At a time when startup success in India is on the decline, veteran journalist Shobha Warrier has released a book on 28 social entrepreneurs who made it big despite all odds. From the person who grew up selling idlis with his mother and founded a food enterprise, to the one-time school dropout who runs a successful business that employs a thousand people, Dreamchasers is a book about passion, perseverance and success.
“Out of 10 startups in India, only 2 succeed, and what sets the successful ones apart is the passion of the founders to give back to society. I’ve written about people who did not just want to make money, but wanted to effect some kind of change and help people with their ideas,” says Shobha, who has been writing about entrepreneurs for 16 years now.
But where to begin?
“I was inspired to write about startups after I interviewed Prof Jhunjhunwala in 1997, when he started an incubation cell. One of the first people I interviewed was Saloni Malhotra of DesiCrew, who started India’s first rural BPO. I have been fascinated by entrepreneurs ever since, and when the Startup India initiative was announced by the Prime Minister in 2015, I decided that it was time to write a book about entrepreneurs to inspire the next generation,” Shobha explains.
Dreamchasers looks at three generations of entrepreneurs in South India - the trendsetters of the 70s and 80s, the new wave of the 2000s, and the new generation of entrepreneurs who started out after 2010. “While the startup ecosystem has changed a lot today, and there is much more funding and mentorship available to young entrepreneurs, I feel that the core challenges they face are still the same. They still need passion and patience to overcome them,” she says.
It’s ironic that while Shobha started writing about entrepreneurs after meeting the woman who ran India’s first rural BPO, the cover of her book has only four women out of 30. “When I was picking the stories, I wasn’t looking at their gender but only what they have achieved, and it so happened that there were only four women. There aren’t so many women entrepreneurs, although it has nothing to do with the opportunities available to them,” she insists.
“My book is called Dreamchasers because unless you chase your dream, unless you’re passionate about it and are willing to take risks, you cannot succeed as an entrepreneur. Today, young people have much more support from their families when it comes to starting out on their own, and in all the success stories I’ve heard, that’s one secret ingredient,” Shobha says.