Start-Up City by Moloy K Bannerjee
In my book The Mouse Charmers, I raised the question of why certain cities and specifically Bangalore in India is a hotbed for start-ups. I then read Startup Capitals by Zafar Anjum where he talks about the cities across the world that let the entrepreneurs flourish. So when I received this book about Bangalore and so aptly titled Start-Up City – I wanted to read it as soon as possible. Alas! I was disappointed. Probably because of my own expectations from the book Start-Up city, but it does not offer much for any reader.
Book belongs to an era when the IT revolution was yet to take off. How many times have you heard this from veterans? “In our days we used to take punch cards to the guy managing the server. The server used to be the size of a room”. The companies and entrepreneurs mentioned in the book also belong to the same era. And most of them would not ring a bell in your mind even if you have spent considerable time in IT industry in Bangalore as I did. If you live outside Bangalore – these are similar folk tales of IT industry that should begin with ‘Once Upon a Time…’.
Now, by no means, I want to say that stories from old era should not be told, but if the protagonist of each of your story is an honest, talented, down to earth, hard working simpleton – you are missing something. With the exception of the story of Tally software and may be Ganeshs of Tutor Vista, no one else in the book really stood out. You blame it on the profile or the Profiler. Take your pick.
It seems the authors themselves belong to that era and they wanted to write this book while recounting stories of people they have admired during their journey in the industry. At best this book can be seen as a documentation of early stages of Indian IT industry in Bangalore. Completely ignoring the rest of the world or a linkage to that. It is like a chat between friends where each one gets a chance to say what they did in life was the best. If someone created a product – that chapter projects product development as the big challenge. Someone ran computer classes that were seen as the biggest virtue. If someone did body shopping obviously inspired by the big companies – that is projected as the innovation of that company. Someone switched ten jobs in a short career span, that is also treated as a virtue by the authors.
A good analysis needs a balanced view. And at least the retrospect gives us that brilliant opportunity to see things in perspective. If these people were making hay while the sun shone or they were making a difference. Honestly, in my opinion, the authors do not give a fair writing to the entrepreneurs. They all appeared like clones of each other. At places, the author writes the I whole chapter like a corporate presentation.
I totally missed Bangalore in this book. There was no analysis if, the city played any role in the lives of these entrepreneurs. No documentation of what are the factors in Bangalore that played a catalyst to this big phenomenon called IT industry. There is no vision that any of the players in the book display that indicates that Bangalore is going to take off in such a big way. There is not even a glance at the current scenario in Bangalore in the book. Even if you are writing history, you need to relate it to the current times.
The language is simple but extremely boring and repetitive. The title of the book Start-Up City betrays the reader. The book has stories from Bangalore but there is nothing about Bangalore or its ecosystem that led to IT Boom.
I will have to apologize to many people for saying this, but my verdict on this book is – Avoid.