Q&A with Kush Medhora, CEO – DREAM:IN


You have been in retail as a career for a long time? What draws you to DREAM:IN?

I’ve been a part of the DREAM:IN thought process and the project from its inception in 2011 and I firmly believe it is a good idea. I thought that we should get together to create an organisation that would bring about a change not only in our lives but which will also have a huge impact on the youth of tomorrow.

What exactly is DREAM:IN Next Gen?

The Next Generation, the youth of tomorrow, outperforms previous generations in gaming, entertainment, and use of technology. They challenge old ways and paradigms. They deserve the right to dream, believe in their dreams and realise their dreams.

DREAM:IN Next Gen is a mission to connect with youth between the age of 18 and 30 everywhere and inspire them to wake up. It is a massive platform for their dreams, both online and on-ground.

It is a super incubator that seeks, sifts, selects and shapes youth enterprise ideas into impactful ventures. It will be a global community organisation to nurture and harvest youth dreams and create new economic value.

Why is there this special emphasis on the dreams of youth, Indian and global?

By 2015, there will be three billion people globally under the age of 25 of which 700 million will be Indian youth. This is what we know as the “youth bulge”. These youth will be looking for access to an entrepreneurial ecosystem and anxious about the stigma attached to failure. There may be a lack of role models for them. They may lack management expertise or contacts and mentors. They may face a lack of faith in their abilities and potential and, finally, they may lack capital to achieve their aspirations.

There is a fantastic opportunity hidden here. There have been very few systematic attempts to look at entrepreneurship from a youth perspective. Youth entrepreneurship is considerably lower than adult, a Barclays Bank survey some time ago noted that it costs only half the capital (around GBP 5000) to set up a youth enterprise compared to an adult enterprise (around GBP 11000). In other words, the entrepreneurs of tomorrow can be the youth who are willing to take risks to turn their dreams of success into reality.

What factors do you see as being of help to youth entrepreneurs to realize this dream future?

The youth bulge is coinciding with the rapid and radical shift from a knowledge economy to a creative economy. Individual talent and initiative will be the backbone of future economic development and the youth have a natural disposition for innovation and change which can be capitalised upon. The youth, of course, must become aware that launching successful enterprises will depend on their recognising that they are part of a process of innovation. Finally, the youth can fulfill the upcoming intensive requirements for human capital for creative sectors of the economy.

So the objective of DREAM:IN Next Gen is…….

We are looking to transform youth from being merely prospective consumers of income and employment to become creators of wealth and employment.

And where do you hope to find the youth who have this entrepreneurial mettle?

We are using this project to seek out potential young entrepreneurs who will embark on their entrepreneurial journey with DREAM:IN. On this path, they will grow from being analytically intuitive (pre-entrepreneur) to becoming a source of inspiration despite being rooted (budding entrepreneur) to becoming an enterprise/organisation that innovates to create exponential growth (emerging entrepreneur).

We will be embarking on a massive Dream Journey across South India to connect with at least 25000 youth and capture the dreams of 10,000 youth. These dreams will be shortlisted, shaped and scaped into 100 ventures that will be presented to the investment community.

This DREAM:IN exercise will take place between October 2012 and January 2013. The Dream:In Portal will archive all 10,000 dreams which will be open to the public and investment community and the portal will enable the global community to co-create the future by taking the dreams to reality as ventures.

Can you cite an example of anyone who has responded positively to DREAM:IN and believes in its capability to empower Indian youth?

We recently met Rahul Gandhi and shared DREAM:IN with him. He sees it as having great potential of tapping into the aspirations of Indian youth, apart from their needs. We plan to work closely with him in the near future.

Big Dreamer Insight: Kishore Biyani

Believe in oneself – Kishore Biyani, CEO: Future Group

Responses from Kishore Biyani during Dream Session 1:
Equal Dreams — Pursuing inclusive futures

What’s your approach to retail?
I keep my eyes and ears open to observe our customers and turn those insights into How do we serve better them? When you focus on the consumers’ perspective and what can be done for them rather than just on how to move goods – that changes everything.

