Sunday, May 05, 2013

Book Review: Business Sutra by Devdutt Pattanaik

Book: Business Sutra
Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
No. of Pages: 432
Genre: Management
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
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 J
This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program  for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

1 comment:

  1. Devdutt Patnaik started the book in a very good way, but the book lost its charm when I was about 100 pages into the book. Still slugged on and on for another 200 pages, but gave it up after I realized that I couldn't make out the unifying theme of this book.

    For me, gods and businesses don't mix well.