The 5 A M Club – Robin Sharma

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Robin Sharma’s latest work “The 5 A.M Club” (“the book”) presents itself as a formidable contender for “The Worst Book of 2018” award. Extraordinarily insipid, extremely uninspiring and inexplicably long-winded, the book is well served remaining unread! Replete with borrowed quotes, resonating with irrelevant similes, and riding on a by now familiar philosophy, Robin Sharma feebly and futilely attempts to package old wine in a new bottle. Unfortunately, the damaged quality of the bottle deteriorates the very essence of the wine.

So what exactly is the “5.00 A.M Club?”

A simple, ordinary message stretched to an unimaginably inordinate degree

The message being dished out by Mr. Sharma is neither innovative nor novel. The basic idea being to jump out of one’s bed at 5.00 A.M in the morning and perform a set of activities involving the exercise of both mental and physical faculties. THIS IS IT both in a nutshell as well as in the philosophy’s entire expansion. However, what could have been ensconced within a precise tract or even a pamphlet is extended, elongated and elaborated in a most painful manner that makes a reader plough through 314 excruciating pages.  The fact that in a book titled “The 5.00 A.M Club”, it takes 51 pages for a character to actually wake up at 5.00 A.M speaks volumes about the peripheral irrelevance that masks the core matter.

A story that is totally irrelevant

In order to convey a purely simplistic message, Mr. Sharma bizarrely elects to employ a story telling method which exasperates and enervates the reader to an infuriating degree. Yes, you really become tired reading (or at least trying to) the book. It is an unenviable chore trudging through a morass of pages that has at its centerpiece three characters. An entrepreneur who comes perilously close to taking her own life, courtesy an attempted investor coup before a seminar transforms her. Wearing bracelets with inspirational quotes etched on them, she signs on to become a member of the 5.00 A.M Club. She is joined in this endeavor by an artist who keeps fidgeting with his dreadlocks when not repeatedly mouthing “def” for “definitely. The mentor for both the entrepreneur and the artist is a quirky billionaire who when not mouthing quotes picked from Gibran to Seneca or doing dervish whirls and hand stands, spends time taking his two students on freewheeling tours to Mauritius, India, Italy and South Africa, imparting the tenets of the 5.00 A.M club. To assist him in this endeavor he keeps addressing his students as “cats” while himself using surfer slang such as “gnarly” to such a liberal extent that the reader feels like taking a sail boat over the book!

Pareto Principle in Action with Corny Passages

80% of the book is an astonishing exercise in futility. A communication that could have been accommodated within 20-30 pages takes up a whopping 314 pages. Pages that are packed with passages so reeking with irrelevance that they are enough to make the reader tear her hair out in sheer white frustration! Sample this:

“The artist laughed as a baby gecko jaywalked across a broad plank. He took off his black shirt in the dazzling sunshine, exposing a Buddha-sized belly and man breasts the size of fleshy mangoes.”

“…. she admitted as the skin on her forehead scrunched together like a rose contracting in the cold.”

 “. the artist interrupted with all the energy of a puppy seeing its owner after a long day alone.”

Invest in a book of quotes instead

In addition to beginning every chapter with a famous quote, the book strings together sayings at a speed which would put even the reproductive capabilities of rabbits to total shame! Quotes by the renowned and the reviled fly at you from all angles making both deflection and assimilation equally impossible. One would do well instead to invest in a book of quotes and peruse the same meticulously.

Read these Alternative Books

The 5.00 A.M club borrows liberally from the philosophies of luminaries such as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and also pop psychologists such as Malcolm Gladwell. In the event one manages to get through the tedium and torture of the “5.00 A.M Club”, the following books may serve as the perfect antidote:

  • “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi;
  • “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg;
  • “Eat, Move, Sleep” by Tom Rath;
  • “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey;
  • “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill;
  • “The Empires of the Mind” by Dennis Waitley
  • Read these Alternative Books

The George Orwell Rule

Mr. Sharma, while meticulously putting together the powerful sayings of many greats who have trod on this Planet, seems to have missed out on a set of most important rules – the immortal Six Rules laid down by George Orwell. One of the rules postulates, “If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.”.

