Staying Hungry & Foolish – 5 years on

Aug 29, 2008 : The first bill of sale for ‘Stay Hungry Stay Foolish’ is raised

Aug 29, 2013: Over 400,000 copies sold, 9 language editions, hundreds of emails from grateful readers.

stayhungrycover

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine such an outcome when I took up this project in Sept 2007.  The idea of a book on 25 successful entrepreneurs from IIMA came from Prof Rakesh Basant of CIIE (Centre for Innovation, Incubation & Entrepreneurship at IIM Ahmedabad), the National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN) and Sanjeev Bikhchandani.

At first they only sought my advice on how to do it with the help of two RAs (Research Assistants).

Instead, I offered to do it myself.

I did it for a lark, to meet some interesting people and to learn something from them. Maybe because of that purity of thought and purpose, it all came together as it did.

The time given to me was just 3 months, later extended to 6 months. It finally got done ‘just in time’ for the IIMA Entrepreneurs Conference on 30th June 2008. 1000 copies had been printed to be distributed free of cost to the delegates, as well as students on campus.

Yes, we did plan to make the book available to the public. But the slow channels of the book trade had decreed a release in Jan 2009 – six months later. That’s when Sunil Handa and Sanjeev Bikhchandani  came together and said, “Let’s publish it ourselves.” The book was ready and Handa’s Eklavya Foundation was ready to do the job, on behalf of IIM Ahmedabad.

The plan was to print 5000 copies – half of it on ‘order’ basis. The entrepreneurs featured in the book paid money upfront for 100, 200, 500 personal-use copies. The rest was to be put into bookshops. With great difficulty Eklavya managed to rope in a Mumbai-based distributor – Shree. The deal was struck by offering 5% more margin than other publishers. We had no option, as I was not a ‘known’ author.

Originally, we wanted the price of the book to be Rs 95, at par with popular fiction titles. But our book had 330 pages, it was not economically viable. The price was fixed at Rs 125.

The book made its debut at Crossword Ahmedabad, a franchise store owned by friend and wellwisher Mr Gaurav Shah. Within a week, Gauravbhai called to say the book is in the ‘bestseller’ list. Can we send more copies? Not only Ahmedabad, but Crossword stores across the country soon picked up ‘Stay Hungry Stay Foolish’ in large quantities and give it prominent display. I will always be grateful to them for this support!

I sent the book to numerous editors, hoping for reviews. The result was scanty and mostly bad. One particularly mean review came from T R Vivek writing for VCCircle.com. Since the original article is hidden behind a paywall, I share what I wrote on my blog at the time.

Oh and later, I also made it to the ’10 silliest books of the decade’ list along with Paolo Coelho and Rhonda Byrne.

However, the feedback from readers themselves was astonishingly and overwhelmingly positive.

“I read my book and quit my job to start my own company.”

“This year I am distributing your book instead of sweets on Diwali

“I keep this book next to my bed and every night I read the ‘advice’ section.”

Everywhere I go, I meet people whose lives have been touched, whose hopes have been ignited. This is what motivated to write 4 more books about inspiring real-life Indian entrepreneurs (not from IIMA). This is why I have made the writing of inspirational books my whole and sole career.

It’s been 5 fantastic years.

I take this opportunity to thank everyone who believed in me – my alma mater, which set me on this path and in particular Prof Rakesh Basant (he had some reservations about my ‘style of writing’ but ultimately didn’t make me change a word :).

My first publishers IIM Ahmedabad & Eklavya Foundation and in particular Sunil Handa (he brought an entrepreneurial touch to what could have been ‘just another book’. We did every small thing with childlike zeal, enthusiasm).

In fact I realise it can be *lucky* to not have a large publisher initially. I suspect hey would have over-edited and mangled my manuscript to death.

And finally, I want to thank all my readers, everywhere. It is because of you that ‘Stay Hungry Stay Foolish’ is still on bestseller lists.  (But hey, I would love it if you move on to some of my other books :)

I hope my writings continue to serve as a window into the mind of self-made men and women. The brave and bold who are powering a new India.

