Connect The Dots

In her first book Stay Hungry Stay Foolish Rashmi Bansal profiled twenty five entrepreneurs who were alumni of IIM – Ahmedabad. Many had then wondered including yours truly, how important an MBA degree is to become an entrepreneur. Rashmi claims this inspired her to write Connect The Dots, story of twenty one entrepreneurs but who dont have an MBA degree. The format of the book is same as her last book. There are twenty chapters, one on each entrepreneur (Gaurav Rathore & Saurabh Vyas who co founded PoliticalEDGE are covered in one chapter) and the entire chapter is based on one single interview.

The book is divided in three sections : Jugaad, Junoon & Zubaan. Jugaadis are those who didn’t get any formal training in business but learned by observing, experimenting and applying their mind. It includes some one like Kunwer Sachdev  of Su-Kam who created a Rs 500 crore company from scratch; Ganesh Ram, who started what is today India’s largest English training academy, VETA when there were no BPOs and no one knew that English coaching would be as big a market as it is now.

Junoonis as the name suggests, are passionate about something that is ahead of its time. This was my favorite section in the book. Gaurav Rathore and Saurabh Vyas envisioned a consulting and research firm exclusively for politics and founded PoliticalEDGE; Satyajit Singh, founder of Shakti Sudha not only created a new industry but also benefited thousands of farmers in rural Bihar; Chetan Maini, founder of Reva, designed a solar car and has been producing electric cars since the time when global warming was  not so well known and creating electric cars seemed to make little sense.

The third section Zubaan is about creative people like Paresh Mokashi, creator of Harishchandrachi Factory, India’s official entry to Oscar last year or Krishna Reddy, whose Prince Dance Group, consisting of daily wage laborers won India’s Got Talent last year.

I had great hopes from the book as I loved Stay Hungry Stay Foolish. The first chapter on Prem Ganpathy is literally a rags to riches story of someone who came to Mumbai with no money and now owns Dosa Plaza, a fast food chain with 26 outlets in the country.The rest of the stories too are very encouraging. The book is replete with inspiring anecdotes and quotes . When I read the synopsis on the third section i.e. Zubaan, I thought it would be probably the weak link in this book as stories on creatives who had made it big in the field of art would be a misfit in this book about entrepreneurs. However, all these artists achieved commercial success by following their passion and this justifies their inclusion in this book about Entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship after all is about following your heart.

Generally when the first book is good and successful authors fail to recreate the magic in their subsequent books and that too in the same genre, as people have high expectations. In this case Rashmi Bansal definitely exceeded my expectations. A very good book and must read for some one aspires to be an entrepreneur.



The Great Game and India

The latest version of The Great Game in Afghanistan is at an interesting point. The next 18-24 months are very crucial for the region and for India. US has set a deadline of July 2011 by which its troops would start withdrawing from Afghanistan. This has obviously raised concerns about the security situation in the neighborhood. Strategists are postulating several scenarios for post July ’11 period. As far as India is concerned, the worst possibility is that Taliban would become much more stronger and Pakistan would gain a “strategic depth” that it had when Taliban ruled Afghanistan before 9/11. India has good relations with the current regime in Afghanistan. If Taliban gains more influence in future, it would be bad news for India.

To counter Taliban, many believe that India should have a big military presence in Afghanistan as that would give us some leverage. This might sound good but is actually a very bad idea. One must keep in mind that US, whose military budget is greater than India’s national budget, had to finally leave Afghanistan after brokering a deal with Taliban. India does not have the resources to have a strong military presence in Afghanistan. Besides even if we succeed in influencing Afghanistan, terrorists can still continue their operations from Pakistan against India. The “strategic depth” in Afghanistan would always come at a very high price with very less or no reward for both India and Pakistan.

Besides, the roots of terrorism as correctly diagnosed by Obama administration lie in Pakistan and not in Afghanistan. After a very long time, US has a favorable regime in Pakistan which is ready to crawl if asked to bend by Uncle Sam. Drone attacks have increased in post Musharraf Pakistan and we would get to see a lot more action within Pakistan against terrorists by US in the near future.  Besides if Indian interests are hurt in Afghanistan beyond a certain threshold, India always has the option of doing what it did after the Parliament attack in 2001. When India mobilized army on Pakistan border, Pakistan had to divert its forces from Afghanistan to its Indian border. This had affected the US campaign against Taliban in Afghanistan. India would always have this option which would be more effective and cheaper than having a strong military presence in Afghanistan.

Lets hope that good sense prevails and India does not end up taking the outsourced job of policing Afghanistan at the cost of our own interests.