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You Can Make Your Dreams Work
240 pages; Average reading time 3 hours 24 min
This bookbhook summary will take not more than 13 minutes
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This bookbhook summary has been handcrafted by Sagnik Basak. Sagnik loves reading and believes books are time machines that take you into a world far unlike the one we live in.
What does it take to leave a career built on years of hard work and go seek something that you are passionate about? How do people decide to kick a well-paying job and opt for something that does not earn the same money, but helps you build something you enjoy? Author Shalini Umachandran takes us through 15 profiles, who are people like you and me, and yet are driven by a purpose that operates at a different level, which made them heed their calling.
In this handcrafted bookbhook summary, we take you through 4 out of the 15 interesting profiles that Shalini has researched. Do buy the book using the links to know about the 11 other profiles that are part of the book.
1. Rahul Devesher’s Quest to Fly
Nursing a 20 years old dream
After spending four years as a media planner, Rahul Devesher made his twenty year old dream of flying come to life. He will never forget those eight minutes as he flew solo for the first time in a small Cessna. He has a photograph on his phone of the shirt he had worn that day, now all covered with congratulatory messages and scrawls from instructors, friends and peers at the flying school. This shirt is a reminder of his journey from being a media planner to a pilot. He looks closely at the photograph as if trying to remember every little detail and recalls that day, ‘The instructor took me out as usual and after the third practice run, he said, ‘kar lega?’ and I replied Of course!’ The instructor then informed the Traffic about this rookie’s first solo flight. ‘So I went. I was so focused on doing everything right that it didn’t sink in. It was only after I landed that I felt the exhilaration’, Rahul recalls.
After serving for six years in Jet Airways, where he began as a trainee and then became a flight officer, Rahul is currently a captain with Indigo airlines This is a realisation of a dream that was twenty years in the making. From his childhood onwards, all Rahul did was want to fly planes. He saw a performance of the fighter jets at the Republic Day parade and it became an obsession.
Rahul Devesher was born in 1977 in Punjab and moved around a lot because of his father’s job. Growing up in the era before the Internet, he would decorate his rooms with cut outs of military and civil aircraft from magazines and newspapers. After finishing school, he decided to join the National Defence Academy but his application was rejected because he wore power glasses and was underweight.
His hopes rose again when he saw the advert for a flying school in Chennai and whilst going through their prospectus was entranced by the Rs 50,000 fee for a commercial license. When he approached his father, his father pointed out that the fee was actually Rs 5 lakhs and that was the end of Rahul’s dreams for the moment. He became unfocused and as a result his studies suffered. He pulled himself together and completed school in 1996 and after college he joined Mudra Institute of Communications Ahmadabad, MICA. After his time at MICA, Rahul joined a media agency called Mindshare in Mumbai.
A gift of wings
Rahul flew for the first time in his life in 2002 when he boarded the Air India Airbus A310 to fly home to Chennai during his job. That short flight rekindled his dream once more. He then began giving serious thought to the idea of switching careers. At that time, many of his colleagues were quitting their jobs to start their own ventures or pursuing their own interests. He would look at the wallpaper on his computer, the inside of a cockpit, for hours and look at his boss’ cabin and ask himself if that is really where he wanted to be in five or ten years? In Mumbai, he had access to information that he lacked earlier and he began his search to obtain a private pilot’s license.
His father was initially opposed to his idea of quitting his job and Rahul therefore kept him out of the loop. He made a trip to the Ahmedabad Aviation and Aeronautics and learnt that a private license was available for Rs. 2 lakhs and sixty hours flying time and a commercial license was available for Rs. 9 lakhs and 200 hours flying time. He appeared for the Private Pilot Licence (PPL) exam, but failed the first time. That was an eye opener because he realised that purely a love for aeroplanes would not be enough. As the Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) training involved the same study material as the PPL, he started his preparation and decided to attempt the CPL exam as it would enable him to switch careers.
Soaring up above
He quit his job, took a loan from his mother, shifted to Ahmedabad and began his training. He recalls that it was odd being the only 28 year old student in a class of people just out of high school. For the first few months the lessons were devoted mainly to theory. It was nearly a year into the course before he flew solo the first time. He then had to fly cross country with an instructor and complete a minimum of twenty hours of night flight and thirty hours of flight based only on instruments. It was only then that he could take the exam conducted by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). It was finally in 2007 that he earned his license and within two months he joined Sahara Airlines.
