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Archive for May, 2012

I wanted to have a booth at TiEcon this year as I thought it would be a great opportunity to spread the word about Janyaa. Approached Manoj Goel and he was extremely helpful and we got a table. This was around April 12th. And now the journey starts.

We had to work on our tagline, our posters and biz cards. Had sessions with my team – Rajesh, Usha and Kaushik – and we came up with the concept for posters and biz cards. And then the tagline. This was tough as we were getting too many inputs and there were too many good ones to choose from. Narrowing them down was itself a huge task. Meanwhile I talked to Sravanthi and Mamatha about this. Sravanthi works at The Hindu as a senior reporter and she has a very good knack for tag lines. And of course Mamatha helps Janyaa a lot with her writing skills. Together they came up with a wonderful tag line that tells what we want to do and how we want to do. Loved it. ‘Empower with hands-on learning’.

Now comes the next tough part. Designing these. Luckily we found a wonderful person – Maria – who worked with me on all these. She churned out all the designs so fast with continuous feedback from me, it was just amazing. And we had all these ready in less than a week. So finally all the ground work has been done. Now we are just waiting for the day.

FINALLY, the day is here – Friday the May 18th. I went to the conference with our box of experiments, posters, biz cards etc. I have setup the table and was waiting for people to stop by. Had a good conversation with few and then I saw Vishal Sikka walk by for his keynote address. My immediate thought was to show him our experiments and explain about Janyaa. So waited outside and he always had too many people around him. Got hold of his team member and requested him to talk to Vishal to get him to stop by the booth. Well, I am from SAP and Vishal is also from SAP – a more than good enough reason for him to check out what Janyaa is about. I didn’t leave. I waited there and was indirectly (or directly) putting pressure on his team to make him visit my booth :). And he did. He was very impressed with the concept and the simplicity of our experiments. He suggested to him team member Sam that we work together via Charitra website to scale up. That was the best moment, I must say. What better way to start the time at the conference. Posted it on FB instantly :).

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From there the journey continued. We got so many contacts, so many people interested in our program that it was just overwhelming. Here are some:

Rishi Kumar told me about Senior citizens in Saratoga and Cupertino. He said it would be great to talk to them and see if we can have them involved in Janyaa. I will write a separate blog on my experience with them.

Ena Sarkar from Women Now TV was impressed with our experiments and offered her support. She has always been a great supporter of our work. Such a wonderful lady.

Sheetal Ohri and Jaya Gautam offered to write about us in their magazines. Thank you ladies.

We will be talking to ILP to see how we can partner with them to implement our program in the schools they work with.

Similarly with Asha and Pratham.

And there was this wonderful lady – Denise Delmonte – from Humboldt county who wanted to use our kits in the 4 schools in her county. That will be a wonderful start for us to implement our program here in USA.

Pawan Gupta from Tie told us about his brother’s NGO where they work with good number of schools in Maharashtra. We are currently in talks with them to see if we can work together.

People were offering free auditing services, insurance services for Janyaa.

We had a doctor from Sunnyvale – David Parpart – who along with his wife offered us the yoga room at his hospital for anyway we want to use it for Janyaa. So nice of them.

So many people have offered to volunteer for us. So nice of them to offer their valuable time for us.

A big big thank you to all of you. We appreciate your support to Janyaa. Cannot express it in words.

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Considering the amount of effort that went into it and the way the event was executed against all odds, we decided to share our story with you all. Here is the story of our Arpana event.

We were approached by Pampa dance academy in Nov 2011 where they wanted to do a fundraising event for Janyaa on their 20th anniversary. They will be having a show of their own on April 7th evening and they are offering to do a show for Janyaa from 3-5PM on the same day. This is a very nice gesture from them.

But there were quite a few challenges we could foresee. So far Janyaa has focused it’s fundraising events on sport based events like Volleyball, Badminton etc. We have done few mixer events where the max number of participants was around 60-70 people. So we were very apprehensive of taking this up as we had the huge challenge of filling up a 500 seat capacity hall. Moreover we knew we were up against the evening show from the same group. This means we cannot count on the tickets from the students’ families/friends as they would obviously go for the evening show. And most importantly the price we had to pay for Pampa was extremely high for our standards as we could not foresee even meeting their cost.

We went through a lot of discussions with the team and we went back to Pampa asking for reduction in cost. They came up with a proposal which sounded reasonable. We had to pay half of the fee initially and then pay the balance if we meet our expectations. In the hindsight this worked out for us coz we just met our expectations. We wouldn’t have been able to pay their fee in the end with the money we made. So with the new proposal, we thought let’s give it a try. We met Pampa and told them all about our organization and our apprehensions in taking this up. Told them that we never organized a cultural event where we had more than 60 people and getting 500 people is  a huge challenge for us along with finding sponsors etc. Told them upfront all our limitations just that we can be on the same page. They were very supportive and said they can work with us on this.