If only this rule was followed the “5.00 A.M club” would have been an eminently readable book.

The “5.00 A.M Club” – deserving of a pass.

 

 

Friend of a Friend – David Burkus

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On the 6th of May, 1973, in a paper curiously and paradoxically titled, “The Strength of Weak Ties”, American sociologist and Professor at Stanford University, Mark Granovetter revealed the proposition that acquaintances are likely to be more influential than close friends, particularly in social networks. Weak ties as he called them, were more likely to connect social networks and also act as bridges. This research paper did more than just pique the interest of its readers or merely arouse their curiosity. As of November 2018, according to Google Scholar, “The Strength of Weak Ties” boasts a jaw dropping 50,000 citations, making it the most cited work in the Social Sciences.

So what exactly are these weak ties and how best can we exploit them to further both our personal and professional prospects? Is there an overlap between personal and professional ties? These are some of the key questions which David Burkus grapples with in his extremely readable, evocative and essential book, “Friend of a Friend of a Friend….” (“the book”).

The term ‘networking’ ought to be a contender for one of the most used, and perhaps – abused words in the English vocabulary. Networking has been the subject of a million books and a billion pages all urging their readers to follow stereotypical paths ranging from the pedantic to the preposterous. However, as Mr. Burkus points out, more often than not, this “working the room” strategy leaves people with more than just a sour taste in their mouth. “In one study researchers Tiziana Casciaro, Francesca Gino and Maryam Koucchaki found that even just thinking about networking leaves most people feeling dirty.” Instead, citing the extraordinary examples of ‘super-connected’ personalities such as the entrepreneur Adam Rifkin, philanthropist Scott Harrison and producer Brian Grazer, Mr. Burkus says, “understanding how networks work, how to navigate them, and how to tend to the community they represent is what determines a lot of your career success and a lot of organisation’s ability to perform. Knowing who your friends are and who their friends are, so you can gain a better understanding of the community, will lead to better odds that your network will enhance your success.”

From this stems what reads like a most counter intuitive proposition which Mr. Burkus offers his readers.  Even though our spontaneous reaction might be to reach out to the people with whom we are closest to and with whom we have been interacting for decades, it might be more valuable to reach out to those with whom we have rarely connected for years or even decades. Why? The people we know best usually know the same people and also know what you know. “Our weak ties often build a bridge from one cluster to another and thus give us access to new information. Even though the strong ties in our life are more likely to be motivated to help us, it turns out that our weak ties’ access to new sources of information might be more valuable.”

The most fascinating aspect of this ‘antithetical’ or even heretical work is the plethora of real life examples embedded between its covers. Burkus embarks on an assiduous story telling saga as he brings together personalities and events spanning a variety of disciplines. From how Michelle McKenna-Doyle, SVP, and CIO of the NFL became – the SVP and CIO of the NFL to how the prolific movie producer Brian Grazer tapped into his weak ties to become the man who gave the world, indelible movies such as Apollo 13, Liar Liar, A Beautiful Mind, and 8 Mile, Mr. Burkus highlights the importance of striking conversations with people with whom one may have hardly interacted.

Every Chapter in the book ends with a pragmatic “From Science to Practice” summary where he highlights key tasks for his readers to strengthen and build upon their weak ties. He also provides links to online resources for honing and practicing the skills required to improve upon building up one’s weak ties.

One would do well to push aside the tried and tested Rolodex and instead pick up “Friend of a Friend” by Davis Burkus instead. When did you say was the last time that you interacted with the buddy with whom you shared your dorm room while at the University?

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – Daniel H. Pink

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A transformational book, “Drive” (“The Book”) by Daniel Pink turns received wisdom regarding motivation and incentives on its head, but not before according a refreshing and revolutionary alternative. The conventional fodder for motivational thought has always had at its core, the entrenched belief that both cause and consequence are pliable to either the rewards of a dangling carrot or the reverberations of a deadly stick. But does human behavior operate in such a predictably malleable manner?

