I had a great time at the inaugural edition of Ignite Mumbai which was held at Cafe Goa yesterday. For those who don’t know, Ignite is a stage where people wanting to get across their ideas have five minutes to do so. The kicker is the strict time limit and the automatic slide transitions. The talks could be on any topic under the sun and a fair amount of them end up being hilariously funny as well. All in all, it can be an intense short session where you can be exposed to as many ideas in a short while as possible. I kind of liked this format as it lets you soak in nuggets of information and ideas in a short focused time as opposed to the longer format of say a TED.

Well, I’ll now get into a short review of what I thought of the talks. Of course, this is my own personal view and is shaped by my own experiences and knowledge and might not accurately reflect on a speaker’s skill or knowledge. (I does take an immense amount of guts to deliver a short five minute talk, hats off to you guys !! I’m sure the shots helped πŸ˜‰ )

  1. How to hack your way into an BEST Bus – Asfaq Tapia
    This was the talk I was most looking forward to actually. Maybe I over-hyped it in my mind, or maybe Asfaq just had the bad luck of starting first, this one just didn’t do it for me. Asfaq talked about how you could ensure that you got a seat in a crowded BEST bus, something that every mumbaikar ought to know. True, the talk was imaginative, humorous and very practical – but somehow it ended up being just good and not great.
  2. Power of online communities: The wisdom of online communities – Aditya Rao
    This was the second talk, and the first slide had the words Asimov, Star Wars and I thoughtΒ  – yup looks like this might be interesting. What followed was pretty disappointing. Aditya talked about the wisdom of crowds and how it might shape our futures. It started out well, but ended up parroting the same mundane examples you would find in Wikinomics or the gazillion social media books out there. The glimpse of the future wasn’t bold enough, though the touch on Asimov’s Foundation series was interesting. All told, a big #fail for me.
  3. The problem with happiness – Amit Klein
    When Amit told me that he would be talking about happiness, I wasn’t very sure what he would be talking about. What followed was an interesting look at what happiness really means to us, how people have attempted to quantify it and five very practical tips on being happy. One of my favorite talks of the evening. (Amit, though one of your tips did sound a lot like the “All Izz Well” philosophy. Also see this essay by Michael Crichton on Happiness)
  4. “Let the waves carry you to another shore” – KN Venkitaraman
    Engineering, Football, Nostalgia and the crucial life lessons learned in the four grueling years that it takes to fashion another mindless engineer is what this talk was about. It was witty in parts, funny, hilarious and taught some really practical life lessons. This was my favorite talk of the evening, possibly because I am engineer myself.
  5. Not Another NGO! Building a modern movement in India – Amanda White
    A bit intense in comparison to the light and fun filled talks that preceded it, this talk by Amanda looked at NGO’s in India, her work at a non-profit dedicated to getting fair trade goods to consumers in India and how being just another NGO is not enough. It was a very insightful look at how NGO’s ought to operate in India
  6. Interesting observations about Urban India – Harshil Karia
    Another nice talk on our little “Indian quirks”, it nevertheless wasn’t uniformly great. It did have some excellent ideas though, like turning the parliament into a reality TV show and covering walls with mirrors.
  7. Words spell Sword – Ralston D’souza
    Well, I somehow really didn’t get this particular one. To me it sounded more like an English Literature class, and reminded me of the days when we first learned about figures of speech. Towards the end, with Benny Hill entering the picture, it became downright weird. I think this was a talk that needed a lot more than five minutes to get its point across.
  8. Keeping a couple fight from becoming a break-up fight – Rohan Joseph
    I love the way that this talk started with a very Indexed like Venn diagram. The talk was witty and funny, but since I have never really been a relationship I can’t really comment on the practicality of the advice doled out. It did remind me a lot though, of this piece by Michael Crichton on how to fight.
  9. How to explain almost everything – Karan Talwar
    I thought this was an interesting premise until Karan uttered the words economics or something that suggested economics. What followed was more parroting of examples explained in books like “SuperFreakonomics”, “Freakonomics” and “Undercover Economist”. Of course having read these books and having followed the field quite a bit, it seemed so to me. Karan did do a good job delivering the talk, though I felt his material was better handled in a longer format.
  10. Mumbai and You – Mansi Trivedi
    Mansi’s talk on the pet quirks on Mumbaikars started off quite well, but lost steam somewhere in the middle and towards the end I just couldn’t care. She did hit a number of points spot on in the first half of her talk, but later on I guess it meandered a bit. Still a good effort.

To sum up – Had a great evening listening to some great ideas. For me, the best three talks were the ones by KN Venkitaraman, Amit Klein and Rohan Joseph (in that order). I do hope to speak at one of these events someday, though will have to brainstorm on the idea that I will present.

PS: A word to the organizers – Cafe Goa was nice, but please choose a place that’s a bit easier to get to next time πŸ™‚

Also really sorry that I had to miss out on the after party.I had to get home and get gear etc ready for an early morning birding trip.

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  1. Tweets that mention Ignite Mumbai – The unvarnished truth | { enygmatic } -- Topsy.com says:

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  2. Aviraj Saluja says:

    Thanks for the candid feedback, Elroy. Glad you liked the concept and I look forward to you speaking at the next event. I agree that the venue was a bit hard to get to and we’ll definitely look into that. Thanks again.

  3. Achint Parekh says:

    Ouch! πŸ™‚

    Remind me to buy you lot’s of booze before my talk at the next Ignite Mumbai event. πŸ˜›

    I have pretty much the same top 3 – I don’t have ranks amongst the top 3 though. Just that I’d have Harshil’s talk in my top 3 instead of KN Venkitaraman (yea, probably coz I’m not an engineer).

    Also, I missed Ashaq and Rao’s presentations.

  4. enygmatic says:

    Well, it was unvarnished. The only reason I didn’t like a few, was because I practically knew the examples and sources. Made it kind of boring. Mind you it does take a lot of courage to do what the speakers did. So again hats off to them.

  5. Asfaq Tapia says:

    Thanks for the honest feedback and lets hope we can do better in round 2. That said, would have loved for you to also write about how u’d go about fixing it the next time around πŸ™‚

  6. enygmatic says:

    Well can’t do much about the talks, will always be some that hit home and some that don’t. Hardly the speaker’s fault, since the audience may or may not be receptive to the idea. Think Your missing the point, nuthin wrong with ignite, just that I didn’t really like a few talks…bound to happen given the diverse topics n audience.