(Edit note: 17 April ’17. This is the unaltered text of the TEDx talk of Rakesh Shukla at TEDx ICT Mumbai 2017. This accompanying video is illustrative. The official TEDx video will be available here when released. There was no teleprompter so the actual spoken word will vary.)

Living with 750, I learnt to fight like a dog to survive

A few days ago, I received an invitation to speak at ICT Mumbau. After all, I am the dog-man (I like it much better than the unoriginal and punny dog-father, and it reflects the reality of being half man, half dog better). 25 years ago I was very active on the circuit of technology and engineering. It may be surprising to those who don’t know me from then – but there was a (then) fairly niche space in mathematics called Fuzzy Set Theory. Reading it for years as a graduate student, I had found what I thought were some new insights and I wrote half a dozen papers on that – which led to many awards and talks around the country, and publication in an international peer-referenced journal.

I was always a proud man and never asked my father for money throughout my education. I’ve painted and sold custom t-shirts to dozens of hostel-mates, I’ve taught software engineering to my engineering batchmates, I’ve later taught fellow students in the B-school I went to. Anything that I could do that could earn me something. But it was never nearly enough.

It was also the first time I traveled across India myself – Chennai, Manipal, Delhi, Mumbai. Since I couldn’t really afford the travel, I mostly traveled ticketless, sleeping on a newspaper between berths if I was lucky, and between toilet doors if I was not, on overnight trains.

Once I had a couple of such events in Mumbai. There was a week or so between them and it did not make sense to go all the way to Mumbai and come back. I decided to live on the then VT platform (the same place that was later the venue of the Mumbai attacks). It was the cheapest place to stay — I’d buy a platform ticket for two bucks for the day, and the toilets even then were relatively clean.

I haven’t left Bangalore in 4 yrs. I don’t leave Bangalore because of my babies, and turn down any travel plans. And ICT did not ring any bells… Till I looked it up. Matunga seemed familiar! I then realised this was the then UDCT (University Department of Chemical Technology), and a venue for an IEEE talk. The place along with VJTI that I had travelled to all that time ago.

And I smiled for it is indeed a small world. And here I am.

I’m Rakesh Shukla, and I founded a technology company called TWB that works with the world’s top names in technology the biggest companies from software to silicon, electronics, aerospace and defense. Microsoft, Intel, Lenovo, Harman Kardon,  Beechcraft, Cessna are all TWB customers. But that isn’t why I’m standing here in front of you. In fact, the last hundred-odd interviews I’ve given to the national and international press are about something else entirely — about my first love for stray dogs. 4 years ago, the first TV documentary said ‘The dog-father of 150 dogs’ now it is ‘The dog-father of 750 dogs’.Read More