Friday, July 26, 2019

School Parent Communication APP - A Blessing In Disguise

Schools these days are very different from what they were a few years ago. Parents today go through far greater obstacles and hurdles to get their children into a good school. But it doesn't stop there, there is something new every month and every term, be it related to fees or things to be done or just grades /evaluation.

There are times when parents are unable to make it to a parent teachers meeting, or the teacher wishes to share something about the child but does not make sense doing over a note or a phone call. There maybe an instance when something vital needs to be shared with a parent but the child is at a residential school in a different town. What does one do under such circumstances? One would say parents need to make time for the child or be there at all times, but let us be practical.

All this said and done, the parents role goes beyond attending a PTA or just meeting their child's teacher once or twice a year. Parents and teachers need to stay in touch a lot more, they are the two most powerful and influential people in a child's life and this holds true till the child finishes school. Both parties need to realise schools offer far more than just teaching lessons and grades. This is the place where a child spends most of their waking hours, and gets maximum learning that prepares them for the world outside. Therefore, it is in such circumstances that technology comes into play, giving them a platform to stay connected on.

A decade ago, teachers used to give homework or projects and it would get written down in a diary. But these days, there are apps and websites, or Whatsapp through which information is shared with the parents. There are open channels of communication round the clock between the teaching faculty and parents which has made it so convenient to keep track of what is going on at the school. It seems there is lesser human being contact and more of technology these days, that is how much things have changed. With a good School parent communications app in place, the two set of people who influence a child's life are connected with ease.

The School Parent app comes with various features and elements that help make things easier for both parents and the teachers.

Regular Communication
The first point and the most valuable one is that through the School parent communications app-VOICE SNAP, there will be regular communication between the teachers and the parents. At times, parents might not have time to chat with the teacher and so they can use this app to reach out and share information or clarify doubts. The app also comes in handy in case the child is unwell, or unable to make it to class and the parent needs to inform the teacher.

Sometimes if a third person/a friend or relative might be in town and wish to pick the child up from school. This update too can be sent to the teacher so they are kept posted and ensure the child is released to a trust worthy person and not a random stranger.. Teachers use the app to send information about exams, upcoming tests, exhibitions or any other updates to the parents. This helps bridge communication gap between the two parties and ensure smooth sailing for the child as well.
Staying updated
It is always good to be updated when it comes to technology and this holds true for schools and other educational institutions as well. Many a times information and updates are offered on the website, and other times through these apps and instant messaging services. Instead of asking the child about what happened at school, or an incident that took place, one can get information through the app directly.

Similarly, if a child gets into trouble or falls ill, these apps allow the teachers to send an instant message to the parent. Even if the parent is in a meeting or busy, they will receive the same and be able to make arrangements to resolve the issue.

Overall, the beauty of this school app is that
1. It is easy to use with a simple interface
2. Parents can reach out to teachers at any point of time
3. Parents can track their child's performance over a period of time
4. Teachers & Parents need not wait for a parent teacher meeting to get update or clarify any issues.
5. Obtain instant alerts in case of emergency or trouble.

So, bottomline is that one needs to go with the flow and welcome changes as they happen. All of this makes life easy and convenient as well. If your child is in school, check and sign on the app with an open mind and be ready for a smooth ride ahead....

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Insights into Salesforce

I love reading, those who know me know that I am constantly reading a book, either fiction or something on general topic. Infact there have been times when I read two books side by side, one will be fiction other on travel... And then there are times when I come across a topic during a conversation or chat, and that will spark off a reading session...

So, yes, I am a curious kind! If somebody talks about something I wasn't very aware of, you can be sure I will Google it, and even grab a book on the same pretty soon.. It is one thing I love about me. Recently, during a conversation with a client, they mentioned adopting Salesforce, a cloud based CRM platform for their ops and even though I knew of CRM, I hadn't used Salesforce or heard of it much. This got me digging, and finally led me to a site that seems to be one of the finest places that offer Salesforce training in Chennai.

When I dug up on this topic, I understood that it is the new thing that is helping people deal with customer relationship issues. Before the birth of Salesforce, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions were primarily hosted by the company on their own servers. And that infact takes time, effort and manpower as well. Now with changing times and competition, plus the advances in technology, everything has been moved to the cloud, including CRM solutions. Instead of spending months and tonnes of money, one can set up the Salesforce platform within minutes and have it up and running. Everything is online and easily accessible from anywhere.