A band of primates (unknowingly) and a psychology Professor (deliberately) at the University of Wisconsin, tried to unravel an inherent fallacy innate in the carrot and stick approach. As Mr. Pink details, in the year 1949, professor Harry H. Harlow and eight rhesus monkeys devised and participated, respectively, in a laboratory experiment the outcome of which was the revelation of the idea behind the existence of “intrinsic reward”. Going beyond the two ingrained drives of biology and extrinsic motivation that characterized the existence of workings of human nature, Professor Harlow, asserted that there was a “third drive” which was radically different from its two compatriots. It is this drive which forms an integral component of Mr. Pink’s book.

Our traditional grasp of motivation or “motivation 2.0” as Mr. Pink terms it, suffers from three ‘incompatibility problems’ namely, how we organize what we do, how we think about what we do and how we do what we do. Paraphrasing Bruno Frey, an economist at the University of Zurich, Mr. Pink writes, “intrinsic motivation is of great importance for all economic activities. It is inconceivable that people are motivated solely or even mainly by external incentives.”

Post identifying these incompatibility factors, Mr. Pink proceeds to expound on seven reasons why the carrot-and-stick approach fails to achieve its objective. One of the primary reasons is the diminishing (if not a complete obliteration) of creativity. Backing up this contention with the empirical findings of psychologist Karl Duncker in the 1930s (the intrepid can do a google search for “candle test”), Mr. Pink gives a gist of the startling conclusion for the test: “in direct contravention to the core tenets of Motivation 2.0, an incentive designed to clarify thinking and sharpen creativity ended up clouding thinking and dulling creativity.”

Mr. Pink also proffers an alternative to Motivation 2.0. Unimaginatively titled – you might have guessed it by now – Motivation 3.0, this substitute has its genesis in making an individual transition from Behaviour X to Behaviour I. While Behaviour X is based on the tried, tested and unappealing tenets of Motivation 2.0, Type I behavior “concerns itself less with the external rewards an activity brings and more with the inherent satisfaction of the activity itself. For professional success and personal fulfillment, we need to move ourselves and our colleagues from Type X to Type I.” There are three elements to Motivation 3.0: Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose. An example of autonomy is highlighted by Mr. Pink with reference to the practices incorporated by the company Zappos. It’s CEO Tony Hsieh says: “Studies have shown that perceived control is an important component of one’s happiness. However, what people feel like they want control over really varies, so I don’t think there’s one aspect of autonomy that’s universally the most important. Different individuals have different desires, so the best strategy for an employer would be to figure out what’s important to each individual employee.”

Mastery refers to people “forgetting themselves in a function,” as the poet W.H. Auden put it.

Purpose completes the troika of elements characterizing Motivation 3.0. Purpose maximization is taking its place alongside profit maximization as an aspiration and a guiding principle.”

Resorting to the example of artists, Mr. Pink says that they are more creative when not working for money. Pink unconventionally employing the example of Tom Sawyer says: “faced with the tedious task of whitewashing a fence, he pretends to be enjoying it, and pretty soon, everybody wants to help.”  Mr. Pink also keeps making repeated reference to the seminal work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian-American psychologist responsible for recognizing and naming the psychological concept of flow, a highly focused mental state. In an interview with Wired magazine, Csíkszentmihályi described flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

“Drive” does not advocate relegating Motivation 2.0 to the confines of a historical dust-bin. All it advocates is supplementing the same with the facets of Motivation 3.0 with an avowed objective of bestowing autonomy, mastery and purpose upon human nature with a view to attaining professional success and personal fulfillment.

