All posts in the Non-Fiction category

Book Review – Make Success A Habit ; 50 Stories That Enlighten, Empower, Energise and Entertain

Published October 23, 2017 by vishalvkale

This current book under review is quite unlike any I have reviewed, with only one – Subir Chaudhury’s The Difference – making as much of a connect with me – as a professional. As a person, this book has connected with me big-time; but that is something I will reserve for a private conversation / communication with the Author, Mukul Deva. Almost every page of this book, taken seriously, is a learning and an experience. In light of the above preamble, let me depart from normal custom or style, and quote lines from an iconic Hindi song, one which came to my mind as I was reading one of the stories contained in this collection of 50 real life case studies.

इक दिन बिक जाएगा, माटी के मोल
जग में रह जाएंगे, प्यारे तेरे बोल
दूजे के होंठों को, देकर अपने गीत
कोई निशानी छोड़, फिर दुनिया से डोल
इक दिन बिक जायेगा   …
{Source :}
We, in the daily humdrum of business, rarely give time to focus on the small, tiny and seemingly irrelevant, or unimportant, or lesser vital, or basic issues & habits that go into making us a professional and a person. So acute is our focus on ourselves, our KRAs, our lives, our desires, our ambitions  that we forget these rock-bottom basics. These are the bedrock of life; be it personal or be it professional. This exclusive focus tends to take us away from our maximum potential, rather than make us more effective in achieving our potential. That is why we need to re-train, re-charge, re-focus, and look for – introspect – analyse ourselves to make us better people and better professionals.

Mukul Deva

That, in a nutshell, is the lesson I have drawn from this book. Now the question in your mind ought to be, what is that song doing in between a perfectly reasonable business discussion? That brings me to the story number 45 in the book – my own sticky pad notes on it should be self-explanatory. I wrote : In this {story}, the lesson is that the basics of care, honour, decency, respect & importance should be provided with and to each person we speak to – professionally as well as personally. The lines above also says much the same – in an oblique fashion; if we can get others to sing our tune – we are done. They wont sing freely unless they like, understand & agree to it! The key here is that this is not a theory – this is told through a real life success & turnaround story.
All too often, we treat people roughly, or don’t listen to them, or half-listen, or insult, or ignore them – leading to long-term damage down the line. The impact of this behavour on business bottom and top lines, professional relationships etc  is amorphous in real life – in this book, a clear line has been drawn for us. And this is something that repeated in 50 case studies, all around small with vital aspects in Business or in life.
You have stories around communication, team handling, development and management – building scalability – sustainability – performance in teams / developing teams and members; personal development -goal setting, thought management; simple yet often ignored managerial processes, the importance of sticking to the basics and fundamentals in this ever-increasingly paced life, values & ethics, training self to inculcate process oriented thinking, leadership & leadership roles; and more.
This is a review – not a summary; therefore, I have to stop here. But, let me organize the above into some fashion of order. The stories contend around Leadership, Team Management, Team Development, Personal Development in broad categories. The various real life case studies together provide a multi-faceted look at different parameters of the above broad categories. Each story has names and details changed – but is a real story, from a Business perspective. Here you will learn the importance of the small, the basic, and the intangible things that separate good from great is the way I put it.  
That said, I do have a grouse; it was surprising to note top managers not having a connect with, or not giving importance to, some things that are clearly basic to any business : a shared  vision, values, ethics, basic decency, team development, empowerment etc are all fundamental requirements of a strong performing sustainable and scalable team. Without these, the team may return excellent performance over a short period – but will lack sustainability and scalability. A leader needs to, above all, ensure that teams and their performance are sustainable and scalable. That is precisely what goes wrong as sales go up, and resultant quality and customer experience goes down – leading to sales losses!  And this book also teaches us the way we can avoid that pitfall!

