Indian Mythology in Modern Business Management

Indian Mythology in Modern Business Management is evident in today's business transactions across the world.Indian Mythology in Modern Business Management is evident in today’s business transactions across the world. What is business? Is it not an exchange of valuable things? A sort of ‘barter system’ practiced from ancient days of yore? In the ancient times, Indians used to do Yagnas (rituals) to please Devtas (Gods). In his book titled ‘Business Sutra’, famed story teller and interpreter of ancient Indian scriptures, Devdutt Pattanaik tries to relate myths and rituals to modern-day business practices.

“The yajaman initiates this ritual, makes offerings into agni (fire burning in the altar), exclaiming, ‘svaha’ (this of me I offer), hoping to please his chosen deity or devta, who will then hopefully give him whatever he desires, exclaiming ‘tathastu’ (so it shall be)”.

In today’s modern day management scenario, a corporate or an entrepreneur business venture can be interpreted as an ‘agni-kunth’ where the founder invests his money, time and energies. These tangible and intangible things will never come back once spent, so it’s ‘svaha’ – to the ashes. ‘Ahutis’ (or sacrifices) once burnt will not come back. That is why uttering the word ‘svaha’ is important; it means ‘burnt to ashes’.

It is sensible to accept the fact that in businesses today, there will not be any pleased deity swooping down from some heavenly abode to grant ‘tathastu’. However, in modern management lingo the ‘devta’ in this context, is represented by the satisfied vendors and customers, who, happy with the products/services offered, are willing to pay a price – the ‘vardaan’ – the value in exchange.

According to Jawhar Sircar, former Prasar Bharati chief, notable researcher, author and public speaker, “Managerial practices were in place, maybe not in articulated shape, in not just the church but in pre-Vatican times, too. The first corporate body in the world is the Buddhist sangha, in the 5th century BC. The sanghas followed human resource development practices like shuffling, promotion, lateral entry and expulsion.” Even the thousand years old social order as practiced in Hinduism – led by the Brahmins at the top tier, followed by the Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras – have a precise sense of hierarchy, a similar version of which is propagated in most industries across the world.

The two world famous pre-vedic epic poetries, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, are scattered with instances of managerial practices and attributes, such as, Planning, Organizing, Leading, Controlling, and Coordinating among team members. Both of these sagas are target oriented with a right back up plan based on training, time management and analysis of the strength and weaknesses of the ‘competitor’ and what threats and opportunities are there in the business, as well as a united goal and unity of command of team members.

Coming back to the 21st century corporate dynamics, ‘merger’ (combination of two companies to form one) and ‘acquisition’ (one company taken over by the other) have become commonplace business lingo that allow one business entity to leverage the other’s advantage and expand footprint. In ancient India too, the concept of ‘Merger & Acquisition’ is aptly manifested in the ‘Jataka Tales’, where Buddhism appropriated north Indian legends by inserting a Bodhisatva figure in each of its 574 tales – all complete with a moral lesson. The Mahabharat, too, had adopted the same strategy. In Sircar’s words, “It had started as a folk tale of the Sutas with a kernel of 2,000-odd verses. Then it absorbed other stories to reach one lakh plus.” The most stunning example of merger and acquisition was Vishnu’s ‘Dashavatar’ myth. “Animal worship was accommodated this way as also by having ‘vahanas’ (mounts) of gods. This is how Hinduism united the land in one belief system, finding place for every type of worship”, Sircar maintains.

Although the Hindu pantheon boasts of a staggering figure of 33 million gods and goddesses, it is only three deities who have always dominated, sidelining the others. In Sircar’s words, “By the Middle Ages, Hinduism regrouped itself and pensioned off the old gods. Shiva, Vishnu and Shakti took over”. This practice of a few figures overshadowing the rest is best echoed in the current oligopoly, a state of limited competition in which a market is shared by a small number of producers or sellers, of the Indian telecom industry in which a few companies have survived at the cost of the others.

The functions and principles of modern management practices may have emerged after World War II but its roots can be traced millenniums back in the functioning of religious institutions and being used at every stage during all the mythological and epic activities of ancient India.



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