The Growth Delusion – David Pilling


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Ever since Simon Kuznets invented the Gross Domestic Product (“GDP”), this metric has become the Holy Grail in both economic and political lore. The economic health as well as hopelessness of nations are inextricably pegged to this number as are political aspirations and collective personal ambitions. In an era where growth represents the sine qua non of everything that can be measured, is this untrammeled obsession with GDP the only rational means of tracking national income estimates or are the much vaunted economists and the policy making mavens barking up the wrong tree? This is precisely what prize-winning journalist David Pilling attempt to answer in his extremely engrossing book, “The Growth Delusion.” (“The Book”).

As Mr. Pilling strives to enlighten us, there is a chasm of difference between the GDP which Kuznets envisaged to conceptualise as against the GDP as it is known today. To paraphrase Kuznets himself, “it would be of great value to have national income estimates that would remove from the total the elements, which from the standpoint of a more enlightened social philosophy than that of an acquisitive society, represent disservice rather than service. Such estimates would subtract from the present national income totals all expenses on armament, most of the outlays on advertising, a great many of the expenses involved in financial and speculative activities.”

Kuznets’ plea seems to have fallen on some resolutely deaf ears as society has not only become insatiably acquisitive, but the measure of its accumulations also has taken on a form that is extremely reductionist. The world over, there are three boiler plate ‘recipes’ for measuring growth, namely, the expenditure, income and production methods. “They measure what is spent, what is earned and what is made.” As Mr. Pilling, with a dash of wit and dollops of wisdom points out, what matters more is not what is being measured, but all those things that are being inextricably missed out. For e.g. to quote Mr. Pilling, “one author lists some of the activities that are not part of the economy as ‘giving birth to babies, raising children, cultivating a garden, cooking food for her siblings, milking the family cow, making clothes for her relatives, or taking care of Adam Smith so he can write the Wealth of Nations.” In other words, the diligent woman who is responsible for maintaining order and decorum in the entire family is completely excised from being counted as contributing to her economy. Drawing upon the work of Steve Landefeld, former Director of the Bureau of Economic Analysis, researchers in America published in the year 2012 a finding which postulated that, “if cooking, cleaning, washing, driving and so on were counted, these activities would roughly add $3.8 trillion dollars to the total size of the American economy.”

Growth is an animal of aggregation that cleverly hides from the vision of the unsuspecting, some dark and dystopian subterranean layers having the potential to cause dismay and despondency. A classic case in point of growth statistics obfuscating more pertinent and urgent denominators, was encapsulated by a paper by two academics, Anne Case and Angus Deaton. Carrying a not so appealing, doused in economics lingo title that read, ‘Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st Century’, this paper induced more than just a stir amongst its readers. The study unearthed the startling fact that, “from 1999 there had been a marked increase in the deaths of middle-aged White Americans.” This when, the American economy had surged from $10.3 trillion in 2000 to $18 trillion in 2015. This one single contradiction illustrates the perils of using growth as the sole metric to measure the ‘wellbeing’ of an economy.

Growth also comes at a cost. A cost that places immense burden not only upon the current population but also on the future generations, which inherit a not so enviable baggage in the form of environmental degradation. The world’s second biggest economy is racked by air pollution to such a dangerous degree that the hazard has even received a new nomenclature, “Airpocalypse.” As Mr. Pilling notes, “according to US standards, if the air quality index drifts above 50, you are at the upper limit of safety, though Beijing residents treat anything below 100 as reassuring…. A US official once described a reading above 500 as ‘crazy bad.’ During the worst of the Airpocalypse, it edged above 1000.”  These negative externalities are neither subtracted while calculating GDP nor are adjusted in any manner to arrive at a more reflective and introspective measure of growth.

It’s not that attempts have not been made to factor in such negative externalities in measuring growth. In fact, China itself has pioneered, albeit reluctantly the employ of an alternative form of GDP termed the ‘Green GDP’. The brainchild of Niu Wenyuan, a well-known economist, and an adviser to the State Council, the Green GDP strives to place a value on the loss of biodiversity, and accounts for costs caused by such damage to the ecosystem. In the words of Niu himself, “we take the current GDP figures and we scrape away the parts that we believe are wrong or miscalculated. And in this way, we arrive at something that is closer to the real GDP.”

