Devdutt Pattanaik - Business Sutra

Business Sutra | Concluding the series

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

We have covered all 10 episodes of Devdutt Pattanaik’ TV serial on CNBC 18:  Business Sutra.

Business Sutra | Concluding the series

We had referred to Devdutt Pattnaik’s TED talk – The Indian approach to business: Devdutt Pattanaik at TEDxGateway 2013 –  in our curtain raiser article to this series. The talk discusses the background of the way an Indian does business in terms of a set of beliefs that would lead to set of corresponding behaviors that would get reflects in his or her way of doing business. Devdutt Pattanaik calls this as his 3B model.

The Indian scriptures have not one promised land but three promised lands –

The first promised land is called Swarga- the paradise = where lives a cow called Kamadehnu which is an-wish fulfilling cow,  ask for anything and the cow will give it to you. There is a tree called Kalpvruksha. You may stand under the tree ask for anything and you will get it. There is a jewel called Chintaman. Hold it in your hand, ask for anything and you will get it without any effort. In management language this is called availability of infinite return with no investment. This is how a paradise ought to be. The king of this land is  called Indra. He is a prosperous king, he sits on elephants and he is happy and powerful. But savages always keep his kingdom under siege. There are always wars happening. If a king performs a Yagya, or goes to a war,  Indra gets insecure and immediately steals the horses of that king. If an asura is born he runs to his father with a request to kill that asura.   If a Rishi starts doing Tapasya, he goes to the apsara department and sends a  Ramba or an Urvashi to entice the Rishi and break his tapasya. He has everything , and yet he is insecure.

The second promised land s Kailash, a Mount Kailash. It is a mountain of stone, covered with snow. Here hunger is outgrown, it is destroyed. Look carefully at  this popular street image of Mount Kailasha. In the front, you can see a bull, Nandi, and opposite to that is Parvati’s lion. The bull is not quivering in fear of a predator. On top of Karthikeya there is a peacock and we see a peacock’s food, a snake untwirled around the neck of Shiva. The snake’s food, a rat, is under the feet of Ganesha, We have here a several sets of a predator and a prey, but nobody is afraid, because hunger has been destroyed. As there is no hunger there is no need, there is no desire, there is no want and therefore Shiva is always at peace. But of course, the goddess won’t let him live in peace. As a woman, she keeps saying that you are not hungry, but what about other  people hunger, what about my children’s hunger.

That brings us to the third promised land which is Vaikunth, the land of Lord Vishnu. Vishnu is reclining on a serpent and is surrounded by affluence and abundance. But their prosperity is accompanied with peace. What is different over here is that it is a happy playground it is not a battleground. Here other people’s hunger is taken care of. Vishnu participates with the world, he engages with the world. If needed, he descends on to the earth and does various roles – the incarnations.

So we have three promised lands which are based on three different beliefs, the subjective truths – your truth and my truth. To understand the belief that underlies these promised lands we have to understand the difference between animal hunger and human hunger.  The human hunger is different from animal hunger in three ways. First quantitative- hungry for today’s food, but also hungry for tomorrow’s food and food the day after tomorrow and the food after ten years, the food after when I retire, the food for my children and ten generations from now. So I will keep saving, and hoarding to insure myself The second type of human hunger is qualitatively different. We are not just hungry for food we are also hungry for status, for power, for property. Animals have territory but they can’t bequeath territories to the next generations. The third, and the most critical difference is human imagination. We also have empathy. I can feel, both, your quantitative and qualitative hunger. That’s what makes humans unique That is what underlies these three promised lands.

Indra believes that my hunger matters first, Shiva believes I can outgrow my hunger and Vishnu says your hunger matters first. The question is which hunger matters first –  your hunger or my hunger. That of the shareholder or of the employees or those of the customers or of the vendors or of the politicians or of the regulators, or of the society or of the environment. Whose hunger matters first.

In reality, there is no THE clear answer. We say your hunger only matters if you satisfy my hunger or if after I have satisfied my hunger only then your hunger matters. This is how most people are designed. But what is celebrated in the mythology is the idea of satisfying your hunger so that I can outgrow my hunger. Therefore, you have temples for Vishnu and Shiva, but not for Indra. In fact. they are two sides of the same coin. By satisfying your hunger. The cynic will say outgrowing hunger is theoretical, it cannot happen in practice. It meant for people who wear orange robes not for business suits. The second cynic feels that if I am going to focus on your hunger then it is a recipe for exploitation because the moment they focus on other people’s hunger, the other is prone to be exploited. So it also may not work. That brings us to the third cynic, who believes that there is only one reality and that is my hunger matters first. We are taught repeatedly this is the only reality in the animal kingdom, but not necessarily in the human Kingdom. We do have the capability of outgrowing our hunger and focusing on other people’s hunger,

That brings me to my 3B model. If you believe that my hunger matters first, you will create a battleground and there will be prosperity but no peace. If you believe your hunger matters first then there is a possibility of creating a playground, where there  is prosperity with peace. When you choose your belief you create your promised land – it can be swarg, where your hunger matters first or  it can be Kailash where there is no hunger or it can be Vaikunth where everyone’s hunger is satisfied and my hunger is outgrown.

To sum up:

The Indian way of doing business—as apparent in Indian mythology, but no longer seen in practice— accommodates subjectivity and diversity, and offers an inclusive, more empathetic way of achieving success. Great value is placed on darshan, that is, on how we see the world and our relationship with Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.

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 rang-bhoomi—a playground where everyone is happy.

Our belief, therefore in tun, our behavior, decides which is our Promised land.

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.

P.S. :

All episodes of the present series are also collated in one file asDevdutt Pattanaik’s TV serial: Business Sutrafor ease of reading and download.

This series was published in Gujarati too under the title દેવદત્ત પટ્ટનાઈકનું ‘બિઝનેસ સૂત્ર’. All episodes have been collated in one file for ease of reading / downloading the series.