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There is no mantra to avoid rejections, accept it and become better in life, says Ambi Parameswaran in new book

Parameswaran, a branding and marketing expert and author, recently launched a book, ‘Spring: Bouncing Back From Rejection’, targeting mainly millennials. The book deals with rejections, failures, success and challenges as part of life. He says people should sit back, face rejection, process and learn from it

‘Spring: Bouncing Back From Rejection’ marks the tenth book by Ambi Parameswaran. The author and brand expert largely writes on branding,  advertising  and consumer behaviour but he ventured out of his regular genre when he wrote a book titled ‘Sponge’ on leadership, which includes his own experience in the world of advertising.

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In this connected world, reaching or completing one destination leads for another. Something similar happened with Parameswaran.

“As I mentioned in the book, when I gave a talk on Sponge leadership lessons at Jagran Lake University, one of the students asked me a question that having an engineering degree and MBA degree from IIM Calcutta (Kolkata), you had a great career; you met a lot of smart people but not everyone is like you. We are all worried about our career and rejections. How do you handle rejection and what suggestions do you have on it? I gave a talk of about five minutes on rejection and interestingly the audience gave me a standing ovation. I realised rejection is something which I should study more and write more about, I gave a version of this talk when I was giving my acceptance talk at IIM Kolkata in November 2018. Again when I told the rejection story, it got applause from the audience,” Parameswaran said.

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He realised maybe there’s something to the whole rejection issue and started collecting his own thoughts on interesting anecdotes which he could recall and then started talking to people.

He spoke to people from different walks of life — bureaucrats, Olympic athletes, authors, start-up entrepreneurs, academics, etc.

In his previous book Sponge, he was the main character of all the stories but here out of 20 chapters, he’s only in five and the remaining 15 are not about him. It’s on the experiences of people whom he had met, read about, talked to.

“The idea was to keep that 25-year-old person in mind and understand what types of questions are going on his / her mind. How is he/she ready to face workplace rejection; that was something always in my mind, it helped to clarify, got me focused to the book,” Parameswaran said.

The book is aimed at the 20-35-year-old audience, and the argument is for rejection, success, failure, challenges all as a part of life. Millenials have to understand rejection is part of life and have to be ready to face it.

“You could be in your last stage of graduation or in your first or second job and you are worried about getting rejected in the job applied or you apply for a promotion and you don’t get promoted.  In all that or any case, there is a three-step formula I recommend,” said Parameswaran.

1. Be ready to face rejection (When you get rejected in anything, don’t just collapse)

2. Understand how to process the rejection; then every rejection you encounter will leave you stronger. Talk to a mentor, a friend about what they think, what happened.

3. Learn from every rejection and become better.

Parameswaran says if anyone is able to do this three-step process, every rejection one encounters will leave him/her stronger, not weaker and that is a message in the book.

Whether you are a start-up entrepreneur, journalist, MBA student, author, athlete or a bureaucrat, you will get rejected; you will not get everything you want. Every time it happens to you, learn, sit back, face the rejection, process the rejection and learn from it, if you do so you will become better in whatever the field you are, he said.

Parameswaran said every chapter has its own trickiness. He had to make sure that he doesn’t sound preachy. “Since I am writing to the young target audience I had to make sure that the language is easy to understand. I didn’t want the book to be loaded with too many references and too much of literature. I had to keep it easy, chatty and very friendly.”

Before starting to write a book, he probably reads 20-30 books and 40-50 articles or interviews. In the case of Spring, it hasn’t been any different, it took him two years to complete the book. One year in research and second in writing. “One has to do a lot of reading, analysing, collating before putting things together and the whole job of writing a book is reading and collecting and realising what has been missed out,” Parameswaran said.

The formal launch of the book will be in early October. The book has been available in the market for the last eight days.

 He said till now the response has been very good, including a mail from FCB’s former worldwide creative director Jonathan Harries. “Harries had some really nice things to say about the book. It’s been good till now and I am sure that everyone will enjoy the book; a lot of people of my age group have written to me and said that they have enjoyed the book, which is nice.”

Speaking on brands learning from rejections, Parameswaran said, “Brands have to keep learning from rejections because they are constantly keeping track of a changing consumer. Brands have to keep changing, learning what to do or what not to do.”

He said Maruti became agile after being attacked by Tata Indica and Hyundai Santro. It dramatically changed the brand in the variety of products it offers, the looks and other features.

Another example he gave was of Amul; on how agile the company has become from the one that only used to be known only for milk powder, milk and butter to all kinds of ready-to-drink products, ice creams, etc.

“Look at the way the Tatas have reorganised their entire consumer product businesses, which started originally from salt and tea but today look at the ranges they have.”

“So many companies have become so agile in what they do, they moved quickly before they get rejected. That’s the smartness of the company, you keep changing, improvising, improving. Once you start losing market share, it’s difficult to get back. Before you should be able to see the signals early, start changing your brand and all these people have done it very successfully,” said Parameswaran.

He said Maruti was attacked by competition and lost market share but came back. In the case of Amul, it did not lose market share but realised the market was changing and consumers were going towards different types of ice-creams, ready-to-drink flavoured drinks, etc., and they were quick to come out with all these new products.

Parameswaran gave an example of Royal Enfield, which was completely rejected by the consumer because it had very poor quality and supply and so the company had to revamp the brand from scratch — improve quality, branding, and looks. All of it helped it to do well in the market.

For his 11th book, he wants to return to branding.

He said people are not able to process and learn from rejections. In the book, he has mentioned two-three advertising stories where he has explained situations, when an agency pitches but doesn’t win it. Their instant reaction to the rejection is that the decision made by the brand is very random, the client was moody, we did a good job, he made a very good presentation but the client is biased against us, etc.

“More often than not, all of that is nonsense. You lost a pitch because you did not do a good enough job. If you realise that, you can improve saying okay this is what I did not do right and the next time I will do that better. The same thing when you apply for a job and you don’t get it; the first reaction is that the company is biased against your flaws. The reality is that you didn’t give a good enough answer or maybe your interviewer had a bad day.” 

“Once you get a rejection, you have to process it, may go deeper into the rejections find out what happened,” said Parameswaran.

Speaking on obvious reactions to rejection at workplaces, he said, “If you were hoping for the promotion but you don’t get promoted, one reaction is to say that I don’t like this company so I am leaving it. The other is to go and talk to the person who did not promote you and ask what happened, why I was not promoted.”

“You may probably get a better job one year or two years later. It’s always better to find out — face the rejection and learn.”

“Maybe you did not get promoted because you didn't have some skillsets required for the promotion. Work on yourself to get that same promotion the next year,” he said.

Favouritism is always a double-edged sword, opines Parameswaran.  He said a lot of times one may think that he/she have not been promoted because the boss favours someone else but is that really the case? One needs to get deeper in that. “It may be your bias which is playing up and it may not be true. But if you see that happening again and again, then maybe you should get out and change your course.”

There is no mantra to avoid rejection, please accept it and you will become better in life, he said.

“If you do your life trying to avoid rejection, you will end up living a boring life. The fact that you got rejected is because you were trying to do something beyond the capability and only by doing things which are beyond your capabilities you will be able to get better in life.”

He gave the case of Thomas Alva Edison, a person who invented the electric bulb and 100s of other products, who probably has got rejected 10,000 times and he used to say, ‘every-time I fail, I learn something and so failure has been my help’.

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