At a time when doom and gloom has descended upon the world, renowned astrologer, Dr. Sohini Sastri, spoke to us about the importance of astrology during the Coronavirus pandemic. Known for her accurate predictions, Dr. Sohini Sastri who has been felicitated by the Vice-President, and former President of India, for excellence in her field spoke to us how she has been addressing and assuaging fears emanating from the economic fallout of lockdown,“Lockdown has been here for almost 3 months, and people are asking questions like, What will happen in the future? Because many of them have lost their salaries, their incomes. The global economy is down, and we are seeing many young people get depressed at the same time. I try to give people a mental boost during these times with my work. That’s why astrology is really important during this period.”
Dr. Sastri who has been interested in spirituality since childhood, and used to read the Vedas and the Bhagvaad Gita as a child, which sparked her interest in Astrology, also spoke to us about how she started the practice initially. “When I graduated from school, I’d buy books of astrology, and after reading them, I’d make predictions to my relatives, and my friends, and most of those those predictions would come true”, she said. She believes that astrology is crucial for humans, and should hold deep importance in our lives. “From the day we are born, all the events in our lives are controlled by planetary positions, the stars, and lunar positions. This is why astrology is meaningful for us as humans.”
Dr. Sastri feels she helps people, and improves lives, by offering profession, marital, and life advice to those in need. Often, she is approached by those who are lost, and require some form of guidance. “Most people who come to me, want to know about their future, about their married life, about their careers. Sometimes, students will come to me, wanting to know which field they should go into. I analyze their horoscopes, and offer advice based on that. Often, people who have worked extremely hard but have not had any success will approach me. Those are the people whom I can help the most with my work.”
In spite of the increased skepticism that astrology faces in the modern world, Dr. Sastri remains undeterred. She feels that astrology’s detractors have not paid enough attention to the subject. “Yes, I think the skepticism is wrong. If you look at astrology, it’s an ancient subject, and it’s a scientific subject. It predates science, and it will continue into the future as well, because whether or not someone believes in astrology, that is a personal matter, but someone who does believe will definitely experience some benefits.”
Speaking on the career improvements caused by astrology, Dr. Sastri feels strongly that astrological career advice can aid someone in their professional life. She talks about the “10th house” technique for analyzing career paths. “Career astrology is a part of astrology. In it, we analyse, the placement of the lagna from the 10th house to determine optimal career paths.” Astrology can offer a kind of job security, according to her. “Some people would be better as doctors, some as engineers, some as actors, etc. In astrology, we can perfectly determine this, and as a result, people get a kind of security with regard to their jobs and their careers through astrology.”
We asked her to share some advice for parents, who are concerned about their children’s future, and career paths. Dr. Sastri feels that many parents simply force their children to take up Science in 11th standard, and as a result, many students perform poorly, and face undue pressure. She advises parents to instead send children to an astrologist, after the 10th grade, to determine what career choice they should make. “In any study, you need your mental faculties to support you. Not every child’s mind will work in every field, so you need to make sure that their mind is well-equipped for the file they enter. An astrologist should be consulted on this matter, as they can offer good guidance on what career would be well suited for the child. That would be my advice to parents.”
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STUDY FINDS PARENTS TALK LESS TO KIDS WHEN EXPERIENCING FINANCIAL ISSUES
A team of researchers has provided the first evidence that parents may talk less to their kids when experiencing financial scarcity.
The study has been published in the ‘Developmental Science Journal’. “We were interested in what happens when parents think about or experience financial scarcity and found evidence that such strain could suppress their speech to their children,” said study senior author Mahesh Srinivasan, a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley.
“Our results suggest that parenting training may not be sufficient to close the academic achievement gap without addressing the broader issue of income inequality,” Srinivasan added.
The study’s preliminary results lend credence to the developmental and educational benefits of such poverty-cutting government programs as the federal American Rescue Plan’s Child Tax Credit and other supplemental cash payouts for needy families.
“Existing interventions toward eliminating the word gap have often focused on improving parenting skills,” Srinivasan said.
“But our findings suggest that relieving parents of their financial burdens, such as through direct cash transfers, could also substantially change the ways they engage with their kids,” he added.
In the first experiment, researchers sought to observe how parents would interact with their children (in this case, 3-year-olds) after the parents were asked to describe times in which they had recently experienced scarcity. A control group of parents were instead asked to describe other recent activities.
