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Category Archive : Books

The One Thing I Couldn’t Relate to in Padman!

I finally saw Padman on Thursday night and I’ve got to confess, I absolutely loved it! I identify with the struggles and humiliation that Laxmikant Chauhan, the protagonist, goes through as he attempts to improve female hygiene practices ie convince the females in his home and village to use sanitary pads instead of a rag during periods. Even though his wife, mother, sisters and entire community abandon him, forcing him to leave his village, the fire within him continues to burn, driving him to achieve the improbable. Down and out on luck, Laxmikant encounters a lady who resurrects him and joins his fight. Her help transforms Laxmikant from a failed entrepreneur about to be beaten to pulp by his creditors, to one that receives international acclaim and success.  To thank her for all the help and support, he named his product after her. Then, when things were looking up for him his entire community, family, and even his wife wanted him back and he left the hand that took him to the peak to go back to the people who were fairweather friends. This is betrayal or to put it more crassly, spit in the face of those that stand by you and support you when you’re down.

This made me think about how in my own journey, I have encountered several such fairweather friends and colleagues. These people who I thought were my near & dear friends, didn’t take a moment to think before throwing me down the well when I was struggling, but when I seemed to be doing well, these same people touted that “they always knew I’d make it large.” I keep these fairweather friends at a very safe distance because their next attempt to bury me is awaiting the next trough in the long journey of success.

I keep close and regard those friends, family members and even colleagues who stood with me when I was struggling the most. People like Laxmikant Biyani who let me use his office rent-free when I didn’t have the capital to pay rent (and he has refused to take rent even now), my Chacha, Ramesh Damani who provided endless moral support over and above his investments in/with me and finally my team that started Artha when it was just a dream and stuck around when that dream struggled to breakthrough. Whenever I write my memoirs (and I will), they will feature prominently in it.

So, that was my peeve with Padman, why leave those that support you at your worst and go back to those that will be with you only when you are doing well? What lesson does the movie impart to the other Laxmikant Chauhan’s have been vilified by their own support system for doing things that are out of the box but continue the fight? What is the lesson to those people that have the heart & courage to support someone else in their fight?

I loved the movie until this plot twist occurred… the writers should have had the courage to script a new ending instead of opting for a Suraj Barjatiya type of impossible, unrealistic happy ending.

I wouldn’t go back, in the movie and in real life.

27/2018

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6 Books I’d Recommend to Every Entrepreneur

An entrepreneur’s primary role is to sell. At any given point the entrepreneur is selling whether it is

  1. Selling himself on why he is pursuing this idea.
  2. Selling his employees on why they should join or stay at this venture
  3. Selling his friends and family on supporting him in his new (and often crazy) endeavour
  4. Selling his customers to try out the new product or service he has developed (and to pay for it)
  5. Selling his business as an investment opportunity to potential investors
  6. Selling mentors on why their valuable time will be well invested in him
  7. Selling to investors to continue supporting his business

The list of selling activities can go on for pages… and I still would not have even scratched the surface of the number of selling activities that an entrepreneur is actively involved in. Therefore if there a skill that an entrepreneur should learn is the skill to sell.

I have found that the following 6 books made the maximum impact on my sales, investment and entrepreneurial careers as well as the careers of people whom I have mentored and helped to grow in their respective sales and entrepreneurial roles.

Ideally, you should read these books in chronological order since the level of complexity increases as you progress down the list.

  1. The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino
  2. How to Sell Anything to Anybody by Joe Girard
  3. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
  4. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  5. How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling by Frank Bettger
  6. Unlimited Power by Tony Robbins

Have any books helped YOU shape your entrepreneurial career? I would love to know so do share them in the comment section!

11/2018

Book Review: The Wild Diet

Do you know that in the 16-year period between 1988 and 2014, the weight of an average American male increased by 15 pounds, while his average height remained the same?

Did you know that India’s consumption of sugar increased from 5% to 13% of all the sugar produced in the world? – much faster than the global average.

Do you know that many types of white sugar are processed with bone char, thereby making them non-vegetarian?

Neither did I, until I read Abel James’ wildly popular book, The Wild Diet. The book talks about how over the years our diets have morphed from natural foods to processed, factory-manufactured foods that contain many harmful chemical compounds and the negative impact that it has on our body.

I find Abel’s advice to be prudent and sensible. He advises me to consume any food that my body wants, but to focus on the quality vs the quantity of that food. There is no advice to count calories, work out for hours, consume weird & tasteless foods or potions, eat 6-10 meals a day, etc. Instead Abel simply urges me to listen to my body and provide it with adequate nourishment, ample rest and just enough exercise to break a sweat.

Abel shared his own struggles about gaining weight despite being an active person that ran marathons and ate lots of fat free and sugar free stuff. His own investigation into the food that he was consuming led to the realization that industrial food processing was the leading cause of his troubles. Once he began to eat the RAW (recently alive and well ingredients) version of the things he liked, the excess fat dropped off just like that! This book breaks down the process of how and why that happened.