Alternative and alluring alternatives for measuring GDP have not merely been proposed but promulgated by law as well. In Maryland, the concept of the Genuine Progress Indicator (“GPI”) has attained immense popularity. The Maryland GPI website states: “GPI provides citizens and policymakers fruitful insight by recognizing economic activity that diminishes both natural and social capital. Further, the GPI is designed to measure sustainable economic welfare rather than economic activity alone. To accomplish this, the GPI uses three simple underlying principles for its methodology:

account for income inequality,

include non-market benefits that are not included in Gross Domestic Product, and

identify and deduct bads such as environmental degradation, human health effects, and loss of leisure time.”

The indicators used to calculate the Maryland GPI include, among others, Costs of Pollution, Household Investments, Services from Social Capital, Services from Natural Capital etc.

The small nation of Bhutan, has in a spectacular fashion taken the lead in instituting a solid and structurally viable alternative for measuring growth. Termed The Gross National Happiness (“GNH”) Index, the concept implies that sustainable development should take a holistic approach towards notions of progress and give equal importance to non-economic aspects of wellbeing. The GNH Index includes nine domains:

  1. Psychological wellbeing
  2. Health
  3. Education
  4. Time use
  5. Cultural diversity and resilience
  6. Good governance
  7. Community vitality
  8. Ecological diversity and resilience
  9. Living standards

 While these alternative measures reflect a genuine attempt on the part of policy makers to invest the metric of measure with a semblance of purpose and direction, it is still no doubting the fact that GDP towers above all other substitutes like a veritable colossus. At the end of his book, Mr. Pilling argues passionately that the time is now ripe for us to move away from being benevolent to this colossus. We no longer need to proffer out benedictions at the altar of growth. He is absolutely right. While the general welfare and uplift of humanity as a whole might be joined at the hip by growth, all the shots need not be called by only of the congenital twins. Growth needs to walk in lockstep with other invaluable intangibles such as happiness, freedom, life satisfaction and peace. While it might be extremely tricky to place a sum on these unseen benefits, or even futile to engage in an act to ‘commodify’ them, it is imperative, invariable and inevitable that we at least begin to value them for whatever is their true worth.

Belt And Road Initiative: A Chinese World Order – Bruno Macaes

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The Belt and Road Initiative (“BRI”) also known as One Belt One Road (“OBOR”) was unraveled to the world for the first time by Chinese President Xi Jinping in September and October 2013 during visits to Astana in Kazakhstan and Jakarta in Indonesia. This mega initiative was thereafter enthusiastically promoted by Premier Li Keqiang during state visits to Asia and Europe. The Chinese government calls the initiative “a bid to enhance regional connectivity and embrace a brighter future.” Touted to be the most expansive, expensive and extensive effort rivalling (or even exceeding) the Marshall Plan in its sweep and covering a humongous number of countries in its wake, the BRI threatens to create a tectonic shift in the geopolitical order characterizing the globe today. However, is this initiative an attempt by the second biggest economy on the Planet to exercise a ruthless economic and political hegemony over the world or is this a tide that will lift all ships uniformly thereby ushering in a new era of co-operation hitherto never seen before?

Bruno Macaes, formerly Portugal’s Europe Minister (2013-15), attempts to answer the above tricky questions in what has to be one of the most informed, articulate and unbiased works – as yet, on China’s astounding aspiration. Taking an unbiased perspective and using the neutral lens of a political analyst, Mr. Macae brings to bear the potential outcomes of the BRI. At the heart of BRI, argues Mr. Macaes, lies the general principle of “Tianxia” – which literally means All-under-Heaven or World. The Chinese Tianxia, “emphasizes, togetherness, a complex network of ties between countries. They are much more substantial than mere legal ones. Virtues are regularly invoked; countries have relations of dependence, generosity, gratitude, respect and retribution.” It is this call of togetherness that bring together both land and sea components under the BRI. Known respectively as the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Twenty First Century Maritime Silk Road, the Belt Road courses through the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa. China is pulling all stops to ensure that finance is not a constraint for the materialization of this epic scheme. “The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, founded on December 25, 2015, with its headquarters in Beijing and an authorized capital of $100 billion – about half of that of the World Bank – considers Belt and Road projects as one of its investment priorities. Thus it approved $509 million in investments for its first four projects on June 25, 2016……in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Tajikistan….” Funding for the BRI seems to be of no issue whatsoever to China. “Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the largest bank in the world by assets, is already taking part in 212 projects relating to the Belt and Road, with credit facilities exceeding $67 billion.”

