Monday, October 19, 2009

TED India Interview: Gaurav Mishra

As part of Kiruba Shankar’s TED India Fellows project, I am part of a team of 15 bloggers who interview five TED India fellows each to get to know them better.

First up is Gaurav Mishra. From selling cars, which, according to George Monbiot, has ‘contributed to an increase in individualism and fewer social interactions between members of different socioeconomic classes’, to becoming CEO of 2020 Social, a company that focuses on social business strategies, Gaurav has probably been the full circle. Teaching Social Media at Georgetown as a Yahoo! fellow and co-founding Vote Report India complete his wheel of activities. Here’s Gaurav in the driver’s seat.

From selling cars to devising social business strategies… what explains the move?

Both as a marketer and a consumer, I saw that the campaign-oriented push-driven one-way model of marketing was in trouble, and felt that there must be a more human way to connect with consumers. A marketing approach that is permission-based, pull-driven, and rooted in the values of communities, conversations and collaboration appealed to my instincts and started the journey that has led to 2020 Social.

What were some of the key experiences from your Tata experience that are still relevant for you at 2020 Social?

My experience in the Tata Group gave me a very strong grounding in how business and marketing works, at senior levels, quite early in my career. I also worked with both McKinsey and BCG on big business transformation initiatives, from the client side. That client-side experience is immensely useful now that I am running a business consulting firm and helping CXOs leverage emerging technologies to transform their businesses.

Tell us a little bit about Vote Report India. How did the idea originate?

The idea of Vote Report India originated during the Mumbai terrorist attack when the good folks at Ushahidi noticed how half a dozen of us were curating the #mumbai twitter feed during the Mumbai terror attack. That conversation resulted in our doing a pilot of Ushahidi Swift during the Indian elections. We were able to put together a great team of volunteers and a great service in a very short time and played an interesting role in the ecosystem of civic initiatives that emerged during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections in India.

Define gauravonomics in one paragraph.

At Gauravonomics, I write about the intersection of social technologies, business and society. It’s a potent combination because businesses, civil society organizations and governments can learn a lot from each other when it comes to understanding and using social technologies.

You have contributed to two books. When are you writing your own? What will it be about?

I think I’ll be writing a bunch of book chapters before I write a full book. I have three chapters overdue on digital activism, citizen journalism and government 2.0 and have just signed up to write another one on branded communities. My book, when I write one, will be about a new way of doing business, which is both social and sustainable.

If you were to write fiction, which genre will you choose?

I think I have already lived three or four lives and I haven’t even turned thirty. If I were to write a novel, it will be a thinly veiled autobiographical narrative in first person.

Do you have an interest or hobby that you escape to when you want to get away from what you are doing for a bit?

My life is very WYSIWYG. I am doing what I am doing because I don’t feel the need to get away from it.

Who would you deem your inspiration(s)? Why?

I am inspired by naïve activist-types who believe that they can change the world. Most of them fail, but some succeed. That’s all we need.

If you were to start life afresh and choose a different area to focus on, what would that be?

I am very happy with my present life. If I was to start afresh, I would want to do exactly what I am doing now.

One good idea you’ve heard recently that is worth spreading?

It’s time to move beyond business as usual and create organizations that are both social and sustainable.

Twenty little-known facts about Gaurav Mishra?

I’ll tell you three:

  • I gave away everything I owned last year, to six strangers.
  • I have an unpublished anthology of love poems lying around in my laptop.
  • I like making lists of three.


Sam said...


"I gave away everything I owned last year, to six strangers."

would have loved to hear more on that!!

inspiring read!


Oh.. that is us. said...

A remarkable person to be interviewed! Geetha, the interview is crisp and made it really interesting. Also the small intro at the beginning made the interview bit complete.


Tejaswi said...

this was fantastic GK!

Having been part (limited, though) of a start-up myself, the only thing i don't condone is giving away 'everything' i have to ... anyone. but he is not even 30 yet, like he says - he can afford the risk, i guess.

kudos. brill guy. super interview.
- Tej

Dhanuska said...

Nice one, D!

Clearly a man who follows his mind. Must take a lot of gumption to do that.

On another note, when do we see you talking for TED? :-)

Geetha Krishnan said...

I agree, Sam, quite inspiring that. Yes, Parvathy, a remarkable person indeed. Thanks, Tejaswi. Dhanuska - yes, takes quite a bit to follow your mind; and, sure, me talking on TED, just after you.

Nimmy said...

Thanks for the inspiring interview! BTW, I am thinking of nominating a speaker to TED. Any idea how long the process takes and what could be the criteria? The person I want to nominate lives in Sydney.....any suggestions from you would be more than appreciated! TIA!

Ajay said...

Good blog. You write well, shows in your blog title anyways.

Geetha Krishnan said...

You're welcome, Nimmi. As for nominating someone for TED, I wouldn't know the process or the details; why don't you check on the TED site?
Thanks, Ajay. :-)

dannyboy said...

Hey Geetha,
Nice blog, and I am catching up on your back issues.
Keep it flowing.