Book Review

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Book Review – Flight Of The Unicorns: Lessons From India’s Startup Bubble

Published September 2, 2017 by vishalvkale

Startups are the in-thing in India, indeed – in the world nowadays; thus, when I spotted a book on the Startups in India and lessons to be drawn from them, I not just picked it up immediately, but also placed it at the head of all other to-read books; I normally have a stack of 4-5 new books which I routinely pick up on my surfing and touring. This book was of so current & important and so relevant a topic, that it moved to the top of the pile on the strength of its premise alone – being titled “Flight Of The Unicorns: Lessons From India’s Startup Bubble.”
Som Paul



The book is a look at the start-up scenario in India, divided into two parts : Rise and Fall of the Startup Ecosystem, and Trends and New Rules of the Game being the second section. The first section is way too short, concluding in all of 54 pages, around 25% of the book; this is too short a space and time devotion to this rather vital aspect, as it tries to cover too wide a scope in short, summary format. There are advantages to this approach as well; it creates a great overall picture, suitably buttressed by real examples and anecdotes from RedBus, Snapdeal, Flipkart, IndiaPlaza and many more.
The book sets the trend of the book early on – Going Global – with the very next chapter, with anecdotes on Sulekha, Justdial etc, and very correctly analyzing the trend of a success in one industry / nascent industry by a startup leading to hotting up of competition from the international players, and how the digital world is a global space. It is here that the first problem emerges in the book – it implies startups as being synonymous with cutting edge-technology & internet / cyber-space, ignoring the scope for other industries where digital and technology is not the be all and end all.
In the next 24 pages, it winds up the initial section, moving on to section two; while this is in keeping with the objective of the book as stated in the introduction / foreword, it is nearly diametrically opposite to the title, which implies a study of how we went wrong and why as the primary focus. Here, my humble submission to the author – how many people read the introduction and the foreword? Precious few do; thus, the intent of your work will, or rather, might, create mild dissonance in the reader.
To be fair, the book has, in this short but exceedingly sharp analysis, summarized most of the problems ailing startups in India {This includes; inefficient operations; overestimate market size; Tier-2/3 city issues; scalability issues; compensations; systemic inefficiencies; process issues; shoddy Busines Plans} … an achievement of some note, and shows the research and effort that has gone into the book. I hate to give it a comparatively low rating – but am forced to rate it only 3 or 3.5 stars – it certainly deserves more. The reasons will become apparent as we go ahead in this review.
Domestic Vs Global : It does make a few errors, though : for one – identifying Domestic Market focus as an error. With the deeper pockets of established companies of the Developed World, it is of primary importance that you home market be well penetrated and you be well-established in it. Going global with inadequate resources, or taking high funding just to go global without first having a strong brand internally does not make sense to my mind. As we saw in my review of The Google StoryReviewed Here– the dynamics abroad are very, very different, with deep university / research / incubation, talent, opportunity and funding support being readily available.
The Second Section  starts off with a nice revisit to the fundamentals, and tries to arrive at a set of principles of what make a good startup, and how to go about it. This is a first effort – subsequent research will of course break new ground – but the model presented is worth a look and does make a lot of sense. The best part is that it doesn’t stick to the superficial – but goes deeper, looking into specific process areas for focus, which is very welcome. Then it moves into completely unrelated territory, with a rather too detailed look into the Indian realities, background, SME Sector and its pitfalls, and so on.
The last part of the second section look into 3 example areas where Startups can add value – Education, Healthcare and Financial Inclusion. While the areas identified are excellent – the presented arguments are not as perceptive as in the paragraph above, with its look at deep fundamentals of how to set up a successful process-oriented, lean, fit startup that has a viable business model. This part comes across as merely a telling of anecdotes – sure, anecdotes that have deep learning; but anecdotes all the same.
The book then concludes with a section – a rather detailed and long lecture on the upcoming technologies and developments, keeping to its assumption of technology being the sole main plank for a startup. The problem in that is too many people have focused too much on technology – it is the application of the technology that matters, the business model, the market- present and future trends;  the processes; the GTM strategy. Technology by itself is just an enabler – and while we do need to keep updated, or risk obsolescence {Kores, Nokia} – by itself, it is nothing.

