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Posts Tagged ‘Ethics in Business’

ashokbhatia

Just like ‘Ramayana’, the epic of ‘Mahabharata’ also has many management lessons for the present day business leaders and managers. Greed, jealousy, quest for power, trying to achieve goals irrespective of the fairness of the means deployed – all these contradictions in life are very poignantly brought out.

Here are some lessons which could be drawn from the epic.

  • Merit over Birth

When it comes to announcing a successor to his vast kingdom, King Bharata does not choose any of his own sons. Instead, he namesMahabharat King Bharat Bhumanyu whom he considers more capable to manage the affairs of his kingdom. In a dynastic rule, seeds of democracy are thus sown.

In India Inc’s power rankings, professional CEOs are on the rise. Three of the top ten in the 2013 edition of ‘India Inc’s Most Powerful CEOs’ are professionals. Five years back, K V Kamath was the only professional in the top…

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ashokbhatia

Movies reflect what is happening in the society. In some cases, like literature, they also hint at what could be in store for us in the days to come. They not only influence what happens in the society, but also take a harsh look at its ills – including their own! There are a number of spoofs, created by some of our best known dream merchants, which reveal the level of maturity the film industry has attained.

Somehow, movies examine only some segments of the society; that too, mostly along predictable lines. Politicians, cops, industrialists and others are mostly depicted in a stereotyped manner. Business and management have so far not merited much attention from our film makers.

If business has been captured, it has mostly been depicted to be ruthless. Catering to mass appeal, the film makers have propounded the belief that big money is invariably bad. The fact…

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XEROX

There are innovations which have an irresistible mass appeal. A brand name thus ends up becoming a generic name of a product class. Xerox is a ready example in the same genre. All those who take creativity and innovation seriously would notice that such developments happen only because someone identifies a latent demand and proceeds to do something about it. An organization culture which enables such endeavours deserves to be complimented and replicated.

X, Y and Z

The art of managing people has been analyzed in great detail by theorists in the past, and commendably so. McGregor was bang on target when he came up with the X and Y approach to managing people. Also, Robert R. Blake and Jane Mouton came up with their Management Grid concept, where the X axis has “Concern for Production” and the Y axis has “Concern for People”. This proved to be a very useful tool to classify leadership styles.

Yes-Men

Yes-Men

With due respects to the brilliant work done by those mentioned above, one would like to make the concept of a Management Grid more contemporary by adding a new dimension, Z. This axis covers our “Concern for Ethics”.

When it comes to corporate governance, most businesses are driven more by greed than by the norms of propriety. Compliance with statutory provisions and indulging in tax avoidance rather than blatant tax evasion are given a short shrift. As a repercussion, we end up having more controls and complex laws, thereby making non-compliance even more attractive.

The good news is that there are indeed enlightened businesses and right thinking managers who score high on the Z axis as well. Such businesses have been around for more than a century and have done well for themselves; they have also given back to society in terms of advanced medical facilities, support to fine arts and sports and several other CSR initiatives.

YES-MEN

They are to be found in all spheres of life. They have perfected the art of boosting the sagging morale and ego of their superiors, thereby securing better perks and intangible benefits for themselves. Due to close proximity to their bosses – whether perceived or real – they end up being king makers.

Smart bosses easily figure out how to remain at an arm’s length from them. The tricks they use to steer clear of yes-men: a discouraging body language, asking for hard evidence for all the charges being levied against someone who is absent and generally berating them on select occasions in public.

Zombies

Zombies

ZOMBIES

A vast majority of professionals decide to be ‘passengers’ and not ‘drivers’ in their careers. They are happy to behave like headless chickens, strutting about sounding very busy but with meagre results to show. Typically, they outsource the thinking part to brainy birds around them and lead a mentally sedentary but self-contented life-style.

Call them file-pushers, clock-watchers, head clerks or what you will – they do serve a useful purpose in keeping big bureaucracies running like well-oiled machines.  They can also be groomed to become devoted followers for charismatic and dynamic leaders.