Of the 84 parents in the study, those in the experimental group who described their experiences of financial scarcity spoke less to their 3-year-olds during laboratory observations than parents who reflected on other forms of scarcity (like not having enough fruit), or parents who had not been asked to recollect experiences of resource insecurity.
The second experiment used existing data collected via LENA technology, tiny “talk pedometer” devices worn by children that record their conversations and count the words they hear and say.
As the researchers predicted, analyses revealed that parents engaged in fewer conversational turns with their children at the month’s end, a time that typically coincides with money being tight as parents await pay checks or other sources of income.
THE IDEA OF DOING SOMETHING WITH JUST YOUR VOICE WAS VERY CHALLENGING: RITHVIK DHANJANI
In this interview, Rithvik Dhanjani talks about his maiden audio-based project, ‘Buri Nazar’. He describes the challenges and excitement of acting in this new medium, while also talking about his journey in the entertainment industry.
Rithvik Dhanjani rose to fame with his role in Pavitra Rishta, and his dance performances in Jhalak Dikhla Jaa. He is a well-known face in the Indian television and web entertainment spaces. However, ironically, after his latest project, Buri Nazar, Rithvik has been receiving praises, not for his visual charisma, but for the magic he has brought into the show with just his voice. We hosted Rithvik for an impromptu conversation for our latest series, NewsX India A-List. Below are the excerpts from the interview:
We opened the interview by asking Rithvik about how the project came to be, and what aspect of the project was the most appealing for him. Rithvik stated, “I was completely unaware of not just the platform but also the power of the platform and so much that you can do with just audio. The team of Audible reached out to me a couple of times, for multiple projects, and this was one of the productions that they reached out to me for, and they were like, ‘just give it a read and see what it is like.’” Rithvik loved the idea that the project was going to be an audio remake of the Amazon Original movie Evil Eye. “The script was amazing, the platform was great, and the idea of doing something with just your voice was very challenging,” said the actor. This challenging aspect of the project made it all the more interesting for Rithvik.
We were then curious to know if Rithvik had to undertake any special preparation for his first audio-based acting gig. To this, Rithvik shared with us, “I prepped just like I would prep for another script because the script was very self-explanatory, it was written beautifully, the drafting was amazing, the lines were great.” He continued, “So, we had a couple of sessions with my director to, sort of, understand what he is wanting my character to look like– sorry, sound like.” Rithvik chuckled while pointing out the ironic error in his speech. He added that he did not require any particular training for the audio series, however, his voice skills from his training as an actor proved to be of great help during the project.
For our final question, we asked Rithvik about the roles he thinks have been the most important ones in his career. Rithvik replied, “I think Pavitra Rishta has been one of the shows that have, practically, shaped my life to what it is today. Apart from Pavitra Rishta, I think it has to be Cartel which has just been released on Alt Balaji and MX Player.” Further expressing his thought, Rithvik said that he believes that every part he has played has proven to be an important one in some way or the other. He finished his reply by saying, “If I did not do Jhalak Dikhla Jaa at the point when I did it, people would have ignored that I am a dancer as well. So, I think that, too, played an important part. But if you ask me about characters and shows, it has to be Pavitra Rishta and Cartel.”
Talerang has trained close to 500,000 students, reached 30 mn candidates through partnerships: Shveta Raina
‘Despite a purely online methodology, students self-reported a 53% increase in their work readiness after Talerang programs, a 47% jump in their communication skills and a 45% jump in their problem-solving skills.’
Shveta Raina, Founder and CEO, Talerang spoke to The Daily Guardian. Talerang (www.talerang.com) is an education management company that is focused on providing career training to students and professionals.
Q. What made you launch this business?
A: India graduates close to 20mn students every year, and less than 10% of them are reportedly work-ready. Talerang is an EdTech company that started as an independent research project at Harvard Business School with the mission to bridge this work-readiness crisis.
While I was a Director at Teach For India in 2009-2011, I traveled to over 100 colleges and spoke to thousands of students across the country. I realized that there was a lot of fear in our graduates on how to approach their careers and follow their passion. This disconnect between their personal vision, their parents’ view on the world of work, and the outdated school and college curriculum, sowed the seeds for Talerang.