His father, though sceptical and unsupportive in the beginning, has now come around since Rahul had got his license. After eight months of training, Rahul upgraded to flying a Boeing 737 jet. He found this daunting, ‘The jump is crazy. You are just not prepared for it. The engine gives you the power and the wings make you fly.’ A Cessna flies at 100 km per hour whereas a jet lands at 200 km per hour. Rahul compares commercial flying to a well-choreographed dance because of managing the weight, passengers, weather and all other factors like fuel, radios and flight equipment. Despite all the difficulties and challenges of commercial flying Rahul is confident that he has made the right choice and his passion still intact.
2. Dinesh K.S & Wildcraft
Dinesh K.S. was twenty years old when he first read ‘Annapurna’, a book that details the expedition of French mountaineer Maurice Herzog and Louis Lanchenal as they tried to conquer the Himalayan peak. Dinesh’s first trip to the Himalayas was in 1982 whilst he was still a student of electrical engineering in Bangalore (now Bengaluru). The long hours at the library were spent reading all types of books and thus developed his love for the outdoors. His trip to Nepal was way beyond his expectations and he admits that he lost all interest in engineering and spent all his free time trekking and climbing the hills around Bangalore.
Before joining a television company, Dinesh treated himself to a month long course at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling. During one of his expeditions, he met a fellow climber who told him about the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in the U.S. Dinesh saw this as the right opportunity as it would enable him to earn, as well as follow his passion. He was all set to leave but fate had different plans as he broke his ankle in an accident.
To keep himself occupied during his recuperation period, Dinesh decided to focus on how to make an aspiring climber’s life easier. He understood the importance of good equipment and how important it was to those who had a passion for the sport. In those days there was a severe dearth of good equipment in India. Most trekkers had to purchase second hand boots, tents, rucksacks and other equipment from Nepal. These items were mostly surplus gear left behind by European and American trekkers. It was a big hassle going north of the border to procure gear and getting them through customs on the way back. Designing equipment was easy for him as he had used some of the world’s best gear and he also understood what features a climber wanted on his equipment and which parts would endure the most stress.
Wildcraft- the beginning
Dinesh began Wildcraft in 1993 in partnership with two friends. While the two friends had their own careers, he focused full time on the venture and was responsible for material, designing, fabrication and sales. Till 1998, it was essentially a one man show. Dinesh would finalise the designs and then head out to procure the materials. Then, he would take the materials to a friend’s factory nearly 20 kilometres away where in lieu of a nominal sum of money he was allowed to use the sewing machines. Initially he faced a problem with materials but instead of settling for low quality local fabrics he began importing in fabric from Korea. To instil the love of adventure among the youth, Wildcraft held many rafting and trekking camps but realised that it was more of a one-time thing with most people rather than a passion.
By 2000, Dinesh had built a company that had garnered enormous goodwill as a provider of good quality outdoors equipment but had failed to grow beyond Bangalore. He was a little disheartened at the fact and left India to pursue a career in NOLS. While he was away, two MBA graduates, Gaurav Dublish and Siddharth Sood, bought a stake in the cash strapped adventure gears company. When Dinesh returned in 2003, he was unsatisfied with the growth and with the help of these two new ‘investors’, he started to get the company back on track.
To increase revenues, Wildcraft opened three franchise stores in 2004 and by 2006 they had three successful franchise outlets and one company owned store. The company had reached Rs. 2 crores in revenues. Dinesh then called Siddharth and Gaurav and informed them he had reached his limits and it would be up to them to drive the company further. The two of them, then, left their jobs at prestigious companies and joined Wildcraft fulltime. The initial few months were quite hectic for them. But soon they got used to the new atmosphere and focused on a steady business plan and thanks to their help the company reached the 50 crore mark in 2011 and the 100 crore mark by 2013. Dinesh is now involved in product designing, Gaurav handles the marketing and sales and Siddharth deals with the financial operations. The company now has around 120 exclusive stores and 2500 multi brand stores spread over more than 200 cities.