Any number of examples from business exist when technologies have failed to succeed in the market without the attendant factors being present in the ecosystem. What was required was a detailed look at the startup scenario – not basis Anecdotes – but detailed case studies. This is present – the problem is the anecdotal and friendly narrative style, that lessens the impact of the book. The points are all there; the research and the brainwork is clearly evident – as is the expertise of the author. The presentation, though, I am sorry to state, leaves a lot to be desired for. That said – all in all, this is a must read for anyone who is a startup entrepreneur, or a student of the Indian Startup scenario, or manager in startups in India or indeed, the world. a

Book Review : Harappa – The Curse Of The Blood River

Published August 29, 2017 by vishalvkale

The fantasy genre seems to be the in-thing for Indian writers nowadays; we have seen a series of books around this theme, a few having reached my blog as well. This is in keeping with a rising trend among Indians, a fascination for our past – which  has both positive as well as negative overtones and ramifications. One of the positives is the emerging trend of fiction writing using our past as a backdrop; this is a significant factor, as these writings influence the public to seek more of the truth, as well as get regarded by some as based on truth.
Written By Vineet Bajpai

That is why it is incumbent on the authors who are indulging in this genre to be as close to the truth as it is feasible for them to be – and give a proper bibliography at the end of such  books so that fact can be separated from “literary licence” – that is, the padding used by the author to flesh out the story. East or west, most writers {save one} have failed on this score; they just neglect to give a proper bibliography or notes so that readers can, if interested, look up the reality. This book fails on only one point – the absence of end-notes giving links or book references to sources of facts. That has cost it one star.
THE BOOK
Harappa – The Curse Of The Blood River by Vineet Bajpai is a fantasy novel {I wont label it as Historical Fiction} that is based on The Sindhu-Saraswati Civilization, and the mythical Aryan Invasion Theory {fed to us as gospel}, and their modern ramifications. The story is told in two parts – one from 1700 BC, and the other from modern India, with a strong connecting thread. The ancient story tells the sequence of events that lead to the destruction of Harappa, and the modern one takes off from there, dealing with its implications, effects and resultant conspiracies arising from the ancient event.

In the ancient part, the story is that of a Demi-God, who is targeted and destroyed by jealous rivalry in the city of Harappa, and how he rises from the ashes to swear revenge on the city and its people; it is the story of naked greed and ambition. The modern part deals with his descendant, who is fabled to be his re-incarnation, and how he deals with his legacy; for the ancient tale has left a curse that will be fulfilled, and a secret that cannot  be unveiled – which has managed to garner significant interest among powerful modern vested interests and sects / groups. The problem is that the modern vested interests have powerful backing, even more powerful weapons and the will to use them to kill the current Demi-God, a reluctant Demi-God who is now a digital expert, top Industrialist, and ultra modern to boot!
THE ANALYSIS
First-  the classification; I place this as Fantasy due to the treatment of main characters as Demi-Gods, and there being small but significant differences from the truth of The Sindhu-Saraswati that make it less of historical fiction, and more of fantasy. That said – the overall gist, rather 80-90% of the basis is factual. For example, The AMT, and its rebuttal is reasonably correct; as is the fictionalization of our history, which isn’t limited to The Sindhu-Saraswati, and many other points. The Sindhu Saraswati Civilization had started declining from 2500BC, and was dead by 1900BC, whereas the timelines uses 1700 BC. Next, The Sindhu-Saraswati was decimated by creeping drought, unlike as stated in this book.
That said – let me be clear, some of this research on which I have based the above facts is still only the preliminary stage findings, and need peer review; some of it is still being actively researched and so on; in light of that, the author is perfectly within his rights to take literary leeway for the creation of a story.  This will also have the benefit of kindling the desire to read up on that time in us, thus overall, it is a good thing that these historical fiction and fantasy novels are being written!
Coming to the book – this is an excellent tome; a superb edge-of-the-seat spell binding pace has been kept throughout the book. You will desperately want to skip to the end to see how it turns out, and yet – the pull of the narrative is compelling, preventing you from doing so. The author has used an interleaving style – having a chapter from ancient as well as modern storylines alternating; this is actually a good style, as it adds to the suspense as each chapter ends at a cliff-hanger, leaving you wanting for more – but then you go into the other storyline, which is also on a cliffpoint!
Overall, I rate this book 4 stars, and a very richly deserved 4 stars at that. This is an excellent piece of fiction – and it also avoids the vulgarity totally. The story is well put together, without any holes that I could spot; the entire plot comes together as one whole quite convincingly. There are no needless detours : almost everything written is relevant, making for a very taut narrative and flawless flow. The various characters stay within the prescribed plots, and the story draws you in, making for good entertainment and a great read! 

