I used Trello for my daughter’s school admission

In India, we have lots of good schools. The problem is getting to the right one in the right location. Ask any parent and they will tell you their adventurous stories of how they navigated through the chaotic processes of getting their kid admitted to the school of their choice.

Like any other established institutions in India, the Schools follow a rather bureaucratic and pain-in-the-rear approach to new admissions. Admission time is also the time when everyone involved with the schools is at their bossy-best, willing to dust off all their ranks and files to show-off “who they are and what they can do.”

Anyway, without going into the details of the discrepancies in the schools in India, let me tell you the story of how I used technology to streamline my daughter’s admission. I wanted to involve relatives, friends, and family without overwhelming them, so I needed a solution that is an easy, simple, and no-learning-needed approach to keep track of the progress.

Laaija

Let’s get my daughter admitted to a decent school in Bangalore, India.

Yes, I went to lots of ‘Education Fair’, stood in lines for hours in the hot Indian Summer, visited a hell lot of schools to check them out, met with teachers, roam around the campus, even talked to few students. Besides that, I tracked, labeled, and measured my actions and outcomes with Trello and mapped the locations with Google Maps. The mobile version of Trello (iOS and Android) is an awesome app and everyone involved really liked it.

My daughter outgrew her playgroup.

My daughter, Laaija, celebrated her 4th birthday on Dec 11, 2012. She is now ready for a ‘real’ school. She has already outlined the kind of school she would like to go to. It is a list of strange, funny, and cute (at least to us) criteria and we know what she meant. No, you won’t want to know that list.

Last October, I had initialized the quest for her school. We wanted a good established one and not necessarily some fancy ‘international’ school (without explicitly excluding them), should not be very far from our residence. I should be able to get there within 30 minutes in the typical Bangalore Traffic. It should also not be next-door so she can learn to be independent, travel, and enjoy her school.

Trello, Trello & Trello

I treated it like a Project – steps, processes, labels, issues – a flow borrowed from the Kanban Method, which Trello is very good at.

I created 6 core boards:

  • Inbox – Everything is dropped here first – school names, location on Google maps, notes on people’s review, facilities and amenities available etc.
  • Considered – All schools which we considered applying were dragged into the “Considered” Board. We try to add as many details as possible here.
  • Applied – This is the board for all schools where we applied for our daughter’s admission.
  • Accepted – Schools which have accepted us. It’s now our decision to pick the school, to get admitted or not.
  • Rejected by Us – The schools rejected by us irrespective of the selection of the schools. The Cards in this List can come from “Inbox”, “Applied” or “Accepted”. It’s not surprising that this List holds the most number of Cards.
  • Rejected by School – Of course, quite a few of the schools rejected our application. This List holds all those cards.

Labels

I used a few simple labels to help with the choices. A card can have one or many of these labels. The labels were

  1. Transport (yes)
  2. CBSE
  3. ICSE
  4. IGCSE
  5. Girls
  6. Boys
  7. Co-Ed

Collaboration

I invited a few of our relatives, friends, and family members to this Board. They were told to install the Trello Smartphone apps, so they can do it easily on their phones and not worry about being totally involved.

The idea is to take notes and just write-down details while visiting a School or just seeing one while I travel around Bangalore, made it easy to sort them, work on them later. Writing down helps me free up my brain to concentrate on my work and not worry about my daughter’s admission all the time. The same goes for my wife, relatives, friends, and other family members to help us, without the need to indulge in useless talks, gossips, and lousy phone calls.

Yes, I finally got my daughter admitted a few days back and she is excited about her new school. We hope she will like it and have fun with her new school.

I created a Public Template of the Trello Board if you wish to use it – Picking a School (India). You should change the List Names, Labels to cater to your requirements.

Besides the activities that I cannot ignore, Trello really helped me get our daughter admitted and freed up quite a bit of my effort, time and I was able to continue my work while I stay engaged with the Admission Process.

Updates

It will be incomplete for this article if I do not include the story of the ‘interview’ which got my daughter selected. We were invited to meet the Head of Department (HOD) aka Principal of the School. She talked and got my daughter comfortable, after which she asked her questions including the likes of Apple’s color, the monkey’s favorite fruit. She was a bit concerned about my daughter’s inability to count numbers. The last question she asked my daughter was to use the crayons and draw a circle. That’s easy as Laaija is very good at drawing. She drew a circle. The Principal told her, it was awesome and finally asked her if she can draw a Balloon.

