Showing posts with label Book Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Book Review. Show all posts

Friday, May 23, 2014

What if one happens to be possessed of a heart that can't be trusted? - a book review that isn't one

Just finished reading The Goldfinch”, a book by Donna Tartt that recently won the Pulitzer prize in fiction for 2014. While I enjoyed my journey through the at-times-agonizingly-long story, what's lingering on in my mind at the end of it all is a fascination for the painting itself, that little masterpiece by Fabritius, the theme of & inspiration behind the book.

The painting’s composition as intended by Carel Fabritius and/ or as inferred by the viewer seemingly evoked emotions of varied hues within the author and articulated through the protagonist, emotions ranging from feeling of angst, identifying with the chained but resolute bird; an overwhelming urge to free the creature from its misery and thus a symbolic effort at deliverance of a shackled self and finally a submission to the status quo, a realization that you cannot choose the being you want to be…. More than anywhere else where there's a more direct reference to the painting, I feel the text quoted below is where the author most eloquently delves into the existential angst as represented by the chained bird;

"A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don't get to choose our own hearts. We can't make ourselves want what's good for us or what's good for other people. We don't get to choose the people we are.

Because--isn't it drilled into us constantly, from childhood on, an unquestioned platitude in the culture--? From William Blake to Lady Gaga, from Rousseau to Rumi to Tosca to Mister Rogers, it's a curiously uniform message, accepted from high to low: when in doubt, what to do? How do we know what's right for us? Every shrink, every career counselor, every Disney princess knows the answer: "Be yourself." "Follow your heart."

Only here's what I really, really want someone to explain to me. What if one happens to be possessed of a heart that can't be trusted--? What if the heart, for its own unfathomable reasons, leads one willfully and in a cloud of unspeakable radiance away from health, domesticity, civic responsibility and strong social connections and all the blandly-held common virtues and instead straight toward a beautiful flare of ruin, self-immolation, disaster?...If your deepest self is singing and coaxing you straight toward the bonfire, is it better to turn away? Stop your ears with wax? Ignore all the perverse glory your heart is screaming at you? Set yourself on the course that will lead you dutifully towards the norm, reasonable hours and regular medical check-ups, stable relationships and steady career advancement the New York Times and brunch on Sunday, all with the promise of being somehow a better person? it better to throw yourself head first and laughing into the holy rage calling your name?” 

When I look at the painting, my first impulse is to agonize over its chained status, it's limited boundaries & it's still stoical disposition in such a dismal state. The subsequent thought is if whether the bird even if unchained would challenge its boundaries, having never ever experienced a free life & but then a sliver of hope emerges that a free-will can never be chained. Do I associate myself with any, all of these… probably yes, probably no… I guess the given context; the prevailing mental-state determines the feelings and association with self.

Look long & hard enough; this living bird could enliven your brain.

And yes, get the book! It’s for keeps.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A suitably bootstrapped perspective

As someone who routinely wears boots under Levi’s 511s, I understand the sheer utility of those small loops called bootstraps - Sramana Mitra’s high focus on an entrepreneur bootstrapping the start-up in her book “Seed India -How To Navigate the Seed Capital Gap In India (Entrepreneur Journeys)” helped me appreciate the criticality of this aspect in the Indian venture funding context.

The book’s USP is its brevity and the matter-of-fact, blog-like style but what keeps your interest on is the verbatim reproduction of the interviews. Spurred by the author’s knowledgeable querying, the interviewed entrepreneurs come up with some honest reflections & very useful insights into their successful entrepreneurial journey. Some statements though come across as anachronistic, particularly when Sachin Bansal of Flipkart seemingly undermines the adaptation, penetration & potential of digital books and affordability of e-readers in India - the fact that I was reading this book on my Kindle Fire HD made the assertion even more ironic.

While it is a welcome trend that Indian start-up stories are getting written about, I once again can’t help but notice that the term ‘start-up’ is gradually getting equated with IT/ITES/ Cloud enterprise.  Most other enterprise categories such as biotech, green-tech are clearly missing out being written about as interesting case-studies since they can’t quite compete with a typical cloud based start-up which (can..) starts generating income within few months of existence – As Sramana did admit passingly, the logic of bootstrapping one’s business is a very different ball-game if the start-up product offering is physical (~biotech) as against being virtual (~SaaS)

Coming back to the book, I felt that what was perhaps intended to be showcased by the author but not quite articulated is an observation that ‘bootstrapping an early enterprise’ comes quite naturally to Indian entrepreneurs given the culturally ingrained reluctance to diluting ownership/ stake of a start-up business early on & the practical jugaad (in a fair sense) mind-set of sailing in two boats before hitching on to the one of choice.

Considering this being a cluster/ market dominated by such lean business ethos & relatively more fiscally-conservative entrepreneurial attitude which by default de-risk the investor’s moolah, one’d have expected India to be a hot destination for an alternate asset fund manager looking for a safe-harbour for her/ his precious dollars, but quite obviously it is not. Of course it is also apparent that there isn’t enough fish in the pond for any LP to develop a serious strategy betting on Indian start-up scene & perhaps the only way to make this ‘LP-friendly entrepreneurial ethic’ work in India’s favour at scale is to seed more & more promising enterprises, bootstrapped or otherwise.


Just wondering.... the Global LPs could be a lot more interested if the Indian VCs claim to be ‘Conservative’ rather than being ‘Contrarian’ in their choice of deals :-)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Review of Mahendra Ramsinghani's "The Business of Venture Capital: Insights from Leading Practitioners on the Art of Raising a Fund, Deal Structuring, Value Creation, and Exit Strategies

21 Aug 2012

Review Posted on

5.0 out of 5 stars A 'must' for all those who fancy the bucket & probably the ocean too!August 21, 2012 By Vishrasayan

As someone aiming to venture into VC, and moving quite laterally at that, I was on lookout for a book that not only strengthens my basics but would also help me develop my own perspective of how the ecosystem behaves & how I could synergize and coexist with the same - `The Business of Venture Capital..' by Mahendra Ramsinghani fit the bill perfectly.

While essentially structured as a comprehensive guide to the VC process, the author took pains not to make the style pedagogic & peppered it liberally with quotes, case-studies and his own witty one-liners that helped the overall learning process while not getting your goat. Even as I persisted through all chapters, I did realize that the composition of each chapter allows one to skip a chapter or two & still make sense of the flow.

The book ends with a quote by David Ogilvy "Don't bunt. Aim out of the ballpark. Aim for the company of immortals". Interestingly (for me at least...), the epilogue starts with the sentence, "At its core, VC is truly an apprenticeship business" - This seeming contradiction/ irony is what defines the approach taken by the author Mahendra Ramsinghani in establishing that a true venture professional is essentially a lifelong apprentice who nonetheless perpetually aims to challenge the boundaries of a conventional success.

Highly recommended for aspiring & established VCs and anyone else who fancies the `bucket' in whichever way!