The book’s blurb reads: Follow Every Rainbow is the story of 25 enterprising women who took up a challenge. They raised a family as well as a company, with love, laughter and patience. Managing multiple equations – never giving in or giving up. These stories say one thing loud and clear. Women think and act differently, but they can be just as successful. What `success’ means, is something only you can decide.
Rashmi Bansal is the author of four non-fiction books – I Have A Dream, Stay Hungry Stay Foolish, Connect The Dots and Poor Little Rich Slum. The first three deal with entrepreneurs while the fourth is a description of Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum.
However, in Follow Every Rainbow, Rashmi has specifically compiled a list of 25 women entrepreneurs. This interested me because (a) I am a woman myself and (b) There are not many books available on women entrepreneurs, especially in India.
What amazed me was that Rashmi has dedicated the book to her mother-in-law Santosh Bansal. In a country where Ekta Kapoor’s regressive serials rule the roost, this came across as a refreshing change. However, as I read through the book, my amazement diminished. Many of the women entrepreneurs openly credited both their mothers and mothers-in-law for providing them the kind of support which enabled them to set-up and run their businesses.
The title of the book has been taken from The Sound of Music (Climb every mountain, Ford every stream, Follow every rainbow, Till you find your dream). As she mentions in her note, although women are as capable as men, the circumstances must allow. However, women shall show new ways of thinking and doing things.
The book has been divided into three sections – Lakshmi, Durga and Saraswati. The eight women featured under Lakshmi are the `ghar ki lakshmis` who brought wealth and prosperity to the home – by co-opting family members into their business. Circumstances forced the eight women featured under Durga to be enterprising, to fight for survival; they rose to the challenge, slaying demons within and without. The nine women featured under Saraswati are armed with a professional education and they are carving out an identity through entrepreneurship.
A common theme running across all the women’s experiences is the immense support they have received from their family members – parents, in-laws, husband, children, etc. Rashmi makes no bones about the fact that starting and running a business is tough for a woman and she will need all the help she can get from her family. Another point beautifully brought out reading through the book is that children are proud of the fact that they have a working mother – someone who is doing something on her own. Most times, women feel guilty that they are not doing enough as a mother. However, Rashmi’s narrative says that need not be the case. As long as you have a support system in the form of maids and cooks, in addition to your family members, you can manage a business. Her advice to women entrepreneurs is that we underestimate ourselves a lot. We have to be proud of what we are and whatever we do, we should do it fully; we owe it to ourselves.
What shines across in the book is the fact that all the women wanted to give back something to society. They were passionate about what they were doing and did not bother about making profits in the beginning itself. They were more focused on doing a good job and satisfying their customers.
The women featured in the book are from diverse fields such as cooking food (Rajni Bector, Patricia Narayan), tribal arts (Leela Bordia, Neeti Tah), information technology (Sangeeta Patni), sculptor (Jasu Shilpi), etc. The eldest woman featured in the book is Ela Bhatt (79 years) – the founder of SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association) and the youngest is Manju Bhatia (26 years) – Joint Managing Director of Vasuli, a loan recovery company which employs only female agents.
I personally enjoyed reading about Meena Bindra (Biba) because my mother and I are huge fans of Biba and buy quite a lot of their stuff; Nirmala Kandalgaonkar (Vivam Agrotech) because she is in the unusual business of vermicomposting; Jasu Shilpi because she was India’s only woman sculptor and Dr. Shikha Sharma (Nutrihealth Systems) because I have seen her a lot on television.
Rashmi’s writing style is casual and easy-to-read. She has retained the conversational aspect in a lot of places providing translations in English where the phrases are in Hindi. She has conducted detailed interviews with each of the women considering the fact that each woman’s narrative runs into 10-12 pages. Reading through these, one gets a fair idea of the business and what it entails. In almost all the narratives, Rashmi has also mentioned the latest financials – sales turnover and/or profit figures whichever are available. This helps to get an idea of the size of the venture.
I urge everybody, especially every woman, to go and read this book. It is an eye-opener in terms of the challenges that women are willing to accept and forge ahead; taking their families together with them in this journey. It also gives insights into the areas which women are willing to explore and make their mark in.
The surprise at the end of the book is the fact that Rashmi has provided the e-mail addresses of all the 25 women in case one wishes to get in touch with them for help/advice. She has also provided a list of useful entrepreneurial courses available at various institutes and organizations willing to offer flexi-time careers to women.
Pick up this book and you will not regret it. It will open up your mind like never before to the immense power of a woman. And in this nation of ours where we worship female goddesses such as Lakshmi, Durga, Saraswati, Kali, Devaki, etc. it makes immense sense. Respect a woman, support her in her endeavours and see the magic she creates – that is the central theme of this book. And every man and woman should remember this. Reading Rashmi Bansal’s book will ensure we do just that.
I am going with 5/5 for this book.