Freelance writer and blogger.

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Author. Branding specialist.

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The Underage CEOs

Fascinating Stories of Young Indians Who have Become CEOs in their Twenties

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Hi, Welcome to my website.

I have created this as a window to my professional world, so that you understand what I do, why I do it, how I do it and how I can possibly be of help to you. This in turn, could lead to opportunities for us to collaborate. After browsing through the site, do leave your thoughts or questions in the comments box. Or, you could contact me directly using the details given at the bottom of this page. I will respond as soon as possible.

Thanks for stopping by!

Who am I?

I am a man of many loves. A free spirit, I love travelling, trekking, music, movies, food, tea, conversations and absurd humour.
One of my driving forces in life is to help people understand their true potential and achieve it. Part of my work is a direct consequence of this motivation.
My other driving force, of course, is to have a jolly, good time.

Professionally, I wear four hats:

Freelance writing

Writing is a part of me. Conversely, there is a part of me in everything I write too. My writings usually spring from personal experience, close observation and a sense of wry humour. They carry an original interpretation, a unique voice and a certain joie de vivre.

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Books

I got on to writing books to share the knowledge I have accumulated along the way. My book ‘The Underage CEOs’ released in Oct 2015, and has subsequently been reprinted. It chronicles the fascinating stories of bright young Indian entrepreneurs who are making a difference in their chosen domains. None of these youngsters graduated from an IIT or an IIM; and yet, they are all doing some ground-breaking work.

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Vibha Women

There is something deeply fascinating about people desiring to set sail on their own, venturing into uncharted waters. I think there is an entrepreneur in every one of us; given the right motivation and circumstances, this entrepreneur is bound to emerge from hiding.

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Brand consulting

I believe a brand is central to a business. Contrary to popular perception, it goes way beyond the logo or baseline of a company; in fact, it lies at the heart of the business.
I help companies understand what their brand is all about and then, craft their brand identity in tune with their vision, purpose and business realities. As an extension of this, I create a robust Marketing Communication plan for the venture, targeting key audiences.

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book

The Underage CEOs

Fascinating Stories of Young Indians Who have Become CEOs in their Twenties

This is a book about ordinary young Indians who are doing the extraordinary. Barely out of college, they have taken the big leap and become role models for an entire generation of youngsters. They are the off-roaders, the ones who have stepped off the beaten track in pursuit of their vision.

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Inspiring Book for Aspiring folks

Vijayakumaran

The Underage CEOs’ Will Convince You That Entrepreneurship Is Indeed Magical

Mary Cristopher

A book you cannot do without, if you want to do something different in life. Inspirational stuff!

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Publications I have written for


Latest articles

Travel and Places

Travel Diaries with Chef Ritwik – a brief review of a food pop-up

 

 

 

One of the things I cherish when I travel is the local food I find there. Many of you may do the same. This is one of the reasons we are increasingly seeking out homestays and smaller guest houses, preferring to give the regular hotels a miss.

 
Chef Ritwik Sarkar did just that sometime back, when he travelled all over Kerala and Coorg. Which is why he is a man after my heart. During those trips, he learnt a lot of recipes from the regional cuisines and took copious notes. ‘Many Malayalis and Coorgis allowed me to enter their kitchens and learn how to cook their traditional dishes. That was a great feeling.’ says Ritwik.
 
All those lessons have translated into a very interesting, limited-edition menu at Café Felix. ‘Chef Ritwik’s Travel Diaries’ is a food pop-up being dished out until April 15.
 
The pop-up menu has cocktails, soups, appetisers, entrees and desserts. Every offering on the menu draws its inspiration from Keralan and Coorgi cuisine, but has a global touch added to it. For instance, the chakka curry (jackfruit curry) is made Malabar-style, but tossed with homemade fettuccine and shitake mushrooms. What sounds like an unlikely combination is actually a delight when it lands on the palate.
Inspite of adding a twist to every dish, Chef Ritwik has managed to keep the taste authentic and close to the native version. And that, to my mind, is his true triumph.
 
This is what I had:
 
Southern Somras – dark rum, orange liqueur, curry leaves, jaggery, apple juice and tamarind water.
 
Alleppey Apple – whiskey, apple juice, green apple juice, spiced maple syrup, Assam tea, fresh apple chunks, cloves and cinnamon.
The effect of the spiced maple syrup is an utter delight.
 