How cool is that right? Also, understood that the various CRM functions have their own Salesforce arena- sales, ops and so on. So, depending on which department you are working in, you need to focus on the same. The salesforce CRM Training in Chennai is done by this company run by a team of experts who know the system end to end.

Like all new topics I read on, it becomes a sort of a rabbit hole, I just keep going till I realise I have gone too far, or am lost and try to retrace my way back. With the CRM tool- Salesforce too, I discovered a whole world of information, that included some of its key benefits. For what its worth, I shall share some of them here. Hopefully it will help someone who is as curious as I am or is working on this platform.

1. Stay organised and connected... 

The platform allows you to track information related to customers easily, as it is neatly organised into categories.  Since it is all in the cloud, you can access any information pertaining to one particular customer [even things that might not be what you have created]. It makes it that much more easier dealing with multiple clients and thereby helps grow the business. This offers a more complete, holistic approach to managing your growing business. 

Even if you are going to be away, someone else can access the information and take over where you left off.  You can create to do lists, plan the yearly calendar and other activities from this platform. 

You can also keep your other team members updated on what has happened with respect to a customer and let them know what needs to be done. You can chat on the platform and share information/documents etc... 

2. Manage Time better
Since the platform allows you to feed information, events, and schedule meetings/follow ups, you can enable alert systems which means you save a lot of time. It also means you are far more organised and professional in your approach. How easy is that? Am sure you too can achieve all this with a few hours of training and hands on work, that way a new skill gets added to your resume and you grow as an individual as well... 

Well, now that I have shared what I have learnt on the topic, time for you to go do your research and come back with any queries/updates... Time for me to go look up something else, something new and exciting... :-) 

Friday, April 19, 2019

Taxes..taxes and taxes...

There are a few aspects of life that baffle me.. like how to make batter for idli/dosa and then there is the other thing called "Taxes".. For the longest time, I did not bother to read up, or learn about these things and then came a time when I had no choice but to learn about one of them. No no, it wasnt how to make batter, but it was the taxes that did me in! I caved in about a decade ago, when I began freelancing and realised I had to be more vigilant with what I was doing and learn the ropes of this concept. 

Me being me, did not go to any expert or professional, but instead starting spending oodles of time reading about it on the net and talking to friends along the way. I wouldn't directly ask them how to file Taxes, but would weave it into conversations, asking them if they were done with the filing, how was it and so on. It just so happened that I have a few professionals in my circle and so enabled me to get a grasp on things within a short span of time.  That said, I continue to learn, and continue to grit my teeth every time the date comes close. :-) 

I also realised that many are sailing in the same boat as me, and so it is fun to row together, and compare notes. But then things have gotten easier once I discovered the internet, and the world went online. I now am part of the group that follows professional tax online payment mode and get things done in zip zap zoom, well with a few hiccups along the way.  

Professionals are not just doctors, lawyers, it also includes anyone doing business, working with a company or working on their own, offering services & solutions to clients.. And professional tax is levied by the State Government. The only thing you need to note is the tax rates in your state, as it differs between states. Even freelancers without any employees need to sign up on this and pay the professional tax on time. Also note that the date for filing this tax might differ from state to state, so remember to check and pay attention to the deadlines. Oh and there are certain people who are exempt from this tax component, so read up and even better if you get someone to guide you! 

The documents you need are not complicated
1. PAN card [self/company]
2. Agreement if you are in a partnership 
3. Bank statement along with a cancelled cheque 
4. Passport size photo of yourself/ others on board[if any]
5. Place of business proof [ if you have an office/factory]
6. Few other documents, varying depending on the kind of professional you are [ refer to the site for details ]

For example, if you are in Tamil Nadu and making under Rs21000 per month, you don't have to pay any professional tax, but if it is between Rs21000- 30000, then you pay Rs100 per month. and so on. There are tables that will help you understand the slabs. While it is fun to take on projects and work on them, this is an element that needs your attention as well. 

if you are a salaried person, then your employer will collect a certain percentage from your monthly salary, and if you are an individual doing business or freelancing, then you pay the professional tax directly online by filling out a form. Once you are done registering, you will be assigned a Number that you need to save up...Subsequent to that, you can proceed to filing taxes online. Was that too much to handle? haha, I do understand that Sometimes these things go over our heads and that is why the website I have mentioned above comes in handy. They not only help you close out on professional tax payment, but also help you do the same. This professional tax is a deductible amount [under Income-tax Act, 1961] and will be deducted from the taxable income, irrespective of the source/profession. 