The book is written in simple language and from Abel’s point of view, which makes it easy to follow. It took me less than 4 hours of uninterrupted reading time to finish the book. The simple recipes to make amazing & filling smoothies, soups, entrees, cookies and cakes (yes you read that right) were especially helpful. The only thing that I am being asked to do is remove the refined and processed foods from my diet .

I tried my hand at making a smoothie and a soup yesterday. Not only was it easy it but bloody delicious and filling. This successful trial motivated me to take up the 40-day challenge (in the book) to lose 20 pounds! After reading this book, I believe that one of my year end goals will be finished earlier than planned! 🙂

Links:

Here is the link for Abel’s book on Amazon

Here is the link for his podcast on iTunes

Here is a link to the app that provides recipes for his diet

Lastly, I want to leave you with this video of Kurt Morgan who lost 87 pounds on the “My Diet is Better Than Yours” show by following Abel’s advice. This one is pure gold!

 

10/2018

 

$30 billion in annual sales was built like that

  1. What is the book about?

Shoe Dog by Nike founder and chairman Phil Knight traces the journey of Nike from the time it was a startup all the way to its IPO. The journey captures the tribulations, triumphs, tragedy and trials (an actual one too) of an entrepreneur in the 1960s & 1970s running a cross border business. The story is a throwback to an era when banks were conservative and venture capital was in its nascent stages and businesses growing 100% per year had to get creative about raising money.

With starting capital of $1000, Nike, grew to a $140 million business by the end of the 70s and when it went public it was valued at $387 million ($1.2 billion today). Phil describes the 18-year journey from a personal and professional vantage point in a story with numerous subplots, a host of different characters who were misfits for an athletic company but their passion connected them and built Nike. There are surprises at every turn of the page but they resulted in setting up the most recognized athletic brand in the world, present in almost every corner of the world and does over $30 billion in sales.

The writing style is unique, for example the author’s personal feelings during an episode are described in quotes from other books or speeches given by leaders & coaches: “The cowards never started and the weak died along the way. That leaves us, ladies and gentlemen. Us.”  or “don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results”. As the book is written from the eyes of the author the numerous plots depicted in the book felt (to me) as a movie and I finished it the book in 4-5 hours.

There is an epilogue at the end which bring the book from the heydays of its IPO to the current day and its gives an insight into what it took to build a company that has touched the lives of hundreds of millions (if not billions).

 

  1. Who wrote this book?
aD_Blog_2017_04_15_Book Review_Shoe Dog by Phil Knight_Author.jpg

He started with a $1000 and made it into $387 million!

The book is written by Phillip Knight, the founder and Chairman of Nike. His journey starts from a thesis paper he wrote in college, then he does a world tour including a stay in Calcutta (modern day Kolkata) before heading back to his home town in Oregon. It is written from the Phil’s perspective so the episodes give an account of what he felt and the logic behind his actions which weren’t always in the correct side of the divide but were necessary in his duty as an entrepreneur.

 

  1. Why did I read this book?

Bill Gates recommended this book as one of the must read books of 2016, has also given his own book review and his reasons for why this book should be read. That inspired me to pick up this book.

After reading it I agree with Bill’s review that unlike other entrepreneurial biographies that show the protagonist as a superhuman. Phil’s gives a real-life view into how large companies started like as messy, confused business model that were often at the brink of collapse but were saved by a bit of pluck. In many ways Phil’s biography is a cross between Call Me Ted and The Virgin Way as shows that building large businesses has serious pitfalls, sudden triumphs, interesting hires and the constant requirement of capital to fuel the growth. How these moving parts collude and collide is a similarity between all 3 biographies.

 

  1. Why do I recommend this book?

We stand at a very important moment in the history of Indian business. A single indirect tax regime is being implemented (GST), there is a push for cashless payments, the stock indices are at all-time highs but banking and venture capital isn’t catching up.

 

An entrepreneur entering this market sees unlimited opportunity but limited capital controlled by fearful money managers. To them the Phil’s journey will give inspiration

The cowards never started and the weak died along the way. That leaves us, ladies and gentlemen. Us.”

 

  1. Who do I recommend this book for?
aD_Blog_2017_04_15_Book Review_Shoe Dog by Phil Knight_Nike Shoe

Nike was a startup too!

Any entrepreneur new or old will find inspiration in this book.

If you are going to be in the consumer products space this book will resonate with you at many levels. The learnings on how to hire, how to pick & treat your business partners, how to expand with limited capital and above all why the art of negotiation is the core skill for an entrepreneur will provide valuable insight for all entrepreneurs.

 

  1. Interesting Trivia
  • Nike was originally called Blue Ribbon SportsaD_Blog_2017_04_15_Book Review_Shoe Dog by Phil Knight_Blue Ribbon.jpg
  • Phil spent time by the Ganga prior to starting his business. Steve Jobs did too and on Jobs’s advice Zuckerberg did too.
  • Phil picked the name Nike at the very last minute and the name came to his first employee in a dream
  • Phil’s account was closed by two banks because they assumed his rapid growth was a fraud and one of them went asked the FBI to investigate!
  • Phil (like yours truly) was a door to door salesman, I outsold him J.

