Business Sutra (Book Review): Is wealth generation the only goal of industries?

The title of this book reads, ‘Business Sutra: A very Indian approach to management’. Not ‘wealth generation’. There is a good reason for that. 

“In ignorance, we behave like animals, choosing to dominate and establish pecking orders and territories.  In wisdom, we invoke the human in each other and work towards mutual happiness” 

Answer this question in your minds: Is wealth-generation, a result or the goal? Is wealth-generation an indicator of the growth or growth itself? Does sustainable wealth-generation require companies to domesticate employees as per their ‘organizational culture’ and exploit them through ‘expert managerial talent’, or create an environment of learning/growth and inspire employees to grow along with them? 

That raises an even more vital question – What is growth?

Like the author, I don’t want to answer questions. I would like to only raise questions throughout this review and make you think. Because that’s the style he has followed in his book! To help us, the author gives practical examples from the business world after discussing each topic.

Both the topics and the examples discuss what people do and why they do it. This is crucial because, when we start understanding this, we shed all our preconceived notions about people/systems.

“There is nothing right or wrong in this world/. There is only cause and consequence. That is why accountability and responsibility matter”

However, the book doesn’t discuss what companies/organizations/people need to do. Because realization/action needs to come from within and should not be thrust on us? 🙂

Most of the examples and situations mentioned in this book have been drawn from Indian mythology. This book offers convincing explanations about what rituals actually mean and how, by following them blindly/literally, we are killing the spirit ingrained into each of them. Wait. I guess the interpretation of the rituals is as per the author’s imagination and his interpretation, as our ancestors may or may not have had the same thoughts when they implemented them.

The primary ritual discussed in this book is the ‘Yagna’ that our ancestors used to perform. The author explains why the performing of ‘Yagna’ is more about the symbolic interpretation of things around us, than about tangible gains that one expects out of it. We are aware that people used to perform ‘Yagna’ to gain power, wealth, might, status or even to establish their superiority over others. But is this the goal of a ‘Yagna’?

Most of our religious rituals have lost their significance because they were forced on us. Naturally, when we see something better, we want to move towards the new-found system that offers easier interpretation and proof for verification.

“In a world that celebrates alignment and compliance to the vision, systems and processes of an organization, is the individual getting increasingly invisible?”

The western goal-based management concepts have their limitations. Is it possible to achieve Infinite wealth, which is the ultimate goal of any organization and hence a pre-condition for happiness?

“Business is not merely an instrument to generate wealth for shareholders or provide services to customers; it builds an eco-system that provides opportunities to entrepreneurs and creates markets that benefit society at large. For the perfect marriage between industry and society, a perfect balance needs to be maintained between consumption and restraint”

Restraint – The word that western management gurus hate. Because restraint means, less volume/business-growth and consequently lower margins. But, is it a bad thing after all? Isn’t restraint the primary ingredient of sustainability?

In my opinion, every system has its pros and cons. We have seen how the Indian ritual system has been abused over the centuries and it’s meaning has almost been lost. Here is a person throwing new light on extinguished fire. Will the phoenix rise again?

What one can gain from a book like this, depends on what stage of life, he or she is currently in. If a person is currently feeling like a master of the world and worse, has been successful with his/her ways, they may not even read beyond the first few pages.

There is a reason why this book is offered only as a hard-bound version. It’s difficult to digest the synopsis of this book in a single-read. I will definitely read it again.

  • You can buy Business Sutra by Devdutt Pattanaik from Amazon.in or Flipkart in India. [Disclaimer: These are affiliate links. If you buy the product after clicking on these links, I may get a small commission. Your price will not change.]

Destination Infinity

PS: I got a free copy of ‘Business Sutra’ for review purpose. This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

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13 Replies to “Business Sutra (Book Review): Is wealth generation the only goal of industries?”

    1. Frankly, I am neither for the western-management principles, nor against rediscovering Indian principles. I am a big fan of sustainable living and I feel that Indians have (had) ingrained a lot more sustainability principles in their daily life, than westerners.

      But, like how there are advantages, I feel that there are also limitations. We have seen for ourselves on how our rituals, though initiated with noble thoughts, have been abused. This book enables us (who are sold on western-everything) to get a clearer picture, and for that, I appreciate the author.

      Destination Infinity

      1. Exactly the point. The books & thoughts floating around in India are now predominantly Western in ideology.And Indian perspective has faded away. Actually, his points of view helped me evaluate the limitations of both the sides(especially western). And the I prefer his way of letting the Questions do the work instead of delimiting the answers. 🙂
        If you are interested in such books try reading N.Talebs works also – ‘Fooled by Randomness’ & ‘the Black Swan’.
        Also I you get your hands on a book from IIM-C named ‘Human Response Development’.They tried discovering Indian thoughts for HR.
        A Polite Saint

  1. Good review and something which I am keen on understanding. Growth in business terms is a dangerous word in my opinion. Growth doesn’t consider humans, workers, loyalty and society all it understands is ‘increase’ often at the cost of society and those little part of our society which make us humans outside of careers and work.

    Unfortunately allot of these methods are based on western interpretation of business management, where growth in the economy of America increased massively in the last few centuries. It does not address the social and living divide.

    1. Growth has become synonymous with increase in wealth and turnover. But, is that the right approach? The mythological stories described in this book (and the sanskrit words used here) might be very new to you. Are you familiar with Ramayana/Mahabharata stories?

      Destination Infinity

  2. Just the other day I was reading about how each and every action of us Indians is based on mythology. The nature of people, superiors and subordinates, their mannerisms and everything. Everything is as though it is prewritten, based on what mythology says. Nice. Looks like a very heavy read for me.

    1. Our mythology never advocated feudal structures. But unfortunately, this is true in many workplaces. I think that in understanding our mythology, we can understand our thought process better.

      Destination Infinity

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