Earlier when one wanted to read about, out businesses one could mostly get books about US business or Businessmen. For example Jack: Straight from the Gut, Iacocca: An Autobiography, The Google Story, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?, Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple. But now we have books on Indian business and Indian businessmen, business leaders. This article covers books on our very own desi’s Indian businesses like Haldiram, Amul, Flipkart, Bigbasket, HDFC Bank, Maruti, Royal Enfield, Hindustan Lever. And Businessmen like Dilip Shangvi (Sun Pharma), Kiran Majumdar Shaw(Biocon), Ronnie Screwala
If you want exposure to new ideas, modes of thinking, and a compounded aggregate of diverse knowledge, then reading is important. And it’s going to help you in business, be it by a mixture of accounts on other corporate successes or failures and lessons on lean startups, or tactics in boardrooms.
Warren Buffett, arguably the most skilled investor of our time, said reading 500 pages a day was the key to success. “That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest,” he explained.
That’s probably why so many important businesspeople make reading a daily ritual. It’s why Bill Gates reads 50 books every year (roughly one per week) and perhaps why Mark Zuckerberg kicked off 2015 with the goal of reading one every other week.
“In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: people, product, and profits.” Lee Iacocca
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Table of Contents
Unusual Billionaires by Saurabh Mukherjea, 454 pages, 2016
What is common to Asian Paints, HDFC Bank, Axis Bank, Marico, Berger Paints, Page Industries and Astral Poly? What is the secret sauce of delivering successful results over multiple decades? These are Unusual Companies, built by visionary business leaders, and they have delivered outstanding results for a decade.
In each chapter, there is a brief history of the company, which in many cases reveals some real gems. Marico Ltd, for instance, is named after Vallabhdas Vasanji, its founder Harsh Mariwala’s grandfather, who was called Mariwala because of his proficiency in trading pepper, which is known as mari in Gujarati.
The short history is followed by a look at the company’s secret sauce as well as how it has built on its competitive advantages across the four criteria of John Kay’s IBAS framework, encompassing innovation, brand and reputation, architecture, and strategic assets. Each of the chapters closes with a close look at the company’s stock price performance vis-à-vis the Sensex.
There are some great anecdotes that also show how company executives come up with brilliant ideas thanks to a keen eye and smart applications. Asian Paints, for instance, saw an opportunity in the traditional practice of painting the horns of bulls during Pongal in Tamil Nadu and Pola in Maharashtra.
He talks bout the IBAS framework – Innovation, Brand, Architecture (network) and Strategic Asset (IP) as the baseline for shortlisting the portfolio. The fundamental criteria for a good stock are 15% ROCE (ROE for Banks) conflated with 10 % Revenue growth considered over a tenure of a decade.
Bhujia Barons: The Untold Story of How Haldiram Built a 5000 Crore Empire by Pavitra Kumar, 256 pages, 2016
They have their McDonald’s and Dominoes, we have Haldirams. And Haldiram’s empire has a revenue much greater than that of McDonald’s and Domino’s combined. The Haldiram’s story is not an average business story, it’s chock-full of family drama with court cases, jealousy-fueled regional expansion, a decades-old trademark battle, and a closely guarded family secret of the famous bhujia. Fast-paced and riveting, this book provides a delicious look into family business dynamics and the Indian way of doing business.
CEO Factory, 272 pages, 2019
For six decades Hindustan Unilever has remained among India’s top five most valuable companies. No other corporation in the world has done so well for so long. Its brands sit in most Indian homes (nine out of ten Indians use an HUL product every month), its financial indicators are among the best in Dalal street and it is famously a factory for CEOs.
For the first time comes a book that decodes how this great business works – from a director of the company who has spent his whole career there. Why are there so many CEOs across industries in India who are ex-Unilever people? What is the company’s secret management training sauce? Why is marketing at the heart of every business? Why is it easier to create a new market than to grab a slice of an existing one? How is it actually smarter to stock your product in smaller quantities in a store than to aggressively push orders? And why you should never, ever believe that pricing down your product will get you more customers. Sharp, insightful and entertaining, the CEO factory is an MBA course in a single book.
Pandemonium: The Great Indian Banking Tragedy,Tamal Bandyopadhyay,520 pages, 2020
It is an insider story on the rot in India’s banking system – how many promoters easily swapped equity with debt as bank managements looked the other way to protect their balance sheets, until the RBI began waging a war against ballooning bad loans. The same troubles quickly spilled over to India’s mushrooming non-banking financial companies, which were quick to spot the post-demonetisation easy liquidity and banks’ reluctance to lend, prompting them to make the cardinal sin of borrowing short to lend long.
