of things. They've questioned me, but they've been really supportive of what I'm trying to do and why I am trying to. 

Nipun: And, and in his synthesis, he is saying, man, it's not just that good things happen around you, but that you bring everybody along with you and he says, you had it in you. And, and I think for a teacher in some sense, the best gift is that the student pays it forward.

You know? So if he's your mentor, he was your first mentor. He, whatever he gave you and him, and you're then like now dedicating your life to sort of passing it on. What you just shared, even before that clip, is to find the joy in helping other people succeeds. Right? We know there's a certain kind of low ceiling to a joy that you feel when you succeed yourself. And it's good. There is some amount of joy to it, but the kind of joy you feel when others succeed because of what you have done for them is just like, incomparable. And that I think is a core, as you said, of education. And my introduction to you, even before I met you was actually someone who is on this call, Swara. And she comes from that education world. And she's like, man, this guy did something amazing. He went from like Flipkart to just diving deep into the world of education. And so sort of, I want to invite you to see if you can ask him a tough question or something, and see where we go with the education bit, because that's a passion for him. And it's a passion for you as well. 

Swara: Absolutely. Absolutely. I have been enjoying this conversation so much. And so, when I hear all this, Flipkart, the technology story, and then you joined education. So our gain, their loss -- is what I see if I see it from the education world. I care for education and I've been trying to understand different things.

And, there is just so much, you spoke to almost a hundred people about a bunch of books and all. And I was like, why didn't I think about that? Or I want to at least find out what you learnt from your journey, 

I don't know if you've heard of Chaitanya bhai. He is a Gandhian. Arun Dada is a grand uncle of Chaitanya bhai. He lives in this small village. He is committed. Works with a  small group of children for the past 40 years from whatever he has. So, like when they did not have a dorm for boys, they built it on a tree. They actually built a dorm on a tree. And the boys would live there and the classroom would turn into space for girls at night. So just simple, deep experiments, right? 

There are people like Shaheen working with government schools, and everything has a space. And I value the whole spectrum and I wish I could have done like the pilgrimage on education that you did meeting everyone.

So here is my golden chance to ask you the question, what did you learn from there? And, if you would share some highlights, some learning, some story which stood out for you in your journey. 

Mekin: Sure Sure. I have a lot of respect for the way you approach learning, right? And the way you think about, and you write stories about students that I have heard mostly through Krishnan. Yeah, I'm just happy and glad and honored to be answering this. I think for me, the first realization, or the first whack on my head was, reading the asset report. As an engineer and having lived in the world of data that came naturally to me, I'm like, okay, I have to get into education. Let me try and understand education with data.  I read the asset report. I knew nothing. I'm like, I didn't know that so many schools had gotten built or that we had so many enrollments, that our learning levels were so far behind. I had absolutely no clue about any number that from that report you would ask me to guess I would have, I would have been wrong by more than 70%.

That was a realization that, Okay. You may have grown up in these five, six small towns and have studied in seven schools, but you really don't understand education in India.  I think that's where the decision to, “I'm not going to jump in, I'm going to spend time learning” got made. 

And I had this impatience about trying to create impact fast. I wanted to create the largest impact, fastest.  Simple.. But I didn't know where to start, so I would go in and start talking to people, who I thought were working in education. Like the Montessori principal for our kids..And then ask each one of them, who they thought were the two or three people that I should talk to. And that network just kept building. People were kind enough and I would follow it up and ask to be introduced and they would connect me. 

So, our conversation would start with, Hey, tell me whatever you would want to tell me about education. And people would initially be taken aback. They're like in what do you mean education? Education is so vast. The spectrum that we just talked about from Montessori to high school. There was so much kindness that people shared in those conversations. I remember my trip to Ahmedabad where Sridhar Sir of EI - the way he would simplify things and put things in perspective, both from his experience of running Eklavya the school, and then his experience of running EI. And he could talk to the engineer in me. Like he would explain that “Mekin, education is where medicine was a hundred years ago”, right.

Whatever the symptom we will give, just give you one of these. We don't have anything else. We don't have any diagnosis. So he could explain education to me like I would understand that this is the current state. So I realized, right, that one, there was enough brilliant work happening in education, but two, and the sad part was that it was not getting emulated. It was not getting captured. It was not growing,  despite people's efforts. So there were islands of brilliance or Oases of excellence but by and large the experience for most learners was that of a desert. There was very, very little nurturing, happening, very little growth happening.

