The Street MBA

Education is considered to be an important tool to build a good career and make your mark in the society. You are told from your childhood itself that your grades not only determine your chances of getting into a good college, but also define your success after graduation. Your level of intelligence is gauged through these numbers.

I feel that, success is not limited to the numbers you achieve, rather is determined by your ability to interact, function and thrive in the world around you. I wanted to be a scientist, but ended up being an insurer. Do I regret this decision? No. Do I enjoy doing what I’m doing? Yes. Am I qualified to be an insurer from education perspective? May be not.

Nowadays an MBA degree is considered a must for good career progression as a manager, and it is great to see that some of you who have gone down this path are doing very well. I don’t have an MBA degree which would have taught me sales or management. But if you look at my career graph, with the best wishes from all of you I’ve been MD & CEO of one of the most successful general insurance company in India for close to 6 years. This thought came to me when someone asked me from which University had I done my MBA, and I replied by saying that I did it from the ‘Street University’. The person got really inquisitive and asked me where exactly this University is. I told him that this University is in every country, every city and every village of the world.

And it’s true. I learnt a lot by observing the streets around me, watching the hawkers when I visited them to have my favourite street side foods. One of the most important lessons that I have learnt from them is their power of resilience. I have seen them get uprooted many times, but they come back with a smile. They are temporarily sad for their loss, but soon they are already thinking about solutions to overcome a situation. The power of finding solutions rather than fretting about a problem is what I have learnt from them.

Secondly, they are always ready for the unexpected. They are not sure how stable is their business model and what will happen at the end of the day. But they are confident that they will find a solution to whatever happens. These street vendors usually have no time to plan – they think on their toes and use the scanty tools available with them to manage any crisis. They figure out how to do business with whatever adversities they may have to face. This teaches you lessons in clever resourcefulness be it in terms of managing projects or making sales by smartly tackling such situations.

I feel that success and happiness go hand in hand. If you are not happy with what you are doing in life, you will be perceived successful by everyone but you. I have seen the street hawkers relishing the joy of life with not much with them, but still content enough. Their generosity inspires me the most when they give a helping hand to a poor person by offering them some food. Even the richest amongst us sometimes fail to display such attributes of kindness, which actually add value to life.

I have also learnt sharpness of doing business from these street vendors. They are capable to figure out business opportunities even in places where the best business people are standing with them to compete. They have the ability to a build relationship with their

customers and be loyal to them. For example, you might not be surprised when your street side vendor offers you his phone number and saves up yours in return. He gives you a call when he’s freshly stocked up with your favourite fruit, and even offers to drop it at your doorstep – customised services at their best! Sometimes he goes out of his way and brings you fresh flowers on Diwali, just in case you needed them for the Pooja rituals – another free course in relationship building! They serve you with a smile and their ability to go extra mile comes to them on a very spontaneous basis. I’m yet to see organised business houses being able to do so well. Some of you might think, this diminishes with scale, but it should not. We are equipped with technology and infrastructure which the street vendor is not, and yet something so simple is seems tough to us.

Today we hear that it’s a VUCA world. We hear various business models being adopted by organizations to enhance their agility and adaptability. But I have seen all these qualities being used and incorporated by these heroes, my professors of the street university from whom I learnt to do business, run organizations, learned Human Resources, sales, marketing, operations, etc.

I’m sure each one of you would also have learnt something from them, which in your subconscious mind plays out when you are running your companies or your systems. You are a sum total of your experiences. By this I mean experience of the world, being out there, interacting with people and situations. Experiential learning is the biggest learning you can get, the world is full of an exciting diverse bouquet of experiences, each for every situation.

They say there are no free lunches, but there sure are free lessons! ‘Street University’ may not be recognised amongst the biggest universities of the world, but I’m sure the lessons I learnt here I wouldn’t have been taught to me even in the best of universities. For the determined, inspiration is everywhere, especially in the chaos of the streets. Watch out for it the next time you are out for a stroll!


How Soon Will You Be Working From Home?

Work today is increasingly tied to routine rather than a physical space. Unsurprisingly, more and more, companies in the United States allow their employees to work beyond a specifically designated space.

The number of telecommuters in 2015 had more than doubled from a decade earlier, a growth rate about 10 times greater than what the traditional workforce registered during the same period, according to a 2017 report by, a job search site specializing in remote, part-time, freelance and flexible-hour job positions.

Telecommuting might not just be a company perk in the next decade.

Experts, however, quickly point out that telecommuting’s growth faces numerous challenges. Cultural barriers in traditional companies, reliable technology, labor laws, tax policies and the public’s own perception about telecommuting will need adjusting to a more mobile workforce, say labor analysts.

