There aren’t many Indian authors in the non-fiction space who can boast of breaking even on their books let alone striking it rich. Candidly, I have to rack my brains to recall one such name that has achieved this feat, of course with the exception of the author of ‘Stay Foolish Stay Hungry’. Rashmi Bansal with her motley compilation of 25 write-ups on as many Indian entrepreneurs, apparently, has cracked the code. In a country where even if you hit 10, 000 mark in number of copies sold, your work becomes eligible for the bestseller tag, Rashmi Bansal has certainly achieved more. However, having read the book, I would attribute its success more to the smart marketing skills and business acumen of the author than to the awesomeness of the content.
Rashmi Bansal, apparently, drew the inspiration for her book from Steve Jobs’ famous Stanford University speech. However, except the title of the book, there are no other similarities between the two. ‘Stay Foolish Stay Hungry’ tells the stories of the entrepreneurial ambitions of 25 IIM-A alumna and how they realized their dreams even as the hard times threatened to do them in. Author deserves credit for having smartly cherry-picked the 25 profiles. This eclectic mix comprises of those who always knew they had a penchant for entrepreneurship and those whose first choice was not entrepreneurship but as and when opportunities came knocking, they grabbed them with both hands.
‘Stay Hungry Stay Foolish’ brims with the stories of people who laughed in the face of temptations and gave up their plum jobs only to follow their heart. Several of these entrepreneurs took ‘kiss-of-death’ decisions, sometimes, more than once in their lives, in order to achieve their true calling. So far, so good. Problem with this book is not the entrepreneurial stories per se, rather it is the treatment of these stories. To start with, author has done a shoddy job of researching the profiles. Admittedly, it is a difficult task having to cover the life stories of 25 different people but in that case author could have very well settled for less yet well-researched 10-12 profiles. Second, most of these stories are based on the one-on-one interviews with the author, many of which happened in quick time in 5-star hotel lobbies and boardrooms (author, unwittingly perhaps, gives that away). Not a perfect modus operandi, in my view, for a book which details the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurs. Moreover, to make things worse, there are some stories which have been shoehorned into the book as if the author wanted to capture 25 profiles, one way or the other, e.g., Story of Chender Baljee (owner of Royal Orchid Hotels) gets over in less than four-and-a-half pages leaving a lot to be desired. I was really looking forward to the nitty-gritties of the struggles these entrepreneurs had to go through. But Rashmi Bansal had contrary views, she decided to wrap it all up in frivolous one liners such as “Cafeterai mein baithe the…unhone bola 50 lakh invest kar denge“. And, that brings to my next gripe – author’s use of Hindi colloquialisms in the book. An IIM alumnuses deliberate endeavor to toss in a bit of Hindi dialogues while writing a book on a topic as serious as ‘Entrepreneurship’ is unpalatable. That’s the stuff potboilers are made of. I can only surmise but if Chetan Bhagat was also one of author’s inspirations for this book, then she surely started off on the wrong foot.
What irked me the most, however, was that after the first few chapters, each subsequent chapter appeared to be the same. Author’s wax-lyrical treatment of the IIM alumni fails to gloss over the feebleness of the content. With the exception of a few stories such as Sunil Handa (Eklavya Education), Vinayak Chatterjee (Feedback Ventures), Madan Mohanka (Tega Industries),etc., others are insipid and pretty low on Inspirational Quotient. Although cleverly narrated, this book lacks the polish and attention to detail. As a final word, I found ‘Stay Hungry Stay Foolish’ a very mediocre product. Seemingly, author’s intent was right but she flubbed the execution. This book could have been a lot better. All said and done, my review doesn’t change the fact that ‘Stay Foolish Stay Hungry’ has become a best-seller of sorts which might be due to its strong appeal to MBA aspirants. ‘Stay Hungry Stay Foolish’ may have enough adrenaline-pumping material for the neophytes and greenhorns but for seasoned and knowledgeable readers, it hasn’t got much to offer.
If you are really interested in books inspired from educational institutions, I would recommend ‘Snapshots from Hell – The making of an MBA’ by Peter Robinson, ‘Ahead of the curve’ by Philip Delves Broughton and ‘The IITians’ by Sandipan Deb. And, if your heart is towards Entrepreneurial guides, I can recommend ‘The Knack: How Street-Smart Entrepreneurs Learn to Handle Whatever Comes Up‘ by Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham.