Here’s a couple of Joe Exotic’s former zookeepers making their first dive into commercials … a hilarious ‘Tiger King’ spoof with Todd Bridges as their old boss!!! Saff Saffery and John Reinke — who were featured in ‘Tiger King’ and used to care…

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Akashay Deshraj and Sourabh Gupta (L-R), Founders of

Sourabh Gupta and Akshay Deshraj came to Bengaluru in 2016 after graduating from IIT Roorkee. The duo was among the thousands of engineers who flock to the city every year with hopes to become entrepreneurs and start another Ola, Swiggy, or Flipkart. 

Not sure of the problem they wanted to solve, they started doing what most potential startup founders do – they attended as many events as possible, kept meeting people and making new connections, and never stopped reading.

In a recent conversation with YourStory, Sourabh said, “By then Reliance Jio was already here, and everyone was talking about the next 500 million internet users.” 

In order to explore what these ‘next 500 million internet users’ wanted and the problems they faced, the two friends started visiting villages in and around Bengaluru. In one of their visits to Kanakapura, a small town situated 55 kilometers from Bengaluru, they finally found the problem they had to solve. 

Sourabh recalls having met a farmer who had a very particular and long-existing problem.

“I receive SMS on my phone from the bank. I know the message is from the bank because it has numbers, but I cannot understand what the SMS means because it is in English,” the farmer told him.

He (the farmer) had to cycle 10 kilometers to the bank every time he received an SMS to get the bank manager explain to him what the message meant. Most of the other farmers, across villages, faced the same problem. 

“This was when we knew that the next generation of internet users are going to be voice-first,” Sourabh says. 

After months of research and development, the IIT graduates launched their company Based out of Bengaluru. The startup is transforming customer interaction through its artificial intelligence (AI) based voice assistant – VIVA. The startup empowers locals and equips enterprises to cater to the non-English speaking population of the country. currently serves more than 25 enterprise clients in 16 different languages in the banking, insurance, food and beverage, and hospitality sectors. This includes the likes of Axis Bank, OYO Rooms, and Barbeque Nation, among others. According to the startup, it helps enterprises automate their call centre operations by up to 80 percent. 

Artificial Intelligence

Image Source: Shutterstock

Also ReadHow SaaS startup is going global as voice AI adoption accelerates amidst COVID-19Bumpy ride 

The journey from being a college student to a startup founder was not an easy one. When Sourabh was still preparing for the IIT-JEE examinations, the likes of Flipkart and Ola were ‘making a scene,’ says the Co-founder and CEO. 

“I wanted to start a business of my own. I went to IIT not to become an engineer but because my parents wanted me to,” says Sourabh.  

Back in college, Sourabh was the Head of the Entrepreneurship Cell in his final year of engineering. During the events, he met his co-founder Akshay. The duo worked on a couple of projects together as well. 

When they came to Bengaluru, not many people took them seriously for their age, Sourabh tells YourStory.

“When we expressed that we wanted to build a B2B business, we were told that enterprises want ‘grey hair’ to sell them something,” Sourabh says.

Additionally, there was a misconception that in order to create a deeptech platform, a startup needed a PhD scholar to understand the nuances of the platform. Being fresh out of college did not help Sourabh and Akshay. 

Cracking the deal 

Coming to a new city and without a job, the duo borrowed money from their parents for the basics. “At a time when everyone sends money back home, we were asking our parents for financial support,” he adds. And with this, came the incessant questions regarding the progress. “All we were doing was reading!” Sourabh says. 

Having incorporated the company in October 2016, was finally launched towards the end of 2017. Within the first 35 days of its launch, the startup raised an undisclosed amount as seed funding from Kstart Capital, the seed programme of venture capital firm Kalaari Capital. Recently, in May this year, it further raised $5.1 million in its Series A round. The round was led by Exfinity Ventures and Kalaari Capital. AngelList, IAN Fund, and LetsVenture also participated in the round.  

Going forward, Sourabh says, “We will now be scaling exponentially and invest heavily in R&D for Indian and South-Asian markets.” 

Want to make your startup journey smooth? YS Education brings a comprehensive Funding Course, where you also get a chance to pitch your business plan to top investors. Click here to know more.

