Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Just how hungry starts getting foolish
It has been ages since I last wrote a review of any sort and it has been one remarkable book that has made me take this up after such a long time. Titled "Stay Hungry Stay Foolish" after the famous concluding words of Steve Jobs at a B-School convocation, the book tells the stories of 25 IIM Ahmedabad pass outs who made it big as first generation entrepreneurs. The book contains stories as implausible as the ones of Naukri.com and Shree Renuka Sugars to ones as different from the league as GiveIndia and Ekalavya School.
All 25 stories in the book are as similar to each other as they are distinct which goes on to show, in my mind, the talent of the author, Rashmi Bansal, an entrepreneur herself. Rashmi writes a popular blog Youth Curry and is the founder and editor of the youth magazine JAM. In this book, written with as much fluidity as is found in her blog, Rashmi uses a generous dosage of her own insights, opinions, and views without introducing any bias in each of the stories. These insights, often expressed employing very matter-of-fact mannerisms (read, in italicized Hindi), are what make the stories believable and at the same time, grand and singularly unique.
The arrangement of author's thoughts is well brought out as it starts from her own notions and expectations about the entrepreneur and his/her story. Moving on to the facts, the author provides clear insight into the background from which these entrepreneurs started out. She then moves to the interview approach which is more like a free flowing thought expression than a Q & A. Even though it is obvious that the author had a certain set of questions she posed to all interviewees in the book, the way she has avoided putting the questions down and the manner in which she has stopped short of publishing responses to all such questions for all interviewees shows a fair amount of discretion.
The final section on advice for entrepreneurs is really icing on the cake as it puts across the personality of the entrepreneur and his/her story in a nutshell. Drawing from their own experiences, the entrepreneurs very succinctly put across their take on the entire journey and the struggle to achieve what they have. Although the takes are as different from each other as chalk and cheese, they still provide a profound perspective into the decisions that the concerned entrepreneur took and what anyone in a similar scenario should logically go for or avoid.
Notwithstanding the insights and views included in the book's narrative by the author, there still seems something missing as far as an independent take on the entire subject of entrepreneurship is concerned. An additional chapter on the author's own opinions, though not holding a torch to the other chapters which necessarily deal with all these fascinating stories, would still have gone a long way in threading the thoughts and ideas together. As of the moment, though there are many of them and this should be appreciated, they are just floating in the air right through the pages. For all you know, such a chapter may have just answered the question that the title of this blog post poses.
Before getting started on this book, I had thought that I will be able to truly relate to two specific stories where I have been personally associated with the protagonists at a professional level. However, it was a pleasant surprise to finally discover that my bonding with the book's stories ran deeper. To say that the book was inspirational and provided motivation would definitely be an understatement. I could almost see the past, present, and future of myself and so many others like me in one story after another and that, Ms Bansal, is quite creditable from where you stand as a debutante.
Posted at 12:18 pm by Nitai
Monday, November 10, 2008
It almost feels sad to see the pictures of Anil Kumble and Saurav Ganguly bidding their final adieus to world cricket. When we, as passionate yet unrelated followers of the game are feeling the pinch, it seems impossible to even hazard a guess as to what will be going through the minds of those two. Though called retirement, it is not really that in true sense of the term for these cricketers. It is not as if they have had a nine-to-five job for the last thirty five odd years and now that their sight and sharpness of wit are not as much of assets as they used to be, they are hanging their boots.
Here, these players are still in the prime of their lives (not even forty yet, any of them) and still it seems as if they have done grave injustice to their chosen professions and their employers by probably staying on for just that little bit more. They are fit, most of them, of course not as fit as a modern cricketer is supposed to be but still many times fitter as compared to many others their age. Unlike the normal retirees, they can not just sit in the verandah, on the armchair with the daily newspaper, starting to get used to the morning walks and carrying milk, grocery, and grandkids home (maybe not in the same order).
The only thing that is probably similar between other retirees and these players is that they have left an impression through their illustrious careers that can not be easily matched, leave surpassed. Having achieved in one and a half decades each of their careers more than other people do in their lifetimes, they do deserve their retirement. But ask them if they want it and the reply will be a vehement negative for who doesn't continue to yearn for the stage and the lights.
