Anshuman Bapna

Anshuman Bapna

Meet Anshuman Bapna of Bapna and Prateek Sharma founded their startup in Bangalore in 2009. They raised a seed round and Series A and pivoted a couple of times. Here is how Bapna describes the pivots:

Arguably, travel planning is one of the top worst ideas entrepreneurs can think of. In our quest to crack that impossible nut, we changed (ahem, “pivoted”) our product 3x before finally getting it right.

Earlier this month MyGola was acquired for an undisclosed amount by MakeMyTrip, a publicly traded travel company in India. Bapna made the announcement on their website.

I’m incredibly excited to announce that Mygola has agreed to be acquired by MakeMyTrip (NASDAQ:MMYT). It’s been a remarkable journey that we set out on 5 years ago to truly solve travel planning.

Here is a fun video that Bapna and his team created to announce their acquisition by MakeMyTrip.

We recorded this interview with Bapna in 2013, where he talks about entrepreneurship, MyGola and the pivots they made. In fact when we interviewed him MyGola was in the process of making a pivot. MyGola is the second startup Bapna co-founded. He founded his first startup while he was a student at IIT, Bombay.

Bapna studied at Stanford University and worked at Deloitte and Google in the US and then decided to head back to Bangalore to co-found


My 3 Picks for SFIFF: Court, Chef’s Table and 7 Chinese Brothers

With one more week to go, here are my 3 picks from this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival (April 23-May 7, 2015). These are films that I have seen. There are lot of films I have not seen, and would like to see them. These include “The Diplomat,” “The Deep Web” “Tangerine” and “The Wolf Pack.”  In case you missed it, here is my previous post on my picks from the film festival.

1. “Courtby Chaitanya Tamhane. This is a riveting film on how the court system works in Bombay, India. We see the film through the eyes of the three primary actors: the accused, the defender and the prosecutor. You can read an extended post on Court here.

2. “Chef’s Table” is a Netflix original documentary series that features 6 chefs from around the world. What is fascinating about this series is that you get a close look at how each of these chefs evolved and found their style. Often, we forget that chefs have to be entrepreneurial in their ventures and we see that aspect of their personality too. The festival is presenting two episodes from the series. One of them is about the flamboyant, fearlesss, fire-loving  chef Francis Mallman from Argentine.

3. “7 Chinese Brothers is a quirky film that centers around a young man played by Jason Schwartzman, who drifts through life in an aimless manner. He finally finds his calling working in an oil change shop. Disaster strikes when he loses his last remaining relative and his job. How does he handle this latest upheaval in his life? That is what the film is about.

Francis Mallman from “Chef’s Table”


“Court” by Chaitanya Tamhane


“7 Chinese Brothers”

PODCAST: Dr. Salman Akhtar on History of Bollywood Films Part-4

Dr. Salman Akhtar

Dr. Salman Akhtar

We continue with our history of Hindi cinema or Bollywood with Dr. Salman Akhtar. We pick up the threads of our conversation and look at how Bollywood films underwent a change during the 1980s. The films made in 1970s belonged to the angry young man genre and were marked with narcisstic rage. Concerns about the  market  shaped the content of the films from 1988 onwards points our Dr. Akhtar. This is the period when Hindi films found a new set of audience in Europe and North America.

Starting in 1988 there was a distinct change in the plot lines of Hindi films Dr. Akhtar points out. There was a strong element of retrospective idealization of Indian society and culture. In these new film often the heroes were happy, lived in big homes and were comfortable with their sexuality. How did this change come about? It was due to the silent and peculiar complicity of 2 groups of audience Dr. Akhtar explains. They were the Non Resident Indians (NRIs), who had temporarily lost their moorings and anchoring in their day to day lives and had a tendency to idealize Indian culture he points out. Then there were Resident Non Indians (RNI), who were born and brought up in India and had no anchoring to their Indian culture, but they had a hunger for Indian culture and tradition. The complicity of these two groups yielded a new crop of Hindi films that were big on nostalgia he argues.

