Opinion

Gyan for entrepreneurs

Sivaram Pillai | Updated on April 25, 2021

Title: Wisdom For Start-ups From Grown-ups: Discovering Corporate Ayurveda Authors: R Gopalakrishnan and R Narayanan Publisher: Portfolio Price: ₹304

A wealth of info for those on their entrepreneurial journey

An entrepreneur’s life is not easy, especially if one decides to embark on such a journey at a late age. When I took the plunge at the age of 56 and co-founded a start-up, I did not imagine the trials and tribulations I would go through. Reading Wisdom for Start-ups from Grown-ups: Discovering Corporate Ayurveda by R Gopalakrishnan and R Narayanan, I was able to not only relate to my experiences, but also gain new perspectives on how an entrepreneur can manage effectively the many issues faced by him/her.

Gopal and Naru (who are, by the way, blood brothers) have used their combined experiences of close to 100 years with large corporates and many start-ups in India, to distil their wisdom and presented a compelling narrative. If you are looking for a prescription on “How to Build a Unicorn,” you will be disappointed. But if you are seeking to understand why, as an entrepreneur, you are unable to deal with certain issues, you will find a wealth of information in this book. In the words of the authors, “We agreed that information should be assembled and presented, leaving the readers to reflect on this knowledge and adopt what appealed to them in their own context.”

Section 1 of the book is all about start-ups. The nine stories of Indian start-ups are exciting to read. Naru’s close involvement in the start-up ecosystem in India and his personal connect with many of the entrepreneurs involved in these enterprises, give us perspectives which may not be available elsewhere. While, expectedly, eight out of the nine were enterprises in the “technology” domain, I was pleased that the Sri City story is also featured. Some of these stories are about those who set out to be entrepreneurs when the word start-up was not cool and fashionable. Elsewhere in Section 1, the story of Galaxy Surfactants is presented as an Indian example of how “Start-ups can Dance with Grown-Ups”.

Opinions presented by the authors, on matters such as financial prudence, valuations, governance, government policies are, in my opinion, very valuable. Examples from India as well as elsewhere in the world help the reader understand the long-term impacts of these issues which a start-up founder has to deal with day in and day out.

Section 2 is about the grown-ups. In this section, the authors say: “Just as Ayurveda has distilled the lessons of good health and long life, Corporate Ayurveda is about the lessons and wisdom from long-life companies for future start-ups.” I gained valuable perspectives from the sections which describe the “Samskar of Long-Lived Companies” and “Errors made by Short-Lived Companies”. Talking of errors, I was surprised to note a typo on page 22, where it says that Flipkart acquired Myntra for about $20 billion. It should be ₹20 billion (₹2,000 crore). It makes a lot of difference, if you mention in the wrong currency!

In the concluding section the authors say: “In the stories of the profitable, cash-generating start-ups, we find that what we call wisdom of Corporate Ayurveda has been discovered and absorbed to a great extent, and pragmatic learnings from grown-ups have also been adopted. This can be a formula for success for many start-ups.”

The book is interspersed with many references and ideas from renowned authors and pedagogues to explain and support their opinions. I plan to use the book as a resource that I can go back to from time to time.

It appears that the book was written before Covid-19 hit us. There is only a passing reference to the pandemic in one small paragraph. If anything, a Black Swan event like the pandemic has demonstrated the resilience of majority of the Indian start-ups. I believe that the reason why most entrepreneurs take up the arduous journey of creating and nurturing an enterprise lies in the “Why”. I recall CK Ranganathan, founder of CavinKare, and an icon for many entrepreneurs in the southern part of the country, once mentioning to me that an entrepreneur needs to be first clear whether he is in it for the passion or for the pension!

The reviewer is an entrepreneur and

co-founder, Proklean Technologies

Published on April 25, 2021

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