An inward look

Owner of IT Solutions company, Mindtree, Subrato Bagchi’s latest book, Zen Garden, is a collection of his conversations with an interesting assortment of personalities—from Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Sanjana Kapoor (director, Prithvi Theatre), Nandan Nilekani and Cherie Blair to Dr Devi Shetty (founder, Narayana Hrudayalaya), Aamir Khan, Ekta Kapoor and Dalai Lama—previously featured in his column published in Forbes India by the same name.

The book is divided into several sections, with titles such as ‘Vision’, ‘Displacement’, ‘The Power of Two’ ‘Compassionate leadership’ and the like. There’s no need for me, of course, to point out that this is an inspirational book that features individuals from all walks of life who made it large by travelling determinedly over a path full of thorns.

The individual stories are short, 3-4 page episodes and are clubbed according to the idea they represent. The point, however, is that there’s a spate of role-model books in the market; almost the same individuals get repeated over and over again. The ideas of course would be the same too because there’s a universal, timeless set of virtues that go into the making of a leader, no matter how diverse the obstacles on the road to success. The book doesn’t score too many points on being any different from your regular book in the genre. Yes, you find inspirational stories and people who made a difference. Yes, you can pick up tips for your own journey and even get ideas for entrepreneurship and innovation along the way. But it doesn’t really stand out.

That said, the positives that go in favour of the book are its choice of unusual and less written-about people along with the usuals. And certain sections that do not just talk about starting an enterprise but also about strategies to cope with life side by side. For instance, there’s the section ‘The Power of Two’ which talks about husband-wife duos who manage businesses and goals together. Featured couples include Lalana Zaveri and Manish Sharma, co-founders of Printo (a printing solutions company) and Arjun Kalyanpur and Sunita Maheshwari, co-founders of Teleradiology Solutions. Bagchi discusses with these couples the challenges of keeping private lives from intruding onto work, and the ideal level of stepping-in-sync while conceding the upper hand to whoever does a particular task better.

Then, there’s the section ‘Pain’, where Bagchi begins the introduction with a personal anecdote — where his baby daughter had to be hospitalised due to a wheezing in the lungs and was diagnosed with bronchiolitis. He recounts the anxious helplessness with which he spent the day at AIIMS, and then he tells you about a “frail bundle of motionless flesh” in a bed nearby, which has no family attending to it. The nurse informs him that the boy is the son of daily-wage labourers who couldn’t be there with him if they were to have any earnings.

“I realised our pain is equal to our inability to see pain elsewhere,” writes Bagchi. Touché.

The business questions posed to Dalai Lama present an interesting give and take.

“What would the Budhha tell the world of business today?” asks Bagchi and the Lama replies, “Businesses must pursue their activities with humanity…” and later, on the global economic crisis, “Market-oriented economy is itself a human creation. I feel it is a contradiction when people say it is beyond our control….The Buddha would say, if there is some danger or failure looming, make it clear. Be honest.” Go for it if you need some fodder for introspection. zz

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