For some time now, I have been reading a few biographies. And Richard Branson’s Losing My Virginity is the second in the genre of business biographies besides Kishore Biyani‘s. Earlier I had read Mirza Ghalib, Ipsita Roy Choudhary, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Babur, Stephen Hawking and Protima Bedi.
Branson, as most people would know, is a legend in himself. By the way he lives and by the way he does business. He is probably the most flamboyant business persons that we know of. His risk-taking appetite must be a benchmark in itself. He not only takes huge risks with his business but also in his personal endeavors when he risks his life traveling around the world in balloons and making a world record for crossing the Atlantic. A lot of people take huge risks when they have nothing to lose or potentially have a lot to gain vis-à-vis the loss. But here is one person who takes a risk for the love of taking risks, when he really need not take them. He claims he will do anything as long as it is fun to do so, and he seems to be living that way.
Biography Losing My Virginity has been written in plain chronological order. Richard Branson begins with a small snapshot of one of his balloon trips. And then starts all the way from his childhood, talking about his parents and their backgrounds. The adventurous spirit, he inherited from his mother, who always supported him in his adventures. He talks about his numerous girlfriends who also helped him extensively in his businesses. And he keeps talking about them throughout the book, as and when they happened in the life.
He started his first business, a magazine for students while he was still a teenager. And was rejected at a lot of places as he was thought to be too young to be running a magazine. You end up admiring his innovative thinking almost every time he hits an obstacle or a challenge. And every time he spots an opportunity and every time he takes the courage to take on the big established businesses on their very turf.
Though Richard Branson claims he has dyslexia and hence has the problem with numbers. But throughout the book Losing My Virginity, he mentions lots of numbers. But for the first and last 100 pages, there is a lot of numbers quoting in the book. At times you feel the book is more about the balance sheets than the experiences and learnings. You almost see Branson chasing banks for some number all the time. In a typical filmy style, he comes out of a ‘do or die’ situation almost at the nick of time. There are instances, where he has saved himself because of the time zone difference when actually he had run out of time.
He seems to have a fascination with creating excitement by landing himself in these kinds of situations. He is a perfect example of smart networking. Networking not for immediate business benefits, but making friends who would stand by you in the time of need. Spotting friends early in life, who would be in influential positions tomorrow.
There is a lot of space devoted to the Virgin and British Airways rivalry. Losing My Virginity being a Richard Branson biography, he talks about all the dirty tricks that BA played with Virgin. But it had nuances of all the tricks, again very dramatic ones that were played by both sides. And how the press played its role at times by being a catalyst in the rivalry and at times being a toy in the hands of the two corporations. It also gives a relatively unadulterated view of usage of the press by businesses to their advantage.
This book Losing My Virginity of course is Richard Branson’s own version of his life, which I am not sure how many people he worked with would endorse. But then you could not but admire the sheer number of things he has done in one lifetime. Right from launching multiple diverse businesses, to life-threatening adventures, to the sheer drama that he created. The book could have been a bit shorter in the middle, where you just keep reading numbers and the banks being chased. But overall it makes an interesting and inspiring reading.
Buy this book – Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson at Amazon India.
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