Very few times, Indian Market comes up with books to be thought of, to be admired and to be cherished. One of them is BHAAG! by Ganesh V. It talks about the topic which never comes up in our ‘Herd Following’ society. The topic is college entrepreneurship and author believes that “Campus entrepreneurship is going to be the next big wave in India.”
Let’s find out about the book and the ideology of Mr. Ganesh V.
- Let’s start with a formal introduction. Tell us something about your daily schedule, and the things which define you and your lifestyle.
I am eternally curious. I keep my senses open all the time, which helps me observe, introspect and discover. I love life and live it with great enthusiasm. The things that define me are many: nature and wildlife, mountains and trekking, music, writing, reading, mentoring entrepreneurs, Scrabble, running, low-slung furniture, tea, laughter, silence, humour.….
My daily schedule is quite fluid, and I love it that way. My day begins with a cup of tea. Usually, I do a bit of writing in the morning. For most of the day, I attend to my business consulting and mentoring work. I take breaks in between. I then write some more late at night. I exercise either in the morning or in the evening. Often, I visit a college to deliver a talk and interact with students.
- Tell us something about your book ‘BHAAG!’. What made you think of writing about such a different topic – of college entrepreneurs?
Campus entrepreneurship is going to be the next wave in India. I thought a book on this subject is much-needed.
From my interactions with college students, I noticed that a lot of them are keen to start their own businesses as soon as they pass out of college. Many others want to do it after working somewhere for just one or two years. None of them wants to wait till the age of 30 or 40 before striking out on his/her own.
At the same time, they are not clear about many aspects of entrepreneurship: how to spot a business idea, how to develop a business model around it, how to take the first few steps, how to build an organization, the problems they have to be prepared for, etc.
I mean, they don’t have a clear idea about the life of an entrepreneur. And finally, they are also daunted by the prospect of failure.
And so, I thought college students need a dose of inspiration to get them off the starting blocks. I thought the best way to give them this would be to show them how other college students have done it already.
- Your book’s title is pretty different. How did you come up with it?
I want to take this book to all corners of India, including the small towns. So, I had to come up with a simple name, which would be easily understood by people in from Assam to Kerala. Yet, I wanted the name to be kadak, rooted in the Indian ethos. Finally, I wanted it to reflect the sense of urgency, the drive and the restlessness of the youngsters I have written about. An unconventional title helps, because it intrigues people and gets them talking.
I decided to think of the name only after I finished writing most of the book. I rejected a lot of title options, before I hit upon ‘BHAAG!’. There was a phase when I was thinking up names all the time! The name ‘BHAAG!’ came to me one morning on a train. It felt just right!
- ‘BHAAG!’ seems to be a thoroughly researched book. How long did you take to write it. Also, how was your experience during the journey of bringing out the book?
Well, I wrote ‘BHAAG!’ in three months. It was an exciting, yet thoroughly exhausting time. I was on an adrenaline high all the time during those three months. Like I was on steroids!
I had to juggle writing the book with a full-time job; so, writing during the day was just not possible. Also, I had to travel across the country to meet entrepreneurs and understand their respective stories. Since my company did not give me leave to write the book, I had to do all the work in an extremely tight time window. But, I knew I would somehow make the time to do it.
I ended up travelling and meeting entrepreneurs on weekends and a couple of other holidays. I would do my secondary research and writing late at night, after coming back from office.
I was keen to put out an extremely readable and inspiring book. I have tried to keep the narrative style somewhat conversational, so that the book keeps the readers engaged from start to finish.
- Our country’s youth are afraid to start something new. Everyone is running to become an engineer, doctor etc. What do you say to this?
My answer has two parts.
While what you say is true to a large extent even today, the scene is changing for the better, more so in the large cities of India. Today, high school students are exposed to a lot of different ideas, different professions. In this, the internet has definitely helped. Role models and success stories are emerging from various fields. Added to that, entrepreneurship has become cool. People have started viewing failure differently – no longer is it the taboo it once was.
These changes are healthy, but more has to happen. Also, the changes have to percolate to smaller towns and influence attitudes there too.
Family and parents have a big role to play too, in helping youth get rid of this ‘play-safe’ attitude. We should start encouraging our children to be themselves and pursue what they want in life, even at the cost of failure.
- Why do you promote campus entrepreneurship?
See, I am not saying that everybody should become an entrepreneur while in college. The exact moment in your life when you will become an entrepreneur is entirely up to you.
But in general, I think the earlier you start your own business, the better for you. Like I have said in the introduction to ‘BHAAG!’, your energy level and curiosity are very high when you are 20 or 22. Also, you don’t have any major personal commitments at that age. You can take risks and fail. It does not matter. And finally, that you will find a job without great difficulty, should your entrepreneurial efforts fail.
And today, the entrepreneurial ecosystem in India is evolving quite fast. It is possible to become an entrepreneur when you are in college or just after you pass out, and still succeed over a period of time – provided your business idea is good, of course.
- Are you currently working on a new project? Would you like to share something about that?
I have some ideas for my next book – in a very different genre. But, I can’t share details about it now, because that would be premature.
- According to you, what’s the most difficult part of writing?
Bringing out all the essential aspects of the story, while keeping the narrative tight and crisp. Another thing to be careful about, is to write in a style that engages the reader easily.
- For writing your book, you interviewed many student entrepreneurs. According to you, which were the most interesting ones? And how did you select them for your book. Were there any selection criteria?
Every case I came across was interesting, but the most interesting to me are the ones that are trying to do something in the fields of education, renewable energy and greening of cities.
In selecting entrepreneurs for my book, I looked beyond revenues, profits and deal sizes. To me, the bigger things are a strong vision in the entrepreneur and the need he/she is addressing. Also, I was keen to pick entrepreneurs from small/unknown colleges, and not from the IITs and IIMs. Finally, I wanted to write about people from small towns also, because there is a lot of interest in small town colleges today, about running your own business.
- Do you read? Who’s your favorite author? And your favorite book?
Yes, I read a lot. And when I travel, I invariably carry a book or two with me. I love classic Brit whodunits of the Poirot, Inspector Morse and Wexford kind. I also read books on philosophy, ecology and conservation, history, cinema and travel, apart from biographies.
I’d go mad if I tried to name one favourite book. There are many.
- What’s the importance of writing in your life?
Oh, man! That’s easy to answer. Writing is beyond being important to me. It is part of me. I am wired to keep writing.
- What is your advice for young and budding entrepreneurs?
- Entrepreneurship is not just about setting up your own business. It is a way of life – a greatway of life. So, try to hit upon a business idea and set up your own venture at least once in your life. Your life will change for the better. Forever.
- Do not follow the herd. Do not become an entrepreneur just because someone asks you to, or because you think it is cool to be one. This would be a very wrong reason to take the leap. Instead, listen to your inner voice on whether and when to set up your own venture.
- Try to set up a venture based on a solid societal need or opportunity – India has hundreds of them! If you can fulfill a societal need while making money at the same time, that would be great!
- Once you take the plunge, give it your all for at least two years.
- Take on a good mentor or two, to guide you in building the business.
- Be patient. I can’t over-emphasise this.
So that’s all with Ganesh V. You can buy his book from the following links.