“I feel blessed to know that you will be holding my book with the same hands that hold other knowledgeable books written by extraordinary individuals who guide you in one way or another in life”, writes Raaj Grover, in his author’s note while introducing his book, ‘The Legends of Bollywood’. Continue reading “The Legends of Bollywood – A Jaico Book”
From Ideas to Iconic Brands – Giles Lury
Giles says at the end of his book -“… This book was never meant to complete with them or play that role; rather I wanted to tell stories. I wanted to complement those other books….”
Giles claims to have written a storybook and not a textbook, he succeeds in that attempt and makes you go through the stories of 101 brands in the most lucid manner. With the brands that have been successful, he has also added stories of brands who got it wrong and sunk into oblivion, and this has, to the benefit of the author, imparted contrasting hues to his work.
I liked reading these stories and I would certainly recommend it to people around me instead of letting them dig the entire web without direction. However, I see a particular pattern emerging out that worries me as a writer as well as a reader. As with the startup scene, are we seeing an aggregation age in book publishing too where a collection of x items is turned into a book without caring for an often cited term ‘creativity’, of the author’s mind? I hope that the publishers recognize the sincere from the lazy and do not overdo the business part in this complex Creativity-Business equation. Most of all, I hope this book doesn’t fall on the shelf that is meant to mint money at the expense of originality.
Giles Lury has written a book From Ideas to Iconic Brands. He is the Executive Chairman of The Value Engineers, a leading marketing and advertising agency. The book is published by Jaico. Giles Lury has an affable way of writing and keeps you with him from first page to the last. Push in one addendum that most of the brand stories in the book can be found on the web, his work gains a more difficult skin – what difference has he made to the stories already out there while bringing them down in his book?
I would add two more things to Giles’ note at the end of the book about his purpose – Context and Objective. The writer tacitly adds a context to each of the story he tells and has an objective, a motivation in his head to tell a story when he tells it. This makes it easier for the readers to take what they would usually take from the book and also receive an extra message on writer’s own conclusions to the stories. By the time I reached the other end of his book, I felt I had more wherewithal with me to use at work and life as compared to when I started reading it.
The Autobiography of a Stock – A Book Review
One of the benefits of being an Indian middle class child is that you learn much earlier in life that you need to save money, irrespective of whether you like it or not. Most children from these households might have grown up listening to how their parents had to shed blood to ensure financial security for the family. While one must be grateful for all that they have been provided with, one cannot deny the fact that the circumstances of an Indian household doesn’t really approve of or prepare you to take any sort of risks to improve your finances. There weren’t even many takers for entrepreneurship as compared to a paid job, until recently. Continue reading “The Autobiography of a Stock – A Book Review”
Book Review – Rajat Pillai’s Yoddha
The new arrivals section in most bookstores these days are overflowing with mythological fiction, making me want to run at the mention of fiction. The social media has barely recovered from the hailstorm of Padmavati (or should I say Padmavat?). So, I wasn’t sure if it was a safe idea to start reading a historical fiction at this juncture.
I looked at the title of the book again. It said Yoddha. I couldn’t help being reminded of Jodha (Akbar), who was a forerunner for the likes of Padmavati in terms of controversies. The subtitle of the book read, “The Dynasty of Samudragupta”. The author Rajat Pillai must have thought, “Why should the Khiljis, Akbars, and Aurangzebs have all the fun? Let us also wake the Guptas up, from their forgotten graves”.
A friend who saw me reading the book, asked if the book speaks of the wars that Samudragupta had won during his time. Given that the title of the book refers to ‘a warrior’, one would expect the same. However, you get to see more of Samudra, the retiring king and doting father and less of Samudra, the warrior. The story starts after the point in history when the Ashwamedha horse sent by Samudragupta returned unconquered, invariably crowning him the King of Kings. The book begins with Samudra and ends with him but there are many a Yoddhas in the pages in between. While Samudra remains the glorious historical backdrop for the story to unfold, the book is more about the ascending of Chandragupta II. The book does deal with battles but most of them doesn’t involve a sword or an armor.
The challenge with historical fictions is that the readers always know who lives and who dies. The success of such books lies in the narration that keeps the reader hooked to the book even after knowing what is to befall their favourite characters. That way Rajat Pillai chose a rather unconventional plot to keep his audience’s attention. Who would have thought that the future king of the Gupta Dynasty had to be treated for mental illness? On the hindsight, I am wondering if the author tried to create awareness about mental illness through his book. The book has all the usual elements of a historical fiction – war, love, sibling rivalry, treachery and more. An important chapter of the book almost reminded me of a scene from the blockbuster movie ‘Bahubali’, but the later chapters made me realize that there was more to it than what I had assumed.
