Let’s settle this right here
Review of ‘Bringing the Rainbow – the Hindware Story’
I love fiction. But I have a deep respect for non-fiction and the reason is that every snippet, every little story here is backed by a conviction that only reality has. So when I began reading ‘Bringing the Rainbow – the Hindware Story’ by R K Somany, it did have this minor advantage and I must admit that the book did not disappoint my reading sensibilities in any way. I guess this is primarily because I was reading the story of a person who, in his own words, has been ‘a workaholic… curious by nature… enjoys meeting people… gets different points of view on topical issues… feel restless unless I am doing something constructive…’ and is, therefore, full of anecdotes and schooling for everyone looking for hints for a better life. The book is more than just some massive family get-together of leaders spread in Bombay, Ahmedabad, Delhi, and Calcutta, meeting ‘regularly every year and on social occasions’ and keeping ‘everyone informed about the business in our charge’. Well, these are all leaders within the family who initially ‘never thought of buying jute mill, as many Marwari traders did in the years leading up to Independence and immediately thereafter’ but finally succeeded ‘in the 1950s and 1960s in the ceramics and glass industries, in which the Somanys are now a household name’. These are all leaders who have many stories to tell.
The book isn’t just one drab monologue on Hindware, nor is it a panegyric sung for a company or a family… it transcends manufactured euphoria and comes with a fair share of trepidation, tremors, and temporary feelings of mortal uncertainties. So as a reader I did glide through family dramas and family history which came with an appropriate dose of spice, but loved the bits that parachuted me into the heart of valuable directions for a well-managed life. The incident about the ‘Bengali boy called Bose’ who finally got slapped by the author transcends a merely entertaining story when, on being asked why by the Padre, R K Somany says confidently: ‘He went back on a commitment to pay. That’s unacceptable. To top it, he sneeringly called me a Mero.’ I believe this book is in reality the story of a business leader who ‘could stand up for his principles, against tough odds, and still win the day’ and one who knew that in life ‘there are no shortcuts to success’. This is why when the Bengali boy, who was disappointed that the author wasn’t punished by the school authorities, challenged him to a fight outside, the author simply says: ‘Why wait till then? Let’s settle this right here’. This one sentence actually captures the gist of this book because I sensed an uncanny affiliation to immediacy of actions in every page. This kind of firmness of conviction helps the author when in his ‘mid-twenties and a novice in business, having just entered the sanitaryware industry’ to deal with dealer standoffs. We read about the ‘steel embedded’ in his character when he firmly stands with his principle to ‘give cash discounts only for payments made within the scheduled date’.
For those readers looking for management insights in the book, there are many and they all come with their own stories and not mere instructions. The author never goes on to pronounce instructions standing on some hallowed dais, but links incidents to learnings and so when he writes that the ‘top management does not have any time-out. It’s a full-time assignment where only the most committed succeed’, he gives us a walk-through of his own routine. The book is about an enigmatic business leader who prefers to ‘stay in the background, guiding the management and drawing the red lines’, and sincerely believes that ‘the authority of the line managers will be seriously compromised if their reportees know they can directly approach the top management’. We read about how the author translates his belief to ‘ensure that the right man is in the right job’ into an organisation that has survived the onslaught of many business rivalries. We read about a man who ‘cannot understand why people wait until the last day’, and even this small tip comes with the way Somany deals with all sorts of IT filings. This is an energetic story about a man and a company who have decided to go on working and so even when he is asked: ‘When will you retire?’ My straight answer to that is: ‘When God retires me.’
Biographies can sometimes tend to be rambles of a rather personal nature that appeal to only a select group of readers… but this one is both like an anecdotal management Bible as well as an exclusive peep into a family drama and how it unfolded through the years that are now past. I wouldn’t really be off the mark if I compare the book with a breakfast where spicy Marwari food is served with a healthy smoothie of an assortment of fruits and vegetables!
Details of the book
Title: Bringing the Rainbow – The Hindware Story
Author: R K Somany
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Price: Rs 595/- (in 2017)
10 January 2017