On those we depend

Articles, Business 10 Comments

Published in Corporate Dossier ET, April 27, 2012

In Puri Temple, Orissa, every year when the chariot is made from the wood of a sacred tree, worship is offered to the tree, the instruments that will be used to carve the tree and the carpenter who will turn the tree into the chariot. Even in household rituals, before the deity is worshipped, prayers and offerings are made to the implements of worship like the bell, the pot, the conch-shell, and the lamp. Thus every link in the chain is worthy of worship. Does this make Hindus monotheists or polytheists?

This question confronted 19th century Orientalists when they first translated Vedic hymns. They noticed that each hymn of the Veda evoked different gods, like the Greeks, but each time the deity being invoked was being treated as the one supreme god, like the Christians. This confused them.

Some suggested Hindus were henotheistic; they worshipped only one god but acknowledged the existence of others. Max Mueller came up with the term kathenotheistic, which means every god was treated as the supreme god turn-by-turn at the time of invocation. In other words, context determined the status of the god. In drought, Indra who brought rains was valued. In winter, Surya, the sun, was admired. In summer, Vayu, the wind, was worshipped. So it is in business. Everybody we deal with in business is important. But importance soars as our dependence on them increases. Importance is a function of context, which makes all businessmen followers of kathenotheism.

Sivakumar owns a small company that makes spare parts for cars. The business has been growing well. Sivakumar allocates one day a week with every department. Monday is for sales & marketing, Tuesday is for logistics, Wednesday is for production, Thursday is with finance, Friday is with human resources, Saturday is with admin and all contract workers. When asked by his secretary why he scheduled his day so, he said, “Each one of them contributes to my success. So I give each of them value by devoting an hour each day for each department. Every department matters, and every department is special. If I focus only on one department, the others will feel neglected and even negative, which I do not want. By valuing all of them, I ensure no hierarchy is created. Each one is important in their own way. The business depends on all of them.”

Rakesh who is Sivakumar’s main rival in the market, has a different strategy. For him customers are god and everything and everyone in the company is geared to satisfy the customers. He values the customer-facing department more than the rest. This ensures great revenue and clarifies the value of customers.

Both Sivakumar and Rakesh do well in the market. Both make profits. But their approach to managing their teams is very different. Sivakumar follows the model of katheotheism: there are many gods, each valued depending on context. Rakesh follows the model of monotheism: there is only one God, the customer.

  • This one was excellent. I loved it.

  • Pramod Kumar

    Really like the “context” in which the article been framed.

    So which approach is good in long run “katheotheism” OR “monotheism” in building /running a successful business in long run ?

  • Sachin Sharma

    Great way to explain the shifting focus based on the context to grow in business and even in life.
    its what Indian Culture tells us to be and we have lost due to western influence.
    the Principle of context based focus/Priority is also based in our lives, I still remember when my elder brother was in 10th/12th standard and was to appear in board exam, my parents focus was on him and his needs but that shifted to me when I came in class 10th/12th.

  • Dora Babu

    Excellent mapping with real world

  • Ratheesh VR

    Love this

  • Shekhar Varshney

    No, it does actually. In long run or in big approaches you have got to look in each spheres of your business or else you are gonna lose it. devdutt sir explained this in one of his other articles, i remember

  • Most of the time I do not have words to express myself when I read this kind of relationship establishment and I end up saying well done, Thank you so much for this job.

  • Abinash

    Mythological values are being decoded very intelligibly. Thats awesome. Younger generations will have interest in the Indian mythology because of its significance with thier daily day to day performance at their Karma khetra…I love you for this Devi Bhai…

  • Biswadeep

    I think this analogy can be extended to the world of software development also. Often we are asked what is the most important phase in SW development life cycle – is it requirements gathering, design or testing? What this tells us is that each are equally important and based on the context (i.e. what phase of the SDLC we are in) each can assume supreme importance.

  • Anusha

    They say that the one who worships Vishnu goes to Vaikuntha after death… Those who worship Shiva goes to Shiva’s abode… what about the ones who worship many Gods in their life?