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Dear Readers,

Let us join hands to welcome a vibrant and vivacious couple author – Neeti Jain and Gagan Jain.neeti jain gagan jain

Welcome, Neeti and Gagan. Before, I start, I would like to congratulate for your book as in my opinion, it is not just a simple book rather it is a prized possession, for a person to have in his bookshelf. Irrespective of the professional stature, an entrepreneur or successful businesspersons or a struggling one or for that matter of fact a service man as well. Each one has a pearl to grab but the choice lies in their own hands.

My personal request would be to consider coming up with a second edition as you get enough stories to motivate the guidance seekers scattered all-around.

BNI: Tell us something about yourself and your background.

GN: Neeti, the co-author of the book is Founder and Creative Director of Rangrage.in, a brand of hand-painted apparels and home decor. She received her M.A. in Economics from Rajasthan University along with a Post Graduate Diploma in Brand Management from ICFAI and a Post Graduate Diploma in Marketing Management. She has extensive experience of working in advertising, media and consultancy.

I have worked in media, retail and e-commerce within India and abroad. I am associated with madinindia.com, a niche e-commerce startup and is also a founder of Rangrage.in, a designer label for hand-painted merchandise. I was among the initial members of Moneysaver (now Snapdeal) when it laid its foundation. Gagan holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Marketing Management and his interests include teaching.

We both are actively conducts workshops and visiting lecturer to various reputed B-schools.

BNI: So, what all you have written / published till date?
GN: ‘The Startup Diaries’ is our first book.

BNI: What inspired you to write your first book?
GN: I have worked in two startups in the past; naturally, I am always keen to know what is happening in Indian Startup eco systems. So, I used to read various books and articles related to Entrepreneurship and startups. Almost all of those articles present the entrepreneurs in very glorified way.

Reason being that a startup gets media traction only when they are already successful. Therefore, we see lot of heavy management words like “Vision, Dynamism, Strategic thinking” attached to an entrepreneur. All of this glorifies entrepreneurship so much that we look at them in awe and say, “Entrepreneurs are supermen, he has so many skills, I cannot be like him. I am not a hero”. However, my own experience in startup says that when you start, the problem and skills set required is very different. You do not really need to be superman to be a successful entrepreneur.

We wanted to show the mistakes committed by successful people which proves that, they may not be that “Visionary”. We also wanted to present their story when they were building the company and what happens in the process. For example the questions as “How somebody find the name for a Brand” do they hire a consultant and have boardroom discussion or 2 friends sit in bar and decide the name over a drink.

Therefore, to present the reality with all the emotions and to connect with the younger audience, we decided to go with “novel” kind of storytelling. In any case, like all of us, an entrepreneurs’ life also has all the drama, emotion, comedy and tragedy!  We wanted to make it an honest, simple and entertaining read.

BNI: Pretty interesting. A 30-word tagline for your book
GN: Each story captures the struggles, challenges, and accomplishments; funny and significant moment of the entrepreneur’s life in such engaging way that it makes it an interesting and effortless read.

BNI: How did you come up with the title?
GN: As mentioned earlier, our focus was to show the incidents happen during the journey of a company. We also wanted to present the same in very realistic manner.  We wanted it to be as close “The Motorcycle Diaries” of a startup. Hence the name “The Startup Diaries”

BNI: Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?
GN:  Our reader is a young Indian, who is restrained by people around him who told him not to fly because he may fall down. This book is intended for people who have dreams to create something of their own and who wish to take on the road less travelled.  Our reader must be sitting somewhere in a engineering or an MBA college, or a young Executive in a company, hesitating to take his first step in the world of entrepreneurship.

The aim of the book is to till people that it is ok to commit mistakes, most of successful people do. It also communicates that people who made it big in life are like us, they are common person who took the first step.

Lastly it wants to communicate that be ambitious and take the plunge. Of course, there is a probability of falling down if you attempt flying. So should we stop Flying? No, we should prepare ourselves to get up and fly again.

BNI: Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
GN:  “The Startup Diaries” has stories of six startups.  Some of the startups have multiple main characters.  All of them are special because they were not special when they started on the path. Every character gives us the message that anybody can be special. Anybody who takes the first steps towards his/her dream is “Special” and all the characters motivate us to take the first step.

BNI: What was the hardest and easiest thing about your latest release?
GN:  Firstly, getting complete information about the entrepreneur life and his journey to build businesses as it unfolded was a tedious task owing to their busy schedule. We had to travel a number of times to complete one interview and weaving the story without complete information was difficult, so getting complete information took longer than we expected.