Now, all stories will not hold equal attraction for all – there may be some areas where you are doing fine. Thus, you have to pick and choose. Question is – how do you pick? The only way you can judge where you yourself are upto speed is do the small questions at the end of each case study – these questions are self-analytical, and provide insights as to where you need to work on. I used sticky notes to annotate my thoughts where I found relevance to me  to work on. But that is my style; you can do it any way you choose to.  All in all, rated 5 stars, must read book for businesses and professionals alike!

Book Review – Re-Imagining India: Unlocking The Potential of Asia’s Next Superpower

Published October 14, 2017 by vishalvkale

Re-Imagining India – Unlocking The Potential Of Asia’s Next Superpower is a collection of essays by an eclectic mix of writers from various fields, Indian as well as foreign, edited by McKinsey & Company. It is subdivided into 6 sections : Reimagining, Politics & Policy, Business & Technology, Challenges, Culture & Soft Power, and India In The World. The authors of the essays range from Foreign Policy experts, to businessmen, to eminent Indian sportspersons, to journalists – listing some pretty famous and accomplished individuals from the various fields. Out of a total of approximately 63  essays, approximately 21-22 are by foreign authors; this gives a nice gives, while also being revealing


First, for a book on Reimagining India, I got the distinct impression that the focus on agriculture was woefully inadequate, underrepresented – and in some ways questionable.  Agriculture & Rural India comprises the majority of the people, of employment; by contrast, there were few essays on this topic. The few that were present did not deal with the issues by and large. In fact, only one dealt with the relevant issues directly – India’s Farms, Harvesting The Future on Pg 247. Agreed that Energy, for example, is an issue – but when you give more real space that as opposed to Agriculture / Rural Sector, then it becomes hard for me to see how you can re-imagine India!
Second, several write-ups by foreign authors {Exceptions prove the rule} are preachy, slightly impractical; and in at least one or two cases, unimplementable and objectionable. For example, the foreign policy “experts” who opined, some of them at any rate, were off the mark by nearly 100%. The Americans were quick to shift the blame, as I perceived it, off their own shoulders, and advising India to take the forward step! What else have we been doing all these years? So, that part was frankly the worst in the book. But it does serve to highlight the fact that The West still has somewhere near zero idea of India, sadly.
There were many top essays that provoke thought – all of them by Indians, bar one. Next time, kindly use more of Indian Authors – people who understand India, not look at it through either rose-tinted, partially informed, uninformed or through biased lenses! And that one is the Polio essay by Bill Gates, which was stupendous to put it mildly. Moving on, I recommend the thought provoking essays by Ruchir Sharma, Anand Mahindra in the first section; topping it with the classy Gurcharan Das essay dealing with hard reform, dealing with citizens and institutions.
The book comes alive in the second section, with a series of really educative essays starting off with Sonia Faleiro on Rural Women empowerment, and Shekar Gupta’s Something Is Working being topped off with Ashotosh Varshney’s essay on regionalism, language, diversity & federalism – these make the forceful point that our decisions on Language, Federalism are excellent. There were many other essays that are noteworthy: Aziz Premji is another example. I found the western critics in this section uniformly negative, which is strange considering the topic. You don’t reimagine by criticizing; you do so by suggesting positivity and change for what isn’t working. There is a fine dividing line.
The third section is on Business; and misses the bus by somewhere around 81%. The Indian Economy is 19% Corporate India, around 60% MSME + Unorganised, and rest Agriculture. Not one of these latter 2 – not one- appeared significantly anywhere. What is more, I noticed 9 of the 16 essays by non-Indians! Who is expected to know more about my economy & business environment – Indians, or outsiders? Among all the 16 essays, I found barely 2 or 3  upto the mark, so I shall not name them. Suffice it to state this section was uniformly preachy or anecdotal.
The lackluster third section is made up for by the fourth section – 100% Indian almost, or at least Indian Origin {if anyone was an NRI or PIO – I don’t know, didn’t check}. Again, slightly skewed – what is our biggest challenge? Without a shade of doubt, it isn’t energy; it is Poverty and Rural Employment specifically agriculture. Energy is but an offshoot of vaious sectoral challenges- and is a part of the solution. But you cannot give a proper solution without first defining the problem! And here, one essay – India’s Farms – Harvesting The Future by Barnik Maitra and Adil Zainulbhai stands out as best not just in the section, but in the entire book.  That said, this section does identify Health care and education – brining some sense of balance to the book, elevating it to a large degree.
The fifth section again loses it – cannot understand the relevance of Mumbai Movies, Cricket, Chess, Western impression of our culture and arts, restaurants, and Olympics – not to Reimagining India! Not when we have other pressing concerns. Nonetheless, most of the essays in this section are good, and  written by Indians by and large, thus practical and realistic. The one that stands out- Suhel Seth on The Fourth Estate – kudos for that one.  
The sixth section is preachy in its foreign policy; you can safely ignore 100% of foreign policy essays in this as impractical, and / or one-sided views as the case may be. But in this lackluster segment – two essays lift it on their own single shoulders each; the heart-warming, and yet though-provoking class write-up by Kumar Manglam Birla on adapting to changing environment, India as a nation and more; and the top piece by Ahmed Rashid on India-Afghanistan