After this, I went to Harvard Business School for my MBA, and did an independent research project in 2012-2013 with Professor Das Narayan Das that culminated into this social business. I researched some of India’s largest problems, and the employability crisis stood out to me as one that was crippling our economy. We have close to 20 million students graduating each year, yet some reports showed that less than 10% are employable. It baffled me. Without a work-ready work-force, how can India’s companies grow?
In 2014, we launched Talerang’s first cohort and placed them post a rigorous training program at some of India’s leading companies such as Aditya Birla, Godrej and Mahindra for internships. Post their internships, close to 50% of them were given call-back offers. Today, they are at the IIMs, McKinsey, Bain, and many are CEOs themselves. We had gotten them ready for the jobs of the future.
Q. Business success so far?
A: Talerang graduates are consistently rated as 80%+ work-ready by the firms that hire them, and 99% of them get placed. Talerang participants rate the training with 99% satisfaction in their learning and enjoyment of the program.
By 2020, we grew to 400+ corporate partners, and Talerang’s training methodology integrated live training with Harvard cases, proprietary assessments, interaction with guest speakers, industry exposure, custom learning journeys, training on 21st century hard and soft skills, and personal mentoring for holistic professional development.
Despite a purely online methodology, students self-reported a 53% increase in their work readiness after Talerang programs, a 47% jump in their communication skills and a 45% jump in their problem-solving skills. Talerang participants rate the training with 99% satisfaction in their learning and enjoyment of the program. We were now delivering quality training, but at scale.
By 2022, Talerang has directly trained close to 500,000 students and reached 30million candidates through partnerships with colleges, corporates, the media and the United Nations Development Program. Talerang has won several awards including one from the Harvard New Venture Competition, been short-listed by Kalaari Capital’s K-Start and been part of Village Capital’s India cohort.
Talerang’s unique and high quality online model offers a variety of industry-recognised certificate programs, with access to internship and job opportunities at 400+ corporate partners including the Aditya Birla Group, Mahindra Group, Godrej Group, Teach For India, Avaana Capital, Z3 Capital, Technoserve, Think Through Consulting, Schindler Group and more. Talerang’s training methodology integrates live training with Harvard cases, proprietary assessments, interaction with guest speakers, industry exposure, custom learning journeys, training on 21st century hard and soft skills, and personal mentoring for holistic professional development.
The courses are completely online and attract students from all over the world. They are rated at 99% in terms of learning and enjoyment customer rating despite the transition from offline to online.
Q. How do you offer customized career training to students and professionals?
A: Talerang’s assessments are percentile based and personalized, that customize the learning to each student as per their career track and skill track. Each candidate gets a broad overview of the 26 21st century skills required to compete in the work world. Post this, they select 3 areas they want to focus on, be it coding, marketing or finance. They get rigorous training and projects in those areas and then an internship and job accordingly.
When we partner with companies such as banks, legal firms, manufacturing or E-commerce, we customize our content to their participants’ needs by curating the mix of skills, case studies and projects as required for their industries. IIT Bombay, Madras, Shiv Nadar University, Avendus, Deutsche Bank and 100+ colleges, 400+ corporates have partnered with us on their training and hiring needs. Recently, high-potential young professionals from Tvarit GBMH (German artificial intelligence company) completed our program and said: “The whole class was an amazing learning experience. We discussed things that the company would not normally deal with. Above all, I learned about professionalism.” Their satisfaction ratings were >90% and overall management skills and leadership growth was tremendous.
Q. What are your future plans?
A: Talerang aims to become India’s first Edtech Unicorn in employability. We are a social enterprise, bringing in an impact focus to each candidate and organization that we work with. We want to create a work-ready India. We want to reach 1 million candidates by 2030, and be a 1000 crore enterprise.
EDTECH EXPECTATIONS FROM UNION BUDGET 22-23
How sharp and crystal-clear India’s vision for digital transformation is seen in the way the finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman prepared and presented the union budget last year. Contrary to convention, last year’s fiscal budget was presented and disseminated in a digital format. Of course, India is high on digitalization and the resounding success of the Ed-Tech sector in the country is a sheer testimony to this desired change. To contribute further to the education sector and the overall economy of the country, there are some expectations of EdTech players from the upcoming union budget.