Do you choose the fu*ks you give?

What is the book about?

The book is about debunking the mumbo-jumbo sold by the self-help industry that gives temporary highs but doesn’t solve the actual issues that affect us today.  
Mark quickly decodes the myth that each of us is special (we are not). Infact Mark asks us to use our own intellect to question how we feel about things. What makes us happy? What makes us sad? Why do we get jealous?

As we delve deeper into our feelings we will find that these feelings are tied to core values that we may or may not have chosen consciously and when if we can choose our values we then choose the problems that those values bring and stop giving a fuck about things that don’t concern us.

How to stop worrying and giving a fuck about everything and choosing what we should give a fuck about and get on with living life versus standing in front of mirrors and reciting to ourselves how awesome our lives are is the focus of the book.

Why I read this book

I loved the title of the book so, it was a bit of intrigue of a shockingly unprentious title that made me pick it up (okay download it from Kindle). However, I found myself chuckling through the first 3 chapters of the book as Mark’s matter of fact style of writing (and the liberal use of fuck) brings down the walls of myths that I have built up being some awesome freak of nature.

The way he talks about doing our duty and to stop giving a fuck about the result resonates with what the Bhagavad Gita teaches us and he just takes it down from discourse level teaching to a real life teaching using his own tragic and hilarious instances.

His thoughts on how we talk ourselves out of relationships and the importance of boundaries in relationships was particularly eye opening.

What I learnt from this book

  1. Embrace the negative in your life as that is sign that you have something to learn 
  2. Choose what you give a fuck about (and do not give a fuck about) 
  3. Take responsibility for everything that you do but do not take the blame for what happens to you (this was huge!) 
  4. Feeling like we are unique only places pressure on us to be unique, accept that you are mediocre or even bad at something and you will perform with no pressure or expectation therefore you do well.  
  5. Pain & failure are a part of life as much as success & happiness  

Who is the author

Mark Manson is a celebrated blogger and writes on www.markmanson.net . He has a unique writing style that attracts over 2 million readers and has been on numerous Primero media channels.

Who should read this book

If you have read, followed, attended, heard or seen a ton of self-help stuff and feel that it only solves something problems but doesn’t solve things at a deeper level then this is the book for you.

If you know someone who blames themselves or others a lot.. gift this to them!

(Yes, Mridul I will gift one more to myself)

Innovation in a Bottle (or Book)

There are books that talk to you in a way that they put together previous thoughts, actions, emotions and even imagination of how things should be when innovating. If it is done in a coherent narrative that is powerful, digestible & teachable – then you must be reading the Blue Ocean Strategy.

The book hooked my attention as it simplified a very difficult subject i.e. how to evaluate or create the strategy of innovating in an overcrowded market. I do this every single day when reading business plans as each founder claims that they disrupt an established market or are creating a new one and to agree or disagree with them requires an objective approach that is provided in the book.

The book introduces a method for breakthroughs in an overcrowded market through value innovationValue innovation, shifts a company’s strategy from focusing on the competition to shining the spotlight on the buyer i.e. the primary driver of revenue & profit for the company.

The value innovator slays its competitors by refusing to indulge in a survival of the fittest strategy, concentrating instead, on delivering what the buyer wants and is not getting or in many cases introducing a new set of buyers altogether by value innovating. This creates a new paradigm viz a divergence in the market and in the divergent market the value innovator sets the rules. The ex-competitors are left playing catch-up thereby opening a blue ocean i.e. “…untapped market space, demand creation and the opportunity for highly profitable growth”

The book is neatly divided into 3 major sections. The first section introduces the concept of the Blue Ocean, the next section deals with formulating the Blue Ocean strategy. In the last section, the authors follow what they preach, diverging from other books by taking a deep dive into the execution of the formulated strategy in way that it achieves the desired outcomes. It is the deep dive into execution premised on simple logic that makes the book stand apart from other books written on the topic of innovating.

The authors have intelligently used case studies to build the narrative ensuring, that each case study makes a point and each point has a case study. This writing style makes it difficult to put the book down after embarking on the journey (of reading it). The case studies span centuries, continents, cultures, markets, industries, for-profit and non-profit companies even government entities (including the NYPD). The numerous case studies prove that the Blue Ocean framework can be applied universally to all places that can identify themselves as an organisation.

The book resonates with a lot of what I have spoken and written on i.e. involve customers in product developmentJet Airways’ unilateral changes to its loyalty program scoring a self-goal and even Blackberry’s horrible pricing strategy in India. In fact in the middle of the book I realized that the book provided the framework to evaluate companies so that they fit with our investment philosophy.

I am thankful to W Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne who have developed a comprehensive method to create value for all stakeholders and have done the heavy lifting for the reader/student by giving them worksheets, checklists and rules to help execute each step of the value innovation process.

The book is a must read for all entrepreneurs and managers that want to be disruptive as it revolves around one objective – creating a company has a positive impact on society, is exciting to work for and delivers profits with minimal risk.