Jackfruit cutlets – I love jackfruit in any form, and totally loved these cutlets, which were fried just right and served with raw mango & jaggery chutney.
 
Sweet potato & green pepper gnocchi – pumpkin erissery with baby spinach and picked radish.
Chakka curry with homemade fettuccine – as described earlier.
 
Vegetable ishtu – ‘Ishtu’ is how any Malayali worth his coconut oil pronounces ‘stew’.
While it is usually had with appams, Ritwik servers it with a nutty pilaf. I didn’t realise how good this combination would taste until I spooned myself the first mouthful of ishtu and the rice. The caramelised onions add a nice crunch to the pilaf.
 
Kerala Sundae – And towards the end of my meal, Ritwik delivers his knock-out punch. Three balls of vanilla ice cream arrive in a plate. I take a spoonful from each and realise that one has been stuffed with coconut, another with jaggery and the third, with banana.
Bits of waffle, banana chips and strips of jackfruit complete this dessert bomb.
 
The acronym ‘OMG’ is reserved for experiences like this one.
 
Now, quickly look at the photos below, call your foodie buddies or family and head over to Cafe Felix at 1 MG Mall. The pop-up is on only till April 15,2018.
Travel and Places

Kapu – a delightful beach in South India

About 15 kms south of Udupi (on the way to Mangalore) lies a delightful strip of sand and surf called Kapu.

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I had come to Udupi to meet my nephew, who studies at the Manipal Institute of Technology. One morning during my two-day stay there, I found myself free. My nephew would be in class till the afternoon, after which he would meet me. On a sudden whim, I decided to visit one of the beaches dotting the beautiful coastline of Dakshin Kannada (meaning, South Karnataka). After some serious thought (because there is an overdose of options), I plumped for Kapu beach (some locals call it Kaap). Kapu was most convenient for a half-day trip, because it is situated just 15 kms from the town of Udupi where I was shacked up. Buses were frequent. I could visit the beach and be back in time to meet my nephew.

After a breakfast of medu vada and dosa, accompanied by coconut chutney and sambar, I boarded an ‘express’ bus to Mangalore. Unlike regular buses, express buses take the highway to Mangalore and do not get into country roads. They are therefore much faster than their ordinary cousins. About 25 minutes later, I was deposited at the Kapu junction on the same highway. The ticket cost me all of Rs. 18. On the way, I was treated to delightful vistas of coconut palms and arecanut trees, old-style houses with brown tiled roofs, ponds and lagoons and small shops lining the highway. The landscape here is very similar to that of Kerala, since Dakshin Kannada lies just north of Kerala along the same coastline. Even the cuisine (especially the seafood dishes) are prepared and eaten the same way as in Kerala.

Disembarking from the bus at Kapu junction, I took an auto to Kapu beach. The ride cost me Rs. 30/- . Autos have fixed fares from the junction to different places in the area. Bargaining is not of much use, since the auto drivers operate as a union. Passing through shaded country roads with houses on either side (and even the odd motor garage), I reached the beach in 5 minutes.

 

Standing at the entrance to the beach, I took in the entire stretch in one glance. Close by to my right at one end of the beach stood the lighthouse, a somewhat grim and lonely apparition rising into the sky. To my left, the sandy strip curved a long way until it ran into a clump of boulders that marked the other end of the beach. A concrete pathway had been built along the inner edge of the beach and stone benches had been built along this. Through the intense haze of the summer morning, I could see that the beach was deserted. There must have been just a dozen people scattered along its entire length. Some of them were lounging on the benches in the shade of coconut trees (understandable, given the heat), but surprisingly, some other were frolicking in the rushing waters. But then, I remembered that while even during the height of summer, the sea water is cool.

After standing in the water myself for a few minutes, I started walking towards the lighthouse. At some distance into the sea, I could see a lone fishing boat bobbing in the waves. This fisherman must have come late to the fishing party, I speculate idly. Or maybe, he just had a refreshing beer and gone off to sleep. The instant this thought flashed through my mind, I yearned for a bottle of cold beer myself. My thirst for beer was so bad in that instant, that the hair on my arms bristled and I could clearly feel the parched bottom of my throat.