After rolling out the New Education Policy, the announcement of the National Digital Educational Architecture (NDEAR) in the last year’s budget was an impressive attempt by the Government to improve the country’s education system. Moreover, as India is also making international collaborations under the Skill India programme, it was the strategy to empower youths with better learning and skill development opportunities and programmes like Natural Language Translation Missions are expected to garner desired results in the future.
These policies will enable youth to align themselves with modern job requirements in India and abroad. The Ed-Tech sector can immensely support this mission with its extensive outreach and AI-embedded hybrid learning models. But, as the sector is in the emerging phase, it seeks favourable government policies and incentives.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, EdTech platforms have greatly reduced the learning gap in the country and they can bring magical results in connecting the rural populace of the country with virtual classrooms. Undoubtedly, the government has limited resources to develop quality educational infrastructure in remote areas. But, with the advent of digital tools and hybrid learning models, we can overcome the majority of material challenges. Of course, the support of private players would be quite imperative in this regard and working on PPP can certainly ensure a win-win equation. In this realm, the Finance Minister should provide some quality incentives to the burgeoning EdTech sector of the country. The foremost change that the industry expects is a reduction in the GST from 18% to 5%. It will help them to focus on developing more innovative solutions for the greater good of the whole society.
Loan and finance procedures must be eased for Ed-Tech startups which are performing as an engine of advancement in the Indian education system. So collateral-free business loans along with zero service charges to make the finance part hassle-free for the new entrants. These loans should be available to them at a very nominal rate of interest. Also, profit-making EdTech startups should not be excluded from these benefits and relaxations. Annual targets of distribution of funds should be used to allocate finances to new ventures and the process for that should be easy-going. Hence, designated banks should be constituted for ease of finance.
Hopefully, the Union Budget 22-23 will bring glad tidings for India’s EdTech ecosystem. The finance minister understands the significance of this sector and she will definitely come up with some constructive plans that will help India become the world’s EdTech capital.
The Author is Founder & CEO at StockDaddy
Late-life exercise shows rejuvenating effects on cellular level: Study
The pandemic has made the role of exercise in people’s lives even more poignant than before. Amidst this, a new study has suggested that exercise, even if not adopted until later in life, can slow the effects of ageing.
The study, published in ‘Aging Cell’, named, “Late-life exercise mitigates skeletal muscle epigenetic ageing,” suggested this could be the case. The paper was written by a team of seven researchers across three institutions, including Kevin Murach, an assistant professor in the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation at the U of A. Murach’s grant from the National Institute of Health funded the study, and he was one of three co-first authors.
While the paper is dense with data, reflecting the use of several analytic tools, the experiment that generated the data was relatively straightforward. Lab mice nearing the end of their natural lifespan, at 22 months, were allowed access to a weighted exercise wheel. Generally, mice required no coercion to run and would do so voluntarily.
Older mice would run anywhere from six to eight kilometres a day, mostly in spurts, while younger mice might run up to 10-12 kilometres. The weighted wheel ensured they built muscle. While there was not a direct analogue to most human exercise routines, Murach likened it to “a soldier carrying a heavy backpack many miles.”
When the mice were studied after two months of progressive weighted wheel running, it was determined that they were the epigenetic age of mice eight weeks younger than sedentary mice of the same age 24 months. Murach noted that while the specific strain of mice and their housing conditions could impact lifespans, “historically, they start dropping off after 24 months at a significant rate.” Needless to say when one’s lifespan is measured in months, an extra eight weeks roughly 10 per cent of that lifespan is a noteworthy gain.
The science behind this, while complicated, hinged largely on a biological process known as DNA methylation. A recent New York Times article discussing Murach’s work on muscle memory described methylation “as a process in which clusters of atoms, called methyl groups, attach themselves to the outside of genes like minuscule barnacles, making the genes more or less likely to turn on and produce particular proteins.”
As the body starts ageing, there tends to be increased DNA methylation, or even hypermethylation, at promoter sites on genes in muscle. “DNA methylation changes in a lifespan tend to happen in a somewhat systematic fashion,” Murach explained, “to the point you can look at someone’s DNA from a given tissue sample and with a fair degree of accuracy predict their chronological age.” Due to this, researchers could use one of a number of “methylation clocks” to determine the age of a DNA sample.