All in all, rated two-and-a-half stars. The essays are good – by and large; the ones that identify the problems & suggest probably solutions; or the ones that impart positivity. The critical ones- God knows we have much to be critical about – well, frankly – it is dead easy for an outsider to criticize – what about a solution? Have you lived here? Are you aware of the ground realities? And the Indian articles that criticized, well – they were correct, and spot-on; but taken all together, the book simply fails to connect, and does not achieve its objective of Re-Imagining India. It gives an excellent idea, to be fair – but the negatives pull it down. Not worth the original price; I got it as a hefty discount! 

Book Review – India’s Most Fearless

Published September 26, 2017 by vishalvkale

India’s Most Fearless is a book that has been long overdue – a book dealing with the stories of some of India’s decorated Armed Forces Personnel. We are a nation that for some reason lacks the literary habit of documenting the exploits of the heroes who defend our borders and our people; not only that, we lack a habit of covering the stories of these heroes, these brave soldiers once the immediate relevancy of the situation fades, and the passage of time brings fresh memories to the fore. Therefore, it is great to see a rising tendency of documenting these heroes; the current book is the second book in that genre, with the first being The Brave -Paramvir Chakra Stories, the story of our Paramvir Chakra vijetas.

The other great part of this book is the equal prominence it gives to the three arms of the Forces : The Army, The Air Force, and The Navy. It is this which makes this book a must read, and not just for aficionados, civilians, but also for just about every Indian citizen who can read. For what is perhaps the first time, we get to read of the doings of our Naval Forces and our Air Force.  As a matter of fact, having read a news article on the IAF during Kargil as well as Gen Malik’s book on the war, there is a need to bring out the IAF side of the story and their contributions, if feasible under law.
The authors, or their advisors, or the forces, or whomsoever it was that gave this idea-  perhaps all of the above – deserve a standing ovation from all for this. The Air and Naval wings get the much-needed coverage, which brings out a full picture of the extent, scope and range of heroism on display; it also serves to put the required depth and understanding of the word  “Bravery”, as well as take us into at least some of the nuances of these wings of our Armed Forces.
How do you review a book that is centered on true stories of bravery, courage, sacrifice of the people we have entrusted with protecting us? You certainly cant analyse the content, not beyond a point; civilians don’t have the depth perception and understanding, domain expertise to pass judgement. In that light, I make no comment whatsoever on the content – I am not qualified. The question this review tries to answer is why should a reader read this book, what value it adds, and what extra does it possess? What is it that makes this different? I have raised one such point above.