It is the limelight that has goaded them on, it is the praise and glory that has made them gun for more, it is the attention focused on each and every act of theirs that has made all their talent and lack of the same visible in zoom mode, and it is their accountability to the general public that has made them call it a day much before they would have liked to.
All good things must come to an end and if they come to an end in appropriate time, the better for them. (I am talking only about good things so any references, however much in jest, to any soap operas are not appreciated).
Posted at 04:48 pm by Nitai
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
It is that time of the year again when the streets are lighted and the mood festive, children out in the courtyards gleefully bursting firecrackers (the milder ones nowadays, of course), and people all decked up in their ethnic best. Diwali has always been one of the festivals I have looked forward to and it brings to my mind so many joyous memories of togetherness, with family and friends. This is one day in the year that I absolutely hate being by myself because it makes me feel really sad and grumpy listening to other people enjoy the festivities while I long for the company of my loved ones.
Luckily, Diwali this year was different from any of the sort and I was blessed with the company of my parents and more importantly, my Grandfather. While Papa was here about two weeks ahead of Diwali, Maa landed about a week later and in the middle (more towards the end, actually) of the Bihar-Maharashtra brouhaha, Baba accompanied with Bua came to town just a day before Diwali. In fact, I was so very worried that the plans of Baba to come visiting after so many requests from me and my sister may actually come to nought because of all this tamasha but thankfully better sense and peace prevailed and he was able to make the journey.
The love, affection, and blessings in the eyes of my family members is enough to make any day special for me and this Diwali was no exception. With a bhara-poora ghar, it was a completely amazing experience this Diwali and even though there was not much of firecracker bursting or diya lighting but even the bit that there was seemed blissful. After the traditional Lakshmi Puja and lighting of diyas, we started on a tour of Mumbai to experience the famous Mumbai style of celebrating this festival. It was an anticlimax, however, as we saw a deserted Juhu beach and negligible lighting even in the posh localities of Bandra, Juhu, et al. The only saving grace was Nariman Point and Marine Drive which, if you didn't mind the traffic, made you enjoy the proceedings with people out in the open, slowdown and markets be damned.
Baba's stay was just for about a week and what a packed week it was! From meeting relatives to planning outings to Lonavala, Khandala, movies, beaches, it was one roller coaster and the best part about it all was that Baba loved it. Except for a day when he was tired and slept through the day (after the Lonanavala trip), Baba's health also kept up with him by Godís grace. In his own words, it was a very satisfying trip. No amount of material benefits of any sort could have had me in a happier state than the one I was in on hearing these words as I saw Baba and Bua off last night at the railway station.
Posted at 11:19 am by Nitai
Friday, October 24, 2008
Cheers to the tough times!
October is almost about to end without a single post this month and that is something one can't allow, can one? So after thinking about what to write, even going to the extent of trying to copy ideas from some of the blogs I have got into a habit of reading every day, I have sat down to write...well, something.
For starters, things are becoming increasingly mundane at work and have come to such a head that at times, I keep getting into one of those introspective moods thinking about the reasons for existence and all that. Broadly speaking, there is lack of enough work and even the work that is there lacks any amount of application of intellect, constituting things that any thirteen year old can sleepwalk through. There is a limit to which you can make excel sheets and send mails and sit angrily thinking about what is going on behind closed doors that does not need your presence and is yet obviously strategically important given the recent times.
I have even started questioning the reasons for joining this job in the sense that the expectations I had from it are perhaps not coming across the way I thought they would. In fact, while reading a book I recently picked up (more about the book in some other post), I realized how effective such a profile as mine has proved for many successful entrepreneurs when they started out post their MBAs. I had thought that it will be the same for me as well (even without the benefit of having read this book and known this fact earlier) but somehow, whether that will actually happen is now getting questioned.
On top of all this, financial services as a sector and even the equity markets are at an all time low and like always, I am short of confidence on job prospects in this area and more importantly, short of cash to buy anything at the bourses. It is so uncannily similar to such situations in the past that even my credit card bills at these occasions have been very close to each other with the difference between them hardly exceeding 5000 (the bills, as you may have guessed, are obviously in the higher thousands bracket for 5000 to be such a small difference).
