Toxic Culture in Edtech

Toxic culture in Edtech. We don’t need to name any organization but I am sure you have come across many posts articles and videos that speak volumes about the toxic culture.

What is toxic culture? 

Toxicity at workplace is characterised by set of nasty behaviours that don’t contribute to psychological safety, security and overall mental and physical wellbeing. 

What are these nasty behaviours? 

Disrespect, unnecessary workaholism, unhealthy politics, unhealthy recurring conflicts, etc. The list is endless but this should suffice for the sake of argument.

How we define behaviours?

Behaviours are natural/deliberate responses to situations/stimulus. Behaviour simply means how you chose to react to the happenings around you.

With that foundational knowledge let us try to understand what is happening in Edtech.

Edtech organisations are nothing but sales organizations. They have a tech core, software engineers who build the platform and educators who use that platform. And then there is an army of sales people who aggressively push the product/service to the masses.

At any given time sales employees outnumber the core employees by a ratio of 1:5 (for every one core employee, there are 5 sales employees, I am using conservative numbers, the ratio could be much higher)

Which makes any typical company in Edtech as a sales organization. The product/service is highly scalable so much so that for a 10x growth you might need only 2x core employee rise but a 5x rise in sales force. 

Now just imagine, what kind of environment/situation a typical B2C sales employee faces in his/her routine?

Uncertain, dynamic, stressful, targets that always remain elusive, stretch goals, exhausting. These are all situations.

Then what are the resulting behaviours? 

We have already discussed that. 🙂 

So I believe it is not surprising that culture in most Edtech companies in characterised by toxicity. Only difference is that this toxicity is being reported more often. 

Should we deduce that all sales organization are toxic? I don’t think so. It depends on the environment they function in.

OYO, Oracle , Insurance companies can be termed as sales organization because they have a small core and large sales functions.

Are they toxic? Do tell me in the comment section.

Shared Psychosis and Religions

Shared psychosis is a phenomenon wherein a group of individuals share a delusional belief or an absurd alternate reality. For instance, if you and your folks believe that the moon will crash onto the earth on December 31, 2025 and erase all life, that is a delusional belief. It is absurd but a small group of people has developed a strong shared belief around it. And perhaps there could be a reason for this shared belief best known to them.

Recently, I watched a documentary on Netflix that narrated a disturbing event. In 2018, a family of 11 committed mass suicide by hanging themselves. To cut the long story short, among the dead was a 45 year old man who influenced everyone to die along with him. But the seeds for this event were planted in 2007 when the psychologically disturbed man started writing notes on how the family should behave. He was seen as the family leader and a patriarchal guiding light. The notes were elaborate and dictated each member of the family to behave in a certain way, follow routines and mannerisms. It was a cult practice. What was more shocking was the consistency with which the notes were written. One note-book per year was written. Everyone lived by the book and kept it a family secret. Even the kids followed the doctrine diligently. The date and process for the mass suicides were also dictated as per the book.

Now let us look at religions. Without naming any religion, don’t you think every religion is somewhat a shared belief. We call it a shared belief and not shared psychosis because religions are seen from the lens of divine idealism. Millions of people follow it, most follow it blindly and few consciously. Obedience is virtue. Thousands of years back the seeds for the hundreds of religions and cults were probably sown through shared psychosis. Absurd but surreal beliefs of one single individual that percolated across a small group.

Few religions reached an inflection point where they could gather the followership of masses. These religions succeeded because the ideas and philosophy transcended beyond the individual who incepted those. Apparently those ideas were sustainable and to a degree conducive for human sanity long after the founder passed away. Inflection points for young religion or cult practices happens when the greater good and wellbeing of followers supersedes the vested interest of the founder. In the case of the mass suicide mentioned earlier, this inflection point manifested in form of death.

Taliban version 2.0 : How they are different?

How can everyone quietly observe the Taliban overthrowing the Afghanistan Government?

How can the US quietly withdraw its troops and diplomats?

How can China declare friendly support to the Taliban?

What are we missing here?

It is the Taliban version 2.0

It took 20 years for version 2.0 to be released

Has the Taliban changed its ideology?

Are they more civilized now?

Not really.

Did the Taliban win the hearts of Afghans?

They don’t have to.

Then what has changed?

Taliban learned the Art of Diplomacy.

It took two decades in the making.

You must listen to Taliban Spokesperson Suhail Shaheen.

He speaks of policy, reforms, and non-violence.

Do we need to believe him or the Taliban for that matter?

Not really.

However, what they have earned the hard way is “The Benefit of Doubt”

Somewhere there is a hope that the Sharia law will work in Afghanistan.

