How I braved Anu aunty and co founded a million dollar company – written by Varun Agarwal, the current day founder of 3 companies is a fun yet informative read. The most intriguing characteristic offers this book is the way it is written. One of the most crucial points for reviewing a book is the style it is written in. If I were to rank the number one reason to give this book a read it would be the style and simplicity it is written with. It’s almost as if the author is sitting across the table narrating his story to you. Sure it might not be the best source of start-up hacks for our traditional-day reader considering the overly informal yet funny attention grabbing way it is written in, I would still recommend it to people of all ages looking for some start-up motivation.
So, Varun starts of his story describing his distaste and his constant effort at trying to show some level of interest in his current engineering endeavour. In his constant toil to find where his true interest lies he discovers his passion for film making, a classic ‘No’ when it comes to career options in the Indian system of parenting. He talks about how his mother’s friend Anu aunty, the epitome of Indian thinking where the word ‘entrepreneurship’ is a taboo and pursuing the common, safe and secure way is what is ideal. In his writing, while he portrays how his ideals differ from those of Anu aunty’s. This shows us how attitudes of different generations differ and how ideas are perceived differently. Varun talks about how a business idea strikes him one day sitting at a pub over a mug of beer with his friend while they sat talking about how much they missed their school, this was where their first B-plan was scribbled on to a napkin which later ventured on to their first e-commerce business, and hence the birth of his first venture ‘Alma Matters’. The journey however wasn’t easy; Varun had to go against all odds and Anu Aunty before he could make it this big. Throughout the book Varun states instances that pose as challenges faced by him and uses them as examples to showcase business lessons to us, be it from juggling job interviews and start-up work to keep his secrecy or learning negotiating skills observing his mother bargaining with the bhaji-wala. The book goes on stating everyday instances that have lessons to take from them and how one can use it to their advantage, even for entrepreneur skills. Most of all what the Author shows is, how with constant dedication one can achieve or pursue whatever they wish to and that no one can stop them if they give it their all – ‘where there is will, there is way’.
So, take always from the book / why is this book an important read?
The most crucial take away from the book is the very first step to your start-up; taking the risk and taking your ‘idea’ to the next step. Varun’s story shows young entrepreneurs a very good example of finding your passion, discovering your interests, doing what you love and making that your career. Of course he was scared when it came to taking the first step of deciding whether or not he should go ahead with his idea, in fact the book quotes him saying that he even doubted himself whether he was doing the right thing or not, but it all changes when you make that one decision to go ahead with your passion.
The author says it is not worth wasting time planning and contemplating, the more you think the more time you waste and doubt yourself. He says start and move on with your idea and the rest will flow; if you truly want to make it work, you will be able to make it work and find solution to your problems. He even says some time solutions to very difficult problems lie in the simplest of tasks that you do and lessons from those can have application to more than one place. The solution to finding these solutions is by being more observant about things. For example one of Varun’s observations was that he had to work upon his negotiation skills if he wanted to win over suppliers, dealers and others. He came to realise this when he wanted to catch a rickshaw to a place he was going to but the driver straight of rejected him saying he wouldn’t drive him there. This was where Varun realised that he would never be able to negotiate with someone such as his suppliers if he could not even simply convince his rickshaw driver and that he needed to work on his negotiation skills.
The next most important take away from the authors’ story was accepting failure. Varun says when he failed in his engineering he accepted that he was probably not meant for it and his interests lied elsewhere, and he was yet to discover where. Accepting failure is a very important thing is it in business or personal life – it does not make you small or lose anything. It in turn helps you realise your fortes and invest better in your strengths.
One must learn that failure is an experience to complete the journey. You fail a task not the journey, so there’s always scope to get back up and complete the journey.
Apart from these Varun mentions the importance of maintaining customer relations and the importance of feedback as it gives scope for improvement and self evaluation, it helps fix loop holes and improve efficiency to serve customers better. The last ten important points he mentions talk about how the website could have a functional staffs number on it but they’ve rather put their own personal contact details so that customers can directly interact with them and provide their valuable suggestions, feedback. It is very important for the person leading the company to know how his customers perceive the product, service and the company.
Varun also mentions about never letting yourself becoming bigger than the company, I think this is very essential not because once people taste success they let it get on top of their heads but rather because you should not think any job to be bellow your dignity when it comes to the benefit of the company. As Varun said in his initial days of starting the business he has been a delivery boy, photographer, office boy, designer and played several other roles for the sake of the company.
How would I apply the learning from the novel to my start-up idea?
According to me the novel has take aways not only for start-ups but even for personal development and individuals – accepting failure, being observant, a better negotiator develops your individual self as well. Apart from that certain things I would implement are; being observant to work up on greater business problems that can be served and finding simpler solutions for the same.
Interacting directly with my customers will also be a constant in order to maintain quality and customer satisfaction. Maintaining a personal touch with my customers to develop a friendlier and better relationship with them so that they are comfortable and feel free to give honest opinions.
Most of all the number one take away would be to take the first step, never lose hope and move on with the idea to actually implement it and brave the Anu aunty in my start-up journey.