An interview with Amit Haralalka, co-author of the book “The Fresh Brew: Chronicles of Business and Freedom”
“The Fresh Brew: Chronicles of Business and Freedom” is a book about 25 IIM Lucknow alumni who chose not to tread the beaten path and became entrepreneurs or pursued alternate careers of their choice. The book has been dedicated to Satyendranath Dubey, the IIT Kanpur alumnus who was killed while trying to expose corruption in projects commissioned by the National Highway Authority of India and Manjunath Shanmugam, the IIM Lucknow graduate and Indian Oil Corporation employee who lost his life while battling the petroleum mafia.A portion of the author's royalties from the sale of this book have been pledged towards constituting "The Manjunath Fresh Brew Award for Social Entrepreneurship." The foreword for the book has been written by former President of India Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. In an exclusive chat with YourStory, Amit Haralalka, the co-author speaks about the circumstances that led to the creation of this book.
Amit, tell us about your background.
I was born and brought up in Kolkata. I did my engineering from BIT Mesra, Ranchi and worked for Cognizant for about two years. Soon, I realised that I was stagnating in my purely-technical role and started preparing for CAT. I did not get through, the first time. I didn’t want that to come in the way of my desire to be involved in marketing and hence, I went to work for a startup called Quetzal. I was the COO and handled their HR consulting, training and pre-hire background checks business. I did this for about a year. Meanwhile, I gave CAT another shot and this time around, I cracked it. I’ll be graduating from IIM Lucknow this year with an MBA.
So, how did the idea of writing a book come about?
Well, the idea originated from Amitabh Thakur, my co-author and an IPS officer who is currently pursuing his Fellow Program in Management (FPM) from IIM Lucknow. He’s from the 1992 batch of the IPS in the UP cadre. He took a sabbatical and joined the course at IIM Lucknow the same year that I got admitted for my MBA. He had sent out an email to the entire alumni community about his plans to write this book about some of the exceptional students that IIM Lucknow had fostered and invited people to help him co-author it. I heard about it and since we were in the same campus, we met at the library and chatted about the idea. 15 minutes later, he had decided that I would be the co-author.
Did you always want to be an author? How long did you take to complete the book?
I had been blogging for a while. So, I grabbed this opportunity when it came up. I don’t intend to be a full-time writer. But this project really excited me. We were chronicling the lives of some great ex-students. Many of them had given up extremely lucrative jobs with banks, consulting firms, marketing companies, technology giants, etc. just so that they could strike it out on their own. We strongly felt that these were stories that had to be told and hence, the book focuses on the internal dilemmas faced by each person and their business learning. We started writing the book in June 2010 and we were done by November in the same year.
Did you have to struggle to get the book published? Tell us about your experiences on that front.Well, it certainly wasn’t easy to find a publisher. In fact, we started scouting for publishers even while we were writing the book. The reason was that I wanted to get the book out by the time I graduated. We had a great resource pool on-campus and these people helped us at every stage. The director of IIM Lucknow was also extremely supportive. I did not want to lose these advantages. And most importantly, I realised that once I left campus and joined work, I wouldn’t be able to complete the book. Also, we were very sure that we needed someone of Dr. Kalam's stature to write the foreword. We contacted his office and we even got the Director of IIM Lucknow to write to him. Dr. Kalam graciously agreed.
Meanwhile, we were searching for publishers and we realised that they were more interested in who was writing the foreword. We realised that the vision of the book was getting compromised and we avoided such companies. So, at some point during this search, we got in touch with a friend called Krishna Mehra. Krishna runs an award-winning startup called Capillary Technologies. But his family was into the business of publishing and distributing books. They had been involved in Rupa for a long time and were running Alchemy Publishers. They had expressed interest in the project even before Dr. Kalam’s foreword came in. But that time, we also received an offer from a top publishing house. But we still decided to go with Alchemy.
So, how’s the book priced? When is it releasing?
It’s priced at Rs.175. The book will be available in all leading book stores across the country starting today. It’s already available on Flipkart. In fact, the first batch of copies was distributed within campus and a whole lot of people bought the book. It was immensely satisfying to sign the book for my batch mates on the last day of class on campus. It made the effort seem worth it.
The entire team at YourStory wishes Amit and Amitabh all the very best. To know more about the book “The Fresh Brew: Chronicles of Business and Freedom”, check out http://freshbrewbook.com/.
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Sriram Mohan | YourStory |11th February 2011 | Bangalore