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MakeMyTrip Founder Deep Kalra

MakeMyTrip Founder Deep Kalra

Battered by the coronavirus pandemic that crashed its revenues to zero, India’s largest online travel booking company MakeMyTrip was forced to let go of 350 people, which is nearly 10 percent of its staff, in June.

Initially, around March-end when the country entered into the first phase of the lockdown, the company had hoped it would not have to fire any of its employees, having affected pay cuts across the board.

“But then, two months into the pandemic we realised this is going to take longer and we had to take a very tough decision. I think it's fair to say the toughest decision we have ever taken, which was a large scale retrenchment — almost 10 percent of our staff, which was 350 people — we had to ask to go,” MakeMyTrip Founder Deep Kalra said during a recent chat with YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma. The company has around 3,200 employees on its rolls.

The layoffs were from businesses which the company thought would not come back in a long time or at least would not be done the same way. These were primarily the retail businesses, which the Nasdaq-listed Gurugram company is in the process of converting into franchises and hopes people will still have gainful employment in these functions when the stores come back in their new avatars.

“But I don’t think we want those (jobs) on our rolls, we were anyway talking about restructuring this (retail business). But it was a tough time. I know for Rajesh (Magow, MakeMyTrip Co-founder and CEO) and myself, we had many sleepless nights. As did our HR, as did every leader, actually. It’s very hard." 

“I think for us, the way we are wired — we are Indian, we don’t have that hire-fire mentality — at least, we certainly don’t. Asking one person to go for (a) reason (that’s) not his or her fault is hard and when you do it mass-scale, it’s very hard,” Deep said.

In March, the World Travel and Tourism Council had warned that 50 million jobs in the travel and tourism industry could be lost worldwide due to the coronavirus pandemic. It projected Asia as being the worst affected with the possibility of 30 million job losses in the continent.


Deep Kalra started MakeMyTrip at the age of 30 in 2000

The 50-year-old founder of one of India’s early internet successes who went on to become a poster boy for the Indian startup ecosystem and the online travel industry, said, the company wanted to ensure the separation process, albeit painful, was made as easy as possible.

“It’s the right thing to do. So we did extend the benefits and perks, whether it was medical insurance till a whole year, we did let them keep the laptops [sic]. For people who had done long service, we did even more, like linked to how long they had served us." 

“And then, even on a personal front, both Rajesh and I wanted to help anyone who had done a long time with us, more than 10 years, which we did. But it’s the worst thing to do and hopefully we never ever have to do that again,” he said.

At the peak of the pandemic, as travelling came to a standstill, MakeMyTrip’s revenues plummeted from $500 million a month revenue run rate to zero. “We did $6 billion gross booking (in) the last year, the last fiscal that we reported and we were suddenly down to zero,” Deep said.

He reflected on the irony that 20 years after the travel company was launched on April 1, 2000, it found itself in a position where on its anniversary there was virtually no travel happening, with everyone locked down inside their homes.

“We had our earnings call for the worst hit quarter, which is April, May and June, which is the first quarter of our fiscal and it’s open knowledge, since we are a public company, we were 95-96 percent down on revenues. So I was half jokingly saying, this should be called a lack of earnings call not an earnings call,” Deep said.

Also ReadFrom humble village boy to billionaire: Byju’s success mantra revealed

After assessing the initial damage to the business, the MakeMyTrip management got down to figuring out the things they could control to salvage the situation. “We are in travel, not really diversified. So it’s been great for us for so long. We can sit and mope or fret and get into a panic, but neither of those are going to solve our problems,” Deep said.

The management figured the “only thing” it could do was act on two fronts — cutting costs and keeping employees’ motivation levels up, which became even more critical in the backdrop of the job cuts.

Deep elaborated: “How could we be completely maniacal about cutting down on cost wherever possible? So variable costs were (a) little easier, most of them were related to marketing and sales promotion. Semi-fixed cost, which was outsourced partners for post-sales service, call centres was a little harder, but again we gave notices, we negotiated, and we cut back. And the toughest of all, of course, was when it came down to people-cost.” 

According to the company, it tried to do everything possible to avoid the layoffs, especially through the deep pay cuts at the top, but eventually had to take the tough call of letting people go after an extended phase of little or no business.


“So, we took cuts, personal cuts in salaries at all levels, literally starting with managerial level at 10 percent, going all the way up to the top where Rajesh and I are still basically going 100 percent cut [sic] because it was not only symbolic but it was the right thing to do. "

“Our entire leadership team, I think it was creditable (that) they took a 50 percent cut and they continue to do so. And even though travel is coming back and now we have started restoring, it’s been (a) good four-five months of being like that,” Deep said.

Also ReadStarting Apollo Hospitals at the age of 50, Dr Prathap Reddy was called a ‘fool’

MakeMyTrip started restoring salaries of employees till the senior manager level by July end, once the business started to come back. “Some of our lines of business have definitely started like domestic flights, I think we are back now at 15-20 percent capacity, which is a start,” Deep said. For hotel bookings, demand is at 10-12 percent of the capacity, as is the demand for bus and other inter-city travel modes, he added.

(Edited by Megha Reddy)

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During an organ transplant, physicians use the healthy organs and tissues from one individual and transplant them into another. In 2018, there were 36,527 organ transplants in the U.S., which set a record for the sixth straight year in a row.1 The total number has exceeded 750,000 since 1988, when the first transplant data were collected.

Organ donation can be done in one of two ways. The first occurs when the donor is living and chooses to give an organ or tissue to another individual. Living donors can offer a kidney or part of a liver or lung.2

The second type happens when the organ donor has died and left instructions for donation. More than 155 million people are registered as organ donors, yet only three out of 1,000 will qualify after they die. There are several different organs and tissues that can be transplanted from a deceased person, including:3,4

Heart and heart valves



Bone or bone marrow






Middle ear

Connective tissue

As of March 2020, there were 112,000 men, women and children on the waiting list. According to the Health Resources and services Administration,5 20 people die every day waiting for an organ transplant, while another person is added to the list every 10 minutes.

Advances in technology and medicine have made it possible to successfully transplant more organs and tissue than ever before. Yet, each year the number of people waiting for a transplant grows faster than the number of people willing to donate, whether living or deceased. One individual who dies can donate up to eight lifesaving organs and impact the lives of many others.

Organ Donation and Transplant Numbers Down

When the shelter-in-place orders went into effect across the country, many states saw a decline in traffic accidents and fatalities. An April report from the University of California Davis6 noted that the number in California had been reduced by half in the first three weeks.

By comparison, in Minnesota, the number of fatalities from January to April in 2019 and 2020 were actually close.7 Preliminary data showed there were 81 people killed in car crashes in 2020 as compared to 78 the previous year during the same time of year.

Deaths from accidents account for nearly 33% of all organ donations,8 which were down 23% nationwide from March 8 to April 11. Spring break, outdoor activities and travel often signal a greater number of accidents. April is usually when organ donations surge. However, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) has found that numbers were consistently lower across the board during the pandemic.

Janice Whaley, CEO of Donor Network West, told a reporter from Kaiser Health News, “Spring break accidents are almost nonexistent because there’s no spring break — beach accidents, motorcycle accidents, hunting accidents.”9

Another factor limiting the number of available donor organs is a decline in emergency room visits. George Rutherford, infectious disease specialist at the University of California San Francisco, remarked:10

“Where are all the people with heart attacks? Where are all the people with strokes? Are those patients staying away from the ERs for fear of COVID? Clearly, the census is way down in ERs.”

Transplant Teams Balancing Risk Against Need

Individuals who die from a stroke or a heart attack are the second and third largest sources of organ donation. When individuals die at home, the organs can’t be used for transplant since they are not kept viable after death.

For an organ to be usable, a person must die or be declared brain-dead while they’re on a ventilator, which keeps the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys viable. Although transplants are considered essential, teams have been making decisions as each case is presented.

The criteria for surgery are based on the recipient’s risk of death without receiving a transplant and the hospital’s current census, staffing and number of ventilators available.11

With the uncertainty of how many ventilators the hospital may need for patients with COVID-19, clinicians have been reluctant to take on transplants. For the organs to remain viable, the donor must remain on a ventilator until a transplant team can be assembled and recipients identified. The organ recipients also need to be on ventilators during surgery.12

Although many of those who died in the hospital from COVID-19 were willing to donate their organs, they were declined since they could potentially infect the recipient. Living donations have also been canceled at many hospitals because it doubles the risk by bringing in two patients — the donor and the recipient — for the procedure.