What really ails public sector banks, the backbone of India’s financial system? Is it the government ownership itself, or how this owner actually behaves? And just when many were rooting for privatization as a way out, powerful bankers such as Chanda Kochhar and Rana Kapoor exposed the soft underbelly of seemingly more efficient and profitable private banks of India.
Titan: Inside India’s Most Successful Consumer Brand
Titan: Inside India’s Most Successful Consumer Brand takes readers from boardrooms to backrooms to reveal how a quintessential Indian brand from the house of the Tatas, not known till then for its success in the consumer goods market, reached such remarkable heights. It is a tale of innovation and fortitude, of thinking outside the box and staying the course, of obsession with detail and the courage to acknowledge failure
When Titan Company Limited launched its quartz watches, the founders – a merry bunch of Tata employees who started out simply wanting ‘to do something different’ – could not have foreseen just how completely they would capture the imagination of Indian consumers in the post-liberalization era of the 1990s. They transformed watches from being utilitarian objects to fashion statements, and also systematically ventured into areas untapped by corporate entities with its brands Titan, Tanishq, Titan Eyeplus, Skinn and Taneira, and established itself as a winner across multiple verticals.
Indian Icon: A Cult Called Royal Enfield, 320 pages, 2020
Indian Icon: A Cult Called Royal Enfield by senior business journalist Amrit Raj tells the story of a trailblazing brand and company, and most of all, of the individuals who have made it what it is. Unusually for a business story, it also candidly reports the clash of the old guard with the new, baring the behind-the-scenes takeover dramas and the bare-knuckled battle to create the Royal Enfield: a premium homegrown consumer brand for the global markets.
HDFC Bank 2.0 : From Dawn to Digital, Aditya Puri by Tamal Bandyopadhyay
HDFC Bank 2.0: From Dawn to Digital, Aditya PuriWhat comes to your mind when you think of HDFC bank? India’s largest private sector bank; the most-valued bank, a bank which the Reserve Bank of India says is too big to fail. Right? But what is the story behind the scenes? How did HDFC Bank embark on its digital journey migrating from a Lifecycle Bank to a LifeStyle Bank. Details here
Mythbreaker: Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and the Story of Indian Biotech by Seema Singh
In Mythbreaker, author Seema Singh brings alive Mazumdar-Shaw’s three-decade journey through a motley cast of characters – scientists, ministries, pharma rivals, FMCG giants – who came together to produce a narrative that is remarkable for its randomness, luck, and relentless pursuit of the next scientific breakthrough.
At the age of 25, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw partnered with an Irish entrepreneur, Leslie Auchincloss, to start Biocon India in a garage in Bengaluru. Armed with just a degree in beer making, this move to industrial enzymes and commodity small molecules was as audacious as it was far-sighted. So many years after, Biocon is India’s largest research-driven biotech enterprise. And the accidental entrepreneur, Mazumdar-Shaw, is today a tough negotiator and a habitual dealmaker, casually breaking several myths about Indian women in business.
Havells: The Untold Story of Qimat Rai Gupta Hardcover – Anil Rai Gupta
It is the story of a man, Qimat Rai Gupta(QRG), who began his journey as a small trader in Delhi with Rs 10,000 and built Havells, one of India’s largest electrical goods company a Rs 17,000-crore empire. Told by his son, Anil Rai Gupta, Qimat Rai Gupta’s story makes for an inspiring read. it is the account of how QRG, braved poverty, ill health, competition, corruption and bureaucracy to turn his dreams into reality. Havells acquired German giant Sylvania which was twice its size. When Sylvania’s losses pushed Havells to the brink, QRG fearlessly decided to keep the company and then Anil turned it around. Lessons from the book
- Strong dealer network is very important for any B2C business
- The creation of a brand is vital for B2C business and the company must be ready to spend a significant amount of capital on brand building and advertising
- Importance of long-term vision and why people should be ready for short-term losses/ pain for long term gain.
I Too had a Dream by Verghese Kurien
I Too Had A Dream is a true story told by the visionary and revolutionary Dr. Verghese Kurien. He is known for the milk production movement in India. The story tells readers how Dr. Kurien met the group of farmers in Anand, Gujarat. They were forming Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers Union Limited, which is popularly known as Amul today. The book tells readers how Dr. Kurien developed the agri business with his keen vision, uplifted poor farmers and empowered women in villages. Read about a revolution in milk production and distribution like no other in the world, in this book.
