An Eye for an Eye, Ashutosh Garg

An Eye for an Eye; Ashutosh Garg

A compelling saga of friendship, revenge, avarice, politics and religion spanning 7 decades, the book traces the trials and tribulations of the progeny of two close friends—Chand Ram and Shujaat Khan. One is the scion of a wealthy and influential nawabi family; the other is the son of an impoverished farmer, whose wizardry with the hockey stick takes him away from his humble background and on to the road to fame and fortune.

But the strong ties between the fathers have no meaning for their sons. Chand’s son, Ram, runs away from his remote Himalayan village when he’s just 11 years and comes to Delhi to seek his fame, fortune and destiny. At about the same time, Shujaat’s son leaves their palace in Faridgarh after a major earthquake and relocates to Delhi.

The story draws inspiration from the quote of Confucius “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves”

An unfortunate incident brings Ram into contact with the young nawab, Shaukat. This chance encounter sows the seeds of an animosity between the two that only intensifies as they grow older. As the years pass by, Ram’s burning ambition and determination to succeed drive him to establish a formidable business empire.  Ram’s growing prosperity fills Shaukat, now a prominent politician and member of the Congress Party, with a rage that goes beyond reason.


And when Ram meets, woos and marries Rani, a beautiful and compassionate former princess, Shaukat takes a vow to annihilate this arrogant upstart who has dared to bulldoze his way into the upper echelons of society.

The plot thickens, as each tries to out manoeuvre the other through devious and often unscrupulous and corrupt means, and in the process reveal the havoc that greed and passion, spite and vengeance that can be wrought upon the lives of those closest to them. As the story spirals towards its inevitable shattering climax, it seems as if the two protagonists are caught in a tangled web of their own creation from which they cannot escape.

Extending across a period of more than seventy years and traversing through some of the most significant and turbulent events of India’s historical past including the impact the independence movement and the emergency have on the life of the protagonists, this is a story of relationships – between fathers and sons, husbands and wives – that are torn apart by pride and long-standing resentments and supposed injustices.

Above all, it is a story of friendships and bonds that stand the test of time and circumstance, crossing all social, cultural and religious barriers to prove that there’s more to life than hate and enmity, power and money, business and politics, fear and violence.

The author is the Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of the bestselling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century (Collins); The Corner Office (Rupa) and The Buck Stops Here – Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur (Penguin and Rupa).

Twitter: @gargashutosh

Preorder now on

Ageing and Retirement – Age is only a number

2-reboot-reinvent-rewire-managing-retirement-in-the-twenty-first-centuryIn a country which is being spoken about as the “youngest” country in the world, where over 700 million of us are under the age of 30, we have an increasing number of people who are growing old as well.

Just like the baby boomers in USA, India too has its post-independence children, born after 1947. The oldest of these children will be in their early to late-sixties in 2015 and a majority of these pre-independence kids may probably still be working but thinking of the impending retirement.

Looking back on the years gone by I am sometimes amazed at the resilience and persistence exhibited by us mere mortals in our lives. In our effort to make ends meet and prepare for our future we are often forced to endure thankless and sometimes abusive work environments for years on end. Stress becomes our new best friend as we attempt to pay never ending day to day bills while somehow also providing for big ticket expenses like education, clothes, cars and weddings. We are forced to delay the pursuit of our own interests and passions because there is either not enough time or not sufficient free money.

As I pondered over and debated my own reality, I was curious about my peers’ attitudes toward retirement

I spoke with many friends, both men and women over 60 who were either already retired or were just starting to think about it. What I found most shocking was the level of denial and postponement in thinking about the subject of retirement. While many people had been diligent about saving and investing, few had considered the psychological jolt that usually accompanies the end of an active working career.

My first realisation was that I would have a much greater degree of freedom under my control. I don’t have to do but I do what I please to do. I have therefore redefined retirement to mean “Reaching a stage in life when one has the freedom to do what one wants.” I am reminded of an old poem I read

 At ten, we have just fun

At twenty, we are still naughty

At thirty, we think lofty

At forty, we get shifty

At fifty, we confront reality

At, sixty, we seek serenity

Author – Unknown

However in today’s day and age, the retirement paradigm has changed completely from what we have seen with our parents and probably our grandparents. While the message may be the same, the ages have certainly changed over the past three decades.

