Exams, sleep and sachet-fintech
Issue No 27
This was Thanksgiving week. What are you thankful for this year? It is strange to think of 2020 as anything else but annus horribilis - a year of disaster or misfortune, but I have much to be thankful for. I am thankful for multiple new beginnings this year has brought. What are you thankful for?
In case this is your first time here, let me explain. This newsletter has things I have read, watched, listened to or created. I also do a shameless plug for my new book Dreamers and Unicorns. If you write a review of it on Amazon or LinkedIn or Instagram or Facebook, please mail it to me. I am happy to share it with the world with a word of gratitude.
1. Exams need tech support
During the lockdown I completed a course in being certified as an Independent Director. It involved taking an online assessment that is administered by the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs.
This is the first electronically proctored exam I have taken. I had to set up my system and webcam and sit in a well-lit spot so that the webcam could keep an eye on me. It was a combination of annoyance and creepiness that I experienced because of messages that kept telling me to look at the screen. Maybe they share those messages just to ensure test takers don’t feel tempted to fudge responses. But the electronic eye is no match for human ingenuity. In case you want to know if I cleared the exam? Yes, I did.
Schools and colleges are using electronic invigilation and it is not working. Teachers complain that it is impossible to find out which student is glancing at a piece of ‘supporting document’ taped to the screen.
Online exams - are they effective?
Some schools have extrapolated the pre-pandemic grades of the students. The ones who have been adversely affected by this have protested that their improvements have not been recognised. Should examinations not be held until we have figured out how to evaluate learning in a remote setting?
The Economist discovered that "Wales will not hold any of the tests usually sat by 16- and 18-year-olds next year because disparities in the amount of face-to-face teaching pupils are receiving would make formal exams unfair."
What if Amazon offered to manage exams
Amazon is already selling more books than anyone else. They would be well placed to move into education delivery. Here is how:
Amazon sends a Knowledge Test Device (KTD) ie a device like Kindle with questions pre-loaded. The device is sent to the student’s home and the student responds to randomly generated questions within a specific time and the device is remotely managed. At a predetermined time the device becomes inactive.
If Bezos turns this idea into reality, remember I deserve a share of the billions. But would such a system work?
2. Sleep Machismo
In the Amazon logo, the arrow in the name stretches from the letter A-Z. They cracked retail and entertainment and logistics and now they are moving into healthcare. ‘Connect for a Sleep Care visit to get a personalised assessment of your sleep and ways to help you rest better,’ says the Amazon.Care website. I just stumbled upon the site.
We have all heard stories of sleep machismo. I have fallen for it myself. In this people claim they need no more than 3-4 hours of sleep in a day. Here is the better option.
For any important meeting (or exam), besides preparing for the quizzing, make sure you get 8 hours of sleep and have a light meal before you face the exam.
Columnist friend Jaspreet Bindra says that the book by Matt Walker, ‘Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams’ is life changing. It made him realise that ‘sleep is a superpower, and it is the third and neglected of the triad of diet, exercise and sleep, which make us healthy and disease-free.
3. India needs sachet-size servings
A Sachet (pronounced Sa-Shay) was a small packet of perfumed powder the French used to place in drawers to make clothes smell nice. It also refers to "a small sealed usually plastic envelope containing a small portion of a substance such as shampoo".
Sachet size servings thrive in India in everything from shampoos to food and beverages. Limited storage space and lack of refrigeration and limited access to money drives this behavior. When sachet size buyers migrate from rural to urban areas, they continue to buy single serves, until they reach the magical threshold of prosperity when they can buy beyond what they will consume in a single serve. Hence in India small sizes of packages always have mass appeal.
Coffee powder, shampoo, snacks and more are all served in sachet-size servings.
Does that work for financial products?
Yes it does. The cost of data in India is the lowest in the world making it a digitally savvy nation. Information and entertainment is consumed digitally on the mobile. When it comes to financial products, debit card penetration in India is the highest for any country worldwide- but not credit cards. While every Indian has a bank account, but access to a small size loan is missing. Banks do not find it economical to offer a Rs2000/- loan to a farmer with no credit history. The money lenders charge astronomical interest rates.
For many Indians, having an extra Rs2000/- a month can mean being able to buy their first laptop or mobile phone that can open up a world of opportunities for them. I spoke to Lizzie Chapman, one of the three co-founders of Zestmoney - a fast growing Dreamer that aims to be a Decacorn ($10bn valuation) some day.
Here are three questions she answers which I found to be valuable and unexpected.
What is the most important element that a Dreamer must have to succeed? (Hint: no it is not a grand dream)
Why India is a perfect candidate to leapfrog and start using digital financial products. (Hint: it fits all the 5 shifts I talk about).
Is it chaotic to have three co-founders run a startup?
Listen to it right here and let me know what you thought of it.
4. Proof read for emotions
Remote working is causing stress and impacting mental health. A CHRO recently told me that the highest ever attendance was for a stress-management webinar - not the ones on business matters. The lack of social interaction takes a toll on mental health. It deteriorates both their standard of living and professional performance.
Emotional Intelligence in writing
We have historically proof-read our messages for grammar and fact-checked our messages. We aren’t skilled in anticipating the emotions our messages may generate in the reader. This is the equivalent of emotional intelligence in the world of writing. A harmless comment could cause stress and mental impact in a remote worker.
Staying healthy and well rested is an important part of being effective
Exercise or walk for 20 minutes twice a day. Adriene is called the ‘queen of pandemic yoga’ Try her channel
Have an end-of-work ritual. I go for a walk and meet all my canine friends.
Don’t keep checking the news for the pandemic deaths. This too shall pass. We are almost at the end of the tunnel
Dr Ashwin Naik, TED fellow, Ashoka Fellow and a subscriber of this newsletter, sent me a guide on emotional well-being strategies for remote workers. This guide was put together by medical practitioners and psychologists. You can find it here
5. Why do we use virtual backgrounds?
We are spending hours on video conferences and webinars. Most of them allow you to use a virtual backdrop. This is just the digital version of a trick borrowed from ancient photographers. They used cloth or woollen blankets as a backdrop (sometimes with corny paintings). Backdrops solved two problems. They covered up studio clutter and also helped focus attention on the client. Virtual backgrounds do just the same.
Virtual backgrounds can keep away the sight of family members accidentally stepping into your meeting room. You can be creative with the background choices. I have sometimes used the virtual background as a place to recap key ideas of the talk.
I use this tree canopy I shot at night. It uses the Zoom specifications and gives me a feeling of being outdoors. If you like to use this virtual background, send me a mail at email@example.com and I will mail you the file.
That’s all for this week. Till the next Monday at 9:00am IST, stay curious and stay connected.
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