Thursday, August 29, 2013

Staying Hungry & Foolish - 5 years on

Aug 29, 2008 : The first bill of sale for ‘Stay Hungry Stay Foolish’ is raised

Aug 29, 2013: Over 400,000 copies sold, 9 language editions, hundreds of emails from grateful readers

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine such an outcome when I took up this project in Sept 2007. The idea of this book came from Prof Rakesh Basant of CIIE (Centre for Innovation, Incubation & Entrepreneurship at IIM Ahmedabad), the National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN) and Sanjeev Bikhchandani.

At first they only sought my advice on how to do it with the help of two RAs (Research Assistants). Instead, I offered to do it myself.

I did it for a lark, to meet some interesting people and to learn something from them. Maybe because of that purity of thought and purpose, it all came together as it did.

The time given to me was just 3 months, later extended to 6 months. It finally got done ‘just in time’ for the IIMA Entrepreneurs Conference on 30th June 2008. 1000 copies had been printed to be distributed free of cost to the delegates, as well as students on campus.

Yes, we did plan to make the book available to the public. But the slow channels of the book trade had decreed a release in Jan 2009 – six months later. That’s when Sunil Handa and Sanjeev Bhikchandani came together and said, “Let’s publish it ourselves.” The book was ready, IIM Ahmedabad and Eklavya Foundation could together do the job.

The plan was to print 5000 copies – half of it on ‘order’ basis. The entrepreneurs featured in the book paid money upfront for 100, 200, 500 personal-use copies. The rest was to be put into bookshops. With great difficulty Eklavya managed to rope in a Mumbai-based distributor – Shree. The deal was struck by offering 5% more margin than other publishers. We had no option, as I was not a ‘known’ author.

Originally, we wanted the price of the book to be Rs 95, at par with popular fiction titles. But our book had 330 pages, it was not economically viable. The price was fixed at Rs 125.

The book made its debut at Crossword Ahmedabad, a franchise store owned by friend and wellwisher Mr Gaurav Shah. Within a week, Gauravbhai called to say the book is in the ‘bestseller’ list. Can we send more copies? Not only Ahmedabad, but Crossword stores across the country were the first to pick up ‘Stay Hungry Stay Foolish’ in large quantities and give it prominent display. I will always be grateful to them for this support!

I sent the book to numerous editors, hoping for reviews. The result was scanty and mostly bad. One particularly mean review came from T R Vivek writing for Since the original article is hidden behind a paywall, I share what I wrote on my blog at the time.

Oh and later, I also made it to the ’10 silliest books of the decade’ list along with Paolo Coelho and Rhonda Byrne.

However, the feedback from readers themselves was astonishingly and overwhelmingly positive.

“I read my book and quit my job to start my own company.”

“This year I am distributing your book instead of sweets on Diwali.”

“I keep this book next to my bed and every night I read the ‘advice’ section.”

Everywhere I go, I meet people whose lives have been touched, whose hopes have been ignited. This is what motivated to write 4 more books about inspiring real-life Indian entrepreneurs (not from IIMA). Why I have made the writing of inspirational books my whole and sole career.

It’s been 5 fantastic years.

I take this opportunity to thank everyone who believed in me – my alma mater, which set me on this path and in particular Prof Rakesh Basant (he had some reservations about my ‘style of writing’ but ultimately didn’t make me change a word :).

My first publishers IIM Ahmedabad & Eklavya Foundation and in particular Sunil Handa (he brought an entrepreneurial touch to what could have been ‘just another book’. We did every small thing with childlike zeal, enthusiasm).

In fact I realise it can be *lucky* to not have a large publisher initially. I suspect hey would have over-edited and mangled my manuscript to death.

And finally, I want to thank all my readers, everywhere. It is because of you that ‘Stay Hungry Stay Foolish’ is still on bestseller lists. (And I hope you continue to pick up my other books :)

I hope my writings continue to serve as a window into the mind of self-made men and women. The brave and the bold, building a new India, one company at a time.

If you have any story/ incident to share about how ‘Stay Hungry Stay Foolish’ spurred you to action or affected your attitude, please send it to me. The id is mail AT

Over the next one month, I will share these hungry & foolish stories. For the reading pleasure of all.

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