All you need to do is sign up with them, submit all the necessary papers and let them help with calculations and filing. Even if you are travelling or occupied with a project with no time to spare, just keep sending the documents across to them and they will ensure you are on track. 

Don't let it slide, you might end up paying hefty fines! Get going....  :-)

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Chinmaya IAS Academy- Civil service launchpad...

There is a friend of mine- K, who has a cousin-M.
M is into Civil services and is slowly climbing the ladder, one step at a time.

Few years ago, one afternoon when K & I caught up, she was telling me how this girl is very clear and wants to write the Civil services exam, and has told her parents to not push her into getting married.
Even though she is the only child, they have accepted her terms and support her in this.

With time, I came to know she had cleared basic exams, was posted in Madurai where she had taken an apartment and her mom moved in to help out [make sure she eats well, etc, cos she has never been on her own and the whole single child phenomenon]

All this was playing around in my head. I got curious about the Civil services, and began digging around the Internet for places that helped kids prepare for the exams and job. That is when I chanced upon Chinmaya IAS Academy, known to be the finest IAS Coaching Centre in Chennai…

Spent some time reading their site and talking to a few who have enrolled with them. Launched in 2017, they have quickly established a place in the market and renowned as a place that offers coaching classes for UPSC (IAS/ IPS/IFS/IRS) Examinations in Chennai. The place not only gives a good foundation in the civil services arena, but they also train students to equip themselves for the long run. The website is quite extensive, offering information on the courses, including the syllabus and even mock question paper that will help students prepare for the exams. Apart from these, you can Register for admission, chat with an executive who will be able to clear any doubts, or obtain more clarity as well. The best feature is the "Take scholarship sample exam", which will be useful for those who are worried about financial implications but have dreams of becoming an IAS officer...

                                         Admission Registration and Online chat support 

                                                                        Mock questions

Today with the amount of technology and exposure that is available, students need something that they cant find online. That is where this academy stands apart, and why it is listed among the Top IAS Academy in Chennai.. The IAS community is known to not only consists of smart thinking people, but also those who are grounded and clear headed. This is something that can’t really be taught but trained. Therefore, it is good that such centers exist, making life easier for aspirants!

Talk about having big dreams and being able to realize them with ease! Even though I am not writing these exams, just based on what I have read, I would recommend this center if you are looking for a place to help you get started.. Good luck~!

Monday, March 25, 2019

Joy of reading and gifting books..

If I were to rewind time and go back to my childhood, I only remember being outside with friends, playing or at home reading while listening to music [ in our Sharp Cassette player]. I also grew up listening to AC/DC, Van Halen, Phil Collins, Bruce Springsteen, ABBA, Carpenters and so on thanks to my uncles..... Which is probably why even today I love music from the years gone by and need music around me all the time.....

I used to get excited whenever I got news that someone was visiting, for it meant more books to be lost in. Loved reading Enid Blyton to Mystery of 5 find outers and slowly moving to books with bigger words and deeper subjects/plots.. I have over the years discovered new genres, authors as well... plus today, thanks to the whole social media circus, the world has become smaller. I have connected with friends and people from other parts of the country/world who recommend books and authors.. It is almost like going down the rabbit hole, you just get lost and enjoy the adventure.. Infact, the world has become so connected that I have even interacted with a few authors, going beyond just enjoying their books/style of writing. 

Am quite sure if you were to do a survey among those who read [does not matter what kind of books/genre], they will invariably be the ones who also believe in giving books as gifts to others. It does not matter who the recipient is, as in the age or sex or background of the person!  I too belong to that category! For all my friends and their kids, when it comes to visiting them I know what am gonna give.. With a few, we ask each other what they have read, or what they wanna read and gift accordingly, and for some we just go with their Amazon wish list or introduce them to a new author. 

Sometimes the new authors and books are welcomed, sometimes we read and leave it at it. But well, it is an amazing gift option. Infact, I was telling a friend of mine that it would be good for parents to give books as return gifts, instead of some random toy or thing.  Year on year, the budget for birthday parties seems to be growing rapidly, cakes getting bigger but the return gift remains something people pick up in a hurry, but they do spend on it [ atleast 300-500Rs].. 

