In Conversation with author Nikhil Inamdar
Nikhil Inamdar reflects on the entrepreneurial spirit of the Baniya community through his book Rokda: How Baniyas Do Business. Here’s what he had to tell us…
The title itself intrigues you and you are interested in picking it up. Nikhil Inamdar’s book Rokda: How Baniyas Do Business focuses on the enterprising community, which has changed Indian business quite dramatically. He profiles five prominent businesses with a Baniya background and reveals how baniyas are the king of business. Published by Random House India, the book is extra special due to Nikhil’s background as a business journalist; he’s worked with media houses like Times Now, NDTV and Bloomberg TV India. Presently, Nikhil is a special correspondent with Business Standard.
Most of us always wonder what makes the community so business-minded and the impact they’ve made. In that light, we wonder how the idea came to Nikhil. “I was approached by Random House India for a sequel to the very popular Dhandha: How Gujaratis Do Business. Their idea was to feature Baniyas in the second book. I thought it was an interesting concept because while enterprise cannot really be dissected from the prism of caste alone in this day and age; I was curious to find out whether community-based idiosyncrasies have historically played a role in shaping how a particular set of people has approached business, finance and entrepreneurship and whether those peculiarities still remain wired in their DNA.”
He agrees that the book is a peep into the community’s business mind via a biographical take. By talking about the lives of the 5 entrepreneurs, Nikhil wants to illustrate the ‘ingenuity’ of the community in capturing business in totality. “They have a presence in every sector, every geography. And the reason they were able to do it is because of the institutionalisation of community systems, formations of strong networks, their high trust culture, the remarkable emphasis on family and the intrinsic Baniya ability to take risk. I hope these stories will capture the essence of some of these distinctive traits.”
With a business journalism background, one assumes that research etc., must have been quite easy for Nikhil. “It was a challenge certainly. While my journalistic background came in good use, writing a book is a different ball game altogether. It takes a discipline which I didn’t have initially. But the experience was fantastic to say the least, and I hope to be able to bank on it to tell more stories in the future.”
Nikhil feels the book has launched at the right time. “Indian business is at a crossroads where companies have to navigate changes brought about by globalisation, stand scrutiny to stricter regulation and compliance and reinvent old ways of doing business. It might seem like there is no place for caste and family in this modern era of commerce and yet we continue to remain very traditional in the sense that majority of stock market listed companies in this country are still family owned and run,” he relates. “But the ‘Indian company’ is evolving at a rapid pace, and what’s emerging is not a Western prototype, but a distinctive desi one, which blends the traditional and the modern. There are problems of governance; particularly in this state of flux, but things are changing. For example, Emami has been featured in the book. Run by a family from a typical baniya background, the company stays rooted as a family business but has evolved with time.”
Nikhil truly feels Rokda: How Baniyas Do Business will connect with even those who are not into reading business-related material. “It is a book about the spirit of entrepreneurship, about the human capability to survive and thrive in adversity, about the ambition and passion of a set of people who’ve built incredible companies from very little. Let me assure you I am not dissecting the nitty-gritties of balance sheets in the book!”