Raj's Lab

Strategy and Entrepreneurship


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Books and Me: Why now is the time to crush it!

Book Title: Why now is the time to crush it! Cash in on your passioncrush-it-cover

Author: Gary Vaynerchuk

This book is not really about how to build a firm, but it is very close to that. It talks about how to build a brand. While the entire focus is on building a personal brand, I think the fall out of the efforts can really help transform your start-up venture. The case-in-point for this is the author himself. Apart from having created a fan following for himself, he has also built up his family business and taken it to great heights. How? By using social media correctly.

The author is famous for the Wine Library TV that he runs online. He comes from a family business in the liquor business. But I am sure there are so many with similar backgrounds! What makes him different is the passion that with which he built and spread knowledge about wines. Doing this correctly has also led him to become a personal brand. This personal brand building has enabled him launch himself into related businesses, gain book deals, hit the lecture circuits and most of all: enable him live doing what he loves!

I think that’s one big point that the book makes. Today there are enough tools and enough freedom to enable one to channelise their passion. They can use the power of the internet and spread their passions, find others who relate to them, enable others who want to know about them, and even become a celebrity in their own right. One can then actually make a living doing number of related activities around the identified passion. All of this is today possible – thanks to the internet.

The book speaks about how one can do this. Right from selecting the right area, choosing the medium that is most suitable for us, and creating content that can spread like fire – the books covers good ground. But it is not a how to book. It does not talk about how to actually shoot a video or how to write a blog, it does however deal with the thought process behind it, the intent behind how to leverage the social media tools, and exposes one to how it has worked in the case of the author.

There is enough inspiration in the book, directions to get started, and where to head to get started too. But as the author says, it is up to us to make use of this wonderful opportunity that has been provided to our generation and live a fulfilling life. What more can one ask? Make money (more than what one can imagine or at least need) doing what one always wanted to do (life’s task).

If you are an entrepreneurial mind, then this book can quickly show you how to get started. If you are in the advisory / consulting / training space, these can be used by you to establish yourself as a thought leader in your domain. If you are a start-up, you can use these to help your start-up benefit by leveraging an existing shared passion.

Find yours now!


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Books and Me: What would Apple do?

Book Title: What would Apple do?What would apple do book cover

Author: Dirk Beckmann

To be very honest with you, my reader, I bought the book almost impulsively because it was beautifully designed and produced by Jaico Books. It was sleek, light weight, well printed and perfect for reading on the flight. But I must say that if the title had nothing to do with business, I may have just appreciated it and left it behind. Apple is a company I admire (like so many others) and hence pick material written about it. The intent is not to see if they have got something that is insider information about their growth strategies – but to see if the thought process can produce some insights which are applicable for emerging enterprises.

The author of the book initially wrote this book in German and then translated it into English. But there is no difficulty in reading as it has been well done. The author seems to have written most of this book for a blog that he runs himself: www.what-would-apple-do.com

The book primarily has two parts, the first that attempts to decipher the communication strategy of Apple and the second that attempts to apply how these will apply in emerging sectors / opportunities. While the first book is a typical refresher on what we have been hearing about Apple from many authors, the second seems more interesting as topics than thoughts. Honestly I would encourage the readers to take the topic or idea and think for themselves about how Apple would have commercialised it. The author provides his perspective, but to be honest, I somehow enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second half.

Even though the thoughts in the first half seem like what we have heard there are a lot of interesting connections to other thinking that the author brings forward. I loved the references to some aspects of industrial design ideas, design thinking and the concept of virtual design concepts and patents. These sprinkled across the book were sure takeaways from the reading.

Overall a simple book, a quick read, a sure refresher of Apple’s philosophy to creating products and communication. How many ever times we read books on this subject, how many ever times it seems repeated, it does not matter. If we can get one good insight into how we can bring simplicity to our products, services and especially communication – it is worth all the money we spend on such books.

Happy Reading!


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Books and Me: The Myth of the Garage

Book Title: The Myth of the GarageMyth of the Garage Book Cover

Authors: Chip Heath and Dan Heath

This is not really a book in the real sense. It is a collection of articles previously written by the authors. Having read some of their other books which made immense sense, I downloaded this booklet on my Kindle to read. I always look for some random light reading on business on days when I feel too full. So on one such day, I decided to go over these articles.

I was immediately caught on to the variety of articles that the brothers have brought together during their writing these for a column in a popular trade magazine. There is tremendous breadth to their writing with an underlying theme. I think this reminds us over and over again about the importance of making ideas stick. Getting our products / services and the related communication stick with consumers is a big challenge to almost every marketer. I think the problem goes well beyond business – into education, non profits, governance, politics, etc The authors highlight number of other books, research articles and case studies to impress upon us the importance of doing away with myths.

