Naga Chokkanathan

Business Sutra

Posted on: April 20, 2013

Whenever I read any ancient Indian literature (Tamil or Other Regional Languages, translated in English) I always feel they contain so many gems, some of them can be used even today, in the same context, while many others would need modern interpretations.

These books can be split into two broad categories:

  • Books like ThirukkuRaL, Naaladiyaar, NanneRi etc., which are written with a direct teaching purpose
  • Books like RamayaNa, Vedas, Upanishads etc., which may have a different purpose (story telling, religious etc.,) but they too contain lessons which need digging out

First category is not a serious problem for us, either on our own, or on our schools, these lessons are taught and we seem to remember them well, and follow them whenever possible.

But the second category is very easy to miss for average reader (or non reader), Because these books are seen in a different context. For example, no one thinks of a lesson when a hero and a villain are fighting, they just enjoy reading about the fight and that’s it.

This book (Business Sutra, Written and Illustrated By Devdutt Pattanaik, Published by Aleph Book Company, 437 Pages, Rs 695) has done this difficult task of collecting business sutras from various indian ancient texts, hindu, jain, buddhist traditions, culture, compares it with the western and other culture based learnings, and the result is beautiful. Content is presented in a unique, simple style, with wonderful pictures to underline the points. I would say this is one of the very best illustrated books I have seen in the recent times.

Devdutt Pattanaik starts with the concept of belief, and encourages us to become CBOs (Chief Belief Officers) and then goes on to explain various other words and their business contexts, for example:

  • Shakthi : Inborn strength, capacity and capability
  • Shruthi : Personal Ideas that cannot be shared
  • Surya : One who is radiant and attracts all attention
  • Rangoli : A Pattern of thought
  • Krishna : He who breaks rules to help others grow on their terms
  • Ram : He who follows the rule at any cost to help others grow on their terms

This gives you a fair idea about what to expect from this book, If you are from India, almost every traditional word that you heard in a totally different context, finds a new meaning here, and used to teach a business lesson.

At the same time, this doesn’t make this book a mere series of thoughts, or comparisons, they are very well connected by good bird’s eye view chapters, interesting examples and case studies. This is different from any other business book you might have read.

After reading the book, I felt few things could’ve been handled differently. While most of the book unearths a different angle from a familiar thing, sometimes the same approach makes you wonder, ‘are we stretching this too much?’.

Also, this book is huge, by typical business book standards. It is easily readable, but not easy to carry. Means, you may not pick it in an air port and finish reading it in your next flight : typical use case for most business books. You need to dedicate time (and effort) to read, understand these business sutras.

I expected a concise pictorial representation of points expressed in each major subsection of the book, and preferably a larger chart / mind map to summarize the whole book. For a large book like this, it would have added lot of value.


This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!


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