Business Sutra |10. 3| Raas Leela: The Perfect Organization

Business Sutra |10| Finale : The Indian Way of Doing Business

We have covered nine episodes of Devdutt Pattanaik’ TV serial on CNBC 18:  Business Sutra.

The final episode explores Indianness. Devdutt Pattanaik believes that Indian ideas need to be seen through a fresh post-post-modern lens. The post-post-modern lens looks at things in context appreciating the subjective realities of Indians and recognizing it as being different from those of other people. It is of value in some situations but not in all. Segment 1 took up the subject of destiny v/s desire and segment 2 dealt with the question of Juagaad being good or bad.

Business Sutra |10. 3| Raas Leela: The Perfect Organization

First, we will explore a few sources of western management literature wherein an attempt is made to define / describe ‘an ideal organization’.

HBR, in article, Creating the best workplace on earth’, by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones calla ‘the organization of your dreams’ as one where individual differences are nurtured; information is not suppressed or spun; the company adds value to employees, rather than merely extracting it from them; the organization stands for something meaningful; the work itself is intrinsically rewarding; and there are no stupid rules. The ideal organization makes explicit efforts to transcend the dominant currents in its culture.

Most of the other literature talks on similar lines. Obviously, there would be many views, with as many shades of gray, on this subject.

Ravindranath Thakur has also spoken of a similar feeling in his poem:

With this, we are now ready to  move on to what Devdutt Patanaik has to say with regards to The Perfect Organization, which he has prefixed with a metaphor of Raas- Leela, from the perspective of Indian mythology in Segment 3 of the episode 10, Finale, The Indian Way of Doing Business

As we’re talking about this difference between Indian creativity, the jugaad and the Western Systems’ predictability, Kishore Biyani quite beautifully articulates the difference in belief and behavior in the west and the East. Let us listen to him –

What is the model one should adopt? I think we need to create a blend wherein processes and systems can be driven out of the Western Way but the software side of dealing with human beings, with consumers, with organizational behavior, I think we need an Indian model of learning development, and probably leadership.

This brings us back to the very first question that we started this series with -i.e. is there an Indian way of doing business, a way that blends the Western and the Eastern way of doing things, the way that blends the process and the people focus.

To understand this, we have to go back into a little bit of history of management science. 300 years ago a great revolution took place in Europe. Until then Europe was controlled by the king, the monarchy and the church, the theocracy. Their will was the law. Then a whole bunch of people came and said that it can’t work like this, that an institution of church and Kings cannot just decide what is right and what is wrong. The right and wrong has to be defined by logic. This is where Voltaire came into the picture and the Renaissance took place.  Then Hegel and Newton and the other scientists and thinkers came onto the center stage. New inventions took place, the Industrial Revolution took place. All these was based on reason. It was called the Age of Reason and the age of Industrial Revolution. Everything had to be logical, rational and real. The management science is a product of this churning, of that way of thinking. But somewhere along the line, we assumed that what came from this thought was universal, because it is logical

The problem comes now, when these ideas came to the East, be it China or India, they were imported and imposed. However, in the 1970s something very interesting happened. A whole set of thinkers emerged again who were called post-modern thinkers, who said that what we assumed to be logical is a function of culture. This is where I feel mythology has a lot to add to management. The management emerged from the desire for creating an objective reality which is absolute, perfect and independent of human beings. I am saying that that is one half of the brain – the left brain. One has to pay attention to the other half of the brain, the right brain, which has been ignored and rejected three hundred years ago. The right half of the brain which says that people are individuals and every individual has a subjective reality. Respect and appreciate that subjective reality, otherwise conflict will happen.

I have a final question to you in this season of this series of Business Sutra. Is there the embodiment of an organization anywhere in mythology? Does mythology talk about the perfect Organization, the perfect business, the perfect enterprise?

Yes, it does.  Why does an organization exist? An organization exists because we can’t cope with the forest, the wild nature. The wild nature frightens us, we want to feel safe and secure. Therefore, the human beings created an organization. However, the problem with organizations is that an organizations is made up of domesticated people. We domesticate the wildest in an organization’s ways and means. However, we don’t like the domestication because we want to be ourselves, as we are born free and we want to live free lives. So we are trying to negotiate a path between the forest and the organization, between being wild and being domestic.

This is best represented by Krishna’s Raas Leela. What is the Raas-Leela? Raas-Leela is a dance which takes place in the forest – a place of fear. It takes place at night. It takes place outside the village, which means outside the organization. So, there is no organization there and yet everybody is participating in the Raas- Leela is completely unafraid. They are dancing and having a grand time.

In this perfect organization, they form a circle, which means there is an organization there and they are all in a circle – equidistant from the leader who treats them equally, each one feels special. Krishna in the center and these are the Gopis dancing around him in this wild forest, not afraid at all. There is no reason for them to be there They were bound by custom, law, systems, processes or obligations. They are there of their own free will and yet complying in creating this perfect circle. Nobody is coming in and disturbing the circle. In fact if one does so, then Krishna disappears. This is the fear.

So what are we saying if the forest is the marketplace can my leader be like Krishna, who gives me complete freedom to do what I want and yet I voluntarily aligning to the system. It means that where I do 100 percent, come on time and go on time, not because I am obliged by a contract but with passion from within, with devotion (Bhakti). That is the core of an influence to do it with integrity and with devotion not because Allah tells me to do so.

Can we achieve that?  Well, that is the Promised Land of India.

So even if a ‘perfect’ organization provides every individual to seek his /her own way to align with the organization’s purpose and strategic direction. In real practice, there is bound to be variations of the approach of an individual, in the course of changing context of the organization. If we believe that wealth needs to be chased, the workplace becomes a rana-bhoomi—a battleground of investors, regulators, employers, employees, vendors, competitors and customers; if we believe that wealth needs to be attracted, the workplace becomes a ranga-bhoomi—a playground where everyone is happy. It is function of as is your belief, so is your behavior and so is your (way of doing) business – your own blend of objective reality with your oen subjective reality.

With this we end our segment-by-segment discussions on different aspects of Business Sutra, as told by Devdutt Pattanaik. We will formally conclude our present series in the next episode, wherein we will take peep at a few of the talks that Devdutt Pattnaik has had delivered after the publication of the book Business Sutra.

Note: The images used in this post are the irrevocable property of their respective creator. They have been taken up courtesy the internet, so as to illustrate the point under discussion.


In July 2011, I opted to retire from my active career as a practicing management professional. In the 38 years that I pursued this career, I had opportunity to work in diverse capacities, in small-to-medium-to-large engineering companies. Whether I was setting up Greenfield projects or Brownfield projects, nurturing the new start-ups or accelerating the stabilized unit to a next phase growth, I had many more occasions to take the paths uncharted. The life then was so challenging! One of the biggest casualty in that phase was my disregards towards my hobbies - Be with The Family, Enjoy Music form Films of 1940s to mid-1970s period, write on whatever I liked to read, pursue amateur photography and indulge in solving the chess problems. So I commenced my Second Innings to focus on this area of my life as the primary occupation. At the end of four years, I am now quite a regular blogger. I have been able to build a few very strong pen-relationships. I maintain contact with 38-years of my First Innings as freelance trainer and process facilitator. And yet, The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.

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