ZOO ORGANIZATIONS

Organizations where the top management believes that any suggestion for improvement in a department emanating from another department amounts to interference and sacrilege tend to become like zoological parks. All subject experts get confined to their ‘cages’ or ‘enclosures’. Forays into another’s territory are frowned upon. This is a sure shot recipe for nipping creativity and innovation at the work place.ZOO ORGANIZATIONS

The biggest casualty of course is the hapless customer who has had the misfortune of buying a product which turns out to be defective. The incessant running from pillar to post he/she is subjected to ends up creating a market ambassador the organization could surely do without.

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Just like ‘Ramayana’, the epic of ‘Mahabharata’ also has many management lessons for the present day business leaders and managers. Greed, jealousy, quest for power, trying to achieve goals irrespective of the fairness of the means deployed – all these contradictions in life are very poignantly brought out.

Here are some lessons which could be drawn from the epic.

  • Merit over Birth

When it comes to announcing a successor to his vast kingdom, King Bharata does not choose any of his own sons. Instead, he namesMahabharat King Bharat Bhumanyu whom he considers more capable to manage the affairs of his kingdom. In a dynastic rule, seeds of democracy are thus sown.

In India Inc’s power rankings, professional CEOs are on the rise. Three of the top ten in the 2013 edition of ‘India Inc’s Most Powerful CEOs’ are professionals. Five years back, K V Kamath was the only professional in the top ten.

In a reversal of an openly declared of Infosys, Chairman N R Narayana Murthy recently stirred a hornet’s nest by insisting on bringing his own son as a team member. Only time will tell if the decision pays of; as of now, seniors in the company are a bit shaken up with the move.

  • Commitment

For his father Shantanu’s happiness, Bhishma swears never to marry. Throughout his life, he remains committed to the kingdom of Hastinapur. Despite his difference of opinion with Dhritarashtra and Duryodhana, and despite his obvious fondness for the Pandavas, he leads a vast army against the latter. However, his conduct is very transparent; he openly tells Duryodhana that though he is fighting for Kauravas, he shall not harm any of the Pandavas.

On the flip side, Bhishma also sets the example of a senior professional who overstays his welcome!

Many organizations have deeply committed silent performers who stick by it irrespective of the business ups and downs being faced. Business houses which follow a healthy set of values do end up attracting more such professionals whose value systems match with their own. In times of crisis, such people tend to be pillars of strength for the company. However, there could be situations when they need to be taken on board merely as advisors and not as executors, so younger blood in the organization also gets a chance to prove its mettle.

  • Failures are Stepping Stones

Bhishma abducts three sisters – Amba, Ambika and Ambalika – to get them married to Vichitravirya. However, Amba claims she is already in love with Salya and cannot accept anyone else as her life partner. Eventually, she is rejected by both Bhishma and her own ex-lover Salya. She takes this failure as a challenge and ends up being born as a person of mixed gender –Shikhandi – in King Drupad’s family. Eventually, he/she becomes the cause of Bhishma’s death in the battlefield.

Those who take their failures as a challenge have the capacity to introspect. They identify their weaknesses and take steps to excel in areas in which their arch rival is strong. Ultimately, victory is theirs.

  • Promises are like Babies!

Just like babies, promises are easy to make but difficult to keep. When they are studying together, Drupad, a prince, and Mahabhata KurukshetraDronacharya, a commoner, become good friends. Drupad light-heartedly tells Dronachrya that once he grows up to become a king, he would be happy to share half of his kingdom with Dronacharya. However, once they grow up, Drupad reneges on his statement and even mocks Dronacharya in his court. The result is life-long bitter rivalry between the two which spills onto the battle field, with Dronachrya on the Kaurava’s side and Drupad on the Pandava’s side.

CEOs who promise a promotion merely to achieve short-term results often find that the promotee eventually reaches his level of incompetence at lightning speed, embarrassing all concerned. Smart HR honchos never make promises which they know cannot be kept. Same goes for marketing wizards who fear a severe backlash from customers should the product not live up to the latter’s expectations.

