Monday, July 08, 2013

Business Sutra, a review

Business Sutra is a unique book. A book like this has never been written – combining Indic thought and marrying them to the business thought processes and providing an ‘Indic’ insight into business and management.

Firstly, the book throws a bunch of new concepts at the reader. But that is not the problem with the book, it is our problem. It just reinforces the fact that our education system has de-racinated us so much that those concepts which should have ideally been our ‘foundation’ are the very concepts we find alien today.

This is sad at many levels.

Having said that, it is a great sign that books like these are being published – in the so called mainstream. The first few pages of the book talks about the differences between Indic religions and monotheistic religions and how that has invariably resulted in a different thought process over millennia.

The second aspect is that the words that we use today to indicate ‘Indic’ thought processes – like mythology are like teeth after a root canal procedure. The words are just a construct that remain after the roots have been plucked. Devdutt stays out of this trap by using Sanskrit words – like Yajaman, Devata, Darshan, Drishti.

In a way he reiterates what Rajiv Malhotra said in ‘Being Different’ about how these concepts have been twisted by virtue of the fact that the West which was interpreting India needed to fit them into their world.
In that sense, Business Sutra takes a look at business (Western business) from an Indian perspective and reverses the ‘gaze’ and tries to come up with ‘Indic management principles’.

It’s a very readable book (though it is not a book to skim through, it is a book that is worth pondering at many levels) and I will highlight what I liked about the book – rather than go into specifics of all the parts covered in the book. And as he says, it is his interpretation – we may as well as have another interpretation - in line with Indic thought processes.

I clearly loved the first section of the book about 35 odd pages. I also loved the analogy of Drishti, Divya Drishti and Darshan – about objective truth, subjective truth and subject in that order – which he repeats at length later.

There is much about personal growth  - Nara as opposed to Narayan – which really should be the mantra of everybody in a job or in a business – which in any case underlies the central thematic of Indic religions.

And as seen in his columns, he uses the gods as a metaphor for conveying practically everything in an organization – about organizations have to be churned in order to realize their ‘goals’. I especially loved the parts on creativity, ambition, Head office and Branch office, closures, leadership and a lot of other very resonating examples.

He compares aarti of a god to the praise showered on employees – which empowers them. And the fact that while we, employees, need organizations,  organizations do not need us – and that takes it to the point that self development and actualization is the only thing that matters for us as human growth or as businesses.
All in all quite an inviting read.

How much it will be accepted in these days and with most business leaders having come from a similar de-racinated background is another question.

But for the student of business, the practitioner of management, the founder of the start up, the neophyte into Indic culture, this book is a must read.

To open the mind into that little bit of introspection to see what Devdutt writes and think why not interpret it this way?

And at the very end, he has a great page on 'how to reject this book' for the detractors.

(Cross posted at CRI)

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