Business Sutra : Desi Sutras for Modern Business [Book review]

He is a leadership coach and mythologist. He is clearcut in his views. He is assertive in explanations. He will use only Indian words and phrases for puranic stories. He will illustrate all his theories himself in fine lines. He works for a major retail business company as Chief Belief Officer. 



Welcome Devdutt Pattanaik, the author of “Business Sutra”, a book for new-age business executives, which delivers the message that are formed out of Indian mythological stories and characters. He refers not just Hindu religious stories but Jain and Buddhist anecdotes with ease. This book has business solutions ranging from a successful tea stall to nurturing talent in a large multinational corporation. It is a timely publication in the era of globalisation and surge of Indian multinational companies. Being at the helm of such consumerist market buzz, Devdutt has created a massive storehouse of puranic knowledge, with a contemporary tinge.

The main plank of Devdutt’s book is this: the Puranas, mythical stories, can be analysed, re-defined and put to use in modern times. While the present corporate culture seems to be mostly unethical and anti-societal, Devdutt argues for a business ecosystem where all the activities, from the owner of a company to the sales executive to follow certain etiquettes based on puranic narratives. In all the chapters, he narrates the issue, followed by a contemporary story to support his line of argument. Concrete realities are deciphered and given solutions. The philosophical acuteness of his arguments is exemplary. The picturesque details of the arguments are put in stylish line art works, created by the author himself.


This book is born out of his television channel interviews aired by CNBC TV a couple of years back. Elegantly printed, this treatise provides an insight into the inner meanings of the puranic stories. Devdutt analyses the roles and responsibilities of every player in business effortlessly and enlists the arguments without any aberration. While the stories are taken from mythical works, he is cautious. He says the terminology used are his interpretations and has nothing to do with the puranic times. Thus, we can safely say this is a new-age interpretation of interpersonal relationships, in a business atmosphere.

For example: 1) The workplace is full of Kubijas. In a world where only performance seems to matter, they are mediocre, at the wrong end of the bell-curve, people who can be justifiably kicked out. And this makes them insecure. The only way to secure their job is to have a relationship with people in power, display loyalty by poisoning their ears against others, making the “yajaman” feel there is someone looking out for them. (p-324). 2) In organisations, we expect a man in a particular position to behave in a particular manner. We assume that he has gained this position because he has those qualities. But what comes first: gaining the qualities or acquiring the position? Can a king be royal before he has a kingdom, or does the possession of a kingdom make him royal?


The topic of principles of management is now getting more attention than ever. Devdutt does not hesitate to bring in the contemporary management issues, conflict of interests, decision making, communication, teamwork, finances, fortunes, skills, performance and all such management terms and churns them through his world view of Business Sutra. Even the Western, Chinese and other thoughts have been dissected under his Sutra microscope. Thus he has given a set of around 150 Sutras with an Indian approach to management. Here are some examples of the Sutras he has derived in this book:

  • Imagination expands human hunger.
  • Upstream forces need to be balanced by downstream forces.
  • We often forget that others see the world differently.
  • Growth happens when we include those whom we once excluded.
  • To provoke a thought, we have to learn patience.

Adding to his Sutras, Devdutt has also provided the Business Sutra Vocabulary, where he has enlisted the old and new meanings for puranic words.

Devdutt’s explanations are broad and deep. He delves upon all the angles. He raises the questions we often wish to ask. Simply put, this book is a brilliant display of ingenious, desi arguments.

About the author

Devdutt Pattanaik has written over 25 books and 400 articles on Indian mythology for everyone from adults to children. Since 2007, he has been explaining the relationship between mythology and management through his column in the Economic Times; the talk he gave at the TED India conference in 2009; and the show Business Sutra which ran successfully on CNBC-TV18 in 2010, besides numerous other lectures at Indian universities and management institutes. Trained to be a doctor, he spent 15 years in the healthcare (Apollo Health Street) and pharmaceutical (Sanofi Aventis) industries and worked briefly with Ernst & Young as business adviser before he turned his passion into a vocation and joined the think tank of the Future Group as its Chief Belief Officer.


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