Dinesh is no longer a majority stake holder in the company. He is now content that the company is in safe hands and has delegated all the important duties to Gaurav and Siddharth. Though he still has a say in important decisions, he is mostly involved in designing. He also takes his staff on yearly treks in an attempt to make them fall in love with the outdoors, just as he once fell in love with the mountains.
3. Ramakrishnans and Whitcomb & Shaftesbury
Chennai to London
Suresh Ramakrishnan gives a tour of his century old house on St George Street in London, a cornucopia of fine tailored suits since 1911. As he recalls the story of the landlord’s father, who was the inspiration for John le Carre’s The Tailor of Panama, he walks into the tailoring room, covered in a rich deep blue carpet with the tailors sitting in a corner, busy on their worktables stitching Grey Tweed and Merino wool, labouring over the clothing of some of the world’s finest dressed men.
Half a world away his twin brother Mahesh Ramakrishnanm, is giving a tour of his bunglow cum workshop in Chennai’s Mahalingapuram. He points out to the workshop where the tailors are busy at their worktables, they laugh and trade gossip as they keep stitching Grey Tweed and Merino wool, labouring over the clothing of some of the world’s finest dressed men.
The Ramakrishnan brothers are the owners of Whitcomb and Shaftsbury, a bespoke tailoring company from Saville Row that operates in London and Chennai. In addition, they also run a workshop in Andhra Pradesh where they train the under privileged women in the area in the art of bespoke tailoring, creating a piece of clothing from numerous precise measurements. The brothers’ list of clients include famous heads of state, leaders of large corporations, rock stars, sports stars, Hollywood celebrities and members of royal families.
From corporate to tailoring
Mahesh and Suresh never thought they would be tailors. About fifteen years ago, they had promising careers, Suresh as a vice president at Goldman Sachs and Mahesh, a managing director for an IT company. This was when they started habitually wearing suits. Once while shopping, they came across two Armani suits which were exactly alike except the price, one was $ 700 the other was around $ 3000. This was when they realised that there is more to a suit than just fabric. They began their research and soon learnt about the variations of fabrics, the fused suit where the canvas and fabric are ironed together to the canvas suit, canvas wadding and horsehair are meticulously stitched with silk thread, the kind Saville Row specialises in.
The art of suit making was perfected in Saville Row for over 300 years. They began as outfitters for the army and were commissioned to create uniforms that would make the soldiers look indomitable. The uniforms had square shoulders and broad chests which carried an air of might and authority. This design slowly underwent changes over time to become the gentlemen’s suit. The English tailors perfected this art, which was then copied by the Italians, who perfected the art of making mass produced suits using light fabrics. The English have dominated the art of hand making custom clothing and it is this tradition that the brothers are teaching the underprivileged in India.
Mahesh believes that a good suit should, ‘camouflage your flaws and highlight your strengths’. And it is this thinking which goes into the creation of their suits. The love of fine clothing had helped them make friends with some of the most renowned cutters and tailors on the row and they gladly shared their advice.
By 2004, they had both quit their jobs and had started the groundwork for the business. In the same year, a tsunami struck India and the brothers decided to start a tailoring workshop as a way to rehabilitate the victims. Out the many that signed up, many left, some were poached by established tailors but only a few stayed behind and continue to work on the suits to this day. Master tailors would come in from London to conduct the workshop. All the suits that were produced were given away.
By 2006 Whitcomb & Shaftsbury was ready to open. The name was inspired by the names of two London streets, as a store with an Indian name would have been out of place among the century old tailors in Saville Row. Their first clients were friends who knew about their love of good suits and soon through word of mouth and recommendations the customer base started to expand. The world of bespoke tailoring is like private banking. One gets in only on recommendation. The brothers were then approached by a friend who asked if they could open a similar workshop in Tada, in Andhra Pradesh.
The Tada complex has become a workplace devoted mostly to rural under privileged women, who have learnt a useful skill and are somewhat better off. Many women often drop out of the course halfway, often due to family pressure and the unfamiliarity of having a job. Mahesh says they are hoping to have a team of sixty women working for them fulltime but they have to be patient.
