Varun Agarwal’s How I Braved Anu Aunt and Co-founded a Million Dollar Company is a candid account of how he became an entrepreneur

“I don’t want either my mom or any other mom to read my book. I don’t think they’ll take too kindly to the language I have used,” Varun Agarwal says candidly, about his debut novel How I Braved Anu Aunty and Co-founded a Million Dollar Company. Launched at Landmark, Bangalore, the book is the true life story of the young entrepreneur who ventured into e-commerce and co-founded the Alma Mater store with his friend, Rohn Malhotra.

Host and popular singer Richa Paul describes the young author’s style as “conversational” and amidst a dozen other popular Facebook references, uses the popular analogy of the-curtains-were-blue-simply-means-the-curtains-were-blue-and-nothing-more to praise Agarwal’s simplicity of writing. The book is no literary venture, but it is funny, quirky and inspirational. Agarwal achieves what he sets out to do — he tells a story and tells it well. “I’m not a writer. I’m only hoping that my story inspires others. I wrote this book to sell my company. I sent in a few of my blogs to Rupa Publications and they asked me to send in a complete manuscript. That meant undertaking the mammoth task of writing 50,000 words; I have never written anything longer than 500 words before.”

Agarwal’s book is interesting because his is a story of an idea that took off. Finding engineering abhorrent, he went off to do exactly what he wanted to do and was successful. He uses resources that everyone has access to — his book is as often a tribute to Justdial and Google as it is a story of personal travails and obstacles. He even found his publisher on Google! Readable and absorbing, the book appeals to anyone who has grown up in 21 century Bangalore. His story humorously details the life of an average upper-middle class teenager in Bangalore who strove to make his dreams come true.

Frequenting tea-stalls, bars and restaurants that the rest of us have grown up visiting, and frustrated by obstacles in love that are familiar to us, Varun’s life is one that has romantic associations. It is, in short, a detailing of the lives that we have lived and loved.

“No author influenced my writing; any author would be embarrassed to claim that he was my inspiration, given my writing. However, The Old Man and the Sea gave me the push I was looking for and Roald Dahl’s humour inspired my thoughts.” Agarwal’s honesty endeared him to the audience, in a launch which was informal and interspersed with bouts of laughter. On being asked about Anu Aunty, Agarwal diplomatically steers clear of personal references and says: “Anu Aunty is that one person in every kid’s life whose ambition is to make his life miserable by poking her nose where it doesn’t belong.”

Passionate about film-making and story-telling, he attributes his creativity to the encouragement of his friends. The designated story-teller amongst his group of friends, he was notorious for introducing the element of Bollywood into his stories. The Bollywood remains in his novel and for that, he has none other than his mother to thank. “She’d shed the token tear every time I failed an exam,” he says.

“I’ve practically revealed all my trade secrets. It doesn’t irk me because I want to prove to the world that an average engineering student with no MBA can go on to become an entrepreneur, if he has the determination and a great idea.” There is talk about making the book into a motion picture, but Agarwal doesn’t go into that. He only says that the book can be made into a movie only if he were allowed to direct. His second book is also underway, but he is still to “live the story” he is writing.

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