The next point in this book is the coverage of the Air and Naval wings helps us appreciate the nature and context of these wings, a subject which we aren’t too aware of for various reasons. The difficulties of mounting operations in these wings, and the hardships and challenges they face in the conduct of their activities, the level of mental acuity, quick response and agility required, and the aspect of physical toughness required for even a sailer or a pilot is brought out well enough in these stories. You are left in admiration at all these qualities displayed by each officer in question in the stories, and how they saved the situation under the most trying of circumstances – Yemen evacuation, or be it near-crashes.
Coming to the Army, what can I say – when I am reading the true and full story of a couple of events that are still fresh in memory- the two Surgical Strikes in Myanmar and Pakistan in the past 2 years? Here you will find their stories; but there is more. Oh, much, much more : and it isn’t all about war and fighting. As we saw above, here too, we see stories that help us understand what makes a soldier a soldier, and that it isn’t war alone that carries risks or requires toughness. This is the book that will drive home the hard point that our Armed Forces are required to be tough every day, every night, 24*7*365. Try doing that on your job, any job. Is this true? Being an Army Colonel’s Son, I know that for a fact. If you believe toughness and hardship is only in battle, read this book.
But above all of this; above the stories, above the courage – which by the way is of a mind-numbing variety; you will scarcely be able to believe what these heroes pulled off – rises the Armed Forces Family and their strength. Again, knowing my mom, I know this to be true. The stories of the families, their courage, their fortitude bring a tear to the eyes. You are left with no doubt in your mind that the real strength of these brave men comes from their families. A quiet and silent thanks is due to every single Army Air Force and Naval family… this book is a tribute to them, and my personal thanks to the author Shiv Aroor and Rahul Singh for bringing this out in this tour-de-force.

Even in their deaths, these heroes end up teaching us something. In their courage, those who survived teach us something. The families teach us something. And I don’t mean patriotism, Jingoism or whatever. Being tough is essential – but each and every single one of these stunning stories is a tribute to the capability of the human mind, human spirit and what it can achieve if it can be trained to keep its cool, keep calm, as that brings out the toughest responses to any situation. Reading this book is like an adrenaline shot, as it teaches you the merit of calmness and reasoned response! 

But at the last, The Entire Indian Army, Air Force and Navy deserves a note of thanks for their cooperation in allowing these stories to be published, so that we can all learn from the deed of our Brave men, so that we can all appreciate our protectors all the more… 

Book Review : India – Priorities For The Future By Bimal Jalan

Published September 10, 2017 by vishalvkale

India – Priorities For The Future is a book that can be best described as being at the cross-roads of politics and Economics, which makes it quite unique. It is a very thought provoking and deep analysis of this intersection of these two vital aspects of our nation, concerning itself with the Economy of the country, its performance through the years in numbers as well as Macro Factors; and the political aspects of this, that is – the decisions, involved decision makers, systemic weaknesses and plus points as they exist and what needs to be done.
Bimal Jalan

