Recently in 02: TED Speech Review Category

Shaffi Mather: A New Way to Fight Corruption

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"A New Way to Fight Corruption" is a speech given by Shaffi Mather.  Shaffi Mather was a successful young entrepreneur who brought his family's real estate business to the forefront of the local market before moving on to take major positions at two of India's largest communication corporations: Essel Group and Reliance Industries. However, after experiencing a life-changing ride to the hospital with his mother, he decided to confront India's need for a dependable ambulance service. He chose to leave his career at Reliance and found 1298 for Ambulance, a for-profit service with a sliding scale payment system that has revolutionized medical transport in Mumbai and Kerala.

 The main message of the speech was the topic of corruption in India.  According to the World Bank estimate, 1 trillion dollars is paid each year in bribes, which is the equivalent of India's GDP.  Shaffi Mather began his speech by telling how he quit his job and became a social entrepreneur.  His first project was to create an ambulance system in India to transport injured people to hospitals.  Upon the success of that venture, he decided to create a company that would stop bribes by giving people who are offered bribes or people who are ordered to give bribes a number to call to fight the demand for a bribe.

The most interesting point of this speech to me was how driven this man is to fight corruption and make the world a fairer place.  He explained how we was successful in creating an ambulance system in India, and that now he is pursuing his primary goal in preventing corruption India.  I think he could have explained the business model for his Bribe-Buster service better, because I listened to it twice and was still not able to exactly understand the business model.

The speaker's delivery was engaging because his passion lends confidence to his speech which allows him to use natural, focused gestures with good posture and effective enunciation.  The only distracting part of his speech to me was his accent and the speed at which he spoke; it made it difficult for me to understand what he was saying at times.

The speaker's delivery style was a stark contrast to the traditional delivery style common in the Western world.  He spoke in a subdued way, his gestures were very controlled and minimal, and he spoke quickly without many upbeat tones.   His speech was distinctly Eastern in contrast with Dan Pink's speech because he was more controlled and spoke in a more subdued way with less visible "overconfidence".  I enjoyed his style of speaking because he spoke with passion, confidence, and genuinely cared about his mission. 

Shekhar Kapur: We are the story we tell ourselves

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The speech I watched was given by an Indian filmmaker and story teller by the name of Shekhar Kapur.  The speech he gives is about the art of story-telling; his idea is that the best way to tell a story is to get rid of his mind and go into a state of complete, utter panic.

                The speech Shakhar gives is about the many points of story -telling that makes a story great.  He goes on and on about how a story has multiple different stories when viewed from a different way.  His 4 story lines could all be correct, and even contradict each other.  His idea is that if presented in a contradictory way, a story could find a type of harmony that makes it something amazing. 

                Talking about story-telling and showing how it connects to each person in the world was a great way to get Shekhar's point across.  He was very Eastern in his delivery of the content.  He batted his way around the points he was making, never really saying exactly what he meant.  It was interesting to listen too, but I had to watch it twice to make sure I got what his main message was.

                Shekhar's delivery, on the other hand, was more western.  He made small hand gestures throughout, always staying within a few feet of his sides.  He paused quite a bit, and kept an even speed throughout the speech.  He did pace around quite a bit, but it wasn't to a point where it was distracting.

                While his delivery and content were pretty opposite when it comes to eastern vs. western, I would say that his speech overall had a more western feel to it.  He did have a point to make, and the only thing that kept him from saying it aloud was the fact that he went over his time limit at the end, which caused him to speed up and summarize his points.  

Engineer R.A. Mashelkar delivered a fascinating talk about the development of many different products that we take for granted as being expensive, for a very low cost. In what he frequently referred to as "Ghandian engineering", he reiterated his engineering mantra that we need to create "more from less, for more and more people."

The content of his speech was extremely interesting. He talked about his involvement in the development of the Tata Nano, the world's least expensive automobile at $2,000 brand new. He also talked about the development of a durable artificial leg prosthesis, development of drugs to cure disease, and the idea that in order to make practical products for the two billion people who live on less than $2 a day, normal methods of engineering and development need to be radically changed, and already have been in India.

The delivery of this speech was definitely by someone who was an engineer by trade, rather than a professional speaker. Mashelkar spoke quickly throughout the presentation, with few pauses or rests between sentences. However, this made me pay closer attention to what he was saying, and ultimately helped to get the message across. Mashelkar was also limited in hand gestures, and seemed generally stiff onstage, despite walking leisurely around over the course of his speech. He however kept a confident tone throughout.

As to whether R.A. Mashelkar has a more eastern or western speaking style, I feel that he stuck close to Indian speaking norms. He took himself seriously, reiterated pieces of his point, and had more subtle, less staged transitions. However, I also feel he was keeping his audience in mind, as he was giving this TED talk at a college he used to attend as a student in India.