The biggest myth that I smiled on reading was the one that bears the title of the collection – ‘The Myth of the Garage’. Being a researcher, writer and teacher of entrepreneurship it was a pleasant surprise to see some references to academic research citing the contrary to be true. It was surprising and a welcome perspective to spend time on, share in classes and aid students to try entrepreneurship at later stages in their careers and lives.

There are many other counter-intuitive studies are showcased in those articles related to interesting and pertinent topics such as: talent, communication, happiness, buying, etc

One is bound to have enough inputs for reflection upon reading this little collection. I completed the book in a couple of hours while making notes. I have enough references for inciting me to read more, write more and share more in classes. Thanks to the authors for bringing these articles together as an e-book as it made it easy to consume them.

Happy Reading!


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Books and Me: My Days, Autobiography

Book Title: My Days, Autobiographymy days r k narayan book cover

Author: R K Narayan

I recently picked this up at the Chennai airport book store as I was leaving for a workshop for entrepreneurial CEOs. I wanted something light and inspiring. R K Narayan was a celebrated writer and his life for a person like me (a writer) could be both inspirational and motivating. A quick look at the book also convinced me that I should read it because there were many references to places I was familiar to in Chennai.

Over the next two flights before I returned to base, I completed the book. It was a direct from heart story written in the typical Narayan style. The language is simple, the message clear and direct. His ability to craft stories is simply amazing. As with any other person who has come up to great success, he has had his fair share of challenges – both personal and social.

The beauty is that he found his calling pretty much early in life. While many of us have glimpses of this in our early lives and many times thereafter, I think the problem is that we silence that voice within us. Narayan gives us many episodes from his life that indicate how these obstacles and forces come our way. Family members trying to persuade him to make writing a hobby rather than a vocation. Not much of early success with the chosen vocation can catalyse our internal mind to attempt alternatives to keep ourselves afloat. Social obligations can force us to forego our dreams. And many more! He had a fair share of all these asking to turn away from writing.

His own life was filled with personal challenges. An early and pre mature death of his wife was a disheartening event, but which also produced some classic works. His travails to take a job eventually strengthening his resolve to be a writer. His hands at trying his own media (quarterly newsletter along with friends) giving him options to move away from his vocation. How did he manage to stay true to his inherent interest? Is it this strong resolve that made the forces of nature bring important people his way. Were his discoverer in UK, Mr Greene and his other contacts that resulted in him becoming published all a result of this strong resolve to be a writer?

Lots of things to learn from the life of this interesting and loved author. Persistence to keep doing what you ought to do without regards to acknowledgement, keeping a single goal in life, giving up all other opportunities for the sake of the singular goal, learning to ignore social pressure and stick to the path chosen, and being true to one’s calling are all important lessons to learn from the autobiography of this writer. Above all, it is important to learn that one has to discover one’s calling early in life (however early as possible) and have the courage to stick to it. I loved his ideas of coming up with a lifestyle (and associated upside costs of Rs 20 per month) so as to align with his chosen vocation. It is important to adjust lifestyle to make sure we don’t compromise on our vocation – but most of us succumb to the reverse. Think about it!

I came away inspired and at times with tears welling up in my eyes as I read the book. It has strengthened my resolve to live my life for the bigger purpose for which life has given me certain talents and do it as much as possible, irrespective of the results. What a lovely way to live life this way?

Think about it!


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Books and Me: Creative Confidence

Book Title: Creative ConfidenceCreative Confidence Book Cover

Authors: David Kelley and Tom Kelley

I think that every single person on earth wants to live a full life. A full life which will enable them go to the grave empty. This means they should have used their talents to the fullest. But almost every one of us, feels bad that we could not really live to our fullest potential. We could not utilise out immense creative potential. After blaming all the external factors for not allowing us to live a creative life, we finally blame it on ourselves – saying we are not creative enough to live it!

The Kelley brothers have produced a very inspiring book for all those who want to lead an entrepreneurial life. They dispel the myth that creativity is for the few. They give enough examples from their extremely creative and entrepreneurial life to showcase how creativity can be learned and developed as we go along with life. There does not seem to be an age to start as they share stories of people who came into their workshops pretty late in their careers and blossomed their inner creativity. The brother dispel this misunderstanding using examples from their lives, their client work at IDEO, and their experiments with the d.school.

