The Homecoming: Transcript of Visakh Viswambharan's speech at Hindusthan College of Arts and Science

  • Posted by:

    Visakh Viswambharan

    • October 03, 2018

    The Homecoming: Transcript of Visakh Viswambharan's speech at Hindusthan College of Arts and Science

Great things start in the most unexpected places. Visakh Viswambharan, founder and CEO of Appiness Interactive, knows this from personal experience. From the industrial town of Coimbatore to the high-stakes, hypercharged digital world- it's been quite the journey.

It's not often you get to go back to where you started and find yourself proud of the life you've build. Visakh was recently invited to his alma mater, Hindusthan College of Arts and Science, as the chief guest for their convocation. Here's the transcript of his address to the graduating class:

Being an alumni of this institution , It is indeed a proud moment for me to be here today.

My thanks to each one of you for having me here. I feel privileged to share the stage with such great personalities.

The organisers called me and asked me to speak for 20 mins. Neither am I Steve Jobs who can create an impact in 20 mins, nor do I think I'll be able to cover much in the 20 mins. What should I be speaking about? Life in Coimbatore? Life after Coimbatore? Some motivational piece?

Let me start with my life in Coimbatore. I would rank Hindustan as one of the best things happened in my life. Landing in Coimbatore and to start with the hostel life, it was totally a new experience away from home; that took me out of my comfort zone. I learned how to adjust, rather it taught me how to adjust to a new condition and a lot of new things. Place, language, food, way of living, education system, people, home sickness, away from my parents, away from my brother, and list goes on. But it really taught me how to deal with life when you are not in your comfort zone.

We had a bit of ragging, but enjoyed every bit of it. Our seniors and us became the best of friends over a period of time. That made us tough. A bit of ragging is fine, it makes you tough, brings in respect and a lot of discipline in your life. So next time if somebody rags you, don't start weeping and run towards your teachers. Take it as long as it doesn't cross the lines, no physical abuse whatsoever. Our ragging stories are super fun. I will save it for another day.

I was playing in the college cricket team and I was the vice captain. Apart from free attendance, sports and games taught me to deal with failure and fight back persistently to be on the winning side. Go ahead and use the facilities, do some extracurricular activities which will teach you how to keep trying, how to keep fighting, how to deal with failures and above all, it will keep you fit.

Another important point I want to talk about is the fights we had in our college days. Trust me, not worth a penny. Give me a chance to study again, and I would never engage in a mess. And this is coming from a person who wrote the maximum amount of apology letters and had a few suspensions.

It's such a waste of time guys. Even today,when we all meet, we discuss this. Why we fought. College life is to enjoy yourself, to make a lot of friends and to have fun. So if you respect me, respect the institution, go ahead and say sorry if you guys have some issues with your seniors/juniors, classmates and move on. Just because you said sorry it doesn't make you smaller. Engaging in fights, breaking bones, suspensions, attendance shortages, can't write exams, give headache to parents. Trust me it's not worth it. College life is to enjoy, have those little crushes and flings and above all make a lot of friends.

My best buddy, the co-founder of Appiness, Sunil and I met here. One of our highest paying client's marketing department is headed by another graduation mate. Without him we we wouldn't have bagged that account. The guy who helped us in setting up the mobility team is another friend from here. He works at Infinity Loop now. Yes, Apple's headquarters. The friend who helped us set up our Qatar office is from Sudan, and we met here.. So again, I repeat; it's a total waste of energy and time to engage in fights rather than focusing on making good friends.

Amidst all this chaos, we managed to find our way through. There used to be this trend, I don't know if it's still there. Immediately after the results teachers used to come to the class and say "all clear... stand up". Sunil and I would be among the few standing up. And the teachers used to say "Dai evulo vatti solli irukku ivanga koode serathe ennu. Evanga padichittu pyitte irippam."

Yeah, we made it through. The reason I'm talking about this right now is, whatever you do, remember what you are here for. Spend some time studying. And even if you have few arrears, life doesn't end there. Spend some quality time, you can get through it. The industry is really not going to ask you how many back papers you had.

And the teachers and the staff. They are human first and teachers second. It's not easy to manage such a crazy bunch. How much ever they scold you, somewhere in the corner of their hearts we're all their children first and then students. So give them that respect, nobody wants to see you in a bad condition. One of the biggest reasons for me to be standing here are the teachers, a special mention to Prof. Shivkumar.

Things they teach you or you study here are not gonna be the ultimate decider. Because today's hottest jobs were not even in existence a decade back.

Just to give you a classic example:

In many interviews a lot of people asked me; where do you see yourself 10 years down the line. I just smile at them and say I don't know.

Do I sound clueless? Or like a guy without vision?

Okay let me give you some perspective. Most of the current hottest jobs did't not existing 10 years ago. Technology is changing the world everyday. You ask an engineer or a doctor and they will be able to tell how much time they have dedicated in the past 10 years on innovation. So I don't know where we'll be 10 years down the line.