As can be seen from the short preamble above, this is quite wide a scope, and seems daunting. The best part is that the entire scope has been dealt with remarkable aplomb and sufficient depth, while at the same time not exceeding too many pages. This is a very short, {well – relatively short anyways, considering the topic and the scope – 180-odd pages} book, and all the arguments are presented in a superbly logical and yet delightfully succinct manner.
The book is divided into two logical sections – “India Then”, reflecting the period from 1980 – 2000; and “India Now”, reflecting the period from 2000 onwards till 2015. The first section highlights the initiation of the reform process that started in the 1980s, and the second section looks at the situation and strategies taken up from the 2000, till almost the present time, 2015. While looking at the economic side, the book also consistently looks at the political side as well, taking pains to analyse the impact of the political situation and the political aspect of economic decisions.
This approach is what sets the book apart, and elevates this into the realm of one of the finest books to be written on the Indian Economy, as it creates a complete picture in broad strokes of where we are, where our weaknesses lie, and where we need to go in order to develop and take the nation forward. In fact, in more ways than one, it highlights the politico-bureaucratic bottlenecks and problems, and looks at how these can be overcome. That is the main thrust; the arguments, however, are economic and developmental in nature rather than political.
THE FIRST SECTION- The 1980s onwards
It is the general impression that the Indian Economy was reformed from 1991; this book puts paid to that impression, and takes one into the reality: the reforms process which started in the 1980s, the reforms taken then with steps like loosening of direct controls especially in Industrial Licencing. Several committees were set up on trade policy, PSU Policy, and shift from physical to financial control. Several of their recommendations were implemented. The result was industrial growth averaged 8% from 1985-1990 as an example.
Despite all of this, by 1991, the situation was dire, and the Economy was in doldrums. This is where the book acquires a life of its own, so to speak – and does a hard-hitting fact based politico-economic analysis of the fall of the Indian Economy’s reasons in three hard hitting chapters. The stunning aspect is that this fall happened when the Agricultural production was at its peak, and Industrial production was showing good growth.  The fact that the Economy despite that is a wonder, and needs explanation – I recommend you read the book for that.
Also in this section is a superb analysis of the Economic Strategy of the 1950s onwards, with solid reasoning, proving how no other approach was feasible given the overall conditions then in presence. This is a welcome correction, given the public misapprehension regarding this. As it moves into the late 1980s, we run into the paradox of good Industrial and Manufacturing, good Agriculture, in the run-up to the crisis. Here, the impact of the Gulf War, Oil Shocks, BoP situation. Collapse of the USSR, combined with our export scenario and unstable internal political environment In 1989-1991 – and how these carried into the crisis is a lesson in MacroEconomics for all readers.
THE SECOND SECTION – 2000 Onwards…
In my opening remarks, I had noted that this book is right at the intersection of Economics and Politics; the second part is where this book comes alive to transform into one of the most pertinent blunt and factual take-downs of our approach it has ever been my fortune to read. The author has gone deep into the Indian Economic-Political scenario, pulling out problems that we all  knew existed – but no one wanted to talk about… until now. The first section was a build-up, analyzing how we got where we are today, and what has been done. The second one takes off from there, building a classic case for some hard reform, and tackling the issues head-on.
As early as in the 3rd chapter of the first section, the author has identified lack of exportable products, the systemic problems plaguing us and the problems in the Public sector as contributory causes. Che goes much deeper in the second section, building the case for strong systemic reform, outlined in the magnificent last chapter of the book. The erosion of quality in the Public Sector has been discussed at some length again, pointing out the inability of the Public Sector to generate surpluses for investment over the past. Also noted are the growing Private-Public debate.
The most significant part of the book is the longest chapter, the 6th one – Politics and Governance, which forms the meat of the analysis in the book. It goes deep into the system of governance- looking at the Judiciary and its relationship with the Executive, and Legislature; the erosion of the values {or conduct to be specific} of the political class, accountability of the Cabinet – the myth versus the reality, noting with candid clarity that the Parliament and the Legislatures generally do what the Government wants them to do, rather than the other way around. He identifies the 3 key impediments – Deadweight of the past, power of distributional coalitions and growing disjuncture between Economics and Politics; concluding with a stunning observation on Pg 112-113 : Alleviation of Poverty is not an important criterion in determining electoral outcomes!
The next chapter – the 7th – is the shortest; but deals with the most fundamental aspect – the myth of the separation of powers, and once again in typical candid and dispassionate form. This looks at Centre-Judiciary Relations, Collective Responsibility,  Lack of accountability, Problems in Parliament and its functioning, and the Politicization of Administration. As can be seen, each and every one is a deep, systemic and fundamental issue where we need to introspect… The last chapter – well, I recommend you read it for yourself.

