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Business Sutra : A Very Indian Approach to Management

Business Sutra : A Very Indian Approach to Management

Product Specifications
Language English
Binding Hardcover
Publisher Aleph Book Company
About the Book: Business Sutra: A Very Indian Approach toManagement Original and thoroughly accessible, Business Sutra presentsa uniquely Indian approach to business, leadership andmanagement. In this landmark book, best-selling author, leadership coach andmythologist Devdutt Pattanaik shows how, despite its veneer ofobjectivity, modern management is rooted in Western beliefs andobsessed with accomplishing rigid objectives and increasingshareholder value. By contrast, the Indian way of doing business-asapparent in Indian mythology, but no longer seen inpractice-accommodates subjectivity and diversity, and offers aninclusive,more empathetic way of achieving success. Great value isplaced on darshan, that is, on how we see the world and ourrelationship with Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Business Sutra uses stories, symbols and rituals drawn fromHindu, Jain and Buddhist mythology to understand a wide variety ofbusiness situations that range from running a successful tea stallto nurturing ... See more
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  1.  Management Gyan - but no quick fix solutions 31 August, 2013 On
    I have read Devdutt Pattanaik (DP) earlier but those were the Mythology related ones – the Seven Secrets of Shiva and Myth=Mithya kind of books. I did know about the Management books by DP but never got excited enough to actually pick them up. When Business Sutra by DP came up for review at BlogAdda, I got my chance to lay my hands on this non-mythological work of DP.

    Seriousness of the book is distinctly communicated with the hard-bound nature of the book. The seriousness is lightened by the numerous illustrations and writing style of DP making the book easy to navigate and understand and assimilate and relate and apply. The difficult part is patience.

    This book can be compared to a slow novel where the author spends a lot of time developing the plot, the characters, bringing out their complexities and inner demons and their inter-relationships. It's only in the last few pages that the action really takes place and you suddenly see the design in its full glory.

    One thing though: Those looking for management gyan in the form of answers to "What should I do …?" shouldn't read this book. It is useless from that perspective.
    DP does not serve you Business Mantras or Sutras to you on a platter for you to pick and choose and apply at leisure. DP does not offer you quick fix management (the western management style often gets blamed for being a quick-fix approach). The 'management' which most of us 'study' is the American version of management which is influenced by their society, structures and their very own distinct 'mythology' and 'religious beliefs'. What we 'see' and 'experience' as management in India is our own brand of management with roots in Indian culture, religious beliefs and upbringing.

    What DP put forward in the book is the underlying thought process and feelings and beliefs behind what business and management is for the Indians. He does not give you 'tricks and tips' of managing business and managing people; he helps you understand how we operate at the sub-conscious level. He explains you how the western management style and the Indian management style differ through the caselets which are a reflection of today's typical workplace situations.

    It is interesting how DP relates Indian mythology and the various characters in there as symbolic representation of business mantras and different facets of business. DP has a different way of looking at things and at times it is refreshing to read a very different approach to Business and management.

    Westerners need things organized while we can thrive in chaos in confusion. Chinese on the other hand is altogether different ballgame. DP makes a lot of comparisons between the western, Chinese and Indian culture and management styles.

    DP's approach to Management is that of it being a philosophy and way of living rather than a set of tools and techniques to effectively run organizations. For DP, Business is like the ancient Indian Yagna where an individual makes offerings to a deity/god and expects favors from God in return. The foundation of our religious beliefs has shaped the way we think which eventually impacts our 'very Indian' approach to management. It is also interesting to see how DP brings out the Goal or the Objective behind the business – and how it differs from those preached in western philosophy which we all study and follow.

    No review about this DP book will be complete without mentioning the following:

    1. Illustrations across the book effectively play their role in helping you understand the concepts visually and also lighten the overall mood of this otherwise serious book. When was the last time you read a serious book with illustrations? DP's illustrations have a unique style with line drawings of the different characters and symbolic explanations of the concept. We all know that illustrations are a great way of communicating concepts but how many business books have utilized this? All you end up seeing in management and business books are boring flow charts and schematics models of problem solving. DP's illustrations are in fact like a breath of fresh air in the stuffy boring world of business and management books.

    2. Caselets across the book. Every fundamental concept and theory is explained through small caselets in gray boxes across the book which helps us understand the relevancy and applicability of ancient wisdom to 21st century ground level problems and conflicts. These caselets are not problems to be solved … but situations to understand. They don't offer a solution, they give you an insight.

