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Underdog Thinking – Atul Vir
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A BOLD IDEA, A BUSINESS ADVENTURE AND 101 LESSONS LEARNED ALONG THE WAY

Underdog Thinking is real-life business adventure story that follows the journey of an Indian Immigrant to the U.S. who was told he ‘didn’t know a damn thing about American business’. But as opportunity would have it, a short time later he found himself an accidental entrepreneur with a front row ticket to the ins and outs of launching and growing a business. He was flying high on his growing success—until a fateful moment when everything changed. As businesses rise and fall to the tune of supply and demand, sometimes the harshest betrayals come out of nowhere, when you least expect it—as do the surprising sparks of hope. When an unforeseen circumstance initiates a chain of events that leave him at a crossroads he must make the tough call: to give in and give up, or push through and win. CEO, business ethics thought leader, speaker and author Atul Vir has lived that story. And even in the darkest moments when failure seemed most imminent, he drew on the work ethic instilled from his earliest days, and his commitment to do right by his customers—to bring his dream up from the ashes and back to life. In his new book, Underdog Thinking, Vir inspires readers to face any challenge that comes their way—with practical business lessons for every step of the journey gleaned from his experience as both an immigrant building a business and as CEO of Equator Appliances for more than 25 years. The book dives into current themes dominating the business landscape, including: global business, overcoming failure, bootstrapping, securing financing, immigration and what innovation truly means. While many people offer sage advice on these topics, Vir’s lessons are paired with a unique, captivating story and more than three decades of entrepreneurial expertise in an industry dominated by much bigger players—major multinational corporations.

Global readers are captivated by Atul Vir's debut book

PRAISE FOR 'UNDERDOG THINKING'

A BOOK FOR ANYONE WHO HAS FACED ADVERSITY AND CHOSE TO ‘NEVER GIVE IN!’

In his debut book, Atul Vir provides real-world business lessons based on his popular keynote delivered at top business schools around the world. Part adventure novel, part entrepreneur guidebook, ‘Underdog Thinking’ captivates and inspires action no matter the reader’s stage in the journey of building an ethical business.


ENTREPRENEURS who want to be mentored in their business by real-world experience for navigating the challenges of launching and growing a business.


BUSINESS STUDENTS seeking an in-depth look at the highs and lows of launching and running a business ethically—and practical lessons for launching into the professional world.


EXECUTIVES AND MANAGERS who face the daily challenges of running a company while keeping the needs of their customers first, no matter what.


ADVENTURE SEEKERS ready to get lost in a global tale of highs, lows and a comeback fueled by innovation—peppered with life-applicable lessons along the way.


INNOVATORS who want to understand how innovation happens, and are seeking practical steps to transform ideas into reality.

In This Book, Atul Vir Provides Real-World Business Lessons Based On His Popular Keynote Given At Top Business Schools Around The World.

1. Launching your business

• Think big; start small; scale fast.
(Ch. 2, The Beginning, P.34)
• Every challenge is an opportunity;
you just have to find it.
(Ch. 1, Crossroads, p.27)
• The best ideas are often right in front of you.
(Ch. 3, The Idea, p.51)
• If you want to find an opportunity, look for a problem.
(Ch. 3, The Idea, p.50)
• First understand the system, then operate within it.
(Ch. 4, The Hunt, p.66)

2. Growing your business

• Expect the unexpected.
(Ch. 1, Crossroads, p.21)
• Follow the epiphany; It may be worth millions.
(Ch. 3, The Idea, p.54)

• You must be fully committed to your business.
(Ch. 4, The Hunt, p.69)
• Fight for what is right, even
if your foes seem formidable.
(Ch. 9, The Storm, p.147)
• Reflect upon your success, but don’t lose sight of reality.
(Ch. 5, The Dive, p.82)
• Keep your eye on the ball.
(Ch. 6, Growth, p.86)
• Assume nothing, expect nothing.
Then you will be prepared.
(Ch. 6, Growth, p.88)
• When the stars align, go with it and strike hard.
(Ch. 6, Growth, p.91)
• When opportunity knocks,
stop, think, then open the door.
(Ch. 16, On Acquisitions, p.228)
•Every problem is an opportunity.
(Ch. 16, On Acquisitions, p.232)
• The more that’s at stake, the faster your brain works.
(Ch. 12, China, p.171)
• Keep your eyes open and your ears to the ground.
(Ch. 7, The Pinnacle, p.100)
• Be ready to revise any system, scrap any method, abandon
any theory, if the job requires it. — Henry Ford
(Ch. 12, China, p.173)
LESSONS LEARNED
325
• Doing business internationally requires you to step out
of your comfort zone and build trust.

