Amar Gautam-Image interview with TheSeer

What, Why, and How CEOs Read – Amar Gautam

Amar Gautam is the CEO of HyperLinq Inc. HyperLinq brings institutional-grade software with superior technology for cryptocurrencies traders. Their desktop app, HyperTrader, makes price discovery, technical analysis, trade, arbitrage, and portfolio management easy. Their mobile app, HyperFolio, is a simplified portfolio manager for cryptocurrencies and digital assets.

We spoke with Amar with questions on his reading lists, favourite books and more.

What’s the book you’re reading at present? Tell us what the book is all about.

I just finished reading Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss. Tim has done an excellent job of creating a collection of interviews of very successful people in their respective fields. These interviews are very insightful and give you an inside look into the lives of these leaders. The answers to straightforward questions Tim asks each of these personalities give you tons of life tips.

 
Physical books, Kindle or just your mobile device – where do you spend most of your reading time?

I like physical books, perhaps because that is how it was when I was a kid. Reading on Kindle or Mobile devices is very uncomfortable for me. But in the interest of saving trees, I am now inclined to start reading books on Kindle. I am currently reading a few books on my wife’s Kindle, and it looks like I might get used to.

 
How many books do you read in a year on an average?

It is hard to estimate as it depends on a lot of things. I used to read at least 2 books a month, but now my time is split between family and the company. it becomes increasingly difficult to grab a book and sit down. I still read but in parts. So given that, I read about 12-15 books a year or so.

 
Who are your favourite authors?

I have many. Not in any particular order – Ruskin Bond, J. K. Rowling, Tim Ferris, Malcolm Gladwell, Jhumpa Lahiri, Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Munshi Premchand, Emily Dickinson, R K Narayan, Rabindranath Tagore, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Amish Tripathi.

 
A book you wish you had written.

First of all, I am not much of a writer, so it is out of the question that I would ever write a book. But hypothetically considering I had written a book, I wish to have written Coincidence by David Ambrose. I read this book back in 2001. I say this because it is an intriguing book that has a twisted plot but an abysmal ending. I would have had a very different closing if I had written this book. Regardless, it is a good read.

 
How does reading help you?

Not many people realize that I am an introvert. It is hard for me to start a conversation, and so most of the time, I am just by myself. I had very few friends when I was a kid. When I started reading, my father gifted me with a book and wrote on the cover – “Books are your best friend”. Since then, I read books, and I feel like being part of a conversation and exchange of ideas which I do not have in the physical world. I feel like myself, and it gives me a lot of peace.

 
From all the literary characters you have read, whom do you relate to most and why?

It is hard to say, as I do not read too many fictions or biographies. But if I still have to answer this question anyway, it would be Harry Potter. I am very much like how he thinks and some aspects of his personality match mine.

 
Are you waiting for any book to be made into a movie? Any favourite film adaptation from the past?

I personally do not like books turned into movies because in most cases, it does not do any justice. But there are some books made into beautiful films such as Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and A Beautiful Mind.

I do not read much fiction or biography; there is nothing in my mind as of now, which I would like to see as a movie.

 
What’s your favourite time of the day for reading?

Very early morning, like 4 am. I am an early morning person. I like reading books when it is quiet and peaceful.

 
Suggest a book that every business leader should read.

Design a Better Business: New Tools, Skills, and Mindset for Strategy and Innovation by Patrick Van Der Pijl, Justin Lokitz, Lisa Kay Solomon, Erik van der Pluijm, Maarten van Lieshout.

Richard Rothman’s ‘Master Opportunity and Make It Big’ from Jaico

I have never been a great fan of self-help books, even if it is about business. I always believed that ‘’one man’s food is another man’s poison”. Our strengths and weaknesses are different and so are our secrets to success. So, when I picked Richard M Rothman’s ‘Master Opportunity and Make it Big” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Master Opportunity and Make It Big’, I was skeptical if I will enjoy reading. However, the author did put some of my doubts to rest in the very first chapter where he narrates a very interesting anecdote from Essel Group’s Chairman Subash Chandra’s life. No matter how delicious your recipes are, you need to learn to plate them well to appeal to the target audience. How can Richard who is one of the world’s leading experts on Business Opportunities go wrong when it comes to his own readers?

