The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

October - 2012 - issue > In My Opinion

Borrowing from Antiquity

Naresh Wadhwa
Monday, October 1, 2012
Naresh Wadhwa
My wife often tells me I spend more time in airport lounges and on board aircraft than I do at our home in Mumbai. I would imagine that is true for every modern-day leader, as they fly from one meeting to another, crisscrossing the world at dizzying frequencies. My constant companions during the innumerable flights every week are my books: whether in hardbound, paperback, or in their digital avatar on my iPad. But what really surprises me every time I read about the concepts and theories of modern-day management gurus is how many of the issues have been discussed and addressed in a book that is rarely seen as a management book. What surprises me even more is the fact that this book was not written in the last century, or even the last millennium. Yet, its true essence remains as relevant today as it was on the turbulent day its two protagonists began the conversation that was to turn into the Bhagavad Gita.

The Corporate Karma

In a volatile business environment that changes by the hour, even the most focused organizations and leaders can be tempted off course. The corporate battlefield is strewn with the remains of companies once deemed too big to fail, struck down by competition or circumstances, or both. Lured by the false hopes of short-cuts to glory and glitter, once hallowed logos and corporate reputations today lies in tatters. As the recent years have shown, the ones that survived are the ones that have often chosen a tough trek through adverse climate rather than a cushy elevator ride to the top. In most cases, the ones that have emerged unscathed through the recent crises are the ones that chose unglamorous prudence over flashy recklessness and arrogance.

Ancient Indian wisdom and the teachings of the Bhagavada Gita tell us that our results follow from our actions. Good actions today will give us good results tomorrow. Similarly, for companies, performance in line with the needs of its key stakeholders – clients, employees, investors, and communities – will result in profitability and sustainability. The story that keeps coming to my mind in this context is that of 1,400 year-old Japanese construction company named Kongo Gumi. This family-held temple construction company had been in continuous operation since the year 578, with an enviable run of more than 1,400 years. It had weathered countless domestic upheavals and global turmoil, even temporarily shifting production to make coffins during World War II. Internally, the company had a robust yet flexible succession policy in practice, with its last president being the 40th member of the family to lead the company. The unraveling of this venerable organization began somewhere in the 1980s, when, uncharacteristically, Kongo Gumi started to borrow heavily to invest in real estate. The real estate bust that followed in the 1990s in Japan left the company with a mountain of debt and a pile of assets that had lost most of its value. To make matter worse, business in its core market, temple construction, dived off a cliff roughly around the same point of time. Revenues plunged and the firm was left with an unserviceable debt portfolio. By 2006, Kongo Gumi had been liquidated and absorbed into another Japanese organization.

The Corporate Follower

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