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Using the Bhagwad Gita as a management tool

Using the Bhagwad Gita as a management tool

NEW DELHI: The latest match-fixing scandal is another chapter in the sorry saga of corruption which has embroiled India. In an attempt to bring back core values to society, management schools are now using ancient texts to bring about a slow change in society. And they are reaching out where it matters first and most — teachers and principals who nurture children.

In a workshop – Gurukul for Gurus — held here from May 16-18 for some 200 principals, IIM-Kozhikode’s director Prof Debashis Chatterjee, harked back to the Bhagwad Gita which could bring back the honesty and integrity so lacking in society nowadays.

“Bhagwad Gita’s time has come,” says Prof Chatterjee, “It is not a religious manual as much as a manual of practice. The advice given by Krishna to Arjuna during the Mahabharata when he was despairing about the prospect of massacring his relatives is relevant even today. It tells you how to regain your equanimity in a war-like situation.” These value systems were taught to teachers across India and the Gulf. The wisdom of the ancient world is relevant in today’s anxiety-ridden world, be it business, politics or teaching, he says.

“It’s time business schools in India found indigenous ways to deal with corruption and leadership issues. If China’s ‘Art of War’ by Sun Tzu has influenced eastern and western military thinking and business tactics, why can’t we use the Gita in the same way?” asks Chatterjee. “Dispossessing the ego, the power of stillness, the law of giving and leader as servant are some of the values we can learn from it.”

So intrinsic is the book to IIM-K that it even has a statue of Arjuna personifying focus and determination, says Manvi Ahuja, a former student and senior analyst, Deutsche Bank. “The Gita is even taught in a course called Leadership, Inspiration, Dilemma and Action and is very relevant to modern managerial dilemmas.”

But change is evident despite the decline in dharma as Indian managements embrace a way of life expostulated by the Gita. The most telling examples are those of Wipro chairman Azim Premji who donated some 25% of his estimated wealth of $13 billion to charity and the Tatas who refuse to bribe. “The Gita gives fortitude, strength and selflessness in an increasingly selfish and cut-throat world. It teaches you to fight your enemy with wisdom, compassion and respect,” says Chatterjee. Apt examples of this selflessness include Shanmughan Manjunath, an IIM alumni and IOC executive, who took on the oil mafia in Uttar Pradesh and was murdered. It’s also evident in management students giving up cushy jobs to do service.

And this has increasingly caught the imagination of the world. Already, 20 CEOs from Japan and two from Spain have evinced interest in studying the Gita at IIM-K. Shibu Baby John, Kerala’s labour minister who had attended a workshop at IIM-K along with other cabinet colleagues says, “It’s not just the Gita but other epics which are relevant in today’s value-deficient times. I was told at IIM-K that the problem with politicians is that they think of the next election, not the next generation. It has remained in my mind forever.”


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