In Interview

In Conversation With Gunjan Jain

Gunjan Jain, Author-She Walks, She Leads

Delving deep into the lives of India's most successful women, including Nita Ambani, Sudha Murty, Indu Jain, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Yasmeen Premji, Sania Mirza, Priyanka Chopra, Mary Kom, Chanda Kochar and Mira Nair and more, Gunjan Jain, the author of 'She Walks, She Leads' brings forth the stories of  achievement to trigger both the younger and older audience. "While the specifics of every achiever will always be different, the overall lessons we learn are bound by common values", says Gunjan in an email interview. Excerpts...
This is your debut novel and what a grand launch it had! How does it feel?
It feels very special for me! I have been consumed by this book for the last three years. First, of course by the whole writing process and then last few months it was all about the launch. I wanted everything to be perfect and it was even better, so yes I am enjoying the afterglow.

There are a number of books on women biz entrepreneurs, market leaders, sportswomen ...but when it comes to connecting all, from different verticals, I can’t recall any single Indian book. What inspired you to write this book?
Precisely what you just said…the fact that there was nothing like it that had already been written. The way I look at it, successful people do have some common traits or values. Yes, the approach needs to be tweaked depending on the demands of the field one is in, but there are many traits that remain the same. For instance, Anamika Khanna does not have a formal fashion degree but today, she is one of the top names in fashion. Similarly, Anu Aga does not have a business degree, but when the times demanded it, she was able to successfully steer Thermax towards the position of strength it is at today. One did it because it was her passion; the other did it because it was the need of the day. Different fields, different ages, different backgrounds…the common thread is the self-belief.

How long did it take to write the book? Did you have/set any time frame for writing this book?
From the time I first conceptualized the book to the day, it was published took about three years. Three years of 20-hours long working days! No, I had not really set any deadline or timeframe purely because this was my first book. I was learning as I went along but yes there was something inside me that was constantly pushing me to drive in the 5th gear.

Deciding the present format/style...
I let my instincts guide me as much as possible in terms of deciding on the style. It was a conscious decision to keep the style across all profiles. As mentioned earlier, there is no common thread binding the women in terms of age, profession, background, etc so the common format ensures cohesiveness across the narratives.

Challenges that you faced while researching their lives…
The biggest challenge, of course, was to unearth something new about these women because they are already so popular and there is so much information about them out there. This was largely achieved by talking to their near and dear ones as they brought in a lesser known perspective to the stories.

Then, of course managing the research was a gargantuan task. I accumulated piles and piles of it which I had to sift through, and decide what to retain and what to leave out. That was heartbreaking!

Best piece(s) of advice for writers trying to break in?
Write every day.
Don’t give up because it feels tough.
Get your coffee source in place before you start.

Any plan to write vol. II?
Much as I admire the achievements of these women and so many others who are breaking boundaries every day, I don’t see a sequel of She Walks, She Leads on the horizon. I have not written this book to eulogise these 24 women, the idea is to glean inspiration through their lives. While the specifics of every achiever will always be different, the overall lessons we learn are bound by common values.

What’s next? Would you like to step into the fictional writing?
I have started the ground work on my next book and will talk about that in due time.
At this point, I don’t have any plans on writing fiction. I think I will always be a non-fiction writer; it’s also always been my preferred genre for reading. I feel that my sensibilities are geared towards non-fiction. But, you know what they say- never say, never!

Favorites – Book, movie, place, hobby and sport.
Book – Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg; Movie – Shawshank Redemption; Hobby – Travelling and Yoga; Place – London; Sport - Tennis and Swimming

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