Ambi Parameswaran has chosen a complex theme for his latest book. It describes and analyses the possible mental and career consequences of rejection. The broad canvas is managerial rather than sociological and the publisher has appropriately branded Spring as a business book.
The narrative possesses a convincing ring of truth largely because some of it is autobiographical. I’ll tell you why I’m so sure. As I began to read, I found page after page bristling with anecdotes in a potpourri of insightful nuggets on living sanely through devastating rejections. A rejection, by the way, might find oddball modes of expression. A bright spark in the marketing department might have been up all night preparing a powerful presentation on the product launch under her charge. Her presentation goes brilliantly next morning but no hallelujahs are sounded when it’s over. Instead, mud pie is sloshed on her face. That’s how top honchos once reacted (metaphorically) to express rejection.
Rejections happen, and too often for comfort, they are cruel.
Wiser after imbibing lessons from management stories such as the one above, the thought struck me – how come Ambi knows so many anecdotes, each bearing a moral at tale’s end? Is this a work of fiction, or what? During a WhatsApp exchange Ambi clarifies that all incidents and stories in Spring are true. “Some are from my own life and lives of people I know. One example is my grandfather,” he chuckles. He stresses once more that all stories in Spring are true though some identities have been kept out of the public domain on request.
Much of the narrative also takes up relatively mundane rejection situations. Typically, for instance, an issue might relate to examining ways of tackling the fallout of a colleague missing a promotion. Everyone in the department had believed her raise was a done deal. Lady Luck, though, refused to smile.
The point Ambi makes with emphasis is that rejection is not the end of the world for hapless victims. Indeed, the book’s message is that bouncing back from rejection signals a new beginning. New chances open up. Despite adversity, tough ones do bounce back as some true stories illustrate. Here’s one inspirational bounce back experience from the book:
Suhani Mohan (IIT Bombay) and Karthik Mehta (IIT Madras) earned gilt-edged degrees in the middle of the last decade. These would, of course, fetch them prize jobs. Coincidentally, neither sought any. Karthik was more interested in designing machines than just operating them. Suhani, by chance, discovered the enormity of feminine hygiene problems in India’s lowest social stratum. She wanted to help. Denizens though they were of different worlds, an IIT incubation centre ecosystem was familiar ground. Suhani and Karthik met, shook hands, Saral Designs came to life. In sum, Karthik would design and build machines to manufacture menstrual pads; Suhani would reach them to users and educate them on usage. The start-up business plan was surely foolproof. After all, in July 2017 there were 164,398,204 women in India between the ages of 15 and 24. Suhani and Karthik were ready to approach VCs, glamourous and sexy stars of the finance firmament. Ambi describes tongue-in-cheek how the venture capitalist’s question, “What is the path to profit?” sent every start-up that wanted a long term view on funding into a tailspin. Saral Designs was no exception, he notes.
With their IIT network in place, promoters Suhani and Karthik, both 25, optimistically knocked on the doors of numerous VCs. Suhani made a total of a hundred presentations between January and December 2016. All hundred were rejected. Rejection came in two forms: total silence was the favourite. The other was the condescending remark: “Hey, you guys are amazing, but ….”
Today, Saral Designs employs 50 people and uses automated menstrual pad construction machines invented by Karthik that deliver 80 pads per minute.
Despite all that rejection, Saral Designs had bounced to life demonstrating Ambi’s point in Spring that rejection is only a step away from making a fresh beginning.
Sujoy Gupta is business writer and corporate biographer.