  • Destructive Attachment

Contrast the behavior of King Bharata to that of Dhritarashtra. He has an obsessive attachment to his evil son. He permits the Pandavas to proceed to Varnavat where, by his son’s evil designs, they are persuaded to stay at a house constructed of inflammable materials. He allows a deceptive game of dice, making the Pandavas lose their part of the kingdom. In his presence, Draupadi, his daughter-in-law, is insulted in his royal court. Bhishma, Vidur, Krishna and several others attempt to persuade him to rein in the unbridled ambition of his son Duryodhana, but to no avail. The result is a terrible war leading to devastation of the kingdom.

CEOs who promote their sycophants without assessing the overall welfare of an organization get doomed likewise.

  • Concentration

Multi-tasking is a buzzword in professional circles. But Arjuna displays a kind of concentration which involves a complete focus on Mahabharat Swayamvara_Draupadi_Arjuna_Archerythe task at hand. In the process, he evolves into an excellent archer of his times. Whether it is the bird whose eyes alone he is able to see before shooting his arrow, or the rotating fish whose eye he has to pierce based on the image cast in the water urn placed below in the court of King Drupada, he excels in accomplishing the task at hand.

Managers who look satisfied with their day’s work would invariably share the same secret with you – of having done something satisfactorily that day! Aiming for perfection, they are at least able to excel in the tasks at hand. And focusing on one thing at a time surely helps!

  • Perseverance

Notice the kind of setbacks Pandavas get to suffer in their lives. They survive the insidious designs of their Kaurava cousins at Varanavat. After losing their kingdom and wealth to Kauaravas in an unfair game of dice, they undergo an exile for twelve years in forests. This is followed by a year of remaining incognito, which they do so in King Virata’s palace. When a peace proposal gets discussed with Kauravas, Yudhishthira offers to settle the dispute between the brothers by being content with ownership of five villages only. Even this gets turned down by Duryodhana.

The tenacity of bouncing back in the face of adversity that Pandavas display is worth emulating. Many MNCs are put off by the way the Indian market is skewed – with a miniscule share of the well-heeled who have global exposure and a vast majority of common people who aspire for reliable products and services at highly discounted prices. GE and Nestle have learnt their lessons. McDonald’s, KFC, Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Café Coffee Day in the fast food business have also sharpened their teeth by offering mouth-watering menus in the range of INR 44-119!

  • United We Stand

The mother of Pandavas, Kunti, delivers a master stroke by getting Draupadi to accept all the five brothers as her husbands. The result is a whole unified family which goes through its trials and tribulations as a single unit. Each of the brothers has a USP – if Yudhishthira is the epitome of virtue upholding ‘dhrama’ (righteousness) at all costs, Bhima and Arjuna are great warriors who have to be kept on a tight leash, impatient as they are in extracting revenge from Kauravas. Nakula and Sahdeva have their own unique qualities. Together, the five brothers form a multi-skilled and invincible team.

Large conglomerates like Tatas often sound similar in their overall configuration. Each company within the group’s fold has a unique place in the market. Each is headed by a stalwart who is a subject specialist in the field. The companies operate in fields as disparate as salt and software. Yet, all of them are connected by a common value system and a similar business philosophy.

  • Draupadi Syndrome

Juggling between five husbands is no mean task and Draupadi appears to handle it rather well.

In what are euphemistically known as “matrix” organizations these days, reporting to several bosses at the same time could be a Mahabharat Draupadi_and_Pandavaschallenging experience. One has to learn to balance each boss’ expectations against those of others. Much depends on their relative seniority or clout in the company, based on which one could handle the situation. Of course, it does not pay to pitch one of the bosses against the other, whether directly or indirectly!

  • Excellence in Governance

When Indrapastha is built, Pandavas rule in a fair and just manner. They do not stray from the path of righteousness, thereby winning the love and affection of their subjects. They rule for thirty-six years before falling prey to an unfair game of dice.

Excellence in governance is a vital condition for a business leader to command respect amongst his team members. Taking good care of people is an important part of governance. The HR initiatives taken by the Tata group after The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel was targeted in a terrorist attack on November 26, 2008 in Mumbai, go on to show how well the company cares for its employees.  

