I do this thing whenever out for a meal with family, friends or colleagues. I pose a question and then we go around the table so that everyone can answer. At a dinner with my sister’s family and cousins, in 2008, I asked the table, “If you could go out for dinner with one person, living or dead, who would it be?” As one would expect, the answers were diverse, but they all had one thing in common. They all named an author of a book that had a profound impact on them. After each person had spoken, I shared my observation that the question had not qualified that they must be authors, but the answers did. That made everyone at the table think for a second. This germ of a thought stuck in my head and then sprouted as an item on my life’s bucket list – write a book.
That revelation at dinner taught me that a book is a unique medium of communication. It enables people to relate to a story in a way that seems different than a conversation, essay, speech, music or movie. All mediums have a different reach and impact, but a book seems to touch many layers deeper in the soul. Most people take a longer time to read a book than to read shorter pieces, listen to a music album or watch a movie. A book demands a private mind space where the reader must transport himself into the story and the entrance admits only one. You can read an essay while at work, listen to music while doing other things, or watch a movie with friends, but a book needs its own time and space.
Analysis aside, I promised myself that some day when I feel like I have a powerful enough story to tell, I will convey it in all its nuances through a book. Even if a hundred of my friends read it, it would be worth my time penning it down because I would have conveyed my thoughts in the best possible way to the people that I most deeply care about.
Fast forward to August 2015. I had submitted the manuscript to my publisher, Roli Books, earlier that week. Due to the events of the week, I could sense that the Chinese public markets were going to crash, trigger volatility in global financial markets and become the immediate cause for the late-stage tech funding bubble to burst. I was having a glass of wine with Kapil Kapoor at a speakeasy in Vasant Vihar, New Delhi explaining why we should accelerate the publishing of The Golden Tap, so as to time it with the impending slowdown in tech funding in India and the profound impact that it was likely to have, as deconstructed in my book. We were joined by Kapil’s father and veteran publisher, Pramod Kapoor, and his friend who is the ex-CEO of one of the largest newspapers in the country. Let’s call him Adam (not his real name) to protect his identity. We wanted his advice on how to position and market the book.
Adam heard the book’s premise and then started offering his wisdom while staring at a collection of black and white pictures of New York on the wall to his right. He asked if I knew that his son ran the particular speakeasy where we were at. I said that I did. He said it was a good business and took his son a lot of blood and toil to create – to which I responded by saying that his son was doing a great job. He said, “This needs to be a positive book, a book of hope,” for entrepreneurs like his son. I took another sip of that wine as he got my need to be further explained like a four year old.
He explained that the recent startup phenomenon – big funding, large valuations, foreign money, ruthless burn, negative margins, import of US and Chinese models – had created a sense of hopelessness and inadequacy among entrepreneurs. They had read stories about these companies, got mesmerized by how much money they were raising, and got curious to study these businesses, so as to learn from them. But when they took a closer look, they saw more things that were wrong than right. Like me, his son and many others we knew had returned from the US to do business in India. Then there were entrepreneurs who never took a job or went abroad, but instead stayed back to build businesses at home. The last two years have made these entrepreneurs ask themselves, “What are we doing wrong?” They have the choice of being more like the hyper-funded entrepreneurs, which does not seem right, or being more like themselves, which does not seem adequate. And then Adam peered into my eyes and said, “You are writing a book for those entrepreneurs. Give them hope.”
The Golden Tap’s narrative is timely in that it is an in-depth, insider’s account of the irrational exuberance between 2014-15 in Indian startups. The distribution channel has started calling it “the book that called the Indian startup bubble”. However, the more authentic narrative of the book is the story of entrepreneurship, its failures, emotions, thrills and life-changing moments. That story cuts across the flavors of entrepreneurship and seems more enduring. Yes, the book provokes strong sentiment around copycat hyper-funded startups and how they came to be, but that is merely a byproduct of the ringside commentary of what happened. However, the reason why I wrote this book is because I had a story to tell. A story that entrepreneurs can relate to. I wanted to convey – in a form that no other medium could – my own perspectives about entrepreneurship from the time that I first started as a teenager. Today, I remain hopeful as ever. If you have read the book, I am sure you got that.
Thanks to all the entrepreneurs who have loved the book and led to its success, so far. I am happy to announce that we will be launching the mass-market paperback edition of The Golden Tap with a launch event on Friday 13 May 2016 at Investopad Bangalore. Like the previous events in Mumbai, Gurgaon and IIT Bombay, I look forward to meeting all you entrepreneurs who have heard my voice and now feel what I feel.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)