Remote Work Still Considered a Perk

The report said the industries offering the greatest possibilities to work remotely included technology and mathematics, the military, art and design, entertainment, sports, media, personal care and financial services. Experts cite a couple of reasons why telecommuting is becoming more common in some industries: a more reliable internet connectivity and new management practices dictated by millennials and how they work.

Among the advantages that companies cite for remote work are cost savings in the absence of a work space, more focused and productive employees, and better work retention. Additionally, in 2015, figures showed that U.S. employers had saved up to $44 billion with the existing almost 4 million telecommuters (working half time or more), the report said.

“I’ve been able to see firsthand the increase in productivity by incorporating telecommuting into several companies,” says Leonardo Zizzamia, entrepreneur in San Francisco and co-founder of a productivity and collaboration tool called Plan. “With housing costs in Silicon Valley continuing to rise, telecommuting is the financially savvy way to work for your favorite company.”

Yet remote work is still considered a perk in the majority of workplaces. The greatest proportion of telecommuting positions fall under management, according to the report. Managers, however, struggled with overseeing remote workers.

“It used to be that everybody was in (an) office at set hours and if you were a manager you could look up and see your employees working or not,” says Susan Lund, partner at McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm. “Now it’s different. More companies are moving toward a more flexible work space environment and for managers it’s much more challenging because you need to know what each person is working on and whether they are reaching their goals.”

Workers in the beginning and early stages of their careers will be key to transforming today’s workplace to be more friendly to telecommuting, analysts say.

“Millennials have been working over computers and the internet since they were in early junior high and even younger,” says Brie Reynolds, a senior career specialist at “For them it’s natural and when they come into the workforce they are really pushing it into the mainstream. They are letting employers know that remote work is something that they value, that it’s a way that they would want to work and that they don’t see it as a perk, but as another option for working.”

Working From Home as the Cross-Border Threat

According to a 2017 LinkedIn report, the number of positions filled in the United States in October was more than 24 percent higher compared to the previous year. The oil and energy sector, manufacturing and industrial, aerospace, automotive and transportation sectors reported the biggest growth in jobs, the report said.

“If you look at the data you will find that there are significant talent gaps in many industries,” says Tolu Olubunmi, entrepreneur and co-chairperson of Mobile Minds, an initiative advancing cross-border remote working as an alternative to physical migration. “Those jobs are going unfilled for a number of reasons, and one of them is not actually having available the skills that are needed to the organizations.”

Telecommuting options may help fill empty positions in the U.S., job analysts say.

“When you are hiring remotely it opens you up to a much wider pool of talent than if you are stuck in one geographic area and you are only hiring people who can physically get to your office on a daily basis,” says Reynolds, the career specialist.

Technology also can help recruit workers, potentially attracting qualified workers from other parts of the world, as telecommuting seems to be popular at a global scale as well. A 2012 Reuters/Ipsos report showed that about one in five workers telecommute, especially in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East.

“Cross-border work allow companies to tap into a greater number of talent and diversity of talent that can help them meet their needs,” Olubunmi says. “It reduces brain drain in certain communities that are seeing their best and brightest leaving and that actually benefits those communities. They have the skill and the talent working elsewhere, but money and services are still being distributed within the community.”

Experts have mixed opinions over the continued increase in telecommuting positions. Some are convinced that technological advancement will allow people to better simulate face-to-face interaction, thus encouraging working remotely. Others say future technology could play a counter-intuitive role of bringing people together in an actual office space.


“One of the big advantages of telecommuting was avoiding congestion,” says Adam Millsap, senior affiliated scholar at the Mercatus Center, a research center at George Mason University focusing on economics. “But autonomous vehicles catch on so that itself could eliminate congestion and encourage people to go into the office again even more. They will cut down commuting time, there will be less accidents which tend to hold up traffic, and the cars will be able to drive much closer together at higher speed, because they will all be communicating with one another, so you could fit more on the road.”

Regardless, opening up a world to U.S. companies should not scare American workers, experts say. “Telecommuting isn’t about taking jobs away from native-born citizens,” Olubunmi says. “This is about improving the economy by letting businesses have a broader pool of talent to pick from, in order to be able to achieve their goals and have better economic growth in general for all.”

At the same time, one shouldn’t assume that foreign workers will be willing to take on American jobs just because they become more accessible.

“If an American firm comes to India and says they will give relatively higher wages for people to work in a call center, those workers might be willing to stay awake through the night,” Millsap says. “But if I am Apple and I want to hire a new software engineer, there is a good chance that a software engineer in Japan, for instance, has already a pretty a good salary and is not going to be willing to take on a job that requires him to have meetings at midnight in his own country.”