If you have any story/ incident to share about how ‘Stay Hungry Stay Foolish’ spurred you to action or affected your attitude, please send it to me. The id is mail AT rashmibansal.in.

Over the next one month, I will share these hungry & foolish stories in this space. For the reading pleasure of all.

Stay Hungry Stay Foolish, Westland Books, Rs 150, available in stores and online

Crossword Powai

Connect the Dots & Stay Hungry. Still ruling the bestseller charts at #1 & #4 respectively!

Still hungry!

Six weeks after the launch of my new book ‘Connect the Dots’ (on non MBA entrepreneurs),  SHSF continues to be on top of the bestseller charts.

This picture was taken at the Landmark bookstore at Mumbai airport :)

Stay Hungry # 2 on non-fiction bestseller list @ Landmark

Readers still hungry for 'Stay Hungry'.

Mindset of an entrepreneur

When I completed the book I thought about having one final chapter wity ‘learnings’. But I decided to let readers ‘find’ the messages for themselves. Or choose to simply read each chapter as a story.

Well, now a kind reader has written in with his interpretation of the ‘common factors’ which lead to success. Here goes:

 Dear Rashmi,

As I was  reviewing the notes I had jotted down while reading “Stay Hungry Stay Foolish”,  I felt that I should drop you this note.  In each chapter, I had noted down the salient points mentioned by the entrepreneur being interviewed and I compared the notes across chapters, I could see common themes running across stories. 

This reminded of  another  interesting book I read a few years back – “Creativity” by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi. In this book, Mihalyi tries to discover the common elements amongst “Very Creative” people. For that he has interviewed some 85 people from various fields including science, arts, philosophy and others.  It is a very well written book and does a nice job of identifying the common patterns.  However, Mihalyi did not include any “Creative” people from the business field and I have always felt that this topic (i.e. a deep dive on the attributes commonly found in entrepreneurs ) needs to be addressed. Your book comes pretty close to it. I was wondering if you would consider writing a sequel, that addresses this topic. You have a considerable head-start based on the work done for Stay hungry. A book like that should be able to attract international readers as well.

By the way, I am joining IIM A’s PGPX program starting in April. Was glad to

know that you are an alumnus. 

Cheers,

Vinayak Bhat

P.S. – My notes on the “Common themes” mentioned in Stay Hungry:
1.     Emphasis on the passion for the chosen field and view of monetary gains as a valuable by-product
2.     A mentor/God-father who believed in the entrepreneur and offered a generous helping hand at some point
3.     Failure and some times a near death situation on one or more occasions.  Staying power to see through difficult times
4.     Strong emotional and often financial support from spouse.
5.     Emphasis on choosing right partners and the need for convergence of values and attitudes amongst partners
6.     Average of 6 to 8 years to stabilize
7.     Ability to adapt and make mid-course corrections
8.     Lot of exposure in the early stages that helped them prepare for the eventual phases
9.     Long association with trusted partners
10.  Luck!

May the Force be with you

And here’s an  email from a young Dutch girl who’s set up her own business in India…

dear Rashmi

My name is Eva Reubsaet and I am a young Dutch entrepreneur. Twelve years ago my parents moved the production of memorial stones from Poland to India. After visiting more than sixty granite companies in the South of India, they have found an excellent partner in Tamil Nadu. From that time onwards, we are very committed to our partner and have established a good relationship on both business and private level.
 
When I was sixteen, I travelled for the first time to India to visit the granite factory and to meet our partners. I made a round trip through South-India on my own, but the last couple of weeks I stayed at the house of our partners. As a tourist, you mainly visit popular sight seeings described in travel books, but our partner showed me also another India.
 
I visited textile companies, hospitals, business schools, shopping malls, steel companies, and many more organizations. I realized that Dutch and Indian companies could benefit from each other and that they should invest in partnerships. 

The economic developments in India have always inspired me. Back in The Netherlands I went to the University of Maastricht to study International Business. After completion of my Bachelors, I decided to continue my Masters in India. I studied my MBA at the Bangalore Management Academy, and graduated in October 2009.
 