(Ch. 17, The Awakening, p.253)

3. Managing your business

• Management decisions must be made
by listening to those closest to the action.
(Ch. 1, Crossroads, p.27)
• Even the best product can fail if
you don’t get out and sell.
(Ch. 5, The Dive, p.75)
• The only purpose of publicity is to sell.
(Ch. 5, The Dive, p.79)
• Everyone must have skin in the
game for a venture to succeed.
(Ch. 5, The Dive, p.77)
• Everyone is turned on by something;
tap them for what they do best.
(Ch. 8, The Dark Cloud, p.123)
• Introducing Western philosophies
in the East doesn’t automatically spell success.
(Ch. 11, Back to India, p.165)
• Don’t ignore the changing tides.
(Ch. 11, Back to India, p.167)
• In business, the only constant is change.
(Ch. 7, The Pinnacle, p.107)
UNDERDOG THINKNG
326
4. Developing Relationships
• Never underestimate the value of developing mutual trust.
(Ch. 2, The Beginning, p.38)
• Never fight with someone who has more power than you.
(Ch. 2, The Beginning, p.34)
• Obstacles are meant to be overcome.
(Ch. 4, The Hunt, p.65)
• Keep your eyes open. Threats can come from halfway
across the world, or within your own circle.
(Ch. 8, The Dark Cloud, p.125)
• Be careful who you trust.
(Ch. 13, The Fall, p.189)
• Money will turn friends into enemies.
(Ch. 13, The Fall, p.191)
• Relationships bridge every difference.
(Ch. 16, On Acquisitions, p.233)
• Find common ground to build trust.
(Ch. 17, The Awakening, p.251)
• Trust, once broken, can never be fully restored.
(Ch. 18, The Comeback, p.273)
• Build lasting relationships that
defy the misconception that the only way to
• You can deal with what you know;
it’s what you don’t know that should worry you.
(Ch. 15, Rock Bottom, p.222)

4. Developing Relationships

• Never underestimate the value of developing mutual trust.
(Ch. 2, The Beginning, p.38)
• Never fight with someone who has more power than you.
(Ch. 2, The Beginning, p.34)
• Obstacles are meant to be overcome.
(Ch. 4, The Hunt, p.65)
• Keep your eyes open. Threats can come from halfway
across the world, or within your own circle.
(Ch. 8, The Dark Cloud, p.125)
• Be careful who you trust.
(Ch. 13, The Fall, p.189)
• Money will turn friends into enemies.
(Ch. 13, The Fall, p.191)
• Relationships bridge every difference.
(Ch. 16, On Acquisitions, p.233)
• Find common ground to build trust.
(Ch. 17, The Awakening, p.251)
• Trust, once broken, can never be fully restored.
(Ch. 18, The Comeback, p.273)
• Build lasting relationships that
defy the misconception that the only way to
• You can deal with what you know;
it’s what you don’t know that should worry you.
(Ch. 15, Rock Bottom, p.222)
LESSONS LEARNED
327
get ahead in business is to lie, cheat and steal.
(Ch. 20, The Future, p.296)
• Build relationships based on mutual trust.
(Ch. 4, The Hunt p.63)
• We have no permanent friends or enemies,
only permanent interests.
(Ch. 10, The Fight, p.153)

5. Innovating

• You can’t do market research on a product that doesn’t exist.
(Ch. 4, The Hunt, p.60)
• Don’t rest on your laurels; complacency is dangerous.
(Ch. 6, Growth, p.95)
• Seize opportunity when it arises.
(Ch. 11, Back to India, p.163)
• Don’t ever innovate for innovation’s sake.
(Appendix I: The State of Innovation, p.315)
• Use empathy to fuel innovation.
(Ch. 18, The Comeback, p.270)
• Innovation is best done where
the problem is located, not in a lab far away.
• Never share your secrets with anybody.
It will destroy you.
— Kautilya, Arthashastra, 4th century B.C.
(Ch. 7, The Pinnacle, p.103)
• Equator’s 10 Innovation Principles
(Appendix I: The State of Innovation, p.308)
(Appendix I: The State of Innovation, p.316)
• Innovation is the key to customer satisfaction.
(Appendix I: The State of Innovation, p.300)
• Innovation is not intuition.
(Appendix I: The State of Innovation, p.302)