“This Book Review/Interview is a part of The Readers Cosmos Book Review Program and Book Promotions” to know more log on to http://thereaderscosmos.blogspot.in/.”

Book Review – Navigating India, A $18 Trillion Business Opportunity

Published August 22, 2017 by vishalvkale

When I read a book titled “Navigating India – A $18 Trillion Opportunity”, I expect to be feeling positive and invigorated about India; at the very least, I expect to know a lot more about the why, what etc about India and its Business opportunities. Sadly, this is not the case in this book. Not that it isn’t well written – that it is, yet it does precious little justice to its title. There is nothing in the book that is inaccurate, and yet it is an unbroken chain of negative and, in some cases, irrelevant aspects regarding India – cultural observations that have no connection with Business per se, beyond a certain point


So much so, that I am at a loss to pen anything on this review; for I cannot say the content is inaccurate – it isn’t; most of it is very accurate and includes astute observations, data and analysis. Most of it is relevant – and yet, most of it is also very well known and understood. There is no value addition for the most part, it is like regurgitation of the same scenario – but with fresh data, facts, observations and a fresh approach. While it is relevant, how relevant it is to business and economics is debatable.
THE BOOK
The first chapter is a summary of the overall economic scenario of India, and does a good job of summarizing it, all said and done. It also includes the schemes of the Modi Government, though without any real analysis. It then abruptly changes track to using anecdotal evidence, abandoning for the most part the data driven approach espoused in the first chapter. The second chapter purports to be on Market, but is a series of demotivating examples of cases like the Satyam Fraud, Coke’s experiences – and it uses this highly negative demotivating approach throughout.


The third chapter is on our Democracy – giving a short summary of the GST, Taxation, FDI Policies, and a set of anecdotes on foreign policy and its relation to Business. The fourth chapter is on our Demographic Dividend, look at the the caste-education-religion factors in our country. The fifth chapter is on the ease of doing business in India, again almost purely anecdotal though with a small useful section on steps taken by the current Government. Problem is the excessive use of anecdotes, and the negative examples, which feature in this section.
The 6th chapter contains segments on Intellectual Property, Contract enforcement, Law and order etc – again with limited relevance. The 7th chapter is exclusively on corruption. The last chapter is a small short summary analysis of why India is set to get better. The difficulty is the overall lack of connecting arguments and proper detailing; all of these above is short and anecdotal, with a few supporting data sets here and there.
THE ANALYSIS
As I said above in the introduction section as well as in the Book Blurb section – the problem is not with the accuracy of the content; it is, most of it – along one side of the argument. It lists a series of pitfalls of doing business in India with anecdotal evidence- evidence of individuals, or companies that faced problems. It also digresses into areas that have at best a highly limited relevance to business, and is a listing of what to avoid while doing business in India.
While that is indeed important – it could have done a far better job even in this approach, had it gone into detailed analysis of the well known business failures of MNC companies – like the Kellogg’s example, which is a case study in business schools. In place of short anecdotes, like in Kelloggs example stated in the book, what was required was a detailed analysis of what went wrong. Other such examples could have been gone into – that looked at the overall business scenario; most of the content pertains to the regulatory or legal or related environment and the difficulty it poses to International business.
The lack of sufficient detailing and proper arguments in support lessens the learnings and the impact; thus, despite the correct facts used & a different approach, the impact is just not present. Overall, the tone become, in my opinion, slightly negative; maybe for other readers it will come across as different. Also, the inclusion of a few irrelevant aspects, in one or two chapters, does leave you wondering at the same, and feeling slightly disoriented.