I was expecting some more anecdotes in the chapters that followed, but every chapter surprised me and the reader in me was all excited. Each chapter painted ‘opportunity’ in distinct colors and I realized that the book is not trying to be a singular rule book to success but rather an encyclopedia, chronicling the paths to success. You are free to pick and choose whatever suits you. Have you always wanted to establish something that puts social welfare before profit? Do you want to work on areas you have absolutely no knowledge about? Are you worried that you have been trying for years with no real profit? Fear not. Richard’s book seems to have answers to these and a lot more of such questions. If there is one huge take away for me from the book, it is that money or the lack of it won’t stop you from achieving your business goals if you learn to play around with opportunities.

The Master Opportunity and Make it Big” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>book has two parts to it. The first part covers the success secrets of India’s Opportunity masters. From Subash Chandra to Sasha Mirchandani, there about 18 success stories that will inspire you to march towards yours dreams. These do not merely talk about the success stories, but also about how they perceived opportunity, persevered through tougher times and had the courage to venture into unknown territories. At the end of each chapter, he also summarizes the golden rules of success for each of these masters. In the second part of the book, Richard talks about forty-four opportunity sutras which includes Opportunity Accelerators, Opportunity Activators, Opportunity Evaluators, Opportunity Expediters.

The Master Opportunity and Make it Big” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>book has arrived at a time when the Indian market is abuzz with startups. The years 2016 and 2017 saw a lot of seemingly promising startups shut down. A study by inc42.com reveals that “50% of the founders, post-shutdown, have joined another company and are working on leading positions such as category head, CEOs, VPs and more. But only a small chunk has made a comeback as founders”. I believe this book would provide the impetus to turn that number around. The insights that this book provide makes it, a must-read for any aspiring entrepreneur even those with a string of failed attempts. It does have its own cliched 3Cs, 3Ds, 5Ws etc. but if you can take them on your stride, this book is a good place to reach for some encouragement. Even if you are a non-reader, you can still try the book because the presentation of the book is simple and keeps you engaged. You can read in parts or may be just the golden rules.

I was a tad disheartened because all the Opportunity masters listed in the Master Opportunity and Make it Big” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>book were all males. I do really hope Richard would care to tell us about the masters from the other genders in the next edition of the Master Opportunity and Make it Big” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>book. Not that any of these secrets to success are gender-dependent, but there are gender-dependent challenges. Bringing out the stories of Opportunity master from the other genders will add an extra boost to the aspiring entrepreneurs from the other genders. Having said that, irrespective of your gender, this is one of those books, you can read and reread multiple times.

 

The Colour of a People (The Ivory Throne-Part 1)


There are times when while looking at a painting one is seduced into a different time and era. I often picture my silhouette in Kolkata of the 30s : a swarm of people moving at the speed of light, sometimes even passing through my silhouette yet the silhouette is held by the spirit of the times as if the latter were a painting. Let us float into the age of romanticism and call my perchance finding of ‘The Ivory Throne, Chronicles of the House of Travancore,’ a book by Manu S. Pillai, serendipity. Continue reading “The Colour of a People (The Ivory Throne-Part 1)”

Yard of the Bards – Orwell and the language of politics

It was only the beginning of summer and the day was 2nd April, 2017. Having already experienced a hot March we had to forego our usual meeting spot in Cubbon Park to find a better venue and a better time. Freedom Park, we thought would fit our needs apart from being the metaphorically appropriate venue for the subject we had chosen for discussion – “George Orwell and the language of politics”.  As the sun went down, they walked in one after the other eventually turning into a diverse group of interesting minds.

George Orwell had been a lot of things in his life from imperial police to teacher, but he is remembered the best as a writer, novelist and an essayist. Although Orwell did not live past 1950, his works have continued to influence not only his readers and other writers, but also the political culture of all these years. His creations rendered a new adjective to the language – Orwellian indicating a totalitarian regime and a set of whole new terms which continue to be relevant even in the modern societal and political discourses.

