Dream With Your Eyes Open is the exciting entrepreneurial journey of the inimitable Ronnie Screwvala constantly toying with new ideas and forging ahead with disruptive product or business idea. Notwithstanding the reverses he has had the strength and resolve to move on.
He is the first generation entrepreneur and has taken great strides from modest beginnings in Mumbai’s Grand Road. His early days on television and the theatre was the stepping stone in pioneering cable TV in this country and build one of the largest toothbrush manufacturing operations before founding UTV.
It is a media and entertainment conglomerate encompassing television, digital, mobile, broadcasting, games and motion pictures as well which Ronnie divested to the Walt Disney Company in 2012. He has been described as the Jack Warner of India by Newsweek while Esquire rated him as one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century and Fortune as among Asia’s 25 most powerful.
In his second innings it is not about starting over. He insists that life is about continuation, not reinvention; it’s about persevering and finding wisdom, not complacency. He exchanges ideas with his trusted core team and is all ears when his colleagues are excited about the prospects of breaking new ground and frontiers.
“A second innings is a bookmark or a cornerstone, nothing more,” he observes. “There is no scheduled interval in life unlike in cinema or sports. Life is seamless, often enigmatic, full of crossroads and switchbacks. And if we look for it, the time to introspect.”
That is being real, practical and matter of fact. He acknowledges that he was fortunate to be a part of the creation of a media and entertainment company. “I’m proud to have been a part of many businesses that helped build and shape a nascent industry in India and in the process impact younger generations. I’ve never enjoyed anything more in my professional life than creating something out of nothing every single day or chasing a new thought or disruptive idea,” Ronnie emphasises.
Most important of all, this book seeks to demystify failure, inspire success, raise ambitions and help individuals wanting to be enterpreneurs to think big. His underlying USP is “think your own dream as it can be done” rather than praising himself “I did it” despite the odds. In the book’s opening chapter “From Grant Road to Breach Candy” he provides an insight to bubbling with positive energy at all times. India has its own built in risk component and the country’s existential economy doesn’t guarantee a ready market for entrepreneurs.
He started UTV with Rs 37,500. “The possibility of failure must never faze you”. Cautioning from making a deal with yourself or your family by saying ‘I am going to try this out for two years and see.’ That mindset is a complete recipe for failure. Even today when the rest of the world is waking up to the untapped potential of entrepreneurship, the country’s ecosystem is such that parents think their children should get jobs, not risk the family’s money and reputation on a pipe dream. Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, a difficult endeavour under the best of circumstances, one not made any easier by India’s culture of deference.
Most impediments to entrepreneurship are put in place by people who don’t have the imagination to dream. Go into every fight certain you’re going to win. As George Patton once said ‘No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won by making the other dumb bastard die for his country.’ His tips revolve around the hunger to succeed, innate confidence in one’s abilities and that there is no “right age” to become an entrepreneur and no one except you can determine when you’re ready.
Entrepreneurship in a nutshell is: action and reaction; understanding, confronting and transcending fear; working, disrupting and succeeding; trying and failing; and then laughing about it later while absorbing lasting life’s lessons. Insulating yourself against failure does not ensure success. It only makes success more elusive. Embrace failure. Tomorrow will still be there no matter how dire today feels.
Then the chapter when “Opportunity Knocks, Open The Door”. Being new in business one must ask questions without worrying about what people will say or think. When you start from scratch, you’ve got nothing to lose. Setting your laser sights on the goal doesn’t allow insecurities or manufactured fears to get in the way of your dream. “You can’t let that happen. You won’t let that happen.”
Ronnie’s creation of Laser Brushes in the early 1980s was more about balls than brains. It did not come about because of some brilliant glimpse of insight or had hit upon a unique idea whose time had come. “It was born and succeeded because I recognised the growth potential for a simple product that offered to fill a vacuum in India’s growing market. Those were early days when Ronnie was not clear about the future. He did not know much but what he knew was that he wanted to become an entrepreneur. They are built from the ground up – by immersing themselves in the world and taking more than a few shots on the chin before succeeding.
The author’s own background did not suggest any great acumen with figures (he was a Parsi, not Gujarati or Marwari) but he had an innate curiosity and a desire to understand the world around him to make sense of the long term implications of business transactions, to get a 360 degree perspective on all things. All these are key to recognising opportunity.
The higher your antenna, the keener your observation skills and your alertness; the more open and curious you are, the more likely you are to find an idea worth pursuing. That’s when opportunity strikes like lightning. Today more than ever, the prospective entrepreneur needs to see the big picture faster, quicker and better than anybody else in the room. Postponing or prolonging decision making to complete research and home work could potentially be an opportunity lost.
Half of everything is logic and intuition. Lack of funding can never prevent you from starting or growing your business. Ronnie’s DNA compels him to just go for it with full confidence that he will figure out where the money comes from. It’s not a strategy or a solution but an approach. And if well thought through it can and will work.
Theatre strengthened his communication skills and gave him tonnes of self confidence. Shakespeare’s “As You Like it” echoes in his mind: All the world’s a stage, All the men and women merely players, They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts… These lines and the images conjure perfectly in capturing the essence of entrepreneurship. Communication is a vital ingredient in the recipe for success. Authenticity is at the heart of effective communication. Ronnie insists “Dream Your Own Dream”.
The book is akin to a solo theatre performance by Ronnie. A gripping book where the author communicates directly with you.
[alert type=”e.g. warning, danger, success, info” title=””]Dream With Your Eyes Open: An Entrepreneurial Journey Ronnie Screwvala
Publisher: Rupa Publications India
Price: Rs 500[/alert]