“Yesterday’s 60 is today’s 40” said a close friend to me when we were discussing getting older.

“Age is only a number” said another

So working in our regular jobs as employees till we are between 60 and 65 is something we can normally expect to do as per ore terms of employment.

When I started work in 1979 at the age of 22 the retirement age in my company was 52 years and I used to think that three decades was a long way off. A few years later the retirement age was raised to 55 and like me, a lot of young managers in the company complained about how top management was interfering with our careers by allowing the “oldies” to stay on for another 3 years! Today as I approach 58, I wonder what it would have been like to have retired when I consider that I am at the peak of my career.

As we reach the age of superannuation or retirement, I see so many of friends becoming insecure and afraid of becoming irrelevant. When it is time to retire, we forget what we told ourselves. What has changed in the last three decades that we are afraid to slow down or pace of work or recognize that our minds and bodies are ageing?

Most of us would have achieved what one set out to at the start of one’s career or we would have accepted that what one has achieved is all that is possible in the career that we have chosen. We would have also seen the push coming from our younger colleagues in the work place to move aside to let the youth brigade move forward faster.

There is no point in agonizing over the past because there is nothing that we can do about it. I have always believed in looking ahead with a positive frame of mind.

Yet most people if they have led a relatively healthy life will, with modern medicine see our life expectancy increase significantly. Our parents would generally be well into their eighties and we could expect them to live in to their nineties. Given the right set of genes, there is no reason why we would not live to at least 90 years of age, maybe more if we have not abused our body too much.

Retirement is not the end of the world.

It is the beginning of a new and more fulfilling life without the stresses and strains, the pulls and pressures we had when we were young. We may have looked forward to retirement but a fulfilling retirement will not just happen. You have to plan for it and you have to plan by including the most important person in your life, your spouse. Unless both of you are in agreement with your plans, prepare for dissonance in both your lives.

At the same time, I realized that with ageing parents, the baton for the next generation was passing to me. The next generation of children in my family was looking up to me. When I visited their homes, I would be seated first. I would be served first at dinner and when I spoke they would listen attentively. It was difficult to handle this contradiction. On the one hand I was beginning to feel less relevant at work and in the society that I knew and on the other hand I was being respected more by the next generation.

I have met several people and discussed with them their challenges and their thoughts as they faced retirement. I have spoken to people in their thirties and forties as they agonised over making plans for the retirement of their parents. I have spoken to spouses who are preparing for a life with a much more inclusive husband post his retirement and I have spoken to husbands who have had very successful career and spouses who are wondering how life will be for the two of them now that both of them have “all the time in the world to spend together”.

Let me draw a parallel to retirement with a setback.

It is a stop in our life and we need to restart with a new direction and with renewed vigour. Think back to a recent setback or disappointment in your career or personal life. Think about how you felt. How long did it take for you to bounce back? Did you formulate an action plan? Did you blame yourself, or others? Did you eat a big plate of sweets or ice cream to give yourself a “sugar fix”?

How you handle a setback defines who you are. Let’s say there are two ends of the spectrum – the optimist and the pessimist. You may be at any point of the spectrum.

  • The optimist experiences a challenge. They see it as a temporary situation, something that they’ll get past. An optimist will often make a plan for recovery, and take action. An optimist looks to the future.
  • A pessimist is at the opposite end of the spectrum. They see a problem, and the problem affects every aspect of their life, and no solution to the problem is in sight. There is usually someone to blame for this problem. Have you ever tried to help a pessimist solve a problem? They will argue with you that every possible solution will not work. There is no happy future, all is hopeless.
  • A pessimist will say that an optimist is not realistic. Maybe that is the case. However, perhaps that slightly unrealistic view is what allows the optimist to meet the challenge head on and succeed.

How can you move along your place on the retirement spectrum to be on the positive side as you look to reinvent, reboot and rewire your life?

Examine your behaviour pattern. Be honest with yourself.

  • When a challenge arises, step back and see it for what it is. Look for the opportunity within the challenge. Sometimes the opportunity is merely the experience gained from getting through it.
  • Don’t let the problem become your life.
  • Move into action to resolve the problem immediately. Make a plan and get started.Believe in yourself and your power.