While the paper strengthened the case for exercise, there was still much that needed to be learned. Though the connection between methylation and ageing was clear, the connection between methylation and muscle function was less clear. Murach was not yet prepared to say that the reversal of methylation with exercise was causative for improved muscle health. “That’s not what the study was set up to do,” he explained. However, he intended to pursue future studies to determine if “changes in methylation result in altered muscle function.”
“If so, what are the consequences of this?” he continued. “Do changes on these very specific methylation sites have an actual phenotype that emerges from that? Is it what is causing ageing or is it just associated with it? Is it just something that happens in concert with a variety of other things that are happening during the ageing process? So that’s what we don’t know.”
GOA SHOWCASES INVESTMENT-FRIENDLY POLICIES TO GLOBAL INVESTORS AT EXPO-2020 DUBAI
The Goa Week at India Pavilion, EXPO2020 Dubai concluded on January 20, 2022. J Ashok Kumar, Secretary to Chief Minister, Sports & Youth Affairs, Tourism, Industries Trade & Commerce, Handicrafts Textile & Coir, Government of Goa and Dr Aman Puri, Consul General of India in Dubai and Deputy Commissioner General of India at EXPO2020 inaugurated the state’s floor on January 14 2022.
The state has successfully highlighted its business potential across sectors such as Tourism & Hospitality, Pharmaceuticals & Biotechnology, Agro-based and Food Processing Industries. Dr Puri also presided over other key events of the state.
The delegation, led by J Ashok Kumar held various business meetings with global investors showcasing the investment-friendly policies and the availability of skilled labour in the state.
Talking about Goa’s participation at EXPO2020 Dubai, J Ashok Kumar, said, “The state’s participation at the EXPO2020 was a great success. The Goa delegation had the opportunity to visit several other country pavilions as well as meet with key investors of the region. We look forward to building upon the relationships that we were able to establish in this brief time and host interested investors in Goa soon. My special congratulations to team India for their hard work.”
The Goa delegation also met with Indian Business & Professional Council (IBPC) that resulted in a potential for investment collaboration with the state. The meeting was attended by J Ashok Kumar, Secretary to Chief Minister, Sports & Youth Affairs, Tourism, Industries Trade & Commerce, Handicrafts Textile & Coir, Sanjay Kumar, Secretary – Revenue, Information Technology, Labour & Employment and Swetika Sachan, Director, Directorate of Industries, Government of Goa, at the India Pavilion Dubai EXPO2020, Dilip Sinha, Secretary-General, IBPC along with other distinguished members of IBPC.
Sanjay Kumar, Secretary – Revenue, Information Technology, Labour & Employment said, “The Expo is a marvellous exhibition of the technologies of not only today but also the future. Through our interactions with other delegates, investors, and innovators, we see the endless opportunities and will strive to implement their suggestions back home in the short term, while planning for the long term.”
Swetika Sachan, CEO, Goa Investment Promotion and Facilitation Board said, “The Dubai EXPO2020 has become a great place for countries to come together and pave the way for innovation and advancement. The state of Goa participated to showcase its business potential in the fields of Tourism, Financial Service, Pharmaceuticals, and Biotechnology to global investors. We actively engaged with the business community of Dubai to strengthen our ties and reassured them of our commitment towards ease of doing business. Personally, I am excited about the investment opportunities that will make a difference in the lives of the people of Goa.”
Besides the focus sectors, the state of Goa also showcased its prowess in the start-up segment. Goa is the first state in India to have two consecutive start-up policies with a supportive ecosystem. It is also one of the most preferred destinations for start-ups across industries. The IT Policy 2017 and Start-up Policy 2021 offer attractive incentive packages to the budding start-ups in the state.
Goa is the smallest state in the country with a rich heritage, serene atmosphere and well-developed infrastructure. Goa’s economic growth is driven by the strong performance of its industrial sectors such as tourism, fishing, agriculture and pharmaceuticals.
Tourism is the backbone of the state’s economy, with 40 per cent of the population directly or indirectly dependent on it. The state has recently framed a new tourism policy to offer a uniquely Goan experience to visitors by presenting a versatile concoction of historic, natural, ethnic, cultural locations and attractions. Besides Tourism, the state is also expanding its presence in sectors such as Light Engineering and R&D, Aviation and Technology.
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