Ronnie Screwvala, also famous as the ‘Jack Warner Of India’, in his very first novel Dream With Your Eyes Open talks on two things – entrepreneur and entrepreneurship. In here he shares his experiences of some successful and some not so successful companies he raised, and hopes that it forms a learning curve for many people who wish to, in some point in their lives, join the entrepreneurial bandwagon. Ronnie has been riding this wagon for more than twenty-five years and has rich experiences to share on birthing a production house which not only produced disruptive TV content (like Shanti) but also went on to become a media and entertainment giant. Packed with personal stories and learnings, the book celebrates success and states how misunderstood the term ‘failure’ actually is.
‘Think big, dream big’ shouts the book Page 1 onwards, as it proceeds to inspire many generations to question and get going. After the acknowledgements he proceeds to his brief entrepreneurial chronology where he talks of the many ventures he initiated. It was here where I was surprised to read that UTV as a company hit its inflection point with Rang De Basanti, which released in 2006, and I was jolted back to the fact that nine years have passed since that gem of a film released. I still sometimes feel that it released just a couple years back. And as he states in the following chapters, “UTV’s early days in Bollywood were anything but rosy.” And when the team understood how important it is to collaborate with another studio, Ronnie shares experiences on how he proposed partnership to several leading production houses, both domestic and global. Anyway, after the chronology he sheds more light onto his background, and how he spotted the opportunities which became foundations to his business ideas, and how and what he learnt from the successes and failures of it. All of this in an exceptionally simple narrative.
One thing he constantly reaffirms in the book is this – you can’t go anywhere in the world without balls. Hard decisions have to be taken, hard times have to be lived. Wussing out is not an option, and if you’re even half-smart, says he, you’ll find some ways to survive and thrive. I loved his point where he states that Indians have this tendency to undersell themselves at a global platform, one of the many reasons that India is still a developing country. Believe that any product and service that’s made in India is world-class, and we have the potential to be something great entirely.
Ronnie’s latest entrepreneurial venture is Swades Foundation, which plans to disrupt the sports scenario in India. And he sets three words that have defined his journey so far, and shall continue to lay the path in future – Focus. Choices. Empathy. The book finally ends in a Q&A session, where the author answers some of the most frequently asked questions in the most thorough and simple manner possible.
While this book is recommended to all those who wish to take a plunge, or who wish to scale their existing businesses, and even for intrapreneurs who wish to better in their companies, this is also a serious recommendation to those who want a glimpse of how some of the managerial aspects of film production are handled, this book is a gem. I emphasize on ‘some’. Taking a few movies as case studies, he details out how the trends were spotted (or missed), how controversial film subjects were handled (in this case Rang De Basanti, which was screened before the ministry and armed forces) and how this very film charged up the Indian youth in the Jessica Lal murder case back then. I’m pretty sure it’ll charge up many a people who end up reading this book to embark upon their own venture, if at all they choose to embrace the risks and potential success it may bring. An extremely good book, and a most needed one.