13 July 2010

Connecting the Dots by Rashmi Bansal

Role model and best-selling author
Rashmi Bansal was in Pune last week to launch her new book.
Rashmi and I had known each other in the early 1990s when I worked for The Times of India in Bombay and she was a freelancer. Then she went off to study at IIM (A) and when she came back, I had moved to Pune. When she started that wonderful humour magazine for young people JAM, she kindly sent me a free one-year subscription and my children and I became fans.
Her first book Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish, a collection of the inspiring stories of 25 IIM (A) graduates who became entrepreneurs, was published early last year. Anand Agarwal of Aaj ka Anand had read and loved it and was busy buying and presenting copies to those around him and I was the lucky recipient of one.
I reviewed the book for my column in Sunday Mid-day and was subsequently touched when I read Rashmi’s blog – you can read both review and blog here
. Stay Hungry Stay Foolish sold more than 150,000 copies and continues to sell in large numbers each month, making it India’s No. 1 best seller (yes, Kama Sutra now rates at to No. 2).
Connect the Dots is a collection of 20 inspiring stories of entrepreneurs without an MBA.
Like its predecessor, this book is also written in a casual and engaging style and incorporates a generous portion of Hindi words and phrases – sometimes whole paragraphs. Here too, each case starts with a summary followed by a short autobiography, and ends with practical advice to young entrepreneurs. The three sections in this book are aptly named: Jugaad, which profiles entrepreneurs without any formal training “who learnt by observation, experimentation and application of mind”, Junoon, where the entrepreneurs are driven by a particular idea or passion, and Zubaan, which profiles entrepreneurs in creative fields. Only two of the 20 are women.
The entrepreneurs in this book come from different backgrounds. The companies featured also vary, from high-profile ones like Crossword, Su-kam and Tantra to offbeat ones that farm lettuce and make paper recycled from elephant dung. I felt that these stories had more of a personal touch and were more dramatic than in the first book.
Rashmi and I finally met after nearly 20 years. The launch at Landmark was well attended, and she had arranged to have a panel discussion with three Pune entrepreneurs, including Hanmant Gaikwad who is featured in her book, and seen here in conversation with Rashmi at the launch.
The discussion was a huge success, with a lot of interaction between audience and panelists. There were so many young, eager, professionals there and they got so involved in the discussion that I felt quite overcome with their passion and innocence, and their touching ambition to improve their lives, and it filled me with hope for this benighted country and its corrupt, self-serving leaders.
I also feel that Rashmi, a completely unassuming person, who has based her life on simple ideas and common sense, fitting it to her own personal needs rather than adopting aspirations thrust on her by society, is a wonderful role model.

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