    I am divided on the opinion of whether I would recommend this book to a fresh MBA who may find it heavy or frivolous or at loggerheads with their western management knowledge. This book does need a certain level of maturity and work experience before you can begin to appreciate DP's message.

    If my review confuses you more than enlighten about the book, then you will appreciate that Business Sutra is not an easy book to digest or to review. I am sure you will see a lot of divided opinion on this one – some claiming it to be a deep down masterpiece while others rubbishing it as a waste of time. Some will definitely be irked by the lack of clear management and business gyan while some will have a deep down satisfaction having read something that they believed was always true but did not find it in management literature.

    If you are contemplating reading this book, I would suggest you first read several reviews of this book which will give you different perspectives of this book and enable you to make an informed decision of whether to read it or not – after all the book costs upwards of 450 after discounting on the MRP of 700 and its around 432 pages to go through. That's quite some reading time and a bit of money too
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  2.  A Treasure House of Insight and Awareness 6 May, 2013 On
    A few months ago, I ran into a slight problem. I had a bit of a misunderstanding with Mrs. Asha Singh (not her real name), a neighbourhood friend of mine, someone I've known since I arrived in India about two decades ago. We'd gone for a bit of shopping. Mrs. Asha Singh, I'd come to understand, had been collecting discount coupons for a very large chain store. Her husband would go there, buy the monthly provisions and pay for them and he would hand Mrs. Asha Singh these discount coupons every time he returned with the shopping. She would save up these coupons with the hope of buying something nice for herself. However, the discount coupons scheme was about to come to an end in favour of a card/point system. So Mrs. Asha Singh was anxious to encash these coupons in order to get their full value. That, however, proved to be easier said than done.

    For starters, she wouldn't go to the local branch of that chain but insisted on going to the city centre branch of it, which was, to say the least, very inconvenient. The Indian traffic on a hot day is nothing less than a nightmare. I wondered why she was doing this. I soon found out. The city centre branch had a jeweller's shop on it's premises. Mrs. Asha Singh entered the shop, produced her coupons on the counter and insisted on redeeming their value in gold jewellery items. Not surprisingly, she was immediately dismissed. This shop was not a part of the chain store, it simply rented a premises there and was therefore not a part of its schemes. Mrs. Asha Singh had thousands of rupees worth of these coupons. Moreover, as I tried to explain to her, the coupons were not money. They were simply pieces of paper which, under certain circumstances, could be exchanged in order to benefit the user with discounts on certain items. None of these items would be anything like gold jewellery, they would be consumer goods like clothing or electrical items. I tried to explain to her that no item could be purchased completely by coupons, actual money had to pay a role in each and every purchase. As we shopped around a bit, Asha soon got the hang of using the coupons and even purchased some bowls and dishes. But obviously, it was nothing like the shopping she'd originally envisaged. I purchased some items too, an electric kettle and some clothing items and was pleasantly surprised when Asha insisted that I use the coupons to avail of discounts. I made a saving of six hundred rupees that day, which was great. Of course, I made sure to thank Asha for her kindness and also made a point of paying her fare home in the rickshaw and the buses we travelled in. I also paid for what she ate and drank when we stopped somewhere for tea and snacks.

    So it came as a bit of a surprise to me when my daughter handed me a handwritten bill from Mrs. Asha Singh a few months later. As neither my Hindi nor Mrs. Asha Singh's English is very good, the lady had resorted to communicating her message through my daughter. It turned out that, knowing I'd made a saving of Rs.600/- with her coupons, Mrs. Asha Singh was insisting on my paying half my discount back to her in the form of cash. And very indignant she was too, about my being slow to repay 'her' money.Naturally, I was shocked. I had paid her back, I thought. Hadn't I picked up the responsibility for our fares and refreshments that day? Moreover, coupons are pieces of paper which, under certain conditions, can be redeemed for discounts. They're not actual cash. Besides, the coupons had been about to expire. I've shared coupons of my own with friends many times and was only too glad to help them out. I certainly didn't see myself as having given away cash.