Cast off society’s belief about aging and retirement. Optimists may have greater success, health and happiness. Pessimists may experience a self-fulfilling prophecy of unhappiness and despair. You choose your spot on the spectrum from where you will make the start to rebooting your life.

In conclusion it is my belief our new life ahead can be the adventure of a lifetime. It doesn’t have to be a permanent rest. Ask yourself whether your negative beliefs about retirement are getting in the way of how you really want to live the “third half” of your life.

The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of the best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office and The Buck Stops Here – Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur. 

Twitter: @gargashutosh


The Buck Stops Here

The Buck Stops Here “I want to be my own boss” is a thought that has definitely crossed the minds of most corporate managers at some time in their careers. This thought had often crossed my mind as well.

It was in 2003 when I was 46 years old that I took the decision of quitting the corporate world after 25 years and take the plunge into the world of entrepreneurship. I had worked for ITC Ltd for 17 years and then in the world of aerospace for 8 years before I quit.

Everyone thought that I had taken leave of my senses when I walked out of a high paying high profile job. I was convinced that I was taking the right step. Yet most people hesitate to take this step for one reason or another.

Giving up what one has today, including a regular pay check and the perquisites that come with the job to pursue a “dream” definitely appears to be an intimidating challenge for anyone who is contemplating changing his status quo. Yet for people who have made this change, the realisation is why they took so long to take this step. It is never too late or too early to make a start.

Getting over one’s own fears and anxieties is possibly the biggest challenge that you will face. Ensuring support from one’s family helps every entrepreneur to take the plunge faster. If the home front is solidly behind the venture then the entrepreneur can press ahead to tackle the challenges with renewed vigour. Be prepared for a complete lifestyle change.

An entrepreneur’s job is a lonely one. Days will blend into nights and weekdays into weekends. No job will be too small or big and what you take for granted as a corporate manager will be a challenge you will have to address personally. Yet, the fruits of your efforts will be visible at the end of each day.

Find out what is your calling and stay the course. Once you have made up your mind on what you want to do, take a plunge with 100% commitment. Write out a realistic business plan for yourself. Part time entrepreneurial ventures have never succeeded. Once you have started your journey, you will be confronted with challenges that you would never have imagined. Yet, no challenge will be insurmountable.

Many ventures with high potential have failed because their promoter gave up when he was so close to seeing success. Many others have failed because the promoter started out with an outstanding idea but changed course based on a new whim. Funds will be a challenge when you start but will become a commodity when you start to succeed. A family investing its savings into a business is a strong message of confidence for any banker or private equity investor.

Manage cash very carefully – costs have a habit of running out of control and revenues lag behind what you may have planned for. As long as you are doing what you had thought you would, you will start to see light at the end of the tunnel, sooner than later.

Getting a strong management team and empowering them is essential for success but finding the right talent for a startup will be a challenge. Good managers will not agree to join a startup and a startup entrepreneur will not be able to afford such managers.

Therefore, it is necessary to draw upon skills of friends and family and part time managers to start any new enterprise. The promoter is also human and will make a lot of mistakes. This is when a good management team comes in and takes charge.

The going will be very tough and challenging for the first few years and very often I did sit back and think whether I had taken the right decision.

However, looking back, I don’t think there could be any other path I would have wanted to take. Remember the fruits of all the hard work will be very sweet.

If becoming your own boss is your dream, there is no date as good as today to make a beginning.

Ashutosh Garg

Author – The Buck Stops Here Twitter:


The Buck Stops Here – The Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur by Ashutosh Garg – Extracts