Transplant procedures have a complex logistical process. Once a person is declared brain-dead, a medical provider from the organ procurement organization will evaluate them to be sure they’re suitable for donation.13

Authorization must be received from the patient’s family before their information can be added to the national computer database to find a match. Once this is completed, the hospital must organize transportation, transplantation and recovery for the recipients.

Paired Organ Donation Program

Living donors have a second option if they find they’re not a good medical match for the intended recipient. The kidney paired donation pilot project14 is managed by the United Network for Organ Sharing through the Health Resources and Services Administration. This is the program a kidney transplant patient featured in The Wall Street Journal used when his sister found she wasn’t a match for him.15

The program involves multiple institutions, candidates and donors. The sister agreed to donate her kidney to a stranger with whom she was a match, in exchange for the understanding that another individual who is a match for her brother would donate to him. Experts believe nearly 16% of paired kidney transplants occur each year.

The Wall Street Journal16 reported on May 25, 2020 that their featured subjects were still waiting for the transplant teams to agree to do the surgeries, as the procedures were put on hold during the pandemic. In the meantime, the kidney patient is on dialysis 17 hours a day as he waits for the surgery.

How Organ Donation Works

When a person needs to be placed on the organ transplant waiting list, they must have a referral from their physician to be evaluated for the program. A team of people, including a transplant coordinator, social worker and surgeon, work with the patient and family to organize the process.17

The patient undergoes specific tests to gauge medical necessity as well as their social support and psychological readiness.18 This helps determine if the person is a candidate. Once accepted, their medical information is entered into the national database. Patients are encouraged to seek living donors when appropriate.

Kidney transplants are crucial for those with end-stage kidney disease. One factor that can raise the rate of success is ensuring viability of the organ. Researchers from the University of Cincinnati have discovered a gene that may predict the potential risk of a donor having kidney disease later in life.19

The test may help identify individuals whose kidneys may not remain viable for the recipient, and who may need to keep their kidneys long-term. This can assist with expanding the living kidney transplant program because it identifies potential challenges for donors and recipients.

Myths About Organ Donation

There are several myths about organ donation that may have stopped you from considering becoming an organ donor. Many of these have been perpetuated in the movies. It’s important to know the facts to make an informed decision. These are some of the more common questions and concerns:20,21,22

• Will the decision to be an organ donor affect the quality of my medical care? — The quality of care you receive during an illness or after an accident is based on saving your life, not someone else’s. Nonliving organ donation is only allowed after brain death has been diagnosed.

• Will I really be dead before they sign my death certificate? — Although Hollywood has created a market for movies about people who suddenly “wake up” after they’re declared dead, in reality, physicians are required to thoroughly test for brain death. Only those who are truly dead will be evaluated for organ donation.

• I’m too old to donate and I’m not in the best health — There is no age at which you can no longer donate organs. Instead, the decision is based on other criteria. Physicians decide at the time of death whether your tissues and organs are viable.

There are a limited number of conditions that automatically exclude you from donating your organs. A systemic infection, such as COVID-19, may be one of them. However, don’t exclude yourself from donating your organs; instead, let medical professionals determine viability.

• My family will be charged when they take my organs — The recipient’s health insurance policy usually covers the cost of removing the organs and families are not charged for the additional testing to ensure the donation is possible. Donating your organs does not cost your family or estate anything.

• I can’t have an open casket if I donate — Organ donation is not disfiguring, so an open casket is an option. A donor’s body will be closed and cared for by the mortuary and no signs of organ donation will be visible at the funeral.

How to Become an Organ Donor

There are several ways of indicating your interest to become an organ donor. It’s also important that even after registering and adding the information to your driver’s license, that you also share your decision with your family. During times of crisis, it’s important for your family to know and understand your wishes so they can be carried out.23

A donor registry, such as the National Donate Life Registry,24 is one way to indicate your interest.25 Each time you renew your driver’s license, you’re asked if you want to make an anatomical gift or become an organ donor. When you say yes, the indication is added to your license.

You can also pick up a form at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. It’s important to sign and carry an organ donor card; this can be downloaded from It’s used to communicate your wishes to emergency personnel after an accident or catastrophic event.

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