Experts agree that people in the labor market need to be more agile at acquiring new skills later in life, including learning how to work remotely. Remote work, they say, should not necessarily be considered a perk, but rather a way of helping employees better manage work-life balance.

“When people are given the flexibility to live and work where they please, it really does increase productivity and allow a diversity of people to engage in the workforce,” Olubunmi says. “Because if in the 19th century, work was about where you went, now work is about what you do, not from where you do it.”

Scientists Are Annoyed by This Pretty Big Flaw in The New DNA Emoji

They had one job (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

Unicode, the standards body that decides which emojis we all need on our phones and laptops, is finally adding a bunch of science emojis to the mix, including DNA – but there’s confusion over the style of the doodle that will eventually get used.

That’s because one of the samples shown by Unicode and Emojipedia shows DNA strands twisting to the left, as they do on the less common Z-DNA.

For the most common B-DNA structure, the one that is responsible for the origins of life, the twists should be right-handed.

The difference isn’t easy to spot at first, but it’s crucial in dictating the way the ladders of DNA are structured – it’s like going down a spiral staircase clockwise or anticlockwise, with one state the complete mirror image of the other.

dna emojis 2The new emoji, as imagined by Emojipedia.

Scientists love accuracy more than most, and so the new symbol sample has caused some frustrated reactions on Twitter, as Gizmodo reports.

Researchers have been quick to point out that Unicode and Emojipedia has gone for a spiral that twists in the wrong direction – or at least in the more obscure, less common direction.

However, the original draft of the new emojis for 2018 had the DNA emoji twisting in the correct way, so it seems there’s some confusion about which one will eventually get used.

dna emojis 3The original Unicode draft.

If you’re struggling to understand what we mean, point your index finger away from you, push out your hand and rotate your finger in a clockwise direction – you’re drawing DNA in the air. If you rotate your finger anticlockwise, you’re drawing Z-DNA.

All is not lost though: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung and the rest all design their own emoji styles on top of whatever Unicode puts forward – that’s why emojis look different from device to device and app to app.

So there’s still hope these tech giants may not totally stuff up, and the final emoji designs on our devices will end up spiralling the right way.

In the meantime, scientists are busy pointing out the mistake. It may not matter too much in the grand scheme of things, but if you’re going to have a DNA emoji, you might as well make sure you get it right.

Other science-related emojis in the list of 157 new ones rolling out this year include a magnet, a test tube, and a petri dish (there’s a full list at Emojipedia). Before too long then, you should be able to have much more meaningful emoji-based science conversations with your friends.

DNA’s double-helical structure, which creates the twisting pattern, was discovered way back in 1953, with a right-handed spiral.

Since then scientists have wondered what caused that right-handed bias. One idea is that cosmic rays destroyed the left-handed ancestors of DNA on the early Earth, but at the moment we really don’t know for sure.

What we do know is that DNA should have a right-handed spiral, and flipping it over to show a mirror image is wrong – just as wrong as trying to exactly duplicate the actions of a right hand with a left hand.

This isn’t the first time this mistake has been made – the same error has appeared in textbooks and in graphics many times in the past – and we can’t get too angry when we’re getting skateboards and kangaroos added to our emoji vocabulary.

Now though, you should all know what to look out for. When the emojis eventually land on your phone, take a close look to see which way the DNA strand is twisted.

This Alzheimer’s Drug Repairs Alcohol-Induced Brain Damage in Rats

A study on rats has shown a drug commonly used to treat cognitive decline in patients with dementia also reverses the neurological damage caused by bouts of excessive drinking.

While there’s still a lot to be learned about the negative effects of excess alcohol on adolescent brains, the drug could provide a reprieve from the hangovers of our misspent youth.

Donepezil is a pharmaceutical usually prescribed to reduce the confusion and memory loss caused by conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Exactly how it manages this isn’t clear, but it is known to stop an enzyme called cholinesterase from producing a certain class of neurotransmitter in the brain.

Studies on adolescent intermittent ethanol exposure (AIE, or teen binge drinking to you and me) have suggested getting drunk several nights a week reduces those enzymes in certain areas of the adolescent brain.

What’s more, it’s an effect that could last well into adulthood.

A team of US researchers have put two and two together to discover donepezil might also be useful in undoing the nerve damage caused by AIE.

“Clinical studies are starting to show that adolescents who drink early and consistently across the college years have some deficits in learning and memory,” says the study’s senior author Scott Swartzwelder from Duke University.