  • Being Impartial

In the Yaksha episode, Yudhishthira is asked as to which of his four brothers he would wish to be brought back to life. He chooses Nakula. When queried, he justifies his choice by explaining that of the five of them, three (himself, Bhima and Arjuna) were born to Kunti and two (Nakula and Sahdeva) to his father’s second wife, Madri. Since he is alive, Kunti is only partially bereaved. Likewise, let Madri also be partially bereaved – hence his choice of Nakula. Pleased at this, Yaksha revives all the four remaining brothers.

Being impartial does not come easy to a leader. However, this is indeed the mark of a true statesman.

  • Loyalty to Boss

Karna faces humiliation at the hands of Pandavas for not being born in a royal family. Duryodhana realizes his potential as an ally and immediately comes forward to confer kingship upon him. They become life-long friends. Karna’s loyalty towards Duryodhana is so strong that even after realizing that he is the eldest of the five Pandavas, he chooses to fight against them, for Duryodhana.

Here is an example of unflinching loyalty to a boss!

  • Yin and Yang

India has a great tradition of real men displaying not only their macho side, but also their effeminate and softer side. The great yin yangwarrior Arjuna spends a whole year incognito in King Virata’s palace, disguised as the eunuch Brihannala, teaching music and dance. One of his pupils, Princess Uttara, ends up becoming his daughter-in-law who gives birth to Parikshit who eventually inherits the kingdom when Pandavas decide to retire.

There is increasing realization amongst corporates in contemporary times to encourage females to assume leadership roles. Companies like Diageo, Cadbury, Coca Cola and others are making conscious efforts in that direction.

Bringing a better gender balance at the board level is the current buzzword. Leading businessmen are hiring icons of the stature of Deepak Parekh, G M Rao, Mukeeta Jhaveri and a host of others to mentor women who can shoulder board level responsibilities in the days to come.

  • Juniors First

When a decision has to be taken as to who should lead the Pandava army in the war, Yudhishthira first consults Sahadeva, the junior most brother.

This approach has several spin-offs. It instills enthusiasm and self-confidence in the younger managers. If the seniors are consulted first, others may not be able to speak with freedom, and even honest differences of opinion may get construed as disrespect.

  • Strategy and Leadership

In a careful reading of the major turning events in the whole narrative, Krishna emerges as an eminent strategist. He keeps Draupadi’s frustration under check. He knows that Kauravas would never agree to let Pandavas have their share of the kingdom in a peaceful manner. Yet, he himself goes to plead their cause so that peace is given a last chance.

In the battle that ensues, he virtually leads the 7 divisions of Pandavas’ army to a decisive win against the 11 divisions of Kauravs’ Mahabharat Disrobing_of_Draupadiarmy. The manner in which Krishna persuades a demoralized Arjuna to take up his arms by enunciating the basic principles of life in the Bhagavad-Gita is exemplary.

One of the basic concepts enunciated by Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita is that of the everlasting nature of the soul. The concept of a soul now finds a resonance even in modern management literature. In ‘The 8th Habit’, Stephen Covey urges professionals to pay heed to their ‘inner voice’. While proposing the whole person paradigm, he speaks of the four dimensions of a person – spirit, body, heart and mind.

Coming back to ‘Mahabharata’, all mighty warriors on the Kauaravas’ side fall with specific inputs from Krishna. In case of Bhishma, Arjuna attacks him standing behind Shikhandi. Dronacharya is misled to believe that his son Ashwatthama has fallen at the behest of Krishna. When Duryodhana appears to be invincible in his mace fight with Bhima, he gestures to the latter to hit the former below the navel, thereby incapacitating him. When Balarama gets upset with Bhima for having broken a cardinal principle in his final fight with Duryodhana, Krishna intervenes to pacify him by reminding him of the several injustices perpetrated by the Kauravas on Pandavas.

Once the war gets over and all his sons have got killed, Dhritarashtra attempts to kill Bhima by crushing him in a close embrace. Krishna is able to read his mind and deftly pushes across a metal statue instead, thereby saving Bhima’s life.

