Two bestsellers, a MBA degree and a large fan following… Divya Sridharan and Manoj Venkataraman talk to Ravinder Singh, who was in Chennai recently for The Hindu Lit For Life, to find out what makes him tick?
Tall, well-built and ruggedly handsome, Ravinder Singh is anything but your stereotypical geek author. Considering that he regularly gets mobbed by adoring young female fans, one might be excused for mistaking him for a model or film star. However, this best-selling author is no stranger to apparent contradictions. Though he survived both engineering and B-School, it was not disillusionment with the corporate apparatus that drove him to writing fiction. Rather, he penned his first novel, “I too had a love story,” an intensely personal, albeit fictionalised account, of his tragic love life, while coding for Infosys. He went on to do an MBA at Indian School of Business (ISB) but ended up writing yet another bestseller, Can love happen twice?
As he disarmingly puts it, “I never went to B-School for the grades. I realised I’m not that great at studies. While I was there, I decided to make the most of it and wrote my second book.” Circa 2007, Ravinder was living the Indian white-collar dream. He was all set to marry the love of his life when merely five days before his engagement, she tragically died in an accident. Seeking an outlet to channel his grief, he acted on his professor’s recommendation and read Erich Segal’s, Love Story, which inspired him to write his own tale. He candidly admits this was the only book he ever read before then.
After being rejected by multiple publishers, he decided to self-publish 500 copies. The book became wildly popular among young female readers — who drew parallels with their own complicated love lives — and rocketed up the bestsellers’ chart. He attributes the runaway success to social media— “I approached print media to review my work. I kept knocking on their doors but didn’t get any response because no one knew Ravinder Singh then. Now the tables have turned.” He seamlessly uses B-School jargon to illustrate the role of social media in marketing books, emphasising the importance of having a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) to connect with his target audience. That he is social media savvy reflects in the 5.5 lakh followers on three Facebook fan pages, including one dedicated to his deceased girlfriend. No surprise that 75 per cent of these are young women —a fact that his wife is now reconciled to. Ironically, she too was once a smitten fan who first met him on a social networking site.
Ravinder, leveraged true stories from his widespread social media fan base in Can love happen twice?, which he describes as a work of fiction revolving around “complicated, modern relationships” , while his debut novel was largely autobiographical. He acknowledges that the line between fiction and autobiography is blurred: “Why would anyone want to read about the life of Ravinder Singh? But when I fictionalised myself as Ravin, I got fantastic responses.”
Ravinder, the self confessed romantic, continues to defy stereotypes. While legions of swooning fans await his next book, he has quit his job and decided to do something different. He now plans to launch a venture to mentor budding authors and kick-start their careers.