BENGALURU: Ask Sidharth Rao on what led him to start a digital agency at the age of 19 and he narrates how he dropped out of college at the age of 18 and decided to cash in on the internet boom with Webchutney, a digital agency he co-founded in 1999. On August 21, Rao released How I Almost Blew It, his first book, which he claims, came about by accident. “I read a lot of non-fiction, and the startup world has always completely fascinated me. But you find great narrative only in the western startup space. The media in India tends to focus only on key milestones, fundings and exits but the journey for any entrepreneur is far more nuanced than that and I wanted readers to know about this,” says Rao, who was in Bengaluru for the book launch.
How I Almost Blew It narrates stories of some of the country’s prominent entrepreneurs and industry tycoons – Sanjeev Bikhchandani (Info Edge and Naukri.com), Deep Kalra (MakeMyTrip), Deepinder Goyal (Zomato), Ashish Hemrajani (BookMyShow), Sahil Barua (Delhivery), Murugavel Janakiraman (Bharat Matrimony) and Ajit Balakrishnan (Rediff.com) – and gives an account of how they built their businesses along with intriguing stories of fiascos. “All the people I have featured turned out to be successful entrepreneurs even if their initial venture didn’t work out. If you talk about Pradeep Kar (Microland), R Ramaraj (Sify) or Ajit Balakrishnan (Rediff.com), their companies might not be relevant today but to a great extent, they had fantastic outcomes for early investors and employees and that had to be celebrated. The stories on missed opportunities also give a clear indication on how startups actually live in dog-years,” he says.
Rao emphasised that companies have taken over two decades to develop the brands they are today and not an overnight success. “Naukri.com’s initial public offering (IPO) was in 1994 but the company started a decade before that. The `30,000 crore juggernaut it is today came 15 years after the IPO and that’s my favourite part, pointing the perseverance behind,” he adds. Rao claimed that the process of interacting and collecting these stories was fairly easy but adding a structure to the book took him over a year and a half.
When asked about his upcoming projects, Rao says, “I really haven’t thought about it. Writing a book is just 30 per cent of the job but the effort that goes into getting it out there is tiring. I guess my future projects will revolve around the startup ecosystem where there is so much more that people need to know.”
Rao also expressed on how readers should look towards things that are hardly discussed in the startup ecosystem. “Most founders don’t acknowledge the factor of dumb luck playing out in their favour and simply gloss over it. Another interesting bit is that a lot of startups don’t publicly acknowledge the fact that a relationship between two co-founders is a gigantic reason as to why companies fail,” he says.