At that moment, I thought my daughter was doing pretty well and we’re pretty close to finishing this event. My wife told me later that, Laaija will now draw a balloon easily. The cool part was, instead of drawing a separate balloon, she just added the thread to the previously drawn circle and made it into a balloon. My wife and I were surprised and I’m pretty sure, if anything, that was the one that sealed the deal. :-)

Olacabs, a bad User Experience

Ola

India is on a 48-hour stand-still with the ‘India Bandh’ called by the All Trade Union. They are protesting against privatization, outsourcing, violation of labor laws, price rise and several other burning issues of the country, trade unions of banking, insurance, public sector undertakings, transporters, and unorganized sectors.

Nope, I’m not going to write about the India Bandh (general strike) but more of a personal experience with Olacabs – an Indian Startup with over $8M in Series-A fund.

Ola's Lies

With our new office setup in Indiranagar, Bangalore, every day is an excitement being in the office – working, playing, and being with the team. Yesterday, with the Bandh announced, I was looking for alternatives to my usual travel medium, the Auto rickshaw aka the Tuk-Tuk.

As luck would have it, Twitter was abuzz with tweets that Olacabs will take special measures to have their cabs available to help the general public, with an added advantage of slashing their fares to that of the auto-rickshaw. All the problems solved! Moreover, I’ve been looking forward to trying their iOS app, use it and write a nice review about them (what an irony). I was hoping that Olacabs will be the Uber of India.

Today Morning, with all hopes and enthusiasm, I got up and was ready for office. I even confirmed a candidate for an Interview for one of our job openings. I fired up the Ola App, and ‘booked’ a cab. Olacabs confirmed by Booking and was assigned a ‘CRN’ Number – 1765782 and the cab will pick me at 10 am.

Got dressed, bags shouldered but by 10:10 am, with no sign of Olacabs, I called up their Customer Support. The voice on the other end wailed “Ola” multiple times and I even got to know that Ola means ‘Hello’ in Spanish. A ‘Subhalakshmi’ picked up the phone after about 3 minutes and she was pretty blunt, wasn’t really listening to me or she could not understand what I was asking. I had to ask her if she really speaks English. I asked for something and she blurted out something else. Of course, I got the fact that my cab was canceled and they were ‘no longer servicing in my area.’

Well, looks like Olacabs did something without proper planning and their PR Stunt is just that – a PR Stunt. Yes, I’ll try them again, give them another chance but today was such a bad User Experience that I won’t expect much from them. They are just another service company with a Spanish name and like every other taxi company, will not try to provide a good user experience and differentiate from the lot.

UPDATES

  • Aug 30, 2013: Uber launches in India.

A quick chat about “In50Hrs” with Vijay Anand

Many in the Indian Startup scene knows Vijay Anand or have heard of him. Vijay Anand run The Startup Centre and is very involved with Startups and Entrepreneurs in India.

I recently had the opportunity to meet him in person when he brought In50Hrs to Bangalore for the first time. In50hrs is The Idea-To-Prototype Event. Entrepreneurs, Developers, and Product Designers come together to work on audacious ideas and build working prototypes (MVP) over a Weekend.

Vijay’s been organizing In50Hrs in Chennai for quite a while and he is taking his idea to other cities in India – Delhi, Pune, and Bangalore. I asked him a few quick questions and he has some thoughtful answers, which I’m sure will be useful to budding entrepreneurs and startups in India.

In50Hrs

Q. Your name is synonymous with the Startup Scene in India. How did you start and how deep do you want to go in?

It started off by having a Startup in Canada (which was finding its exit), coming to India realizing that the ecosystem was still very nascent and with a long list of things to be done, meeting folks here, and talking to them about it. Realized nobody else was going to do anything, and if you care, you are going to have to spearhead change. Better that, than a cribbing NRI right? :)

Q. Why did you start In50Hrs? Why not spearhead the existing StartupWeekend in India under your leadership? How are you differentiating In50Hrs from other initiatives?

When we came up with the concept of wanting to build a platform for folks to come together and build prototypes of Ideas, SW was the first on the list. Unfortunately at that time (perhaps still) the pricing is rather high – for folks to participate and its a complicated structure with everything being managed from the US. We would have opted for it, if it was like a Barcamp format where you could take and run with it, and adapt a bit, rather being too restrictive by rules and a brand.

The difference between a Barcamp Model vs a TEDx Model I suppose. But at the end of the day, we are in a way solving similar problems, and I’d recommend either platform for folks looking to build a prototype over a weekend.

India has its own set of challenges in the early ecosystem and anything that is not built from the ground up to solve the problem accordingly is a forced-fit. I didn’t want to end up with that dilemma.