Introductions done and the ice molten, the group began with the reading of an excerpt from Orwell’s 1940 essay – “My Country Right or Left”. The excerpt was about Orwell’s memory of the First World War. That set the context for the first round of discussion which began with a question of “Are we living in an Orwellian world? “.  While some opined we probably are living in a post-Orwellian world which is worse than the Orwellian, there were also others who agreed it could be a reverse Orwellian effect. The discussion took off from there touching on the political scenario in India, in the USA; Gandhi, Hitler and the rewriting of history to suit the narrative of the rulers. The group also quoted examples of Standing Rock of North Dakota and delved a little deeper into the Aadhar scheme in India,

The group then went on to talk about doublethink, thought police, the concept of unpersoning with examples from the story of Nikolai Yezhov and the power of the ruling system as seen in the Tiananmen square massacre. The non-existence of privacy, the idea of alternate truths, winnability vs representation, corruption vs efficiency etc. were discussed too and out came some interesting questions which also drove the discussion. Some of these probably did not have a conclusive answer at the end, nevertheless we want to leave them here for our readers to ponder over.

How much of Orwell has come true today?

Is there a collective “We” who can be represented? Can this collective “Us” be represented at all? If yes, what would be the quality of that representation?

How powerful is the system? Is our view of the system a reductionist view?

Do we have constitution for the people or people for the constitution? Or is it what me make of it?

p.s: Our next event will be held on April 29, 2017 and the title is “Munshi Prem Chand and his Social Realism” . Follow our Facebook page for more updates on the event.

Grapes of Wrath -‘We take a beatin’ all the time.’

I like to look at a book as though it was formed like the universe (with all the conjectures) and grew and nurtured on the world around it. However, a book is incumbent to live up to this perspective.

Grapes of Wrath is such a book. It starts from the dust bowl Oklahoma and moves to California, tracing the trajectory of becoming and unbecoming of migrants, a family seen from close quarters by the author and the graph it scales. While it is the essential storyline of the book, Grapes of Wrath has been able to capture life as it is. I can conclude the book with this imagery: concentric circles, where, in the outermost circle lies nature, in the middle is the Manself (a word coined by the author to denote man and his desires) and within their lap lie the Joads (the family). Continue reading “Grapes of Wrath -‘We take a beatin’ all the time.’”

Bookstalkists @BlrLitFest2016

BookStalkist attended the Bangalore Literature Festival held at the Royal Orchid Hotel. There were some hard choices to be made as at any point of time 3 sessions were running in parallel in different corners of the venue. We attended a few sessions and here is what we thought about them. 

Having It All: The New Indian GirlSudha Murty in conversation with Chetan Bhagat.

This session was surprisingly good. Mrs. Sudha Murty is a brilliant conversationalist and Mr. Chetan Bhagat had a lot of new things to say. We only hoped he gets to know the real salary structure of Infosys employees and stops overestimating their lifestyle.

Courage and CommitmentAnuja Chauhan in conversation with Margaret Alva.

This was the session that stood out for us for the eloquence of Margaret Alva. She spoke her heart out on issues ranging from women empowerment to male dominance in Indian politics to the current problems of the Congress party. She had a few interesting stories to tell about our ex-Prime Minister PV Narsimha Rao as well as our current one – Mr. Narendra Modi.

Askew: A Short Biography of BangaloreNaresh Narasimhan, Prakash Belawadi, Prof. KE Radhakrishna, and V. Ravichandar with Vasanthi Hariprakash.

This was nostalgia celebration fest where participants reminisced the good old days of Bangalore. While a lot of blame was put on the IT industry for the current chaos in the city, it was perhaps forgotten that each of the guests had come to the city from outside in the 1960s. When a point is made that the city was only enough for the population of 1980-82, one wonders what if somebody from the 1940s would say that the city was good enough only for the population of the 1950s. We wonder if there is any end to this debate. In the end, everyone is an immigrant to this planet.

The Theatre Of DemonetizationNarendar Pani, Sanjeev Sanyal, and Shiv Vishvanath with Mihir Sharma.