And finally we talk to Dr. Akhtar about his own family’s connection to Bollywood and Hollywood. We talk to him about his nephew Farhan Akhtar’s pathbreaking film “Dil Chhata Hai,” about the journey of 3 young men into adults. Shot extensively in Australia this film marked the start of a new kind of films in Bollywood films. And about Dr. Akhtar’s  the Hollywood connection?  That connection is through his son Kabir Akhtar.



Tune back in for our final and concluding episode with Dr. Akhtar on the history of Hindi films or Bollywood.

In case you missed here is Part-1 of our conversation where Dr. Akhtar talks about his family and what got him interested in the history of Hindi cinema. Dr. Akhtar is a Psychiatrist and a professor at Thomas Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He has has written extensively on  psychiatry, psychoanalysis and about poetry and films. And in Part-2 Dr. Akhtar talks about the profound sexual angst in the films from the 1950s and 1960s.  In Part-3 of our conversation he talks about female sexuality and the angry young man phase of Hindi cinema.

Here is a song from “Dilwale Dhulaniya Le Jayengey.”

Here is a song from Farhan Akhtar’s “Dil Chhata Hai


Photo courtesy of Dr. Salman Akhtar

Silicon Valley Tech Companies Respond To Nepal’s Earthquake

On May 25, 2015 a  7.8 magnitude earthquake wrecked havoc in Nepal. This natural disaster has affected millions of people in this landlocked Himalayan country. The earthquake destroyed parts of Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital. Over 1.4 million people need food, water and shelter according to a BBC report. Over 4,000 people have lost their lives and relief efforts are underway to rescue people in the earthquake impacted areas.

Many neighboring countries and the USA responded to the disaster by sending people, supplies and money. Here in Silicon Valley various tech companies responded swiftly by deploying tools and features to help with Nepal’s earthquake relief efforts. For example, Facebook’s “Safety Check” allows people to say that they are ok by clicking on “I’m Safe” button. Facebook is also helping with raising money for the relief efforts. Users have an option to donate to  International Medical Corps and the money goes directly to the organization that is helping with relief efforts on the ground.   Facebook will match every dollar up to $2 million.

Google launched its People Finder tool for Nepal’s earthquake relief efforts.  You can post and search for the status of relatives or friends affected by the disaster.  You can search People Finder by sending SMS.

In Nepal: Text “search <name>” to 6040
In India: Text “search <name>” to +91-9773300000
In US: text “search <name>” to +1 650-800-3978

 Google’s People Finder is an open source project and if you are a developer you can contribute to this project through its GitHub page.

Apple has teamed up with the American Red Cross. You can donate to Aid Nepal earthquake relief efforts via your  iTunes account. You can donate anywhere from $5 to $200.

Skype is offering free phone calls to Nepal. And San Francisco-based Twitter has created the hashtag #NepalQuakeRelief and linked it to @InCrisisRelief, a community-driven hub of local crisis response information.


Photos: San Francisco Internatonal Film Festival

The 58th San Francisco Internatonal Film Festival is underway, and this year they have a really terrific lineup.The opening night film was Alex Gibney’s much talked about documentary “Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine.” The film explores our collective fascination with Jobs, and delves into what values shaped this iconic Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

Celebrating Ella Fitzgerald: The First Lady of Song And The Queen Of Jazz

Today is Ella Fitzgerald birthday, one of the greatest jazz singers in the world. She was born on April 25, 1917 in Virginia Beach. She was 21 years old when she recorded  “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” which sold over a million copies. For the next 50 years she performed and sang in various venues around the world. She recorded about 200 albums and sang with some of the best  musicians from Louis Armstrong to Count Basie to Frank Sinatra.

Here are some of Ms. Ella’s well-known songs.









