The paucity of good India-centric business literature is not only well documented, but also widely recognized. There aren’t many notable authors to speak of. Most seem happy with the low-stakes fiction market. Amidst this dearth, Anisha Motwani’s ‘Storm the Norm’ shines through like sunshine. It’s a refreshing book that combines savvy and expert business reporting in an easy to read text.
Written in an omnibus format, ‘Storm the Norm’ tells stories of twenty acclaimed brands that at some point in their timeline decided to jump into the uncharted waters and carved out a distinct trajectory for themselves. Once off the ground, these brands metamorphosed into unstoppable, money-spinning juggernauts. What triggered their metamorphoses, is what this book is all about. Thanks to some enriching and galvanizing brand memoirs, ‘Storm the Norm’ entertains from stem to stern.
A comprehensive framework1 in the afterword puts into perspective as to why these twenty brands – the Stormers – were zeroed in on. In an alternate universe, I would have liked the framework to be a part of the introduction than the afterword. Nevertheless, the Stormers, apparently, emanate from sectors overrun with orthodoxies. An avant-gardist detects a hole in this conventional marketplace and consequently, works out a number of iterations to plug that hole, one of which turns out to be a breakout innovation; one that promises to offer more than just the incremental returns. This innovation (product/business process/design) attains a critical mass and quietly, becomes the new norm.
Every story in Anisha Motwani’s compendium packs a distinct punch. You could either glean a profound business insight or wind up with an astounding nugget of information. That said, one common thread that ties all the twenty brands together is the indefatigable spirit of their respective leadership teams. In all the cases, someone at the top bothered to look beyond the conventional wisdom. The story of PVR cinemas provides a case in point. Notwithstanding his traditional transporter family background, Ajay Bijli embodied the vision and enterprise to alter the establishment of movie exhibition forever. He single-handedly turned the business model on its head and instilled a renewed vigor into movie-watching experience, which until his endeavor used to be a fairly one-dimensional affair. In the similar vein, leadership at Axis Bank blew the stale norms to bits and concertedly created a new-age banking identity. In its new avatar, Axis bank turned into a chic, youth-relevant experiential space abuzz with optimism.
Interwoven with meticulous research and carefully considered approach, ‘Storm the Norm’ is a literal trove. Not only does the reader get a close peek inside various corporate cultures, but he also learns precisely what propelled these twenty brands to attain the prominence that they do today. The story of XUV 500, for example, illustrates the approach the book takes throughout. From conceptual pangs to design complications to radical marketing programs to the successful debut, Anisha shines a spotlight on all the critical drivers that went into the successful making of this iconic brand.
Later in the book, the author highlights the checkered journey of the global confectionery major Cadbury in the Indian market. Cadbury’s is a story of sheer perseverance culminating in resounding success. Essentially an MNC, Cadbury, in Anisha’s words, espoused Indian cultural fabric without localizing its taste and compromising on quality. Her assertion that “India is not one country, but two countries in one” stands testimony to the idiosyncratic nature of the Indian consumer market.
‘Storm the Norm’ doesn’t succumb to the usual pitfalls that most of the books in its genre fall prey to. Normally, compendium-style books are a mixed bag. A few stories capture your imagination while others are gratuitously shoehorned in to fill up the pages, not ‘Storm the Norm’. The author deserves the credit for keeping the narrative engaging and flab-free throughout. The compelling style of the narrative carries the reader along with unforced ease. The success stories of XUV 500, Honda, Tata Tea, MTR, Kurkure, PVR, Cadbury’s make for a thoroughly insightful reading experience. If you rue the scarcity of quality India-centric business books, then, read this one, you won’t be disappointed.