Monday, April 05, 2010


“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly”.

I met her in a PG. On old airport road. In 2006.
In a crowd of nondescript, sometimes unbearable girls who lived there, there were a few sensible ones of comparable frequency I could make conversation with.
She was one among them.

Among the many things that we talked about - life, living, relationships, arranged marriages, skin and hair, the subject of career found a mention now and then.

She should have known she was discussing the subject with the wrong person. For I, was neither ambitious nor hardworking, nor passionate about anything that was remotely connected with work.
I was one of those intellectuals, expert in armchair analysis, who did not find the capitalistic, consumption based system good enough to spend her precious years adding value to.
But this post is not about me. It’s about her.

At 23, she had just changed her career path. She had moved from a call center to a company that designed websites.
She had a five figure salary, a friends’ circle, beautiful features, dressing sense, parties and film festivals to attend. She was having fun.

But she was not at rest. Often, she wondered where her life was heading and what she was doing with herself. I asked her, ‘What do you want?’ She could not point a finger to one specific thing but she felt something was lacking.

I did not take her worry seriously. I thought, this happens. When people have all they want and there’s nothing in wanting, their wanton mind, for want of something to look forward to, wants to dwell upon such questions. The problem of plenty, you see.

But every now and then she would wonder what next. After a few months, I heard her saying, ‘I don’t want to work for someone else. I want to do something for myself. I want to be on my own’.

I smiled. At the 23 year old who wanted to start her own business. Like I would smile at a child proclaiming to become an astronaut someday. Not because I doubted the potential of the child. But because of the casual manner with which the child stated its ambition without a full understanding of the long journey ahead of it and all the difficulties in the way. I smiled at the naivete of a child.

One foot still in her teenage, groping for identity, somewhat confused, still figuring out an ideology to embrace, she came across (to me) as a girl who had just stepped into adulthood, but not completely yet.
She was aware of this aspect of herself too. But nevertheless, she knew it was inside her. A big idea inside her small frame, just waiting for the right time to come out.
On the left panel that displayed several widgets on her blog, one of the quotes was “There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly”.

I advised her to wait. Until she had acquired the experience of years. And generally, the lessons of life.
I said she might not be ready for that kind of responsibility yet. Why did she want to slog and take risks when she could choose the alternate option of working within a defined role and have some time for herself. She could develop other hobbies and interests.

I had not, the slightest intention of dissuading her. I just stepped into her shoes (as we always do while listening). I just imagined, having to start a company myself, and all the sacrifices it would ask of me! And I shuddered.

Early 2008.
Just before we went to the Himalayas, she resigned. Recession was about to begin. She didn’t have a job in hand and no savings to fall back upon.
After the Himalaya trip, I hoped she would find a job.

But she didn’t.

Because, the caterpillar was hibernating.

And when all the world crumbled from the skies to the call of recession, the butterfly took wings.

To begin an Odyssey. 21st Century Odyssey.
And THAT, my dear, is the name of the company Ranjana Nair founded. The number 21 in Roman is XXI.
So XXICO stands for 21st Century Odyssey.
The interesting name and its abbreviation are both madam’s idea.

So I asked her to say a few words about how it all started…

“If you ask entrepreneurs, why they started their own business, the most popular reply you get is, I wanted to be my own boss. And 80% of the entrepreneurs you interview swear that there was some divine intervention when it came to the business idea and that seemed to disappear when you actually got down into executing that idea.

But in the end, the plunge - starting on your own is beyond all these reasons. Its an internal wiring done in your psyche to look for opportunity anywhere and everywhere. I chanced upon multi-touch, when I was working on 3-D animations and creation of augmented reality for a school in UAE. The idea of being able to do something new and refreshing and exciting got me hooked to it.

“The technology by itself is so exciting...all about touch and having no boundaries to what you can imagine of doing with touch technology.....
The mere idea of iphone excites people for the same reason.....if your interested you should read up on Bill Buxton...the god of touch technology..... its extremely interesting.”

So dear readers, please put your hands together for the CEO at 26.
Do check out her website to know more.

Send your prayers to her and send some assignments her way.

PS: One of my childish wishes has been to have at least one article starting with every letter of the English alphabet on my blog.
With this post, my wish is fulfilled :)


Rishi said...

Congratulations, for fulfilling your childhood dream :-). Nice to know about your friend. I love the name of the company. People have their own way of thinking and innovating. Possibilities are infinite, nothing repeats, if you have a free mind, but so difficult to get the free mind. Years learning also adds bias and other stuff which impedes creativity.



Sowmya said...


It was no childhood dream. You read me wrong. Like I said, it was just a childish fancy!

What impedes creativity most is the profit motive. Marketing, Selling and you get caught so much in money money that after a certain point the founding objective is forgotten. You create not to add 'true value' but to sell. You use advertising to make it 'seem' valuable and do some manipulation to create a necessity in the lives of people for a product you have created.

Why does humanity need fair and lovely? At least 50 percent of the products selling today are as futile ans fair n lovely.

Anyway,... just wish my friend good luck. We are digressing too much...

Rishi said...

See I got baised by the article and called your childish fancy as Childhood dream.

Anyway an interesting point. Fair & Lovely is most popular in Japan. I wonder why :-).


melvit said...

It was a good article Soumya. Good to know that Ranjana is the CEO ;)

Sowmya said...

Hey Melvit,

Welcome to this space. At last, you are able to get here.