 

 

I had to climb up three flights of stairs to reach the base of the lighthouse (because it was perched on top of a boulder). I saw to my disappointment that it was closed. I could not spot the caretaker either. It wondered if it is an abandoned lighthouse. Or maybe it would open only at night, when ships and boats had to be guided. Climbing to the top of lighthouses and gazing out in all directions is something I love doing. I have done it in several places, like Chennai, Kannur and Daman.

 

Not finding anybody to ask, I plonked myself down in the shade of the tall structure. This vantage point gave me a different perspective of the whole area. To my right, I saw another beach stretching out into the distance. A few fishing boats were parked on the sand and a few mesh nets spread out next to them. The fishermen will claim them again before dawn the next day, when they put out to sea in search of fish. On another side, a shallow stretch of backwater flowed past to form a lagoon. Far away into the sea, I could make out a few dots. I assumed them to be cruise or cargo ships. The breeze was mild. It was all very peaceful and life seemed very good from my perch. It seemed better still, when, a moment later, I remembered that I was lazing on a beach on a weekday.

 

 

 

I did want to get into the water and splash around a bit, but the sun was too harsh for that. Instead, I had a super-refreshing tender coconut and caught a bus back to Udupi.

 

 

I am going to return to the Udupi belt during the monsoon this year, when this whole belt will be lush and wet. I just can’t for that.

The vitals

  • The fastest and cheapest way to reach Kapu is to take an Express bus from the private bus stand, which is locally known as service bus stand also. The bus ride to Kapu junction on the highway takes about 20 minutes and costs Rs. From the highway, take an auto to the beach. This ride cost me Rs. 30/- one way in March 2018.
  • The waves in the beach are wild; so, tread carefully in the waters. I did not see a lifeguard around.
  • This is a relatively unspoilt beach. . The local village council & citizens take pains to keep the beach clean. Let us help them keep it that way. Look for trash bins to dump your trash in. Alternatively, put your trash in your bag and bring it back to your hotel to dump.
  • There are no resorts or hotels close to the beach. Thank God for that.
  • For accommodation, Udupi is the nearest town. It will make sense for you to stay there, also because Udupi has other attractions, and is a bus & rail hub.
  • Summer (I am talking temperature in the high thirties & extreme humidity) is from March to early June here, after which the monsoon sets in. The monsoon is a magical time to visit this place in. Failing that, you could go anytime between November and February.
  • If you keep about a week, you can cover a few lovely places in the Dakshin Kannada belt.
  • Most people here have a traditional mindset and lifestyle; so, covering up adequately and not being boisterously Bohemian would be a very good idea.
  • Sample the seafood and vegetarian food, both of which are yummy in these parts. In fact, a number of people have migrated from Udupi to various parts of India and set up vegetarian restaurants. These restaurants are famously called Udupi restaurants, especially in Chennai, Pune and Mumbai.

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Travel and Places

5 exciting watering holes in Bengaluru

For a while, it looked like the pubbing capital of India had lost its froth.  Many of the charming, old pubs that gave the city its high through the nineties had shut down. And the new ones failed to make an impact. It looked like an entire era had ended, leaving behind  only a cocktail of memories.

Things though have begun to change in recent times. The last few years has seen several new and distinctive watering holes opening, with a vibe and spirit that hark back to glory days of the 1990s. While some of them offer just the regular fare, others are experimenting, both with food and drink. Here’s our pick of the best new bars in the city.

 

Bootlegger


80 Feet Road, Indiranagar

Bootlegger 4

Casual vibes, music on moderate volume and the use of brick and dark wood in generous doses characterise this bar. The intent is to create a throwback to the days of Prohibition in the US (in the 1920s) when tipplers had to take recourse to dive bars and speakeasies to slake their thirst. Off-white ropes strung across walls and the ceiling create an interesting effect. The prices are affordable and the music, groovy. The crowd here is mostly young. Aside from the regular pub fair, the menu has an excellent selection of house cocktails. This is a no-airs place, great for hanging out with friends.

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Recommended

Food

Bacon-wrapped prawns, stuffed mushrooms, pepperoni pizza.

Cocktails

Sazerac (Bourbon, Peychaud’s Bitter, Absinthe spray and sugar cubes); Negroni (Gin, Campari and sweet vermouth).     


