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Amazon link to Ms. Sramana Mitra’s book.

I have been interested in social entrepreneurship as a means to bring positive change in the lives of people. In the process of learning more about entrepreneurship, I came across Sramana Mitra’s book Entrepreneur Journeys: ‘BootStrapping: Weapon of Mass Reconstruction’. It took a while to warm up to a book of interviews which seemed disjointed since the stories spanned many industries and technologies. I took away some myth busting lessons of requiring a lot of start up capital or the need to have lot of domain expertise. The strength of the book lies in its approachability to the average reader while keeping the veteran interested in nuggets of wisdom in the interviews.

The book consists of 12 interviews with various venture founders.  The interviews guide you through the struggles they endured and the strategies they employed to build their business. Some of the qualities that struck me about the individuals interviewed in this book are Conviction, Courage, Optimism, and Resilience. These are the qualities that entrepreneurs would need to have. The interviews are categorized by topics of entrepreneurial prudence. Sramana Mitra’s experience as entrepreneur, and venture capitalist arms her with a unique perspective which is evident by the questions she poses.

The author starts off with Doing More with Less where she suggests looking beyond the Venture Capitalists who invest only their money in the venture.

‘Look not simply for capital, but mentor capital’, she writes.

It is important that the venture capitalists engages with the venture on a regular basis. Their contribution should not be limited to just investing the money. They should share their business experience too.

The next chapter Getting started with little or no capital is self-explanatory.  Sramana Mitra interviews entrepreneurs who have  achieved more by raising less money.

Entrepreneurs who have ‘built substantial revenues with very little investment, heavily leveraging each of their company’s first rounds of investment.’

Validating the Market explains the importance of identifying a market for your venture. As the founder of the startup Net6, and Ocarina Networks states

‘I have a phrase I have coined. SDBS. It stands for Sell, Design, Build, Sell. SDBS philosophy follows that you build a proof of concept – and you can have multiple ideas leading to multiple proofs of concepts – then shop it around to customers and thought leaders.’

Resurrecting the dead demonstrates how a market downturn is the right opportunity for entrepreneurs with strong leadership skills, and business acumen to take over struggling ventures and turning them around.

Today, globally, we are seeing individuals who are starting new ventures. And irrespective of their educational qualifications and life experiences, there is a need to have an entrepreneurship guide.  ‘Entrepreneur Journeys’ attempts to fulfill that need.

For individuals seeking out to be entrepreneurs, ‘Entrepreneur Journeys’ can be viewed as a practical guide. After you read each interview, note down the key takeaways, add new data points and apply them to your venture. The author attempts to tie into the Indian entrepreneurship scene but only mentions them in passing. It would be worthwhile to have a book on entrepreneurs in India’s emerging markets.

Since social entrepreneurship is bringing renewed interest among individuals who want to contribute more to society than a successful IPO, a few stories of social entrepreneurs is eagerly awaited.

I want to conclude this book review with a quote from the book. Sramana Mitra shares her thoughts on ‘fear of failure’.

‘I will, however, share three more components from my own bag of wisdom: laughter, compassion, and Nothingness. When the individualistic ideology overwhelms, when your head swells with self-aggrandizement, think of yourself in respect to the Himalayas. Or the Pacific Ocean. Or the Universe. We are nothing. We are insignificant. We are a single speck of dust in the continuum of time. So why be afraid of failure?’

Entrepreneur Journeys will not get you fired up to start a business. However, it will guide you through it. Read it if you are a first time entrepreneur. It will not only ask you some straight forward questions, but will also provide you with pointers that can help you iron out the common wrinkles on your entrepreneurship canvas. You will learn a lot by reading about the experiences of entrepreneurs interviewed in this book.

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