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The safety valve theory and my failed LLM plans

I was very impressed and also confused by the safety valve theory while reading History.

Apparently, the British Raj actively promoted the Congress Party, whose main aim was to oppose the British Raj in India. Why would they do that?

Because the Congress party worked as a safety valve. A formal political channel for Indian grievances. No more sudden rebellions like the mega mutiny of 1857.

This helped them to preserve their rule over India for a long time.

If you think that the British left India in 1947 because of movements launched by Congress, then you are grossly mistaken. Lots of countries like Jordan, Oman, New Zealand had no freedom fighter movement or Congress-type independence movements at all, and yet were given independence around the same time, and in some cases even before India was given independence. Starting from Jordan in 1946, the British decolonized all their former colonies in the next 20 years.

Why? Because the British government was bankrupt after the 2nd world war plus the leftists in favor of universal decolonization were in power in London! Decolonization of India was inevitable at this point whether Gandhi was born or not.

So am I saying even if we did not have a freedom fighter movement, India would probably become independent around 1947? Yes, that may look like it if you apply logic. If it was happening for all other British colonies with no freedom fighters then why would India be left out?

I am not saying Congress or the Mahatma had no role in nation-building. Just saying that Indian independence was inevitable either way due to other forces in play, one way or the other.

Any thoughts on this? Would love to know what you think about this.

Anyway, what is the point I am making? 

So basically, the British benefited from promoting a safety valve political party.

What is the lesson in this?

That safety valves are very useful. Do you have any safety valves?

My safety valve at home when I was a kid was my sister. She would somehow know when my mother was angry with me, and I was about to receive a beating. She would be very happy at the prospect, and I could figure out what is about to happen from just looking at her face 😁 and I would promptly escape. At least sometimes.

I introduced a refund policy at LawSikho that anyone who uses a LawSikho course, attends classes, and does assignments for a month can claim a 100% refund no-question-asked. This was a safety valve. 

As LawSikho was growing bigger very fast and I was losing direct control over operations, I had to quickly find a way to ensure that I would know if there was the deterioration of service quality. 

If someone was getting amazing service and value from the course, more than what they paid, they would have to be stupid to ask for a refund.

On the other hand, if they are not getting value, then the refund is the least of my headache. We will never succeed as a company if we fail to create value for our learners.

How do I ensure that my colleagues cannot hide failures in service delivery and disasters from me?

I cannot keep track of everything that is done by everyone who works at LawSikho. I cannot check every process. We hire new people all the time who sometimes mess up. Some processes break as we scale as they are not scalable. We make wrong hires. I cannot always know what will go wrong as we double or quadruple in a matter of months. 

However, whenever I see a rising number of refund requests I know there is something not working right.

Many new colleagues at senior levels have often tried to persuade me to cancel this refund policy that no other competitor offers. 

I would never agree. A refund policy is our greatest check and balance against my own team’s poor performance. My most powerful safety valve.

My safety valve when I took the risk of starting a startup early in my life was that I can always do a master’s degree if I fail, and get back to the usual career ladder in another country.

This helped me to overcome the paralyzing anxiety of taking a plunge into an unknown and uncertain world of building a startup.

If I fail, I will shut shop and move to the US or the UK to do an LLM or MBA, I told myself. I even looked up European Universities that seemed more affordable. I looked at how I could get scholarships, too and what I would have to do if I didn’t get one.

I also often fantasized about going abroad and studying. How will it be again to go back to college? Last time I was in college I was young and had no clue about how to win in that environment. I struggled a lot, especially socially. 

Now I am so awesome! If I get into college again, I am going to kill it. I will be the star. It will be so amazing!

I felt good imagining all these. 

Even when things looked bleak, having this backup option at the back of my brain felt like I was secure as I braved tremendous lack of security and failures everyday at work, for years.

It has been 10 years since I graduated. I still have not done a master’s degree. I guess I still want to do it even now, though there is no real incentive careerwise at this point for me.

I may get a master’s degree for the heck of it because it would be such an adventure. It probably is not an adventure, but I am confident I will manage to turn it into one 😁

By the way, this year we launched an LLM at LawSikho in collaboration with a leading University in Poland and two business schools in Germany and the Netherlands. It was supposed to be a pure online LLM, but I insisted that there must be at least 1 month of physical classes and the opportunity to network in Europe that every student should have an option to attend.

What is the point of a purely online LLM? There will be no adventure.

Sure, online LLMs are convenient, but I insist on an adventure too.

So do you ever want to do an LLM? What does doing an LLM mean to you?

An opportunity to settle abroad? An adventure? A way to compensate for a bad experience or lack of brand name from your LLB? An opportunity to go abroad and experience the world? A mandatory gateway to get into the comfortable and intellectual life of academia?

It has different meanings for different people. I would love to know what it means to you. Respond to this mail, I will read each response and write back.

LLM is a magic portal. It takes different people to different destinations, and not all of them are good.

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