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Libraries Of Leaders: Books That Inspire The Bosses At India’s Unicorn Startups

Unicorns – startps valued at more than $ 1 billion – can be described as the success stories of the startup world, and their leaders are full of creativity, passion and willpower. True to their vocation and profession, the three business leaders we spoke to in this week’s edition of Libraries of Leaders are big on books on management and leadership, but they also acknowledged the importance of spiritual books in their repertoire.

Here are the books that inspire Snapdeal’s Kunal Bahl, Hike’s Kavin Bharti Mittal and Flipkart’s Nitin Seth.

Kunal Bahl

Kunal Bahl, chief executive officer of, listens during an interview in New Delhi. (Photographer: Kuni Takahashi/Bloomberg)

Bahl is the founder and chief executive officer of India’s second unicorn – Snapdeal. Founded in 2010, Snapdeal has raised $1.76 billion since its inception. Here are some of the books that inspired Bahl in his journey so far.

1. The Habit Of Winning by Prakash Iyer

The book is a collection of stories filled with anecdotes from well-known people, including sportspersons and business leaders like Alibaba’s Jack Ma. It is an “inspiring and adrenaline-pumping collection of stories of victory, perseverance and passion,” Bahl said in an email to BloombergQuint.

2. Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't by Jim Collins

The book ponders on what distinguishes a great company from a good one. The narrative analyses a group of companies and their growth over time, and dwells on the key to their greatness. Bahl says that the book provides an “interesting perspective on building a business”.

3. The Art Of War by Sun Tzu

This 5th century book from China on military practices is a masterpiece, he says. It talks about politics and strategies of war but its principles are just as relevant to businesses, Bahl insists.

Kavin Bharti Mittal

(Source: BloombergQuint)

Kavin Bharti Mittal comes from a family of industrialists and is the founder and chief executive officer of Hike Ltd. The company owns the online and offline messaging application, Hike, which was launched in 2012. In a matter of just two years, Hike Messenger reached the unicorn status and was valued at $1.4 billion in 2014. Here’s what Mittal recommends.

1. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

Written by an entrepreneur itself, the book draws upon Horowitz's experiences and hardships on running a company. From firing friends to luring in competitors, the writer gives an honest account of the lessons he learnt as a business leader.

Kavin Bharti Mittal, Founder & CEO, Hike The book is highly recommended for anyone aspiring to build a company.

2. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

The book is a light read on Zen Buddhism and talks about the principles and goals of meditation. One of the most important takeaways is the importance of retaining one’s original perspective on issues. The book highlights the purity of an empty but ready mind, just like that of a beginner. “It has really shaped the way I think about work and life,” Mittal said.

Nitin Seth

The logo of Flipkart Online Services Pvt is seen on the side of a package at the company’s office in the Jayaprakash Narayan Nagar area of Bengaluru. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Nitin is the newly-appointed chief operating officer of India largest unicorn, Flipkart. Thought of in 2007 by Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, the e-commerce website is now valued at $16 billion, according to the latest data from CB Insights. An avid reader, Seth draws most of his inspiration from a book that inspired generations.

1. Bhagavad Gita

Seth said the religious book is the “most profound” piece of literature he has ever read. It has helped him understand the “depth of life with its uncertainties and ambiguities”. The book and its core principles help him take everyday decisions with better efficiency, he added.

2. Goal by EM Goldratt

The management book has one core idea - every situation, even a simple one, has at least one point of constraint or tension. The approach should be to address these stress points, which is exactly what Seth does, he said. “The book is very helpful from a leadership point of view,” he added.

3. How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie

While it’s a cliche, the book is very useful for a business leader, Seth insisted. “It is simplistic but necessary. As a leader you need to go beyond yourself and influence the people you work with,” he said.

Also Read: Libraries Of Leaders: On The Bookshelves Of Legendary Musicians