India@75: 15 books on startups, innovation and creativity in India
Launched in 2012, YourStory's Book Review section features over 340 titles on creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship, and digital transformation. See also our related columns The Turning Point, Techie Tuesdays, and Storybites.
India’s entrepreneurial boom has unfolded in successive waves: traditional manufacturing, IT/BPO services, and the digital startup wave. The 15 books in this compilation cover the rise of India’s startup ecosystem, including tech, business, and social entrepreneurship.
The social and environmental challenges India faces call for sustainable models of growth as well as corporate social innovation. Specific books focus on groups like India’s youth, sectors like the booming media ecosystem, practices like design thinking, and grim challenges like feeding millions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
India’s startups are attracting the attention of global investors and corporate giants, through engagement models like accelerators. Leading engineering and management schools have spawned generations of inspiring entrepreneurs.
Innovation competitions and challenges are attracting the best entrepreneurial minds to solve India’s problems at scale. The innovation spirit of ‘intrapreneurship’ is sweeping across some corporate groups, as documented by books about the Tata and Hero groups.
We hope you enjoy our pick of 15 outstanding books capturing the dynamics of changing India, and look forward to even more progress, peace and prosperity in the next 75 years of India’s independence journey!
Shifting Orbits: Decoding the Trajectory of the Indian Startup Ecosystem, by iVEIN
This book, published by the Innovation Venturing and Entrepreneurship in India Network (iVEIN), provides comprehensive research on the dynamics of India’s startup boom. The 22 chapters are written by 30 contributors, and cover policies, sectoral impacts, and pandemic resilience. India’s innovation journey is covered in three phases: 1950-1990 (led by government and academia), 1990-2015 (liberalisation, corporate GCC support), and 2015 onwards (local needs, Startup India, Digital India, NEP). See our book review here.
The Maverick Effect: The Inside Story of India’s IT Revolution, by Harish Mehta
How did the Indian IT industry powerhouse emerge from a bureaucratic and corrupt ecosystem in the 1980s? What values and principles helped them win over policymakers at home and tech giants abroad, whilst withstanding waves of crises? These questions are answered in storytelling format in this compelling book by Harish Mehta, founding member and first Chairman of National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM). See our book review here.
Social Entrepreneurship in India: Quarter Idealism and a Pound of Pragmatism, by Madhukar Shukla
The rise of the social innovation movement in India, along with profiles and roadmaps, is well documented in this book by Madhukar Shukla, Professor of Strategic Management at XLRI Jamshedpur. The nine chapters in the 256-page book are thoroughly researched and draw on 120 organisational examples. The book is a must-read for aspiring social entrepreneurs, innovators, academics, policymakers, and impact investors. See our book review here.
Being an Impact Champion: Enacting Corporate Social Consciousness, by Priya Nair Rajeev and Simy Joy
CSR, corporate social innovation, social entrepreneurship are three paths to becoming an impact champion, as described by Priya Nair Rajeev and Simy Joy of IIM Kozhikode. The book is packed with frameworks, tables, and case studies of social impact initiatives of businesses in India. The need of the hour is social consciousness, collaboration, and action aligned with business strategy. See our book review here.
Do Better With Less: Frugal Innovation for Sustainable Growth, by Navi Radjou and Jaideep Prabhu
This authoritative book describes six principles of Frugal Innovation, and why India can be a trendsetting practitioner and thought-leader in this space. India is in a unique position to harness trends like the sharing economy, maker movement, and circular economy. Environmentally sustainable innovation is the road ahead, according to innovation consultant Navi Radjou and University of Cambridge Professor Jaideep Prabhu. See our book review here.
The Indian Media Business: Pandemic and After, by Vanita Kohli-Khandekar
This compelling book provides a wealth of insights into India’s media boom—spanning print, TV, films, music, radio, and digital. It covers trends and transformations across sectors, covering business interests, regulation and social impact. Vanita Kohli-Khandekar has been tracking the Indian media and entertainment business for almost two decades. See our book review here.