How do you capture and interpret customer insights?
We start by taking note of memes within popular culture with things like TV serials, cinema, songs, etc. We ask ourselves Why is this getting popular? What’s driving this? – because there’s a reason why these specific stories have captured the imagination of the people.  We believe since these stories resonate widely that it’s reflective of the dreams people share.

What is the role of business in helping individuals achieve their dreams?
An organisation is a collection of many individuals, with their own dreams, coming together to work on a common vision. It then becomes our responsibility as managers and human beings to ensure that we start asking ourselves how do we increase their satisfaction and thinking capacity – it’s not just about economic output.

You’ve mention that dreaming is the essence of simplicity. Can you elaborate on that?
I’ve come to learn that design thinking has a place in business. People have a tendency to create a lot of complexity with layers and layers of thought when most issues actually have simple solutions. Unfortunately our system has conditioned us to think that you’re not a good manager unless you complicate things then solve them! On the other hand, people’s dreams are often simple and positive. This simplicity should inspire our problem solving.

What is your personal dream?
I believe that what differentiates us from animals is imagination and fear. One of my own observations on life is that 7 out of 10 thoughts an average person has is negative. So the big question becomes – How do we use reduce our fears and increase our imagination? I dream of being able to reduce the fear quotient and convert negative thoughts through imagination.

We are a nation that doesn’t believe in ourselves as much as we should. Even with our rich history and knowledge, we have yet to produce strong thought leaders out of India. If we are to prosper and grow, we need to plan future scenarios that not only look at economic indices but also take into account the measures of happiness, culture and values. This is a long-term approach to planning the future of India.

Q&A with Tej Valluru

As leaders and visionaries from around the world gather at the Dream Center to transform dreams and ideas into workable, transformative scenarios  – we profile the individuals who make it happen. Meet Dreamleader Tej Valluru, a young entrepreneur from Vijayawada A.P.

How did you get involved with DREAM:IN?

I found out about Idiom and DREAM:IN when I came across an article on Fast Company by Bruce Nussbaum. Even though my formal background is in finance and Business IT – I’ve always been interested in the fusion of business and design. I was very excited that Idiom was leading the way in India with design thinking. Although it was too late to join the Dream Journey, I am grateful to Nimesh Pilla who’s been great in helping me get onboard for the Dream Conclave.

What does design thinking mean to you? What role does it play in your life?

I believe that design is a process of thought. Creativity is not just limited to one field — creativity overall is in the process of thought. I think that the way Indians think has a lot of lacking in a few ways. Indians lean more towards religion, what has been told and what has to be followed rather than thinking further about what is right for the right time and what is good for the next thing.

For example, when it comes to defining a career path, a child will be encouraged to choose between becoming a doctor, lawyer or engineer. This myopic view results in a mass hysteria of engineers and doctors coming out of the system. We need to start thinking more broadly about the future and design thinking encourages this.

What are your hopes for the project?

Every business is framed by economics, profits and numbers. I personally believe that business has lost its human touch. I hope that the DREAM:IN project will be able to incubate businesses that are more ‘human centered’. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be looking at numbers but why not give your customer joy while looking at numbers?

And what’s your dream?

My personal dream is to revamp the Indian transport system since travel and cars are a passion of mine. By looking at issues of comfort, transparency, consistency and innovation in service – I want to introduce a new system that will ensure that it’s up to par on a global standard while making India a model for developing countries to emulate.

Q&A with Carlos Teixeira

We caught up with our big-picture visionary, Carlos Teixeira, who together with Sonia Machanda, has spearheaded DREAM:IN.

What are you seeking from participants at the upcoming DREAM:IN Conclave?
Part of my hope is that we can begin to work towards an open innovation system to align findings from the Dream Journey with sustainable working models to actualise relevant initiatives with a multi-disciplinary approach. Design thinking can be a big part of this – the more complex a system is, the more design is needed. For example, partnering entrepreneurs with design thinkers could lead to greater scale, speed and productivity.

