ABOUT THE BOOK
In 1999, when hardly anyone in India transacted on the Internet, K. Vaitheeswaran co-founded India’s first e-commerce company. Yet, years later, when e-commerce was exploding in India—despite enjoying first-mover advantage—Indiaplaza shut down. What went wrong? Lack of funding? Wrong strategies? Or was it ‘something else’?
For the first time ever, Vaitheeswaran reveals that it was indeed something else—a set of inexplicable events that destroyed what could have been a profitable business (an extreme rarity among technology start-ups). He bares his extraordinary trials and tribulations while dealing with business failure and the impossible pressures that can threaten entrepreneurs in India. Coming at the back of stories of young start-ups raising billions of dollars in funding and creating unicorns in just a few years, as well as the recent setbacks in the e-commerce industry, Failing to Succeed delves deep into the dark side of starting up and its myriad pitfalls.
Filled with interesting anecdotes, tongue-in-cheek observations, amazing customer insights, hard-hitting predictions and behind-the-scenes industry happenings, this book is an extraordinary unravelling of the challenges facing technology start-ups in India. It is a must-read for aspiring entrepreneurs, investors, industry professionals or business school students, and anyone interested in India’s start-up ecosystem.
A powerful narration, Failing to Succeed is eventually about finding ways to move forward and succeed despite failures.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
K. Vaitheeswaran, widely hailed as the ‘father of e-commerce in India’, co-founded India’s first e-commerce company Fabmart.com (later rebranded Indiaplaza.com) in 1999. In 2001, he co-founded the Fabmall supermarket chain which was subsequently acquired by the Aditya Birla Group and re-branded 'More'.
Vaitheeswaran has advised global brands, including Deloitte, Diageo and Tata, among others, in their digital initiatives; mentors several start-ups; and is well known in the Indian start-up scene. He is a popular speaker on entrepreneurship at industry forums and institutes, including IITs and IIMs.
He lives in Bengaluru with his wife and son, and tweets @vaitheek
PRAISE FOR THE BOOK
‘Vaithee’s first-person account of the rise and fall of India’s first real e-commerce venture is sometimes awe-inspiring, sometimes gut-wrenching and at all times insightful and interesting. If you are interested in the "supposedly" magical world of entrepreneurs and start-ups, or just interested in reading about the fascinating roller-coaster ride of an Indian online pioneer, hit the "buy" button. Now.’
—Prakash Iyer, author of The Habit of Winning and The Secret of Leadership
‘As children we all learnt how to walk by falling down more than once. And that is precisely what this book can teach you to do. It is a must-read for start-up founders, venture capitalists and aspiring entrepreneurs alike.’
—Ashwin Sanghi, author of The Rozabal Line, Chanakya’s Chant and The Krishna Key
‘Indiaplaza would have been one of India’s most valuable e-commerce companies today. A visionary thinker and a strategist, Vaithee did not have the “cash” to burn, which e-start-ups have today but was always clear why it is never a good idea to sell a dollar for ninety-nine cents. This book will open your eyes to the present and future of e-commerce companies, not only in India, but also the world over.’
—Ravi Subramanian, author of The Incredible Banker, The Bankster and Bankerupt
‘In 1999, I made my first purchase over the Internet from a company called Fabmart. Over the next few years, I became an admirer of the excellent customer service of the company. It kept experimenting and transforming. It was clearly a pioneer. And then it closed, despite having excellent operations, a strong brand name and huge customer loyalty. It became a puzzle for a management academic like me. Why do good guys finish last? Why do pioneers fail?
I am happy that now finally a book has been written on the Indiaplaza story. It’s both of historical value and of contemporary relevance. We can understand how the e-commerce industry took shape in India. We can—entrepreneurs, customers, regulators and students—also learn valuable lessons. A rare and honest gem. A must-read.’
—Professor Vidyanand Jha, IIM Calcutta
‘Nothing succeeds like a failure well told. This would-be-national-bestseller that you hold in your hand features the incredulous story of the first Indian e-commerce company. This unravels the mystery shrouding the life of an entrepreneurial start-up venture…a 24-hour, action-packed journey with ever-changing scenarios and situations…’
—Professor Vivek Gupta, IIM Lucknow
‘We mistakenly assess success or failure of entrepreneurs by the funds they raise or the personal wealth they create. True pioneers enter uncharted territories without worrying about personal gains and create paths for others to follow. Vaithee is one such visionary who pioneered e-commerce in India and showed the way forward for hundreds of start-ups, including unicorns. If you are planning to launch a new venture, here is a tip for you—start by reading this book.’
—Professor S. Sadagopan, Founding Director, International Institute of Information Technology, Bengaluru