However, this very seemingly unending slush of funds has the pernicious potential of setting the participating countries on the path towards perdition. The debt trap into which the recipients of Chinese funding might find themselves, may force the borrowers to relinquish strategic assets in their own territories to the lenders. Consider this: “In December 2017, Sri Lanka formally handed control of Hambantota port to China in exchange for writing down the country’s debt. Under a $1.1 billion deal, Chinese firms now hold a 70 percent stake in the port and a 99 year lease agreement to operate it.”  China itself has acknowledged this fact. “In April 2018, Li Ruogu, the former president of the Export-Import Bank of China, argued publicly that most of the countries along the routes of the BRI did not have the money to pay for the projects for which they were involved…..the countries’ average liability and debt rates had reached 35 and 126 percent respectively, far above the globally recognized warning lines.”

And then there are the issues of sovereignty and territorial security. Just a day before the event unveiling the BRI, India pulled out of the gathering citing that in the currently envisaged form, the BRI would impose unsustainable burdens of debt. Also the fact that the proposed China Pakistan Economic Corridor (“CPEC”) would wind through the disputed areas of Gilgit and Baltistan in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir did not further India’s enthusiasm either for the project. The recent standoff at the Doklam plateau between the Chinese and Indian armed forces over the incursions of China in the Himalayas reflects the fragile state of political relations between the two Asian behemoths. India however, is not the only nation that is wary of the China initiative. Many of the littoral states with whom China is hemmed in, in a maritime dispute over the ownership of islands are expected to be locked into the BRI providing a much needed leverage and boost to China’s claims of marine supremacy. President Donald Trump has expressed his aversion to the BRI by terming it “insulting.” After becoming the leader of Malaysia following a shock election victory in 2018, Mahathir Mohammed has been outspoken in his desire and determination to terminate many “Chinese contracts” which were consummated by the erstwhile Government led by the now ousted and infamous Najib Tun Razak. Rampant corruption and utter disdain to the process of tendering are cited to be the main reasons underlying this move. Similarly, there has been stiff opposition to the Laos-China railway. Estimated to cost US$5.95 billion with 70% of the railway owned by China, while Laos’s remaining 30% stake will be mostly financed by loans from China, the exorbitant costs of the project now threatens its viability.

The very pivot of global politics and economics threatens to be upended by the BRI. A new world order that has China at its pioneering front has set off multiple scenarios of dystopian possibilities. While the project itself entailing a humongous estimated outlay between $4 – $8 trillion is a long way from being concretized and consummated, it has set off conflicting tremors with each shock having its own peculiarity and profound implications.

A good way to grasp such wholesale ramifications would be to get hold of Bruno Macaes’ work.

Don’t Let The Kitten Drive The Car – Akanksha Sharma

A very candid, pleasant and moving book, “Don’t Let the Kitten Drive the Car” narrates the travails and triumphs of Simba, an abandoned street cat who is offered refuge and succour, initially by a kind humanitarian called Dhruv and later by the Gupta family. Of special mention is Akriti Gupta a visually impaired young girl who takes to Simba and forges an inseparable bond with the feline.

But what makes the book interesting and eminently readable is the message conveyed. Although light hearted and funny, the book touches upon various themes of social significance such as bullying in school, empowering the differently abled and a crying need for inculcating the virtues of compassion towards animals. When Akriti gets bullied at school and is forced to keep mum about it (for a brief interlude at least), the story resonates with the plight being faced by thousands of innocent children who are a perennial target of inveterate bullies. However, the way in which Akriti overcomes her seemingly insurmountable obstacles is to say the least – inspiring.