During my studies, more and more companies in The Netherlands contacted me about possibilities in India. During my first project, I advised and supported a Dutch calendar production company who would like to outsource part of their production to India. I executed a market analysis and brought them into contact with Indian offset companies.
 
This project was the start of my consultancy firm, Booming India. Together with my team we trigger Dutch companies to think about India. We offer workshops and we assist companies during the complete project of doing business in India. Our website, www.boomingindia.biz is a strong media tool to inform companies in The Netherlands about the developments and possibilities in India.
 
I lived in Bangalore for one and a half years. I love the country, culture and people. As a young entrepreneur I feel really excited to do what I love to do. To create win-win situations for companies both in The Netherlands and in India. Your book and the entrepreneurs have inspired me to fulfil my dream…

Thank you and the entrepreneurs for the inspiring stories!

Business or social service?

Some of you have dreams and noble intentions, but is that enough? Here is one such idealistic young man.

Hello Rashmi,
 
I am Saurabh, I have recently read your novel “Stay Hungry Stay Foolish” and that is how i got your mail id. I found that novel very inspiring and motivating.
 
I have plans to start my own magazine (Business Magazine), and i wish to see your help coming in my entrepreneural journey, as you have your own magazine(JAM) and you also provide consulting. As of now i dont have any prior experience in Magazine business.
 
My aim of launching a new Magazine is not to earn money but to make people aware about the new ideas that can certainly change their lives. I wish to add value to the lives of the middle class, and Upper middle class people which will further pull up the lower and lower middle class segment by creating Job opprtunities.
 
A brief introduction about myself:
Name :Saurabh 
Age: 25
Native Place : Noida
Work Experience ; 2.5 Years Tata Consultancy Services
Currently : Doing MBA from Pune
As a matter of fact, I have already taken my name out of placements…
 
Please contact me, I need your Help !
 
Thanks,
Saurabh

My response: Saurabh, it’s good that you have a goal in mind and even though it may seem distant and unattainable today – like climbing Mount Everest – it is certainly possible. If you keep two things in mind:

a) Train: Today you have NO idea what the magazine business is about. So it makes sense to set a goal of learning EVERYTHING about the magazine business in the next two years. To do this you could join a media company.

How will you get such a job?Well… you have to try, try and try until you succeed. Your best bet is to try and latch on to a CEO or senior person in such a company and offer to assist him/ her. That way you will get the best exposure and learning and possibly even a mentor for your future project.

b) Get business-minded: It’s good to have the objective of helping people BUT that will only be possible when you treat your venture like a business. Your magazine should make some money, be self-sustaining and for that you have to work out a viable business model.

Remember, you cannot climb Mount Everest without the right training and equipment. And you cannot climb it in a day! Apply that principle to whatever your choose to do in life and you will find success. All the best!

A ‘silly’ book, they say

Woke up on 1st of Jan, a New Year, to find ‘Stay Hungry Stay Foolish’ included in an odd list by Mint newspaper: ‘The decade’s 10 silliest books’

This list also includes authors like Paulo Coelho, Ian McEwan and titles like ‘Superfreakonmics’. So I don’t know whether to be offended or flattered :)

Coincidentally, on the same day I got sales figures from my publisher for the past 6 months (July-Dec 2009). We crossed the 1 lakh mark back in June 2009, and since then the book has sold another 50,000 copies.

So it looks like ‘silly’ is selling, and what’s more important, making people think about what they really want to do with their life.

And that, to me,  matters more to me than what any critic has to say!

Karna chahta hoon magar…

This is a common query – details may differ, but dilemma remains same.

Mam,
This is Ramesh hailing from Theni, a small town in Tamil Nadu. Actually I read your book “STAY HUNGRY STAY FOOLISH” and I want to tell you about me. My father is an agriculturist and mom is a home maker. I did my schooling in Theni and I did my engineering in Coimbatore.

My plan was do some business as I was not aware of placements after graduation. I started thinking of what can I do and decided to start a a KPO and BPO on my own. I needed about Rs 1 lakh to start but I had had only 50K so I called my friend and he said he can can invest only 25K

We signed the agreement but then he didn’t start and he took his cash back. I felt very much dissappointed and started looking for a job so I can get capital to invest in business. So I am going to work for 2 years and now I am also planning to do my MBA in some reputed bschool.

