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My response to an article in BS

The rise of insta management

Kanika Datta BS March 26, 2016

Management literature is desperately searching for excellence again. It enjoyed a long run of success from the thoughtful genius of Peter Drucker to the philosophies of C K Prahalad, Jim Collins, Gary Hamel, Ram Charan and others, who intelligently studied global corporations. Memoirs from Lee Iaccoca, Jack Welch, Sam Walton, Lou Gerstner and other icons added heft to these efforts.

These books have the additional advantage of imparting appropriate gravitas to the office book shelf. But reading them demands some application of mind – even though most gurus are decent writers and the ex-honchos often hire competent ghosts. But what of those zillions of executives who neither read as a habit nor care to apply their minds too much when they do?

This opened up the market opportunity for the parallel trend of self-help book masquerading as management book. Ken Blanchard (The One Minute Manager) and Stephen Covey (The 7 Habit of Highly Effective People) were the early masters of this popular genre, but it was Spencer Johnson (Who Moved My Cheese?) who hit the ball out of the park. Their down-home style presented in short sentences and bullet points made them best-sellers.

Today, their successors are legion – each month brings to my desk earnest advice on time management, man management, maximising sales, leadership, and variations thereof. The savvier writers of these insta-management books ride a trend. Thus, since Steve Jobs never cared to explain his management philosophy (if he had one) to anyone, his death produced a mini-industry in Jobs- and/or Apple-mania. If Walter Isaacson’s authorised door-stopper was too much to absorb, why there was Inside Apple: The Secrets Behind the Past and Future Success of Steve Jobs’ Iconic Brand, a neat 240-page primer, Finding the Next Steve Jobs and many more.

One lucrative offshoot is the “lessons” category. Legendary football manager Alex Fergusson, for instance, came out with Leading, basically the third variation of his autobiography couched in vaguely didactic terms. India after economic liberalisation saw an avalanche of books offering management lessons from Hinduism; the Mahabharata and Ramayana, its principal characters and the Gita in particular. The latest to mine a new lucrative seam is a book offering management lessons from Bollywood hits – from Lagaan, Lakshya, Om Shanti Om and so on.

All of which reminds me of the British TV star John Cleese, who is also a management trainer. Come to think of it, he’s probably missed an opportunity. There must be management lessons in Monty Python or Fawlty Towers, surely?


Dear Sir,

This refers to the interesting article “The rise of insta-management” by Kanika Datta in Business Standard dated March 26, 2016. YES indeed, there have been many takers for such quick “best-sellers” propounding various new management theories and half-truths and lessons for the vast majority of the new generation of students who somehow do not like “serious sermons” from the old Management Gurus, but lap up the tasty “Gyaan” from Bollywood movies and interesting Management parallels from religious epics for a change. Being a Visting Faculty myself in several colleges I too have been guilty of often using amusing homilies from these familiar pot-boilers and hot-sellers to make my students smile and feel interested in my lectures. Boring lectures based on references from serious authors of yester-years make students ‘drowsy’ but such anecdotal material based on familiar movies and plots keeps them ‘alive’ in class room sessions. Besides, movies like Lagaan, Lakshya and Om Shanti Om mentioned by Kanika Dutta, situations from movies like Sholay, Rocket Singh, 3 Idiots, Chakk De India etc have been used as learning material for the B School students. Such is the popularity of these sources that if you Google say “MANAGEMENT LESSONS FROM BOLLYWOOD MOVIES”, you will get about 2,18,000 results in just 0.38 seconds! Like instant-coffee and instant-oups, likes of such instant-management teaching aids will continue to grow, since the reason is fairly simple: demand will outstrip supply! Economics my dears!

J S BROCA, New Delhi   , 26th March 2016

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A Slum with a New-found Dignity

A Slum with a New-found Dignity



This refers to your feature on Dharavi slum in Mumbai (Ladies vs Goliath, February 28). Interestingly, the author has found that women in the slum have a new-found dignity and confidence who believe that their product (sanitary napkins) is as good as those of the market giants such as Stayfree and Whisper. Her interactions with the slum workers highlight their aspirations. The role of associations, such as Aakar Social Ventures, whose aim is to provide training to equip women with the skills to educate their peers on menstrual hygiene, and earn an income selling affordable sanitary napkins in rural India, needs to be lauded, too. Had the author added some more data, such as cost comparison of Anandi versus other brands, it would have added more value to the story. This feature is fit to be a case study in B-schools.

-J. S. Broca, New Delhi