This was a case of one-upmanship – everyone trying to put the other one down. In this rather superfluous discussion on Demonetization, the moderator came out victorious with his fine sense of humor. So much disconnected were the guests from the topic that Shiv compared the whole initiative to a bad b grade movie(bad sarcasm) and the one speaking for it – Sanjeev, thought that 500 and 1000 ‘dollars’ were banned. This session was nothing more than an exhibition of self obsession.

Literature And The Democratic Imagination: A Discussion of UR Ananthamurthy’s Bara – Prashant Keshavmurthy, Saikat Majumdar, Shankar Ramaswami and Shiv Visvanathan with Chandan Gowda

This was an academic discussion on the story Bara. Written by UR Ananthamurthy in Kannada, the story has been translated to English by Chandan Gowda who played the moderator to the discussion. It started on an insipid note but went on to become one of the most academically intensive sessions. Speakers highlighted different aspects and devices of storytelling in the book. Saikat Majumdar and Shiv Vishwanathan were the highlights of the session. While Saikat stressed on the debate between two schools of philosophy – one which says that you can’t talk about pain unless you have been through it, and the other that says that you standing at a vantage point gives you better clarity of the situation. Shiv has a habit of putting his co-panelists down and he didn’t fail to do so here either. This is unfortunate since he makes very cogent points to put across his ideas. He stressed on why sometimes misreading a book was important and cited examples of students who thought the book was about the JNU controversy.

Mukhamukham: Face To Face With AdoorAmrit Gangar in conversation with Adoor Gopalakrishnan

This was according to me an ill treatment of the guest. Amrit Gangar didn’t show any patience to listen to his answers. We believe that it is anyone’s good fortune to get a chance to speak with such legends. The host interrupted and cut Adoor short on more than one occasion. On the the other hand, the guest was an idol of grace, patience, and experience.  There was a lot to learn from this session. The battle-hardened Adoor had a lot of stories to tell. One of them was how his crew used to spend all the money from one movie on another movie and in effect, never had any money to market the movies.

The Many Roles We PlayAshok Chopra in conversation with Ashish Vidyarthi

We don’t want to write about this session. We admire Ashish as an actor but what we saw in the session was an attempt by an actor turned trainer marketing himself.

Standing On An Apple BoxPremila Paul in conversation with Aishwaryaa Rajnikanth Dhanush

We would lament the fact that most of the questions coming in to Aishwaryaa was about either her husband or her father. This, despite her having released her book – Standing On Apple Box.

What’s Cooking? The Future Of Indian FoodAntoine Lewis, Manu Chandra and Sanjeev Kapoor with Suresh Hinduja

A brilliant session where panelists discussed the millets movement, the myth of authentic recipe, recipe codification et al. Sanjeev Kapoor is a brilliant conversationalist and it was a treat to hear him speak.

Rajiv Gandhi: Chronicle Of A Death ForetoldJosy Joseph in conversation with Neena Gopal

This was one of the most interesting sessions of the festival where Neena Gopal kept the audience hooked with her insights into the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. Neena Gopal happens to be the last person to interview Mr. Gandhi and has recently released her book The Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi on the subject. She argues that the assassination of Mr. Gandhi could have been prevented and there was complicity at every level. This was an intriguing session and people were their attentive best.

Unending Sea Of Stories MS Sriram in conversation with S Diwakar

MS Sriram and S Diwakar, both are on our To Be Read list now. It was an informative session where guest and the host spoke about why they had taken to short stories, the devices used, and how short stories more often than not cater to societal issues.

India: Reclaiming Our Civilization’s HeritageT. V. Mohandas Pai in conversation with Rajiv Malhotra

Mr. Rajiv Malhotra is star wherever he goes. That’s because he knows his subject well and doesn’t care about political correctness. This session stood out because TV Mohandas Pai has his own enticing style of making a conversation. They appeared more as a pair of batsmen on the pitch. Rajiv was taking the strike and Mr. Pai was standing on the non-striker’s end. They had a common enemy, the so called left liberal intelligentsia of the country. Anecdotes of Mr. Rajiv Malhotra being censored and uninvited because of his political incorrectness were amusing on one hand but also worrying on the other.

