The mushrooming startup landscape of the past decade has seen publishers ride the entrepreneurship wave to release several titles, that can overwhelm readers with choices.
Which is why it is refreshing to see a title that does its best to offer readers value in each page. Written by Nikhil Inamdar, 7 Sutras of Innovation, makes it clear from the start that its objective is to talk about core learnings needed to scale a business and to provide the necessary comprehensiveness. 7 Sutras… tells the stories of companies across sectors ranging from logistics, military equipment production, healthcare and development, and helps to understand what led to the successful scaling of these enterprises.
Inamdar does a fine job in choosing the stories to tell, allowing for lesser-known but deserving companies to come under his lens.
The author’s style is lucid and engaging, transporting the reader to meeting rooms when the founders of their respective businesses made crucial decisions to attain the scale at which it is today.
In a bid to make the book read as a practical guide to scaling, Inamdar avoids clichés that litter pages of the genre and came up with seven sutras to encapsulate consistent principles that could be followed effectively. It also has a section at the end of each story where they compare how each organisation fared against a checklist of these sutras.
While this is a handy section that can be used to help refresh one’s memory on the important aspects of the company’s growth story for future reference, the results of the overall format are mixed at best.
Some of the sutras are ambiguous, such as “Be firm, but flexible,” while the others are subjective that one could argue that such a criteria could be applicable across any of the eight companies that are mentioned. For example: “Build a culture of innovation,” was a sutra that I personally felt that was met by all the companies that were covered in the book, but it was secured by five out of the eight of them.
On the other hand, I also found insights which were not covered under the sutras but were a part of each company’s journey. For one, each founder understood and harnessed the power of strong networks to give their organisation the edge needed to scale.
For example, the founder of Tonbo Imaging, a startup that began with production of specialised military imaging equipment, had built strong networks from his experience on projects for the United States Department of Defence (DoD), which he leveraged to kick-start the business.
I also got a sense that all of these founders had an in-depth and nuanced understanding of how their respective businesses operate. This could reflect in the way a company shapes its offerings to the market, or how it restructures itself in a way that is harmonious to scale.
For example, the founders of Rivigo took time to survey several truck drivers at dhabas to understand their concerns before rolling out its relay-method of driving trucks — a method that reduced delivery time and the number of hours spent by a driver on the road.
Without being preachy, the author's choice of covering organisations suggests that almost all of these ventures scaled because they had a mission that was larger than profit targets, or the personal ambition of attaining fame, glory and unicorn valuations.
The founder of Tonbo Imaging started the company because apart from making something that truly was his, he wanted to make India self-sufficient in meeting its defence needs.
Rivigo wished to make the logistics industry in India a humane business by ensuring that truck drivers can return to their families at the end of the day.
The Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) mission was and still is, to ensure that India and its space programme is a force to be reckoned with and aiding the country’s development goals.
Despite going in-depth into what worked for these companies, the author maintains a small, but a crucial distance from these organisations, which prevents a reader from idolising these businesses. Towards the end of every story, the author highlights the costs and challenges for these companies without digging too deep into the future.
This is a book that I would like to keep revisiting, either to glean insights or to read truly inspiring stories, on a day when we need them the most.