Big Billion Startup – The Untold Flipkart Story
It is an account of India’s biggest startup that redefined e-commerce, entrepreneurship, and the way we shop and live. Established in October 2007, Flipkart was started by IIT graduates Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal as an online bookstore. journalist Mihir Dalal recounts the astounding story of how the Bansals built Flipkart into a multi-billion-dollar powerhouse in the span of a few years and made internet entrepreneurship a desirable occupation. But it is also a story of big money, power and hubris, as both business and interpersonal complexities weakened the founders’ control over their creation and forced them to sell out
Saying No to Jugaad: The Making of Bigbasket
Saying No to Jugaad vividly captures the vision, culture and commitment to values which has made Bigbasket one of India’s most successful start-ups. The book busts some of the common myths around e-commerce businesses and describes the evolution of grocery as the mother of all categories in this sector. It also is the story of how start-ups go through different distinct stages as they evolve and mature. The courage needed to hold your ground when the world seems to have a contrarian view, the relentless focus on customer centricity and the emphasis on foundation-building are illustrated through lucid and stirring stories.
The Maruti Story: How A Public Sector Company Put India On Wheels
Maruti car has revolutionized the Indian car industry. Started in 1983 as a public sector company, it had to follow all governmental systems and procedures, and also work with Japenses Suzuki Motor Corporation. Many years later, Maruti though facing competition from the world’s major manufacturers still leads the way. It involved grit, management skill and entrepreneurship of a high order. R.C. Bhargava, who was at the helm of the company co-writing with senior journalist and author Seetha, shows how it was done in this riveting account of a landmark achievement.
Stay Hungry Stay Foolish: Rashmi Bansal
Stay Hungry Stay Foolish portrays the success stories of 25 entrepreneurs, who graduated from IIM Ahmadabad. They gave up their plum jobs only to follow their heart, they chose the rough road to success. Most of these entrepreneurs took ‘kiss-of-death’ decisions Entrepreneurs mentioned in the book are divided into three groups: The Believers, The Alternate Vision, and The Opportunists. She uses loads of Hindi words and phrases. List of entrepreneurs covered are Sanjeev Bikhchandani – Info Edge (Naukri.com), Shantanu Prakash – Educomp, Vinayak Chatterjee – Feedback Ventures, Ashank Desai – Mastek, Deep Kalra – MakeMyTrip, Nirmal Jain – India Infoline, Rashesh Shah – Edelweiss Capital, Jerry Rao – Mphasis
Connect the dots by Rashmi Bansal
Connect the dots is the story of 20 enterprising individuals without an MBA, who started their own ventures. They were driven by the desire to prove themselves. To lead interesting, passionate, meaningful lives. Their stories say one thing loud and clear. You don’t need a fancy degree or a rich Daddy to dream big and make it happen. Its all in your head, your heart, your hands.
Dilip Shanghvi & Soma Das: The Reluctant Billionaire: How Shanghvi Became the Richest Self-Made Indian
The book is insightful in the journey taken by Dilip Shanghvi to make Sun Pharma as we know it today The book chronicles Dilip Shangvi’s life, the events that shaped his persona and how he by his grit and intelligence shapes the events around him. Well-researched articles beautifully woven into personalized accounts by people in the inner circle of Dilip make this book a fascinating read.
On a subject (pharmaceuticals) that would have been an otherwise drab read, the author makes it such a simple task.
The book is very engaging, fast-paced, and engrossing without any dull moments. This book should be read by anyone who follows the Pharma sector as it provides deep insights into the industry’s evolution. The book is peppered with interesting human stories, emotional cross-roads, and relationship dilemma’s encountered by the protagonist in his journey
Dream With Your Eyes Open: An Entrepreneurial Journey – Ronnie Screwala
In Dream With Your Eyes Open, UTV-founder, a first-generation entrepreneur Ronnie Screwvala details his vast experiences and the myriad lessons learned from more than two decades of building some successful (and some not-so-successful) businesses. Dream With Your Eyes Open shares failures and triumphs, thoughts and anecdotes in a simple narrative that could help you gain better insights into entrepreneurship and give you a fighting chance when it comes to realizing your dreams in a David-versus-Goliath world.
Ronnie writes in such simple English and with such good examples that it makes you only believe how you could also be an Entrepreneur one da This book is about ‘it can be done’, not ‘I did it’. It’s all possible. Just dream your own dream—and when you do, dream with your eyes open.
Note: If you buy the books through our links, we would earn money from Amazon
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Which books have you read? Which book did we miss? Which business book or businessman would you like to know more about