“Don’t Let the Kitten Drive The Car” – A commendably honest effort.

How India Works: Making Sense of a Complex Corporate Culture – Aarti Kelshikar

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The redoubtable Mark Twain once said, ” [India is] the One land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for all the shows of all the rest of the globe combined.”  However one should also be careful if not wary of the glimpses offered by one of the world’s most ancient civilizations. India is a throbbing, pulsating macrocosm nurturing a myriad mysteries and plethora of paradoxes. The world’s second fastest growing economy can be a bewildering study in contrasts. As a result of its unique and teeming diversity, while India’s own citizens have problems grasping each other’s nuances, this conundrum increases manifold when a foreigner tries to unravel its innate intricacies. Nowhere is this enigma more apparent than in the professional sector. The working professional in India brings to the fore an inimitable set of attributes that has surprising manifestations in so far as aspects such as man and time management (or mismanagement as may be appropriate), bureaucracy and hierarchy, language etc. are concerned. We Indians like to “prepone” meetings while at the same time failing to show up for one; always address our superiors as ‘Sir’, which has nothing to do even remotely with a past or potential knighthood and have an incredibly elastic notion of time. When an Indian says he will be at a meeting by “9 ish” it is just the preliminary approach for negotiation and not a commitment of any sort.

It is exactly these kind of complexities and much more that Aarti Kelshikar attempts to unravel in her engaging and compelling book, “How India Works, Making Sense of a Complex Corporate Culture.” (“the book”). While not an authoritative manual that dissects and expounds on the cultural anthropology that is unique to India, the book is a very honest examination of some of the common dilemmas faced by both expatriates as well as repatriates (a repatriate is an Indian who after prolonged stints working overseas, returns to his country of origin) in acclimatizing with the work culture in India. As admitted by Ms. Kelshikar herself, the book neither offers ‘quick fix’ solutions nor silver bullets but merely acts as a reliable guide post in informing and educating the unaware about certain common distinctions that are unique to the Indian environment and ethos.

In going about her work, Ms. Kelshikar has interviewed a multitude of people having variegated experience working in Multinationals based both within India and overseas. The fact that Ms. Kelshikar herself is a certified facilitator of Cultural Intelligence from the Cultural Intelligence Centre in the US in addition to being a certified executive coach from the International Neuro Leadership Group invests a great degree of credibility and authenticity to her words. The key findings are corroborated with recourse to published research outcomes. For example, in expounding upon the ‘hierarchy-ridden mindset’ that is prevalent in India, Ms. Kelshikar draws our attention to the work of Geert Hofstede, a Dutch psychologist, responsible for developing a six-dimensional model explaining differences between national cultures. In one of the dimensions called the Power Distance Index (“PDI”), India scores highly with a tally of 77. PDI is the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions accept and expect that power is distributed unequally. Similarly, while attempting to educate the unsuspecting reader into the workings of ‘Jugaad’ (loosely translated as a “hack”, it could also refer to an innovative fix or a simple work-around, a solution that bends the rules, or a resource that can be used in such a way. It is also often used to signify creativity: to make existing things work, or to create new things with meager resources.), a concept inevitable and invariable to the Indian way of going about things, Ms. Kelshikar draws the readers’ attention to the indispensable book, “Jugaad Innovation: A Frugal and Flexible Approach to Innovation for the 21st Century by Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu and Simone Ahuja.

From talking about the heartening notions of Indian Hospitality to the frustrating management of the Indian Stretchable Time, Ms. Kelshikar’s book makes for some absorbing reading. Of special mention is her final chapter titled, “Sugar Spice and Some Advice”, which sheds light on some quintessential dos and don’ts. A professional making his way to India would be none the less wise if she was to pick a copy of Ms. Kelshikar’s book before she boards the flight to India for she might not find a copy of this book at the airport and moreover the Indian airport would be infinitely noisier than the one from which she boarded her flight!