“It’s not a sledgehammer – it’s not knocking their memory out completely – but there are demonstrable, if subtle, effects on their cognitive function.”

There’s no shortage of willing test subjects researchers could call on inside university campuses to sink shots three to four times a week in the name of science, even if it did end in an autopsy.

Thanks to a little thing called ‘ethics committees’, they were forced to use rats instead. Not quite as informative as human models, but at least they didn’t have to arrange for designated drivers.

For just over two weeks, a bunch of 30-day-old rats either got moderately sloshed on ethanol every other day or so, or stayed nicely hydrated on distilled water.

They then had a break from all that partying for a further 20 days before being divided into two groups, each made of a mix of binge-drinking and teetotalling rats.

One half was then treated with donepezil for four days, the other given plain water, before their brains were analysed.

Adult rats that were frequently exposed to moderate levels of alcohol as ‘teens’ had fewer branches called dendritic spines emerging from their neurons.

“Any change in the density of spines on dendrites tells you those cells are processing information differently than they should be, and whether that processing goes up or down can be a problem,” says Swartzwelder.

That wasn’t the case in the alcohol-dosed rats treated with donepezil, whose dendritic spines seemed just fine.

On further digging, the researchers found a gene called Fmr1 was involved. Changes to this gene have been implicated in a range of mental health conditions, from Parkinson’s disease to autism and various other forms of learning difficulty.

Its products usually play a key role in communication between neurons, so finding the gene’s expression was also being impacted here is perhaps no surprise.

Donezepil didn’t just reverse the structural damage to the nerve’s branches; it undid the effects of alcohol on regulation of Fmr1.

Given teenagers have been drinking themselves silly since humans first found booze in yeast-infected fruit juice, you might think we’d know more about the effects of AIE.

Not so.

“Studies in humans of the long-term effects of drinking during adolescence are just beginning to emerge,” says Swartzwelder.

“But the data we do have indicate negative cognitive effects, and this puts us one step closer to one day being able to reverse those.”

We could also just tell teenagers not to binge drink. Given what little we do know about the brain damage it causes, not to mention that 16% of drinkers engage in binge drinking, it has the potential to be a massive health problem.

We shouldn’t rely on medicine coming to the rescue, of course. But it’s good to know somebody is thinking about the effects.

This research was published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

NASA Is Finally Removing This Creepy And Broken Robot Astronaut From The ISS

The International Space Station is a science facility, so it’s no surprise that experiments occasionally fail.

Most of the time, however, they don’t involve weird robots – like Robonaut, the robotic astronaut NASA sent up with the STS-133 mission in 2011.

The golden-helmeted figure has been out of action since 2015 after its hardware went awry. And now, finally, it’s being sent back to Earth for repairs.

A project NASA has worked on since 1996, Robonaut – developed with General Motors – is quite a marvel.

Originally, it consisted of a humanoid torso (and wears an astronaut-style helmet, neatly eliminating the uncanny valley), with five jointed fingers on each hand so that it can complete tasks like humans do.

robonaut aboard the iss 2(NASA)

Initially the torso was doing stationary work in the Destiny laboratory, performing simple tasks such as taking air flow readings and cleaning hand rails.

But NASA never planned that Robonaut would remain still, and in 2014 the robot was fitted with a pair of new, wiggly climbing legs designed to let it move around the space station – which somehow made it look very disconcerting.

The problems started because Robonaut wasn’t designed for easy modularity; putting the legs on required significant core hardware upgrades and a new wiring interface – work the astronauts weren’t trained to do.

It was expect that the operation would take them 20 hours, all up. It ended up taking them 40, and almost immediately things started going wrong.

First, when Robonaut was rebooted, Johnson Space Center couldn’t see its live feed.

A loose wire was fixed and everything seemed OK, but then the legs stopped working.

Then, the robot’s sensors started failing, or its communications systems, or its processors. In a fictional scenario, this would be the point at which you’re screaming at the crew to jettison the failing creation to prevent a horrific mass space robomurder.

robonaut mobility upgrdeRobonaut 2 being upgraded. (NASA)

“We would start losing power to our computers within our operational window, and it got more and more severe as time went on,” Robonaut project manager Julia Badger told IEEE Spectrum.

“A power cycle would in general bring it back, just for a little while. The problem was that since it was intermittent, sometimes we’d be able to turn it on and sometimes it would just fail right away as it degraded, we weren’t necessarily able to trust the data – it was very confusing.”

To further complicate matters, the five robonaut copies kept on Earth are a slightly different model, which made coordinating troubleshooting tricky.