Anything But Khamosh!Ajay Mago and Bharathi Pradhan in conversation with Shatrughan Sinha

Our first reaction was – Shatrughan Sinha! Why? Then we realized that his biography ‘Anything but Khamosh’ was recently released and the book’s author Bharathi Pradhan was one of the moderators. Although we could not figure out what value Shatrughan Sinha brought to a literature festival, one could not but agree that he is a thorough entertainer. His sense of humor, comic timings, the famous dialogues from his movies, the occasional shayaris and mimicry of yesteryear stars Ajit and Rajkumar kept the evening alive. Mr. Sinha deftly avoided controversial questions regarding his party, politics and Mr. Bachchan.

 

Raat Ke MusafirPiyush Mishra in concert

One of the most awaited events and especially when you get to watch Piyush Mishra perform from the first row, you can barely hide your excitement. He was one of the most interactive guests in the festival and performed his songs one after the other. While the crowd kept chanting Husna, he insisted to wait and kept Husna for the end. He also read a few poems of his. The evening couldn’t have concluded better. The audio issues during his performance did seem to disturb his plane of thoughts but his first loyalty lied with the enthusiastic crowd and hence he picked himself up every time and went ahead with the performance.

 
The festival covered history, politics, geography, biography, popular fiction, erotica, food, travel, evangelism, human rights and a lot more. As much as one might appreciate the range of subjects chosen for discussion, one might also get disappointed with the choice of panelists for those subjects. Except for a few sessions like the ones of Margaret Alva with Anuja Chauhan, Rajiv Malhotra with Mohandas Pai and a couple of other sessions, most of them seemed superfluous. What the fest achieved in variety, it lost in depth. Sometimes the panelists were not impressive and at times the moderators couldn’t get the best out of even veterans like Adoor Gopalakrishnan.

One trouble that probably people faced predominantly was the unavailability of food and drinking water. Although there were food stalls, the prices were not reasonable and the options not very healthy given that there were children too at the venue.  Despite certain inadequacies, the Bangalore Literature Festival was indeed a thorough celebration of literature and literature enthusiasts will always look forward to the event in the coming years as well.

 

Insulting the Quran!

While browsing through the books on my bookshelf last night, ‘The Quran’ published by the Salaam Centre, Bangalore landed in my hands. I believe that each book that we buy or read gets a memory shot tagged to it. When we come back to pick those books again in distant future, we invariably travel time. Same happened with this book. I had to travel only a year back – 2015, Bangalore Book Festival at Palace Grounds. One incredible experience that I had thought of penning down and for some reason, completely forgot; it has come to this day that I write about it.

Continue reading “Insulting the Quran!”

Illusion or Disillusion

Haven’t we all wished to rewrite the fate of a certain fictional character because we thought they deserved better? Haven’t we all wanted to know what were our favourite characters thinking during the toughest of their times ?  While some of us create an alternate destiny  and let them live happily ever after in our heads, there also a few of us who write a fan fiction as an ode to our favourite characters. But then there are others who feel strongly about them that they can go on to write a full-fledged novel based on those emotions.  Continue reading “Illusion or Disillusion”

Library of Perspectives

Perspective is the river that takes you from indifference to empathy. If you have never seen a sea, and have always been living beside a river, you will perhaps not believe if I told you that I have come from the sea. The only way to know is to trace the river and see its culmination into a sea. Life’s journey is perhaps that tracing of the river that gives us perspective as we grow. Not all of the perspectives we need or seek come at the same time and not a single day goes without gaining a perspective about something. There is a high probability that we might remain blinded to them but speaking from personal experience, you will find them if you remove your blinders. Continue reading “Library of Perspectives”

A Book, An Odyssey and a Football Novice

 

I am a football illiterate. My vocabulary in football is limited to a mere goal, foul, Pele, Maradona, Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar and probably a few club names thanks to the newspapers I read. Not long ago, FC meant Food Court to me and not a Football Club. I have had friends and colleagues who used to swear that football isn’t a matter of life or death but something more than that. I could never comprehend the madness over it. I would laugh them off saying there are better things to fight and die for rather than chasing a ball into a net. In my defense, none of the football clubs had neither a Sachin Tendulkar nor a Rahul Dravid. Yet, when I travelled around Europe, I ended up taking stadium tours in Camp Nou, Santiago Bernabeu and Stamford Bridge because my friends loved football and I loved them. Just a walk through the stadiums listening to its stories was enough for me to be goose bumped. As I walked out of these stadiums, my respect for the game increased by manifolds. That was two years ago and that helped me add more words to my football vocabulary – Copa America, La Liga, UEFA and some more.