Link to the TED Talk:

Yasheng Huang: Does democracy stifle economic growth?

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Yasheng Huang is an economist and professor at MIT, originally from China. He is known for studying and writing about the history of China's economic growth. The speech he gave is depicted clearly in the title: Does democracy stifle economic growth? I thought he was going to give arguments that it does, but the case that he makes is giving evidence to his opinion that democracy is good for economic growth. He describes that the misconception that democracy stifles growth stems from the comparison of India and China, but explains that the two shouldn't be compared. It so happened that China became an economic "super star," and India has much slower growth when compared to China. However, when compared to other emerging economies, India's democratic government helps the country top the list over other authoritarian governments.


I found the content of Yasheng's speech interesting. He talks about a topic that I know very little about, however, it is easy to understand even without background knowledge. He does a good job communicating his points. His intro makes sense and provides an understanding of what the rest of the speech will be about. He gives persuasive points throughout his presentation. Quite a few slides were used that had illustrations and statistics, which made it both more interesting and more believable. There was one point of the speech that I found irrelevant. He gave a couple long examples of how infrastructure doesn't correlate with economic success and I didn't think it helped his case. His closing was a little different than what his original argument was. He made a statement about what he believes China should do, not about what democracy does to an economy.


Yasheng's delivery was mostly good with a few exceptions. His attention grabber at the beginning was good, made me interested to here his arguments. He kept his hands and gestures above his waist. The speech had a nice pace throughout with some good pauses. His voice inflections made sense and came at appropriate times. One downfall was that he kept his hand in his pocket for a decent duration of the speech. Some pauses were missed, which created confusing transitions. I liked the jokes that he made; there were only two or three but they were well timed and funny. He spent the majority of the time looking out into the audience. In my opinion, though, he talked too fast at some points. Overall he was able to keep me engaged and was enthusiastic about his subject.


Although Yasheng Huang was born in China, he has developed a style of presenting mostly similar to traditional western style. The speech had good structure, he used humor and appropriate hand gestures. He gave evidence supporting his case and other than his accent seemed to resemble many other speeches given in the west. I'm sure much of this is due to his role as a professor at MIT.

Rajesh Rao: A Rosetta Stone for the Indus Script

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Rajesh shares his knowledge about the Indus Script--a long lost language that has not been deciphered. He challenges his audience to care that this language has been lost. What would it reveal if became understood? What would we as a species discover? He introduced a few different hypotheses regarding the use and origin of the script.  With a background is neuroscience, Rajesh's day job consisted of creating computer models showing how the brain worked. Rajesh's fascination with the Indus Script followed him all the way from middle school. Recently, he had the opportunity to collaborate with other scientists that were using computing power to study the Indus script. He joined their team and starting studying the patterns and directionality of ancient messages. The rest of his presentation he continues sharing his fascination and speculating what the whole code could reveal.


            In regards to content, Rajesh used several parallels from the present and past to help portray his message. His presentation was very factual and strongly evidence based. His examples such as belief= bee leaf provided a solid understanding of the point he was trying to tell. He also started his presentation with an imagination exercise that helped the audience relate to the examples he was about to show.

            Overall, I felt his delivery was very westernized. He had a very outlined message and followed his slides with precision. He used graphs, pictures, sculptures, and other visuals as reference. One aspect I did notice was his high rate of speech and a relatively strong accent. Additionally he used his hands when he spoke but at times kept them relatively close to his body. The westernization of the presentation especially showed when making references to an "Ancient Wheel of Fortune" and other subtle jokes. In comparison to Dan Pink, Rajesh wasn't as outgoing and was seemingly a little more reserved. Additionally he didn't make jokes about himself. But ultimately, Rajesh's presentation was much more westernized than that of the other Indian speaker we viewed.


Arunachalam Muruganantham is an inventor known for creating an inexpensive solution to unsanitary menstruation practices across rural India.  In his TED speech, Muruganantham describes the story of how he came to create a simple sanitary-napkin making machine.  He further describes how his invention can be used as an employment opportunity for unprivileged women around the world. 

In terms of content, Muruganantham captures his audience's attention by opening with an overview statement and a focal pause leaving the audience on the edge of their seats ready to hear the story.  By telling the story of how his wife has to use unhygienic rags for her period instead of sanitary pads in order to afford essentials like milk, Muruganantham provides the background of why his invention is important to rural women everywhere. One critique is that he is so focused on telling a fun, memorable story that he does not actually describe what he invented until over halfway through the speech. Also, he concludes with the idea that as an uneducated person he invented this product and challenges the "surplus-educated" (the audience) to do something, potentially offending his listeners.

In terms of his delivery, he continues to capture attention through the use of jokes, but his over-use sometimes leave the audience forgetting the purpose of his speech.   He appears confident, friendly, conversational, and uses movement and gestures to add animation and interest.  However he also tends to move a lot, which can be distracting.   With his accent, his enunciation is so bad that the video provides subtitles for him.