Eventually the team figured out that Robonaut was missing a ground cable, which meant electrical currents were finding other routes through its body – providing too much power to some parts and not enough to others. This was slowly degrading the machine.

Although the robot has been booted up a few times since it went down in 2015, it’s become clear that the problem will not be fixed in space.

NASA astronauts Joseph Acaba and Mark Vande Hei have now packaged the robot up in anticipation of its return to Earth. It will be sent back in the space freed up after an upcoming resupply mission.

Once it gets back to Earth, NASA roboticists will have to figure out whether Robonaut can be repaired, or whether it will need to be replaced by one of the newer models currently here on Earth.

FDA authorizes marketing of first blood test to aid in the evaluation of concussion in adults

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today permitted marketing of the first blood test to evaluate mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), commonly referred to as concussion, in adults. The FDA reviewed and authorized for marketing the Banyan Brain Trauma Indicator in fewer than 6 months as part of its Breakthrough Devices Program.

Most patients with a suspected head injury are examined using a neurological scale, called the 15-point Glasgow Coma Scale, followed by a computed tomography or CT scan of the head to detect brain tissue damage, or intracranial lesions, that may require treatment; however, a majority of patients evaluated for mTBI/concussion do not have detectable intracranial lesions after having a CT scan. Availability of a blood test for concussion will help health care professionals determine the need for a CT scan in patients suspected of having mTBI and help prevent unnecessary neuroimaging and associated radiation exposure to patients.

“Helping to deliver innovative testing technologies that minimize health impacts to patients while still providing accurate and reliable results to inform appropriate evaluation and treatment is an FDA priority. Today’s action supports the FDA’s Initiative to Reduce Unnecessary Radiation Exposure from Medical Imaging—an effort to ensure that each patient is getting the right imaging exam, at the right time, with the right radiation dose,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. “A blood-testing option for the evaluation of mTBI/concussion not only provides health care professionals with a new tool, but also sets the stage for a more modernized standard of care for testing of suspected cases. In addition, availability of a blood test for mTBI/concussion will likely reduce the CT scans performed on patients with concussion each year, potentially saving our health care system the cost of often unnecessary neuroimaging tests.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013 there were approximately 2.8 million TBI-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S. Of these cases, TBI contributed to the deaths of nearly 50,000 people. TBI is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the brain’s normal functioning. Its severity may range from mild to severe, with 75 percent of TBIs that occur each year being assessed as mTBIs or concussions. A majority of patients with concussion symptoms have a negative CT scan. Potential effects of TBI can include impaired thinking or memory, movement, sensation or emotional functioning.

“A blood test to aid in concussion evaluation is an important tool for the American public and for our Service Members abroad who need access to quick and accurate tests,” said Jeffrey Shuren, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “The FDA’s review team worked closely with the test developer and the U.S. Department of Defense to expedite a blood test for the evaluation of mTBI that can be used both in the continental U.S. as well as foreign U.S. laboratories that service the American military.”

The Brain Trauma Indicator works by measuring levels of proteins, known as UCH-L1 and GFAP, that are released from the brain into blood and measured within 12 hours of head injury. Levels of these blood proteins after mTBI/concussion can help predict which patients may have intracranial lesions visible by CT scan and which won’t. Being able to predict if patients have a low probability of intracranial lesions can help health care professionals in their management of patients and the decision to perform a CT scan. Test results can be available within 3 to 4 hours.

The FDA evaluated data from a multi-center, prospective clinical study of 1,947 individual blood samples from adults with suspected mTBI/concussion and reviewed the product’s performance by comparing mTBI/concussion blood tests results with CT scan results. The Brain Trauma Indicator was able to predict the presence of intracranial lesions on a CT scan 97.5 percent of the time and those who did not have intracranial lesions on a CT scan 99.6 percent of the time. These findings indicate that the test can reliably predict the absence of intracranial lesions and that health care professionals can incorporate this tool into the standard of care for patients to rule out the need for a CT scan in at least one-third of patients who are suspected of having mTBI.

The Brain Trauma Indicator was reviewed under the FDA’s De Novo premarket review pathway, a regulatory pathway for some low- to moderate-risk devices that are novel and for which there is no prior legally marketed device.

The FDA is permitting marketing of the Brain Trauma Indicator to Banyan Biomarkers, Inc.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

Anticoagulants increase stroke risk in people over 65 with kidney disease

Asthma linked to infertility but not in women on inhaled steroids

Novel device that quickly identifies severity of concussions

FDA clears New device for retrieving clots up to 24 hrs in Ischaemic Stroke