Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Yable : Follow Every Rainbow

Attended yet another book launch event, on 7th March. This one was Rashmi Bansal’s Follow Your Rainbow. Venue was Landmark at Somajiguda.

During her talk, Rashmi made a distinction between men and women entrepreneurs. Men give their whole focus to the business. Women typically enter into business in the areas that are more familiar like food, clothes etc. Their entrepreneurship takes off from a hobby or interest and as they run their business they also do other tasks like taking care of their children’s needs. Single-minded money focus vs multi-tasked passion is what one could say.

There were two entrepreneurs on stage - Nirmala Kandalgaonkar and Ranjana Naik and the session format was Rashmi asking them questions. Nirmala was introduced as the person who makes electricity from waste. Very down to earth, and often interrupted by applause, Nirmala said that she started her venture with 50 thousand rupees taken from her husband. Her turnover is now 5 crores per annum. She said her maxim was don’t waste waste. She profusely thanked Rashmi for bringing people like her into limelight through the book.

Ranjana’s first attempt was at making and selling dresses. In those days one had to buy the salwar, kameez and dupatta separately and combine them to make a set. She, along with a few friends, purchased the fabrics, got the dupattas dyed to match the salwars, and so forth. By the time their material was ready, the group had disbanded, some got married and they had to sell / distribute amongst whoever remained from the group and other friends.

A few sidelights from the event: First, Rashmi said that in the Mumbai launch, the event was attended by women, but here in Hyderabad, both men and women were in attendance. Secondly, there were quite a few IIM alumni and one of them said that for her next book launch in Hyderabad, they would come out in more strength. Finally, it was good to catch up with a couple of bloggers, Basant Singh and Ritu Poddar, whom I had met during the “Lunch with Rashmi Bansal at The Park” event on 9th August, last year.

I chatted with Rashmi for a few minutes during the book-signing period. Asked her what her next project was. She said she was working on another book, but did not say anything more. Next day, I read in the The New Indian Express that her next book is on student entrepreneurs. I wonder why it had to be kept secret from me when she had already disclosed it to the TNIE reporter.

The next day was international women’s day and Rashmi mentioned at the beginning of the launch that it would make a good women's day gift. Nice idea it was, so got the book signed for my wife and daughter.

Back home, I read through the two stories of Nirmala and Ranjana in the book. A couple of commonalities emerge: Both their husbands were supportive of their ventures initially and later joined the business. Both had to grease palms to get their projects moving. From Nirmala’s story, pg 47 : Another ‘necessary evil’ is chai-paani. “Dena padta hai...” admits Nirmala. (We have to give commissions to government officials.) Though many hesitate to ‘ask’ a lady outright and simply dilly-dally and don’t pass work orders. From Ranjana’s story, page 61: But corporate deals remained elusive. “I realised that to get bulk deals we would have to give some kickbacks to HR managers.” Something Ranjana had no idea how to deal with.

The book is an easy read, written in typical journalistic style and definitely inspirational. It’s wonderful that one can conceptualize a book on women entrepreneurs in India and pull it off well. That too with a range of entrepreneurship from electricity generation to software to mountaineering. Quite differently from Rashmi’s other books, this book has purple front and back covers. Each essay ends with a few inspirational lines. Though some of these “end notes” looked like forced attempts at being poetic, they add a different touch to the conclusions. Here are a couple of examples:
To stretch yourself more than you have to. To dive into the deep end because, you can swim. Through still water, muddy water and extreme turbulence.
That is what it takes, to rock with it, roll with it, stand tall, above it all.
And feel truly alive from within. (pg 170)

More travel, more study, more ‘me’ time.
More desire, more fire, aiming higher.
Seeking to be. For all humanity. (pg 236)

After four books, I pondered if she could make it global. As per the Times of India dt 03-Mar-2013 report Shiva grants Amish $1 million boon, “Celebrity nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar, entrepreneurship expert Rashmi Bansal and thriller writer Ashwin Sanghi are also rumored to get high advances.” Rashmi told me that the topics of entrepreneurship and our country are vast. But methinks that once you have achieved a certain level of success in authorship, there is an element of adventure in exploring external vistas, so why not go global.

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