Everyone has a story to tell. This is mine. Everyone’s life is full of unique experiences. Each one of us has faced joys and sorrows, pain and exhilaration, and has learned lessons in life. Yet, most people I know are shy of sharing their rich experience. I often ask such people what they have learned from their life and why they don’t wish to share their knowledge with others. After all, it is only when we learn to confront our own ‘ghosts’ that we will be able to really look back at our lives with confidence, joy and pride. I have lived my life on my own terms. I have been called a maverick by friends and colleagues and I know that I would not have lived my life any other way. This book is an attempt to share my personal journey from a professional manager to an entrepreneur over the last thirty-one years. Many people live their lives working in one job and retiring from the same organization. Others get a chance to change jobs, but stay within the same space. As the years go by and as our societies and the communities will evolve further, I believe that the world will offer our children an opportunity not just to change jobs but to change their careers and their lives completely. Our children can now dream of working in the corporate sector or the government, then move to pursue their passion as a musician or an actor or an author and later enter politics or contribute to civil society, all in one lifetime. I believe I have been more fortunate than a lot of others to have seen three completely different phases in my life—seventeen years with ITC Limited till I was thirty-eight years old, eight years in the aerospace industry till I was forty-six and the last ten years as a chemist, or in more glorious terms, an entrepreneur. This book is an account of my journey through life as I built Guardian Pharmacy. In order to do justice to my entrepreneurial journey, I thought that it is also very important to share some of the experiences of the first twenty-five years of my life as a corporate manager. It is this strong foundation and varied experience in the corporate sector that helped me set up the base and develop the mindset to pursue my dream of becoming an entrepreneur. I have also written about the various predicaments I have faced throughout my life and how these learnings from them have made me a much stronger person. I started out with a dream to build India’s largest pharmacy chain. It has now evolved into India’s second largest chain of wellness, health and beauty stores with over two hundred stores spread across thirty cities and ten states. We handle over eight million customers every year and have grown at a compounded average annual growth rate of over 40 per cent over the last five years. Over the last few years, I have met hundreds of professional managers who have expressed their desire to start off on their own. Some have told me in no uncertain terms, ‘We are jealous of you since you have managed to break free from the corporate world.’ When I ask them what was stopping them from leaving their jobs to pursue their dream, I heard all kinds of excuses: 1. ‘I have too many financial commitments at the moment.’ 2. ‘I am not used to working on weekends.’ 3. ‘I don’t know what to do, give me a good idea.’ 4. ‘Is this really a good time to start?’ And the mother of all reasons, ‘My family and I have got used to a certain standard of life. I cannot give all this up at this stage.’ My advice to all of them is simple: take the plunge and start your planning process now. There is no day as good as today to make a beginning, if you genuinely believe in your dream. Building a new company is very hard work. The toughest part of building a new company is not coming up with a new idea; it is to stay committed to your dream, make sacrifices and learn from your experiences. If you are not willing to give up on things really important to you or if you are likely to be discouraged because of rejection, it will be very difficult to stick to and implement your idea. As a first-generation entrepreneur, I did not have anyone to guide me on the dos and don’ts of building a business. Since the time I started Guardian, I have stumbled many times, fallen down quite often, but I have had to build the resilience to stand up, dust my clothes, learn from the mistake and start all over again. I learned to fail and I learned to manage failure, though I did not plan failure. Failure is essential for any new entrepreneur to succeed. We cannot let any adversity pull us back. We have to learn from our mistakes and our setbacks, accept the knocks our profit-and-loss account will take and keep moving ahead. Every entrepreneur has to plan for the best but prepare for the worst. I have often heard the phrase, ‘The buck stops here.’ I have also used this phrase innumerable times as a professional chief executive officer (CEO) in a large company, implying that I am the final decision-maker and that the responsibility of all my actions and those of others reporting to me finally ends up on my table. My understanding of this phrase has evolved during my entrepreneurial journey. An entrepreneur is the only person where the proverbial ‘buck’ stops. At the end of each month, he has to have the money to pay employees’ salaries and he has to ensure that there are no delays in doing so. In November 2009, as I concluded my talk at a large conference on entrepreneurship and building a new business, I was surrounded by dozens of young men and women who wanted to exchange business cards with me so that they could set up a separate meeting to discuss their business plans. Some of these young men and women came to my office and I spent half a day with them, talking about my journey as I built Guardian, as well as my transition from the corporate world to an entrepreneur. At this meeting I was asked many questions, some perceptive and some very basic, about building a business. As I answered these queries, I thought it may be a good idea for me to write about my own journey so that I could share my knowledge with a much larger audience. The first edition of this book was released on 10 January 2011 by Mr Omar Abdullah, honourable chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir. It went on to become a bestseller. This is a revised edition, which includes several new thoughts and experiences of mine since the first edition was published. Writing this book has been a very therapeutic journey for me. I hope you will enjoy reading this book as much as I have enjoyed writing it.