We signed a MOU and we honored every single item in the MOU. We are pleased to hear that Nirmala from Pampa acknowledged the same in a meeting with our founder. We had regular meetings with Pampa to discuss the progress.  Janyaa team was meeting twice a week to discuss the progress and also to get updates from Pampa via Venu who was attending meetings with Pampa on behalf of Janyaa team. We always optimized our time for meetings by sending a rep from Janyaa. We are very efficient and very conscious about the time of every person in the team.  In fact our event lead is the one who attends any meetings with partners. Just like Usha is the only person who attends any meetings with Spandana for Volleyball tournament. We managed these meetings very efficiently.

So the journey has started. We started off with the flier design in Dec and getting commitment from volunteers. As with any other event we do, we created a Google document to list out the tasks and assigned team members. It was a huge list from posting fliers, selling tickets personally, getting sponsors etc etc. We got support from various people in selling our tickets. Everything looked hunky dory till almost end of Feb. And then the date conflict – BATA is celebrating their 40th anniversary on the same day. Couple of people who promised to sell nearly 200 tickets for us backed out as people preferred to go to that event. Sure, we were disappointed, but then we took it up as a challenge and decided to target other groups. Then comes the second date conflict that Stanford Holi is happening on the same day. This is a biggie as we know nearly 10,000 people attend that event and they were no way going to miss that and come to our classical show. While distributing fliers at other events we came to know from our fellow booths that there are other events happening on same day. Few of our friends backed out in last couple of weeks as they had plans for spring break/ Easter holidays.

You can see how this impacts the motivation levels of our team. We alerted Pampa that we may not be able to meet the 500 ticket target. Decision was to be made whether we should cancel the show or continue with it.  We had a meeting about 2-3 weeks before the show and we expressed our concern. We had detailed discussion and gave them the numbers on how many we expect to sell. A consensus was made that we proceed with the show. And so we continued with our marketing efforts.

Janyaa team has put in tremendous amount of hours into preparing and marketing this event starting Dec 2011. We had 4 people to post fliers in Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Milpitas and Fremont areas. They had to post fliers at regular intervals as they are often taken out by the stores after a period of time. This itself was a huge task in itself as you never know when the posters are removed. It could even happen the very next day you posted. Well, we managed it well. We were sending regular emails to our mailing list, we were posting regular updates on Facebook, approaching people personally, trying to sell tickets at other events – well we tried every avenue we could see. We promoted Pampa heavily in every email of ours, every post on FB, we published their pics on our FB pages and every other avenue.

We cancelled our annual Holi event in March so that we could focus entirely on Arpana event. Sure, this has got some of our team members disappointed, but we wanted to focus all our efforts on this event. We were up against so many events that were happening on that day including BATA 40th anniversary (where we lost nearly 200 tickets that were promised by our supporters), Stanford holi (where nearly 10,000 people attend), Kannada/Telugu New year programs, Spring break, Easter break, other classical events, cultural events and many more. We were even asked to change the date. But it was not in our hands as it was Pampa’s decision. Nevertheless the team went with complete force and managed to make it a success.  Being a baby organization and very new to organizing any such event we believe we have done a great job.

We received a great compliment from one of the dance schools that we promoted Pampa to such a great extent that they wanted to do an event with us. It’s true. Every email that went out was talking about Pampa. Ironically, few of our friends knew about Pampa’s evening show, but did not know about our 3PM show as they could not find the details on Pampa’s site. Once they came to know about our show, they bought tickets to our show – very nice of them. Once the 7PM show was full, Pampa offered to promote our show on their website. We are grateful to Pampa for the same. Pampa has offered help with fine tuning of the flier, guiding us on what should go into the video, on approaching other dance schools to promote our event etc. We sincerely thank Pampa for their support.

Janyaa team received support from all over and we had so many people trying to help us in spite of the obstacles we were facing with other events. We would like to thank each and everyone for the same. We are sure we might have missed couple of things here and there as this is the first time we have done such an event and that too at such a huge scale. We apologize for the same, but we assure we have learnt from our mistakes and we will make sure we will do better next time.

This is our story – the story about the grit of Janyaa team and volunteers who worked against all odds in making this event happen. We knew we had more at stake than Pampa in making this event a success because their experience will show in their performance. But for us this is our first major event. People could see how much went into this event from our side and we have been receiving accolades from all our supporters for the effort we put in. Everyone who knows about Janyaa, our team, our organization – appreciated the time and effort that went into execution of this event against all odds. They have seen us execute before (Our first ever Volleyball tournament brought in 70 teams – a record. We still receive compliments from people about that event). It wasn’t easy for sure. But we did it. We made enough money to cover our costs, pay Pampa and a profit that equals Pampa price. Next time we hope to make more money than what we paid Pampa. That would be an achievement for sure.

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