Secondly, the difficulty that we faced was in our mind, what critic will say. Being first time authors and getting into a casual writing genre, where the language may not be too refined as per literary standards, we had inhibitions that critics might tear us apart. When we met people, we were told, “Before venturing into it, you should work on your language skills, start with reading good authors, and test your caliber through a blog.”

Some of our well-wishers went so far as to suggest to us that we should first practice writing for a year because they were of the opinion that we should either write a good book or not write at all.  Then we thought like an entrepreneur for whom impatience to execute is a virtue. We thought that if we did not execute a good idea out of fear of critics or what people, would say, we would not achieve anything in life and here we are, ready for launching the book.

BNI: Share some interesting story about the book writing/cover development.
GN: Since we are first time writers, thinking of writing a book seemed very ambitious to us, so we used to wonder if our chosen entrepreneurs would give us interview. We did not expect 100% strike rate but we were fortunate that we sailed with 80% strike rate. Our fears that will such big and successful people give us interview changed as we landed up with interviews. All the entrepreneurs have been very simple and approachable.

Then we were not sure if they would talk about their mistakes, but we were surprised by their candid revelations. As owners of most successful companies, we expected them to be very planned and focused, but the kind of blunders they committed was a revelation. For e.g. one of our entrepreneur opened a company without a bank account, and realized it only when he received his first payment, another made an IITian fresher a CEO of his company because being from IIT feels branded and sounds intellectual.

Lastly, we were surprised by the options that are available today to start a new company or to launch a book. There is lot of support and ecosystem that is available today to help people who want to pursue their dreams.

BNI: Is there a message in your book/novel that you want readers to grasp?
GN: The aim of the book is to till people that it is ok to commit mistakes, most of successful people do. It also communicates that people who made it big in life are like us, they are common person who took the first step.

Lastly it wants to communicate that be ambitious and take the plunge. Of course, there is a probability of falling down if you attempt flying. So should we stop Flying? No, we should prepare ourselves to get up and fly again.

BNI:  Do you meet your readers at book signings, conventions or similar events? Any plans in relation to this book.
GN: Yes, We do. We do go to colleges and schools and conduct workshops, share our insights on startups.

BNI: Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
GN:  We are in the age of social media; hence it is easy to get connected with readers. We are using the Facebook and twitter to connect with them. In fact, our readers can buy the book from our Facebook page directly.

We are fortunate that till now, we have got good reviews and great feedback by our readers. Most of them were able to connect with the book due to casual writing style. That was our purpose too!

BNI: When and how did you decide to become a writer? Do you write full-time or part- time?
GN: Once I had discussion with my elder brother on starting an E-commerce company. He replied, derisively, “We are traders and let’s stick to trading. These new age businesses, like e-commerce, are for a different league of people who have professional education, exposure, strong financial backing – you know, they are visionaries.”

His instant refusal triggered a series of questions in my mind, “Why do most people not even consider entrepreneurship as an option. There is no dearth of entrepreneurs, like my brother, in this country who have started on their own, gradually scaled the business, convinced their clients, clinched deals at various stages and generated employment for others. Yet we see the word “entrepreneur” attached to a selected few.

After the discussion with my brother in Aug 2011, I went to Oman where I was heading a Fashion Brand. I, along with my wife thought through as how we can present the reality. The only option we were able to think was to write a book in story format. We knew that if we are able to show the mistakes, initial struggle and not so glorified version of the start ups, we may be successful in achieving our objective.

So for more than two years we worked on this project.

But we do not consider ourselves as writers. For us “The Startup Diaries” is our startup. We are more of entrepreneurs who write stories too!

BNI: Which writers inspire you?
GN: Lot of them. Shivaji Sawant, Premchand, for their way of expressing the dilemmas and ocean of emotions. Dan Brown and Malcom Gladwell for their research backed interesting reads. And of course Chetan Bhagat who connect so well with the reader.

Thanks Neeti and Gagan for providing the Books News India blog readers with an interesting insight into your angle of the story as well. I wish it to be as much inspiring for who all read this as it is to me. I admit that even I found it really enriching to read it, twice. Yes, I read it twice before, writing my review. I just could not stop myself. I almost felt like, my friend was narrating his story to me.

Kudos!  Would expect to read the second edition soon. Best of luck!