Author Chetan Bhagat was among speakers at the Leadership Summit on the second day of Goafest 2015. He spoke about why he does what he does and his policy of not having a marketing budget.
Bhagat started off with putting things in context, in terms of being successful, saying, "I know where the limits of my talent lie. But do you have to be the best to be successful? That's not true at all."
He pointed out that ever since he has been writing professionally, for ten years now, his marketing budget has been 'zero'. He plans to stand firm on his policy of not having a marketing budget despite having been approached to engage with that option.
He explained, "It is not something that fits into my strategy. It almost hurts my strategy."
Bhagat spoke about his ultimate goal in terms of communicating with the masses. He said, "My aim is not to be a bestseller; my goal is change. My strategy is to reach the maximum number of people in India - when I say India, I mean actual India and not people like you and me. And the only way to reach them that I know of is entertainment."
Referring to a recent jacket ad The Times Of India carried for Flipkart (the ad contained material referring to the author's books), he recollected, "The Flipkart guys were my juniors at IIT Delhi. When my book 2 States came out we were launching it in Delhi. These were small launches. All booksellers were invited and these two kids came saying, 'Sir, we also have a small bookstore, can we have a pass for your book launch?'"
Having them invited paid off in the long run as these boys turned out to be the founders of Flipkart, he quipped. "Always be friends with people in life, you never know who's going to make a dot com one day."
Staying relevant, is something Bhagat listed out as an important point to note if one is in the communication business. He added, "A lot of times I have lucked out. The book on corruption came right in the middle of the Anna Hazare movement. What is needed is not luck but to be able to predict what will be happening two years from now. If I write a book about the burning issue of today, in two years it will be totally irrelevant."
Next on his agenda was scale: "The next scale up for me was Bollywood because every film needs a story. It is quite a big leap as the audiences are different, the books were in English and the kind of movies being made were mainstream movies. It made me reach more people who may not have known my other works (books) and it keeps me grounded."
Going back to change being his main goal, he said, "But the goal continued to be change. So I had to jump into a category I wasn't normally associated with. I had been associated with campus romances and Bollywood etc. so I had to move to non-fiction, which is writing about national issues. I started writing for Sunday Times but I soon realised that unless I move to Hindi it is not going to make any difference."
As an extension of non-fiction writing, Bhagat listed social media. "For me, Twitter is the new literature. If you want to reach young people and you want to effect change how does it matter if it is in a bit form or a social media feed. Sometimes this medium can have a lot more impact than a column. Because this is a medium where people have to chosen to read, chosen to follow you. And they can comment back, which makes it obviously extraordinarily powerful to make your views heard."
Bhagat underlined the importance of ideas over mediums, and said, "I am in the business of ideas. Creative ideas become stories, and non-creative ideas become opinions and the medium is irrelevant."
The speaker added, "The medium is irrelevant but you have to be everywhere."