High Ultra Lounge


Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel, Brigade Gateway

The Asian influence at High Ultra is unmistakable. So is the inclination to party, going by the good dance floor and excellent DJs in attendance. Perched at a stunning height of 421 feet, it claims to be South India’s highest watering hole. The place is huge but has been innovatively split up into different zones. You can choose from the enclosed bar, the more private party area and the open-to-sky deck. The décor is adventurous, with contrasting influences like a fluid resin wall, expansive glass, a vertical garden, white mesh furniture and water bodies creating an interesting mood. Celebrity chef Myo Aung’s menu of authentic Pan-Asian food stands out.


Recommended

Food

Hand-crafted Sushi and Sashimi platter, pork belly, chicken gyoza.

Cocktails

Amour (Italian Granita, topped up with sparkling wine); Inception (Whiskey, orange juice, pineapple juice, vanilla syrup, topped up with Earl Grey tea.)


Bang, Ritz-Carlton


Residency Road

This rooftop bar cum lounge at the Ritz-Carlton ticks all the boxes – warm customer-service, superb cocktails, delectable food, mood lighting and great views. The excellent wine list is another definite plus. It is a place that puts you at ease immediately and pampers you.

If you want to have a quiet time with your companion(s), go on a weekday evening. On weekends the crowd is boisterous and definitely in a mood to party. Which is probably why Chris Gayle comes here when he is in town  and spins a few tracks along with the house DJ.

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The open space offers a superb view of central Bangalore, complete with treetops, tall buildings, neon signs and the cricket stadium.


Recommended

Food

Vegetarian Empanada, Mexican Platter, Fiery Chicken. 

Cocktails

Earth Fortune Awaits (cognac base infused with green tea, pear puree and ‘sweet & sour’); Midori (vodka base infused with green tea, Midori liqueur, basil leaves and ‘sweet & sour’).


 Sly Granny


12th Main Road, Indiranagar

This one is kitschy in an endearing way. The decor featuring an assorted mix of furniture, books and other knick-knacks reminds you of home. The retro art on the wall is a nice touch. The seamless mix of formal and informal influences in décor, the variety on the menu (both food and drink) and the fact that a cross-section of people patronises the place, makes it difficult to categorise Sly Granny. No wonder it has chosen to call itself a community house.

There are four seating spaces spread over two levels, the style and décor ranging from club to informal. The terrace (with a retractable roof) is a great place to spend a quiet afternoon or a pleasant night. The food menu is drawn from all over the world and includes a good selection of tapas. All cocktails are made using natural ingredients.

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Recommended

Food

Pickled Mackerel with sour cream, Sly’s 9 burger, Raan & Gnocchi.

Cocktails

The Atkin’s Plan (rum, vodka, fresh mango, sugar syrup, thyme, chilli flakes, lime juice, egg white); Chase & Status (Laphroaig, coconut fat washed Scotch, ginger, honey & pomegranate syrup, lemon juice).


Café Felix and Terrace Bar


 1MG-Lido Mall, Trinity Circle

For a place that’s just a couple of months old, Felix has done very well. Its open-plan layout and easy-on-the-eye décor are a pleasant change from the heavy décor that is the norm in bars. And, there is plenty of natural light. Add to this, its location in 1MG, a premium mall explains the  sizeable crowd throughout the day here. The cocktails are fabulous, while the food has fresh interpretations of several mainstream dishes. The fact that Chef Nitin Kulkarni of Indigo Restaurant (Mumbai) fame has put together the menu helps.

You could sit on the lower level during the day and move up to the terrace bar in the evening. The central Bangalore view enhances the experience.


Recommended

Food

Avocado Toast, 36 Hour Braised Pork Belly Panini, Chicken Sloppy Joe.

Cocktails

The Grown Up (whisky, fresh pineapple juice, elderflower, cloves and egg white); Mr Felix (Tequila, fresh pineapple juice, kaffir lime).

Travel and Places

The magic of Malabar

 

Though few people know this, the northern part of Kerala has as much to offer a traveler as its southern counterpart. Ask anybody about Kerala, and you are likely to hear about its backwaters and houseboats, its swaying palms, its beaches (especially Kovalam) and the dance form of Kathakali. Someone slightly more knowledgeable about the place would probably tell you about Fort Kochi and its old-world ambience (including Jew Street, which is the last remnant of a once-strong sub-culture of Kerala), the Ona Sadya (a traditional feast served during the festival of Onam) and the annual boat races of Alleppey. Over the years however, few visitors to Kerala have bothered to look at what lies North of Kochi.