And again, as somebody who's thought about scale, right from first, my first job,  I was like, why is this happening? And what is the system behind it? And I was clear that it's not that somebody wants this. I feel like almost nobody in education wants the learners to have the sterile experience that they do. But it still is. So despite the good intentions of a lot of people that work in education, most teachers I know are amazing people, the experience that the learners have is not great. So, in trying to understand that, I figured that there are you, there are a few deep rooted causes to why things are the way they are.

Mekin: So in trying to understand that, I figured that there are a few deep rooted causes to why things are the way they are. That one is that we've imagined learning to be a bucket to be filled and not for learners to be inspired. There is something that tells the system that the system knows better than the learner. And hence there is an immense hierarchy in the system that, somebody sitting in a SCERT, will dream up with what the curriculum should be. And I think the first time we were writing curriculum, in Delhi, I would go do AB tests. And the minister, Mr.Sisodia, got to know of them and he's like, "Hey, I've never heard of AB tests for curriculum. Like this has to be the most scientifically built curriculum ever, because the curriculum is just written by experts. Like the expert is supposed to know what is right for the learners.  But to me, it's just arrogance and hierarchy that you believe that you know better than the learner. Versus actually AB testing, which is non hierarchical, where you let the learner tell you, hey what's right. Or what works.

So I think there is this piece about hierarchy and not listening to the learners or learners having no choice, no agency in learning, was another one. And finally this learning was so disconnected from the real world. And one of the people, who deeply inspired me in this journey, Dr.Rajaram Kudli, said this very brilliantly, that we have no shame in teaching our kids Z for Zebra. We can't even find another word to start from Z,  Knowing fully well that 99.9% of kids will never see a zebra in their life. So they just have to visually imagine that, "oh, there is this horse-like animal with white and black stripes, which seems somewhat unnatural and artificial. It's so beautiful. And right from their education goes on in the virtual world, like the learner loses any chance of questioning anything that they are being taught.

 And then the teachers also then perpetuate that, that, "Hey, this is how it is written in the textbook. Please don't ask me. This is what it is. Just take it and believe it." So I feel like these were in some sense,  some of the things that I learned and then  I started in my own way, or how could some of these be areas we work on ? We try to change with what we do at Udhyam.

Swara:  Mekin, I have these two more questions for now. One is that,  so when you see that, , there are these voices of excellence, which I did, and of the cross-pollination of learning, which doesn't happen. Is there something that you see or an opportunity that is a possibility? And,  the second thing was that the experiments, and I think it's related to this question that they experimented, when we were talking earlier, that there are fewer schools,  Like the J Krishnamurthy schools, but you don't see the scaling of that learning which happens. Most schools are not able to adopt those ideas. So what do you think,  where is it,  that while intentions are in place,  people are there, teachers are there, but yet  things don't kind of get cross pollinated that, or adopted that easily>

Mekin: And I think here, I feel like we have a lot to learn from the for profit or the business world,  in terms of how that world leads towards change. And towards learning from each other and doing whatever is working. And not necessarily looking at, " Hey, my way is the only way." So I feel some reasons are that, when you see something else happening,  and you see, or something is nice and brilliant, but you continue to believe that your path is better. Right that, you know the answer. The unwillingness to learn. And I joke that our education system does not learn. The unwillingness to learn comes from our own mental models of what is right, or what's the purpose of education. And it's actually funny, like in my journey, I wrote about three blog posts, trying to figure out what is the purpose of education. And I don't think we have alignment on it. Like if you were to ask 20, 30, maybe 50 educationists, you might actually get 15, 20 different answers , around what is the purpose of education. And if the goals are different, then paths will, people will choose their own paths. So that's one. I think second, mostly from the development sector and change makers side, when we talk about our stories and let's say, and  frankly I  have struggled to finish Jiddu Krishnamurthi's books. They are extremely deep, very meaningful. I love the thought process, but boy, it's a pain. I think therein lies one of the pieces about driving large scale change that , again for the learners, say for another school or another educationist , you have to be willing to step into their shoes.  And see the world from their lens and then talk to them. How a marketer conveys the message in a way, which is appealing to the learner, to the user, that "this is what would work"  versus preaching from high towers,  that this is the right way of doing things.