Hoda Dutt, Cairo, 1939

Hoda Dutt, Cairo, 1939

Leila Sen shares the story of Hedeya Khayat, her Armenian mother’s unusual story and journey from Turkey to Egypt, to India, to England and finally to the USA.  As part of a people who define themselves as ‘survivors’, one wonders what it was like for Khayat who became Hoda Dutt after her marriage and learnt to navigate her life as an Armenian in Calcutta? What kind of food did she serve in her Armenian-Indian kitchen?  What memories did she carry of her birthplace in Turkey?

Khayat was born at the turn of the 20th century into a well-to-do family in Turkey. As a young girl she lived in the ancient town of Diyarbakir in the Anatolian part of the Ottoman Empire.  Sen says, her mother was a young girl in 1915 when she and her parents were forced to endure the horrors of the Armenian Massacre. The only child to survive out of six, she and her parents eventually managed to escape Turkey. Sen describes their difficult flight and how they eventually reached Egypt and settled in Cairo.

Khayat married and divorced.  She had three children, two boys who lived with their father, and the youngest, a daughter who remained with her. During WWII, an interesting turn of events led to a chance meeting that changed her life.  Khayat met a young Indian officer, a doctor from the British Indian Medical Corps. on leave from the war against Rommel in the Western Desert.  He fell in love with her and proposed on their third meeting. She accepted his proposal and moved to India with her young daughter braving the turmoil of World War II.  She settled down in Calcutta where the couple’s daughter, Leila, was born.

After twenty five years in her adopted country, the couple moved to England, and later to the United States.  In 2001 Khayat passed away in San Francisco holding a little gold cross she had managed to save when she fled her childhood home in Diyarbakir.

Sen has written a book about her parents called “Age of Kali.” It is the story of her parents based on discovered memoirs, a story about destiny and love set against the flaming backdrop of World War II.



Hoda Dutt’s Recipe for Bisella:
Boil 1lb meat chunks and one chopped onion in water with salt to taste.
Put aside.
Chop one onion and fry till golden.
Add 3 chopped tomatoes, salt, pepper, 1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder and 1/2 tsp mixed allspice (cloves,cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon)
Cook, stirring occasionally, till soft and mushy.
Add 2 lb shelled peas and cooked meat with its gravy.  Cook till peas are soft.
Serve with freshly cooked long grain rice, or rice cooked with vermicelli, or Arabic bread (aish baladi).




Rachel Rosen, Alex Gibney & Noah Cowan on the opening night of San Francisco International Film Festival, 2015

Rachel Rosen, Alex Gibney & Noah Cowan on the opening night of San Francisco International Film Festival, 2015

Alex Gibney’s documentary “Steve Jobs: Man In The Machine,” was the opening night film at this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival.

In this 120 minute long documentary we get to see Steve Jobs up close and personal and discover facets of him like his obsession with Zen Buddhism. Jobs apparently wanted to be a monk ever since he was a teenager. Kobun Chino Otogawa was his Zen teacher. This fact is normally mentioned in passing, and not many people have looked at the influence of Zen Buddhism on Jobs as Gibney does in the film. Zen is derived from the Sanskrit tern “dhyana” or meditation.

The film deconstructs and reconstructs Jobs personality in an interesting way with an eye on the influence of Zen Buddhism and Japan. How did these Buddhist and Japanese values and way of work influence Jobs at a personal and professional life? He was a monk without the empathy of a monk Gibney points out at one stage in the film.

Gibney also looks at how Jobs influenced our lives especially our relationship with computers and machines.

Gibney wants us to “Think Different” about Jobs. We see Jobs in various avatars from being stressed and uncertain to being very happy, intense and defensive on protecting his first love – Apple. You will have to watch the film to find out if you come out thinking differently about Jobs.

A prolific and an award winning filmmaker Gibney has 3 films out this year: “Going Clear: Scientology, and the Prison of Belief,” “Sinatra: All or Nothing at All” (a TV mini series) and “Steve Jobs: Man in the Machine.”