Patience has been a crucial part of the business. It was only in 2011 that the Chennai workshop sent its first suits to Saville Row. The preferences of the customers are also changing. When the suits first came out, the customers would ask the difference between those and British suits. John McCabe, the head cutter would reply ‘70 percent of the quality at 50 percent the cost.’
They felt that the hardest part has been the uncertainty. One month business might be good but the following months might go dry. And the interim costs pile up. Mahesh says that he misses the certainty of a pay cheque and Suresh misses the camaraderie atmosphere of a workplace but is getting used to it. In 2014 they entered the Indian market in partnership with Evoluzione and later that same year they unveiled a range of ethnic wear in partnership with designer Tarun Tahiliani.
4. Apurva Kothari and No Nasties
Finding the purpose
India has one of the worst farmer suicide rates in the world, with one farmer committing suicide every half an hour. It was statistics like these that came as a revelation to 39 year old technology manager Apurva Kothari, or Apu as his friends call him, and made him an organic advocate. Growing up in Bombay, Apu did not really have big plans for the world. He just wanted to be happy. So he floated along the conventional path and after completing his engineering and a Masters from the University of Texas, he worked in a host of jobs. He had a well-paying job, vacations around the globe and no worries till he came across an article in 2007. The write-up talked about how 270,000 cotton farmers had committed suicide in Maharashtra since 1995 because of bankruptcy, high debts and unfair trade prices. These facts and numbers got stuck in Apu’s head like a thorn till he could focus on nothing else except the thought of helping these poor people.
Apu began making plans for something big, just writing a cheque or starting an NGO just would not cut it. He began his research and found that, despite the best efforts of the government at grass root level, many farmers were reluctant to switch from genetically modified seeds and pesticides to organic farming. There was not a very high demand for organic products. Since there is little demand, buyers tend to have the upper hand in the pricing. The aim of the fair trade movement is to get the customer and the producer to partner.
Apu wanted to set up his own line of clothing to prove that fair organic trade could be made affordable and could stand up to big brands. After toying with the idea for a couple of years, it was his wife Shweta who give him the push. They returned to Mumbai and in 2010 Apu began his search for partners to create a line of ethnically manufactured everyday clothing. He finally settled on T shirts, since they would be easy to make and would connect with young people. He did not expect people to change their lifestyle to support organic products but rather designed products that matched the design and fashion sensibilities of the consumers, letting them wear what they normally wear and just help them with informed decisions whilst shopping to support the organic culture.
Apu met designer and photographer Diti Kotecha and they decided to band together. Apu admits that ‘I don’t have a brain wired for business, I’m more creative.’ He deals mostly with the designing of the products. An investment of Rs 8 lakh and a ‘get started and things will happen’ approach led to a lot of fumbling about in the dark and happy accidents. Eventually, he managed to form connections with farmers’ groups and fair-trade organizations.
Finally in April 2011, Apu launched ‘No Nasties’ to market his brand of T shirts. From the first day onwards, he decided to make No Nasties an e-commerce platform as he wanted to speak directly with the customers. To this day, he directly speaks to each buyer either through phone, email or Facebook. One of the benefits of selling online is that it helps small business owners get instant feedback. Apu says he feels great joy whenever he receives messages from customers saying how much they have enjoyed his products.
The cotton, fabric and dyes all being used by No Nasties meet the requirements of the Global Organic Textile Standards. In 2013, he got a licence from Fairtrade International, the organization behind the principles of fair trade. The licence gives them a sense of confidence and they are the first Indian T shirt company that has gotten past the strict filter and acquired the licence.
To infinity and beyond
The initial uphill climb was a struggle but UnLtd India, an incubator for social entrepreneurs, gave No Nasties a funding and helped them along. Apu’s experience with the web and technology eased the creation of their online presence. By 2014, they had shifted the headquarters from Mumbai to Goa as the tranquil atmosphere helps with the work and the expansion of the business. They have also expanded their line from only T shirts to tank tops, polo shirts and dresses. This has been possible as the customer base expanded to include middle aged professionals and urban youth.
Despite the business doing well, Apu does not take home a salary but relies on the investments made during his corporate days. No Nasties today is India’s first 100 per cent organic, fair trade clothing brand.