Rashmi Bansal speaks to Subha J. Rao about Take Me Home, which chronicles the lives of 20 small-town entrepreneurs who have made a huge impact

In the 1970s, four brothers in Rajkot started making sandwiches and, later, wafers at home. Today, Balaji Wafers is a Rs. 1,000-crore-plus company that sells potato wafers and namkeen.

A young graduate from Churu in Rajasthan refused a bank job because he wanted to do something on his own, something big. Today, Nand Kishore Chaudhary’s Jaipur Rugs is India’s largest exporter of hand-knotted rugs, with an annual turnover of above Rs 100 crore.

Then, there is Kashmiri Dilafrose Qazi, whose father could not even afford the two-rupee monthly fees for school. Today, braving bullets and threats, she runs SSM College of Engineering in Parihaspora, Kashmir.

Entrepreneur-author Rashmi Bansal throws the spotlight on these people in her sixth book, Take Me Home. It features 20 people from small-town India who made it big. It was recently launched at the Coimbatore Business Conclave 2014, organised by Coimbatore Round Table 9.

Rashmi is known for her books (Stay Hungry Stay Foolish, Connect the Dots, Poor Little Rich Slum, I Have a Dream, Follow Every Rainbow) that focus on entrepreneurs in different settings. “Entrepreneurs are not just people who start a business. They take a leap of faith. They take charge of their destiny, convert their dreams into reality. It is a difficult journey, but they achieve their true potential,” she says. “Most of us barely achieve two per cent of our potential. We settle down in safe jobs and not go beyond them.”

The country has a huge youth population most of whom are job seekers, says Rashmi. The need is for more job creators, she says. There are never enough jobs.

The book is the result of stories that 42-year old Rashmi gathered from her many travels across the country. Take Me Home took three years to write; she wrote two other books during that period.

The passion to succeed

“The world is changing. You can live in a small town and run a world-class business. A lot of these entrepreneurs are like rough diamonds. They get by on passion, perseverance and what I call jugaad, the ability to innovate,” says Rashmi. Among their strengths are a close-knit family and friends network and the support of the local community. The book is full of such stories — of trust, word-of-mouth assurance, belief — attributes that drive small-town India.

Of all the stories, the one that touched Rashmi’s heart the most was the one of Dilafrose. “She had to deal with so much, including terrorism. But, she kept her college going. She is such an inspiration.”

Rashmi is no mean entrepreneur herself. She started writing at 17, when she was in college. After an MBA at IIM-Ahmedabad, she co-founded JAM (Just Another Magazine). It started off as a print journal, but now is only online. She has also founded BGB Media (Bloody Good Book), to discover and e-publish budding authors.

Stories from college

So, what’s her next book about? Student entrepreneurs. “So many of them start companies while still in college. They no longer wait to complete their education and gain experience.” Their stories must be documented, she says.

Like always, that book will also have a catchy title. “Ah, the titles. They just come along as I am writing the book. Anything can inspire me — a snatch of a song, a lecture…” That’s how she got the title of Take Me Home — from John Denver’s iconic ‘Country Roads, Take Me Home…’

(The book, published by Westland, is priced at Rs. 200)

Steps to success

There are people who will help you. All you need to do is seek them out and ask.

There is nothing in the world which has no alternative.

Spend only what you earn. Keep your life simple, your needs simple.

You may or may not be successful in business, but it will make a man out of you.

Enjoy the days of struggle. When the times are hard, you have more ideas, better ideas

Select the right business. Don’t be blinded by passion alone.

Kovai connect

A. Muruganantham from Coimbatore, who pioneered machines to make low-cost sanitary pads, features in the book. “His story and approach to life was very different, very inspiring,” says Rashmi. “He could have patented his invention and made millions. Instead, he chose to bring about social change and touch the lives of millions of women.”

Rashmi has visited the city a couple of times, and has taken back more such stories with her. Someday, they will find a place in one of her books.