Last week I got to spend some one-on-one time with media maven Ronnie Screwvala who has written his first non-fiction book called Dream With Your Eyes Open. This is a book all Indian entrepreneurs, young or old, will have a great deal to benefit from. Ronnie is, of course, the founder and former CEO of UTV Group, which was acquired by Disney in 2012 – so the man knows what he’s talking about! (and it doesn’t hurt that he was named one of Esquire’s 75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century and among Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.)
I enjoyed our 20 minute chat immensely, in which time Ronnie shared quite a few remarkable insights and anecdotes. Here they are now for your watching and reading pleasure. So enjoy, and don’t forget the book releases April 2nd but you can pre-order online now! :)
I think it was an interesting crossroad. I sort of was exiting media and entertainment. It was time for me to figure out my second innings, whether it was going to be 20 years or 2 hours! I was pretty clear my seconds innings was going to be the next 20 years!
There isn’t that kind of strong pride and enthusiasm for entrepreneurship in this country that people perceive it to be.
It’s simplistically told. I’ve kept the language very simple. It’s about entrepreneurship, it’s not an autobiography. But it’s filled with a lot of my anecdotes and my learning lessons.
I’ve been really open and frank about my failures. Which have been many. And I’ve been kind of resilient about them.
Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, but that doesn’t mean that should dissuade you…
I think the fear of failure is just too big in this country.
When you can start talking about failure, you start demystifying it 50% right there.
When I was living in Grant Road, my house was right opposite Novelty cinema, and at that time there was no television – coincidentally I had no idea I’d be doing movies one day! – so for the premieres of movies they’d have these massive red carpet ones, with the roads being closed and big spotlights and our verandah was the only vantage point, I got out there and sold 15-20 tickets for people who wanted to watch the movie stars from there, so that was my first mini-entrepreneur moment!
In India specifically we’re not going to have an opportunity for 10 million jobs to be created, and I think therefore entrepreneurship should be as important, as evangelised as running a professional career!
In the 21st century, even if you’re working in a company you need to be an entrepreneur, because gone are the days when you can feel all I need to do is a 9-5 job.
It’s phenomenal if you’re blessed that what you love and what you’re passionate about, which could easily have been your hobby, is also your profession! And that doesn’t come to everybody. So you need to be lucky about that.
My off-time last year, if somebody were to ask me, what did I do with my spare time, I wrote a book!
What I’ve realised in my last 20 years in media and entertainment – anything that worked was not just about an idea, wasn’t about how you executed it, it was equally important how you marketed it!
So I went about it almost like a separate journey, if I’m writing a book on entrepreneurship, then I might as well go whole hog, and make this into an entrepreneurial journey as to how one marketed the book! And then my first objective was; I need to see how many people I can get to at least pick up the book.
I passed out of school, I was in cathedral school and I was supremely confident bordering on arrogance! That’s when I flipped and went into the second year of college – that time you could jump a year in college if you did exceptionally well in what that time was 11th standard – and I failed that year.
It’s going to be on your CV for life! That’s when the penny dropped and I was like what if I don’t have to have a CV, then it won’t haunt me right? So why don’t I do something on my own, then I don’t ever need a CV!
Sometimes when I draw my one liners, its from General Patton, from a movie called Patton.
I’d love to get a tweet from President Obama, Bill Gates and our Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Frankly I think Mr. Modi is doing a phenomenal job because he’s drawing out inspiration, ambition in levels of people. A leaders job is to inspire, to that extent he’s doing a great job!
You’ve got to have that clarity of thought, you’ve got to have the gumption and the guts. You’ve got to have that risk-raking ability; not risk in a silly manner, but risk in a positive manner.
I’ve been fortunate, because I pursued theatre as a hobby… what I got from that hobby was an incredible level of confidence that I think has seen me through the rest of my life.
Classical music for me is inspirational, gets me going.
I have a huge sweet tooth!
Some of the memorable ones (plays) were in school, just when I passed out; Taming of the Shrew, very Shakespearean etc; one of my most memorable ones was Children of a Lesser God. Firstly I got to learn sign language! It taught me a lot of disciple, a lot of focus in life and a lot of confidence.
I don’t think the first dot.com bubble burst, I think the valuations burst. I think the investor community overpaid, and the’ve got equally as much to blame and less for the entrepreneurs, who you put a silver platter of chocolates in front of them they’re going to eat it, and if they’re complimentary chocolates they’re going to eat it even more!
I’ve been very very blessed because Zarina is very very active in the Swades foundation, and my daughter Trishya actually went and studied for 8 year abroad and finished her post-graduation in film, at the best film school in the world which is USC, came back, did one documentary and then walked in and said, “I don’t think I want to do media, I don’t want to do film at all” and has started her own NGO!
You can figure out all your fears, but at the end of the day, you’ll find a solution. If you’re really confident, if you figure out what you really want to do, you’ll figure it out.