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Entrepedia by Nandini Vaidyanathan, is a helpful book for anyone who has just started off on their entrepreneurial voyage, or hopes to do so soon.
Review by Chitra Iyer
Having been down the entrepreneurial journey twice myself, I was excited to be reviewing Entrepedia by Professor Nandini Vaidyanathan. My first thought was that it is such a vast subject – one can never run out of things to say, plan, decide, watch out for and avoid on the entrepreneurial journey. Any attempt to fit the key steps under 200 pages is in itself a challenge. It necessitates judicious selection of topics and economy of words. Entrepedia is an extremely useful read for someone absolutely new to entrepreneurship – fresh-faced students or someone from a very unexposed background. It highlights the key areas an entrepreneur must think of, and is a starting point for more detailed research and learning.
Speaking of economy of words, my guess is that of the 20 steps listed in the book, at least 2 steps (Step 9 – How to give legal form to your business entity and Step 12 – How do you protect your intellectual property rights in India) could have been dealt with by just flagging them and sharing credible online resources for the most up-to-date information. In a general book, such topics cannot be dealt with adequately and the information (subject to government whims) becomes obsolete very quickly. In a similar vein, 17 (on thinking green), Step 19 (Why are incubators needed in college) and 20 (Social entrepreneurship) are not even ‘steps’ on the entrepreneurial journey. At best, they are additional thoughts that could have been included as an appendix.
That frees up 4 or 5 valuable chapters that could be used for other information such as on pre-defining internal and external policies and processes; on setting milestones and measurement, basic financial concepts and building an appropriate website.
To remain broadly relevant and at all times (and not just the place in time that it is written), a ‘how-to’ book must be ‘principle-based’ and not overly specific or prescriptive. This enables readers at any entrepreneurial phase and in any domain to make the right choices. Entrepedia does a neat job in some of the chapters (Step 4 – choosing co-founders, step 7 – writing a business plan and step 10 – hiring the right team), by highlighting key considerations. They had me nodding in several places, especially on choosing co-founders. I have made several of the mistakes mentioned, in spite of my entrepreneurial experience.
Unfortunately, some other chapters are a tad too prescriptive. For example, Step 11 – ‘How to choose appropriate technology’ would do better to help entrepreneurs understand what type of technology they need at what stage and a checklist or matrix to aid decision-making. Instead, we have some specific solutions mentioned sans context.
I was also a trifle surprised by the narrow scope of the chapter on social media (Step 16). The chapter is titled ‘How to use social media to acquire customers’. Not every business needs social media for acquisition. However, every business could do with an overview of which digital technology is appropriate for what objectives and at which phase. A broader chapter on ‘using digital technology for low-cost marketing (acquisition, retention and advocacy)’ may be more the need of the hour. A glaring miss is the total absence of Search – it is neither mentioned in the section on developing website content, nor social media. Search is still the number one proactive way a customer finds the products and services she is searching for online, and entrepreneurs cannot ignore the power and economy of organic and inorganic search tools.
The book is well-laid out and uses simple English to make its point. However, there are typos aplenty and this certainly needs to be addressed in the next edition. It is an ambitious effort and certainly a valuable tool for a first-time entrepreneur. As an aside, one thing that puzzled me is the authors’ choice to use the now-politically-incorrect male gender throughout the book (all entrepreneurs, VCs, vendors and customers are referred to as ‘he’). This culminates in a shockingly immature ‘observation’ that stereotypes women entrepreneurs in the worst way.
For all first-time entrepreneurs in India, I would say, add it to your library immediately! To the rest, maybe wait till you can borrow a copy from someone.
Publisher: Embassy Books
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