Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish : Book Review; July'08

Title: Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

Author: Rashmi Bansal

Publication details: CIE, IIM Ahmedabad, India, 2008

Number of pages: 325 pages

There is a way to become successful and derive personal satisfaction from your work. Just bring the same kind of energy and passion to your existing job that you see entrepreneurs featured in the book ‘Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish’ exhibit in their work. The book narrates the fascinating stories of 25 IIM Ahmedabad graduates who at some point in their life started their own companies. These entrepreneurs belong to diverse industries like IT, Retail, Finance, Consulting, Agriculture etc and IIMA batches ranging from Class of 1970 to Class of 2004 and they started out at different stages of their careers. The one thing they have in common is their ability to dream big and pursue their dreams.

We get the inside view of how a business like Edelweiss Capital or Mphasis was born and built and in the process we gain an understanding of some of the hardships, experiences, challenges faced by an entrepreneur. Be it the story of Vinayak Chaterjee’s Feedback Ventures morphing from a market research company to India’s leading infrastructure advisory and engineering firm or Deep Kalra’s story of building India’s leading travel portal, each of the stories are equally unique and prove there is no consistent formula or strategy for success. So while small is beautiful without scale the actual vision cannot be realised and while it pays to ride a wave in an upturn, belief in one's ideas is as important to see through the trying times. And yet there are some common threads. The entrepreneurs evaluate “Is the business inherently scalable? Is the market opportunity large enough?” They “... are smart people, they manage the risk-reward equation very well.” They do not give up. They build teams that can sustain the business.

Most of them thought innovatively or differently. Some of them ventured into nascent spheres like schooling (Eklavya’s Sunil Handa), online trading (India Infoline’s Nirmal Jain) etc. Others like’s Sanjeev Bikhchandani and Renuka Sugar’s Narendra Murkumbi, who built wealth for poor farmers, nurtured ideas that were well ahead of time.

The book also looks at alternate models such as social entrepreneurship exemplified by Vijay Mahajan who pioneered the concept of microfinance in India through his organisation ‘Basix’ And then there are those who believe they can be entrepreneurs without necessarily being 'owners’. An example is S B Dangayach who is not the owner of Sintex but works like one in every sense and was behind the iconic Sitnex water tanks.

Written in a conversational format, the author, Rashmi Bansal an IIMA alumnus herself, thinks aloud before having a conversation with an entrepreneur. We then get to hear about the vision, struggle, team building, success story and advice for young entrepreneurs in the very own words of the entrepreneurs. So it’s no surprise that the book is filled with gems like “Become extremely conversant with finance especially if you are going into some form of a fairly complex, large type of operation.”, “Base your business on deep customer insights.”, “There is no point in merely saying we are all a family. We have to believe it, we have to show it, we have to behave, we have to walk the talk.” and “In every business the more you know about the grassroots the better”. With its liberal use of Hindi (“Dil mein Chaah to niklegi raah”) the book makes you feel proud about the fact that it’s not just the story of successful entrepreneurs but Indian entrepreneurs. This is a must read for all young MBA graduates and a “treasure” for all those who are looking for inspiration to counter the feeling of “What I am doing at work is just not enough, But really, what can I do?”