6. Never Accept Defeat

• Nothing is impossible; there is always a way.
(Ch. 4, The Hunt, p.58)
•When you see trouble on the horizon, act fast.
(Ch. 8, The Dark Cloud, p.119)
• Persistence is power.
(Ch. 13, The Fall, p.183)
•Don’t be afraid to fight your foe face-to-face.
(Ch. 13, The Fall, p.180)
• Inspiration can strike when you least expect it.
(Ch. 15, Rock Bottom, p.224)
• If you step out of your comfort zone,
good things will happen.
(Ch. 16, On Acquisitions, p.234)
• Use innovation to fuel your comeback.
(Ch. 17, The Awakening, p.256)
• Anything can happen to you once. If you allow
it to happen a second time, then shame on you.
(Ch. 17, The Awakening, p.243)

• Events halfway across the world
can shake you to your core.
(Ch. 8, The Dark Cloud, p.117)
• Don’t worry about public opinion; just follow through.
(Ch. 8, The Dark Cloud, p.122)
• You can’t beat the system; learn to operate within it.
(Ch. 14, The Betrayal, p.201)
• In business, the goal is to have success as the conclusion.
Throughout the process, emotions are weapons of war. In
order to convey meaning, one can use anger, joy or grief
if that would help one achieve the goal.
(Ch. 11, China, p.182)

7. Excellence

• Be decisive and go after what you want.
(Ch. 7, The Pinnacle, p.105)
• Go with the flow like a bird in the wind.
(Ch. 12, China, p.170)
• Remain calm on the outside, no matter
how loud you’re screaming on the inside.
(Ch. 9, The Storm, p.137)
• Be like a sponge, open to new ideas.
(Ch. 17, The Awakening, p.259)
• Don’t do things just to make yourself happy.
Do the things that make you successful;
success is also a means to happiness.
(Ch. 18, The Comeback, p.276)
• Events halfway across the world
can shake you to your core.
(Ch. 8, The Dark Cloud, p.117)
• Don’t worry about public opinion; just follow through.
(Ch. 8, The Dark Cloud, p.122)
• You can’t beat the system; learn to operate within it.
(Ch. 14, The Betrayal, p.201)
• In business, the goal is to have success as the conclusion.
Throughout the process, emotions are weapons of war. In
order to convey meaning, one can use anger, joy or grief
if that would help one achieve the goal.
(Ch. 11, China, p.182)

• Excellence is the way.
(Ch. 18, The Comeback, p.267)
• An entrepreneur is like an artist painting a canvas that
needs continuous improvement.
(Appendix I: The State of Innovation, p.303)

8. Ethics

• Your business is not about you.
(Ch. 2, The Beginning, p.41)
• During tough times, morale can shift the tide.
(Ch. 13, The Fall, p.181)
• You must treat others using the Golden Rule.
Treat others the way you wish to be treated.
(Ch. 17, The Awakening, p.243) (Ch. 20, The Future, p.26)
• Be accountable for your actions.
(Ch. 18, The Comeback, p.264)
• Never underestimate the power
of leaving the past behind.
(Ch. 14, The Betrayal, p.213)
• Embrace the journey that got you here.
(Ch. 19, A Full Circle, p.289)
• To win any game you have to go all in.
(Ch. 16, On Acquisitions, p.230)

9. The Customer

• Always be accountable to your customers.
(Ch. 9, The Storm, p.138)
• Listen to your customers;
never assume you know what they want.
(Ch. 5, The Dive, p.78)
• Business is war; do your job
for your company and your customer.
(Ch. 10, The Fight, p.156)
• Don’t fear Goliath.
(Ch. 10, The Fight, p.158)
• You must innovate with empathy for customers.
(Ch. 19, A Full Circle, p.286)

10. Failure

• The higher you climb, the harder you fall.
(Ch. 13, The Fall, p.192)
• Betrayal loves company.
(Ch. 14, The Betrayal, p.197)
• Be prepared: business can go from bad to worse.
(Ch. 14, The Betrayal, p.209)
• Recognize when it’s time to throw in the towel.
(Ch. 14, The Betrayal, p.212)
• Beware the black cloud of depression.
(Ch. 15, Rock Bottom, p.219)

I’m often asked about my journey of entrepreneurship and how I’ve persevered through all the highs and lows. The simple answer is that it’s not that simple.

Some people are born entrepreneurs. Other entrepreneurs are made through life experiences, necessity, storms or circumstances beyond their control. But regardless of their background or the journey of getting from point “A” to point “Entrepreneur,” one thing is the same: the call of entrepreneurship runs deep, and once it takes hold, it’s got you for life.

I wrote this book to shine a light on that innate call to entrepreneurship: the ups and downs, the lessons learned along the way and the forces that propel us to “never give in,” even at the lowest points in the journey. Use these as guideposts when your own road ahead seems uncertain.