Is there any Indian way of doing business? Can Indian mythology rewrite modern management rules? Business Sutra by Devdutt Pattanaik seeks an answer to these questions. Pattanaik has authored over 25 books and written 400 articles on Indian mythology.
Since 2007, he has been explaining the relationship between mythology and management through his columns in newspapers. Obviously Pattanaik is a well read man who goes beyond Gita and reads meaning in every Pauranic story and the epics, besides juxtaposing it with the Western ideas derived from Greek mythology and Biblical faith. This in itself is enough to dazzle those who are not so well-versed with our ancient texts and that forms a majority of us.
But first let’s look at the context. Indian mythology is largely symbolic. While those with a diehard western outlook a la late Nirad C Chaudhuri may make fun of any attempt to look at these age-old stories beyond their face value, the young resurgent Indian passionately looks for an Indian soul in all the changes that are taking place around us, especially in the field of business.
Business Sutra is not your everyday book. Sutra is explained in the Oxford Dictionary as a rule or aphorism in Sanskrit literature, or a set of these on grammar or Hindu law or philosophy.
Business Sutra is the book that does precisely that. It juxtaposes Indian philosophy, philology and mythology against management techniques and does it in a manner with which you and I can relate to at some time if not all the time.
It book deserves a patient read. The graphics are elaborate but to navigate through them for a meaning at times can be a task.
Pattanaik’s book has the employee as the protagonist and the book dwells on the fact about how an employee is the all-important tenet of any business and illustrates with a beautiful example where he says, “People were seen as resources ...but humans cannot be treated like mere instruments.” His easy to read, lucid style narrative is very well punctuated with graphics which make the book more lively and interactive.
Pattanaik speaks of the 3B Framework — Belief, Behaviour & Business — and says “Belief plays a key role in business: it determines choices and propels the decisions of buyers & sellers, regulators and shareholders, investors & entrepreneurs, employers & employees, vendors & customers. It determines how we do business and what ultimately gets done”. This essentially means that our belief influences our behaviour which in turn determines our business.
The book is replete with real-life instances of how the Chinese fear chaos at home, at workplace and life in general, amplifying that the basic order of doing business anywhere
is to do it in an organised manner.
The book turns more interesting in the second part (Goal to Gaze) — examples of a European food company trying to make high-end cuisine accessible to the common man in India; what was the common man’s budget in Europe was the rich man’s budget in India, the food for the masses became food for the rich in India. He narrates anecdotes that illustrates the story better for a subject that might not interest everyone.
In part III (Business Sutras) Pattanaik illustrates how businesses undergo the churning process while he draws lessons from Indian mythology’s “amrit manthan” to describe how important the process is in the life of an organisation.
The book comes to a close with explanations of words that he uses to describe the context. And more interestingly how to reject the book.