Ventured and gained
Reviewed by
Balwinder Kaur

How I Braved Anu Aunty & Co-Founded A Million Dollar Company
By Varun Agarwal.
Rupa Publications. Pages 249. Rs 140

How I Braved Anu Aunty & Co-Founded A Million Dollar CompanyVarun Agarwal is the odd man out, having veered from the trajectory set by his parents and society; he enjoys the undesirable scrutiny his career choices or lack thereof have garnered. How I Braved Anu Aunty & Co-Founded A Million Dollar Company is the story of Varun Agarwal, written by Varun Agarwal. A 20-something self-proclaimed loser; he is at the crossroads in life where he has to choose his career path and there is fair bit of cacophony surrounding him. There are the dramatic all-too readily flowing tears of his mother, the ever-increasing social pressure to earn a livelihood, the never-ending meddling of all the aunties, led by Anu aunty, the sandpaper rough burn of his all- too perfect peers like Arjun, the drama of his less-than-perfect friends and the sad nonexistent state of his love life manifesting in his unsavoury e-stalking of an oblivious Devika.

After a year of complete non-productivity, following the engineering degree he was basically forced into getting Varun is not exactly at a highpoint in his two decades of existence. Filled with no insignificant amount of disdain for all the techies and engineers in Bangalore; he may not know what he wants to do but is absolutely certain of what he doesnít want to do and that is have a regular job. Barren of this traditional desire, he chooses boldly, albeit furtively, to start a business with his friend Rohn Malhotra; catering to school memorabilia after noticing a gap in the market. This business venture is attempted between bouts of drinking and wandering through many of the fine drinking establishments in Bangalore. There are hurdles everywhere and he leaps over some and crawls under others.

For Varun, social gatherings are like being a gladiator in an arena with a never-ending series of swipes, thrusts and jibes from all the adults at his reticence to secure a job with regular pay cheques. His future is painted as bleak as can possibly be by many hands; mostly aunties. While all of these aunties have an almost pathological need to stick their noses in as many peopleís business as possible none of them match up to Anu aunty. Anu aunty is an extraordinary busybody; constantly prying, sneaking, pushing and interfering. Her sanctimonious, high-and-mighty attitude, right down to her annoying singsong voice begets the understanding of all the readers who have suffered such obnoxious individuals. Her overbearing self looms large over Varun; the harbinger of many unwanted events. Such as the reluctant trips he makes to the counsellor Dr. Swamy who he deems ill-equipped to set him back on the supposed right career path. And the job interview that he goes to in order placate his often hysterical mother. But these aunties have also taught him the importance of self-advertisement of which there is plenty. Also impressed by their gossip network, he focuses on networking, cultivating relationships and gathering information.

However, the business venture faces unavoidable teething troubles; website glitches, financial hurdles, product issues and delivery problems. There are inevitable fractures, fissures and fights between the partners. But things are finally on track as orders start coming in.

The book begins with a disclaimer by Varun Agarwal, absolving himself of his theatrical and over-the-top interpretations and representations of situations attributing it to his filmy nature; setting the tone for the book. The entire book is very conversational; well a conversation one would only have with someone very familiar to them. The language is accurately urbane, exceedingly casual and expletive-laced. The comedic and pithy first person narrative is littered with gratuitous witticisms and droll observations.

There is a slightly affected nonchalance about the memoir that doesn't speak to the urgency of the matter and the desperation of a self-run enterprise. However this book is an amazing artefact of capitalism cataloguing the authorís success; filled with blatant product placement and shameless self promotion. A young at heart tale that is relatable and addresses the uniquely Indian state of affairs that no international coming of age novel could. The book is a two hundred and forty nine- page pep talk for all wannabe entrepreneurs; offering useful advice. A message of hope, proving by personal example that it's possible to do what you want even without experience.