December 2007


Earlier this week 4 of us visit visited the strand book fest at thebook fair “chinnaswamy stadium, Bangalore”. All of us are very active readers, we regularly purchase books and were prepared to spend good money, expecting to grab good books along with very good discounts. At the entrance we picked up one Plastic baskets each (yes the same one you pickup in the grocery store). Now I have weakness for buying books and often pickup 5-10 books on my each visit to a good bookstore. I was thinking since i will get more variety and cheaper prices, I may actually end up filling more than one Basket.

Alas, the organizers of the book fest had something else in mind, to cut the long story short I came out of the fest totally dis-appointed, with only 3 books. Almost same was the case with other 3 friends. All of us decided not come back to the fest again and also to warn our friends against it.

Here are the reasons:

  • After looking at some of the books and the prices, I realized that most books are NOT DISCOUNTED, they were being sold at prices higher than what is available in the market already
  • Most of the stock on display was HARD COVER BOOKS and soft covers/paper backs were either not to be seen or hard to locate, hard covers naturally sell at much higher price as compared to other editions
  • The variety of books was totally disappointing
  • Staff was not at all helpful to customers. I asked one staff member to find a book for me two times, he heard my request and went away with a promise to come back but (as you can guess) he never did bothered to come back. I am sure he never even looked for the book
  • During checking out when I confronted him he made some very lame excuses and gave me this attitude like “we are doing a favor to people of Bangalore by putting up this book fest, why are you asking so many questions”
  • This festival has reputation of selling books on discount, where as they clearly don’t sell it cheaper than what is already available in the market
  • They are just taking advantage of the reputation and fooling the customers.

In our case since we had come out in a mood to buy the books, we drove to our favorite book store BLOSSOMS, these guys are too good, they give 20% flat discount and have 3 floors packed of books. The variety of books here is 2-3 time more as compared that Strand fest had. We also compared prices for some of the books and that confirmed the higher prices at Strand fest.

Yes all of us ended up buying a good 20+ books of our choice at a good price, from Blossoms! I am currently reading the autobiography of Marlon Brando …

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Assuming that the team and the idea both have the potential to be successful, the single most important factor that determines the success or failure of a start-up venture is “Performance in the race against time”. A well funded start-up has high expectations (and pressure) from the Investors to move fast and meet the planned targets quarter after quarter. Where as, in case of a start-up looking for funds, a lot has to be accomplished in a short time to make the venture fundable in the first place.

Decisions are the “basic units”of functioning for every organization that is working to accomplish a set of goals. untitled.jpg

– Step 1: Make decision
– Step 2: Act on the decision

The organization’s speed of moving is directly proportional to the time that is taken to complete the above two steps for every work unit (small or big, top level or bottom level). Start-ups which lack “Fearless decision making” tend to do of the following:

– Take a lot of time in “making critical decisions” even on critical business items
– Make a lot of weak decisions – a decision is made but the next step “Acting on the decision” is really slow

This type of “Fearful decision making” culture slowly but surely paralyzes the start-up, drains the resources and de-motivates employees who are keen to increase the pace, overcome the challenges and get things done. No start-up has the time to indulge in this type of behavior.

A fearless decision is not a decision taken in hurry or just a brave decision. A fearless decision is a business decision with the right intention, a bold decision, which may make some people unhappy in the short-term but eventually will turn out to be good for the business.

The culture of “Fearless decision making” goes a long way towards helping a start-up achieve its goal of changing the world. Every start-up tries to conquer the market with a new product, a new service or a new process. Which means a start-up should always be ready to work with a lot on unknowns and make decisions in that light. The key is to embrace “fearless decision making”, with the right amount of risk proofing and planning. This allows the start-up to continue to convert unknowns into known at the required swift pace.

  • Make a decision with a well defined hypothesis
  • Finalize a execution plan which will also test the hypothesis and define some of unknown variables
  • Execute.
  • Measure the results and analyze them
  • There is a good chance you can convert a set of unknowns to known, which signal significant progress for a startup