Book Review: The Smelting Cauldron by Raj Raman

Book Name: The Smelting Cauldron

Author: Raj Raman

Publisher: Rupa

Rating: 3.5/5

Book Blurb: The Smelting Cauldron succinctly captures the nuances and challenges of the business environment for Indian SMEs. The eighteen industry accounts in this book are drawn from the author’s association with this sector over the past three decades.

These stories represent a broad spectrum of Indian SMEs from across the country. The author discusses threadbare the unfortunate paradox that has come to define this sector—despite there being over forty million enterprises employing over 80 per cent of India’s industrial workforce, the SME sector contributes a significantly lower 37 per cent to the GDP.

What are the issues plaguing this sector? Do these stem from the realities of local politics and governance, the squeeze of the suppliers, buyers, influencers and funders? Or, is it much more complex? the book covers the entire gamut of real problems SMEs confront every day—from working capital management to recruiting and retaining talent; from taxes and legal issues to JVs and partnerships; from pricing strategies to internal and ethical conflicts; from raising capital to board management.

This book is a pragmatic insight into the mindset and the thought processes that confront entrepreneurs and the ways to deal with challenges and pressures. It is a must read for all those who are a part of the SME ecosystem and want the sector to grow and prosper.

Review: The Smelting Cauldron gives an insight into the world of SME’s (small and medium enterprises) that although small serve as a backbone for any country’s economic progress. Right until the correction in the Indian stock market this year, the bull rally was generated by micro caps and mid caps.

The author has presented case studies focusing on issues plaguing the sector such as employees frequently resigning abruptly, the ethical compromises in the real state industry and the board room battles.

Each case study is focused on a unique aspect that currently plagues the SME sector. The author has researched well and is well informed of the subject he is writing about. The conversational style tone and language is easy to comprehend but is perhaps a bit too casual for book format. It might work for blogs but for a book, it needs to be a bit formal and precise.

“Unsecured NBFC loans seem attractive, but they never are. They take away cash every month, but do not translate into expenses on your P&L. They are cash draining but not profit gaining, as only the interest payment can be expensed. So, see how quickly you can unwind them.”

Nevertheless, there are no inadequacies as far the subject matter is concerned and any new entrepreneur is likely to gain a lot of insight into the world of SME’s from this book. Its like a handy guide of ‘what to do and what not to do’ while running a small sized company or start-up.

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