And I feel that way about a lot of change. And I'll use a simple example that I feel we've gotten lucky with  Udhyam, is that we've tried to package what we do. Like we work on building agency through self-awareness,  self-belief , grit, independence, and experimentation, but we packaged it as the entrepreneurial mindset. So one, it does not remain abstract. You can start to visualize that "oh, entrepreneurial mindset is not some psychological term like self-efficacy,  that only people who know Albert Bandura will understand. But it is something like entrepreneurial mindset, entrepreneur lok kaise karte hain.. That is what we're talking about.

But secondly, you realize,  like for us, the government and the politicians are key stakeholders. And if I look at it from their lens, I don't know if they are inspired by kids learning 21st century skills.  But they are a lot more inspired by kids becoming entrepreneurs or entrepreneurial. They can visualize this. And so suddenly the connection,  for  hey, what you're trying to do becomes that much easier. And I think this we've seen happen through, so it's not so much that the bureaucrats don't want the change or the politicians don't want the change. It's just that they have to understand it in their heads.

We can't,  like whatever understanding Jiddu Krishnamurthy might have had in his head, which  he's translated into those big books. Thin books, but still very big books. It's still very, very hard for most people to understand and get and to be able to implement. So I feel like that's the reason why this does not scale. And second are just markets,  that our goals are probably not aligned. I can do a longer and more convoluted answer Swara. But I'll just stop here. 

Nipun: No, it's great. And that was a great window into that. Mekin, I want to reflect a little bit on this idea of scale. I think everyone I've talked to that knows you says, one of the things Mekin is always designing for,  is scale. And it's understandable, big heart, you want the maximum number of people to benefit.  But  I want to bring in a couple of threads,  that you have mentioned,  to see how it kind of comes together. So one thing you had shared,  in an earlier conversation, you had spoken about open toys,  where a creator is creating something where there's openness to design for its users. And so something entirely unpredictable comes out of it. And so where my mind is going, is how do we create open schools, In that same sense? But I want to link it back to what you said,  of what you quote Arun Dada as saying he's like, "Hey, don't do a sanstha (organization)".   So my question is,  around scale and what is scale without sanstha? Scale with sanstha we already kind of know that we have the McDonald's of the world and  you can say they provide value, but you can just as easily say that they actually strip away a lot of value and externalize a lot of problems in society.

So in this context of open schools, how open can you actually make it? So you can, you are scaling in a way without sanstha,  or that you scale with sanstha in a way that sanstha can actually become irrelevant over time. And it just kind of scales out. I don't know if you've put these things together, but I actually tend to think that this is probably what an agile school would look like as well, that a school that adapts. We use that word,  like we do in the corporate world, I have had zero experience. But the corporate world uses agile all the time and so how do you be fluid? And so you're not just like doing medicine from a hundred years ago, kind of in our current schools. So, I mean that's a whole lot of concepts there, but I'm wondering if you can reflect a little bit on scale,  in a way that isn't just about a kind of subtle greed for more and more impact , doing it faster and faster, making my organization bigger and bigger.  And the kind of externalities that creates, like how do you process scale?

Mekin: I will take a couple of steps back and first just maybe arrive at it from a narrow lens that I know well, and I can possibly maybe even communicate and then open up to a very interesting space, you've tried to create in terms of how do we imagine this? 

So first, in the technology world, there is often a debate between what is a Product and what is a Platform, In my mind and I often discuss is that a product   has a very controlled and finite user experience like say  McDonald's McVeggie Burger, its a perfect example of  a Product.  It will be the same thing regardless of where you order it and so on. So that's very finite and controlled. Your experience will not change. And you compare that with the salad bars, where you have a buffet and now suddenly you can go, pick and choose. You want more of something, or you want less of something. And that to me is a lot closer to a Platform. In a platform, a few things happen in that  the user's choice and agency start playing roles,and I think this co-creation  that the user brings in, makes the platform and the result of the platform far more interesting.

So I think, and I feel like some of the best platforms or forget the best but the most widely  used platforms, whether it's Facebook or Instagram or WhatsApp have basically done this. Facebook is nothing without its users, Instagram has absolutely no use without people actually doing things. So unless someone does something, the Platform is useless. But the experience on Instagram is powerful because people are participating and are doing something. And I feel that it would be great if we could up the level of engagement and participation of what the learners want in the school.  Right now they have almost zero voice and zero choice.