Gorillas Can Dance: Lessons from Microsoft and Other Corporations on Partnering with Startups, by Shameen Prashantham
This guidebook provides valuable tips for corporate heads and startup founders on how to collaborate for innovative gain and a better future. It includes engagement models like corporate accelerators, many of which have emerged in India. In-depth frameworks and case studies are provided by Shameen Prashantham, Professor of International Business & Strategy, and Associate Dean (MBA), at China Europe International Business School in Shanghai. See our book review here.
Barkat: The inspiration and story behind one of the world’s largest food drives, by Vikas Khanna
In his inspiring book, ‘Barkat’ (abundance), masterchef and humanitarian Vikas Khanna shares the buildup to his food drive during India’s pandemic. It captures influences such as the spirit of generosity infused by his grandmother, and experiences in the langar community kitchens of the Golden Temple. From tradition to migration, the book is packed with stories, vivid descriptions of life in India and the US, and a range of life lessons. See our book review here.
The Pilani Pioneers: Inspiring Success Stories of 25 BITS Pilani Graduates, by Gaurav Mandlecha and Durjai Sethi
Founder stories, success tips and campus nostalgia are effectively captured in this wide-ranging book. The founder profiles include Hari Menon (Bigbasket) and Phanindra Sama (redBus), and investors such as Nilesh Kothari (Trifecta Capital) and VT Bharadwaj (A91 Partners). Corporate heavyweights include Baba Kalyani (Bharat Forge), Harish Bhat (Tata Sons), Sunil Duggal (Dabur), and Tulsi Mirchandaney (Blue Dart Aviation). See our book review here.
7 Sutras of Innovation - Stories of Scale-ups that are Transforming India, by Nikhil Inamdar
This book chronicles the stories of organisations impacting change at scale in India, along with a framework of seven success factors. The featured winners of the Marico Innovation Foundation’s biannual innovation awards are Rivigo, Goonj, Forus Health, Agastya International Foundation, Tonbo Imaging, ISRO, The Better India, and St. Jude’s. See our book review here.
Dreamers: How Young Indians are Changing Their World, by Snigdha Poonam
This book evocatively captures the energy and drive of many young Indians, but warns of the risk of being suspended between dreams and reality, between a positive future and a dystopian path. The vivid cultural descriptions of challenges like toxic masculinity and the politics of identity show that not all is well in the new India. Hope and worry, optimism and dystopia, all mingle in the narrative. See our book review here.
Design your Thinking: The Mindsets, Toolsets and Skillsets for Creative Problem-Solving, by Pavan Soni
This book extends earlier design thinking frameworks, and documents over 50 case studies in the Indian context. The author provides a wealth of tips, examples and worksheets on individual and group creativity. The author, Pavan Soni, is Founder of innovation consultancy Inflexion Point and a mentor for NSRCEL at IIM Bangalore and Founder Institute. See our book review here.
The Making of Hero: Four Brothers, Two Wheels and a Revolution that Shaped India, by Sunil Kant Munjal
This compelling book on bicycle empire and motorcycle powerhouse Hero Group shares a wealth of stories and business principles on how to succeed in a tough, competitive world. Written by the company’s Chairman Sunil Kant Munjal, the decades-long story is a salute to the spirit of indigenisation, global outlook, frugality, ambition, competitive spirit, and collaborative ecosystems. See our book review here.
Igniting Innovation: The Tata Way, by Ravi Arora
Innovation awards and leadership support can help an organisation recognise, promote, and celebrate business creativity. This insightful book provides frameworks and case studies of innovation practices in the Tata group of companies. The author, Ravi Arora, is VP for Innovation at Tata Sons, and has created programmes like Tata InnoMeter, Tata InnoVista, Tata Innoverse, and Challenges Worth Solving. See our book review here.
Shine Bright: Inspiring Stories of CEOs who are Intrapreneurs, by Rashmi Bansal
India needs intrapreneurship as much as it needs the startup movement to bring in fresh thinking at scale. This book shares stories and lessons from organisational leaders in a range of sectors. Examples of eight such leaders are presented in bestselling author Rashmi Bansal’s new book. See our book review here.
YourStory has also published the pocketbook ‘Proverbs and Quotes for Entrepreneurs: A World of Inspiration for Startups’ as a creative and motivational guide for innovators (downloadable as apps here: Apple, Android).
(The story was updated to add an image)
Edited by Kanishk Singh