Much like a business leader of modern times, Krishna displays vision, flexibility in approach, resourcefulness and an excellent capacity to command. He is the trouble-shooter par excellence who leads, inspires, guides and motivates.

  • Execution and Followership

If Krishna proves his leadership skills, Pandavas display the skills of being true followers and executors. Yudhishtira, considered an epitome of virtue, agrees to announce the false news of Ashwatthama’s death, thereby leading to Dronacharya getting vanquished. Motivated by him, Arjuna takes up his arms against his grandfather, Bhishma. Bhima listens to Krishna and ends up killing Jarasandha (much earlier in the narrative) and Duryodhana (towards the fag-end of the battle).

Often, seniors in companies lament about the lack of some qualities in their assigned leader. But one needs a sense of humility, Mahabharat Krishna Arjunaconfidence in another’s ability and the motivation to achieve a super-ordinate goal to work as an effective team member. An objective assessment of the situation at hand, unqualified support for the overall goal, registering dissent wherever necessary and balancing the leader’s weaknesses with one’s own strengths are some of the factors which result into better execution of plans.

  • Do Not Take Help for Granted

Nakula and Sahdeva’s uncle, Shalya, decides to offer his big army to Pandavas in the ensuing war. However, on the way to the battle field, Duryodhana extends a very thoughtful and warm hospitality to Shalya’s army. The result is that Shalya becomes obliged to fight his own nephews in the war! Yudhishthira ends up repenting for having taken Shalya’s help for granted without worrying about the needs of the vast army marching on its way with the intention to assist him.

When working on a project, we often take our friends and colleagues for granted. ‘Mahabharata’ exhorts us to first put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, realize his constraints and then only expect to be helped accordingly.

  • Receive Favors with Humility and Alertness

Shalya receives favors from Duryodhana with humility but without alertness. He does not bother to check whose hospitality he and his army are enjoying.

There are days on which a manager may be pleasantly surprised to find himself being unduly praised by seniors. In some cases, this could be a sign of impending doom – of being saddled with an impossible task which others might be loath to pick up! Alertness while accepting praise surely pays.

  • Key to Failure  

As the crown prince of Kauravas, Duryodhana initiates a war which has to be fought under the leadership of commanders who have a soft corner for the Pandavas! With the exception of Karna and his own brothers like Dushasana et al, all his commanders – like Bhishma, Dronacharya and Shalya – are only duty bound to support him. Their real sympathies are with the Pandavas. Thus, he is saddled with an army which is far superior to that of Pandavas in terms of sheer numbers, but sorely lacks in motivation. Duryodhana’s greed, envy and jealousy lead him to his doom.

In the business world, we often come across fool hardy leaders who set their goals so high as to be unrealistic. If a proper assessment of the resources available at their command is not made, failure is bound to follow.

  • Rash Commitments

Abhimanyu, Arjuna’s son, gets killed unfairly and the main culprit is held to be Jayadratha. Arjuna is livid with rage and declares that he would kill Jayadrath by the following evening or renounce the world. At a crucial moment in the next day’s war, Krishna intervenes to ensure Arjuna’s victory, bringing relief and joy to all.

Faced with a drastic situation, a professional needs to sit back and think for some time before committing himself to a target which could well turn out to be unattainable.  

  • Knowledge vs. Virtue

One of the sub-plots narrates the story of Arvavasu and Paravasu. Both are sons of a great scholar and become great scholars in their own right by acquiring knowledge. But one turns out to be good and the other evil. Moral of the story – knowledge which remains undigested information crammed into the mind cannot instill virtue in a person. Such knowledge merely remains like our clothes, an external factor in our appearance which does not reveal what we are within ourselves.

Post Lehman Brothers, educational institutions have started taking the issue of instilling the right values in their students seriously. A business leader without a strong moral compass and lacking a set of virtuous values and ethics could lead the business to eventual ruin.

  • Seeking Favors sans Competence

In another sub-plot appears the story of Yavakrida, who craves to master the Vedas without having to study them! He is grudgingly granted a boon to this effect, but eventually dies at the hands of a demon after being charmed by a young maiden.