Let me talk a bit about my first company - Appiness Interactive. We started as a Digital Services Agency, and we were focused on web presence strategy and management. Later we ventured into building complex web apps and then to mobile apps and now we work on Cryptocurrency and Blockchain. In hindsight, if we hadn't done this then we would have fallen out of favour with the people working in our firm and also we would've gone out of business soon.

So what kept us going? The mindset of adapting and providing what the industry is looking for.

We built a culture. The fundamental building block was the culture. I know if Appiness has to thrive 50 or 100 years from now, then we need to have a strong culture in place. A culture of togetherness; a culture of trust; a culture like family.

A family like culture doesn't need a processes, everything works on trust. 50 years down the line your grandchildren might ask 'what is a mobile app or website?' We might be doing something else as a company. So culture is the most important thing.

A culture with utmost discipline. When your teacher ask you to be punctual, don't get all worked up; discipline can take you places. Your colleagues will respect you. Your friends will start taking you seriously. So from next time when you say "Ill be there in 5 minutes", make sure you are there in 5.

Now the question is why am I talking about culture, disciple etc.?

So do you think what you are studying today is gonna be relevant 10 years down the line? Not really. My suggestion is;

1. Learn how to think

2. Learn how to learn

3. Learn how to innovate

4. Learn how to be creative

5. Learn how to work in a team

6. Learn how to face your failure

7. Learn how to solve complex problems,

8. Learn how to communicate

9. Learn how to use emotions and empathy

10. Learn how to take ownership

11. Learn how to be dedicated

12. Learn how to think ahead not alike

13. And above all

14. Learn how to use the qualities of a human.

Why is it important to think like that?

The evolution from apes to homosapietns was 200,000 to 300,000 years back. And it took many years to reach 100,000 humans, then a few milions and another 200 years is when the population reached 1 billion and then the hockey stick growth - 7 billion in the last 200 years. It's not the government, politics, policies, or religion- it's the human who found ways to survive and we kept innovating - how to feed all these people, how to eradicate diseases, give them jobs, homes.

One after the other. One thing these guys are good at is creating problems, one thing which kept us going. How are we going to scale up to invent solutions at the rate which the problems are growing?

We invented fire, weapons - It was more of innovate or die. We just had one goal, survive. It's not survival of the fittest, it's everyone survives.

Then the Industrial Revolution happened. In my childhood I used to see a lot of women in the paddy field cutting cranes. Today none, one reason being that there are not many paddy fields. But then the machines replaced them. We don't have to work all the time, we got a little bit of free time. We invented the entertainment industry Movies, music, video games, Netflix, YouTube, politics, elections.

Something important is gonna happen, a lot of free time.

Robots have come to take your job. They will drive your car, they will take away every menial and repetitive job, factory labour is being replaced with robots. They can do it better than we can. I can't stop this, you can't stop this; that's how evolution works.

That's exactly why I spoke about culture, discipline etc. etc.,

What do you need to do to succeed in this uncertain future?

Going back to the same thing.

1. Learn how to think

2. Learn how to learn

3. Learn how to innovate

4. Learn how to be creative

5. Learn how to work in a team

6. Learn how to face your failure

7. Learn how to solve complex problems,

8. Learn how to communicate

9. Learn how to use emotions and empathy

10. Learn how to take ownership

11. Learn how to be dedicated

12. Learn how to think ahead not alike

13. And above all

14. Learn how to use the qualities of a human.

Did I scare you guys with a lot of heavy duty stuff? Hold on. Let me come back to my Coimbatore life. So the last semester happened, as usual, and I cleared in the first go. That's when the career wave hit me. I decided that I'd had enough fun and it was time to shift focus. I wanted to do something substantial, I was ambitious and continue to be that way.

Long story short, here I am today in front of you guys. I feel extremely proud about it. Nothing but hard work got me here.

Last couple of things I would like to add on; students who are in college, enjoy your life to the fullest, you will never get this back. I repeat... enjoy your life to the fullest, you will never get this back.

And once you are out of college, you have to understand that it's the most pivotal time in your life. You can decide whether you want to be a monumental success or follow the crowd.

The decisions which you make at that point of time will decide your future. While there are plenty of temptations and distractions, the decisions you make here are truly what dictate your future, as the weak fail and only the strong survive.

Never do anything just because it's convenient for you. Look to challenge yourself and build your own dream instead of building someone else's. Even if it doesn't exactly make sense now, create something with great value so you can cash out big later.

Always look to the future and never for immediate compensation. What are you going to do with those small salaries anyways? Stop being so entitled and pretending like you deserve cash. Invest your time wisely. Choose a boss you can learn from rather than the money. Trust me you will cash out big later.

So guys... stay curious, push your limits, dream big. The sky is not the limit, it's just the beginning. And your life starts today. Dream Big.

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