If you are writing a book on a Business Opportunity in a country, or the prospects of growth for that country – it is vital that it should come across to the reader as to specifically what makes this country such an attractive proposition – as well as lay out the pitfalls. It should look not just at Democracy, Regulations, Corruption, Contracts, Laws, Demographic Dividend etc; the book should have looked at India as a Market – what makes it attractive; what makes a business succeed here in a sectoral analysis, cultural examples of success in consumer category, as well as in B2B / Core / Industrial category. This is does not do, which is a major shortcoming…

Book Review – Inkredia : Luwan Of Brida

Published August 4, 2017 by vishalvkale

I wish I could rate this book 7 stars out of 5… pity that I can only give it 5. End of review – now go and read it. {Probably the best review I have ever written!}



THE GENRE
Ok, still here?  Fine – lets look at some more details. Surprised at separate for the Genre? The reason is that this is, to best of my knowledge, a new genre with very few books {at least in my knowledge} that have been written in; at the very least – a new genre for me. There is no politics, no hint of religion, and no hint of anything remotely objectionable, neither are there any real world linkages or race and culture issues. This is a fantasy book – and a fanstasy book quite unlike any I have ever read! The land is new, the people are completely imaginary, the culture is totally imaginary, the names new – everything about the book and the story is fresh!


THE STORY
The story is something that we have read in many stories in many genres before; A young boy, in the late teens, living alone and making a living for himself off the land, in the town of Brida of the Kingdom of Inkredia. He has a sister with whom he is estranged; she is also late teens – 19, and lives alone in the same locality. The children’s parents are no more; what is more, the father had handed the boy a small pendant, a letter, a magic book and some instructions to meet someone in a far-away city. This is as simple as it gets; it is a real challenge to craft a riveting story and book that holds your attention – and this has been achieved.
The story moves into a classic hunt and chase, as the kids are forced to flee when, apparently, the boy refuses to pay tax as he has no money left. The persecuted young folks run for their lives, chased by the what they believe to be local feudal lord’s people. On the way, they are helped by a kind man and common friend, and then by a total stranger, who turns out to be far more powerful and adept at combat and survival. As the story progresses, the questions start bothering the kids : namely, why would anyone set such powerful forces for just a few coins tax? How are they responding and rising to the challenge so naturally? Why is the magic book guiding them at the precise moments? These, and other questions come to their minds, as the chase draws to a close near the city…
THE CHARACTERS
LuwanNow who is this chappie – how come his reflexes are so natural, and where does he get his natural skills and courage from?
MegSurprise package. Don’t mistake her for the normal elder sister
KiliarnHelper, and for hire…Wont say anything else. Read the book!
THE REVIEW
Fantastic book! Simply awesome – make no mistake of that. This is an incredibly written piece of pure fiction, and absolute nonsense {I use that word for effect, not as an insult}. Nonsense, yes, –  but riveting, logically flowing and logical, interesting and captivating nonsense. I say nonsense because there is no cultural reality – the culture is imaginary, the names imaginary and fresh, the land {Brida, Inkredia, etc} imaginary, the magic, the animals and the weapons completely imaginary and so on. It takes imagination of a very high order to imagine such a land and people, and craft this into a coherent story! Many other authors have tried this – I have read a few – but no one has created something totally new. Full marks to the author for crafting this!
Next, the characterization – beautifully, skillfully done. While some deeper physical characteristics  would have made it better, it is nonetheless excellent. One is able to relate to all characters, their behaviour and the resultant actions without any dissonance. Each character is well-etched and defined, a task of some skill, with deep tones and clear lines. The reader, over time, begins to relate to the main characters, and live the story with them – that is the power.
The pace is rapid, breakneck almost, right from the first few pages. The story proceeds at a relentless pace, a hectic pace with one event following another in blinding speed, making for riveting reading and an absorbing connect. The best part is that this has been achieved without sacrificing plot or characterization intricacies. In fact, the action and the event flow has been used in places to give a background, a trait, or a line to the character, deepening our understanding as well as our connect.
The best part in this imaginary story, told in an imaginary magical world, of a young brother sister on the run is that there are no cliched or expected situations – to give an example, no girl getting kidnapped just to create tension – a normal ruse in such storylines as the moment you see a girl character you know she will get into trouble; each action sequence and event is fresh and superb. Not only that, the discerning observing reader can spot moving lessons scattered throughout the book, as the icing on the cake. One of the finest fiction books I have read in a long time – written by a completely new author, a man who will bear watching in future – Mr Sarang Mahajan… don’t keep us waiting too long for the next one!
THE AUTHOR {Credit – Website}
Sarang Mahajan is a successful Indian writer in the fantasy genre. Along with imaginative fantasy elements, the highlights of his work include strong character building and real-life drama. He is the author of the ongoing series, Inkredia and has written two TV shows in the fantasy genre including the successful show, Hatim that aired on Life OK. He is currently working on shows to be aired on Star Plus and Colors Bangla…