Actually even Rs 1 lakh I think would be less, we need around Rs 3 lakhs so I thought of getting one project with that Rs 1 lakh and then use the money we earn to buy more PCs, get some more projects etc But then I did nothing. So please suggest what can I do.. 
thanks
Ramesh R L

My response: Ramesh, you are on the right track but at the first sign of hardship what do you do? Give up. In the industry you plan to enter you can very well work from a cybercafe for first few months (saves cost of buying PCs). You can do projects based on your technical knowledge sitting at home in your pyjamas and thus generate the required capital (Rs 1 lakh is less than $2500!).

But I think it may be better for you to work a couple of years, get practical exposure, gain some confidence and then revisit the idea you have in mind. Money is only one issue; more importantly who is your client, what is your service and why should he choose to work with you??

Think about it and meanwhile keep your eyes and ears open for someone who can join you in your enterprise. Two heads which complement each other are generally better than one …!

Stop existing, start living!

An interviewer made the observation:  One thing that encouraged me in reading the book was to see so many big companies… and to hear about their humble beginnings. When you hear how humbly they started, it gives you encouragement in your own humble state and think, “why not?”

Then he asked: Along those lines, do you have any thoughts or advice for younger folks?

This was my response:

I think the biggest issue I see with young people today is that they have taken this whole thing of “I’ll get into the right college” as the end of their ambition. They try very hard, and they struggle, and they get into the college of their dreams like an IIT or IIM or whatever. Or, on the other hand, they don’t get into the college of their dreams. Either way, they don’t see that that’s just the first point. That’s the steppingstone for their whole life.

Even if I get into the best college, I still have to find the way forward. I have to find something where I really am able to give my best, where I am able to achieve what I am meant to achieve in my life. Not only achieve in terms of reaching a certain designation or salary or whatever, but to really wake up every day in the morning and feel charged up to go and do what I’m doing—to feel I’m making a difference. I’m not saying all of them have to become entrepreneurs. But to really be alive, to be looking to learn and grow continuously—that, I feel, is not happening as much as it should.

If you graduate today, you have to first go through the grind. The first 3-5 years is always going to be a learning experience. Just because you are from a good college, you can’t insulate yourself from the world. If you are in marketing, you will have to go on the street and be a salesman—which is a way many companies in the past trained you. If you join Hindustan Lever, you actually go to the villages to be an assistant salesman.

Be an entrepreneur if it’s really your kick, but get 2 years of experience in the field where you want to join. Start your enterprise, or go work with a smaller company. We have IIM students who are working with small companies where they get the responsibility of becoming a CEO. Do something like that where you get overall experience.

If you are in a job then also give it your best. Don’t just go out like a robot everyday and do your bit and come back. Do more than your bit. Take the initiative, have the energy, know that you can make changes happen. Not immediately, not today, but over time, yes, there are many ways in which you can influence your company, your team, and your boss. Don’t just accept that “this is the way the world is, and this is the way it’s going to remain; I just have to take my salary cheque and go home”. Then you are not going to be happy.

You can read the rest of the interview here.

Launch of SHSF in Hindi

launch of Hindi edition of SHSF

Poster of Hindi book launch

The Hindi edition of Stay Hungy Stay Foolish published by Prabhat Prakashan was launched on 26th September 2009 at Reliance Time Out (Ambience Mall, Gurgaon).

Sanjeev Bikhchandani (naukri.com), Shantanu Prakash (Educomp) and Shivraman Dugal (ICRI) were some of the entrepreneurs from the book who attended and interacted with the audience.

A big thank you to my friends Dharmaraj Iyer and Haridas for taking the pains to put up some videos they shot at the event on their blog. Click here, and take a look.

http://www.harmonyatwork.in/blog/2009/09/stay-hungry-stay-foolish-launches-in-hindi-rashmi-bansal/

The inspiring stories of 25 IIM Ahmedabad graduates who chose to tread a path of their own making.

Stay Hungry Stay Foolish is an IIM Ahmedabad CIIE (Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship) publication.

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