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Book Review: Business Sutra- A Very Indian Approach to Management by Devdutt Pattanaik

April 29, 2013


Devdutt Pattanaik is currently the Chief Belief Officer at the Future Group. His website introduces him as an author, speaker, illustrator and a mythologist which to me sounds like the coming together of an extremely interesting set of professional skills. His latest book is a most welcome contribution to the exposition of issues that ail the modern discipline of Management. Business Sutra involves a very serious and  painstaking effort on the author’s part to bring to light the differences in the approaches to  business and its management across cultures and belief systems. Pattanaik considers the mythology of a people to be the central axis around which their beliefs, behaviour and consequently their ways of doing business revolve. The primary argument he seems to put forth is that in order to make sense of the metaphysical as well as the practical worlds of a people, one needs to be careful of the mythological background  that nurtures these worlds. In order for the discipline of Management to be truly what is aspires to be, such approach is indeed beneficial. By a ‘Very Indian Approach to Management’, Pattanaik aims to trace ‘Western ideas’ to ‘Indian vocabulary’ so as to present an altogether different context to situate the relevance and the applicability of those ideas.

The book has three main sections. The first of these deals with connecting belief to business. In this part the author quite convincingly tries to lay to rest the many debates that the very title of the book is likely to engender. The second section is titled “From Goal To Gaze” where he brings together the Western, Chinese and the Indian historico-philosophical systems of thought to conclude that:

“Indian thought yearns not for an efficient way like Western thought, or a more orderly way like Chinese thought, but an accomodative and inclusive way”.

While discussing the mythology that informs the Indian way of life,  the author does not restrict himself to the Hindu scriptures but gives due attention to Buddhist and Jain sources where classical scriptural sources from Sikhism and Islam (most importantly Sufism) are left out. The Indian way to do business is not to chase wealth but to let it come to you thanks to the Indian’s unique relationship with Lakshmi- the Goddess of wealth. The Indian mind according to him is not obsessed with making sense of prevailing chaos and ordering ones’ life to achieve harmony with nature. Instead the Indian mind is comfortable with this chaos and does not consider one point of view to be the only point of view or the truth.

The third and the largest section of the book details the Business Sutra where the author discusses the topic along five sub chapters i.e. Kama’s vision statement, Drishti- observing objective reality, Divya Drishti- observing subjective reality, Darshan- observing the subject and finally Yama’s balance sheet.

The book relies on a substantial review of literature ranging from Sociology of India,  Anthropology, History and other Social Sciences. Management in his view is a western science is and is deeply rooted in Greek and Biblical sources. Pattanaik seems well aware of developments and debates in sociology and social theory and introduces the ideas and tenets of Positivism, Weberian modernism, Structuralism, Orientalism and Post colonial thought in very subtle and lucid ways. On that account the book is to be rated very highly as it touches upon crucial debates on the ways and the categories through which Indian society has been hitherto understood both by the Orientalists and Indians themselves. The book is written very simply and the numerous lovely sketches produced throughout the text aid in summarizing the key points presented.

Pattanaik’s discussion of mythological characters remains largely restricted to Sanskrit-North Indian- Brahmanic-Scriptural sources. There is little evidence in the book to suggest his understanding and appreciation for the oral narratives, for the folklore and mythologies from other parts of the country. Epics like the Silappatikaram, Thirukkural and characters like Kannagi and other local, classical or vernacular traditions remain untouched. This lacunae however should be taken more as a limitation than a drawback of this impressive contribution. Readers interested in Indian mythology and the historical development of the discipline of management in the west as well as in its fate in the Indian subcontinent will find the book very interesting.

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

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30 Comments leave one →
  1. April 29, 2013 4:28 pm

    बहुत, बहुत धन्यवाद इस समीक्षा के लिए। अवश्य पढ़ूँगा यह पुस्तक। इससे पहले उनकी जय, और कुछ अन्य पुस्तकें पढ़ी हैं।

    वैसे, आपको निःशुल्क पुस्तक मिली क्या? (his review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers.Participate now to get free books!)

    • April 29, 2013 7:17 pm

      आप को वो किताबें कैसी लगीं? ये वाली किताब अच्छी है काफी। पढ़ के ज़रा बताइयेगा आप क्या सोचते हैं? इस पुस्तक के कई सारे अन्य बिन्दुओं पर मैंने ज्यादा नहीं लिखा है।

      हाँ ब्लॉग अड्डा वाले लोग बड़े मस्त हैं, मुझे ये किताब मुफ्त मिली वहां से. आप भी रजिस्टर कीजियेगा अगर मन करे तो!