Fortunately for me I have this friend who says football is in his blood (sometimes I think there is only football and no blood) and wouldn’t rest until he contaminated mine too with football. So he sent me a birthday gift that read ‘Tiro – A football odyssey from Amazon to Alps’. A wicked move, I must say because he knew it was easier to make me read a book on football than get me to watch a football match. I fell partly for his trick and partly for the cover of the book. It looked beautiful in white and couldn’t let it get dusted in the book shelf.

tiro

Tiro is a collection of articles from goaldentimes.org, a renowned group of football story-tellers winning accolades all over the world. Hence the book has multiple authors and a diverse flavor to it too. The first impressive thing about the book is their ‘Line up’, where the ‘First Half’ of the book features 15 football stories from Latin America, the ‘Second half’ with another 15 stories but this time from Europe and then there is an ‘Extra time’ with 3 articles that has stories flowing across the continents. For an ardent football fan this would give the feel of a football match but for someone like me that was a very important first lesson. If not for Tiro, it would have taken me forever to learn that these regions have a very distinct and distinguished culture and history when it comes to football.

As the match began, the first half was terrific. There was a occasional drag towards the second half probably because some of the stories were a little too longer than the other ones, but the later part of the second half made up for it. And the extra time finished it just perfect. Every article carries an interesting short introduction of what is being covered in them that helps you decide whether or not to read it. However even if I was dozing off exhausted, reading these introductions through half droopy eyes would wake me up and let me finish the article. As for the articles, almost all of them are inspiring and engrossing stories knit very tactically and presented very poetically. I must say the GT boys are brilliant story tellers. I had to sneak out in between conversations with friends, during office hours and even during sleep to finish reading the stories that I had started. I wasn’t expecting to be hooked on to the book, but I was. And at times to YouTube too replaying few shots especially the ‘hand of god’ goal.

(I have replayed it so many times now and even different versions of it. Did he or did he not? This has been driving me mad. How do you people live with such suspense stories?)

The book starts from Brazil tracing down in detail the history of various footballing nations, their greatest victories, their biggest humiliations and their mighty come backs. It sings the glory of unsung heroes and paints the struggles of their lives. It makes you fall in love with those fallen stars and tells you why some deserved more than being forgiven. The book tells you how football has been an instrument of change bringing about a revolution in the political landscape of many of these countries and how footballers were not only sports icons but also champions of nationalist movements. I realize how ignorant I was to think of football as just a game of a ball and net with few mad men running around it while this ‘beautiful game’ has been the beacon of hope for multitudes across continents over generations. The stories of the lives that were saved by the game, the lives that were spared by the game, lives that were sacrificed for the game tells me why this not just a matter of life and death but a lot more than that. While the world is well aware of the wars on a football ground, Tiro also tells the world about the games fought on war fields with a knife hanging over their heads. And that is why Tiro is going be a very significant piece of sports literature not only for football aficionados but also for history enthusiasts across the globe.

Tiro has been a thoroughly enlightening, enriching and entertaining experience for me. I have just one thing to complain about at the cost of being called a lazy reader. But hey, how would you feel if you must switch television channels while watching a nail-biting match. That is how inconvenient it is to flip over the pages to read the chapter notes. It would have been wonderful had the chapter notes been added at the end of the page, especially for people who like me do need the help of chapter notes. I am still a football illiterate and will continue to blink when you say a quarter back or a 4-4-2 formation. Nevertheless, I have tremendously improved on my football vocabulary. I know what derby means. I know Alfred Di Stefano, Ruth Malosso and Barbosa. I know what a bicycle kick is. I even know some football chants. Finally, I know what Srinwantu Dey means when he says “Football is a palette of life which reflects all the emotions – joy, sorrow, grit, helplessness and determination”. And for that I am immensely grateful to my dear friend Aritra Biswas and the GT boys.