The chapters dedicated to the amorous adventures of Chandragupta are akin to a Bollywood dance number in the middle of a fast-moving thriller movie. It disrupts the flow of the story, but being an Indian audience, you are used to such fully-packed entertainers. So that way, the book caters to classes and surely is an entertainer. An interesting part of the book was the inclusion of the intriguing Kumari Devi (Kanya Devi) or the Living Goddess in the plot and touching upon the significant role these women play in a kingdom. When you have almost forgotten about Samrat Samudra after the first few chapters, there come the dark secrets from his past weaving some exciting subplots before the grand finale. From Vyom to Madhavasena, the book is quite engaging. However, I do personally think the editorial team could have done a better job.
I come from the creed of people who still can’t get over the Kalki Krishnamurthy’s Ponniyin Selvan (1950) after all these years. 2400 pages and five volumes, one can imagine the amount of research and historical data that would have gone into the making of a book of such magnitude.
With Ponniyin Selvan as the benchmark, it becomes difficult to appreciate any new age historical fiction. However, I am also aware that it is unfair to the author to put his book against the mighty Ponniyin Selvan. So, I must warn you that if you belong in the Ponniyin Selvan fan club, then this book might leave you unquenched. But, if you are a light reader and are tired of the mythological fictions or if you are looking for a page turner, then this is an excellent choice of read for you. I must also credit the author for choosing the Golden era in the Indian history that usually gets overshadowed thanks to all the political controversies. Even if the book doesn’t bring out all the true history of this period, I hope the book will rekindle the interest of the reading population to unearth more knowledge about these rulers and their administration.
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.
Disha’s Corporate Avatars by Jaico
What was the need for such a book?
The book Corporate Avatars was needed because yet another of the bright alumni of IIMs wanted to become a writer and dump all her management-experience borne gyan on us hapless chaps who have nothing better to do than to listen to the rant of a person who is frustrated with everything going around her in the corporate world. In short, this book was not needed.
Or wait a minute, am I just being a whining kid here? All the bosses had a fight at my workplace about a couple of days back. It was loud, it was public, and it was ugly. I am not speaking of the Supreme Court Chief Justice controversy here, though that sticks for an example as well. Somehow a fight between seniors or the elders is always uglier when compared to that between the relatively younger ones. A tussle between younger people can always be swept under the rug with a nonchalant – ‘Don’t fight like kids. Grow up!’ But what do you tell these senior-most people in the team who can’t keep their volumes in check while having an altercation or a difference of opinions. They have all the right in the world to fight and I do not in any way mean to take away the child inside them but there are children outside too and that they are taking keen interest in their behaviour is something they should give a thought about. Disha has a name for at least one of these members of the corporate fight club – Mr. Matchstick.
In her book, Disha has a long list of people you will encounter in a corporate world. She explains the symptoms, gives a name to the disease, and also provides antidotes. Whether the antidotes work is for you to try them out and decide. The book is an easy and short read. It will keep your funny bones tickling every once in a while.
I would have liked the book to be a tad more humorous than it is and also a tad more serious than it is. Also, the usage of Hindi words and phrases in Roman for characters may confuse the non-Hindi readers, thereby limiting its humour quotient for somebody who doesn’t understand a phrase like Mr. Gadha Prasad and its connotations. Maybe a footnote with meanings would have helped. Also, the book needs a sharper editing as I could find multiple occurrences of spelling error and word repetition.
In the initial days of my corporate journey, I had a colleague who used to get extra touchy while working. There were times I would find her feet almost tapping my toes while having an intense discussion about some product requirement. I couldn’t understand this behaviour. Initially, I presumed it to be an act she was not aware of and ignored it. However, things didn’t stop. I didn’t want to escalate this to the HR department and tried to take control of the situation. I decided to always keep a distance of about four feet from her during any discussion thereafter and things got better. Ms. Stand Closer & Closer finds a place in this book and I could easily relate it to my personal experience. For anyone out there preparing to enter the corporate world, reading Corporate Avatars can help you transition better in a world of ironies and hypocrisies.
While a lot of issues that have been spoken of in the book remain a challenge for researchers in the field of human psychology and behaviour, and while their answers are rarely simple, Disha has managed to pack easy-to-implement solutions to the anthropocentric problems that we face everyday at our workplace. The book manages to preserve its wacky tone throughout.