That benefit of the doubt was enough to throw the world into a standstill, a spiral of inaction and indecisiveness.

Afghanistan is no longer as strategic as it was in the 70s and the Taliban is not really perceived as a terrorist organization by outsiders.

It is seen as an organized army of 75000 that has taken city after city without major conflicts.

The world forgets, we have a short memory.

The ability to organize, plan, and ability to communicate that plan to the world is a skill in itself that the Taliban has built over the years.

Back in 2001, they didn’t have it.

All they could think was Hijack a couple of planes and ram them into the twin towers.

It is a wait-and-watch game as to how the Global powers will play this out.

But there is a reason Afghanistan is called the graveyard of empires, it has not failed to live by that sobriquet.


Normalization of Death

Manali Memes are all over the internet. You see hordes of people on the busy streets of Manali.

For the uninitiated, Manali is an famous hill station in North India. Currently it is in news because hordes of people are visiting the place after the lift of second lockdown. These tourists don’t really follow Covid protocols and put their lives at risk. This is a sign that an 3rd Covid wave in India is imminent. The second wave has proven fatal to millions.

Given the above scenario, the rational mind questions such behavior of people . Why are people even risking their lives?

If you reflect, this could be a direct consequence of the normalization of death.

Let me explain.

Death has been normalized in religious scriptures.

Mythology says you live and then you die.

However, acceptance of loss has never been easy.

Death is a rarity, you only die once.

Death is a rarity because in your lifetime you could only closely witness a few deaths.

You mourn and revive. You accept and move on. It is an organic process.

Death in that case is an event. Obviously a sad one.

Now let us have a look at the havoc unleashed by the pandemic.

The pandemic has claimed millions.

During this period, death was seen through the “mechanized lens”.

The sad event was reduced to mere operations.

Haste, quick, mechanized.

Book beds, allocate breathing devices, manage supply chain, optimize beds.

Prioritize the sick, decide who doesn’t need the bed and who does. 

Manage logistics for the deceased. Waiting lists and resource allocation.

Bottle-necks and workstations (pyres)

Does this ring a bell?

The scene was no different from the Auschwitz concentration camp.

If death is normalized then we might not really appreciate the longevity of life but the “shortness” of it.

A trip to Manali in that case is just a bet on life, now that it has lost some of its value.

It is okay to live grand and short life taking all the risks because it is okay to die as well. 🙂

The aftermath of the pandemic has significantly reduced the fear of death?

Do let me know in the comments.


How do you feel when someone disagrees with you?

How do you feel when someone disagrees with you?

A few days back, I commented on an Instagram post.

The post had thousands of likes. The creator was a woman with more than 50000 followers.

She stated that “fitness” is subjective. It was her belief.

I usually don’t comment on Instagram posts. But that day I felt like doing so.

I said, “Fitness is objective, the world is moving in that direction. If fitness is subjective, no one is really fit.”

It was my worldview and belief.

“100% untrue”, came the reply. 

She went on to explain at length why she believes so. 

Now I had a choice, to leave the debate or push my point further.

I decided to push it a little further. This time with some more logic.

I said “if fitness is subjective, then why fitness tests for jobs, any gym, or sports are so objective? There are series of checkboxes. Hence, fitness is nothing but a checklist, hence objective”

I received no reply after that. 

The next morning, I received a notification. She had again written a long reply. Now she brought logic and scenarios that were confusing or simply beyond my comprehension. 

I decided to yield for two reasons.

The opponent was actually trying too hard to be right and win.

Reason two, it was her turf, with all the zillion followers, it was a hornet’s nest.

Here are few reflections:

The true test of your character will happen when someone disagrees with your beliefs and opinions and how you react after that.

Are you big enough to accommodate a thought, an idea, or a principle that directly counters yours?

Anyway, on LinkedIn such confrontations are rare.

LinkedIn is the world of “I agree”

We all live in harmony here, don’t we? 🙂

India’s COVID wave : Think before blaming the governments

Our healthcare system was always broken. Let us think before we blame the governments. 

It is our collective mindset at play here.

Let us understand why Healthcare or for that matter any industry thrives?

We all know the answer; strong demand drives industries and organizations to grow.

Healthcare is expensive. And only the rich can afford the best healthcare in India.

But what about the poor and the middle class?

Well, the truth about any service is that someone has to pay for it.

And no one is ready to pay for healthcare in India.

People prefer to delay treatments and avoid visits to hospitals. 

They believe in Jugaad. Or suffering. Or both. 

But here is a universal truth.

The backbone of any national healthcare system is not governance.

It is the health #insurance sector. 

The private health Insurance coverage in India is just 3%.

In the US it is around 70%.

