How I Braved Anu Aunty & Co-founded a Million Dollar Company is entrepreneur Varun Agarwal’s debut novel. It’s the real life story of his experience as the co-founder of Alma Mater (a web store dealing in school memorabilia) and as the title suggests; of his encounters with Anu Aunty, his mother’s naysaying friend. As he mentions in the book’s foreword, he isn’t any Hemingway and thus, this book should be read for the story and the insight it provides, and nothing else. The plot follows Varun, a confused engineering graduate who is unsure of what he wants to do next. It involves his group of friends each of whom are products of the Indian education system and it’s mindset, where everyone is an engineer or a doctor. And in all of this, Varun dreams of doing things his own way. From stalking his crush on Facebook to a lot more, this book makes for a breezy read.
I finished it in over a five-hour long bus journey. The story is set in Bangalore and smells of the city throughout. Varun has a quirky narrative where he recounts the events of his life in a brutally honest manner. And he adds these small little snippets explaining some of these incidents and places. Mixed somewhere in this narrative of him starting Alma Mater, he dishes out his words of wisdom. No he isn’t a Mitch Albom or Steve Jobs but these do get across pretty well thanks to way they are put forth. They are easy to relate to and practical. They aren’t very preachy. Add to all of this, the constant situation-based humour that is found throughout the narrative.
As I had mentioned earlier, this novel isn’t a great work of literature and I don’t think it was intended as one. It will not feed your soul or enthrall you with the unknown. What it does is that it tells you a real life story of a guy and the way he battles all odds to do what he wanted to do. Needless to say, Anu Aunty is a metaphor for all those people who are a part of our lives and oppose or contradict everything we think or do.
The author has reached out to diverse populations with his customized merchandise and has given hope to a whole generation of youngsters who chose to do things their way. It surely is inspiring. The book also brings to you the stark reality of being an entrepreneur; it’s a lot of hard work to be one and no, even owning a million-dollar company doesn’t mean you drive around in a Porsche. It has very strong Indian sensibilities and that’s very important because I am sure Mark Zuckerberg’s parents didn’t force him to do engineering and become a techie at Microsoft only so that he could marry a nice girl.
As a reader, I felt the book spoke little of Varun’s relationship with co-founder Rohn ‘Mal’ Malhotra.
So what makes it different from the whole pack of Chetan Bhagat-led page turners? It’s inspirational. The writer of the book is the co-founder of a million dollar company. A company that he founded without almost any help from his parents. A drunken idea that he turned into a profit making idea. That’s the bit that makes the 249 odd pages worth reading.