If only kids of today are introduced to books like Amar Chitra Katha or Malgudi days?!! They would also love to be lost amidst other kids and get hooked to the world of books, instead of the iPad or whatever other gadgets they are into these days. Yes, it does have its consequences.. The child will demand you buy them a book every time you to a mall or bookstore, but then books trump other toys/puzzles, right? :-))  Gift a book, encourage a child /adult to read and that way you will be changing their lives forever... For adults, you can also include a set of bookmarks :-) 

As the kids grow older, introduce them to the world of libraries, that way they can borrow, read and go back for more.. 

Btw, have you read the Malgudi Days? If not, grab your copy today/ place your bulk orders here... 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

All about reading and books..

The other day this person I met asked me if I remembered the 1st ever book I read.. I racked my brain for a few minutes and gave up! Came home and asked mom, she said it was a set of books gifted by my athai [ aunt] - Jack & the beanstalk, Sleeping beauty, The Swiss Family Robinson, Snow white & 7 dwarfs and one more.. I have them around somewhere at home, unless mom has given them away to some cousin or uncle. 

Dont ever remember mom /dad reading to me, but do remember being nose deep into books... And am sure this is a habit that just sky rocketed when we were in Tirunelveli.. Uncles used to visit us and every time would be with a box of books and music cassettes. That is how I fell in love with books and reading. Amar Chitra Katha is one set of comic book series that I remember being part of the collection. Even today, whenever I see an ACK book, I will pick it up and read through before putting it back on the shelf. 

Whenever I go visiting a friend/family, if there is a kid in that space, I always carry books. I have cousins & friends who are abroad, so their kids get books that have both english & tamil in them. Sometimes the parents thank me for the books and other times I am met with glares that say "now we are drowning in books, no space at home already...". lolz.. It gives me such joy to see kids reading... Am ok with them reading even silly books, as long as they get into the habit.. I know for sure they will grow up figuring out the genre that appeals to them.  

I also don't mind sitting and telling stories, or reading books to the kids. Its fun watching their expressions, and answering questions about the pieces of a story. They pick up new words, thereby their vocabulary improves. Infact, I believe this for everyone.. The more you read, the more it is reflected in your personality.. No, I am not judging anyone, just saying! 

Today, kids have such a range of books available to them- Indian and international.. It leaves me puzzled whenever I go book shopping. There are some that have 40-50 as part of the series, some into fantasy, others general, and more.. Uff... And so when I stumbled upon this list put together by Amar Chitra Katha, I was kicked and had to share it...  The best part is I have read all the books on the list, some of it might be for slightly older kids, but others work for little ones as well. It was exciting to see Malgudi days sitting proudly at the 4th spot.. I am back to reading and watching the series.. have you read it? 

Read the article here

There are always books and authors waiting to be discovered. Reminds me of the time a friend & I had visited this space called "Rare books" housed in a garage.... The minute you step in, you are transported to a different world altogether. We met Mr. Govindaraju, the 82-year-old who was lost in pages from newspaper and magazines, pulling out interesting/ vintage ads. He is an avid reader, collector and has taken over the reigns from his father.  I picked up two books from that space and must say it was the most fun I have had in a long time.... He had shelves piled up with books as high as the ceiling and we walked around the tiny space, taking it all in.... 

Monday, March 18, 2019

When Swami became my friend... Malgudi days...

I remember getting back home from school, washing up, changing out of the school uniform, gulping down the glass of milk before heading out the door to my great aunt's house down the road. I wouldn't even ring the bell, just take off my chappals, and enter their living room, and make a beeline for that sofa [almost as if it had been reserved for me]. Hearing me enter, uncle would come into the room from wherever he was and head straight for the TV. 

Back then, we got only one channel- Doordarshan. He would sit with me, just to keep me company till the show began. And like clockwork, it would start, and for half an hour I was lost to the world. I don't really remember what day of the week it was aired, or the time but do remember distinctly the colours and music. 

I am talking about Malgudi days, the show based on the works of author R K Narayan, a collection of short stories. The show's basic plot revolved around Swami [the protagonist] and his endless adventures.Set in the imaginary town of Malgudi, each episode was a short story. 