In conclusion – this isn’t a book on Economics, or on the Indian Economy per se. The title says India – Priorities for the Future; and that is precisely what this book is all about. As the books notes candidly in our development record as on date, our performance has many deep seated issues. These issues – the most important ones – are on the intersection of Economics and Politics; or rather – squarely in the Political Zone. Economics enters into it as we measure growth in Economic terms. Administrative reforms, Decriminalisation of Politics, Federation, Subsidy Rationalisation, Ministerial responsibility – if made more efficient, can have a defined impact on our nation and its Economy… 

Book Review – The 30 Something CEO by Vineet Bajpai

Published September 5, 2017 by vishalvkale

This is not a book for everyone – and these aren’t just my words; this is what the author has also opined in the course of this very thought-provoking book. This is for ambitious; hard working people; people willing to sacrifice; and people with a dream – and the willingness, courage and mental strength to continuously follow that dream for the elusive sweet smell and taste of success. This isn’t a book meant only for the corporate chap; anyone who has all the above – even one less wont do – can learn a lot from both, what has been mentioned in book, as well as what hasn’t been mentioned.
Vineet Bajpai
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Any book has both positives as well as negatives; in fact – anything in life has both aspects to it. This book is no different; rather than call them negatives, I will them them things the author has missed – for silence on an issue is not the same as disagreeing. There aren’t many of them, to be honest; but nonetheless, I would be being less than fair if I did not mention them. Hence, let me first tackle the task of the issues of silence.

This is a book that identifies and gives insights on how you can succeed in any endeavor; given this theme, the most vital ingredient should be – values. There is no mention of this in the entire book; the second aspect that is needed is integrity and honesty – again, no mention anywhere. I am not a CEO; but basis my life experience, these three are among the most vital ingredients. In order that you run a clean organization, you cannot hope to survive without having these three – not with the pressures of running a modern organization. Compromising on these three will give short- to mid- term results, not long term. It may be that the author considers them a basic quality, that does not need mention. However, given the world we live in, it is vital that a straight linkage between these three and sustainable victory is established through the example of a role model.
Too many management gurus have neglected to mention quite a few of the points that find a mention in this book; and yet – it is a fact that what has been mentioned by the author is gospel, of that there is no doubt in my mind. Backbreaking hard work, sacrifice, work-life balance, belief in your dreams, persistence and resilience are all small-sounding words, and yet – there is no escape from even one of these; and no – these are not in abundance – I am in total agreement with the author here.
These aren’t so simple to understand; hard work, for an excellent example. This doesn’t mean staying late; you can stay and do nothing productive, trust me. How do I know that? Because I have on occasion seen people goof off, while adding no value. Hard work means actually working; it means making those extra sales calls; clearing those 5 extra documents from your desk and so on. Resilience doesn’t mean dogmatism – it means using your experience and judgment and effort to keep at it longer than others have been doing; this I know from personal example. I once turned around an area cause I wouldn’t admit defeat; and just doggedly kept at it. Result was an area that hadn’t performed for years gave its potential numbers. And trust me – no high-faluting management fundas worked; just hard work and resilience, just keeping at it.
These are the elusive soft skills trainers should be talking about; these are the learnings that managers should be trying to inculcate in their juniors, these are the qualities one should be looking for; sadly, these are the qualities that are far too often taken completely for granted. And these are core habits – in my opinion, you cant have a management training schedule that teaches you even one of these; you have to do it yourself.

The question will arise in the mind of everyone that why are these so important? The ones I have mentioned, and the others in the book that together create a powerful plus – these offer a person, a leader that slight edge over the competition; and in the modern world, a slight edge is frequently all that you need. There is much that is wrong with the business world; and doing all the things may not guarantee you success; but it will ensure you keep fighting fit and gung-ho even if you don’t succeed as much as you could have. For, realistically, to be at that height, you also require – as the book correctly spots, enterprise and the mental aptitude to take risk, and the education & intelligence to be among the fastest to spot an opportunity… 

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 – 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 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.
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…