  2. April 29, 2013 4:37 pm

    its a different perspective altogether of the same book which I got through your reviews .. interesting enough to explore and know Yama’s BS before its too late :)

    • April 29, 2013 7:12 pm

      haha…thanks a lot for the visit and the comment MS!

      How have you been?

      • April 29, 2013 7:14 pm

        alive and breathing !! how about you :) ? Long time no See .. ?

        • April 29, 2013 7:19 pm

          oh glad to know…yeah I have been a bit lazy of late doing almost nothing…day dreaming and stuff!

        • April 29, 2013 7:27 pm

          :) thats one great art … I am yet to learn !! :)

  3. April 30, 2013 1:25 pm

    Looks like an interesting book… Nice review…….


    • April 30, 2013 7:11 pm

      Thanks Debopam!

  4. May 5, 2013 5:52 am

    Extremely well written review…

    • May 7, 2013 11:18 am

      Thanks Geetashree! :)

  5. May 6, 2013 12:16 pm

    nice review amit!

    • May 7, 2013 11:18 am

      thanku Sharmishtha! Dhonnobaad!!

  6. May 7, 2013 10:48 pm

    Hi, it is a very interesting review and perspective from the west to the East. What both India and West want and whether there can be a confluence of thoughts. Thanks for liking my post:)

    • May 15, 2013 10:37 pm

      Thanks Vishal! You are most welcome!

  7. May 25, 2013 6:27 pm

    Well, this isn’t a book coming under my tastes I guess! Anyway, nice review, Amitji. :)


    • May 27, 2013 1:51 pm

      Thanku Rahul!

      What have you been reading these days?

      • May 27, 2013 1:53 pm

        “Shiva trilogy” by Amish and “The 7 habits of highly effective people” by Stephen Covey. :)


        • May 27, 2013 1:56 pm

          thats great!! exams kaise hue bhaai sahab?

        • May 27, 2013 1:59 pm

          So far, it’s fine, Bhayya! :) Have my next exam on tomorrow only. :)

          PS: I need some good suggestion coming under philosophy tag. Do ya have any? :)


        • May 27, 2013 2:00 pm

          I did not quite understand??

        • May 27, 2013 2:21 pm

          Do you have any good book suggestion which you already read and comes under the philosophy genre? :)


        • May 27, 2013 2:25 pm

          Ohk..I think you might find Nietzsche very interesting. Try reading his Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Another classic I read only recently is The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde!

          Let me know if you have read them already!

        • May 27, 2013 2:28 pm

          Nope! I haven’t ever heard about these authors though. :P How is it, Bhayya? I’m just a beginner in this class of books. Hence it shouldn’t be an elaborated stuff with deeply extended contents; but still can be readable for beginners. :)


        • May 27, 2013 2:30 pm

          oh dont worry….i think u will love reading them. give it a try! best!

        • May 27, 2013 2:33 pm

          Oh, of course! Have just check about it in goodreads and found that it has got more than 4+ as readers rating. Will do order it via ebay or flipkart soon. From where do you usually buy books from? :)


  8. sumit permalink
    July 5, 2013 2:12 am

    Mr. Pattnaik’s work is plagiarism. His writing on ‘Chaos’ is directly inspired from ‘Being Different” by Rajiv Malhotra without crediting him. This is so unbecoming of a ethical writer.

  9. Bindu permalink
    August 26, 2013 9:44 pm

    @rahul flipkart is best for buying books.

  10. January 6, 2015 4:25 am

    a very candid read.Dr pattanaik has a very novel take on our scriptures and how they might hold true even in modern dealings.that being said,he has introduced a lot of inaccuracies in his anecdotes.I couldn’t help noticing his staunch shaivite partisanism and not so-subtle efforts to undermine Krishna,and Vishnu. readers will find passages showing flowcharts of how crisis in puranic times have been averted by the trinity in a pecking order clearly favouring Shiva over Vishnu.Not to forget how” in every wink of shiva,vishnu dies”.It is a sad reminder of the vasihnava-shaivate struggle since 12th century AD,that has plagued unity among hindus even to date.

    Disappointing Dr.pattanaik! with such profoundness and intricacy in your rendition,you still couldn’t manage to rise above such pettiness.1/5 for that!

    • January 10, 2015 7:28 pm

      I do agree with most things! Hope to see you again Mr Datta!

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