Muruganantham's speaking style was quite different from Dan Pink who is an example of the traditional western style of speaking. In class, we learned that the rate of speaking is 150 words per minute in the United States and 190 words per minute in India. Muruganantham speaks extremely fast.  Muruganantham provides a story or evidence first and then his main point whereas Pink conveys his main point and then describes the evidence that supports it. Pink uses his entire face when presenting whereas Muruganantham barely even moves his eyes.  Murugantham uses story-telling gestures whereas Pink uses typical business gestures.  Pink tends to make jokes about himself whereas Muruganantham uses jokes that people in the audience could have experienced.  I recommend watching this video to gain a clear example of the differences between Eastern and Western speaking styles.


Shashi Tharoor, the speaker in the TED Talk video, is the Indian Minister of State for Human Resource Development, a Member of Parliament, an author, and an activist. For additional information about Dr. Tharoor, see his website:


In his speech, "Why nations should pursue 'soft' power," Shashi Tharoor acknowledges the typical way in which many define 'world leadership' - by population size, military power, nuclear power, purchasing power, growth rate, etc.  Instead, Tharoor asks the audience to reconsider the way in which India contributes to the world; he calls our attention to the influence of India through "soft power."  He defines "soft power" as the ability of a country to attract others because of its culture, political values, and foreign policies that may emerge partly through government actions and policies, but also despite the government; more specifically, he asks us to think about our encounters with India through the latter.  How do we understand India through food, traditions, media, music, television, film, and technology? 


Considering his speech from the standpoint of our Business Communications class, I think Tharoor's speech was well-done overall.  The content was interesting but a bit hard to follow in terms of the overall subject.  He defines soft power in the beginning and demonstrates specific examples of Indian soft power and its influence; however, the progression of his speech was difficult to follow.  I kept wondering how he would tie his topics back in to the main idea.  My confusion may be due to a difference in the way that speeches, story telling, and/or general thought processes are structured between India and North America.  Here in the States, we are taught to present an idea, support it with several clear points, and conclude.  I felt that Tharoor's speech began with a main idea and seemed to keep going with other ideas that were related until time was up and he concluded.


To his merit, I think he uses humor well in the speech; when talking about communications in India before the technological revolution, he employs innocent humor to acknowledge the previous lack of communications in India in a manner that appeals to a Western audience yet is not demeaning to fellow Indians.  Tharoor's delivery was good; he was easy to watch and listen to due to appropriate gestures, eye contact, stage movement, vocal tone and volume.   My only criticism towards his delivery was that he spoke very quickly and tended to progress rapidly from example to example.  As a result, I had to watch the video several times.


Overall, I enjoyed the video and appreciated the topic.  I think it would be an interesting point of discussion for class, because I would have liked to see the idea of the importance of soft power developed further.

TED Speech Review-Kiran Bedi

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                Kiran Bedi was the Director General of the Indian Police Service, she managed one of the toughest prison. She focused on prevention rather than detection, and education inside of the prison, and introduced meditation. She was the one of India's top cops-she earned a reputation for being tough, but innovative and committed to social change. Now retired from the national police force, she runs two NGOs that benefit rural and urban poor.

                She started the speech with her background: her parents educated her and three of her sisters which was unusual in 1950s in India. What sustains her life is two things. One is from her parents saying "life is an inclination: go up, or come down", and her own philosophy which is whatever happens in your life, 90% is your creation. As her background and philosophy described, she believes justice, and innovation. She is acting if she believes, and feels need of change.

                Her speech is following the sequences of her life time. It was very powerful when she was talking about her most recognizable career as a police chief. The examples how she brought the changes not only inside a prison, but the rule of policing in India. I think it was very powerful content she had: it was very organized and emphasized the climax of her career. I was very engaged to her speech. Not only because it was very inspiring, but also too fast. She was really good at getting to the point, but she wasn't almost breathing. Her delivery of speech was just speech itself. In other word, she didn't play around with her topic: no humors, no breathing.

                Kiran Bedi's speech style is very differ from Dan Pink. Kiran's speech is one direction speech unlike Dan Pink. She doesn't have interaction with audiences that much, she almost doesn't give time to respond. One more thing, she never moves! She uses only tiny spot of the stage. I see more movement from the western speakers. Dan Pink walks every corner of the stage to interact with audiences in different spots.

                Kiran Bedi and Dan Pink are just very different speakers. If Dan Pink makes me to think thoroughly about what he talks, Kiran Bedi makes me feel urgency. The way she speaks fast, and gives very focused eye contact, I feel like I should do something to change my life right away.             


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This page is an archive of recent entries in the 02: TED Speech Review category.

01: Initial Impressions of India is the previous category.

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