Whether we are a new entrant to the industry or have spent long years working inside it, we walk into or are put into situations with people where we hit a deadlock. Either we fail to reach a solution or act in haste to damage our working relationships at workplace. In such times, this book can provide some cursory, plug and play if not foolproof solutions. The objective of the book is to prevent you from coming in harm’s way and it keeps its promise.
I would have loved a note on the avatars the author is seen in by her colleagues. It could have added some self-deprecating humour to the book and would have made an interesting read; to Jaico and Disha, if you are reading this, in the next impression perhaps?
Commando – No Mission is Impossible
I don’t remember the last time I read a non-fiction that kept me on the edge of my seat while I kept turning the pages, one after the other. Commandohappens to be that rare-breed of a non-fiction which makes your heart skip a beat and won’t let you put it down until you finish a chapter. However, you will want to pause, take a breath and soak in what you just read before you move on to the next chapter. The next chapter is going to be another breath-taking ride. Written by Michael Bar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal, and published by Jaico Publishing House in India, Commando brings to you the real stories of some of the death-defying missions of the Israeli Special Forces.
The book starts with a scintillating narration of the legendary Entebbe Operation of 1976. But what makes it more interesting are the details of how this “insane” rescue plan was originally hatched, how it was improved and eventually approved by the cabinet, how the special forces impersonated Idi Amin and how they carried out a successful mission right under his nose within an unbelievable duration and how it was named Operation Yonatan eulogizing the courageous Yoni Netanyahu who laid down his life during the rescue. Although all these details must be available from the declassified archives of the IDF, one must credit the authors for knitting them into a gripping story. After this enthralling opening chapter, the book goes on to tell you about many such riveting missions starting from the Independence war in 1948 to the fight against Gaza terrorism in 2014.
Reading through each of these missions, one realizes how half the battle is won in the planning room far away from the battlefield. While the unfailing Israeli Intelligence and the far-sightedness of the commanders are commendable, the crazy ideas that these men came up with during extremely delicate situations are truly outstanding. But that is only half the battle. Even the best-conceived plans can go wrong and they did go wrong for the Israeli Forces. Some of these wrongs did result in tremendous loss of lives as in the case of Ammunition Hill. But their perseverance and presence of mind saw them through these glitches even when they were far away from home and they returned with great victory.
The book gives a peek into how Israel’s defence strategy has evolved with the ever-changing geopolitical landscape, the internal political situation, advancement of defence technology and the change of face of terrorism. The book doesn’t dive deep into the political reasons behind certain decisions but gives you transactional details of these operations. You also get introduced to some of the prominent figures of Israel, their interesting nick-names, their impressive careers, and how they together drove the fate of this Jewish nation.
In the beginning of the book, the authors talk about some of the important principles of the Israeli forces. In the words of the authors, “Israel’s army has been involved in two never-ending combats. A combat on the front lines with Israel’s enemies, who never give in, and an inner combat – the effort to conceive and apply strict moral and humane principles, unequaled by any other army.” They talk about “purity of arms”- referring to protection of non-combatant civilians on both sides of the enemy lines and “Follow me”- the battle cry of Israeli Army. Almost in all the missions curated in this book, one can see examples of how at every point during the mission, these forces and their commanding officers strive to enforce these principles. But the world hasn’t seen a war that has not claimed an innocent life. That goes for the Israeli Missions too. The authors do touch upon a few cases where civilians were killed and Israel was accused of human rights violation. However, if you are looking for a noble justification for these killings, you will be disappointed. You will instead find a defensive answer that says, “not too many were killed”.
The authors also talk about the Israeli principle of “Never abandon a wounded Jewish soldier”. The valour and spirit of medics and soldiers who sacrificed their own lives to rescue wounded soldiers is heart-wrenching. The book also ends with a fitting epilogue which speaks about the rescue of Jews from Ethiopia.
The book is an easy and engaging read, for the most part, giving you an adrenaline rush through every chapter. There might be an occasional drag but the authors make up for it with gaping stories from the battlefields. You might dream of MiGs, Mirages, Flotillas, Iron Domes, M-75 Missiles, handguns and Kalashnikovs in the days that follow. You might also lose sleep over devastating losses especially after reading Raya Harnik’s verses foreseeing her son Gioni “Goni” Harnik’s fate.
“That day I’ll stand, eyes wide open, facing the calamity
My whole life freezes before this tomorrow
A lodestone I am, iron doesn’t cry… “
Nevertheless, this is a book that must be read. This must be read, not just for the real scintillating tales, but also because it shows you the other side of the same truth. We live in times wherein we are constantly blinded by the stories and images carried by the newspapers, televisions, and other media. We almost always never get to hear the complete story. This book will be a significant piece in completing the story while studying the history of the Middle East.