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Silver Lining Handbook | Lessons Learnt by Delhi's Changemakers

Suchita posted on 16 August

By Suchita S.

There is much to be said about Delhi - things that are good, bad, ugly and horrible. We complain about the roads, the attitude, the politics and bureaucracy. But in the between all the chaos, there's much goodness and clarity to be found in this city. Over the course of the past few years of exploring and discovering Delhi, we've been fortunate enough to have met and interacted with people who've ventured out and created an enterprise out of an idea, headed big organizations while strongly holding on to values and virtues they abide by, and been grounded in their pursuits.

Raavi Choudhary of Flipside Cafe, one of the first few cafes to set up shop in Hauz Khas Village, was the first person I interviewed, and this was back when LBBD was on Tumblr {yes, there were those days too}. Bharat Nagpal, founder of, one of India's biggest Tech portals, helped me with the layout when our website had just launched. RARE, founded by Shoba Mohan, has promoted some of the most understated, beautiful and environmentally sound destinations across our country and beyond. Random House India's Caroline Newbury is possibly one of the hardest working women I've ever met, and her sheer love and passion for books is infectious. Both RARE and RHI lent their support to LBBD when we were just starting out - they believed in what we were trying to create, and since our first meeting sometime early last year, we've collaborated on many a successful contests.

They've been incredibly inspiring to know personally, and to work with professionally, and over the course of our conversations, we've had a lot to learn from them. We asked them to tell our readers the lessons they've learnt along the way of forging their business, challenges they've faced, and how they've found a silver lining.

CAROLINE NEWBURY | VP Marketing & Publicity, Random House India


Every moment since moving to Delhi and working at RHI has been a huge learning curve. There are many, many things that I find out about myself, India and publishing here every day, but I think the single most important lesson I have learnt {and definitely not mastered yet!} is to be adaptable. Whilst I would never say that everything in the UK ran to plan, things here tend to be much more fluid, work on a much shorter time scale and have a schedule and timing all of their own.  This isn’t always a bad thing, and has resulted in some amazing innovations and results that I am not sure would ever have been possible in the UK, but sometimes I think my blood pressure could do with just a little more certainty!

In terms of how this has changed the way I work – I think things have become a blend of UK and Indian practices. Whilst the more regimented UK systems might not work on every occasion, I have tried to bring some of those structures into place, whilst always leaving room for the inevitable changes. I was actually very blessed that one of the first books I worked on at RHI was 'Jugaad Innovation' by Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu and Simon Ahuja.  Nothing could have given me a better insight into doing business here, and it taught me one great lesson. Whilst in the West I may have had Plan A, Plan B, Plan C etc, in India I should just have A Plan, which evolves and changes all the time.



I have learnt a lot of things while running my own company the past few years, but the most crucial lesson that I have learnt is to never underestimate the power of an idea! In the most simplest form; everything begins with an idea, and while we grow from one stage to another in our lives, our mind and our experiences throw ideas at us. In our day to day process, we often tend to ignore our "far fetched ideas" and soon forget them. The lifespan of the idea is only as long as you chose to build on it. While iGyaan was not the first idea that ever struck me, and not every idea is perfect, I did experiment with a lot of ideas prior to that, and failure only led me to be that much more adamant in believing in the power of my ideas. With each failure, I was that much closer to achieving what I wanted from each idea.
Running a business is tough, particularly in India. Most of the things we take for granted are usually the most difficult things that we need done. Finding help for your business is the toughest part, and if you are afraid to go hands on with the dirtiest bits of the job, don't expect someone else to do them for you. Whatever is beneath you is the most essential piece of the puzzle you forget to pick up, and hence the easiest way to break a structure.
So if you have an idea, run with it, but run harder than you imagined. Pick up pieces as you go if you don't have a plan, and don't be afraid to be at the bottom, especially if you wish to reach the top.

SHOBA MOHAN | Founder, RARE- Destinations and Experiences

shoba mohan

My father has a theory {among many} that “Brahmins cannot be businessmen,” and this made it all the more exciting to venture out on my own. Besides, I figured  very early in my career that I cannot work for anyone. My partner and I began work from our bedrooms when my younger child was just a toddler – there was hardly much work, even a small query and we were over the moon, we laughed a lot, counted every meager penny we made, did home work in office time and vice versa - but steadily moved on without giving up hope. And along the years {its been 15 years since the idea of RARE began}, this is what I have learnt – that if you are doing what you are passionate about, it is never work; you cannot move up without taking your team along with you; honesty and responsibility are not taught in any business school; and finally, to be in a people’s business, or for that matter any business, you need to have the right attitude. I also love partnerships and attribute the success of RARE to enduring partnerships {and friendships} and for me, my business partnership with Sumati, and now Sowmya, are life’s lessons in synergy and harmony.

RAAVI CHOUDHARY | Owner, Flipside Café

Raavi Chou

Well, running your own company is no walk in the park. It takes a lot of hard work and constant planning and maintenance. You are primarily responsible for either making it the best and coolest company to work for, or a complete failure. The choice is yours.

A few things I've learnt along my business path are |

Working in India has taught me to always be in the good books of the law. No matter how legal your company may be, there are always individuals that may create problems for you. Keep in touch with people or companies that may add value to your business, be it a unique local vendor or a talented overseas musician. They will both spice up your product when the time is right. Always think of the future. Business may be great today, but have you seen what the scenario will be, a few years down the line? Chances are that things will change drastically. That’s why you must plan ahead to stay ahead.

Human beings are complex creatures, and it is extremely hard to satisfy them all. If you are creating a business or a product, know exactly what it is you are creating, have faith in it, believe in it and then just go ahead and do it. There are plenty of people out there that will connect with what you offer and business will bloom. Most importantly, have fun with whatever you do, for that is the basis of good work.