Business Sutra |1| Corporations
Devdutt Pattanaik opens the discussion in his TV serial Business Sutra by taking up the subject of:
What is the purpose of a corporation? Why does it exist? And is there a difference between corporations in India and those in the West? Wherefrom come these differences?
He goes on to explore the ideas of Happiness as well Strategic versus Tactical thinking. All this discussion leads one to wonder if professionalism is a good thing.
Typically, Devdutt Pattanaik gives no prescription. He has provided the frameworks; the leader has to take the call.
In our present post, we will have a detailed look at the first of the three parts of this episode.
Business Sutra |1.1 | Is there an Indian way of doing Business
Apparently, since the core of any business activities remains more or less same, the way of doing business must also be the same anywhere. However, as is said in a 2010 HBR article – The India Way of Leading Business – these similarities are “different’ as well. In the same article, K V Kamath is quoted – “Time and again it has been proved that the Western model of doing business would not be a success here.” We “think in English and act in Indian,” is how R. Gopalakrishnan, the executive director of Tata Sons, puts it. “For the Indian manager,” he explained, “his intellectual tradition, his y-axis, is Anglo-American, and his action vector, his x-axis, is in the Indian ethos.”
The authors of this HBR article – Peter Cappelli, Harbir Singh, Jitendra Singh, and Michael Useem – in their book – The India Way: How India’s Top Business Leaders Are Revolutionizing Management – what Indian managers do differently, including: looking beyond stockholders’ interests to public mission and national purpose, drawing on improvisation, adaptation, and resilience to overcome endless hurdles, identifying products and services of compelling value to customers, investing in talent and building a stirring culture. Here are the interviews with Michael Useem and Peter Cappeli on this subject.
In an article – The Indian way of management – published in Business Today in 2010, Sumant Sinha notes that it’s a mix of organizational capabilities, management practices, and company culture that sets Indian enterprises apart from firms in other countries.
In an event at the American Enterprise Institute in 2014, Bill Gates speaks on what India does right
Here is one more video clip of Vodafone’s CEO Marten Pieters in a refreshingly honest conversation with ET NOW’s Sonali Krishna about the telecom industry, the plan ahead for Vodafone and why Vodafone doesn’t want to be the number one player in the country just yet, in the context of Indian business model.
This would be true for a business operating in any other country, may be some factor more dominant at one time and the other factor playing up in somewhat differently at other time.
Devdutt Pattanaik traces the roots of these differences in the (known or unknown) influence of the Indian mythology on the Indian psyche in Segment 1: On the Indian versus Western Context.
Here are the key points from his present discourse:
It was East India Company that brought to India the concept of a modern corporation a charter company issuing stock paying dividends and multinational in presence
Indians and Chinese have learned a lot from the West but they don’t have to copy. They cannot create a Chinese or Indian version for Western model.
To understand this, we need to visit the story of Alexander, The Great, when he met a naked ascetic at the bank of Indus. Though the ascetic was apparently doing nothing he did seem to be wise in every respect. Alexander asked the gymnosophist what he was doing nothing sitting over there staring at the Stars. The gymnosophist replied that I am experiencing things. He then asked Alexander as to what he was doing. Alexander said that he was conquering the world. Both laughed at each other. Alexander laughed because he thought the gymnosophist was a fool for doing nothing. The gymnosophist laughed because he thought it’s waste of life to do anything.
If we understand these differences in each other’s point of view, then we can understand the difference between the Indian mindset and the Western mindset
The Indian Way of doing business was not about doing business but using the act of doing business to figure out why you are doing what you’re doing. In the answer to that question there is growth, intellectual growth and emotional growth.
One really needs to understand the purpose of business.
It was this very point that in a 1994 Harvard Business Review article, Peter Drucker argued, “the root cause of nearly every [business] crises is not that things are being done poorly. It is not even that the wrong things are being done. Indeed, in most cases, the right things are being done—but fruitlessly.”
We will take up discussion of Purpose of Business, as presented in the Segment 2 of the first episode of Devdutt Paatanaik’s TV serial Business Sutra in our next episode.