INKREDIA {Credit  – Website}
Inkredia is a fantasy universe created by Sarang Mahajan. Inkredia, as fondly called by its people, is one of the most powerful empires in this universe. The real name of the empire is Fal Doram. There are many other empires spread across the Floran Bak, the shape of which is debated by the scholars. In the Inkredia Universe, magic is literally in the air. 

There are dark and fair elements in the air that give life to the supernatural sort, just like air gives life to humans. Two of the most common elements among these are Ilmor and Elmor, the dark one and the fair one. Supernatural beings in humanoid form are either called nonhumans or demons. There are also various creatures with different abilities. All the supernatural folk in Inkredia are unique to Inkredia Universe and won’t be found in other fantasy universes.

Book Review – In The Name Of God

Published July 30, 2017 by vishalvkale

In The Name Of God is the title of the latest thriller from the mighty pen of Ravi Subramanian; one of the finest authors from India in the thriller Genre. And, all I can say is that the book justifies its title – In The Name Of God. This is a book set in the backdrop of a case that hogged media headlines in India for ages – The Padmanabhaswamy Temple, the of whose vaults and their wealth was national news for a pretty long time, and will still be in public memory.


THE BOOK
The story is around the legal case of the wealth in the vaults of the temple, which is sub-judice. The backdrop is precise – there is a royal family and its patriarch, and a litigator {as in the real world}, who is asking for a judicial intervention and valuation of the vaults of the famed temple. The High Court concurs, and transfers the charge of the Temple and its wealth to the State. This verdict is appealed in The Supreme Court by the State in the book.
A 7-member panel of valuers is appointed by the court to value the assets in the vaults. As most of the assets are in the form of Jewels, this has to include some major people from the Jewel and Bullion Trade. This is where the story takes off. A side-story develops, that of a new bourse in BKC in Mumbai – where the Jewellers don’t want to move, led by one of the most significant players in Mumbai in this trade. Simultaneously, a case of Stolen Artefacts is being investigated as part of an international investigation. In addition to all this is the spectre of irregularities in the Temple affairs.
The CBI steps in, and sends a capable officer to investigate; this officer walks slam-bang into a local intrigue, as the Royal Family enjoys patronage – and the investigation slowly but surely links upto the Temple. The local liason and senior officers are under pressure from the State Government; the CBI Investigator has to navigate this problem in order to crack the case. To make matters worse, a murder gets involved in all of this, elevating this case from mere irregularities and/or Artefact thievery to one of  a very high  priority murder investigation…
FACT AND FICTION
One of the most stunning aspects of this book is the blend of fact and fiction; the scale of the intermingling in mind-blowing! You have outdone yourself, Mr Subramanian, hats off! The real case also started at a local level, went to the HC, and was appealed in the SC – but not by the state; it was appealed by the Royal Family. As per This Link from India Today, the Amicus Curiae did find “serious irregularities and malpractices in the management of the temple and its immense wealth”. And as per This Link from TheHindustan Times, there were thefts reported from The Padmanabhaswamy temple – first Gold worth Rs . 189 Crore, and then Diamonds.
THE REVIEW
This is one of those books that cant really be properly reviewed without revealing too much; so I chose not to properly review it – I will not give Characters Outlines; nor a review of the story. Anything I say, I run the risk of spoiling the readers’ fun. Given that this is a suspense thriller, I would much rather the reader goes into this book a “virgin”, if you will excuse the usage of the term. The less the reader knows while starting this book, the better.
The book is, from start to finish, a stupendous effort, make no mistake. It is one of the finest from the pen of Mr Subramanian, who has outdone himself. It is a riveting book – and yet, it isn’t too fast paced. It is more of an involved book, with an intricate plot, and an extensive character-cast, with each character being vital to the story and the flow. There isn’t any one strong character : I could spot at least 4 or 5 key characters with equal presence and strength. It requires uncommon skill to craft such an intricate plot with so many diverse and equal characters.
Given the scope and spread of the subject – there isn’t much scope for character development; though this isn’t missed at all, as it is not critical to the story. This is a story with a vast and massive kaleidoscope and tremendous breadth and span. Part of the magic it weaves on the reader can be attributed to this range. The story isn’t tightly knit, in that it takes a couple of small detours – yet, at no point does it falter, as the detours help to build the background and the expectations.