There is actually a movement called Open Schools and there is  also a movement called Democratic Schools.  I think a bunch of schools in India are part of that movement where students get to decide a lot about what the learning might be. Alright  I’ll pause my thoughts here.

Nipun: Ok let me ask a counter question here. If you think WhatsApp or Facebook or Instagram as a Platform,   allow for a lot of emergent things to happen and that's true, but it's also true that there's a big boundary around it and therefore it's actually not truly emergent. It's actually emergent in a way  that the platform makes a fair amount of money. And we have example after example of how it has destroyed culture. So in some sense, this is where I was trying to go with  Arundada that in  inside  there is a scale for  like that WhatsApp or  like that or Instagram, or even Google have.

There are amazing Open Toys that have created amazing Open Schools where many and too many are interacting, but there are boundaries to that. And moreover, those are very commercial boundaries,  and that starts to frame its users as consumers.  And so I'm thinking if we can imagine a space,  and if we can imagine designers, particularly even before you get to the space you need the designers, who can actually imagine, what it would be like to scale without those boundaries,  in a very concrete way.  Facebook does not want me and you to hug in person. Even if we were not in pandemic times, they would rather have us exchange virtual hugs that they can monetize because those are their boundaries. That might seem like a silly example in a way,  but these are the design constraints of our platforms. Because we're so addicted to our brands, we end up actually  degenerating the platforms.

And so from that 5,000 year view, if you're truly just looking to help others succeed, if that's where your joy is coming,how do you hold scale in that way? Because I know very few examples of scale within organizations that I can be like say,  yeah, they did it. I don't think Facebook has done it. I don't think any of the tech players have really done it.

Mekin: Alright let’s start with one that we can quickly agree has done it right, like Wikipedia.  It’s  a non-profit and has a massive scale.  The level of engagement, both from the users who are  creating it  and the users who are using it. Imagine like collectively we could create and assemble this kind of a knowledge repository, which otherwise was left to experts. The kind of democratization that has led to, and I think the way the organization is designed. is equally exemplary. Wikipedia, Signal, these are the only two, scales B2C platforms run by nonprofits.

I think the profit motive is an interesting one.  I'm still not at this stage made up my mind that it's the wrong thing. I do know that it is a wrong thing at Scale, but I don't know if that is the wrong thing at Start.I had Madhav Chouhan  and the founder of.Pratham telling  me that limited greed is probably a good thing. The challenge is with the limit going away. And we are just reacting to the Chinese government, talking about making all its Ed Techs non profit organizations. To me it's  a knee-jerk reaction to exactly what we were discussing. So what if Facebook were a nonprofit, rather than what  it was intentioned to do? And I think at a very base level of human aspirations what are people willing to do? What do people want to do? And I feel that if we can figure it out and marry the intentions of people wanting to solve hard problems and to have personal gains, to have better lives, to have more fulfilling lives, along with things that do good, not just to the end, but also to the means,  that is when  you have made a start.

A balance that's probably a lot better. So we live in a world where ends are more important than means. When we were together sharing space in GandhiDham , where  Gandhi clearly said means are far more important than ends.   I almost see this as like a seesaw to me, and right now, intuitively it feels like, Hey,  we can try and approach balance. That if neither of them were bigger than the others, . If the means are as important as the end and the end is as important as the means. It’s not trying to make one up over the other, but we have to have both. So it is possibly a harder problem as to   how we arrive at an open platform, a large scale platform, and yet something that's not doing a disservice to the people who are creating it or its context. It's something that's good for the individual. I feel if we can do that, then probably the principles on which you could build a large open scale is possible.

Nipun: Yeah, and this is, maybe our question, for making 2.0 conversation here, but I feel like with your knowledge about people, and what you were sharing earlier, points to intrinsic motivators. And if you would look at Wikipedia as an example, At Wikipedia alone, a hundred million volunteer hours have been contributed. So their NGO structure is not really the story for a) it’s a thin structure, but b) what technologies did they create? Those liberated  hundred million volunteer hours that nobody saw, nobody even realized that it was there in the making and people like Clay Shirkly who studied the internet, have spoken about how that's just 1% of what's possible now with the internet.  And no one is utilizing these tools and designing for intrinsic motivators.

