Banking professional, Ravi Subramanian, holds the honour of being the only Indian author in the genre of Corporate Fiction, who scored 100,000 copies portraying very believable plots of corporate politics in his last book “The Incredible Banker”, released last year. A national bestseller, it stayed 40 weeks on the Crossword Book Stores best seller list. His other book “If God Was a Banker” in 2007, sold over 240,000 copies and paved the way for his other books, “I Bought the Monk’s Ferrari” and “Devil in Pinstripes”. Mayura Shanbhaug gets the insights into handling two different talents successfully.
For this alumnus of the Indian Institute of Management - Bangalore, writing on the complexities of the banking world comes naturally to this career banker. He has spent close to two decades working his way up the financial services ladder and is now the CEO of a listed NBFC. Comfortable in the genre, this award winning author, who aspires to be the John Grisham of banking, is staying firm within his existing genre with his fifth book “The Bankster’ which will be out on 15th October. So what makes this banker turned author tick? In his own words…
From the safe environment of banking into the highly uncertain territory of writing… What’s it all about?
I have a fundamental disconnect with this question. People who have gone into full-time writing have done so because they like writing, and not because they burnt their bridges. I intend staying in this industry and work for life. I do not want writing to become a means for living, and hence a daily chore. If I do that, it will become boring and lose its charm and excitement...
Do you lean towards populist or award winning writers?
I want to be a successful author, whose books people like to read. Manu Joseph is a bad example because people read his books, and hence he is a successful and an award winning author. I however belong to the populist category of writers. If awards come along, then wow… Winning the Golden Quill popular choice award for my first book, If God was a Banker, really made me feel proud. However, if awards don't fructify and people continue to read the books, I will be equally happy. An interesting trend emerging in India these days is that there are awards which recognise popular writing too. To my mind, the future belongs to popular writing, and the faster everyone recognises the change, it will be good.
There are hundreds of Indian authors today. Is Indian writing coming of age?
It’s a heartening sign that we see so many Indian authors writing these days. Five years ago when I wrote my first book, bookstores would struggle to fill one shelf with Indian authors. These days, you find Indian authors dominating bookstore sales. The change has come around because Indians are beginning to read more, the industry, including publishers, are becoming less snobbish and the bookstores are becoming more willing to encourage Indian talent. I would hold back my comment that Indian writing has come of age.
Most of the current batch of writers belongs to IIMs or IITs like you. Is it a fashion or an inner drive?
Intrinsically guys with an IIT / IIM background are thinkers. They are aggressive pushers and they are focused. They are also a lot more market-savvy. Apart from this, they are also well networked in their own community. Given all this, they get more chances than anybody else. Publishers too back them these days, because if you are an IIT/IIM grad, then the publisher is assured of a certain sales number from the friends and colleagues network, which IIT/IIM grads shamelessly exploit. This provides the publisher with an unwritten safety net. So it’s neither a fashion nor an inner drive… it’s just that these guys are more likely to be commercial successes, which makes publishers back them.
Your advice to an aspirant? Does it pay as a profession?
Writing does pay as a profession. But remember, like every other profession, it has its grading. Some people are at the top of the pyramid and they get paid well – higher royalty, more sales, and hence more money. But do not form an impression about the rosy industry and easy money by looking at the few people at the top. The bottom line is that unless you get terribly lucky, it will take you some time to make significant sums of money. But once you taste success, sky is the limit.
In the west and many other parts of the world, writers have been conscience keepers who have shaken governments and are outspoken on sensitive issues. Indian writers seem to be disconnected from this aspect…
I am yet to come across a writer in the modern world who writes only as a conscience keeper and not for commercial success. Conscience keeper is a media hyped tagline. If the wider awareness that I bring about through my stories, helps readers correct their expectations and be better prepared, it’s a big plus. Otherwise people will dump books which are written from a conscience keeper perspective.