It featured government workers/middle class people, businessmen ,street vendors and school children (including Swamy and his friends) not to forget their life, mindset back in the day (especially towards British).  Though the town of Malgudi was small, it had a Government factory, 2 schools, a local market, a Post office, two cinema halls, a bus stand,  and few other buildings as well. Oh and there was a paper called the 'Malgudi Times' as well, all of which had me believing there really was a town called Malgudi back then. It was directed by Kannada actor and director Shankar Nag.

Infact, the show used to be telecast in Hindi [it was almost like the makers of the show had the country and the world convinced that South Indians were fluent in Hindi].. Must say, this show is one of the things I used to watch that helped me learn the language as well.  A couple of years later, I was gifted the book by one of my uncles... 

The stories were all fairly simple. They were about Swami and his friends, their adventures and was set in the pre-Independence era. I remember watching the boys run around in dhotis, caps and crisp jackets on streets around the now vintage Austin and Hindustan cars. Infact the the donkeys and elephants in some of the scenes made the town come alive. It was magical and I was hooked.  The plot of each episode usually involved the little problems that cropped up in the town of Malgudi or  between the boys themselves – it could be small fights, jealousy or misunderstandings. From something as simple as a rough day at school to a stolen necklace, you had it all. But the beauty of it was that all the episodes/stories had a happy ending... 

Over the years, this is a series/book that I have made references to whenever we spoke of our childhood. I remember, once a friend mentioned there was a pure veg hotel called Malgudi Station in Baner, Pune.. Talk about the name going beyond just the book.  Another piece of interesting news is that Malgudi is a real station today- Indian Railways has renamed Arasalu railway station in Shivamoga district as "Malgudi" station. How cool is that?! 

Today, when I look back in time, nostalgia hits me hard. There are some things that are precious, and for me it was all these moments from my childhood. We did not have a TV at home and so this aunt's house was where we would head to watch these shows and movies as well... I have now picked up the book to re-read and also saw that the show was available on Amazon Prime.. Good chance for those who want to watch Malgudi Days all over again.

If like me you would love to own one of these beauties, then grab the hardbound copy of the book here...

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

[Book] A contest, a win and Meeting Padmalakshmi..

If there is a contest within my eye/ear shot you bet I will participate. I dont really get into it with dreams of winning big, but it is more the thrill of being able to answer some challenging questions and rack my brains a bit..

Few days ago, Taj Coromandel announced a contest on their social media channels, and wham bam I jumped at it. It had just two questions, easy ones -

1. Name Padmalakshmi's latest book title
2. List the spices that were shown in the photograph... 

Well, well well, what  do you know, I ended up being one of the two winners.. :-)) 

So, last evening was the Book reading event. I was at the venue around 6.40pm , found myself an empty seat and got down to it. A friend of mine joined me in a few minutes. 

It was an evening spent listening to Padma share tales from her childhood, her parents divorce, how they moved to USA when she was just 2, growing up as a brown girl in a country that was quite harsh to other races , her teen years, entering the world of fashion, stumbling onto the food arena, her marriage [ with Salman Rushdie, her daughter with Dell] and her life today. She also shared snippets from her days spent at her grandparents home in Chennai- Besant Nagar to be precise. 

She then moved on to read from her book  Love, Loss and What we ate - A Memoir ... The section she chose was about the joy of the humble Curd rice. Well, looks like she is quite fond of it, cos the section had quite a vivid description of how the curd rice is made, the tempering, the sounds, sights and variations from across her family. I found it quite entertaining, probably because in our households the curd rice is the last thing on our minds when we talk about food. :-)  
And I like mine plain or with a simple tempering, no ginger or fruits for me please.

I actually thought the event would be about her latest book - The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs [An Essential Guide to the Flavors of the World] .. The book, the cover and contents were quite interesting.

The one statement she made that resonated with me was “You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to what happens to you".. I so agree to this and intact live by this policy.. 

Moving on, the floor was open to questions, and then came the moment when I got to meet her. The two of us who had won also got to take our photograph taken with Padma.. I did ask her something on my cousin's behalf, for which she gave answers patiently...  And well, that was the end of an eventful evening. 


After I got done, I shared updates online and I had friends asking me a barrage of questions. One question that all of them asked was "How was she?".

My answer to this was "She is exactly as we see her on TV.. not just looks, but the way she talks and carries herself... "

Another friend asked "Was she warm?'

My reply to this was "well, she was sweet enough to patiently answer my queries..."