It isn’t all hunky dory – I do have a small grouse with the book; specifically, the treatment of the solution – which I shall share personally with Mr Ravi Subramanian over the mail. Sharing it here will reveal too much about the plot. Suffice it to state that the statements in some parts do not gel to me. But that does not mean that the book’s ending isn’t as riveting or conclusive or convincing or surprising, given the ground reality of the chosen background. That is all I will state. I rate it 4 stars including my bias or view above, and 5 stars without bias.  

Book Review: Quarter Life Crisis

Published July 12, 2017 by vishalvkale

QUARTER LIFE CRISIS



This story has been due for a long time now… about time someone wrote something along the lines of something that is almost pandemic among the clueless youth of the modern world, self included. It is a surprise no one thought of penning something like this earlier, though I have read one book along similar lines, though not quite on the ball, as this one is. I am referring to the modern youth, and his or her attitude towards life in general and career & family to be specific.
THE PLOT
The plot is fairly simple – though fascinating. It is about two people: one a young man, the other a young lady. The young man is completely clueless about his life; has got into an Engineering degree course without an iota of planning or thought; in the 4th year, he has little idea or interest in what to do with the rest of his life. To put it simply, this poor man is clueless. He is even more clueless about his lady love, beyond the obvious fact that he is genuinely in love, and totally committed to her. The lady has none of the above problems – and is a beacon of strength, unlike the half-wit she loves.
The long and short of it is that things get out of hand in the personal sphere first – and the lady lands up getting pregnant. To make things interesting, she categorically refuses the option of abortion, though she is all of 21 or thereabout. Despite the fact that she has a clear definable life goal & a workable plan for it – she is adamant, as only a woman can be; trust me. The good point, or should I say the only redeeming point in the gentleman, he is a true gentleman. He stands by his lady love, and vehemently supports her, once he sees that there is no changing her mind. Tremendous maturity on his part, the way he accepts the reality, and wholeheartedly supports her.
The family of the lady, on the other hand, has some other ideas; they are just not willing to listen to either of them, or the lady’s plan to have the child. The two lovers plans were well known to both families, as they were together since long, but the lady’s parents will not accept this – given the gentleman’s cluelessness of his direction & life. The gentleman & the lady are clear-  lets get married immediately. But that is easier said than done, as the lady’s family will have none of it.
The gentleman’s family, though understandably distraught over this nasty surprise, gets over it fast enough – aided by a strong elder sister of the Gentleman, who is critical yet supportive of the two. She even tries to intervene in the Lady’s family, to no avail. Eventually, this family rises in solid support of the two lovers, a phase which has been handled remarkably well in the book. The book takes off from this point in the second half, for a series of genuine heart-warming, at times melancholy, surprises as the main characters show uncommon resolve, faith and patience… for what happens next, read the book!
THE ANALYSIS
There isn’t much to analyse in this book, to be honest; I don’t mean that as a criticism. This is a human interest story, a story on human lives and emotions. This is not a situational story, or a circumstantial one full of twists and turns and / or action. This is a book of Human Emotions, Life, Life Choices, Reactions, Family, and about Building a Life by Overcoming Ones Weaknesses. This is a book of how a clueless man finds himself; this is a book of choices – on how the choices you make impact your life as a whole. This is a book that teaches a standing life lesson, to be honest, in some ways.
The book does, at one level, serve to raise some pertinent life questions to the discerning reader, as to the importance of one’s choices, the importance of having a clear definable goal in life; of being on the right side of social norms; of having the strength to face the consequences of going against the norm; of being committed about everything in life; and about how things can go wrong if commitment is lacking in your approach or your attitude towards anything. It does all of this without being judgemental!
The story is intense and slow-paced; the author deserves credit for writing an engaging story despite it being a slow story. The way the intensity of the relationships portrayed in this novel has been brought out with clever wordplay, and a minimum of fuss and needless over-dramatization is what impressed me the most. Further, this intensity has been quite successfully maintained throughout the entire novel, without any  sacrifices made on any aspect of the novel.

