Pursuit of Happiness

Finding Some Comic Relief

For Vogo’s founder and CEO Anand Ayyadurai, comics are the one-stop escape route to a world where he can get lost for hours on end

Eight years ago, an old man in Bengaluru’s Indiranagar was looking to sell his library comprising 6,000-odd books. When Anand Ayyadurai, founder and CEO of bike rental platform Vogo, showed interest in buying just the comics, he was stonewalled: he either had to buy the entire collection for Rs 1 lakh or there was no deal on the table.

What next? Armed with three friends and one tempo, Ayyadurai returned home with 30 boxes, filled to the brim with books. “Six months later, I realised I’d made a mistake and sold most of them because I couldn’t keep all of them at home,” he says with a chuckle.

That’s how obsessed Ayyadurai is with books in general and comics in particular. At the peak of his collection, along with those library books, he had close to 7,000 books. At present, he has about 800-900 out of which 700 are comics.

The craze can be traced back to another library in Pune that he grew up next to. That’s where young Ayyadurai would spend his time reading books and take one home at the end of every visit. What started at the age of 5 only got stronger and became an escape for the CEO as the years went by. He recollects how his father had bought him a 30-year-old box of hundreds of Chandamama magazines when he was 9. While his parents weren’t avid readers, they’d buy him anything he liked in terms of books. “That was the only thing I’d ask for as a kid,” he adds.

Ayyadurai says that he reads quite a bit apart from comics as well and has spent a lot of time devouring epic fantasy and graphic novels. He has also read a few hundred fantasy fiction novels, he says. But comics continue to be his favourite. His eyes light up when he talks about Fables, his favourite comic series, and narrates with child-like excitement how fairy tale characters like Little Red Riding Hood, Prince Charming, Big Bad Wolf and others come alive in New York, form a community and try to figure out how to get back to fairy tale land.

“Once I start reading, I don’t get out of it for the next five-six hours. I don’t realise what’s happening around me — emergency, wife, family, anybody calling me. It’s a deep kind of involvement,” he says.

Today, he only buys comics and for everything else, he has his trusted Kindle. “Comics are something that you still have to buy and read because of their colours. That is something you cannot experience on a Kindle or a tablet,” he says.

When he isn’t busy running a young start-up and when his fingers aren’t engaged in flipping the pages of a book, Ayyadurai likes to spend his time with his cat Coffee and dog Simba. “My time is now divided between my pets and books,” he says while joking about how Vogo features in the time apart from those two.