You can follow Alex Gibney on Twitter.



VIDEO: Noah Cowan on San Francisco International Film Festival

Today is the opening night of the longest running film festival in the Americas – San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF). The festival runs from today through May 7, 2015 and is studded with a wonderful array of films, guests and talks.

We sat down to speak with Noah Cowan of  San Francisco Film Society (SFFS) about this year’s film festival and the strategic vision and direction he has in mind for the organization.

What is different about this year’s festival is the acknowledgement of San Francisco bay area values in the programing says Cowan. He describes the essence of San Francisco values that includes a wide range of components from innovation and technology to the political and social dynamics of the area.

Cowan spent many years at the Toronto Film Festival and helped curate lots of special projects especially on Asian films from China and South Asia. He helped curate two special programs on India’s Mani Ratnam and Raj Kapoor. So naturally we had to ask if we can expect to see more South Asian films at SFIFF. Tune in to find out what he has to say.


My Picks For SFIFF: T-Rex, Best of Enemies, Black Coal, Thin Ice, Bota and A Borrowed Identity

San Francisco International Film Festival

San Francisco International Film Festival

Film lovers are in for a wonderful treat at this year’s 58th San Francisco International Film Festival (April 23 -May 7, 2014). With so many terrific films it is always a  challenge to find out which ones to watch.

Here are five films from different genres and parts of the world that I enjoyed watching and came away learning something new about different societies, countries and the filmmakers themselves. The films I saw were two American, one each from China/Hong Kong, Albania and Israel. There are lots of other films  I want to watch and hope to catch them at the festival.

T-Rex,” is an inspirational documentary about 17 year old Clarrisa Shields journey to winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games. It was amazing to watch how Shields overcomes poverty, a damaged home and develop this inner determination to became an ace athlete to win a gold medal in women’s boxing.

Best of Enemies,” will appeal to news and political junkies or those simply curious to find out how this whole culture of political talk shows evolved on American television. The documentary takes you back to the 1968 election and the famous debate between William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal. Buckley was a well-known conservative thinker, writer and TV personality, while Vidal was a well-known liberal and a prolific writer. The documentary traces the importance and relevance of the debate and how it shaped Buckley and Vidal’s image of each other. I was rooted to my chair as I watched this documentary and the battle of wits between these two intellectual pundits. That era of Pandit TV in America has long gone is what you realize.

Black Coal , Thin Ice,” is a riveting film noir about a serial killer from Hong Kong/China. Through this dark  and intense thriller film we get to see a different side of China and Chinese society. This was the first time I watched a Chinese whodunit film and I could not have picked a better one to watch this genre of film. Diao Yinan, director and writer of the film apparently spent years working on the script that is tightly woven with lots of powerful and unexpected twists. Yinan’s film won the Golden Bear award at this year’s Berlin film festival.

Bota,” unfolds in slow sort of a way in a remote place, almost like a no-man’s land in Albania. You wonder what dreams and secrets are hidden and buried in this tiny place especially from its terrible dictatorship period? The film revolves around a cafe called Bota, which means the world in Albanian. On the surface the film might look simple and quirky, but by the end of the film you realize that is not the case. Life is nasty, brutish and short that famous line from Hobbes came to mind after I finished watching the film. And yet people learn to survive and create a world of dreams and aspirations. Sometimes they succeed, and at other times they don’t.

A Borrowed Identity,” from Israel is a film about a young and brilliant Arab student, who gets selected to attend “the best school ” in Israel. He is in fact the first Arab to be accepted in the school. We watch this  young student’s journey and how he learns to navigate his life as an Arab in this prestigious Israeli school and how it changes his life. This coming of age film raises lots of interesting questions on family, love, identity and politics. The film is based on Sayed Kashua’s book “Dancing Arabs.”

Watch this space for another post on the next installment of films I liked.
T-Rex Trailer