How do you think these new initiatives will be funded?
Rather than being funded one at a time, I envision a Dream Fund which can enable a pool of initiatives. Markets are currently fluid and fragmented and we need to explore the creation of conditions which respond to them with dense and plastic networks. Rather than us telling others what these conditions should be – we are keen to brainstorm with participants inclusively about funding models, structures, networks, platforms and systems which combine various pieces of the puzzle in fresh ways.

Do you see all this fluidity as a barrier?
Not at all – in fact we need to see this as an advantage and begin to imagine new kinds of structures, organisations and systems which allow for agile activity – drawing on multiple expertise across disciplines in dispersed locations. I think many of our global and local participants are excited by the possibilities.

4. What about a random story from DREAM:IN so far?
When I was here with DREAM:IN last month my wife and children were with me. They visited a local temple and were given bananas as they left – but didn’t understand that these were actually to satisfy the zealous monkeys at the gate. My wife got bitten when she wouldn’t give up her bunch to an agitated monkey!

Q&A with Neha Chopra

1. What’s been your role on DREAM:IN?

I’ve been absorbed in the DREAM:IN team as a filmmaker and an editor. In phase one, we held a participative, hands-on workshop for our dreamcatchers in basic framing techniques. In the second phase, our team put together the fully functional Dream:IN Edit Studio.

My main role is to gain insights on the dreams captured during the Dream Journey. I believe that people in India have an innate desire to dream, share and express. Once that force has captured on camera the storyteller has the responsibility of looking at the whole picture of the Dream:IN concept to bring out nuggets that are insightful at the same time keeping the freshness of the dreams intact. It’s an Herculean task to screen, sort, separate and select the footage into groups. It’s an ongoing process to sift through the footage, mark clips for editing and to finally make the cut.

2. What’s been challenging about being at the receiving end of so much video footage?
One is left exhausted after a day of going through around 150-200 clips which is about 5-6 hours of audio-visual material. By the evening the buzzing of dreams and stories in my head gets louder! Sifting through raw footage of life and dreams, people sharing basic emotions and ideas directly to the camera can be a daunting task. You have to continuously zoom into the dream-scape while keeping the reality of the project intact.

There are rivers of dreams flowing into the edit studio. It might have proved impossible to cut such enormous amount of footage but during the edit I was amazed at how skilled my team became with the material. Every few frames trimmed and on-the-move capturing style is continuously lending the edit a real energy. I guess the passion is infectious!

3. Can you tell us a bit about the span of dreams that have been captured?
It’s an eclectic collection of dreams, from students to scholars, shop owners to housewives, young to old, radical to conservative – and from local, to national, to global dreams. We have dreams of success, dreams of adventure. If you look at the images and listen to those feelings captured, you can often arrive at an understanding about the dreamer and their world of dreams.

This collection of dreams is proving to be a triumph for one minute films – they form links to these dreamers whose stories stick in our minds. The subject matter leaps out on the screen. Watching all the dream videos makes one think how similar we all are around the India. These films become a mirror, the audience is looking at behavior and dreams in a deeply reflective way.

4. What’s been your favorite random story from DREAM:IN so far?
Oh – there are so many! I am fond of the flower-seller Manikndan who dreams of exporting Indian flowers to Paris someday. The coach who dreams of training a team that will win the football World Cup for India. A young brand manager who has quit her job to become a teacher for underprivileged kids. A media professional who is now on the path of spiritual healing. A lot of youngsters have parallel dreams, to old folks who dream of living a peaceful retired life with respect and dignity. But our journey isn’t over yet… we still have many more stories to share!

Q&A with Rahul Vijaykumar

1. What’s been your role on DREAM:IN?
I’d been working on earlier SPREAD projects – the Design Leadership Workshop, Corporate Innovation Workshop, Young Designers Workshop and Greenies. So I was on board with our DREAM:IN initiative from the start as the project leader – contributing across the Journey, Conclave and Portal. It’s been a wild ride! Akanksha and I earlier drafted and designed the DREAM:IN Journey that took 101 Dreamcatchers to over 50 cities and 100 towns across India. I co-ordinated the selection of Dreamcatchers, anchored the Journey Workshop and will be promoting February’s Conclave. We’re a nimble team and everyone chips in and lends a hand wherever and whenever they can. I haven’t been this busy ever – I’m loving every minute of it!

