What Indian CEOs/Founders are Reading – Arun Jagannathan

Arun Jagannathan is the founder of CrackVerbal (GMAT / GRE coaching for MBA / MS) and English for India (Corporate English training programs). At CrackVerbal, he is responsible for academics (content & delivery), marketing, and new product development. “English for India” is his second entrepreneurial venture, in which he helps businesses meet their business outcome through clear and effective communication. When he is not at work, Arun likes to read about his twin passion: digital marketing and productivity. He also mentors some startups on pro bono basis. As part of our new initiative to map the reading habits of Indian business leaders, The Seer spoke with him about his reading rites and more.


What’s the book you’re reading at present. Tell us what the book is all about without giving out any spoilers.

The book I am reading right now is sort of nerdy. It’s Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style. You might wonder: why would an English teacher be reading this book. You know that English is the primary form of communication in today’s world. And I believe that it is vital that you have an in-depth understanding of the language–more so when you are a teacher.


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

I want to add Audible to the list. You know, I noticed something funny about my reading! I actually use multiple platforms/sources. On Audible, I probably hear a book when I am working out, and then when I’m in the car, I look something up to read and mark it on my Kindle. Then there are the tangible, physical books. You might ask why books. Sometimes, after a long day, you just want to get away from all your digital devices. Flipping through a book is a different kind of pleasure.


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

Now I really wish I could say a 100 books because I come across like I have this hack on how to read multiple books (laughs). But I get to read about 12 to 15 books. I am very conscious of the kind of books I read. So I use the Blinkist App, where I can read the premise of a book, and only if it appeals to me do I go out and get it. I also buy books if they come highly recommended by my friends. A friend who works at Amazon recommended this book I am reading right now. He said, at Amazon, English language skills are so important that if you can’t express yourself with clarity, after a point, you are probably not going to be promoted.


Who are your favourite authors?

Malcolm Gladwell and Dan Ariely come to mind. If I were to pick one, I’d go with Dan. He is probably my favourite.


A book you wish you had written.

I definitely wish that I had written some of Gladwell’s books! For example, Blink and Outliers. I love reading them. What interested me most about these books was how the author compiles all this data, analyses them and gives meaningful insights about the world around us.


How does reading help you?

I don’t read cover to cover anymore. I pick up a book, and I usually read it in bits and pieces. Whenever I find a compelling part, I reflect on it to see if there is anything that could be done with it – if I can implement it in my business or day-to-day life.


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

Okay, I have got some bad news for you (laughs). I don’t read fiction. I usually read non-fiction! I tend to read books on language, business, etc.


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

You know, when you think about the kind of books that I read, you probably don’t want to see a movie based on it (laughs). But I also read biographies. Then again, not like ‘Super 30’ or anything jingoistic. I prefer movies that portray the truth about a person. A good example of this is ‘Steve Jobs.’ It showed Steve Jobs in all his complexity, you know–as a visionary, but also revealing his slightly eccentric side.


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

To be honest, any time of the day. But, I would probably pick sometime in the evening or at night because I’m just more relaxed at that point.


Suggest a book that every business leader should read.

This is a book that came out a very long time ago. It’s a short book, and you can just read it in one go. The book is called Who Moved My Cheese. The book is very simple, but it’s a metaphor for something a lot larger. It says you have to keep moving and what you did yesterday may not be good enough for today.


Do you write? Where can we read your writings?

You can read a couple of articles that I wrote on LinkedIn –
Executive MBA New Year Resolution
3 Life Lesssons before you seek an MBA

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.


Where’s my news?

How do you print a newspaper everyday – relentless reporting, wiring, proofing, editing, consulting, rewriting, printing ? No! Like everything else, there are newspaper hacks – Sell most of your pages for advertisements, write a couple of columns criticizing Modi’s choice of words, write an article praising Modi’s fashion statement, put a few churches under attack, arrange the ‘Letters to the Editor’ so as to put the ones that resonate with the Almighty Editor’s opinion on top, never try to go into details in the rest of the pages.
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