Her first book, Stay Hungry Stay Foolish, was on the best-seller list for a long time. Now Rashmi Bansal’s second book, Connect the Dots, is out, profiling 20 entrepreneurs who have made a mark in their chosen fields without the advantage that a degree in business management (an MBA) brings. Among those featured are Prem Ganapathy (Dosa Plaza), Kunwer Sachdev (Su-kam) and Paresh Mokashi (director of Harishchandrachi Factory).
Bansal says she was keen to reach out to the younger lot, and let them know that it is possible to start out on your own if you have passion, patience and self-belief—and pots of money or a degree are not necessary. Edited excerpts from an interview:
How is ‘Connect the Dots’ different from your first book?
This book is diametrically opposite to my first book, Stay Hungry Stay Foolish. That book focused on people who become entrepreneurs after an MBA. However, I would always get feedback from people asking me ‘What about those of us who have not gone to IIM-A (Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad) or don’t have an MBA?’ So I thought for my second book I would look at profiles of people who don’t have an MBA but are successful entrepreneurs.
Connect the Dots: By Rashmi Bansal, Eklavya Education Foundation, 305 pages, Rs150.
I am not saying this is something new. We all know you don’t really need a formal degree to do business, but lately I felt too many young people are fascinated or obsessed with the idea of doing an MBA. They think their prospects may not be bright without an MBA. I am really trying to reach out to that audience.
How did you finalize who will be featured in this book?
I do have a shortlist that I keep making whenever I read something interesting or hear people at conferences or lectures. Rather than the size of the business or the so-called success in a conventional sense—i.e., the value of the company—for me it was the story behind the enterprise that mattered while I was deciding who to feature. Also, I wanted people from different industries and different backgrounds. It had to be a mix. I think the 20 people I have picked represent a really vast and varied set of experiences.
Listen to a podcast where Rashmi Bansal tells us why she believes an MBA is not a must to start a business. Download link here
To become an entrepreneur, what do you think is essential— having that big idea, passion to follow up, or money?
Money is never the stumbling block. Money comes to you. You must have the passion. I know it is a cliche but it is true. When you have the passion, you become single-minded in your focus and you will energize yourself and other people around to make what you do a mission.
Second, you need patience. You can’t have a horizon of two years, three years. You need to think of five, 10, 15 years before you will really be able to become a success.
The third thing is belief in yourself. People featured in this book did not really care what other people said about them. Another thing I noticed was that they did not compare themselves with their peer group in terms of how well those people were doing.
Between risk-taking ability and just having a great idea, what is more relevant if one wants to become an entrepreneur?
Risk-taking ability. You can come up with 100 ideas in an hour but can you take the risk to give up a job or put all your eggs in one basket? I don’t think ideas are really the key. Execution is.
If someone has a great idea and thinks it can translate into a good business, what should be their next step? How do you test when you are ready to start an independent enterprise?
It is different for different people. If your idea is something completely different from what you are doing right know, you might want to get more experience in the other field and learn everything about it. You might might want to build a network of sorts and refine your idea further.
Another set of people, if they are in a job, might decide to moonlight or work on weekends to build a prototype. In Connect the Dots, Ranjiv Ramchandani’s story fits this category of people. He was a copywriter with an advertising agency who had a small T-shirt business on the side. One day he got fed up of his job and decided to quit. But he had already done some work with T-shirts and he could set up a business.
In any case, when you get into a business full-time, you will encounter many problems. So you have to just take the plunge. There is no point standing at the edge of the cliff, thinking, thinking, thinking. You have to jump off and believe that a parachute will open up when you jump. At worse, your first or second attempt may not work out. You may have to change your product or improve it or maybe even do a different idea.
The third section of the book is called ‘Zubaan’ and features a film-maker, a wildlife photographer and a choreographer. Are they really entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurship for me is being able to fulfil your potential, achieving a goal you have set for yourself, doing things differently. Everyone does not dream of being a conventional entrepreneur where he wants to sell a product and build a company. I wanted to use the examples of these people to show that you can be creative and still be an entrepreneur.
And what is the next book about?
It should be out next year and it will be about social entrepreneurs.