2. How was the response from Dreamcatchers during and after their journey?
The call for Dreamcatchers was a big hit. I got calls from students and young professionals all over the country. Some people thought it was a pleasure trip, while most others wanted to really dig deep and find out why we were doing this. We had setup a group on Facebook so that selected Dreamcatchers could meet and get to know each other before the journey.

The Dreamcatchers reported personal transformations after returning from the journey. We got numerous thank-you posts and notes which told us how the journey had made them look at life and India in a whole new way. Strangers became friends for life and team members became family. One note read:  “just back… but couldn’t stop myself from spotting… I’ve ended up chit-chatting with an autowallah who wants to be a teacher… then a salesman and many more… Thanks DREAM:IN, the journey was a lot more than I expected… it has really made me look at life afresh” – Dreamcatcher, Paulami R Choudhury

3. Can you tell us a little about the upcoming Dream Portal?
The Dream Portal is going to be a website which allows users to share, view, upload, comment, categorise and rate dreams from all over the world. It’s going to be a place where, once you share your dream, someone just might be able to convert it into reality. We are partnering with IBM on the development of the portal. DREAM:IN is going to have counterparts in Sri Lanka and Brazil in the near future – so the portal will become the central Dream Bank. Right now we’re furiously working on various aspects and features. The portal will be officially launched in February at the DREAM:IN Conclave.

4. What’s been your favourite random story from DREAM:IN so far?
Oh, there are so many! Where do I start? I remember the day before the Dream Journey Workshop, where the entire team (including some of our visiting Dreamgurus) stayed in the office till around 4 am, even though we had to be back by 7 am. Everyone was so excited, running around, helping each other and getting everything ready for the workshop the next day. The energy was amazing – everyone was wide awake, even after working continuously for so long. I felt that was when DREAM:IN began to really come alive.

Q&A with Sonia Manchanda

Our visionary DREAM:IN conceptualiser and director Sonia Manchanda finds time to answer a few questions:

1. What’s been your vision with the Spread Centre for Design Development?
To preach what we practise – that design thinking is the best practice! Our objective is to spread design as a way of thinking and doing things : for business, for the government, for the next generation. How do we do we make it happen? If jugaad is rough and ready innovation, then tarkeeb is an elegant design solution – a recipe! We design unique projects, engagements and create opportunities to spread design thinking. We’re keen to reinvent the meaning of design, especially for India – from the form giver to the creator of meaning.

2. How did this lead to your conceptualising of the DREAM:IN initiative?
Needs = incremental innovation. Dreams = future design solutions. Design has always been about human beings so the oft stated argument that design is about human needs has always made me uncomfortable… and I recently discovered why. Because needs are shallow – happiness is a little deeper – however in a nation where we were always told to believe in our dreams, where we assume that there is a god who will make our dreams come true if no one else does, where dreaming is a fundamental right – we need to grasp the diversity of people’s dreams. That’s where sustainable ideas reside. Do read the book The Committee of Sleep by reputed psychologist: Deidre Barrett, PHD. And even if you don’t – the cover says it all ‘How artists, scientists and athletes use dreams for creative problem solving and how you can too.’

3. What are your hopes for the long term with DREAM:IN?
That we can capture a billion dreams. That DREAM:IN can wake up the students who have chosen to be dreamcatchers – and also our leaders, our corporates, our influencers. My own dream is that DREAM:IN gets the right investment of talent and funds and becomes a prototype of a design thinking model for emerging nations.

4. What’s been your favourite random story from DREAM:IN so far?
For starters I thought that everyone would think I am crazy! Instead, we got calls, mails from all over the world. Then one of our global Dream Gurus mentioned that she heard someone from the World Bank talk about the project at a summit in Kenya! I realised we had no time for cold feet – I called the team from the car and scheduled an urgent conference call with those further afield. We realised that we needed to get real about this dreamin’ thing, man! And here we are – well into the DREAM:IN journey with the conclave on it’s way next month.