Oct 11, 2008

Stay Hungry Stay Foolish book launch at Delhi

Quote of the evening:
A failed entrepreneur is one who quits and goes back to a job. If you're not a successful entrepreneur - it just means that you are not successful - yet!
- Sanjeev Bikhchandani 

Yesterday I made it to Gurgaon to the DLF Grand Mall for Rashmi's book launch at Landmark. Sanjeev Bikhchandani , CEO of InfoEdge (naukri.com) was amongst the first to arrive. The rest of the panel, including Shantanu Prakash of Educomp, Sunil Handa of Eklavya Education Foundation and teacher of the Leadership in Entrepreneurial Motivation and Rashmi herself reached soon. Deep Kalra of makemytrip.com however could not make it.
From leftSunil Handa, Rashmi Bansal, Shantanu Prakash and Sanjeev Bikhchandani

It was an interesting panel discussion, with Sanjeev moderating it and the panel interacting with the audience. Some interesting points that came out was that the book was to be an internal IIM-A book, to be given to the students when they joined, when it was pointed out that the stories of 25 IIM A alumni who became entrepreneurs needed to be told to the rest of the world too. And that's when the book was decided to be published by IIMA itself (to keep the cost low). Sunil Handa shared "Rashmi and Sanjeev had the idea. The book needed to be priced very low, so that a college going student could afford it - in place of a movie" That's how the book came to be priced at Rs. 125.

Sanjeev asked Rashmi "So how did the idea of the book originate?"

Rashmi responded "Well, we've all read stories of school and college dropouts who became world class entrepreneurs. This book tries to show that even an MBA can do it" The audience chuckled. She talked about how our parents generation thought that a government job was security, while our generation was told that getting a good education and a private sector job was the best bet. The recent financial crises had shown that it no longer was true. Today's generation that grew up in the liberalisation era had much less fear of doing 'business'.

Sunil Handa was emphatic that entrepreneurship is in the DNA of everyone, specially Indians. He called it a junoon (madness) that afflicts people. He pointed to the fact of the sales of the book "We budgeted for a print run of 10,000 copies, but in three months we have already sold 25,000 copies. It has touched a chord in people" Talking about his LEM course at IIMA, Handa said "I started by getting students to read about entrepreneurship, but that didn't seem to work. So I soon started to call these guys to come and take the course, like a small chat around a fireplace. In my opinion, when students get to see people like Sanjeev and Shantanu in the flesh, they start feeling "hey, I also can do it. Issme aisi koi khaas baat nahi hai. Ten years ago they must have been in this very classroom"
From left: Sunil Handa, Rashmi Bansal, Shantanu Prakash and Sanjeev Bikhchandani
To a question from the audience on whether some communities in India have more entrepreneurial skills, Sanjeev responded that in some communities there was openness to people doing business. However there are more support systems for entrepreneurs today - so that anyone can be a successful entrepreneur. Handa chimed up with "I ask Vinayak Chatterjee to come to the class and ask students, kaun kehta hai Bangali business nahin kar sakta hai?"

On the question whether an MBA is good to do when one wants to become an entrepreneur Shantanu responded that "It is very useful, as you get distilled wisdom from years of management thought, concepts and models. As an entrepreneur you will need to learn management and financial models when you scale up. It helps"

On when to jump into entrepreneurship Sanjeev replied that someone like Shantanu was an entrepreneur before he joined IIMA, while Sanjeev decided to spend some time in the corporate world. "I felt I needed time. I wasn't ready" When someone from the audience asked him when would one know one is ready he responded "It's like falling in love. No one else can describe it to you. You know"

On the perception that entrepreneurship is risky Shantanu said "I can prove to you that entrepreneurship is not risky" Sanjeev shared "If you work very hard you will be a success in 5 years, if not it can take 10 years or max 15 years. But you will succeed. The trick is to not quit"

It was fun meeting Rashmi and Sanjeev again. And to listen to all the talk on entrepreneurship. Sanjeev in fact asked Rashmi about her own entrepreneurship story. She said "We just felt that our idea was right and therefore it made no point to stay and keep working for Times of India and wait when we were middle aged to launch a youth magazine ."

The biggest unexpected surprise for me was to bump into the Jabberwock , Jai Arjun Singh who also attended the launch. Yeah, Delhi is great for meeting fellow bloggers :-)

Oh yes, I have started reading the book. Watch this space for the review.