 I feel like what you were doing as Chief Peoples Officer was actually tapping into that and I think what you're doing in education is probably igniting some of that. And I wonder how, if you marry the Flipkart platform design thinking with this kind of  thinking, what kind of scale will emerge from this approach? We know the internet itself, the way Tim Berners Lee designed was completely open. Had it been otherwise it would not be what it is now. If it wasn't designed as an open platform like Linux, Apache, you can go down the list of  volunteer-run intrinsically motivated projects that ended up changing the course of how we do life these days.

 I find that to be an interesting  question, but maybe that's just me. So I'm going to give it over to Swara because we want to do a little bit of rapid fire. Okay, no more heady questions. We're going to ask , quickquestions and see if you can give a quick response back.  And then we'll,   have a little surprise to close it out, but so over to you Swara , to  do some rapid fire Q and As with Mekin

Swara: Awesome. So, let's get  ready and you have  30 seconds  to answer the questions. No thinking that's the game Okay. Let's go for it. 

I just know one person who has this name. So what does your name mean?

Mekin: Me-Kin - you call my name. You are my relative.

Swara: Amazing. Beautiful. Okay. Second one. Your favorite sports hero.

Mekin: Rahul Dravid

Swara: Wonderful. Okay. Your most memorable failure

Mekin: Shutting down Flight, the music app at Flipkart

Swara: In Mahabharata, you relate most to Gandhari. Why is that?

Mekin: I feel like using all my powers is often unfair and hence, I try to shut down my powers to operate in a world, which I make believe. The story I tell myself is that that's probably a fair world. 

Swara:  A book you would recommend to anyone

Mekin: Totto Chan

Swara: One thing you don't like about entrepreneurs.

Mekin: I think Unlimited Greed.

Swara: Okay. What's the biggest lesson your wife has taught you? We heard a few in the beginning, but yeah, you have to say one

Mekin: Being in the moment

Swara: Yeah. An act of kindness. You won't forget.

Mekin: So it goes back to her.  The first job interview on campus,  Infosys was in, and  I didn't make it. That is also out at 8:00 PM. Her hostile curfew was 7:00 PM. She broke the hostile curfew and stayed back. And this is even before we were seeing each other. And like, after the results are out, I am all dejected and broken and she's like, let's just go for a ride. And we had a silent bike ride for about 45 minutes. It's no words exchanged. Yeah. I feel that was probably the biggest act of kindness I have experienced personally.

Swara: This is so nice. Thank you for telling such a nice story. Okay. One thing which you are currently working on unlearning

Mekin: Tennis and Sanskrit your.

Swara: Something that you are trying to unlearn..

Mekin: Oh. Trying to unlearn a lot of things from the corporate world, Just goal driven ways of doing things..right? So balancing goals and principles and figuring out. So there are a lot of things from the corporate world we get into regular questioning. And I'm lucky that there are a whole bunch of people at Udhyam who participate in active questioning of hey, but why are we doing this? And what does it lead to? And what does it really mean? What do we intend to do? Question a lot of my beliefs on how an organization should be run.

Swara: Which entrepreneur do you respect the most?

Mekin: If it's one that's Vargheese Kurien. I feel like what he did with Amul and how his books are easily amongst the most inspiring. If I could add another one, it is Infinite Vision, Dr. V of Aravind Eye Care. Yeah, those are the entrepreneurs I respect the most.

That's from my end, Nipun you have some more questions? I would have a lot of questions, but we're good. That was good. It's so joyous to kind of just get a small unfiltered glimpse from the heart. Yeah. I think I'll hand it back to you Swara

Swara: Yeah. So Mekin, thank you so much for taking this time. And sharing so many nuggets from your life with all of us here. And I think there is somebody else who loves your generosity and would like to share a little surprise with you.

Nipun: So our last theme here is something that's actually near and dear to Mekin's personality. And I think all of us as well. And that is, that is generosity. And so we asked somebody who knows Mekin pretty well, And,  they shared,  this story here, 

Mekin’s sister:

So,  this was when he was four years old, I guess three or four years old. I was just one or two. Not that I remember of this, but then, because this has been talked about in the family when we meet. So I remember that he'd gone with my Nana ji (grandpa) to the shop and,  he was offered a chocolate candy, and then he said, where is the other one?

