Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A very Indian approach to management- Business Sutra by Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik

Book review of

                                          Publisher:Aleph Book company
                                                        Pages: 437
                                                                        INR 695

Modern Management science taught in business schools world over is based on Western beliefs. In this book, Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik  wonders and writes what it would be like if management science is based on Indian Mythology.

According to him there is a premise in Indian mythology where it says if there is no intellectual growth, there will be no economic growth.  
Why we do business impacts how we do it and what ultimately gets done. “Jaise vichaar vaise vyavhaar, jaise vyavhaar vaise vyapaar”. As is belief, so is behavior, so is business. This is Business sutra, a very Indian way of doing business which he calls as 3B framework. The sutra(like the dots in a rangoli(kolam) connects Indian beliefs to business. Every idea in this book is a dot that the reader can join to create a pattern like in rangoli and will help expand your mind. 

He discusses this in three  main chapters:

The first chapter “Connecting business to belief”  gives an introduction on 3B framework, about beliefs, myth and mythology, decodes culture and connects management to mythology.

The second chapter “From Goal to gaze”  Decodes western, Chinese and Indian beliefs.

 Apart from their beliefs on their business approach,  It relates how Europeans came to India first to trade, then to convert and eventually to exploit.  Indians became exposed to the western ideas as they studed in missionary schools to become clerks in the East India company and complied with the western ideas, language and templates. Whenever a local orientalist tried to explain,  the colonists tried to point out to the Indian social issues like caste, sati and idol worship. Indians became apologetic.

So what’s the difference between the East and the West? 

When we look at Indian mythology — be it Hindu, Buddhist or Jainsim — we find new ways of looking at business. Our approach changes. Indian approach is both profit-related as well as people-centric, while Western approach is profit-centric, thus turning people into mere resources and relies more on vision and mission statements says Pattanaik. He elaborates this argument when he says that in India, you can get away by breaking rules because we value people and are more than willing to adjust. Also, this country, unlike Western countries is so diverse that one rule can’t be good enough for everyone. “In the West, which is homogenous, rules are paramount and can be implemented strictly. If you don’t follow rules there, you are in trouble. But India is complex. As one goes through the epics of India, there are rule-following heroes (Ram) as well as rule-following villains (Duryodhan), the rule-breaking heroes (Krishna) as well as rule-breaking villains (Ravan). Thus, here goodness and righteousness has nothing to do with rules; they are at best functional, depending on the context they can be upheld or broken. This explains why we don’t value rules and systems in our own country, but adhere when we go abroad.”

The third chapter is the heart of the book and I found it more interesting and enriching. “Business Sutra- The very Indian approach to management”
Here he connects nearly 145 business sutra(principles to mythological stories drawn from Indian culture(Ramayan, Mahabharatha, Vikram-vetal, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism etc). He believes that mythological stories along with symbols and rituals are the tools through which our ancestors shared their wisdom, wisdom that is relevant even in modern times. 

Business Sutra is an attempt to make the wisdom of mythology accessible and applicable to the corporate world. Management and business principles like brand value, attrition, hierarchy, short term goals, long term vision, governance, politics, economics etc.,   The stories are short and is followed with a case study ranging from a street side vendor to the board room of a corporation.

An example to showcase the gaze-oriented value of business sutra is how we see the world and our relationship with Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth, whose image adorns Hindu homes and Jain temples.
IF we believe that wealth needs to be pursued we turn the workplace into a rana-bhoomi(battle ground)  of investors, regulators, employers, employees, vendors , competitors etc., If you believe that wealth has to be attracted, we turn work place into a ranga bhoomi, a play ground where everyone is happy. He correlates this to the story of Playful Krishna in Vrindavan( rangabhoomi) and that of the Krishna in ranabhoomi(kurukshetra).
Many such interesting myths of Indian mythology which India seems to have forgotten and the world has overlooked are  decoded by  Pattanaik. Like he says  “ Myths aren’t always to be taken literally. They have to be decoded to understand the real meaning. When someone says that ocean parted, you can take it literally. Or you can see it as an idea of something impossible happening”

The fourth chapter is actually a  decoding dictionary of Business sutra and this is very important to understand the book  and you have to refer often. In fact this is what I disliked about the book. Every now and then I had to flip over to this page to find the meaning of the various  business sutra words. For instance, the word ‘Yagna” which according to Indian  mythology means  ‘vedic fire ritual’ is actually “the process of exchange” in this book. Similarly ‘Krishna’ means  he who breaks rules to help others grow on their terms and not the ‘yadava cowherd or Vishnu avatar’

The fifth chapter is the index of sutras which are discussed in the third chapter.

With India making its presence in the International market, this could well be India’s offering to the leaders of the world. Apart from the management and business schools , I highly recommend this book to every body .  And  also  a few principles of  this book to be a part of school  syllabi to  help expand the thinking of young minds.

Like Pattanaik says in the closing lines , when the mind expands, Lakshmi(wealth)  follows. This is the essence of Business Sutra.

Overall an uplifting and enriching read, though I found the first two chapters little cloudy initially and read it a second time to understand better.

 The author Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik
Trained in medicine, he spent 15 years in healthcare and pharmaceutical industries first as a freelance content provider and then in organizations such as SIRO clinical research, Good health n you, Apollo Health Street and Sanofi Aventis, before joining Ernst & Young as Business Advisor.
That is when he met Kishore Biyani of Future Group (Big Bazaar, Pantaloon, Central) who convinced him to turn his hobby into his vocation.For over 15 years, Devdutt wrote and lectured extensively on the relevance of mythology (not just Hindu mythology) in modern times.Since becoming Chief Belief Officer of Future Group in 2008, he has specially focussed on Mythology and Management and is currently leadership coach and inspirational speaker to many organizations besides Future Group.
He consults Star TV on storytelling techniques and patterns. And is a regular in the management seminar lecture circuit. His columns on management and culture that appear in Economic Times, Sunday Mid-day, Tehelka, Hindustan Times, and Times of India, are a hit with general and specialist readers. He has written over 25 books for everyone from adults to children, for youth to business executives.

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  1. Interesting. Seems to be a complex book and has some interesting concepts. How come you picked this book for a review ??

    1. Brilliant arguments and most principles apply to our daily life too. (not just business)

      How come i picked this book?
      For three reasons:
      1) my recent interest in decoding(reading) our cultural beliefs, practices and our traditions( some of my old posts under culture label are proof of this)
      2) my interst in management( i have not done any course like BBA/MBA but i have read many of my husband's old MBA(IMT)books (mostly case studies i hate theories)
      3) I follow Devdutt Pattanaik's writings

      All the above put together the gist of the book tempted me to lay my hands on the book.

  2. Very well written. I think I should read some sutras i also liked the concluding line when mind expands Lakshmi follows. I think it is same everywhere. If we are broad minded we accept changes faster and there is faster growth..
    All the best to you.
    it has been a long time Asha, was busy with my travel and work.

    1. Nice to see you chitra, after a long time. I can understand work and travel has to be your priority. Glad to see jewelart doing well.

      Regarding the book, commendable work by Pattanaik. A must read.

  3. Amalgamation of age-old wisdom and modern concepts... sounds very promising and interesting.

  4. Amazed how he could connect so many mythological stories to business principles. Like he says, helps expand our mind.