Avendus co-founder Ranu Vohra on his favorite books, why business books are overrated, and why the metaverse is not new


Most corporate executives and CEOs can’t stop talking about business books — the management lessons, leadership skills and business techniques they learnt and honed from these books. Not Ranu Vohra. The co-founder and Executive Chairman of Avendus Capital, one of India’s largest investment banks, which also offers wealth management, credit solutions and its own funds, is quick to distance himself from the hoi polloi of business books, but loves reading more than almost everything else.

“Business books are overrated, in my mind. They are relevant for a specific context like a certain message pertaining to a company. I find that there are fewer applications of business books, maybe because most of the books I read were theoretical. I am more comfortable reading about business leaders and what they did than what business strategies worked,” Vohra said on Episode 17 of Moneycontrol’s show All About Books on Twitter Spaces.

An avid reader since childhood

Unlike some business leaders who pick up the reading habit to hone their business skills and stay relevant, Vohra has been an avid reader since he was 5-6 years old.

“You can leave me alone in a house if I have a good book. I think I can even go without food if I have the right book,” he said.

Nothing new about the metaverse

A number of books have also spoken about dystopian technology, uses of artificial intelligence and the so-called metaverse. While Facebook changing its name to Meta indicated its seriousness about the metaverse — a virtual place where people meet, shop, game and live, Vohra asserts that the metaverse is not as new or pathbreaking a concept as everyone believes.

“The whole concept of a metaverse is not happening through the computing world today but already happening through other areas. For example, when you immerse yourself in a book, you are living the life of someone in the parallel world again. Similarly, when you are watching sports, you are immersing yourself and merging yourself with the athlete,” he says.

“In my view, the metaverse is a topic that has been talked about for ages and it is just now that we are trying to put it out in a more computing-friendly kind of terminology,” Vohra said.

The one deal worth a book

Of the 250-300 deals that Avendus has worked on, Vohra said one may be worth writing a book on. “If I recall the one deal that created enough drama for not just us, but also the whole country, it was (IT firm) Satyam. The whole controversy around Satyam, and running a process to sell Satyam was very interesting. I won’t forget it for a while.” (Tech Mahindra eventually bought Satyam.)

Vohra was sent to Hyderabad to operate from promoter Ramalinga Raju’s office, where amusingly enough, there were a few corporate governance awards belonging to Satyam. “The company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange, it was listed on the Indian exchanges. So, it was a deep, deep mystery what happened in the organisation, how many people there were. If I had to write something, that would be an interesting one to write on,” he said.

These are the books Vohra recommended on the show, which was hosted by Moneycontrol’s M. Sriram and Swathi Moorthy:

  • Daemon by Daniel Suarez
  • The Song of Achilles by  Madeline Miller
  • The Making of Hero by Sunil Munjal
  • The Man who solved the markets by Gregory Zuckerman
  • The Nine Lives of Pakistan by Declan Walsh
  • Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
  • Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
  • Euler’s Gems by David S. Richeson
  • Deep Work by Cal Newport
  • Atomic Habits by James Clear
  • Darwin’s Island by Steve Jones
  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
  • The Partnership: A History of Goldman Sachs by Charles D Ellis
  • Monkey Business: Swinging Through the Wall Street Jungle by John Rolfe