Q. What is your immediate expectation from In50Hrs and what are your long-term goals?

The short term expectation is for participants to be able to differentiate between a hack and a prototype. We have been constantly asking the question to ourselves as to how do we get folks to leverage this platform to be a starting point towards a venture – so the long term goal would be to enable more and more of the participating teams to launch products and startups.

Q. Do the role of In50Hrs end within those 50 hours or do you want to follow-up with them and guide them forward? If you follow-up, how many such MVPs have become actual Startups? Do you have a number?

Not at all. So that’s one reason why having an event where we can tweak every aspect of it makes sense because we can also manage how to do the hand-off and the follow-up support. We look at the stages of a tech startup as Idea to Prototype; Prototype to Product; and Product to Startup. As part of The Startup Centre we run a six-month hands-on program called The Resident Program which would be a logical progression for teams that want further support.

We have spotted a bit over 20+ startups emerge out of In50hrs.

Q. Do you judge the ideas or do you want In50Hrs to be a free-flowing event? (I see that there were no ratings or votes on the final day.)

One of the briefs we give the Jury is not to Judge the ideas, but evaluate the teams on two aspects – is the prototype a good enough representation of the idea and the problem that is being solved and secondly, what are the next steps for the teams.

We made a conscious effort not to do winners because that gives them closure, and the code dies in their laptops and never ships – let alone take the next steps. The event has been engineered from the ground up to try to build startups, not a competition platform.

Q. Anything important that I missed, that you want to add?

Since we launched to multiple cities, the support that we have been receiving has been phenomenal. Its an amazing experience seeing the startup ecosystem from a national perspective and its interesting to see how each of these hubs is all evolving with a personality of their own. Whether it be an In50hrs event or Startup Weekend, the fact remains that an entrepreneur no longer has an excuse to be sitting on an “Idea”.

’twas an evening of laughter at the Black Dog Comedy Evenings “Uncensored And Unleashed”

Recently, I was invited to attend an event – a Standup Comedy. Well, it was a surprising invitation. I had been invited to lots of events, but there were either technical, blog-related, startups, entrepreneurship and alike, but a Standup Comedy Event! I’m sure the other ‘bloggers’ were equally surprised.

I realized they want to highlight the event and the sponsoring brands to bloggers, but they were not really after us to write about them nor were they specific about what type of articles were written.

Despite all of that, the evening turned out to be a super awesome one for me. I laughed and laughed so much that my stomach hurts for the next two days. However, I’ve to be honest and confess that I’m still new to Bangalore and could not grasp all of the South-Indian specific jokes and punch-lines. Ista Hotel hosted the Black Dog Comedy Evenings “Uncensored And Unleashed”.

Of course, let me warn you that if you follow the likes of Aziz Ansari, Russell Peters, you’ll find them trying hard to be like Russell, Aziz. Nonetheless, I enjoyed them thoroughly. Just leave the expectations at the bar or the door and have an easy evening.

The TiE Entrepreneurial Summit, 2011

The TiE Entrepreneurial Summit, 2011

With the theme, “Celebrating the EntrepreneurTrip”, the TiE Entrepreneurial Summit 2011 will drive their focus on the entrepreneurial journey – trials, tribulations, challenges and exhilaration – from ideation to creation to growth and scaling. Entrepreneurship experiences and lessons from across this spectrum will be discussed, debated and shared through multiple panels and sessions including Guru Talks. The Guru Talk is where Gurus from the world of entrepreneurship share their experiences in an informal Q&A session with the audience. The event will be a good one to network with the likes of budding entrepreneurs, seasoned and experienced ones.

TiE Summit 2011, though a little late to the party but will dorn the “Going Green” phrase this year. The organizers promises to use cutting edge web and mobile applications to manage communication, registration, accessing and networking at the conference. I seriously hope they’ll have free and working Wi-Fi this time around.

Continue reading

Developer Summit 2008, India

Great Indian Developer SummitThis is a reader submited article.

The Indian Developer Summit 2008 Features Co-located Conferences on Bleeding-edge .NET, Rich Web, Daring Java. The Call for Proposals are now Open and Nominations are invited for the Awards.

Under the hood of robust enterprise IT systems, infrastructure, software, products and applications, is the wisdom, passion, grit and experience of people who have contributed in multiple ways to make the end product successful. This collective ecosystem of “Developers” — decision makers, analysts, architects, engineers, project managers, designers, and programmers — is what makes the world of software tick.

The 2008 edition of the annual Great Indian Developer Summit, centered around the theme of “Recipes for Enterprise Productivity”, features a blockbuster convergence of three on-the-radar co-located conferences that no entity in the “Developer ecosystem” can ignore in their quest for success at work and in their careers — Bleeding-edge .NET, Rich Web and Daring Java.

Continue reading