With no insurance, people don’t prioritize their health concerns unless they are extremely critical.

So why invest in a #healthcare capacity, when it doesn’t make any business sense.

We as people of this nation never prioritized health.

The doctor-population ratio in India is 1:1456 against the #WHOrecommendation of 1:1000.

Why it is such a surprise that this covid wave is a shock to the system?

Netflix has a “No Vacation Policy”

Netflix has a “No vacation Policy”

No, it is not what you are thinking.

On the contrary, the policy empowers employees to decide when to work and when to take a break. In fact, they don’t need a vacation policy.

This morning I was listening to the Podcast where Reed Hastings, the founder of Netflix was describing this policy.

The host asked him:

How come the policy is not abused by your employees?

To that, Reed said, you cannot micromanage and monitor and set so many rules for people.

Employees are just told “ Act in Netflix’s best interest”.

Come to think of it, what is the secret ingredient of culture at Netflix?

Well, it boils down to trust.

I believe that “trust” alone can solve many problems.

The sad part is people try to replace trust by active monitoring.

But in return, we are increasing our own problems.

Friction, burnout, setting wrong expectations, lack of work-life balance.

As humans, the moment we remove trust from the equation, we fall apart.

And I am sure, the best and the most innovative organizations across the world have a very high #trust index

The happiest families would have trust as a foundational value.

Happiest relationships and bonds are built around trust.

It is easy to be metric-driven, tell me how many organizations that are six sigma and process excellence champions make it to the most innovative list?


This is how I generate profits for Amazon

This is how I am forced to increase the efficiency of delivery guys.

I am making more profits for AmazonSwiggy, and

I not only contribute to their top-line but also their bottom-line.

I live in a gated community. Due to the pandemic, delivery guys are not allowed inside.

When Amazon, Groffers, or Swiggy guy reaches the gate, they call me on the intercom.

All I have to do is oblige and say yes sire, wait there, I am coming, allow me two minutes.

Sometimes they wait, sometimes they leave the package at the security gate.

It is an inconvenience.

Walk at least half a kilometer to and fro to get the order. Call the lift. Sanitize your hands. Exit the lift. Come home and wash your hands.

For hyperlocal deliveries in cities, more than 60% value is added in the last 300 meters.

I and many others pick their orders at the gate, which means more time for delivery guys to take more orders. Shorter turnaround times. Fewer errors, more efficiency.

I am sure Amazon knows this and so does Swiggy

Do you guys plan to reduce your delivery fee?

The paradox of the plenty

Since the Hippies landed in Goa in the 70s, Tourism in #Goa went on steroids.

Both metaphorically and factually.

A paradise was discovered.

50 yrs later Goa has the highest per capita income in the country.

2.5 times more than the national avg.

For those of you who may not know, the second pillar of the Goan economy is mining.

As a matter of fact, my very first job as an engineer was in a mining company in Goa.

That job lasted for a day, I will save this story for later.

Goa ranks highest on most of the development indicators in the nation.

Thanks to two cash cows; Tourism and Mining.

But here is the other side of the story.

Goa is a perfect example of jobless growth.

The government is not incentivized to create jobs but to support existing infrastructure for tourism and mining.

It is not the fault of any government.

It is a resource curse at play.

It is called the paradox of the plenty, Google it.

Rampant mining for years has done enough damage.

Well, I am trying my best to sum-up Goa for you.

Because I don’t see people talking about Goa in the popular news channels.

Sadly the mouthpiece of Goans are dumb Bollywood movies.

They depict Goans as funny happy people because the script has no scope to factor in complex economic concepts like the paradox of the plenty.


This will make you very insecure

Ankur Warikoo posted a special series of tweets last month.

Except for the fact that Ankur Warikoo did not write them.

They were generated by a bot.

It was an experiment.

Here is a sample tweet.

“People don’t change. They just reveal themselves.
It’s your responsibility to be with people who are worth your time.”

Could you make out that this was written by a bot?

I couldn’t.

These tweets also had a 12% higher engagement than his own tweets.

How was it possible?

The answer is GPT 3 an AI model.

GPT 3 is largely being recognized for its language capabilities.

It can write creative fiction, what else do you need?

Five years down the line you may not even figure out if the profile you are engaging with is a bot or a human.

And it is a need, why?

Only an Algorithm can beat an algorithm.

Over the last few years, I am observing that engagement on Linkedin has become more labor-intensive.

It is all hard work, frankly speaking, humans can do much better than simply posting “Thanks for sharing!” on some trending post.

Instead, they just prime a bot to say something even more intelligent.

How about the bot actually reads the post? And gives a meaningful reply to ponder upon?

Reflect and share your thoughts.