A true blue professional would surely aim to occupy the coveted corner office, but only after he has done his own SWOT analysis.

  • Avoid Arrogance

One of the several sub-plots in ‘Mahabharata’ is that of Nahusha who falls from grace after having occupied the throne of Indra, king of the Gods. His fall comes about because of sheer arrogance and pride.

Power and pelf bring in severe obligations in their wake. Successful CEOs understand this, take extra care to keep their pride in check and tailor their inter-personal relationships accordingly.

‘Mahabharata’ is rich with several other narratives which could be useful to management practitioners. Also, each narrative may be interpreted in several ways, depending upon how one goes about analyzing it.

References:

  1. ‘Mahabharata’ by C Rajagopalachari.
  2. Adi Parva original.
  3. Bhagavat Purana.
  4. Series by K M Munshi.
  5. Series by Ram Kumar Bhramar.

(Related posts:

    1. https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/management-lessons-from-ramayana
    2. https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/09/04/management-lessons-from-the-life-of-lord-krishna)

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Movies reflect what is happening in the society. In some cases, like literature, they also hint at what could be in store for us in the days to come. They not only influence what happens in the society, but also take a harsh look at its ills – including their own! There are a number of spoofs, created by some of our best known dream merchants, which reveal the level of maturity the film industry has attained.

Somehow, movies examine only some segments of the society; that too, mostly along predictable lines. Politicians, cops, industrialists and others are mostly depicted in a stereotyped manner. Business and management have so far not merited much attention from our film makers.

If business has been captured, it has mostly been depicted to be ruthless. Catering to mass appeal, the film makers have propounded the belief that big money is invariably bad. The fact that wealth is not always ill-gotten has been ignored. The reality that every business activity has social spin-offs – like employment generation and wealth creation –   has invariably been given a short shrift.

Likewise, the subject of management appears only on the fringes of the narrative. If the story revolves around a business family which is trying to modernize its factories by bringing in advanced equipment and machinery, the issue gets hijacked either as a personality clash  between the hero and the villain, or as an industrial relations dispute between the management and the workers.

Nevertheless, quite a few movies have captured some facets of management. It would be instructive for us to review a random sample and see if we could learn some lessons from these. 

Setting Clear Goals

Way back in 1992, we had “Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar” (Director: Mansoor Khan) which showed the single-minded pursuit of the hero avenging a humiliation by winning a marathon cycle race in an interesting climax.Lakshya

Lakshya” narrated the story of a youngster drifting in life, clueless as to what he wants to do for a living. Circumstances lead him to join the Indian Army and he gets involved with the Kargil incursions by Pakistan into Indian territory. In the process, he discovers himself, achieves a clarity of purpose and leads his men to victory. (2004, Director: Farhan Akhtar)

Yet another coming of age story came our way in “Wake Up, Sid”. It is the heroine (Konkona Sen Sharma) who inspires the hero (Ranbir Kapoor) to set his own goals in life. (2009, Director: Zoya Akhtar). 

Let Goals be Based on What You Excel In!pondy movie 3_idiots

Rajkumar Hirani explained this concept rather well in his immensely successful “3 Idiots” (2009). If you are passionate about a hobby of yours, and make it your profession as well, you would surely excel. Happiness, contentment, recognition and rewards would automatically follow.

Ethics in Business

Rocket Singh – Salesman of the Year” (2009, Director: Shimit Amin) had a theme which spoke of ethics in business. If marketing efforts are directed at deceiving customers and if either the product or service is shoddy, the business will go down in the dumps. Philip Kotler would have surely approved!

Managing the Boss

Aziz Mirza delighted us with both “Yes Boss” (1997) and “Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani” (2000). Scratch below the glitzy surface Yes bossof these slick flicks and you are sure to learn quite a few tricks on managing bosses. If “Yes Boss” was about being a yes-man, “Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani” was about manipulating bosses to get them to announce decisions which were contrary to their original stands. Yes, the bosses were mere caricatures and depicted as bumbling buffoons. But the hero and the heroine could get away with it purely based on the outstanding results they brought in!

