Sunday, March 1, 2009

Book Review: 'Losing my virginity' by Richard Branson

Richard Branson is the kind of entrepreneur every young man dreams of being. His story has all the hallmarks of the happy-go-lucky lifestyle we imagine rock stars live. But when one reads his book, one realizes the hard-work that goes behind building the biggest private company in UK.
He's been behind a number of business innovations at the same time has held parties for his staff and weekend long romps at Necker Island, while being exalted to Knighthood for his services to Entrepreneurship in 1997.
Like every autobiography, his story starts from his childhood when he was dyslexic and almost failed every paper except English. His love for media and business grew slowly while in school. It became very clear in his childhood he was carved for big things: he started a string of false businesses like growing Christmas trees and raising Australian parrots. At the age of 17, he dropped school to start Student Magazine along with his friends in his basement. He was young, ambitious and rebellious. He hit the street, learnt the hard way, wrote top class articles, created a large subscription for the magazine and garnered advertising for his young magazine.
One thing led to the other, and soon he had a mail order business. During his early days, he defied taxes and to a small extent, broke some tax rules governing European countries. After being caught, he started a chain of music shops and a music recording business, which subsequently attracted singers like Janet Jackson and Phil Collins in his portfolio, and made Virgin Music a big brand in UK.
Then followed a long account of his cold war (or open war) against British Airways, which had a virtual monopoly in UK for airline operations. After selling Virgin Music to EMI records, he founded Virgin Atlantic and meticulously attacked the unethical practices of British Airways. Soon the company swelled, and so did the Virgin Brand, which propelled him to open more businesses.
The most interesting aspect of Branson is that this man never sleeps. Between growing his billion dollar businesses and marketing his brand, he enjoys hot air ballooning and playing with near-death dangers. His famous quote : "A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts." This maverick appears on the front page of the newspaper every now and then. In his book Branson states that this is the cheapest yet best form of publicity. No wonder, he is seen in funny attires or with beautiful ladies - this is a foolproof way of making headlines...
In summary, the book is as much a thriller, adventure like book, as an autobiography. One of the autobiographies that don't follow conventions, 'Losing My Virginity' shares all the secrets and feelings of Branson, who writes the book truly from his heart.

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