S V Divvaakar is the author of two books and currently in the process of penning down his third one. When he is not writing books, he consults corporates and SMEs on various aspects of building a business. SVD as he likes to be called, has always been an entrepreneur at heart, he says. Coming from a middle class family background, SVD was very happy when he made it to IIT, and thought life would take care of itself because he had managed to enter such a premier institute. “But life taught me otherwise. Initial stages of corporate life was very disillusioning journey for me. I realized I was not happy despite having the opportunity to work with a very good company,” he says.
He had the opportunity to setup businesses and industrial plants in Bhutan & Nepal for his organization, and although he was an employee, he had a lot of autonomy within the organization. However organizational politics soon made him loose interest and he quit corporate life to startup. His first venture was a trading company he setup in Dubai in 1990, which he says did very well and grew well on the back of the multi-billion dollar oil rig supplies market. “My work involved working with the oil industry and supplying them products,” says SVD of his first outing.
The firm wound up when SVD’s partners wanted to move to Canada. He then came back to India to startup Ace Global Consulting. “That was the time when liberalisation had started in India, a lot of oil companies wanted to enter the country and most of them I had worked with back in Dubai. So they told me to help them, start setting up things in India. That is how I came back to start a new career of supporting foreign companies invest in India,” explains SVD. Todate Ace Global Consulting has helped over 150 companies navigate the Indian market by helping them get initial approvals as well in understanding the Indian market. SVD claims he has helped bring in roughly Rs 1,900 crores of foreign investment into India so far.
While he continues to live that part of his life, when he turned 50, SVD had the urge to do something creative – and that is how he turned author. “My creative interests were in music and writing. Because I write a lot of reports, writing comes very naturally to me, so I am trying to reorient myself as a fiction writer. My first book didn’t do too well, the response to my second book was very encouraging and I will be coming out with my third one very soon,” says the author. He says he is trying to picture and capture the voice of human spirit, which he is a great believer of. “You maybe the head of an organization or a country, but at the end of the day, it is your individuality your own power that stands out. That is what stands out in my inspirational talks, my books and everything that I do,” he says.
SVD considers his book to be nothing less than an enterprise. The efforts needed to write a book, he compares to building an organization and finally when you sell a book – the extent of sales and revenues earned makes a book, a brand. “The Immortals of Meluha has sold 1 million copies and at 250 rupees that is a Rs 25 crore brand and that’s the way to look at a book. It’s got its own real estate — on the cover and the back page — and those have to be good enough to guarantee that people will come and buy the next time you write. A writer is also an entrepreneur at mind and the transformation of an author into a businessman is important, because writing today is business,” he says.
Explaining his analogy further, SVD says in the past, the world was a very controlled, something like Doordarshan was for TV. So if DD wanted you on TV, thought you were important enough you could be on TV, and the whole world would see you. But now the market is more complex, customers have a choice on what they want to read. Now the market has changed and to even get someone to try your book is tough, equally tough is challenge to be in the Top 50 books. “Our research shows that everyday 11 books are hitting the market, viz more than 4000 books a year. And no reader reads more than 50 books a year. Therefore to get the share-of-voice and share of mind, we need to differentiate by spreading information through word-of-mouth. But for any book to be able to carry on its own depends on the product,” says SVD very practically.
We asked him, what have been the highs in his journey so far as an author, and SVD lists three different moments of joy he has experienced – first when you finish writing your book, second when you see a reader reading the book in the market — airport, shops and such, and lastly when you start getting cheques from your publisher.
SVD has another very unique thought, where he says there will be a new breed of self published authors — who are financially little better off and can afford their own publication costs – which he himself intends to be one day. “The choice of presenting a book as a brand depends on the author and how he/she wants to do it. If you are working with a big publisher, then they have a good team to work on it, but they will also take away your freedom. All publishers are investing a lot in the production cost, but also pass on huge costs to the expensive retail channels, which is where I see a lot of publishing industry is going through a crisis,” says SVD. He further says because the author is anyways spending a major share on marketing and all the time on promoting the book, why should he simply work for a royalty and not for the principal. “The market is really moving there. Today the publisher has to struggle with conventional retailers, while Flipkart and others do not deal with small publishers, brands like Amazon are willing to work even with independent authors. So if you are an author, have belief in your product and are willing to invest, then you can take control of your product and not have anyone else to blame,” he says.