And honestly, what is the other one for? For my little sister! So he's always been that. I mean, he's always been the giving one and I was always the demanding one. And I remember another one that we shifted to a new house. He must've told you that our Dad had a transferable job. We had a new house, new friends, every three years. So we shifted into a new house and we were deciding on whose room is which. And  mama decides that this is Mita’s room and this is Mekin’s room. I am like no, that is the one I want and he would just give it away. It was so easy for him to just give away. You want it, you take it. No. Thank you.

Mekin: I am out of kindness in this space.

Swara: Thank you so much. Yeah. So one thing when we spoke with people who know you, they all said that you were incredibly generous.  What has given taught you about letting go and embracing the unknown? If you have any thoughts on that.

Mekin: Yeah. I feel like there I'll just go back to the Dalai Lama quote. I do it for my own selfish reasons and it gives me joy, I feel happy about it. Yeah. What it's taught me is that it is joyous. I feel the moment you think of it as giving. And you touched upon why I visualize myself as Gandhari. Sometimes I also visualize myself as Arjuna, but those are rarer, Because it's like Hey, would my giving make the other person smaller? Would my giving make the other person weaker? Is it good for the short term, but not good for the long run and a lot of those questions and self-doubt have made dealing with my privilege, my ability to do, my ability to give like a struggle. So, I think that's an area that I struggled with.

I feel the unknown. ? That feels a lot more struggle free to me,  I'm a huge fan of Star Trek. Yeah. So captain Kirk and Spock. Yeah. I think those lines there, which is like just going and exploring with no agenda but just the agenda of exploration of what's possible.

And to me, that's what the word potential means. That's what a possibility or entrepreneurship really means of testing what's possible or figuring out what we might be able to do. Yeah. It's just, I feel curious. That's been proudly a central power around, Hey, this is what I should try it.

Nipun: Mekin before, before we let you go, I have to ask this. This also connects various threads. Because you've said a couple of times that letting go actually brings you a lot of joy, brings you a lot of happiness, But this is so radically counter-culture because in our culture, we actually emulate those who accumulate the most, not who let go of the most.

And so what you're saying in a way is very counterculture to what a young child kind of growing up in this global culture. I think anywhere you go, your heroes are often the ones who have actually kept the most and not who have let go of the most. So how do you think, we can bring what seems to be coming so naturally to you even before all this, like at three and four “you want the room, you got it”.

How do you think we can teach that in school? Or can it even be taught? I don't know. I think it goes back to two or three things. One is one is this, intrinsic motivations, like what are we motivated to? Just how much we get to practice that, how much we get to experience it?.And a little bit of self-awareness.

As you were speaking, I was reminded of another Gandhi 3.0 colleague, Dacher and his conversations about power. So the Power Paradox is easily one of,, one of the most amazing books I read in, in the last, maybe five, six years, which so beautifully talks about that, what it takes to get power is the giving. It's the giving that makes you powerful, right? That you grow in power.

But then as you become more powerful, there is something that happens in the human plane and that makes it really, really hard to then continue to be on that path. So the path that takes you there versus what then happens to you as a result, what it makes you. So, the path that takes you there, versus what then happens to you as a result, what it makes you, and we discussed this in terms of, what are you becoming in the process.  So, keeping an eye and being an observer and what are you becoming in the process, becoming so important.  The stories I have told myself, that I don't want to be this rich, powerful guy.  I'm happy, being a boy, that's learning and problem solving. And it's almost an artificial story, I have probably told myself and that story has kept me who I am. So, the answer, Nipun, if I were to attempt it, and don't know if I should, is that the stories we tell are the beliefs we build, and eventually what we value.

I think one challenge is that the human race is gamers and gamblers. We love games, money is our largest game that we're playing.  National pride is another large game that we play.  But these are all games. These are man-made games, artificial. We have made them and like the Sapiens book, puts it, very bluntly and blatantly, that is very useful for people to read and understand, this difference between reality and man-made games to be able to put, some of those, in perspective. But one way is for people to become aware that these are all games and the second is a shorter-term way and it might be designing games that enable more giving, more service, more joy.

