Lakshmi Pratury, Idea Evangelist and host to TED Mysore
Lakshmi Pratury is dynamic, vibrant and extremely global. She comes back home now, and brings with her the first TED India to be held in Mysore.
Lakshmi Pratury will be co-hosting India’s first TED conference to be held in Mysore in November and her mission as a cultural ambassador is to buttress social, cultural, and corporate and ties between India and the United States through sponsored media events. MyBangalore discovered a few things that inspire her, and how she is constantly striving for people to always feel inspired.
With an illustrious career that spans from Intel, to Venture Capital to founding her own production house, Ixoraa Media. Lakshmi Pratury now devotes herself to what she likes to say “collecting people and working on long term forward looking projects.” is one of those women who while being dynamic, is passionate about who enjoys being with people, intuitively listens to ideas and has a mind that is constantly assimilating and distilling ideas that can work. She is unassuming and vibrant with her thoughts and ideas. She spoke with MyBangalore talking about her life, experiences, rewards and TED Mysore.
“I finished My MBA at the Bajaj institute and when people asked me about my long term goals I knew I always I always knew I would be breathing, but I was not sure of what I wanted to do.I enjoy working with people I like, and that’s how it’s been most of my life. I think every job I worked in at Intel was created for me. I was always interested in long term forward looking projects, everything I did was so out there. And then it was always difficult to explain what I did. Intel, was cool. For example, in 1991, we were working on laptop technology. No one even imagined something like his would be implemented. Set up stalls at airports. I had the first 6 ever made laptops…with me. And I would take them city to city and at the airports I used to meet people talking to them asking them if they would be interested in taking these on the plane with them? It was a very forward looking end-user campaigns.”
She has christened herself and “Idea evangelist”, “I like to excite people with ideas and then let someone else implement it. It’s important to understand who you are and capitalize on it. It no point feeling sorry for yourself about what you not doing.. But right now I love what I do where I find things that excite me and do this now at a scale I can handle and enjoy. At Intel people told me Stay for two more years you become a VP, I was like so boring. Making sure people deliver and badgering them is not me. I like working with ideas. I’m very happy being an evangelist.”
This fiesty visionary, stepped out of Intel after 12 years where she was a Technical Assistant (Chief of staff) to one of the Top Executives, one step removed from Andy Grove who was the CEO at that point of time as well as her mentor. This position guaranteed her being groomed to reach the position of a VP at the least. With her career on a high, rubbing shoulders with the cream in the business, she came to a turning point in her life when her father passed away in ’97. He had always been a Gandhian who encouraged the kids to live their own lives but never forget where they came from. She had been working in the United States for about 12 years. In’99 her mentor Andy Grove stepped down as CEO of Intel. This was when Lakshmi decided it was time to move out of Intel with her father’s voice constantly in her head saying, ”what are you doing for India?”
She then stepped into a venture capital firm where she rose to make partner. As a senior executive in the firm she then travelled to India with the company to invest in product companies; but was extremely disillusioned with what she describes as, ”I couldn’t find a single person with a single original thought who could fit the bill and use the funds I had come to give them.”
First Intel and then working in venture capital, distilled into Lakshmi slowly coming into what she was even more empassioned about, being a “social entrepreneur”. “Putting computers into really poor schools, pounding the pavement in the remotest parts of India and spending time with kids and teachers. This was then to become a very successful venture which was a part of the America India foundation that was started by Bill Clinton and is one of the most premier and largest non-profit focus in India. She was instrumental in raising over $30 million over 5 years that went into various projects.
“Any job that you do, you should work yourself out of it in 3 years, otherwise you get jaded and you are not giving someone else a chance. Either you go up go sideways or get out. I love trying something totally new. And it’s the transition time that is great, you are so open to stuff. And at this point I started a company, but one without a mission.”
The first job that the entrepreneurial Lakshmi practically manifested for the freshly floated company was webcasting all of His Holiness’ the Dalai Lama’s speeches. She always had a wish to meet with the Dalai Lama when she gets a call asking if she would have the know-how and resources to webcast His Holiness’s speeches from McLeodgunj. So Lakshmi gleefully packed crew and equipment and headed off to McLeodgunj to stay at the private offices for 3 weeks.
The highlight for her, apart from meeting His Holiness was then being able to provide the expertise and equipment with the office,“. The following year they didn’t need us, because we left all the equipment with them, and showed them how to get it done. So that for me is the greatest feeling, when people don’t need you. That was a great success for me. And then I thought to myself, wow this is what I want to do! Projects that really inspire me! With this, is was sheer luck I remember saying this aloud when I was chatting to Pico Iyer about meeting with the Dalai Lama, most of the time you’d feel stupid even saying it aloud, Like ‘I’d love to meet George Clooney!’, yeah sure! You and a million others, But I guess you just really have to want it badly enough and things just happen.”
After being a Business Entrepreneur, a Venture capitalist, a social entrepreneur the impressario then decided she would like to step into the role of a cultural entrepreneur. “I love India, and I love the US, so I was now thinking how I can bridge this gap and bring the two countries closer together. I have been attending TED for 15 years felt it was time to have this in India as well.”
Lakshmi is the CEO of Ixoraa Media a production house through which she is looking at moving towards a whole new space in terms of bringing creative, entrepreneurial forward thinking minds, who want to contribute to change in some way. The projects that are presently being promoted with Ixoraa media are TED Mysore, Aamra Grove, and Lakshmi’s Lounge. Laskhmi’s Lounge is a space where video based interviews are uploaded for viewing online. The website hosts Lakshmi’s interactions with luminaries’ like Vijay Amritraj, Nandan Nilenkani to name a few. The idea behind Lakshmi’s Lounge as practically with all the projects that Lakshmi is closely associated with is to inspire the youth as they are the future. “I really look at the youth in the age group between 18-30, who are right now a very smart confident generation. Our parents had the baggage of being ruled by the British struggle and then they had to struggle for the longest time to be recognized. We didn’t know about America, but the current generation knows everything and does want to leave home and there is now this incredible potential to utilize them to make India world class.”
Apart from TED Lakshmi also has her own conference “Aamra Grove”, where 50 of the best Indian minds (with spouses) from academics, to entrepreneurs, artists, filmmakers, musicians come together every year and jam on ideas and how to contribute to India. Shashi Tharoor and Anand Mahindra have co-hosted these retreats with her while Asif Maddbi , Mira Nair, Arshad Zakaria, Tarun Gupta, Tarun Khilnanai, Shantanu Moitra are people who have already been a part of Aamra Grove. These retreats are all about a great weekend with scintillating ideas for the future with some relaxation thrown into the heady mix.“This is like a micro mini TED, held for its first year at Napa Valley, after which it moved to New York for a space near London."
Lakshmi wants to eventually have her own talk show, that will help change peoples’ lives and make a difference to those who are watching it. She says, “I love talking to people we are now doing these interviews and projects online. I feel it is time for my evolution. And I believe you have to be entrepreneurial about being an entrepreneur.”
As Lakshmi’s hopes to bring a renaissance in India as she brings together likeminded thinkers and people looking to change, she hopes opening up TED to India will gradually make Indians more aware of their social responsibility towards progress and change.
The link leads you to what Lakshmi has to say about TED and bringing it to India http://blip.tv/file/2467857
For Lakshmi’s Lounge you can follow http://lakshmislounge.com/
For more on TED you can visit www.TED.com