The silver lining, of course is that it is festive season and Maa Papa are here with us in Mumbai to make my time at home real quality time. If things go right and Raj Thackeray and his counterparts in Bihar stop making a horrible mess of it, Baba and Bua should also be here before long and this Deepawali shall be one fantastic celebration for me...really looking forward to it all. Priya is super excited, as well and has already coaxed me into getting a 42 inches plasma and a home theatre system at home (there goes the secret of high credit card bills). In times of cost cutting, job layoffs, and job insecurity, here's to the Goddess of Wealth...cheers!!!
Posted at 11:17 am by Nitai
Monday, September 29, 2008
The microcosm of existence that we have got accustomed to prevents any infiltration from events, people, and issues outside our domain of immediate concern. However, there still are certain things that touch you in a way different from others, perhaps this too because it puts your very survival under some sort of risk. Floods, earthquakes, famine and starvation, and in effect anything that adds to the misery of the human populace in general strikes an emotional chord somewhere. It probably does nothing more than that due to the high unpredictability associated with these events. We typically feel that since we do not have control over such an event happening, we are somehow less susceptible to being in the midst of something like this.
The reason why a Bhuj earthquake or a Tamil Nadu tsunami was just another newspaper front page for most of us was because it would have been a little far fetched to imagine that the same could happen to us sitting in Delhi or Mumbai the very next day. However, what is not so distant is what has been happening over the last few months in the name of religion and ethnicity. With things coming to such a pass that every Muslim colony, every bearded face, and every long kurta is being viewed with suspicion, it is difficult, nay impossible to stay aloof and not have an opinion or at least, a view.
Every weekend spent in a mall, a cinema, even an inconsequential market seems to be another weekend of survival. It is no longer the tsunami that can play havoc only with coastal towns, it is no longer the earthquake that can hit only geologically unstable areas, it is no longer the famine and floods that have been known to affect certain geographies of the country, it is something much more sinister and something much closer. It can happen to any city in the country, any day (even tomorrow or for that matter, an hour later) at any place (in the city center or for that matter, next to your home/office affecting you and your loved ones).
Real lives have been lost, hopes shattered and dreams brought to a cruel full stop in the face of these so called crude bombs that have plagued the metropolitan landscape of our country. Whether it is a Bangalore, a Delhi, or even a relatively less strategic Jaipur, the method behind this madness is very scary, to say the least. This method begets the question that what, if anything, has given rise to minds so focused on acts so shameful and denigrating, from the point of view of any religion that practices good over evil.
If you ask this question to the fundamentalist, the only answer you can expect to get is that the minority Muslim community never belonged. But what, pray, is the reason for this, you ask, and you remain unanswered because no one is bothered to go that deep. It is not that deep, either, if you come to look at it. It is the insecurity that has given rise to some people, whether belonging to the Muslim community or to any other downtrodden section of the society (the naxalites, the Tamil tigers, the ULFA, etc), to take up arms and do unto others what they do not want to be done unto them.
What makes them blow little children to pieces is, however unexplainable it may seem, the insecurity that their voices are not going to be heard, the insecurity that their families are not safe, the insecurity that they will be treated differently, the insecurity that they will always be biased against, the insecurity that has grown because of the general lack of means, education, and of course, by the fundamentalist politics that goes on in the name of reviving the mainstream.
Till the time such insecurity remains, till the time the light of welfare and more importantly, education reaches the darkest corners of each and every community, we can not hope to come out of this. Till the time such happens, all we can do is pray to the Almighty to soothe the hurt and those who have hurt and hopefully, there will be light. Even after we do see light, however, there may be a different problem, the problem of plenty leading to US style shootouts but hopefully, they would be more dispersed, subject to restrictions that our culture imposes on us, and most importantly, these once in a blue moon kind of events will probably shake the entire mechanism of Government and get handled in the course of maintenance of general law and order.
Posted at 04:45 pm by Nitai