Swara:  Thank you so much, Mekin.  We have actually crossed our ninety minutes class, a few minutes back, but if you have a couple more minutes to stay, first of all, I would like to just say, a big thank you. Not only from me, but we are getting a lot of comments and questions and a lot of people share their gratitude, for your journey, for what you share. And, we have one more person, who echoes the same feeling. So, let's see who that is before we close out.

Mekin’s Mother: 

(Translation:  We are blessed in every incident.  I   don’t consider him just as, only my son, but that he is a soul, who is on its own journey.

We are grateful to god and profoundly thank him every moment, that we have been given this position that we belong to this amazing soul, that he was born through me, and has grown up and risen in our house and now he is working for the whole world. )

Mekin:  I talked about limited greed or unlimited greed, and this is unlimited kindness. Thank you so much. Thank you, Service Space. Thank you everybody.

Swara:    Thank you, for how your mom   just shared from her heart. I think she blessed all of us with what she shared and the person who spoke with your mom, our volunteer, he tagged this video with the Kahlil Gibran moment, where children come through you.   So, it's so profound what your mom also shared and we have one final question that, if there is a way individually or collectively, if we could serve you, just let us know. How could we serve you in your journey?

Nipun:  and, and your vision for the world.    How can we be ladders to your possibilities?  And it's a selfish ask because we are going to be the ones gaining from it.

 Mekin: So, I think a few things, like, right from the first set of interaction and questions, this journey of this Awakin Talk itself, has led to many reflections and many things that I would love to explore more. I would love to talk with myself, with all of you to see possibilities.   Nipun, as you were discussing, specifically the for-profit and nonprofit tech platform and scale and impact. So that's been an area which I have been discussing with a few other people. There is this guy, Donald Lobo, who was Bharat’s mentor at Yahoo.  So, I joke with him and pull his leg that he is my grand mentor. And he has been serving non-profits for the last 20 years, an open source, which for the last 20 years. And I have been troubling him, to discuss, why cannot a photo sharing platform, be a non-profit, which allows for, which enables photo sharing in a way that's a lot more valuing the individual, versus using the individual.

 So, some of these are actually live examples.  Most of the people might have visited Goa and seen that the Ola or Uber apps don't work in Goa. There is a locally owned Cab app, which is almost built out of a cooperative, not very different from the model that Verghese Kurien talks about, i.e.    serving the drivers, while serving customers.  One of the models, of cooperative platforms, is possibly something for us to explore, but I'm leaving that thought here, for both you Nipun  and folks in Service Space and the listeners. If those are areas, people would want to explore or are already on journeys of exploring, I would love to listen to them, participate in the journey, in any way that I can. 

Nipun:   Thank you, Mekin, for who you are. And most of all, I think for your heart, like your mom said, what an incredible thing for a mom to say, “I say thank you, that I got to witness this, not in a possessive way, but just to witness a journey of a heart, that was already big and is getting bigger as it goes on”. And she had many examples. We don't have time for that, and of course a mom's heart, once you get her going, she's going to be, well I could tell you, how many stories do you want.

Mekin:  She is making   my head go so big

Nipun:   But there is genuine gratitude, and she feels that gratitude. A lot of people around you feel that gratitude. And I can say on behalf of Swara, we both feel that gratitude just being on this call and listening to your stories and the sincerity, with which, you are holding these questions, that if you don't know, you say, I don't know how to spread compassion in schools but I'm inquiring.  And so, to actually embody that, to be the change, and be that learner yourself through that, like that intern at Flipkart telling you, that your mobile site's not quite working and then pretty soon he becomes a co-creator.

And I think that happens because you take yourself lightly. And that is the reason why so many of us feel grateful that our journeys have crossed. And so in the spirit of gratitude, not just for the three of us, who are visible on this call, but also so many invisible people, like in your case, your sister and your wife, and your mom and so many others,  certainly, Bharat  Vijay,  those are the four clips we saw, but so many others behind and so many others behind Swara and behind me, and all of it coming together,  for some unknown possibility, that is yet to be discovered. And so it's a real joy and we usually end our calls, with just a minute of silence, to hold that impossible, which our minds can't hold, but our hearts can open into.  So maybe we just end with a minute of silence unless you had something else to add.

 Mekin: No, thank you.

Nipun:  Thank you. Just a minute of silence.