The brothers then go on to clarify how to develop and bring these creative abilities within us to life. They provide specific tools, techniques and methods. These are all based on their human centred design courses that they run at the d.school. These are the same methods they use at their famous design firm IDEO to solve some of the enterprise challenges creatively. They also inspire us to live our lives where our interests lie. They constantly remind us that it is not worth looking back at life wondering why the most personal interests could never be pursued.

They draw on existing literature pretty generously for all related reading. The references provided to various books, academic literature and trade articles give us enough further reading. Cases provided show us how the techniques are applied in practice.  The last chapter gives us access to various exercises that can be used by us within our firms and workshops. The exercises are provided with details of how to run them too which makes it usable directly.

We have to thank the Kelley brothers (authors of the book) for their generosity in sharing their learnings from life so elaborately so that many of us who may not have access to them or their courses can also draw from their experiences. Thanks for that.

Creativity is an important aspect of a life lived well. This book is definitely one that will urge us to keep the faculty alive, have courage to take steps to put it to use, apart from giving the approaches of how to channelise this faculty / energy for optimum use.

Happy Reading!


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Books and Me: David and Goliath

Book Title: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the art of battling giantsDavid-Goliath Book Cover

Author:Malcolm Gladwell

Somehow this book of Malcolm Gladwell did not keep me as gripped as the earlier ones. That does not mean the book is not good. This is the problem that an author creates for himself or herself: raising the bar / expectations by producing great work. I think the problem is that the book seems predictable very quickly – because it has the usual Gladwell style. It has interesting stories, interesting insights into older stories that we might already know and many new ones dug out from literature. The book also refers enough to scholarly research as much as to examples. Overall an interesting book.

It will help people who feel disadvantaged about how they can work themselves against difficulties. The stories are themselves so beautifully integrated with scholarly research supporting it. I wondered many times how Gladwell finds the right reference from such a large body of academic writing.

Some key observations from the book that one can take away:

  • We need to change the way we see advantages and disadvantages
  • More of something does not necessarily mean better (more money, smaller class size, more power and authority, etc)
  • Disadvantages can also drive people to success (Dyslexia, Trauma victims, underdog groups, etc)
  • And many such interesting stories

But somehow through the book we find ourselves moving across too many topics and trying to make connections that seem too difficult to make, even though Gladwell helps us. I enjoyed reading the book, but towards the second half of the book, lost interest. I felt that we were trying to make too many stretched connections to make points. It is good to see patterns, but patterns for the sake of patterns seem quite unpleasing even to our minds.

Though Gladwell has the capacity to bring together stories and research and help see connections that are contrarian to what we commonly believe, I think we have seen and heard that enough now. It is time to see some new and different writing from this interesting author. I am still a big fan of Gladwell’s writings and definitely look forward to seeing his next book.

I am also very sure if someone were to study entrepreneurs who have made it big, there will be interesting backgrounds that we will unearth. Would their disadvantages have made them successful entrepreneurs or would it have been their tragic childhood days that brought them unimaginable success? But while exceptions give us amazing stories and inspire us, can be for the majority of us to emulate – requires more thinking!

While all of us involved in entrepreneurship think about this, you can learn a lot about psychology from this book. I am sure it will lead you to interesting academic papers while also providing interesting anecdotes for you to talk about.

Happy Reading!


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Books and Me: Where the reason to live is books

For a change this time around I am not reviewing a book under the category “Books and Me” on this blog. I came across this interesting article about books in general and book towns in general and was excited that I spent a lot of time re-reading this short article while also browsing through the photographs multiple times. As a lover of books, a bibliophile, a regular book shop visitor and a voracious reader, I could not help but speak about this and share with all of you.

Have you heard of towns that literally are filled only with books, especially second hand books. These are little towns huddled in remote locations around the world where the residents seemingly earn a living selling second hand books. While the trade is seeing a steady downtown, the towns are providing people, especially book lovers, a chance to spend time browsing thousands of books, pick a few and spend time reading them in the quiet neighbourhood. I can’t even imagine what a lovely vacation that would make for book lovers such as myself. The article and the links that it provides for further reading have even made me, a person who does not take breaks, to wonder about taking a vacation to one of these lovely little towns. What a lovely vacation that will be, being in the middle of millions of books, spending time interacting with thousands of book lovers, while also catching up on the reading in an utopian setting! Have a look at the photographs and also imagine these little towns – what could be their reason to live, except books!

Books are said to be man’s best friend. What would people in these towns say about them? Read more here: http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/booktowns-where-reading-is-the-reason-to-live

Book-towns – where reading is the reason to live or should i say the reason to live itself is books! Think!

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