"I got several rejections before I became a bestseller" - Mainak Dhar

Updated: Jan 28


After finishing his schooling at Modern School, Barakhamba Road and his under graduation at Hindu College, Delhi, Mainak Dhar graduated from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. He has spent two decades in the corporate sector, starting with Procter & Gamble in India. He spent eighteen years with P&G, fifteen of them outside India across the Asia Pacific region. In 2014, he moved back to India as the CEO of the India operations of a major consumer products multinational.

A self-described cubicle dweller by day and writer by night, Mainak is also the author of over a dozen books, some of which have been bestsellers in India and abroad. These books have been translated into Turkish, Vietnamese, Japanese, French, German and Portuguese. He lives in Mumbai with his wife, Puja, and their son, Aaditya. When not at work or with his family, he can usually be found working on or thinking about his next book.


Q. Characterize yourself in one word?


Q. Please describe what the story/book is about in one sentence.

At 03:02 on a Sunday morning the world as we know it ends, and ordinary Indians have to fight for their freedom against an invader.

Q. Briefly, what led up to this book? What were you writing before breaking out with this book?

In 03:02, I attempt to build off something that we, unfortunately, see in the news every day- the seemingly ever-present threat of terror.

However, what’s new to it are two things. First, the nature of the terror threat, not an isolated attack, but a cataclysmic strike that knocks out all electricity and communications, taking our society back hundreds of years technologically in one stroke. Second is the fact that ordinary Indians, people like you and me, are the ones who have to rise to the challenge of combating a terror threat that is invading our homeland. Before 03:02, I had spent a fair bit of time exploring the dystopian genre through the lens of a zombie apocalypse (Alice in Deadland, Zombiestan, Chronicler of the Undead). In 03:02, I do paint a dystopian world, but the horror the protagonists face is not a fictional zombie apocalypse, but the very real threat of terror we see in the world around us.

Q. What was the time frame for writing this book? Tell us an interesting detail or two, if applicable.

It took me about nine months to get the first draft and then, of course, a process of editing and refining working with my Editor at Westland, my publishers. What’s interesting about 03:02 is that it’s based in the actual neighborhood I live in and that made the process of writing it so much more fun, such as imagining ambushes and battles on the way to the mall!

Q. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in?

My writing career began long ago, and my first novel, The Funda of Mixology, took the time to break through. I got several rejections before it was picked up and went on to become a bestseller. What I have learned over the years is to focus on what I am truly passionate about and bring that to my writing instead of worrying about what will ‘sell’. Writing the best possible story you can is what any writer can do first and foremost to break through.

Q. Did you have a platform in place? On this topic, what are you doing to build a platform and gain readership?

While I have been widely published, 03:02 is my first novel to be published while I’m living in India. I was abroad for fifteen years before relocating back to India in 2014. So what I’m enjoying a lot is the opportunity to interact with readers and I believe the best ‘platform’ a writer can form is to write a great story and connect with readers through it. That’s what I’m doing. I do have a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMainakDhar/) to help readers connect with me.

Q. Favorite novel?

The Lord of the Rings.

Q. Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I had an imaginary friend called Freddy who sat next to me in French class for all of Grade 7. I would write tests for him and not allow anyone to sit in his seat. He came second in class after me (I made sure he’d get at least one question wrong!). In my novel Zombiestan, I wrote in a deranged Dhaba owner inspired by my imaginary childhood friend.

Q. What’s next?

Not finalized yet, but I love exploring how people react in extreme situations so will likely take myself and my readers through another dystopian trip. Let’s see what shape that takes.

Q. Future of SALISMANIA.com through your eyes?

You’re doing a great job of connecting youth through things that matter to them. Keep building off that and over time, use your site as a way of showing how the shared love of books can bind people across religions, cultures, and locations. We find so many ways of dividing ourselves and books can be a wonderful way of bringing us together.