You’d be amazed at all Malabar has to offer—mountains, rivers, untouched beaches, forts, old-world towns, bazaars, museums, temples—there’s something here for everyone. Malabar is the region that starts from Malappuram (just north of Palakkad) and stretches right up to the northern-most tip of Kerala. A princely state till 1956, this is where Vasco da Gama first set foot in India in the 15th century, thereby laying the foundation for the globalisation of Kerala. Through the centuries, commerce has always flourished in the region, but when it comes to tourism, Malabar has always eluded tourists. The next time you think of visiting Kerala, add Malabar to your itinerary, and you’ll come away charmed.

Kannur 

The magic of MalabarPhoto by:  freebird (bobinson|ബോബിന്‍സണ്), Creative Commons Attribution Licence

Kannur was the seat of the Kolathiri rajas and the Arakkal dynasty. The main attractions here are its beautiful beaches, temples dedicated to Muthappan (Lord Shiva in his incarnation as a hunter) and the enthralling dance form of theyyam. Angelo Fort, a couple of kilometers from the centre of town, is a legacy of Kannur’s earliest foreign settlers, the Portuguese. The sprawling fort is rather well-maintained and offers a stunning view of the sea from its ramparts. Out of the beaches, the beaches of Muzhappilangad and Thottada are secluded and definitely worth a visit. Visit a handloom weaving centre for some great bargains, and if you’re culturally inclined, take in a theyyam dance performance at a local Muthappan kaavu. Round off your stay in Kannur with a visit to the Arakkal Museum, which is a repository of royal possessions from the days of the Arakkal Dynasty.

Kozhikode 

For most tourists, Kozhikode is a jump-off point on the way to Wayanad, or a snacking halt during the long haul over the mountains to Mysore or Bangalore. But pause a while and look around, and you will see that Kozhikode throws up a mélange of flavours. For centuries, it has been the bustling capital of commerce in Malabar, and is one of the oldest ports in Kerala. The older sections of the city are known for their bazaars and wholesale markets—you can buy a bewildering variety of spices here at extremely reasonable prices—and the city is dotted with beaches like the Kappad beach (the exact spot where Vasco Da Gama landed in Kerala), Kozhikode beach and Payyoli beach. When you have had your fill of the sea, head over to the bountiful hills for a dose of trekking and a bath in the Tusharagiri Falls. Sightseeing aside, Kozhikode is a great place for foodies—head to Hotel Paragon on Kannur Road for some excellent Malabar biryani, appam and kadala curry—and indulge your sweet tooth with some delicious Kozhikode halwa.

Bekal Fort 

Between the towns of Kannur and Kasaragod lies Bekal Fort. Around 300 years old, it looks like a giant key-hole when seen from above. Abutting the Arabian Sea, it stands like a proud sentinel—which indeed it was in the olden days—guarding the city from marauders approaching from the sea. Thankfully, it has been well-preserved, and exudes oodles of atmosphere. You can see the tall observation towers, from where huge cannons used to be fired during battles.

Nilambur 

Nilambur is practically hidden from the eyes of the world. Situated off the trunk route, it is a charming little town with an undulating terrain. Though its tree cover has reduced over the decades, it is still green enough to send you into a trance. Teak plantations abound, and so do old mansions. You can find the oldest teak plantation in the world—called Conolly’s plot—here, and there’s even a teak museum on the premises. In Keralan history, Nilambur has always been known for its kovilakams (stately manors that were once the residences of princely families of yore). Built according to traditional norms of architecture, kovilakams are beautiful structures of wood and laterite, with inner courtyards, intricate etchings on the ceilings, and extensive slat work. The forests of Nilambur are home to a number of elephants, and trekking along the elephant corridors is a delight. There’s a large variety of accommodation to choose from, although you should plump for the homestays—which offer a good combination of beautiful architecture, old-world hospitality, solitude and good food.

 


Get in Touch

If you wish to know more about me or think we could work together, just holler. I am open to speaking, writing, content editing, coaching and brand consulting opportunities. You can write to me at thewholehog@gmail.com and theholehog@yahoo.co.in.

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