SUBJECT: 4.5/5
WRITING: 4.5/5
OVERALL: 4.5/5 

“Initial investors bet on the entrepreneur and not on the idea or the business.”

–        Bhaskar Majumdar, Everything Started as Nothing

My musings

Entrepreneurship is not everybody’s cup of tea. It is a career fraught with failures and disappointments. Starting a business from the very scratch takes it all – grit, passion, intelligence, perseverance, and a great idea to begin with. Needless to state, the start-up game isn’t for everyone to play.

Though I have read a few books on start-ups and their founders – Entrepreneur 5 PM to 9 AM by Kanth Miriyala and Reethika Sunder, God’s Own Kitchen by Rashmi Bansal, and The Rich Labourer by Parthajeet Sarma and Sibani Sarma – nothing beats the effectiveness and detailing that I have comes across in Bhaskar Majumdar’s Everything Started as Nothing.

Read on to know more about the book and my experience of reading it.  

What to expect?

Expect a book meant for business owners, management professionals, and business graduates. Expect a book that brings to you both primary and secondary research data, coupled with the personal experiences of the author in the field of entrepreneurship.

About the author

Bhaskar Majumdar is one of the founding partners of Unicorn India Ventures. He is known for his expertise and knowledge in the Indian startup market. Bhaskar has invested in thirty different startups in the UK and India which combinedly stand at a valuation of USD 3 billion. A corporate executive and well-known serial entrepreneur, he is now a prominent early-stage investor. On the educational front, Bhaskar counts reputed educational institutes like IIT Kharagpur and Harvard as his alma maters.

Who can read?

The book is written in a language that is non-academic and reader-friendly. It is a language that is polished but at the same time accessible to a wide variety of readers. The business jargon is explained in depth. And complicated terms have been avoided to make sure that beginners can easily pick it up.

What is the book all about?

At the core of the book lies the concept – everything starts from zero. As the author takes us through the all-important steps of planning, building, sustaining, and growing a startup, we get to know the dos and don’ts, the struggles and challenges, the opportunities and strengths that a business experiences. In the process, it enlightens you about not just the data and facts, but also the success and failure stories of many known and relatively unknown entrepreneurs, enabling one to learn from their experiences.

A foreword that speaks volumes

The book starts on an interesting note, comparing the Indian start-up ecosystem of the 1990s to the current setup, while also explaining the monumental changes that have happened in the last two decades. From the rolling out of Digital India and Startup India initiative by the govt. of India to their subsequent merger, to the positive change in mindsets of young Indians, the book outlines the many developments that have taken place. The foreword itself lays the foundation for an illuminating and detailed read ahead.

Written for the Indian reader

One thing that the author takes great care of is in the selection of Indian stories, Indian data, and Indian examples while putting across his points. For this purpose, in his own words, he decided to find the “quintessential Indian story”. Some of the famous entrepreneurs that he talks about include Abhinay Choudhary (co-founder of Big Basket), Amod Malviya (co-founder of Udaan), Phanindra Sama (co-founder of Red Bus), Rajesh Jain (India’s first internet billionaire), entrepreneur and celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor, and Anand Deshpande (Founder and CEO of Persistent Systems). These entrepreneurs have in-depth experience and knowledge of the Indian startup scene, the contemporary business landscape, and the challenges and opportunities that are unique to India.

What did I like?

At the end of every chapter, there are summary points listed in a box section that recapitulates the key points of the chapter. This section, cleverly titled “Being startup battle ready”, makes it easy and convenient for the reader to memorize and revisit the focus points of each chapter. In strictly that sense, it serves a very practical purpose.

Some more bonus points

Even though the book is written keeping in mind the Indian reader, there can be seen, many examples of international tech conglomerates like Philips, Dell, Cisco, Amazon, Google, and Facebook. This brings a sort of universality to the existing body of knowledge contained in the book.

Challenges conventional wisdom

In addition to imparting traditional wisdom that applies to the current generation, the book also helps us unlearn, relearn, and understand unconventional wisdom. For example, unlike the popular narrative that says ‘success is never accidental’, we learn that many successful entrepreneurs often attribute ‘luck’ as one of the reasons for their success. These include legends like Jeff Bezos (“half due to luck, half due to good timing, and rest to his brains”) and Warren Buffett (“was born a member of the lucky sperm club”). Thus, telling you that luck is important but one should know how to steer it in the right direction.

In the end

Bhaskar Majumdar’s Everything Started As Nothing is a well-conceptualized and well-written book that makes use of the author’s phenomenal experience and expertise, and also extensive research in bringing to us a breakthrough book about the Indian startup niche. It is a must-read for professionals, business aspirants, and management students, especially those working in the Indian business landscape.

Pick the book if

  • You are looking to gain insights into the startup landscape and trends in India.
  • You want to read a step-by-step guide to being an entrepreneur.
  • You want to know your dos and don’t for being an entrepreneur in India.
  • You are either a management professional, or an aspiring entrepreneur, or a business student.

Skip the book if

  • You are looking for an academic read.
  • You are looking for a book with a more international approach as opposed to an Indian one.

Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of Everything Started As Nothing using the link below.