Another interesting dimension we got to see was in “Aitraaz” (2004, Directors: Abbas Mustan). The movie was based on a Hollywood flick by the name of “Disclosure”. In return for rapid promotions, the female boss ends up trying to seduce the subordinate hero. However, thanks to a zealous wife and smart technology, the hero manages to wriggle out of a tricky situation!

Handling Corruption

Hrishikesh Mukherji came up with “Satyakam” in 1969. Based on a Bengali novel by Narayan Sanyal, the movie tugged at our heart-strings by taking us through the trials and tribulations of Satyapriya, a whistle-blower who suffers in his professional as well as personal life and loses the battle against corruption.Well done abba

In 1983, Kundan Shah gave us the memorable “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron”. With sterling performances by Nasseruddin Shah, Ravi Baswani and others, it tackled the issue of corruption in real estate and construction deals in a humorous vein. The movie ends with a cut-throat gesture made by both the protagonists, signifying the death of justice, fair play and truth in an age of corruption.

Fast forward to 2010, when Shyam Benegal gave us a heart-warming “Well Done, Abba”. A great satire on our public delivery failures, the movie captured the effect of rampant corruption on laymen. Armaan Ali, a driver, plans to dig a well in his farmland to ensure adequate water supply. Depending upon a government scheme, he soon learns the pitfalls involved. How he wriggles out of the situation forms the interesting part.

Getting Hired!

Of the several interview scenes one has witnessed in movies churned out by Bollywood, the one portrayed in “Golmal” (1979, Day_of_the_JackalDirector: Hrishikesh Mukherji) remains my favorite. Facing an eccentric industrialist, Bhavani Shankar (Utpal Dutt), who believes in traditional values and thinks that all those without a moustache happen to be characterless, Ramprasad Dashrathprasad Sharma (Amol Palekar), desparate to get a job, puts on a moustache and manages to charm the boss in the interview. He not only lands up with a job with a salary higher than expected, but also manages to eventually sing his way into the heart of the boss’ daughter!

The Day of the Jackal” (1973, Director: Fred Zimmermann) has the professional assassin appearing for an interview. The OAS team is astounded by the fee of half a million dollar quoted by him to assassinate Charles de Gaulle. The Jackal responds by saying that he deserves the fee, because he is the best in the business!

In both the cases, professional capability, coupled with self-confidence, won the day!

Industrial Relations

In “Namak Haraam” (1973, Hrishikesh Mukherji), the issue of rising trade unionism was portrayed effectively. Vicky (Amitabh Bacchhan) plans to defuse the situation by getting his friend Somu (Rajesh Khanna) to become a union leader. In the process, Somu gets influenced by the workers’ point of view and a confrontation between the friends ensues. Love-u-mr-kalakaar

Management Lessons

In Rajshri Production’s 2011 offering, “Love U…Mr. Kalakaar”, Sahil, a struggling artist, is faced with the challenge of running his future father-in-law’s business empire more profitably, so as to be able to win the hand of his lady-love Ritu. In order to ensure success, Ritu, a fresh MBA, ends up giving marketing and HR lessons to Sahil. The movie, directed by S. Mansavi, also captured office politics effectively. Performance on the job and the strong bonding between the lovers eventually saves the day.

Self Confidence vs. Shyness and Diffidence  

Basu Chatterji treated us to a sumptuous fare in “Chhoti Si Baat” (1975). Both the hero and the heroine work in different offices. Love blossoms, but the hero is a simpleton and keeps losing to a colleague of the heroine – whether in social skills or in indoor games. Eventually, Arun (Amol Palekar) decides to undergo a crash course in self-confidence, comes back in style and wins the hand of Prabha (Vidya Sinha), the girl of his dreams!Guru

Finances, Share Markets

Satta Bazaar” (1959, Director: Ravinder Dave) portrayed the ruin of a family due to over indulgence in the share markets very effectively. In another Rajshri offering, “Jeevan Mrityu” (1970, Director: Satyen Bose), the hero uses share price manipulations to seek revenge from the bad guys who had got him convicted for a theft he had never committed. “Guru” (2007, Director: Mani Ratnam) was loosely based on the life of late Dhirubhai Ambani. It restored our faith in the equity markets and showed us how one’s fortune could get reversed and then regained!

