NAW Interview With Manu Ramesh

Manu RameshManu Ramesh grew up changing schools every few years as his dad was in a transferable job. Having completed his undergraduate degree in 2006 specializing in Mechanical Engineering, he worked at Dell Perot Systems as a software engineer for two years.  He then switched to a sales role and continued his climb up the corporate totem pole. He worked for a software product start-up for three years and played a part in its expansion in India. Manu moved to the bay area after that to work for a mid sized IT services firm.

NAW-  When did your literary journey begin? At what age did you discover that you wanted to write?

Although “The Sales Room” is my maiden novel, I would say my literary journey started as a child. My sister was an voracious reader and that rubbed off on me. My father often contributed to dailies, writing on topics pertaining to his work.  Authoring a book was  part of my bucket list but I was pretty clueless about how to go about it. However, after serendipitous discussion with a friend over a cuppa in 2011, I found myself taking the plunge and writing full time.

NAW- Tell us about your debut work, ‘The Sales Room.’ How did you get the idea for the book? How long did it take to complete the book? 

“The Sales Room” is a humorous take on the world of software start ups.  The entire plot is based in Bangalore, a city in India and an IT outsourcing hub. The story is told by a salesperson who returns to the start up which he had been a part of during its infancy and his struggle coming to terms with its metamorphosis. It is rife with Indian cultural idiosyncrasies  which makes it interesting for readers in India and overseas. I had spent three years working for a start up and over five working in technology. Although IT companies are such an integral part of the Indian ecosystem I noticed that they were refereed to only fleetingly in plots. Having read several books on entrepreneurial journeys, I was aware of the fact that many start ups fizzle out only to be obliterated from our memories. I felt compelled to narrate the story of one such failed start up. It took me four months to come out with the first draft of the book . Another four months went into dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s. Finally the hunt for a publisher took a  nerve wracking two years. Sales Room Book Cover

NAW- What was your objective in penning down the book? 

In the poem “Elegy written in a country Churchyard” Thomas Grey attempted to draw attention to the lives of rustics who died in obscurity. Similarly, “The Sales Room” is my attempt to shift the spot light from success stories to companies which were started by brave entrepreneurs with enormous zeal and  products which dedicated sales people worked hard to sell but did not have the fairly tale ending the everyone hopes for. The voice of a failed entrepreneur is  the voice of experience, provided it is objective, and should be heard.

NAW- According to you, what are the pros and cons of working in a start up?

There is never a dull moment, most employees are clued in on the company’s strategy and road map, one dons multiple hats ( this can be construed as a pro or a con, I consider it a pro), there is enormous camaraderie among colleagues , hierarchies are not so clearly defined and of course the biggest bait, a start up that strikes gold makes employees  rich overnight. Th cons, the company could go belly up and you could be back job hunting. It is never a nine to five job, long and weird hours are inevitable. No set practices are in place for new joinees to adhere to which means people can be creative and define their own , but this can sometimes get overwhelming. Until the start up becomes a name to recon with, you don’t get approving looks when you tell some one where you work. Sometimes you might have to take a pay cut which you hope to make up for with stock options. I could talk about this all day , but to summarize it is a personal choice and involves a trade offs. The decision of working for a start up comes down to one’s appetite for risk.

NAW- Tell us about your other work life? What do you do when you are not writing books?

I am a sports buff. I play a lot of tennis and try to swim about a mile everyday. I am into water sports, surfing being my favourite. I  read as much as I can but its invariably less than I would like to.

NAW- Did you carry out any research for the book? If yes, then how did you go about it?

As the novel is set in a milieu that I am familiar with I was able to weave an interesting story using anecdotes that I had come across. My travels across India growing up and during the course  of my work helped add authenticity to the narration. However, some parts of the book  required homework, I  had to delve deep into certain topics. Of the top of my head , I remember  reading up on the jugaad ( do it somehow) attitude to business in India and about the plight of sex workers  in developing countries.

NAW- What are you reading right now?

The last book I read was Anitha Raghavan’s “The billionaire’s apprentice” , a fascinating account of the largest insider trading scam in the US. I am trying to get my hands on Mcmafia, a journey through the global criminal underworld.

NAW- Please name your favourite authors. Are there any who have influenced your writings?

I was crazy about Georges Remi’s Tintin growing up and sometimes realize that I still haven’t outgrown them. I loved reading the humorous works of Joseph Heller, Salman Rushdie, Richard Crasta. Every time a reader tells me that he or she cracked up while reading “ The Sales Room” I think of these three writers and the impact that their writing has had on my own . I admire the elan with which  George Orwell analysed authoritarian regimes and Dostoevsky explored the realms of human psychology.

NAW- What are your upcoming projects?

I do have a couple ideas  which could morph into interesting reads, some being fiction and the others non fiction, however it will be a while before they come to a point of fruition.

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