Published in Corporate Dossier, ET, June 03, 2011

Hindu mythology is full of stories of unexpected good fortune. In the Rig Veda, Apala chews a twig, without realizing it is that of the Soma herb. The sound of the emerging juice attracts Indra, king of the gods, who grants Apala her wish, removes her coarse skin and replaces it with fine radiant skin. In the Bhagavat Purana, Ajamila, a gambler, gets a place in Vishnu’s heaven because before dying he calls out to Narayana, his son, which also turns out to be the name of Vishnu. In the Shiva Purana, a thief gets a place in Shiva’s heaven because while running away from the policemen, he climbs a Bilva tree and without realizing it causes the leaves, which are dear to Shiva, to fall on a Shiva-linga below.

Often things go our way in the corporate world for reasons inexplicable, because of forces outside us. At such times there is bewilderment and often a reason to explain or rationalize. Somehow unexpected fortunes make us nervous: if we did not control its arrival, surely we have no control over its departure!  We would rather be the masters of our destiny but often we cannot explain our successes, something that goes against the very grain of management theory where everything is measured, planned and explained.

In the previous two years, campus placements had been dismal no thanks to the recession. Good students had to be content with average jobs with average salaries. This year too things looked bleak and Kaustubh did not have very high hopes. So imagine his surprise when he and two of his friends are picked up by a high end electrical engineering company and sent for training to Sweden within a month of his graduation. The money is good. The future looks positive. Everyone around is envious of his success. And Kaustubh wonders what did he do to deserve this fortune.

All this because some unknown investment banker put his money in the company and they were desperate for people and so were aggressive in the campus recruitment. Kaustubh ,willy nilly, has earned his place in a potentially great organization because he happened to be there at the right time at the right place and because he happened to say the right things in the interview to the right people. Luck is not a logical factor and so ignored in the rational corporate world. We want to explain everything and attribute it to human control. Kaustubh wants to claim responsibility for his success so early in his career, but he somehow knows that does not feel right. So rather than feel entitled, he feels grateful.