Regular readers of The Mouse Trap will know that I have an abiding interest in all things mythological; also by profession I am a middle manager. Top this with the fact that I am a fan of Devdutt Patanaik and have written a couple of posts before about his work, and you will not find it strange that I could not pass a chance to review his latest book, Business Sutra, which successfully entangles mythical narratives and interpretation with sound business and management principles and practices.
The book appears voluminous, with more than 400 pages, but is easy to read and like his 7 Secrets trilogy, is path breaking in its format. On an average, each page contains an illustration/ hand-made cartoon, making the read lively and entertaining. Mythical narratives are used to elaborate on management principles in the main text, while in-text boxes contain real/ made-up anecdote from the industry to deepen our understanding of the issue involved.
While the book deserves to be savored just for its innovative form, the content itself leaves you more than satisfied. Business is seen as a yagna – where a Yajman offers services/ products in the form of Svaha to the Devta– which is the consumer of the service/product and once the consumer has been seduced to except the svaha, he is under obligation to return favors in the form of Tathastu. The tathastu is the return on investment (svaha) that the yajman gets.
Re-imagining business as a yagna is a little counter-intuitive, even for someone as steeped in Indian culture as me, so I can sympathize with my readers, if they do not get the hang of this- for really appreciating the analogy you have to read the book.
To give a taste of things, I’ll list the principles that have been clubbed under the heading of decisions:
- He who takes a call is a Karta.
- Every one is a potential Karta
- A karta who allows and enables others to take a call is a yajman.
- A yajman has the power to take and give life.
- The size of the contribution does not matter.
- All calls are subjective.
- All decisions are contextual.
- Not everyone can handle the burden of uncertainty.
- Every decision has a consequence.
- Decisions are good or bad only in hindsight.
- Decisions are often rationalized in hindsight.
- If the decision is bad, yajman alone is responsible.
- If the decision is good, yajman is the beneficiary.
As you can yourself see, the principles he elaborates on are not revolutionary- but the way he entwines mythology and makes a business case out of ancient wisdom is mesmerizing. All said and done, after reading the book, you will come away with a greater understanding and appreciation of Indian mythology and how that affects the Indian culture, than you will know of how to manage in a MNC context.
This book is a great read for those who are enamored of India, its mythologies and its culture, or are even fascinated by the human essence and psyche (like I am); but for those who are steeped in western principles of results oriented business culture, this may not provide tangible solutions to perplexing business and management problems.
While Devdutt may have aimed high, at revolutionizing the way management science is defined and delivered, only time will tell whether the svaha that Devdutt has offered to the readers gets a triumphant Tathastu from them. As for me, Amen / Tathastu!