By Nikhil Imamdar. Grade: B+
Baniya—a derivative of the Sanskrit word Vanij, is a term synonymous with India’s trader class. Over the decades, these capitalists spread their footprint across vast sectors of the economy from steel and mining to telecom and retail. And now even e-tail. Nikhil Inamdar’s Rokda features the stories of a few pioneering men from this mercantile community—Radheshyam Agarwal and Radheshyam Goenka,founders of the cosmetic major Emami; Rohit Bansal, co-founder of Snapdeal; Neeraj Gupta, founder of Meru Cabs; and V.K. Bansal, a humble mathematics tutor whose genius spawned a massive coaching industry in Kota — amongst others.
Through the triumphs and tribulations of these men in the epoch marking India’s entire post independence struggle with entrepreneurship—from the License Raj to the opening up of the floodgates in 1991, and the dawn of the digital era—Rokda seeks to uncover the indomitable spirit of the Baniya.
Rokda, debut novel of journalist Nikhil Imamdar is a sequel of widely acclaimed book, ‘Dhandha’ written by Shobha Bondre. The book aims to capture the business sense of Baniyas’ and it’s aptly titled as ‘Rokda- How Baniyas do business’. The ‘Baniya’ community is well known for its aesthetic business sense and for the ability to toil and prosper. Nikhil Imamdar, the authorn exemplifies it by presenting five stories of such people who made their name in whole world.
- The Millionaire Cabbie – Neeraj Gupta – Founder of Meru Cabs, one of the most successful cab company currently operating in 11 cities in India
- The Emamiwallahs – Radheshyam Agarwal and Radheshyam Goenka – Founders of Cosmetic major Emami
- The Online Baniya – Rohit Bansal – Co-Founder of Snapdeal, one of India’s E-Commerce giants
- Mission Sanitation and The Man Behind – RK Somany – Owner of Hindustan Sanitaryware & Industries Limited
- The Coach – VK Bansal – A humble mathematics tutor whose genius spawned a massive coaching industry in Kota
I liked how the author has not tampered with the stories, even when told from a third person point of view, their essence remains intact. The writing is sharp and keeps the reader engaged. The stories are inspiring and bring a smile to your face here and there. The present conditions of the business are accounted for, and in some cases where they are not soaring high, the writer does not sugar-coat it.
But the book fails hugely in one aspect. The title ‘How Baniyas do Business’ leads you to believe he’ll reveal some tricks of the trade, inherent insights and strategic strengths these baniyas are born with, or maybe highlight a pattern all of these successful entrepreneurs followed that was not easily visible to the mortal eye. Nope, nope, nope. It’s a simple write-up on their rags-to-riches story – an interesting narrative, but nothing groundbreaking. It seems as if they have been written just for the sake of the surnames, not doing justice to the very theme of the book.
In all, if you are looking for a short inspiring read for a weekend, go for this one. (Psst, I’ll be honest, Dhandha was a much better read, though.)