Webchutney has been an agency for most start-ups and still is: Sidharth Rao

Rao, CEO and Co-Founder, Dentsu Webchutney, on his book, ‘How I Almost Blew It’, and why he decided to chronicle start-up stories

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: Sep 19, 2019 8:54 AM
Sidharth Rao

For someone who quit college at 19 to start an agency and survived the dotcom bust, Sidharth Rao, CEO and Co-Founder, Dentsu Webchutney, seems to be the perfect fit to pen down start-up stories with his recently released book ‘How I Almost Blew It’.

The novel is an anthology of the myriad stories of India’s highly admired entrepreneurs. Encapsulated by the well-known digital honcho and published by Westland Publications (an Amazon company), the book narrates the heart-stopping stories of speckled industry tycoons and their critical life lessons. 

In conversation with exchange4media, Rao shares the genesis of the book, challenges between idea to execution and more.

Chuffed to being a first time author, Rao said, “I consider myself privileged to have had the opportunity to pick the brains of so many icons of India's internet story. Webchutney and I have both been on the other side of the table with some of these founders and their companies as marketing partners, and now I'm excited to tell their stories about their fortitude, courage, hard work and sometimes dumb luck that helped them succeed. I will forever remain grateful to them for freewheeling conversations with me that helped me write the book.”

Deconstructing why he decided on going with the start-up story as the topic over making it a novel around Webchutney, Rao remarked that in India, there isn’t much available in the entrepreneurship space and as the media celebrates fundraising and other vanity milestones in a start-up’s journey, adding to the perception that start-ups are romantic stories. “In reality they are difficult journeys fraught with hardships. In my 20 years in the start-up universe, I haven’t encountered a single start-up that hasn’t had a near-death experience, almost shut down, almost sold itself too early and therefore almost blew it,” said Rao who himself quit college and started Webchutney at the age at 19. 

The book is an account of how some of the most successful Indian entrepreneurs —  Sanjeev Bikhchandani (Info Edge and Naukri.com), Deep Kalra (MakeMyTrip), Deepinder Goyal (Zomato), Ashish Hemrajani (BookMyShow), Sahil Barua (Delhivery), Kunal Shah (FreeCharge), Murugavel Janakiraman (Bharat Matrimony), Ajit Balakrishnan (Rediff.com), Anupam Mittal (People Group), Brijesh Agarwal (India MART), Jitendra Gupta (Citrus Pay), Pradeep Kar (Microland), Satyan Gajwani (Times Internet), Rajesh Jain (IndiaWorld), Alok Mittal (JobsAhead.com), R Ramaraj (Sify) and Girish Mathrubootham (Freshworks)  —  built their businesses.

What made it easy for Rao was that he knew most of these people as friends, agency partners, mentors and in some cases, a mix of all which made it easy for him to have freewheeling chats with them and that is why the material you read in the book is honest. “Webchutney has been an agency for most of them and still is in a few cases,” he asserted. In terms of setting the parameter to select the 17 entrepreneurs, he shared, “I wanted to cover entrepreneurs who had sufficiently scaled a business or had exited with a great outcome”.

To Rao, the challenges were plenty but simple. “Most of them revolved around getting our schedules to work out to meet. Since the book is based a lot on the one-on-one conversations with the entrepreneurs,” he revealed. From start to finish, it has taken about 1.5 years. “Honestly, it could have been earlier but I guess I juggled a lot between my day job and the writing bit,” he exclaimed.

‘How I Almost Blew It’ is a light, non-fiction read and a guide containing lessons, wisdom and insights into the industry for your own start-up. Alluring to young and older readers of the business world, these spell-binding and intriguing stories of near-fiascos are industry wisdom, yes, but also critical life lessons.

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