A few years ago, I was talking about my book Failing to Succeed to a group of students at a reputed business school. One of them asked me why I had not launched any other start-up since Indiaplaza in 2013. I laughed off the query, saying that writing a book was like creating a start-up and I had no time left. Sometime later, as I was thinking about this conversation it struck me that writing a book is actually not very different from being a first-generation entrepreneur in many ways. Let me explain.

Entrepreneurship is a long and hard journey. You start with an idea, make some assumptions, and try to convert the idea into a product or service. However, many of these assumptions turn out to be erroneous and several course corrections may be required. 

In fact, validating early assumptions was such an important phase while building Indiaplaza or Again Drinks. Writing a book is similar. You have a core idea, but turning that idea into a readable book requires hours and hours of hard work. It’s not just the first draft but also the rewriting that makes the whole process of writing a book quite tough. 

Once a product is ready in some form, it is important to take feedback from potential customers and make necessary changes before launch. This is similar to editing the book, which converts a huge mass of words into a readable form.

Entrepreneurship is about risk and reward. Years of toil may lead to nothing and a venture may simply fizzle out because customers do not take to the product or service as estimated. The success rates of books are similarly low and, forget becoming a best-seller, most books end up just about recovering printing costs for the publisher.

Loneliness is another similarity. While there are several start-ups by multiple co-founders and many books are co-authored, single-founder start-ups and single author books are most common. This creates loneliness for the founder and author, which becomes burdensome because there are also no sounding boards to debate key issues and subjects.

Finally, as to the returns from the efforts, frankly, start-ups fare much better on this parameter. With a little luck and lots of funding, start-ups can quickly become unicorns (which is not the same as a sustainable venture, but that’s a topic for another day) and create lots of personal wealth for the entrepreneur. On the other hand, even best-selling books do not generate enough royalty for authors in India and writing books is not a rewarding profession unless one is a very popular writer. We are simply not a reading nation.

In other words, if you are hesitant to start up because of how difficult the journey can be, just think of writing a book as an alternative. Suddenly, doing a start-up will seem easier.

(The writer is a serial entrepreneur and best-selling author of the book ‘Failing to Succeed’; posts on X @vaitheek)