Work-Life Balance

In “Chhodo Kal Ki Baatein” (2012, Director: Pramod Joshi), the hero is so busy pursuing his career goals that he fails to attend his daughter’s arangetram. His family deserts him for a weekend. The movie is all about his regaining the work-life balance, and 220px-Bumbumboleposterarticulates the current dilemmas being faced by managers. There are some useful tips on the art of living, placing the movie on a spiritual plane.

Innovation

A high-risk business like producing movies can survive only on continuous innovation. Of late, the upwardly mobile middle class in India has opened up a new segment of the movie goers’ market. Bollywood themes are no longer confined to romantic duets, with the hero and the heroine chasing each other around trees. New themes have been experimented with, and the results are heartening. Consider movies like “Iqbal”, “Pa”, “Bum Bum Bole”, “Chak De India”, “Dor”, “Welcome to Sajjanpur”, “A Wednesday”, “Udaan”, “Taare Zameen Par”, “Vicky Donor”, “Kahaani” and “Barfi”. The sheer diversity of themes is remarkable, even if there is a romantic angle deftly woven into some of the plots to ensure commercial survival. 

Giving Back to Society

Swades” (2004, Director: Ashutosh Govarikar) set a good example of how rural problems can be addressed by talented people who decide to chuck their lucrative careers abroad and return to their roots in India.

A recent IFC report showcases Indian Social Ventures like Husk Power Systems, WaterHealth International and Suvidhaa Infoserve. In the days to come, trust Bollywood to come up with more variants of the “Swades” theme!pati patni aur woh

Extra-marital Affairs

If “Pati Patni aur Woh” (1978, Director: B R Chopra) touched upon the boss going wayward, “Rang Birangi” (1983, Director: Hrishikesh Mukherji) brought home the issue of a bored housewife getting her busy husband’s affection back with the support of a mutual friend. Both were excellent comedies with serious messages; one showed us the futility of romancing a secretary, the other spoke of the need to attach a better value to the needs of our loved ones.

Corporate Intrigues

When it comes to the inner machinations of business empires and corporate feuds, one readily remembers “Kalyug” (1981, Director: Shyam Benegal) and “Corporate” (2009, Madhur Bhandarkar). Even though such efforts have been few and far between, the honesty with which these movies have got made speaks highly of the directors, producers and the script writers. The underbelly of over-reaching greed, unbridled ambition and business rivalry – all have been brought home very candidly in both these works.Duplicity

Duplicity” (2009, Director: Tony Gilroy), starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen was an interesting take on corporate espionage. “Pyaar Impossible” (2011, Director: Jugal Hansraj) touched upon the issue of software piracy, though the basic theme was romantic in nature.

Team Work

When it comes to team work and bonding, who can forget the Jai and Veeru duo of “Sholay” fame? Personality-wise, both are poles apart. Jai, played by Amitabh, is sober, quiet and meditative. Veeru, played by Dharmendra, is loud and outspoken. The ways in which they go about wooing their sweethearts in the village are as different as, say, chalk and cheese. But when it comes to confronting Gabbar, they work in perfect unison, displaying a unique understanding and respect for each other. (1975, Director: Ramesh Sippy).

MOVIES AS AN INSTRUMENT OF CHANGE ?!

In the scam-ridden exciting times that Indian managers operate in these days, new social developments are taking place. Thanks to a byte-hungry media, we have a torrent of CAG reports, court cases, corporate misadventures, information tumbling out of closets courtesy the RTI Act, sting operations and confidential conversations getting recorded and leaked at regular intervals.

One has no doubt that our movie makers can be relied upon to soon start churning out movies with scripts which highlight management and governance issues with a sharper focus.  Hopefully, these would capture the business world in a more balanced fashion – depicting not only the seamier and manipulative side but also the philanthropic and CSR side, besides depicting initiatives in the realm of social entrepreneurship!

(PS: You may also like to look up https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/management-lessons-from-movies-2-0)

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