    None of this reasoning cut any ice with Mrs. Asha Singh. Nope! She wanted her money back. All Rs.300 of it, exactly half of the discount I'd received. When I pointed out to her that I'd incurred about Rs.100 expense on her fares and refreshments, she cut the 'bill' by Rs.100, but dug her heels in, threatening to 'complain' to my mother-in-law and husband if I didn't repay 'her' money. That did it. I dug Rs.200/- out of my purse, sent it via my daughter's hand and my friendship with Mrs. Asha Singh is now reduced to nothing more than a cold nod by the garden gate. BTW, my husband and mother-in-law, both Indians, had a hearty laugh about this later on. I told them about it. Don't mind that foolish woman, the mother-in-law told me, she and her people are just greedy for money. My husband pointed out that Mrs. Asha Singh, although the same age as myself (fiftyish!), had been married at a mere sixteen years and while she was now a mother, a mother-in-law and a grandmother, she had very little actual experience of the world of commerce. Well that made sense. My doctor sahib (my husband) is quite a rock of wisdom. Yet I couldn't understand, for the life of me, how Asha could make the mistake of turning the gesture of helping a friend into a business transaction.

    I only wish I'd read BUSINESS SUTRA by Devdutt Pattanaik sooner. It might have made things so much clearer for me. I was fortunate enough to get a copy of this most enlightening book recently and it has done a lot to explain to me why the 'Western' (i.e. USA and western European) approach towards business transactions is so very different from the subcontinental (or Indian) approach.

    Wasn't it Kipling, the wise old man, gave us that awful adage that east is east and west is west and 'ne'er the twain shall meet'? He was a bit of a pessimist, if you ask me. If only he'd dug a little deeper, he might have understood that the very different approach Indians have to business, among other things, is because of their very mindset, which is part of the cultural baggage they have inherited. For people of Western origin, it's the same. We're all only human and the twain have been meeting forever (doing business together, getting married, producing children and doing any number of things) but in order for the encounter to go smoothly, understanding, awareness and insight are required - these things are so essential.

    Devdutt Pattanaik, is a terrific teacher and storyteller. Using clear language, simple illustrations and apt examples, he shows us how the Indian approach to business can be interpreted from an attitude which is rooted deeply in the psyche and can be interpreted using clues from the rich treasure house of Indian mythology. He rightly points out that western approach is rooted in Biblical (to some extent) thinking or rather a form of it, on one hand and by classical Greek thinking on the other. The Biblical approach glorifying, but eclipsed by Greek thought which glorifying man. He shows us how the Western approach is always concerned with 'what'. The Indian approach, rooted as it is in it's mythology, is more concened with 'why', while the Chinese approach, rooted in its own peculiar mosaic of philosophies, is supremely concerned wth 'how'? Basically, Devdutt had decoded mysteries that it could have taken many a scholar a lifetime to unravel.

    I'd been offended at the thought that Mrs. Asha Singh was treating me as a mobile cash dispenser. But I now realize that that wan't the case. Heck she was putting me at the level of a goddess. Devdutt Pattanaik explains clearly in the book how ubcontinental people approach an investment or business transaction as they would a religious ceremony. The investor (yajaman!) gives an offering (svaha) which they hope the 'devata' (god) will accept and return in the form of a gift (taathastu). In this case, Mrs. Asha Singh was the devotee, I was the goddess, her 'svaha' was the discount coupons and no wonder she was displeased when her taathastu was not only delayed, but reduced as well!

    I'd originally thought we were two friends supporting each other but that the whole exchange had turned sour because of Mrs. Asha Singh's greed. I had no idea that the whole situation was imbued with spiritual significance. Oh, I'll smile more warmly at Mrs. Asha Singh next time I see her. But no way am I taking it for granted that her approach to variou interactions should be to mine in future. The differences, of course, being rooted in our cultural backgrounds.

    BUSINESS SUTRA is an ideal read for any Indian person who has studied management science, of which a western model is prevalently taught They will discoer how belief influences behaviour and therefore, business. This will help to give them the Indian approach to management and business and give them a more balanced east/west view. It would also be a terrific addition to the library of any business person of western origin who has regular business with Indians or businesses based in India. Even for readers who just enjoy studying the significance of mythology and who are particularly interested in studying the effect mythology has on the lives of people - this book has something for them too.

    If it comes out in Hindi (I'm not sure if it has yet) I might consider purchasing a copy of this book and giving it as a gift to Mrs. Asha Singh? But will she 'get' what I'm trying to convey? Well, to answer it in a typical Indian style, 'that depends".

    I can live with that.
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