The charectarisation is adequate; quite good, in fact. The character sketches are near-flawless in the consistency of their reactions over time and range of situations, which is a tremendous achievement in a novel of this genre. The behaviour of each character is fully believable and seems practical in the light of the overall character; not one scene seems forcefully done, or out of place. The best part of all is the female characters, all of which are shown as strongly-etched, which I personally liked. The language is simple and functional, not flowering, yet it succeeds to create a moving image in your mind. All in all, rated 4 stars out of 5…

Book Review – Superwomen

Published July 2, 2017 by vishalvkale

This is the fifth book in my focus on Indian Business related real stories and case studies; and it ranks right alongside the top 2 in terms of influence on me as a person – perhaps even at the very top. Other books have provided deeper insights, have been greater in their absolute knowledge quotient {if, that is, knowledge can be quantified, which I seriously doubt}; have given deeper and more detailed Marketing and/or business details, that I grant. But in terms of impact on my mind & soul, this book ranks at the very top. My personal congratulations and gratitude to the author for penning this wonder.
Superwomen – By Prachi Garg


THE PLOT
The book is a series of short stories – I don’t want to call them case studies as it would give an incomplete picture of the nature of these stories and this book. These stories are all about women who picked up the challenge and made it in the world of the business of start-ups through sheer dint of effort. Unlike an earlier effort by another author on women, it doesn’t take the route of famous women; it gives stories of unknown ladies, people very much like the ladies we meet neary everyday. That is what makes the content 100% relatable. It tells their stories, of their business ideas and startups, and how they went about bringing them to fruition
THE REVIEW
In 2 words – 5 stars. End of Review. But, acting on the premise that some of you might want to know why I rated it as 5 stars, read on for the explanation. I could go on indefinitely here – so let me try and summarise the main points that hit home in my head, heart and mind. The first point – it represents a cross-section of society & disciplines. You have A Mumbai, A Bangalore as well as A Bhopal represented here. Second – it is 100% Indian – Indian people, doing business in India. Not only that, it also has MBA, plain Graduates, people educated in The Developed World as well as Tier – 1 and 2 towns in India. The selection of stories  represented here deserves a standing ovation.
Second, it has a cross section of disciplines in terms of business, online as well as offline, though the majority are online or have a significant online play. The Businesses represented are an eclectic mix of sectors,  from hard core IT domain to social sector to hard core consumer oriented. That is another point that deserves a round of applause : the adequate representation to social sector entrepreneurs through several real stories contained herein are a standing lesson to many who would want to, and indeed are, desirous of doing something on the social themes.
This point is what impressed me the hardest, the most deeply – the selection of off-the-beat themes, and how business sense can be welded into making a difference to society makes for a moving read for people like me – who are beginning to question the selfishness of Corporate Life, and are hunting for either solace, or the chance to make a difference. This lights hope in people like us, it lights a fire, enables us to keep looking, for surely, surely – life will present the chance to make a difference to society if only you have the will and the genuine desire for it. The fact that it can make economic sense is the best aspect!
Thirdly, it offers a look at the startup environment in its initial stages – much unlike another equally good effort by Anuradha Goyal {The Mouse Charmers – Digital Pioneers of India, reviewed here}, which  looked at the most successful and pioneering brands. That approach had its own lessons; true – but this approach offers a completely different and equally educative look at the business of actually setting up a start-up company; contained in these 20 stories are deep learnings on what makes a successful startup actually start up! It underscores the need for the fundamentals, the basics as taught in marketing and management books – passion, finance, product, market relevance, consumer centricity et cetera.

Fourthly, it looks at and details the struggles women have to go through in this man’s world, of the issues small and big that crop up if you are a woman – just because of your gender, which has absolutely nothing to do with your skills sets and your innate and learned abilities. It looks at the challenges a woman faces on the home and societal front just to do something on her own; but it does all that in a very invigorating and positive light, shorn on value judgements and giving tremendous hope. Not only that, this is perhaps the first book that shows the man of the house supporting and further enabling the lady, at least in some stories. For these reasons – this book scores 5 stars. It is a must read for anyone related to startups… as well as for our entire society, which  needs a decided change in outlook!